Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Is it Government of the People, by the People and for the People? Or is it People of the Government, by the Government and for the Government?
In his November 19, 1863 Gettysburg Address, President Lincoln said "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Were he still around today he might conclude that what the Civil War couldn't accomplish, today's politicians are close to doing--that is, destroying a government from within that was established to serve the people, not the other way around.
In a recent poll 88 percent of Americans said that 'the government is in charge of the people.' That includes 83 percent of Democrats, 88 percent of independents and 94 percent of Republicans.
Only 8 percent feel 'the people are in charge of the government.'
Lincoln must be spinning in his tomb.
What happened? Well, for one thing, another recent survey revealed that two of every five Americans today say the United States is evolving into a socialist state. That's 40 percent of the population; not a bunch of fanatics out on the political fringes.
It is just one of many indicators that show Americans are worried that the federal government is growing too large.
To be fair, 36 percent disagreed that the U.S. is turning into a socialist nation and about 25 percent of respondents expressed a neutral view or said they were unsure.
Nevertheless, when you have 88 percent of a scientific survey saying that government is charge of the people and another 40 percent saying the nation is plummeting into socialism, that should get your attention.
It certainly got mine. Not that I wasn't already sensing this anyway.
After all, with our forced march into socialized medicine (which is what Obamacare is) we are allowing one-fifth of our economy to be controlled by Big Government. Add to that the fact that most of us pay at least 50%-60% of every dollar we earn in taxes (federal, state, local, etc.) is it any wonder that 88 percent of us feel we are being hosed by Big Brother?
Does the phrase: "Jeder nach seinen Fähigkeiten, jedem nach seinen Bedürfnissen!" ring a bell? Perhaps it will in English: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."
It is the basic tenet of Communism as espoused by Karl Marx in his 1875 treatise. If you listen to Obama long enough this is what he says over and over--though not in those exact words.
He talks about the need to redistribute wealth by raising taxes on the wealthy because, he says, the wealthy do not pay their fair share. Never mind that Congressional Budget Office recently revealed that the top 1 percent of income earners paid 39 percent of all federal income taxes--three times their share of income at 13 percent.
Meanwhile, the middle 20 percent of income earners (the REAL middle class) paid only 2.7 percent of total federal income taxes while earning 15 percent of all income.
Fair? Hmmm. Let's do the math. Those numbers mean that the top 1% (those Obama and his socialist minions believe are NOT paying their fair share) paid about 15 times as much in federal taxes as the entire middle 20 percent even though the middle 20 percent earned more income.
Fair? Let's look at the bottom 40 percent (those Obama loves and who LOVE Obama). The CBO and IRS (OK, I know the IRS is not the most reliable source these days) say that the bottom 40 percent of income earners, instead of paying some income taxes to support the federal government, were actually PAID cash by the IRS equal to 10 percent of federal income taxes as a group.
Fair? Or unfair? Any reasonable person would conclude that this system seems more than fair. But Obama is NOT reasonable.
In fact, he and Karl Marx think very much alike. To Karl Marx and to Marxists such as Obama, the very fact that the top 1 percent earn more income than the bottom 99 percent is not fair--no matter how they earn it.
As Marx said: capitalists are greedy. Obama apparently agrees. Therefore, the state must take more from the top 1 percent until they are left only with what they NEED. That way the bottom feeders and others who refuse to work can gorge themselves at the government trough.
Census figures show that more than one in three Americans live in households that receive means-based government assistance. In return they continue to vote for politicians who give them stuff--i.e. food stamps, welfare, grants, loans, unemployment, etc. Incentive, self-reliance and self-respect are relentlessly weakened and eventually destroyed by such overreliance on government handouts.
Sadly, a too many Americans are simply blinded to this fact. They don't see (or refuse to see) that Obama is leading us in an inexorable stride toward socialism with Obamacare and his refusal to reign in government spending two shining examples of this stratagem.
I know that right now the United States may not meet the classic definition of socialism which describes it is the collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods. So far that hasn't happened here. Not yet.
But when a capitalist nation's economy is controlled more and more by colossal and inefficient government rather than by savvy private sector investment and robust competition that is a recipe for disaster.
Don't believe me? Consider the disastrous $600 million rollout of Obamacare in the past few weeks.
If you are satisfied with THAT kind of performance, then you, Karl Marx and Obama should get along quite well in a socialist state.
As for me, I'll take my chances in a nation that rewards, as Thomas Edison once said, inspiration and perspiration--and allows you to keep most of what you lawfully earn. What is unfair about that?
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
This will be short. In case you haven't heard, Australian college student Christopher Lane, 22, was shot in the back as he jogged down a road in the middle of the afternoon last Friday in Duncan, Okla. He died at the scene.
The perpetrators, two black and one white teenager, have been arrested and are facing first degree murder charges.
|Three Teenagers Charged in Lane Murder|
When they were arrested 16-year-old Chancey Allen Luna and 15-year-old James Francis Edwards Jr. (both black) allegedly told police they shot Lane 'because they were bored.' Michael Jones, 17, (white) who allegedly drove the vehicle carrying Luna and Edwards was charged with accessory to murder after the fact. Jones identified Luna as the shooter.
It is interesting how quickly the media and the race hustlers have decided this shooting of a white man by two black teenagers was not racially motivated.
