President Trump at the UN, September 19, 2017 – Annotated

President Trump’s statement to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 19, 2017, as prepared for delivery.

Mr. Secretary General, Mr. President, world leaders, and distinguished delegates: Welcome to New York. It is a profound honor to stand here in my home city, as a representative of the American people, to address the people of the world.

As millions of our citizens continue to suffer the effects of the devastating hurricanes that have struck our country , I want to begin by expressing my appreciation to every leader in this room who has offered assistance and aid. The American people are strong and resilient, and they will emerge from these hardships more determined than ever before.

The devastating hurricanes struck several small countries in the Caribbean but Trump does not even mention those countries. Did the US offer them special aid?

Fortunately, the United States has done very well since Election Day last November 8th . The stock market is at an all-time high — a record. Unemployment is at its lowest level in 16 years, and because of our regulatory and other reforms, we have more people working in the United States today than ever before. Companies are moving back, creating job growth the likes of which our country has not seen in a very long time. And it has just been announced that we will be spending almost $700 billion on our military and defense.

Fortunately for the US but not necessarily for people in the rest of the world, and why should the rest of the world care?

Our military will soon be the strongest it has ever been. For more than 70 years, in times of war and peace, the leaders of nations, movements, and religions have stood before this assembly. Like them, I intend to address some of the very serious threats before us today but also the enormous potential waiting to be unleashed.

Our military has been by far the largest in the world for decades. This comes across as an implicit threat: “and we will not hesitate to use it against anyone who crosses us”.

We live in a time of extraordinary opportunity. Breakthroughs in science, technology, and medicine are curing illnesses and solving problems that prior generations thought impossible to solve.

But each day also brings news of growing dangers that threaten everything we cherish and value. Terrorists and extremists have gathered strength and spread to every region of the planet. Rogue regimes represented in this body not only support terrorists but threaten other nations and their own people with the most destructive weapons known to humanity.

Authority and authoritarian powers seek to collapse the values, the systems, and alliances that prevented conflict and tilted the world toward freedom since World War II.

International criminal networks traffic drugs, weapons, people; force dislocation and mass migration; threaten our borders; and new forms of aggression exploit technology to menace our citizens.

To put it simply, we meet at a time of both of immense promise and great peril. It is entirely up to us whether we lift the world to new heights, or let it fall into a valley of disrepair.

We have it in our power, should we so choose, to lift millions from poverty, to help our citizens realize their dreams, and to ensure that new generations of children are raised free from violence, hatred, and fear.

This institution was founded in the aftermath of two world wars to help shape this better future. It was based on the vision that diverse nations could cooperate to protect their sovereignty, preserve their security, and promote their prosperity.

It was in the same period, exactly 70 years ago, that the United States developed the Marshall Plan to help restore Europe. Those three beautiful pillars — they’re pillars of peace, sovereignty, security, and prosperity.

Three beautiful pillars? I count four.

The Marshall Plan was built on the noble idea that the whole world is safer when nations are strong, independent, and free. As President Truman said in his message to Congress at that time, “Our support of European recovery is in full accord with our support of the United Nations. The success of the United Nations depends upon the independent strength of its members.

The success of the UN depends on ALL its members, not just European ones.

To overcome the perils of the present and to achieve the promise of the future, we must begin with the wisdom of the past. Our success depends on a coalition of strong and independent nations that embrace their sovereignty to promote security, prosperity, and peace for themselves and for the world.

We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, traditions, or even systems of government. But we do expect all nations to uphold these two core sovereign duties: to respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation. This is the beautiful vision of this institution, and this is foundation for cooperation and success.

The UN vision and charter are about relationships AMONG countries, not about what happens inside countries other than for fundamental human rights, and most definitely not about commercial or power interests. Trump explicitly places self-interest before global interest and then claims implicitly in the last sentence that this prioritization is the UN’s “beautiful vision”. It is absolutely NOT. The word “strong” does not occur anywhere in the UN charter.

