Don’t Give ISIS Credit

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shooterI don’t think Omar Mateen’s devastating terror attack was caused by ISIS or any other Islamic sect. It looks to me like the work of his own personal demons.

He was a dangerously unstable human being. His ex-wife (above) described him as “deeply disturbed and traumatized.” Their marriage lasted only a few months before she fled his beatings and his sudden outbursts of rage.

According to an article in The Guardian:

Sitora Yusifiy was married to Mateen for four months in 2009 until her family was forced to “literally rescue me” after he kept her “hostage”, she said on Sunday in Colorado….

“A few months after we were married I saw his instability, I saw his bipolar, and he would get mad out of nowhere, and that’s when I started worrying about my safety.

Then after a few months he started abusing me physically, very often, and not allowing me to speak to my family, and keeping me hostage from them,” she said.

She said her family arrived to rescue her from Mateen “and had to pull me out of his arms”.

It’s clear that Mateen was mentally ill and it was his illness that drove him to commit mass murder. But why pick on gays?

Was he conflicted about his own sexuality? Possibly. It has happened to others.

His ex-wife said in a recent TV interview that she thought Mateen had “homosexual tendencies.” And one of his former classmates told the Palm Beach Post they went to gay bars together in college and Mateen once asked him out “romantically.”

Mateen was also seen previously frequenting the gay nightclub where he acted out his maniacal hostility. And he posted on a gay dating site.

Was he looking for a gay relationship? Or was he just doing research for his attack?

We may never know.

But we know enough to conclude that Omar Mateen was a conflicted and tormented creature, a human bomb just waiting for something to trigger a deadly explosion.

Was it ISIS that lit his fuse? He pledged allegiance to the terrorist group. But he also bragged about knowing the Boston Marathon bombers, and that was a lie. My guess is that he was just a showoff, a narcissistic blowhard likely to do or say anything to get attention.

Even if ISIS propaganda played a part in the nightmare, I would hesitate to give the despicable sect the credit they are seeking.

If ISIS hadn’t set Mateen off, something else surely would have.

This most recent horror looks to me like a mental health and gun control issue, with religious terrorism only peripherally involved.

Click for the Guardian article.

Mateen’s “homosexual tendencies”

Palm Beach Post story

 

Another Blood Bath

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What will it take to make Congress pass sensible gun control legislation? When will the shameful cowards revolt against their NRA overlords and serve the people as they’re supposed to be doing?

Surely they don’t need a more compelling argument than the one provided by Omar Mateen in Orlando over the weekend?

Fifty people are dead and more fatalities are likely as several of the 53 wounded cling to life.

The worst mass shooting in the history of the United States.

Now, the politicians are ranting about hatred of homosexuals (the scene of the shooting was a gay nightclub) and “Islamic radicals.” They’re arguing about the real motive for the atrocity.

Hear me now, folks, that is beside the point.

omarWhatever drove Omar Mateen (at right), surely he was not sane. No sane person would have – could have – mowed down a hundred innocent people for any reason.

There will always be crazy people, and they will sometimes find a reason to act out.

But if they cannot get their hands on a military-grade weapon, they cannot mow down a hundred people before they are stopped. If all Omar had was a revolver or a hunting rifle, dozens of those nightclub patrons would still be alive this morning.

Surely the politicians can see that? Surely they cannot reasonably argue against limiting the kind of arms civilians can buy?

It’s horrific that Omar Mateen hated gays. It’s horrific that he was “radicalized” by ISIS. But it is also immaterial.

What’s more terrifying is that he was able to buy an automatic weapon and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

People like Mateen will always be with us. But people like Mateen should not be able to get their hands on automatic weapons.

It’s as simple as that.

Click for the news reports.

More from me on gun control

 

The Double Whammy

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I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Hillary Clinton should choose Elizabeth Warren as her running mate.

Yes, let’s have two women on the ticket!

That should give the guys down at the pub something to chew on. That should prompt more fatuous remarks from Donald Trump about “playing the woman card.”

Did anyone accuse Ronald Reagan or Jimmy Carter or John Kerry or whoever of playing the man card when they tapped another guy for vice president?

Of course not.

We’ve had two men on the same ticket for generations. Nobody complained about that.

I am exasperated when I read some dopey piece wondering whether Americans are ready for a woman President. And I got really grouchy this morning when I read a Chicago Tribune article pondering the possibility of having a woman as Hillary’s running mate.