So far our president, himself half black and half white, has not spoken out about the crime. He hasn't said, for example, that if he had a son he would look like Lane. Why not? Isn't Obama half white? Yet he did say that about Trayvon Martin
Oh, I forgot. The only kind of racism or hate crimes that exist in America today are the kinds in which blacks are murdered by whites, not the other way around.
What about it Al Sharpton? Where is your outrage? What about you Jesse Jackson? Oh wait a minute, Jesse Jackson did issue a statement in which he said such violence is 'frowned upon' in America.
'Frowned upon?' Really? Why not condemn these young thugs for what they did? They have already admitted they shot Lane. Of course he won't do that. After all, they are the wrong, or should I say, right race.
And what about you Mr. President. You had no compunction about speaking out before the Zimmerman trial in what was a blatant attempt to portray Martin as an innocent victim of racial violence. Will you not do the same in this case?
I am not holding my breath.
And what about Oprah, who has equated Trayvon Martin's death with that of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old African-American boy who was tortured and murdered in Mississippi in 1955 in what was obviously a racially motivated hate crime.
|Lane and American Girl Friend Sarah Harper|
As Oprah well knows, race was never the issue in the Zimmerman trial, and race was never presented by the prosecution as a motive, yet the race hustlers still want us to believe the crime was somehow racially motivated.
With what crime will Oprah equate this senseless murder of a young white Australian student in Oklahoma on a college baseball scholarship?
Think of the cruel irony here. An innocent Australian comes to America to play baseball, our national pastime, and winds up murdered by three kids who should have been playing baseball rather than looking for someone to kill because they were 'bored.'
Naturally, the knee-jerk reaction of some in the media, such as oily and captious British pseudo-journalist Piers Morgan, is to call for the banning of all guns in America--the Second Amendment be damned.
In Australia, where just about all guns are banned, former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer, a noted advocate of gun control, is telling people to stay away from America.
'Tourists thinking of going to the USA should think twice,' Fischer said Monday.
Of course they should. Of the 1.1 million Australian tourists who visited the U.S. in 2012 none was killed. I'd say the U.S. is a pretty dangerous destination for Aussies.
Monday, July 15, 2013
For the past few days I have resisted weighing in on the George Zimmerman murder case and the fact that he was found not guilty of both Second Degree Murder and Manslaughter charges.
It is a verdict that doesn't sit well with many. But it is, nevertheless, the verdict. And no amount of rioting, looting and breast beating will change that.
Of course, Americans have become accustomed to seeing turgid goons rampaging through city streets on the heels of just about any trial perceived to involve race. It has become almost a given that stores will be burned and looted. How that helps the victims in these cases remains a mystery.
But hey, when you have an excuse to get "free stuff" from "cracker" and "Buddha-head" store owners why not go for it. After all, don't they deserve it? So go ahead and smash those windows and take a few flat screen TVs in Oakland, Cal. That'll show those Florida Gomers that they can't get away with letting white/hispanic man go free for shooting a 17-year-old black guy in self-defense.
|Anti-Zimmerman Protesters After Verdict|
That is what the evidence in this case revealed. One evening in February 2012 George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain, confronted Trayvon Martin who was walking through an area that had experienced home invasions and break-ins in the past several weeks. Testimony and evidence revealed that an altercation began with Martin knocking Zimmerman to the ground and pounding his head into the concrete walkway. Zimmerman, with Martin on top of him, managed to pull a pistol and shoot Martin in the heart, killing him almost instantly.
It was terrible tragedy--one that I am confident Zimmerman will regret for the rest of his life. But he had a right to defend himself and that is what he did. Criminal case closed.
Now, comes round two. With the Obama White House intent on exacting some kind of retribution on Zimmerman, Attorney General Eric Holder vowed Monday to proceed with a civil rights inquiry.
In his first public comments since Saturday's jury verdict, Holder told a convention of the nation's largest black sorority that the federal government is "determined to meet division and confusion with understanding and compassion – and also with truth. The Justice Department shares your concern. I share your concern," Holder told the Delta Sigma Theta delegates to thunderous applause.
Talk about preaching to the choir. What else could Holder say? Had he declined to persecute (whoops, I mean prosecute) Zimmerman for violating Martins civil rights. He would have been shouted off the podium.
The portrayal of Trayvon Martin as an "innocent child" is ludicrous.He was on his way to becoming a thug or even worse, a gang banger.
Police records that were suppressed before and during the trial show that Martin was suspended three times for 'drugs, truancy, graffiti and theft. In addition, it appears he even attacked a bus driver.
|Trayvon Martin: Innocent Child?|
Trayvon was kicked out of school after he was caught with a 'burglary tool' and a bag full of women's jewelry.
Child? Innocent? I will let you decide that one.
No matter how you slice it, anytime there is an issue involving a white person (or in this case, a half Hispanic-White person) and a black person, the race baiters will crawl out from under their rocks to accuse whites of racism. Of course blacks are NEVER racists. Right? Wrong.
As black journalist and author Kevin Jackson put it recently:
"To get a race of people to riot over a case of an overzealous neighborhood watchman shooting and killing a teen who attacked him takes some doing. If you remove the race elements from this story, black people would have as much interest in this case as they would reruns of The Lawrence Welk Show.