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Tampa’s Confederate Monument is Gone!


On my way to class at the University of Tampa I stopped by the old County Courthouse to check on the Confederate Soldiers Monument.

Here is what I saw:

This is what it used to look like.

The soldier facing to the left marches briskly north to battle, rifle on his shoulder. The soldier facing south, head bandaged, hat in hand rifle dragging at his side, returns defeated and bowed, spirit still proud.

Steve Contorino, the Tampa Bay Times reporter who covered this story’s ups and downs, found reports of the speeches when Hillsborough County accepted this monument from the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1911. “The keynote speaker, state attorney Herbert S. Phillips, had this to say ‘The South stands ready to welcome all good citizens who seek to make their homes within her borders. But the South detests and despises all, it matters not from whence they came, who, in any manner, encourages social equality with an ignorant and inferior race.'”

Before the Civil War and during its early years, white Southern firebrands were not ashamed to proclaim their cause: Slavery. In Phillips’ statement you can see that by 1911, 45 years after the war, white Southerners knew they had lost the war, but believed they had won the struggle for white supremacy and the suppression of blacks. They were not ashamed of what they believed was a cause that was right and just. They publicly proclaimed the meaning of this and the other monuments.

I played a small part, which I’ve described in earlier blog posts, beginning with my op-ed essay in the Tampa Tribune a year ago calling for this statue to be moved from public property, and including testifying twice before the County Commissioners.

At the first meeting, in June, to consider the matter, the commissioners voted against moving the statue. The next month, the commissioners reversed themselves and voted to move the statue to a private cemetery in Brandon, a town in Hillsborough County. The next month, in August, the commissioners, some of whom evidently really hated the thought of moving this monument to rebellion and the defense of slavery, voted that the monument would only move if proponents of the move could raise $140,000 in the next 24 hours.

To their surprise and chagrin, I surmise, the dedicated GoFundMe page quickly collected the money. Tony Dungee, the beloved former coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, contributed $5000 and challenged the local professional teams to contribute. They did. They contributed tens of thousands of dollars through the Chamber of Commerce. The mayor of Tampa contributed $1000.

The week of Labor Day work began after a last-ditch suit to stop removing the statue was dismissed. Of course, work stopped as hurricane Irma approached. As you can see it was mostly completed, only the base remains.

I think this is remarkable. I’m new to Tampa, but I knew about these monuments all over the South. I’m impressed that, Americans, white and black, forward-thinking, favoring equality and justice for all citizens and residents have been able to dismantle these symbols of racism that proclaim an irreconcilable belief in white supremacy.

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Did Black Men Serve in Confederate Armies Part III


A commenter to a post about the Gamble Plantation asserted that many blacks freely served in Confederate armies. This falsehood is widely believed among the “heritage not hate” Confederate monument and flag supporters, neo-Confederates, and some southern educated white Southerners. Some of those who spoke at the recent Hillsborough County Council meetings in favor of preserving the County’s Confederate Soldiers Monument on the Courthouse grounds told this canard to the Commissioners.

I’ve written about this subject in two previous posts, Part I and Part II. In Part II, I described the Cleburne Memorial of January 1864. This proposal, to enlist black men in return for their freedom, by Major General Patrick R. Cleburne, one of the South’s best division commanders, was so scandalous that Jefferson Davis ordered it kept secret, and the Confederate War Department ordered all copies destroyed. A single surviving copy was found decades later in some regimental papers. If the Confederates had been enlisting black men as soldiers Cleburne’s proposal would have been unnecessary. If the enlistment of black men were merely undesired, as it was at the beginning of the war in the North, then the strict secrecy and destruction of all evidence of the proposal would have been unnecessary too. The Confederate government and Confederate armies did not enlist black men.

How did white Southerners, Confederate officials, officers and soldiers view armed black men, such as the soldiers in the United States Colored Troops regiments? They were horrified at the thought. They did not consider them legitimate soldiers worthy of respect due honorable enemies according to the laws of war of that time.

