The School of Athens

The School of Athens
The School of Athens by Raphael (click on picture to view short documentary from Columbia University)

Monday, 24 July 2017

Compare and contrast: John McCain & Donald Trump

Fellow citizens,

As you would no doubt have heard, Senator John McCain has been diagnosed with brain cancer. It's a terrible cancer from which few survive. It was brain cancer that killed Senator Ted Kennedy.

My thoughts are with him. 


John McCain is a great servant and patriot of the United States.

He was insulted appallingly by that idiot Donald Trump in 2015, saying McCain was no Vietnam hero as all he did was get captured.

"At the time, a report in the Washington Post revealed that while then-Lieutenant Commander McCain was suffering from disease, malnourishment, and a number of gruesome wounds in a bleak Vietnamese prison, Mr Trump was living a glamorous life at an Ivy League University and later in exclusive Manhattan nightclubs."

"When Mr McCain’s plane was shot down over Hanoi during his 23rd bombing mission Mr Trump, nine years his junior, was studying the real estate business at Pennsylvania University’s esteemed Wharton School. He was able to avoid conscription through a series of student deferments, as well as a medical deferment for a bone spur in his foot." 

[The UK Telegraph].

Trump is like so many, including George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, who all served in 'B' Company during Vietnam - Be here when you go and Be here when you get back.

Below is a comprehensive piece from Newsweek written by John Hubbell detailing John McCain's story in Vietnam.


The story of John McCain's war record and Donald Trump's attack.

One can't help but wonder what it would take to get Donald Trump to call someone a war hero. He says John McCain is no hero, that all he did in Vietnam was to get captured, and called him a "loser" because he failed to win the Presidency of the United States in 2008.

On October 26, 1967, McCain's A4 Skyhawk was hit by a North Vietnamese surface-to air-missile and was upside down and out of control by the time he was able to eject into a lake in the middle of Hanoi. His limbs flailed so wildly as he fell  that both arms and one leg were broken. After he was pulled ashore by the North Vietnamese, a rifle butt was slammed into his left shoulder, breaking it, and a bayonet was stabbed into his left foot. He was in the worst physical condition of any of the hundreds of Americans sent to Hanoi's Hoa Lo prison – the words Hoa Lo translate into "fiery furnace." Its American guests dubbed it "The Hanoi Hilton." It wasn't much like a Hilton.

Like most Americans who entered Hoa Lo, McCain, despite his severe injuries, was immediately brutalized. Ordered to identify future American targets for bombing, he replied with name, rank and serial number.  The Geneva Convention requires nothing more of prisoners of war, and that is all that the U.S. Code of Conduct allows of its own military if captured, or requires of any prisoners it takes. Following McCain's answer, two of the interrogators' large assistants took several turns encouraging him to cooperate by grabbing the front of his T-shirt and smashing their fists into his face.

Vietnam war veteran and former Republican presidential frontrunner, Senator John McCain of Arizona peeps through a hole in a prison cell door at the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" jail. REUTERS

McCain was in terrible pain, but believed that since Hanoi was a Geneva signatory, he would be taken care of until he was taken to a hospital. It didn't happen. He received no medical attention, and the interrogation and the brutalities continued. Days passed. Increasingly weak and feverish, McCain says he was forced to lay in his own waste. He was unable to use his hands, so occasionally guards were ordered to feed him. Still, he gave his captors only his name, rank and serial number. He was told that he was not a prisoner of war but a criminal, and that he had no rights.

In the spring of 1968, McCain's father, Admiral John S, McCain, Jr., was appointed CinCPAC, Commander-in-Chief Pacific, Commander of all U.S. military forces from the west coast of the Americans to the Indian Ocean. By this time, Hanoi's propaganda tactics included the occasional release of American captives who had agreed to go home and speak well of Hanoi's "humane" and "lenient" treatment. When Hanoi learned the identity of McCain's father they crowed, "We have the crown prince!" and he was asked, "Do you want to be released?"

A black and white photograph taken in 1967 of then captured navy pilot John McCain is shown as part of an exhibit on American prisoners of war in Hanoi's Hoa Lo prison April 28. REUTERS

McCain admits that he was tempted. He was in dire need of serious medical attention, he had dysentery and was rapidly losing weight he could not afford to lose. His chances of surviving this seemingly endless war were diminishing. He said he'd have to think about it.

A few days later he says his interrogator said, "The senior officer wants to know your answer."

"My answer is no," McCain said.


"Our Code of Conduct says we must not accept parole, amnesty or special favors."

McCain says his captors said they were anxious to demonstrate their good will. "President Johnson has ordered that you go home."

"Show me the orders."

They couldn't; there were no such orders.

"The doctors say you cannot live if you do not go home."

"The prisoners must be sent home in the order in which they were captured," McCain says he replied.

"What is your final answer?"

"My final answer is No."

Then, he recalls, his captors angrily told him, "It is going to be very bad for you now, McCain."

And it was. Eight or 10 prison guards piled into him, howling with laughter, trying to outdo each other, pounding his face and his slowly mending limbs, battering him.

That was followed by several days of steady torture.