"Yet here we are. The Zimmerman case front and center—a 21st Century OJ trial, except this one black people want the defendant declared guilty. Thousands of black teens have been murdered since Martin’s death, yet Liberals have chosen to fixate on Martin’s death? Black Liberals should ask themselves why they have disproportionate emotion in this case versus the thousands of others.
Meanwhile, life as an average guy in the Florida suburbs has ended for George Zimmerman. Some people have vowed vigilante justice against him. My brother will likely live in fear for the rest of his life, his brother Robert Zimmerman Jr., told CNN Sunday.
|George Zimmerman: What Now?|
"There are people who would want to take the law into their own hands as they perceive it, or be vigilante's in some sense," he told CNN. "They think that justice was not served, they won't respect the verdict no matter how it was reached and they will always present a threat to George and his family."
So what are the lessons learned here? Number one: Don't volunteer to be a neighborhood watch captain. And if you do, do not carry a gun.
Instead, allow yourself to be beaten senseless with possible brain damage for asking a hoodie-wearing 6-foot tall black teenager what he is doing in your neighborhood. It's the least you can do in order not to be accused of being racist.
It's the same mindset that materializes when a white person publicly criticizes President Obama or his caustic policies. Beware, because once you do, you will forever be branded a racist.
But you know what, I don't care. Because the term "racist" has become so diluted by its relentless overuse for any perceived affront, slight, or transgression that it has lost all meaning.
I am no longer sure just what racism is. One thing I do know is this: Racism is not a man acting in self-defense to protect life and limb, which is what the jury, after weighing tons of evidence, found in the George Zimmerman trial. Case closed!
Monday, June 3, 2013
(Among the more tragic stories I covered in my career was the Tiananmen Square tragedy—or massacre—depending on one’s perspective. It occurred 24 years ago in the world’s largest square with much of the world watching. Here are my recollections of that terrible night—one that I shall never forget.)
In just a few days (June 6 & 7) Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Obama will meet in Rancho Mirage, Cal. in an effort to hammer out what has been called a "new type of major power relationship" and to deal with the mutual suspicion that exists between the U.S. and China.
One could argue that a lot of the tension that exists between China and the U.S. can be traced back to the summer of 1989 when several hundred thousand students, labor leaders and other dissidents occupied the 5 million square foot concrete piazza known as Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing. For seven weeks as the world watched, some 500,000 “pro-democracy” demonstrators descended on Beijing’s most sacred site to protest corruption, human rights violations and one-party rule.
The protest would ultimately end in the early morning hours of June 4 with the deaths of at least 800 demonstrators (the Chinese Red Cross puts the number closer to 3,000 with 12,000 wounded) in what the world has come to know as the “Tiananmen Square Massacre.”
Today all evidence of that bloody night has been obliterated. Tiananmen Square is scrubbed and shimmering as it awaits the hundreds of thousands of visitors who will wander past the colossal portrait of Mao Zedong that hangs above the Gate of Heavenly Peace on the north end of the plaza and through the mausoleum that displays his waxy remains on the south end.
However, that was neither the mood nor the scene in 1989 when Tiananmen Square was turned into a squalid, fetid tent city of protestors.
|Students Occupying Tiananmen Square May 1989|
Today, for many young Chinese, the tragedy that unfolded in Tiananmen Square 24 years ago is ancient history—an event that has been glossed over, covered up and generally purged from the national consciousness.
But on June 3, 1989 as I walked through what is generally regarded as the planet’s largest city square the world was just a few hours from seeing China at its most ruthless and ugliest.
What follows is a personal eyewitness account of the events leading up to and including the attack on Tiananmen Square—a night that remains indelibly etched in my memory.
The square that day was a hot, grubby place, strewn with refuse, canvass tents and other makeshift dwellings. Under the towering “Heroes of the Nation” obelisk demonstrators cooked rice and soup while others linked arms and sang a spirited rendition of the “Internationale,” the world socialist anthem. Thousands of others dozed under flimsy lean-tos or blasted music from boom boxes.
Near the middle of the square, the 30-foot tall “Goddess of Democracy,” a pasty white statue constructed by art students and made of styrofoam and papier-mâché, stared defiantly at
giant portrait—almost mocking the founder of modern day China. A truck swept by
periodically spraying billowing clouds of insecticide and disinfectant over
everything and everybody in its path.
|The Goddess of Liberty|
Hawkers guiding pushcarts containing ice cream, soft drinks, rice cakes, candy and film encircled the students doing a brisk business. Even if the students in the square had not been able to topple China's ruling hierarchy, at least there were profits to be made.
One enterprising entrepreneur raked in several hundred yuan within a few minutes after he began renting stepping stools for the thousands of amateur photographers and tourists who arrived to have their pictures taken next to students or at the base of the "Goddess of Democracy" statue. Tiananmen, I wrote at the time, had evolved into a “Disneyland of Dissent.”
By June 3 the number of students occupying the square had dwindled to about 20,000 as thousands had already packed up and headed back to their provinces. But some students I talked with that afternoon were not ready to leave and a few shared an intense sense of foreboding.
One of those was
, who had been elected
"chief commander" by the dissidents, was the only woman among the
seven student leaders of the pro-democracy protests. As we sat cross-legged on
the hot pavement she talked about the protests and just what the students had
accomplished during their 7-week-long occupation of Tiananmen. Chai Ling.
