Serious Proposals

Article by Gary Kent

“These aren’t serious proposals,” protested Jeb Bush. Bombing “the _ _ _ _ out of them” and finding out if sand “can glow” were some of the things that Bush was referring to.

But, to Donald Trump and “TrusTed” Cruz, they are serious proposals for ridding the world of ISIS.

Jeb might want to insist that–as would-be standard bearers for the G.O.P.–Trump and Cruz should be required to cost out and detail exactly what their “solutions” would involve. After all, it is a test republicans often expect when a democrat proposes an action.

For such sensationalist prescriptions as bombing “the _ _ _ _ out of them” to work, it would be necessary to have ISIS sympathizers from around the world travel to a designated location in the Syrian Desert. This includes ISIS cell members in Hamburg, Brussels, London, Rome, Tripoli, Minneapolis and elsewhere. The alternative would be carpet bombing places like Hamburg to make sure “the _ _ _ _ is” bombed out of them. That could get messy.

Presuming—as Trump and Cruz must—that they all have the same death wish, ISIS followers should jump at the opportunity to achieve martyrdom.

Getting them all in the same place at the same time is the key to this “serious” proposal. That would be a major undertaking. Some would undoubtedly arrive before others. They would need accommodations while they awaited their personalized bombs.

That shouldn’t be a problem, as Trump has a great company that builds nice hotels, provided he can get a major tax break first and declare bankruptcy once they are finished so that it isn’t necessary to pay the construction companies that build them. We would have to check the Syrian bankruptcy laws, which may not have been written by unscrupulous developers.

Aside from the cost of hotel accommodations for ISIS types eager to punch their ticket to the “promised land,” the other major expense would be the air fares to get them to Syria. That could be costly, but if arranging to deport 11,000,000 undocumented people from Mexico is merely a question of “proper management,” I am sure getting 100,000 ISIS types from around the globe to Syria in time for the “party” would be something Ivanka could handle before brunch.

Sorry, Jeb, but you may underestimate your republican colleagues. They are serious and the “solution” they propose could work as long as ISIS cooperates and the taxpayers don’t mind picking up the cost of a few thousand airfares and hotel stays.

Syrian Refugees

Article by Gary Kent

Refugees fleeing the horrific violence and devastation in Syria have been streaming into Europe for months. Some of our N.A.T.O. allies are taking them in by the tens of thousands. Germany, France and Norway are among the countries we expect to join with us in a coalition to defeat ISIS. (The British have been more reluctant to follow us than most, ever since the disastrous venture in Iraq.) How should the United States respond to the refugee crisis?

The Daily News carried a telling cartoon, as well as a great column by Kathleen Parker on Friday, November 20. While acknowledging legitimate security concerns, Parker noted that refusing to allow Syrian refugees asylum was not a great option.

Most experts agree that ISIS wants terrorism to draw thousands of U.S. military personnel into the Middle East. It is widely accepted that jihadists desire to turn sporadic, limited armed conflict into a global war between Islam and the West. To that end, they sought to define the Iraq war as a war against Islam.

The United States is, of course, a nation of immigrants. In part because we have received innumerable benefits from them, we have long made special provision for admitting political refugees. Plymouth colony was settled by such people.

In the days since the Paris attacks, to some degree, politics has appeared to trump good sense. For the short term benefit they hope to gain, many politicians have expressed varying degrees of opposition to accepting even as few as 10,000 Syrian refugees into the United States. For comparison, France is reportedly taking 30,000.

We expect our European allies to share intelligence and provide support in the fight against ISIS, but we want to take a pass on reducing ”their” refugee burden.

We justifiably take pride in thinking of ourselves as “the beacon on a hill,” a refuge for the “wretched refuse of your teeming shores,” except when the refugees are Muslim. This is perhaps based on the variously estimated 1-5% of the world’s Muslims who are jihadists.

To The Founding Fathers, religion was officially irrelevant. Do we need to be reminded that the United States Constitution provides that no religious test shall be a qualification for holding office (Article VI, section 3) ? The First amendment strikes yet another blow for religious freedom.

At the pinnacle of Ku Klux Klan activity—which was aimed, in part, at ridding the United States of Catholics and Jews– did we succumb to an impulse to prohibit Protestants from entering the country? Burning churches and synagogues to the ground was, after all, terrorism. While Japanese-Americans fought in World War II, those within the country were put into internment camps. Their children’s photos were purged from high school yearbooks. Did the fact that none of them were ever found to have committed treason teach us anything?

The thinking goes that if you have seen one who happens to be evil, you have seen them all. The rest are evil by association. Stereotyping people never has been useful, but people who ignore the relevance of history—or who do not know it—don’t know that.

ISIS counts on ignorance and weakness, even though it is understandable that Americans are fearful.

In some ways, taken by itself, banning immigrants from Syria as a result of the Paris attacks makes the attacks a smashing success. Those who died, in effect, will have died to further the ISIS agenda. Once we make the blunder of stereotyping Muslims, we are one step closer to accepting global culture war. That is exactly what the jihadists want. Banning Syrian victims of the horrific mess we helped create is a betrayal of who we have historically been. It is a sad commentary on anyone professing Judeo-Christian values. It would be a slap in the face to loyal American Muslim citizens, including those in uniform. More than that, it would be a recruiting bonanza for ISIS.

Inclusion is a source of our strength. Who among us would refuse to be rescued by a person of another religion, race, or ethnicity? In this case, we may find that jihadist terror has conspired to put us in the same “boat.”