A tourist points at an undated black and white picture which shows a Vietnamese army doctor giving treatment to John McCain at Hoa Lo prison in Hanoi March 4, 2008. KHAM/REUTERS

Somehow, John McCain gutted it out, survived. He spent five years in Hoa Lo for refusing to cooperate with his country's enemy. He would never again be able to lift either arm above his shoulders. But he became one of the inspirational leaders of the hundreds of POWs who made it through. He came home and so far has given more than 40 more years of his life to the service of his country, in the Navy, as a member of both Houses of Congress and as the Republican nominee for the Presidency and again in Congress.

Donald Trump called him a "loser," but to me, John McCain sounds much more like someone American kids once read about in history books, someone like Nathan Hale, who is remembered as one of the American Revolution's great heroes because on September 22, 1776, as his British captors prepared to hang him, he regretted that he had only one life to give for his country.

John Hubbell, a roving editor at Reader's Digest, is the author of P.O.W.: "A Definitive History of the American Prisoner-of-War Experience in Vietnam, 1964-1973."


Friday, 21 July 2017

The giant leap

Fellow citizens,

On the 48th anniversary of humanity's greatest achievement, the landing on the Moon by Apollo 11, it's always important to constantly remind ourselves of what is possible when humans take Stephen Hawking's advice and look up at the stars and not down at our feet.

"I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth." President John F. Kennedy, May 25, 1961.

"That's one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind." Neil Armstrong, July 20, 1969.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Why Donald Trump doesn't give a rodent's derrière...for now.

Colleagues and scholars from coast to coast, across Bass Strait and all the ships at sea.

Dateline: United States, Presidential approval ratings, July 2017.

This is why Donald Trump doesn't give a stuff about how his behaviour is being seen outside his base. 

Thursday, 6 July 2017

What Australia needs...

Colleagues and scholars from coast to coast, across Bass Strait and all the ships at sea.

Dateline: Australia, Federal Politics, July 2017.


Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Malcolm Turnbull's greatest legacy

Colleagues and scholars from coast to coast, across Bass Strait and all the ships at sea.

Dateline: Australia, Federal Politics, July 2017.

At the conclusion of his prime ministership, Australians will be grateful to Malcolm Bligh Turnbull for one key thing - and that is, that he brought back a public civility to political discourse that was sadly lacking under his predecessor Tony Abbott.

Politics in Australia took a very nasty turn when Abbott became Opposition Leader in 2009 and then Prime Minister in 2013.

Of Abbott's many, many, disgraceful public comments, the most despicable, in my view, was his: "When does no mean no, Julia?" How he survived as Opposition Leader following that utterance is beyond me.

Another appalling and insensitive stupidity was his: "This is the biggest surrender since Singapore!" Especially from someone who was all too eager to wrap himself in the flag and invoke the memory of the Anzacs for his own political benefit.

Then, of course, there was this:

Could anyone imagine Turnbull having said or done any of those shocking things?

And Abbott's language following the death of Julia Gillard's father, when he used the phrase 'died of shame' in Parliament knowing full well the effect that would have had on her after Alan Jones had already used the phrase, was beneath contempt.

At the same time, this is how Turnbull behaved:

Could the contrast be any starker?

Abbott is a buffoon and the sooner Australian politics is rid of him, the better.

Look at the United States under an even bigger buffoon in Donald Trump, causing conservative commentator David Brooks of the New York Times to ask:

"The big question for me is, do we snapback? Do the norms that used to govern politics re-establish themselves after the Trump administration, or are we here forever?

"And I hope, from the level of outrage [at one of Trump's insulting tweets], that we have a snapback. But the politics is broken up and down. And Trump may emerge from a reality TV world that is much more powerful than we think. And there is the prospect that this is where we are, which is an horrific thought."

Thankfully, Turnbull has snapped Australia back from the thuggish, head butting time of Abbott.

This, without any doubt, will be Turnbull's greatest legacy.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The Abbott manifesto

Colleagues and scholars from coast to coast, across Bass Strait and all the ships at sea.

Dateline: Australia, Federal Politics, Tony Abbott manifesto and voter response, June 2017.

Abbott's manifesto:

 Voters' response:

Something tells me there might be another Lucy saying the same thing.


Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Embrace the loving hug

Fellow citizens,

One day someone will hug you so tightly that all your broken pieces will fit back together.

To accompany that gorgeous photo, please listen to Ella Fitzgerald singing the Gershwin classic, "Embraceable You" on YouTube here:


Blog Archive

Our home

Our home
Earthrise over the moon (click on picture to view film)

The pale blue dot

The pale blue dot
Earth viewed from Saturn (click on picture to view film clip)

Our neighbourhood

Our neighbourhood
The Solar System (click on picture to view film)

Our Home Galaxy

Our Home Galaxy
The Milky Way (click on picture to view film)

A sister galaxy

A sister galaxy
Andromeda (click on picture to view film)

Another sister galaxy

Another sister galaxy
Triangulum (click on picture to view short film clip)

The Local Group of Galaxies

The Local Group of Galaxies
Our Galactic Neighbourhood (click on picture to view film clip).

Our farthest view of the Universe

Our farthest view of the Universe
Hubble's farthest view (click on picture to view film clip)

The virgo super cluster of galaxies

The virgo super cluster of galaxies
Galaxies within 100 million light years (click on picture to view film clip)

Galaxies within 1 billion light years

Galaxies within 1 billion light years