“There will be a price to pay for all of this,” the 23-year-old child psychology graduate warned, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Some people will have to die for democracy, but it will be worth it.”
Chai, the object of a year-long nationwide search by the Chinese government after the violence in the square, would eventually escape China to Hong Kong sealed for five days and nights in a wooden crate in the hold of a rickety ship. She managed to elude capture in China by adopting a series of disguises, by learning local Chinese dialects and by working variously as a rice farmer, laborer and maid. Eventually she would come to the United States, be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and graduate from the Harvard Business School.
Barely eight hours after my conversation with Chai her warning would become reality. Late in the evening of June 3 and during the early morning hours of June 4 the lethargy of weary demonstrators and the cacophonic concert of boom box music would be replaced by shrieks of terror, gunfire and the guttural roar of tank and armored personnel carrier engines as the People’s Liberation Army rolled into the square, crushing tents and firing indiscriminately at protestors and anybody else who got in their way.
A couple of hours before the violence erupted a few of us foreign correspondents had enjoyed a quiet meal together in the venerable Beijing Hotel on Chang’an Avenue a few blocks from the square.
While dining we discussed the events of the night before when several thousand young unarmed military recruits were sent marching toward the students in Tiananmen Square. Before they got very far an estimated 100,000 Chinese civilians poured from their homes near the square and confronted the soldiers—berating them for even thinking of entering Tiananmen to clear it of the thousands of students who had occupied it since late April.
This rather benign event was nothing more than a probe to determine what kind of resistance armed troops might face when they stormed the square. For several weeks some 200,000 Chinese troops—most from provinces far away from Beijing—had been massing on the outskirts of the city.
As Beijing entered its 15th day of martial law, it was also obvious that the government was still unable to enforce that decree. The government did admonish members of the foreign media to "observe regulations on news coverage" as they relate to martial law.
"Foreign journalists must not talk with student protesters and any news coverage of any kind in Beijing must receive prior approval," said a statement by Ding Weijun, spokesman for the city.
|Students asleep in the Square|
The statement also warned the hundreds of foreign reporters still in Beijing against inviting Chinese citizens to their offices, homes or hotels to conduct "interviews regarding prohibited activities." Several foreign reporters had been expelled from the country for violating those rules.
The morning of June 3, ignoring marital law rules, I had driven outside of the square and into several neighborhoods where streets leading toward Tiananmen had been shut down by angry civilians intent on keeping the Chinese Army from reaching the students. Dozens of intersections were blocked with buses, trucks, and makeshift barricades. Neighborhood leaders proudly showed me their arsenal of weapons—rows of gasoline-filled bottles complete with cloth wicks, piles of rocks and bricks, shovels, rakes, picks and other garden tools.
“We will protect the students,” a man named
, told me. Liang
“But how?” I asked. “The army has tanks, machine guns and armored personnel carriers. They will kill you.”
“Then we will die,” he replied. Several dozen others quickly echoed his words. “Yes, we will all die. These are our children in the square. We must help them even if it means death.”
Several days after the attack on the square when the authorities allowed people to travel once again in the city, I drove back to this same neighborhood. True to their word, I was told that
and several of his neighbors had died or were wounded attempting to keep the
army from entering the square. Liang Hong
After dinner in the Beijing Hotel I decided to take one more stroll through the square. As I rode into the square on the red and white Sprick bicycle I had purchased after my arrival in Beijing from Tokyo two weeks before, I could see that many of the students were obviously spooked—not only by the unarmed incursion of the night before but by the intelligence pouring in from the neighborhoods surrounding the square that the army was on the move.
|The Author on his Sprick Bike|
“I think something will happen tonight,” one of them told me. “I am very afraid.”
I stopped at the foot of the Goddess of Democracy. The statue was illuminated by a couple of small spotlights as it looked toward the Forbidden City and
portrait. On the edge of the square I bought a bottle of Coca Cola then pushed
my bicycle toward the four-story KFC restaurant on the south end of the square.
It was about 8:30 p.m. and the restaurant (the largest KFC store in the world)
was almost empty.
I then rode the 2 miles down Jinguomenwei Avenue to the Jinguo Hotel where I was staying. I needed to file a story on the day’s events—specifically my conversation with
and the other students that afternoon. I finished writing my story around 10
p.m. and decided, despite the curfew, to ride my bicycle back to the square for
one more look around. I parked my bicycle on Xuanwumen Dong Avenue near the
hulking Museum of History and Revolution
on the east side of the square and began walking toward the “Heroes of the Nation” obelisk which had
become the headquarters for the students. Chai Ling
I hadn’t gotten very far when the sound of gunfire erupted. The firing seemed everywhere, amplified by the massive buildings that surrounded the square. I ran toward my bicycle, not wanting to be trapped in the square should tanks roll in. Moments later I ran into BBC correspondent
who was walking toward the
square with her camera crew. Kate
“What’s going on,” she asked.