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Did Black Soldiers Serve in the Confederate Army? Part II


A commenter responding to one of my essays about the Gamble House asserted that many black soldiers served in the Confederate Army. I cited his remarks in my earlier post of the same title as this one. There I also linked to an essay by a professional historian who wrote about the matter in the New York Times, and to an essay that described the origins of this wildly false claim. Many among the supporters of Confederate monuments, Confederate flags, and many people educated in the South believe this claim.

In my first essay, I included and discussed a photograph of an armed Confederate white officer and an armed black man in Confederate uniform. These pictures of black men in Confederate uniform, of which there are a few, show black slaves brought by their commissioned masters to the army as personal servants. They do not show black Confederate soldiers.

I’m not a professional historian, but I’ve read a lot as an amateur. I have some things to say about this subject beyond my first post.

The Confederate government did not enlist black men, either slaves or freemen, into the Confederate army until a few weeks before the end of the war and only a few dozen at that. Indeed, Southern white people widely feared the possibility of a slave revolt, and most states banned arming slaves.

Consider the remarkable Cleburne memorial, as it is known. In this context, memorial is an old word for what we today might call a memorandum or a white paper. Confederate General Patrick R. Cleburne was an Irish immigrant to Arkansas. He was not a slave owner. When Arkansas seceded from the Union, he allied himself with his new compatriots and enlisted in the Confederate armed forces as a private. He had had military experience in Ireland, and he advanced rapidly through the ranks. By January 1864, he was among the Confederacy’s most respected and capable division commanders. Union bullets struck him down among his men in the battle of Franklin in Tennessee, a calamitous Confederate defeat.

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Did black men serve as soldiers in the Confederate Army?


Our post from last December, Why Do the People and Government of Florida Honor Judah P. Benjamin at the Gamble Plantation State Park? has drawn a few comments. Here’s the most recent:

takebackUS (@wc983)

August 15, 2017 at 5:50 am Edit

You do realize many blacks freely served [in] the confederacy and owned slaves. Your rhetoric is boring!!

To this I replied:

Dear takeback,
How would it have been possible for a black slave to “freely” serve in the Confederate army? A slave could not freely do anything.
You are misinformed about black Confederate soldiers. The idea of arming black men was horrifying to Southern white people, to the leaders of the Confederacy, and to Confederate soldiers. The Confederacy only began to enlist black men bearing their owner’s manumission papers, in the final weeks of the war out of desperation. Only a few dozen were enlisted, and they did not take part in combat.
I’ll write a blog post about this for you and our readers.

Here’s the promised blog post.

That black men, free and slave, served in Confederate Armies is widely believed among defenders of today’s Confederate monuments and the display of Confederate flags. Many of those who testified to the Hillsborough County Council that the local monument is not racist asserted that people of many nationalities, including blacks, served in rebel armies. One displayed a photograph of a black man in Confederate gray uniform. I couldn’t find that photograph, but here’s another:

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Arctic Sea Ice Extent: Sprucing up a Chart


This important and useful chart was on the National Snow and Ice Data Center site on August 8, 2017:

But I found it unusually hard to read. Here is my spruced-up version:

No more hard-to-read vertical text. Zero-based, thus enabling one immediately to see how much lower the extent was in 2012 and is projected to be in 2017. Date of measurement prominent in the title area. Labels close to their items, so the eye doesn’t have to travel back and forth to interpret. Percentage of total ocean area on the left axis, as opposed to square km values in the original, for which one would have to know that the Arctic Ocean’s total area is 14m+ square km in order to realize that the ice extent remains nearly 100% at the start of May.