What’s so new and different about that?

Nobody cried foul when John McCain chose Sarah Palin. And there was a real possibility that Palin could have become President if McCain had won the White House. He is no spring chicken.

I didn’t even hear any complaints all those years ago when Walter Mondale chose Geraldine Ferraro for his ticket.

ntr-campaign-card-2-ahc-digital-colxnsThere are several female governors in America today.

Wyoming elected Nellie Tayloe Ross (at right) as governor back in 1925. Texas voted in Miriam Ferguson shortly afterwards. Even South Carolina and Alabama have elected women as governors.

There are any number of women in Congress. There are women cops and women soldiers and women boxers – even “ultimate fighters.”

Yes, America, women are people, too!

And if a woman happens to be the most qualified candidate for any job – including vice president and President – I say go for it!

The Tribune piece

America’s female governors

 

The Validation of Hillary

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If there were any lingering doubts about Hillary’s fitness to be the President of America and leader of the free world, surely those doubts have been dispelled by President Obama’s unqualified endorsement.

Listen for yourself to the President’s eloquent message. There’s a link to the video at the end of this blog. Believe me, it’s worth your time and effort. It will leave you feeling inspired.

The President made his case for Hillary with certainty and conviction.

“I know how hard this job can be,” he told America. “And I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office.”

Not someone more qualified. Someone so qualified!

And he explained why Hillary – and only Hillary among the candidates – is made to order for the world’s toughest job.

He talked about her intellect, her fighting spirit and her compassion. He reminded America of her lifelong dedication to lifting up the downtrodden, especially women and children.

I know there are Americans who do not share my admiration for our President. I know there are those who resent the rise of a black man to the highest office in the land. I know there are others with an ax to grind who did not get the advantage they hoped for. And, of course, not everyone agrees with his progressive yet pragmatic philosophy.

But these folks don’t matter. They are an insignificant minority.

Most Americans – most of the world – know what a great President Barack Obama has been. They recognize how he saved his country and the rest of the free world from economic collapse and apocalyptic war, how he stooped to give the poor a hand up, how he stood tall to resist the bullying and blandishments of the powerful, how he fought to provide care for the old and the sick.

History will surely recall Barack Obama as a fair minded, kind hearted President who listened to his better angels, a patient and thoughtful leader who treated opponents – however mean spirited – with respect but who, in the final analysis, acted with decisiveness and resolve.

To me, the Obama Presidency’s enduring legacy is simply that the country and the world are better off because of it.

Now, he has entrusted that precious legacy to Hillary without hesitation, declaring her uniquely qualified to keep the torch of freedom, justice and compassion burning bright not only in America but throughout the world.

That’s good enough for me.

Click for the President’s endorsement.

 

Bernie Flames Out

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I wish I could say that Bernie Sanders fought the good fight. I wish I could remember him as a gracious loser. But my admiration for this champion of the underdog has been greatly diminished by the shabby way in which his candidacy is ending.

He had the opportunity to stand tall, to congratulate Hillary on her nomination, to urge his supporters to vote for her.

Instead, like a whipped cur, he is growling and snarling, leaving a trail of bitter accusations against the Democratic Party and threatening to continue his “revolution” at the convention and beyond.

Surely he must have known the rules of the game before he ran in the primary? After all, it wasn’t the Democratic Party that invited him to run. It was he who chose to run as a Democrat.

Did he expect the party to change its rules to accommodate him? And its ideology?

Throughout his long and fractious career, Bernie listed himself as an Independent. He said he was a Socialist.

I’m sure nobody told him the Democratic Party was Socialist. I suspect he thinks he can change that, though. He thinks he can cause enough disruption at the convention to remake the party in his image.

I hope his mission fails.

Yes, I know you’re shocked. You know I’m a liberal. You know I share many of Bernie’s closely held beliefs. You know what I think of unfettered capitalism.

But you must also know that any party based only on the ideas Bernie and I share would never win a general election in America.

To be accepted by a society of more than 300 million people from a wide array of backgrounds, any political party must be flexible enough to accommodate diverse points of view.

The challenge facing Democrats on the eve of their 2016 convention is how to maintain that flexibility without abandoning their convictions.

It will be an unwelcome distraction to have a firebrand like Bernie preaching “revolution.”

Click for Bernie’s reaction.

 

Hillary Struts Her Stuff

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It’s not just that she’s making history. It’s not just that she’s the first woman nominated by a major political party to run for US President. To me, the most encouraging aspect of Hillary’s great nomination speech was the fight she showed.