“Looks like the army is making a move tonight,” I answered. I explained that I hadn’t seen any troops or tanks in the square at that point, but I did see muzzle flashes from the roof of the Great Hall of the People on the west side of the square. A day before several hundred troops had massed behind the Great Hall and I assumed they had been positioned on the roof.
|THE iconic photo of the Tiananmen Square Massacre|
I rode my bicycle north toward Chang’an Avenue and hadn’t gotten very far when I noticed a line of Armored Personnel Carriers moving toward the square flanked by hundreds of soldiers with fixed bayonets. Seconds later the dark sky was interlaced by red and yellow tracer fire and I could hear bullets ricocheting off of concrete. I turned my bike around and raced back toward the south end of the square. Like a lot of my fellow correspondents I never thought the government would use deadly force against the students.
As the firing intensified thousands more residents poured out of their houses and formed human blockades where streets entered the square. They quickly became targets for the machine gun and small arms fire. As the casualties mounted, the crowds became increasingly belligerent. They armed themselves with bricks, bottles, iron rods and wooden clubs and attacked some of the military contingents, including tanks.
An infuriated mob grabbed one soldier and set him afire after dousing him with gasoline. They then hung his still smoldering body from a pedestrian overpass. It was one of the many examples of instant justice. The crowd accused the soldier of having shot an old woman to death.
I watched the wounded and the dead being carted from the square and the area surrounding it on the flatbeds of three-wheeled vehicles through a pall of smoke. The stinging stench of tear gas hovered over the embattled city and burned my eyes.
|Wounded students are taken from square|
“Tell the world!” the crowds screamed at me and other foreign journalists. “Tell the United States! Tell the truth! We are students! We are common people-unarmed, and they are killing us!”
Around 2 a.m. at the height of the armed assault, a maverick tank careened down Jianguomenwai Avenue in an attempt to crack open the way for troop convoys unable to pass through the milling crowds.
With its turret closed, the tank was bombarded with stones and bottles as it sped down the avenue. Young cyclists headed it off, then slowed to bring it to a halt. But the tank raced on, the cyclists deftly avoiding its clattering treads by mere inches.
On the Jianguomenwai bridge over the city's main ring road, where a 25-truck convoy had been marooned for hours by a mass of angry civilians clambering all over it, a tank raced through the crowd. It sideswiped one of the army trucks, and a young soldier clinging to its side was flung off and killed instantly.
The worst fighting of the night occurred around the Minzu Hotel, west of the square, where grim-faced troops opened fire with tracer bullets and live ammunition on crowds blocking their access to the square. Bullets ripped into the crowd and scores of people were wounded. The dead and wounded were thrown on the side of the road among a pile of abandoned bicycles as the troops moved on to take the square.
One tank ran into the back of another that had stalled on Chang’an Avenue. As they hurriedly bounced apart, the machine guns on their turrets began to train on an approaching crowd of about 10,000. The machine guns erupted, sending tracers above the heads of the crowd. Men and women scurried for cover, many crawling into the piles of dead and wounded along the side of the road.
In my haste to return to the square I had forgotten to bring my camera. Even though it was night, the square was illuminated by street lamps and the sky above it was lit almost continuously with tracers and bright flares. I decided not to ride my bicycle in order to avoid becoming a larger target. At the same time, I didn’t want to lose the only form of transportation I had, so I pushed it wherever I went, sometimes crouching behind it. Finally, I found a small tree and padlocked it to the trunk.
|People moved cautiously during the night attack|
For most of the night I found myself caught between trying to cover the tragedy unfolding in and around the square and watching my back. I didn’t want to be caught in the sites of some trigger happy soldier.
At one point several hundred troops successfully occupied a corner of the square and I watched as a crowd of some 3,000 howling unarmed students surged toward them on foot and by bicycle, intent on breaking through their line with their bare hands. A few in front of the main body rammed their bikes into the troops and were quickly beaten to the ground by soldiers using the butts of their rifles or clubs.
“Fascists! Murderers!” the crowd chanted.
As the main body of the crowd got within 50 yards of the first line of troops, an army commander blew a whistle and the soldiers turned and fired volleys of automatic rifle fire. Screams of pain followed.
The protesters threw themselves and their bikes on the pavement of the Avenue of Eternal Peace. Dragging their bikes behind them, they crawled to safety, pursued by rifle fire and the throaty war cries of the soldiers.
When the firing momentarily stopped, the crowd regrouped and slowly crept back toward the square. Then the volleys rang out again, more intense this time. Two lines of soldiers began to chase the mob, alternately firing tear gas and bullets. I watched several people stagger and fall to the ground.
The acrid smell of tear gas triggered a paroxysm of coughing in the crowd. People ripped off shirt sleeves and used them as handkerchiefs over their mouths. The bodies of three women were laid out on the pavement of a side street to await transport. A crowd gathered around them, waving fists and cursing the government.
|The attack on the Square begins|
“How many people did you kill?” they shouted at steel-helmeted soldiers who stood stonily with AK-47 assault rifles cradled across their chests.
The fighting continued throughout the night as exhausted students and other dissidents engaged in hit and run battles with soldiers, tanks and APC’s. Some students, many of them wounded, scrambled aboard abandoned buses seeking refuge and aid. I watched soldiers pull them out and beat them with heavy clubs.
Several of the students, bleeding from head wounds, ran toward where I had taken cover behind a low stone wall. One of the students, a girl of maybe 16, had been shot through the shoulder and was bleeding profusely. She was falling in and out of consciousness and looked to be in shock. I looked behind me to see if there was some way to get her assistance. In the distance I saw a man waving at me from a doorway of a brick wall. He was motioning me to bring the girl and other wounded students to him, all the while carefully watching for soldiers. I pulled her up and with the help of another reporter, dashed with her and several other wounded students to the gate. The man quickly wrapped a blanket around the girl and took her inside the compound with the other students.
