Archive

December 8th

When mass shootings become part of our routine

    An old love song speaks of "the little ordinary things that everyone ought to do." That phrase used to cover instructions such as: "Take out the trash," "brush your teeth," "close cover before striking," "look both ways before crossing." Ordinary things.

    9/11 changed all that.

    Now "things that everyone ought to do" include "remove your shoes" and "leave liquids at home." And "little ordinary things" involve pat-downs, full-body scans, concrete planters in front of buildings and the horror of the unattended package. No more "none of your business." Now it's "see something, say something." All the ordinary things of our day.

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They terrorized my daughters and killed my baby. That's why we're Syrian refugees.

    Editor's note: Linda J. is a Syrian refugee. She and her family made their way this year from Damascus to Baltimore. She worked with a caseworker and a translator from the International Rescue Committee, the nonprofit agency that helped them resettle here, to tell her family's story of asylum. The Washington Post agreed that she could abbreviate her last name and omit other identifying details to protect family members who remain in Syria.

    The best days of my life were in Syria. I was born and raised there. I married and reared my family in my country. My kids went to school, and my husband worked as a carpenter. I was a 29-year-old stay-at-home mom, and we owned furniture stores in Damascus. We shared everything with our neighbors and felt the love around our home. But in 2011, everything for my family and every family in Syria changed.

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The Senate Goes Gaga on Guns

    Would it be absolutely cynical to say the Senate responded to what appears to be a terrorist mass shooting by declining to ban the sale of guns to people on the terrorist watch list?

    Nah. Let’s go for it.

    This week the Senate voted on two proposals to toughen the nation’s gun regulations in the wake of the San Bernardino murders. The other one would have tightened loopholes in the background-check law that are currently the size of the Pacific Ocean. Both failed on basically party-line votes.

    “It was a huge victory that there was a vote at all,” said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, in a telephone conference call.

    We normally celebrate winners in this country, but let’s remember the people who keep trudging toward a noble goal at the top of the political mountain, oblivious to perpetual landslides. History will someday reward them. Meanwhile, if you run into a member of the gun control lobby, give him or her hug.

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'Said' is not dead. Save boring words!

    They will wrest "dull words" from my cold dead hands.

    According to the Wall Street Journal, there is a movement - or, as I prefer, "epidemic," of English teachers telling people to ditch "boring" words like "said." "Said," handouts proclaim, "is Dead."

    This is nonsense. Keep "said" where it belongs. Lose everything else.

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No one should be surprised by the pandering to the Republican Jewish Coalition

    Politicians pander. They dredge up memories, adopt inflections and do other things that show the audience they know, understand or can relate to the audience. That's what they do. And, as gathering of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington on Thursday showed, it can be a painful display of stereotyping.

    "Morning Joe" presented a gasp-worthy compilation today. Donald Trump dabbled in the Jews-and-money cliche. "You're not going to support me because I don't want your money," he said. The Big Apple billionaire also said, "I'm a negotiator, like you folks. . . . Is there anybody that doesn't renegotiate deals in this room?"

    Former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore, who I'd forgotten is still chasing 1-percent support in his quest for the Republican presidential nomination, strained credulity when he said, "Last night I was watching 'Schindler's List.'" What, "Fiddler on the Roof" wasn't available on Netflix? C'mon, man.

    But my reaction to what Ohio Gov. John Kasich said can be described only in the language of social media: O.o

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No More Thoughts and Prayers

    We never had enough time to rationalize, in the uniquely American way, why that middle-aged white man killed a cop, a mother of two and an Iraq War veteran in Colorado Springs, when the latest slaughter of human life intruded. He was — what, pro-life? Screaming something about “baby parts” while he unloaded in a Planned Parenthood clinic?

    Slow down, slow down, the mind wants to say — one absurd mass murder at a time. They all “make sense,” eventually. Don’t they?

    In Colorado Springs, the man arrested in the killings, Robert L. Dear Jr., fit a profile. Here was another bearded introvert who lived at the edge of modernity, his head stuffed full of hate and half-truths. “He claims to be a Christian and is extremely evangelistic,” his ex-wife wrote in a court document. “He is obsessed with the world coming to an end.” And of course, he had a semi-automatic rifle to go with his delusions.

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Again, and Again, and Again!

    What does it take for them to get the message? I refer to the continuing efforts by the Republicans to kill the Affordable Care Act particularly focusing on those sections regarding women's health care. In short, they are still after Planned Parenthood.

    In a flash as another mass shooting occurred in this nation, my emphasis went from the attacks on women's healthcare to the nation's tolerance of guns. Here we have to add lots of Democrats. Of course the subjects (guns and healthcare) are not very far apart in that many of the gun attacks are on Planned Parenthood facilities, staffs and clients. Adding insult to injury is that all too often the claimed motive is saving lives.

    At this point, so far as is known there is no such claim in Wednesday's horror. We have no idea what prompted the unspeakable in San Bernadino, California. We do know it is the most damaging in terms of deaths since Sandyhook. Again: What does it take for this nation to get the message?

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Republicans’ Climate Change Denial Denial

    Future historians — if there are any future historians — will almost surely say that the most important thing happening in the world during December 2015 was the climate talks in Paris. True, nothing agreed to in Paris will be enough, by itself, to solve the problem of global warming. But the talks could mark a turning point, the beginning of the kind of international action needed to avert catastrophe.

    Then again, they might not; we may be doomed. And if we are, you know who will be responsible: the Republican Party.

    OK, I know the reaction of many readers: How partisan! How over the top! But what I said is, in fact, the obvious truth. And the inability of our news media, our pundits and our political establishment in general to face up to that truth is an important contributing factor to the danger we face.

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December 6th

U.S. boots inevitably touch ground again in the Middle East

    Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter's report to the House Armed Services Committee that 200 U.S. Special Operations Forces will be dispatched to spearhead the fight against the Islamic State further erodes President Obama's assurance that no more "boots on the ground" would be committed to the Middle East battlefield.

    Carter used the customary euphemisms to introduce new combat-ready troops to launch and supervise military engagements against the terrorists, also known as ISIL or ISIS. But from what he said, it was clear that elaborate plans are in the works to sharpen American fighting and intelligence-gathering efforts under whatever name.

    He told the committee: "We're good at intelligence; we're good at mobility; we're good at surprise. We have the long reach that no one else has. ... It puts everybody on notice in Syria that you don't know at night who is coming in the window. And that's the sensation that we want all of ISIL's leadership and followers to have."

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Another drop in a bucket of blood

    The common denominator in mass shootings is the use of firearms. Variables such as political ideology, religious fervor and mental illness are motivating factors, but death comes from the gun.

    Until our society recognizes that simple truth, the list of place names that recently added Colorado Springs and San Bernardino will have no end.

    I don't know which is more obscene, the fact that deadly shooting rampages have become almost routine or the way we so quickly seek to make each incident follow a familiar script.

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