You know the old saying, it’s not the size of the dog in the fight that matters, it’s the size of the fight in the dog?

Well, there’s obviously no end to the fight in Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“My mother taught me never to back down from a bully,” she declared with a defiant smile, her arms outstretched as if welcoming whatever Donald Trump is planning to throw at her.

And she’s going to need every ounce of that fight. There’s a nasty battle ahead.

Trump is already lashing out at her with unspecified charges and broad accusations, trying to portray her as a crooked politician on the take, trying to make himself out to be a crusader called to drive leeches like her out of Washington.

Trump!!! The mob connected con man facing racketeering charges in civil court as he speaks!!! Is that ironic or what?

But Hillary seems undaunted by Trump’s outrageous lies. Bring it on, she seemed to say in last night’s historic speech. She is ready for the fray. And she has heard it all before.

That “vast right-wing conspiracy” she mentioned a while back has been manufacturing bizarre stories about the Clintons for a generation. The propaganda mill has churned out an endless stream of penny-dreadful accusations without the slightest regard for the truth.

And she knows Trump will mine this mother lode of fiction to taint her candidacy.

Undaunted by the prospect of Trump’s sleazy assault, Hillary is pressing on, using every asset at her disposal to fend off this blustering, lying bully.

She did not hesitate to “play the woman’s card” last night despite Trump’s sneering references. And why not? It’s an ace.

Nobody can deny that American women have been treated as less than fully human throughout history. Nobody can possibly believe that this shameful situation should persist in the 21st century.

I have news for Trump and those “white guys” who flock to his banner: God did not put women on earth to cook your dinner and bear your children. So get over it.

God put women on earth to make it a better place. Just like men. And if that entails becoming President of the USA, that’s what this woman is ready to do.

Click for the speech.

Trump’s racketeering case

 

A Tale of Two Destinies

Deshauna-Barber

 

If you’ve ever pondered the complexity of American society, you must have wondered what is real and what is propaganda dreamed up to distract the population while sinister forces seek to run the show.

Is the Trump charivari real, for example? Does this cartoon character reflect the true face – even one of the true faces – of America? Or is he a fictional figure, a mere theatrical act, created to appeal to a sleazy subculture?

trumpDoes Trump stand for anything of significance in America?

And if he does, will that ugly America prevail in the future?

Or will the America of tomorrow be totally different? Is America’s destiny reflected not in Trump’s vile doctrine but in the beauty pageant he used to own?

I know, what’s a beauty pageant got to do with anything?

Isn’t it just a trivial exploitation of women? An outdated display of the female form? A silly and shameful waste of time and money?

I submit there’s more to it than that. When I see a lovely African American woman like Deshauna Barber (above) crowned Miss USA, I  see an encouraging sign of the changing times.

This could not have happened when I was a boy. This could not have happened when I  came to live in America a generation ago.

A lot has changed in my lifetime. It was not until the mid-1960s that a mixed-race couple could get married in many states, for example. The schools are no longer racially segregated. Neither are the water fountains and washrooms. Americans have elected and reelected their first black President.

So, while Trump and his followers might signal a dismally regressive trend, I am convinced that America’s destiny is reflected not in their snarling faces but in the eyes of a beautiful young woman.

Click for the news story

 

Remembering Dada

DadaIt will be Dada’s birthday this week. His 128th if my math can be trusted. and while he is not here in the flesh, he is here in spirit, surviving in the hearts of his four children – Bill, Elizabeth, Peter and I.

Men like Dada don’t die, and though he was an old soldier – always a soldier – he didn’t fade away, either.

He fought in World War I – yes, the first one. As a machine gun corporal – and later sergeant – in the British Army, he marched through Jordan, across the desert, through Egypt to Italy. He didn’t talk about those days much. He wasn’t a talker.

His contribution to many an argument was simply:

I never thought of  it that way myself, but I suppose you could say that.

One of the few stories he shared with me was how he swam across the Suez Canal. He kept the grim experiences of that brutal war mostly to himself.

But he always saw himself as a soldier, and he made me remember that I was a soldier’s son.

Soldiers – and their sons – don’t cry. They don’t whimper. They don’t make excuses.  They take their medicine like a man. It’s part of the code they live by.

You probably don’t want to know the intricacies of that code. It has to do with honor and dignity and dealing from the top of the deck.  Dada didn’t spell it out; he lived it. And he expected me to do no less.