“Thank you,” he said. “I am a doctor. I will take care of them.”
I jogged back to the low wall where I had been kneeling before. I recall thinking that if I were wounded at least I now knew where I could go for help. For the next few hours I moved from one location to another, trying to find a spot where I could see what was happening while making sure I had an escape route should I come under fire.
The square was finally cleared at dawn when four personnel carriers raced across it, flattening not only the tents of the demonstrators but the “Goddess of Liberty” statue. I looked at my watch. It was about 5:30 in the morning and dawn was breaking over the city.
Ten minutes later a negotiated settlement allowed the hard-core remnants of the democracy movement—some 5,000 students and their supporters—to leave by the southeastern corner of the square. As they left singing the Internationale, troops ritually beat them with wooden clubs and rods.
The army had been ordered to clear the Square by 6 a.m and it had done so, but at a terrible cost.
As daylight broke over the Avenue of Eternal Peace dazed knots of Chinese, many of them weeping and all of them angry at their government, stood at intersections, reliving the events of a few hours before when tracer bullets and flares turned the black Beijing sky into a deadly torrent of crimson.
Along the roadside leading into the square lay several wounded, some perhaps already dead.
|Bodies of dead demonstrators removed from the Square|
“They murdered the people. . . . They just shot the people down like dogs, with no warning,” said a man whose shirt was soaked with blood. “I carried a woman to an ambulance, but I think she was dead.”
“Please,” he said, “you must tell the world what has happened here. We need your protection from our government.”
Perhaps the defining moment of the massacre came a bit later that morning when a student jumped in front of a column of tanks on Chang’an Avenue and refused to move. This student, as yet still unidentified, shouted at the tank commander: "Get out of my city. … You're not wanted here." Each time the tank would attempt to maneuver around the student, he would jump in front of it. The column of tanks turned off their motors and then several other students ran out and pulled the student to safety. To this day nobody is sure who the student was or what happened to him. Most Chinese still refer to him as the “tank man.”
I walked back to where I had left my bicycle and rode to the Jianguo Hotel. As I peddled along mostly deserted streets I tried to make sense out what I had seen. With the students already dispersing from the square or planning to, the attack by the army was unnecessarily brutal.
There was little doubt that what I had witnessed was an assault designed to punish the demonstrators for embarrassing China’s leadership—Premiere Li Peng and
the ailing leader of China’s Communist Party. Deng Xiaoping
China's hard-line rulers, clearly in control after the bloodbath, issued a statement that morning that said:
“Thugs frenziedly attacked People's Liberation Army troops, seizing weapons, erecting barricades and beating soldiers and officers in an attempt to overthrow the government of the People's Republic of China and socialism.”
China’s leaders have not forgotten the pro-democracy demonstrations of 1989. Unnerved by recent turbulence among Tibetans and always nervous about the possibility of human rights protests in the heart of the capital, China barred live television coverage from Tiananmen Square during the 2008 Beijing Olympics—just as it had in 1989.
It remains to be seen whether or not government censorship has exorcised the ghosts of June 4, 1989 that still hang over Tiananmen Square. But there is little doubt that time has not healed the deep wounds inflicted on China’s people that terrible night 24 years ago.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
With the Obama administration reeling from three (count-em 3) scandals the American people are now getting an idea what it is like to live in Chicago.
Chicago is the city where the dead vote and the ballot boxes still have to be stuffed just to make sure the dead don't change their minds.
As Studs Terkel once wrote: "Chicago is not the most corrupt American city. It's the most theatrically corrupt.”
When Obama was elected in 2008 I knew it would only be a matter of time before Chicago style politics took over in Washington. Now it has--and how.
Let's take a look at what has transpired in the past few days. Monday Obama and his Chicago minions found themselves in the bizarre position of reiterating Republican umbrage over the admission that the Internal Revenue Service targeted Tea Party and other conservative groups, while condemning his political opponents for generating "a sideshow" over his administration’s non-response to last year’s attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Libya.
By the end of the day Monday, the Obama administration found itself battling yet another potential crisis as lawyers for the Associated Press charged that the Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of its reporters and editors in what the news agency called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion” into how news organizations gather the news.
Then, Tuesday the nation watched White House press spokesman Jay Carney get his knickers in a twist over persistent and hostile questioning from an obviously outraged mainstream press corps that until now had been the administration's biggest cheerleaders.
But just as in Chicago, where politicians never admit to wrongdoing--even as they are carted off to prison--Carney, Obama et al feigned ignorance of the Justice Department's raid on AP and the IRS targeting of conservative organizations.
"We must wait for the facts to come out," Carney wheezed under the bright lights of the White House press briefing room.
Actually, the facts are out. The IRS has already admitted some of its offices targeted conservative organizations for "special treatment" much to the delight (I am sure) of Obama and his Chicago acolytes. A report by the Inspector General, sure to be critical of the IRS, is due out later this week.
As for the Justice Department, there is little doubt that it subpoenaed phone records of editors and reporters. The question now is for what reason? And where did the order to do so come from?