To me, the original’s main errors were 1) not being zero-based, which forces you to imagine the full picture in order to grasp the real meaning, and 2) expressing measured ice area on the left axis instead of % of total Arctic Ocean area, forcing you to look elsewhere to find out how full or empty the Arctic Ocean actually was/is of sea ice. A basic rule of user interface design is, “Don’t Make Me Think!” unnecessarily. That’s the title of my favorite user-interface book, written lightly and gracefully by Steve Krug and well worth a read.


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Tampa to Move Its Confederate Soldiers Monument

Hillsborough County’s Commissioners voted to move the Confederate Soldiers Monument from in front of the Courthouse Annex to a private cemetery in Brandon, a nearby county town. This reverses the decision they voted for just a month ago. That vote was 4-3 to keep the monument. This one was 4-2 to move it, with one of the previous keep it voters not present and another switching sides.

Ordinarily, the Commissioners set aside an hour for public comments. Each speaker gets 3 minutes. Today, more than 100 citizens wished to speak on this issue. The first 30 or so were given 2 minutes each and the rest 1 minute. Alas. It still took nearly 3 hours for everyone to have their say.

It turns out that in the month since the last meeting, the Commissioners had been seeking a suitable new location, and, it turns out, that one fellow, who likes the monument but agrees that it doesn’t belong on public property, offered to raise the funds. Evidently, he began a GoFundMe campaign with a significant contribution.

In the previous meeting, I’d judge that supporters and opponents were split fairly evenly, but slightly more for removing the monument. Today, however, those 120 speakers, of whom I heard about 2/3rds, were 9 to 1 in favor of moving the monument.

It also turns out that Tampa’s mayor and its city council spoke out against the monument, and the owners of two of the professional teams, the Rays and the Bucs, spoke out against it.

Here’s my prepared testimony. I gave the commission copies of my prepared remarks, although I had to leave out plenty in my one minute. It was hard to decide which of my golden words to omit.

The divisive and racist monument honoring only those Florida Civil War soldiers who fought for the Confederacy should be given back to the United Daughters of the Confederacy. It should be removed from public property.

Hillsborough County should create a new memorial to all the soldiers from Florida who fought in the Civil War. This includes the 2000 white men, loyal to the United States, who fought in the First and Second Florida Calvary regiments, and the more than 5000 black men, former slaves who escaped from their owners and served in United States Colored Troops regiments. The purpose of the people who created this monument, and of the County officials of 100 years ago, and of today’s monument supporters, was and is to erase these loyal soldiers from history.

These days, the monument’s supporters say that to remove the monument would be to erase history and dishonor their ancestors who were only fighting to defend their homes.

Consider actual history, as written by many modern historians.

Florida’s Confederate soldiers were not defending their homes. The United States Army did not attack homes in Florida. The state was a strategic backwater, and while the Union forces took control of Jacksonville, and maintained control of Key West, Pensacola, and a few other places along the coast, they avoided seizing ground from the insurgents.

Most Florida Confederate regiments fought as part of the Army of Tennessee and the Army of Northern Virginia. They were not defending their homes in Florida. Indeed, they took part in invasions of Kentucky, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

While Union armies did not attack Florida homes, the Confederate army under command of General P. G. T. Beauregard burned Pensacola in 1862. That is, the Confederates burned Florida homes. The Union did not. (Commissioner White, New Orleans had a monument to Gen. Beauregard, the man who ordered the destruction of Pensacola, until recently.)

Confederate soldiers were angered to face black soldiers in Union regiments. Confederate armies did not treat captured black soldiers as prisoners of war to be exchanged, but sold them into slavery. Often, Confederate soldiers shot black soldiers attempting to surrender or lying wounded on the battlefield. After the largest battle fought in Florida, the 1864 Battle of Olustee, Confederate soldiers killed wounded black Union soldiers who remained on the battle field. Erasing this from history, I doubt that modern day re-enactors re-enact this war crime.

As this bloody war has been over for 150 years, Hillsborough County can include Confederate soldiers in a monument to all of Florida’s Civil War soldiers, but it is historically and morally wrong, divisive and racist to only honor white Confederate soldiers.

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