He taught me to shoot a rifle and ride a horse. Later I learned to use his double-barrel 12 gauge shotgun – made by the Fox Gun Company in Philadelphia. We went bird shooting, and we rode together. Yes, those were the days!

If you know me, you know I am not the man my father was. I was never able to live up to that Spartan code of his. I cried, I complained. I made excuses. I still do. Sorry, Dada. You tried.

And I tried, too. But I wasn’t made of stern enough stuff (there I go making excuses again).

Still, his code survives with me. I admire men – and women – who have the temperament to live by it. I believe Elizabeth and Peter would agree with me that Bill is the one among us who has come closest to being that kind of man.

But I am consoled by the enduring conviction that despite my shortcomings, my father never loved me less. He loved us all – unconditionally. And his love did more for us than any code, however noble.

 

Requiem for a Heavyweight

clayaliHistory must surely measure Muhammad Ali’s greatness not only by his prowess in the ring but also by his courage and integrity as a human being.

I know, you’re remembering his boasting, his brashness, his swagger. You recall the Cassius Clay who traded barbs with commentator Howard Cosell (top photo). And you may be wondering what on earth I’m talking about.

But that was the boy. I’m talking about the man.

I’m talking about the man who received the nation’s highest civilian award – the Congressional Medal of Honor – from President George W. Bush in 2005 (lower photo).

Cassius Clay, the boxing prodigy, grew up to become Muhammad Ali, the great champion. Not just the great – arguably the greatest ever – heavyweight champion of the world but a great champion of human rights and human dignity.

As the nation mourns the loss of this legendary boxer, I wonder how much attention will be paid to his noblest battle – the defiance of a tragically misguided establishment.

Of course you remember now.

You remember how he refused to be drafted, refused to fight in Vietnam, proclaiming that he “ain’t got no quarrel with the Viet Cong” because none of them had called him by that degrading N word he’d heard so often, growing up in Louisville, Kentucky.

Yes, I know he had converted to Islam and cited religious conviction for refusing to go to war. But he will be remembered also for his objection on civil rights grounds. And for the harsh price he paid.

He sacrificed a king’s ransom with that gesture. His prison sentence was suspended  – and eventually the Supreme Court overturned his conviction – but he was stripped of his world title, and barred from the sport he loved and dominated. He lost three years in the prime of his career – a catastrophic loss not just of income but of physical conditioning.

Ali never fully recovered from that  three-year hiatus. But I don’t recall him using it as an excuse when he was defeated. He did what he felt he had to do, and he paid the price.

Like the true champion that he was.

Ali, the man the legend

More on Muhammad Ali

 

Can America Still Listen?

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The justification for democracy is based on the notion that there is an inherent wisdom in the population at large and that this wisdom will prevail if allowed free and anonymous expression via the ballot box.

This idea is going to be tested as never before in November. And I have a nagging worry that we could be in for a rude awakening.

I wonder how many Americans got what Hillary Clinton was talking about yesterday when she sliced and diced Donald Trump’s spine-chilling approach to foreign policy. Did they follow her surgically precise logic? Were they persuaded? Or enlightened?

I wonder.

It’s not that Hillary resorted to intricate reasoning or arcane language. She used simple logic and everyday words to make her case. And, to those of us who understood – to those of us who actually listened – her case could not have been more powerfully made.

But is the American electorate able to grasp what she was saying? Are Americans still able to listen to a well reasoned argument? Or does today’s America hear only sound bites and respond only to slogans?

When Bernie Sanders yells about income inequality and promises free college tuition, ttrumphe crowd gets it. When Trump heaps abuse on a “corrupt” system, they can relate.

They’re victims! The abject failures of their lives are not their fault. They were cheated!

They deserve free education, free health care, and other free stuff.

They understand “free.”

When Donald Trump scatters insults like confetti, they get it. They wish they’d said that about someone at work – or at the bar – who has been getting under their skin. They wish they could deploy Trump’s scorn on that boss (or spouse) of theirs.

Give ’em hell, Bernie!!! Give ’em hell, Trump!!! Yeah!!!

But do they get it when Hillary so eloquently dissects the Trump heresy, exposing it for the tawdry – and dangerous – shill that it is? Do they read those intricately devised programs laid out with such care on her web site – programs that could reasonably be  the real-life solution to America’s vexing issues?

We shall see come November.

Click for Hillary’s speech