“This is obviously disturbing,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Committee. “Americans should take notice that top Obama Administration officials increasingly see themselves as above the law and emboldened by the belief that they don’t have to answer to anyone.”
|Chicago's Original 'Boss" Richard J. Daley|
Welcome to Chicago! That is the way politicians in the Windy City have behaved for more than 150 years.
Mark Twain was aware of that dubious legacy back in 1897 when he penned the following in Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar: "Satan (impatiently) to Newcomer: The trouble with you Chicago people is, that you think you are the best people down here; whereas you are merely the most numerous." (From," 1897).
Those "Chicago People" may not be the most numerous in Washington, but they have managed to latch onto a lot of power--from the White House on down the line.
Finally, much to the chagrin of the Obama administration, Republicans rejuvenated scrutiny of the White House on Benghazi, including last week’s House Oversight Committee hearing that featured the No. 2 U.S. official in Libya at the time of the attack describing how his pleas for a military response to the assaults were rejected.
Last week, internal emails showed that Obama's senior aides and State Department officials edited out references to terrorism in early "talking points" put out by the administration last September.
In Chicago when politicians don't want something disclosed whistleblowers mysteriously disappear or suddenly lose their memories. It's the Chicago Way.
So what will the White House do now? As much as Jay Carney would like to, he can't make an irate press disappear. They will not go away and they will continue to ask annoying questions that will cause a president who somehow believes he should be politically inviolate to fret and fume.
Up until now, Carney has had a pretty easy job. He only had to field tough questions from a handful of reporters (most from Fox News). Now he has the entire press corps to deal with. It's about time.
Obama, who might be the most arrogant president in history, would do well to take a lesson from the original boss of Chicago, Richard J. Daley, who said:
"Power is dangerous unless you have humility."
Thursday, May 9, 2013
This will be short. About as short as the way the American media have covered the whistleblower testimony on the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya in which four Americans, including the U.S. Ambassador were murdered.
First, let me say I am fully disgusted by the lack of coverage of this hearing. Only Fox News has given the riveting testimony Wednesday by the three whistleblowers the kind of air time this hearing deserves.
Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission in Libya and the highest ranking official in the country at the time of the attacks, confirmed that there was, in fact, a firm “stand down” order given after the U.S. compound in Benghazi came under attack. Hicks testified that he was “effectively” demoted shortly after questioning talking points that later proved to be demonstrably false. Hicks also revealed that he was told not to speak with an investigating Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) alone.
|The Three Whistleblowers are Sworn in|
The two other whistleblowers, Mark I. Thompson, a former U.S. Marine and currently the Deputy Coordinator for Operations in the State Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau and Eric Nordstrom, a Diplomatic Security officer who was the top security officer in the Libya in the months leading up to the Benghazi attacks were almost completely ignored by media coverage.
While Fox News provided almost wall-to-wall live coverage of the testimony, CNN devoted about 15 minutes to the hearings--preferring to hype the Cleveland abduction story. When MSNBC decided to cover the hearings it brought Democrat Elijah Cummings on who immediately dismissed the entire affair as an attempt to "launch unfounded accusations and smear public officials."
None of the three networks, NBC, CBS or ABC broke into regular programming to air any of the hearings. On its nightly news show, liberal maven and Hillary Clinton devotee Andrea Mitchell dismissed the hearings with this quip: "There is an obvious political undercurrent. Republicans are taking direct aim at Hillary Clinton, the country's most popular Democrat and a possible presidential contender."
ABC provided less than a minute of coverage and CBS's Sharyl Attkisson, who provided a balanced one minute report on the hearings, has been accused by CBS executives of 'wading dangerously close to advocacy on the issue.' Why, because she apparently feels the hearings and the entire Benghazi episode deserve at least as much coverage as the murder trials of Jodi Arias and Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell.
Republican Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas tweeted just before Arias was found guilty of first-degree murder: "Right now Jodi Arias is regretting not killing an ambassador or a Philadelphia infant," the implication being that not only would the media not cover her trial, but would probably do its best to help her go free.
To see journalists more concerned with protecting President Obama and Hillary Clinton than finding out the truth about an attack that killed four Americans is truly disgraceful. It makes me wonder what kind of future my chosen profession has in this country.
Journalists are already viewed with suspicion by the public. When news organizations decide to cover stories based on partisanship, rather than on their traditional responsibility as "watchdogs" of government, our democracy is in big trouble.
After the 1972 break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington D.C. we know the Nixon administration attempted to cover-up its involvement. The media were relentless in their pursuit of Nixon and his cronies and eventually the hearings and the media coverage forced Nixon's resignation.
In Benghazi, unlike Watergate, there were four deaths. Instead of outrage that Ambassador Stevens and three others were murdered, the media are towing the line of the Obama administration and keeping a lid on the entire affair. Where are the Woodward and Bernsteins of today?
And then there is the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who goes before the January Benghazi hearings and in response to a question of whether or not the State Department knew if the attack on the consulate was a spontaneous demonstration or a coordinated attack by terrorists, says heatedly: "At this point, what difference does it make?"
What difference does it make? How about who was giving the orders in the State Department regarding security in Benghazi and what the president knew and when he knew it? And how about our ambitious ex-secretary of state who is angling to be our next president?
The answers that may come from this hearing, despite the media's obvious stratagem to ignore them, will undoubtedly tell us what difference it makes.