Do we need more knee-jerk reactions, or more rationality? Do we need to act in our long term self-interest? Or should we respond viscerally– and act impulsively–to please the talking heads exploiting a tragedy and make ourselves feel good in the moment?

This is a test we may not want to fail.

The Rubio Factor

Article by Gary Kent

Marco Rubio appears to be the new republican establishment replacement for Jeb Bush. In order to get the “nod,” he will have to overcome such “heavyweights” as Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Dr. Ben Carson.

The Republican Party’s worst nightmare, Donald Trump, just keeps rolling with a new Trumpism every week. Thousands of New Jersey Muslims (or maybe they were Gaza Strip Muslims?!) supposedly cheering the twin towers collapse one week; being able to “feel” a terror attack coming the next. This week he decided we needed to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S. until we can figure out “what the hell is going on.” Perhaps when he suggests we should unleash Godzilla on ISIS people will get a sense of how shallow he is. Mocking a reporter with a disability didn’t evidently do it. Saying he would make Mexico pay for the wall after stereotyping Mexicans as criminals wasn’t enough. Saying John McCain isn’t a war hero because he got captured wasn’t too over the top either. Does anyone really think sending 11,000,000 people of Mexican origin/descent back to Mexico would be nothing more than a “management” issue? When reporters challenge him on the implementation of anything, he usually says it is just a question of “management.”

Though he probably won’t be, Ben Carson should be difficult to bypass, as he is good at keeping his ignorance to himself. He is incredibly ill-informed on foreign policy and comes across as aloof without much foundation for his attitude of superiority. Though he is often misinterpreted, he appears too often dismissive of serious concerns. Though not much more of a novice than most of the others in what Reince Preibus calls a “strong field,” Carson’s deficiencies in the foreign affairs arena would likely make him more of liability than George W. Bush.

Ted Cruz proved how ignorant he is with his recent remarks about how he will “utterly destroy ISIS.” He went on with more bluster, saying, “We will carpet bomb them into oblivion” and “I don’t know if sand can glow, but we will find out.” His non-solutions get loud cheers from those who are understandably frustrated. Just as most of the others, he insists the President is incompetent and should “do more.”

Marco Rubio is nearly as scary as the master of the bankruptcy laws. It escapes me how anyone takes this guy seriously.

Some of what Rubio says is every bit as adolescent as Trump. In the first republican debate, Rubio actually said that the reason democrats take the position they do on climate change is that, “They want to destroy the economy.” (Check the transcript) Is that something you can just apologize for while you promise to play nice? What is nearly as bizarre is that no one I know of has asked him what the heck he was talking about. Can you seriously imagine a President who goes into office thinking that half the people he has to govern with want to destroy the country?

More recently, Rubio referred to Vladimir Putin as a “gangster in charge of a country!” Does he think it is okay to speak every thought that pops into his head? Rand Paul reminded him that he—God forbid—might have to dialogue with Putin on a variety of serious issues and might need his cooperation. Paul rightly pointed out that we continued talking to the Soviets throughout the Cold War.

But, hey, the republican establishment appears to be moving in Rubio’s direction. “Any port in a storm,” as they say. As weak as he is, it may be necessary to turn to Rubio to save the party from Cruz, Trump, and Carson. Candidates with experience and good sense are in short supply (Kasich and Bush?)–and not polling well– in this “strong” republican field.

Laquan McDonald

Article by Gary Kent

It isn’t often questioned that those with serious mental health histories should be kept from legally purchasing firearms. As I understand it, polls have indicated 75-85% of N.R.A. members accept background checks despite the argument that—as infringements—they appear to violate the second amendment.

Does it make sense for even a tiny percentage of police officers who may have issues such as paranoia, or bigoted attitudes toward classes of people, to be armed with, and authorized to use, deadly weapons? Is every person who goes into law enforcement necessarily emotionally and mentally “stable?”

The October, 2014, case in which Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke “allegedly” shot LaQuan McDonald 16 times is the latest in a string of incidents that certainly appear to discredit the 99.999% of law enforcement professionals who apparently do their jobs and avoid making such “mistakes.”

McDonald may have been on drugs and evidently used a knife to smash a police cruiser windshield and puncture one, or more, tires. He may have appeared to be disrespectful as well.

Police often deal with some extremely dangerous people, whom they do not know, under very difficult circumstances, very often fraught with grave uncertainty. Police have been shot during routine traffic stops. Their jobs are not easy, and the work is certainly not for everyone. The fact remains that what happened before Van Dyke’s outrageous action hardly excuses shooting someone to death.

For Van Dyke’s attorney to justify his actions by saying he “feared for his life” is suspect at best. His attorney has attempted to put an extremely damning video into “context” by describing what took place before the video recording. He added that video does not always show what actually occurred.

Just as in education and the priesthood, serious law enforcement professionals, interested in advancing and protecting their profession, should demand those whose actions discredit their profession be held accountable.

Van Dyke has done a disservice to the law enforcement community by making it just that much more difficult for the conscientious and overwhelming majority of them to do their jobs well and safely. His actions, and those of the people who attempted to cover them up, diminish the trust essential for law enforcement professionals to do dangerous jobs effectively and safely. Whether we like it, or not, the actions of a few can tarnish entire groups. For Van Dyke to avoid responsibility for LaQuan McDonald’s death, under the circumstances, would merely add to the sense of how hopeless the pursuit of justice in America often is.