Saturday, March 30, 2013
Recently a column in USA Today suggested that journalism schools such as New York's venerable Columbia University should simply shut their doors because they have become irrelevant given today's deluge of Internet information and new digital delivery platforms.
Allow me to put on my Dean's attire for a moment. In the University of Illinois' College of Media, where I toiled 7 years as Journalism Department Head and 6 years as Dean, the objective was to turn out students who had learned the basic fundamentals of journalism--clear, concise writing, editing, producing compelling packages (for our broadcast majors) and, of course, good story telling that kept readers, viewers and listeners engaged.
I think teaching those fundamentals, with the understanding, of course, that one hones and tempers those skills in the competitive heat of the professional world, is a basic requirement of any journalism program--be it a school, college, department or simply a collection of courses.
Beyond that, however, I think it is absolutely critical that journalism students have a broad education in areas such as economics, history, political and social sciences, international studies, business/economics, law and even languages. We encouraged our students to specialize in at least one of these areas.
Now to Columbia University. Its journalism school is strictly a graduate program and traditionally was intended to take students who had backgrounds in one of the above areas and teach them how to be journalists. That is how we ran our graduate program at Illinois---most of our grad students came to us with bachelor degrees in areas such as law, business, political science, etc. We then did what Columbia did: teach them the fundamentals of journalism--be it print, broadcast, online, etc.
My college had about 1,200 undergraduate students, about 30-40 master's students and about 40 PhD candidates who were studying in our Institute of Communication Research.
As with all journalism programs, the College of Media has been in a state of flux as the world of professional journalism as changed and adapted to the realities of new technologies, delivery platforms, etc.
Students at Illinois are taught how to use the new technologies, but they are not short-changed on the fundamentals and responsibilities that are so important for journalism students to learn and embrace. I often told students that journalism is not about the journalist, it is about the people the journalist is responsible to. When journalists begin to believe they are more important than the story, then they have lost their way and forsaken those responsibilities.
In the USA Today column, the writer suggested that journalism schools employ old journalistic hacks who may have lost their jobs. Nothing could be further from the truth at Illinois (and at other first tier journalism programs).
During my tenure, I hired three Pulitzer Prize winners--hardly the kind of individual Michael Wolf alludes to in his scathing indictment of Columbia. Most of my faculty teaching in the journalism program were former professionals who brought real world experience and with it, professional credibility, into the classroom.
The College of Media also had a Department of Advertising and a Department of Media and Cinema Studies. Even in those departments we looked for faculty with professional backgrounds (Roger Ebert, for example, one of our journalism department's alumni, was a mentor and adjunct professor) in addition to academic and teaching credentials. The College also had a professional operation: WILL-AM-FM-TV and Online--the PBS/NPR affiliate for Central Illinois. Many of our students were able to get real world experience working at those operations.
The author of the USA Today piece wonders why Columbia isn't disgorging "information entrepreneurs." I am not sure what an "information entrepreneur" is. Is it a blogger who has never taken journalism classes? Hardly my definition of a journalist--no matter what kind of technology he/she is using.
Journalists and the organizations they work for need the trust of readers, viewers, listeners, twitter followers, web surfers, etc. They must earn that trust by being consistently accurate in their reporting and by producing stories that are "fair and balanced," to use a rather overused phrase.
Sadly, it seems that too many journalists (or those who like to call themselves journalists) have forgotten that and as a result, the public trust that we once took for granted is eroding.
The USA Today column does make a valid point about the employment prospects for newly minted journalists. Opportunities are more constricted compared to when I began working for the Chicago Tribune (1969). Newspapers are losing traditional readers, and while some are finding new readers via their online and mobile device editions, advertising revenues are not keeping up. News organizations, in the end, are businesses. If they don't make a profit they can't remain in business. That means fewer traditional journalism jobs.
At the same time, the skill sets demanded by news organizations have grown immensely. Journalists today must master a much more complex array of technologies than when I began back in the Stone Age. They must know how to shoot video, blog, tweet, do live stand ups, etc. By contrast, in addition to pounding away on a 10 pound Underwood typewriter (a what?), when I was first sent abroad as a correspondent, I prided myself in knowing how to use a telex machine (a what?).
Does that mean "non-traditional" journalists will supplant the more traditional variety? In some ways, they already have, up to a point. However, I believe traditional news organizations have a clear mission to provide the kind of vetting process that the Internet with its plethora of bloggers simply cannot.
For example, I may see an interesting piece online somewhere--produced by a blogger or by some organization with an obvious axe to grind--but I always go to a recognized news organization to see how it is reporting the same story or event.
Finally, if Columbia and other such institutions should shut their doors forever because "media experts" keep writing obituaries for the news business, then where will tomorrow's journalists come from?
Will they be the "information entrepreneurs" the article seems to be so fond of who have never heard of the Society of Professional Journalists nor the principles of journalism it stands behind and promotes?
Will they be an army of self-absorbed bloggers who have abandoned the practice of fair and accurate reporting in favor of their own un-vetted and idiosyncratic propaganda?
Or will society simply abandon the idea of privately-owned news organizations in favor of government-run websites and blogs without the traditional watchdog function that the Fourth Estate has traditionally provided?
That is not a world that any of us should feel comfortable living in.