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“McGinty Never Intended To Prosecute The Officers”: Tamir Rice Prosecutor Indicted Innocent Men, But Not Killer Cops

Cuyahoga County, Ohio, prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty’s announcement that a grand jury, at his office’s recommendation, declined to file charges against the two officers who killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice surprised almost no one.

McGinty has made no attempt to mask his belief that rookie officer Timothy Loehmann and his partner Frank Garmback committed no crimes on the afternoon of Nov. 22, 2014. That’s the day when Garmback rapidly pulled their police cruiser within inches of Rice at a Cleveland community center and Loehmann jumped out, firing.

In fact, during his press conference, McGinty made numerous mentions of the many risks police officers face, the split-second decisions they have to make to protect their and the public’s lives, and how real the toy gun Rice was holding as he played at the park looked.

In what could have been a defense closing argument, McGinty stated that the enhanced surveillance video that captured Rice’s shooting, and the aftermath in which he lay bleeding and unattended on the ground, while his 14-year-old sister was tackled to the ground by officers, handcuffed and put in the back of a patrol car as she tried to run to him, “proved” that Rice was indeed “drawing his pistol” (which was actually a pellet gun) as the officers approached.

And while McGinty called the shooting a tragedy and a “perfect storm of miscommunication and human error,” he insisted that it “did not indicate criminal conduct by the officers.”

None of it was unexpected.

McGinty insisted on taking the case to a grand jury, dragging it out for months, despite a judge ruling in June that there was probable cause to charge Loehmann and Garmback with crimes, including involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, negligent homicide dereliction of duty and, in Loehmann’s case, murder. Attorneys for Rice’s family cried foul as McGinty allowed the officers to take the oath and read prepared statements to the grand jury with no cross-examination, and he released reports justifying the killing written by outside experts, which the family’s attorneys denounced as biased.

Last month, he made disparaging remarks about the Rice family and their lawyers, appearing to accuse them of seeking to profit from the child’s death through a pending lawsuit.

And despite his professions of sympathy for the family, including saying he and his staff could see their own children and grandchildren in the face of the now-dead boy, attorneys for Rice’s family said that prior to telephoning her on Monday to inform her of the grand jury decision, the prosecutor has rarely bothered to communicate with Tamir’s mom.

The question now, for those Cleveland residents who are dismayed by the sullen, foregone conclusion of the Rice case, is what they plan to do about it.

McGinty, a Democrat, faces a March primary, in which he will face former assistant prosecutor Michael O’Malley, who resigned from the department this spring. O’Malley has the backing of at least one prominent black politician: U.S. Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and a onetime Cleveland-area mayor.

McGinty, for his part, claims the support of a former NAACP leader and once-powerful City Council president, George Forbes, a pillar of Cleveland’s black community. But the aging and now-retired Forbes failed to appear as scheduled as one of McGinty’s two allotted endorsers when the County Democratic Party’s executive committee met this month to decide whether to back him for re-election. And depending on whom you ask, Forbes’ absence was either a testament to his growing physical infirmity, or a telling indication of how deep, or how public, the elder statesman intends his support to be.

In the end, the committee returned no endorsement, an unprecedented rebuke of an incumbent.

Not that McGinty is unaccustomed to rebuke. He eked a win in a five-way Democratic primary in March 2012, amid voter turnout that was nearly half of what it was in March 2008, when 41.5 percent of Cuyahoga County’s million-plus registered voters went to the polls (redistricting reduced the total to 890,000 voters after 2010). McGinty received 41,541 votes, or just 34.9 percent, despite fervent opposition from black organizations like the Carl Stokes Brigade, a civil rights group named for the legendary first black mayor of Cleveland or any major U.S. city.

The candidates he defeated included Stephanie Hall, a black, former Cleveland police officer who ran on a platform of fixing the “broken relationship” between communities of color and police. He also beat civil rights lawyer and former federal prosecutor Subodh Chandra, who was endorsed by Rep. Fudge and a group of local civil rights activists, and who today is among the attorneys representing Tamir Rice’s family.

Hall, who finished second with just over 24,500 votes and 20.6 percent, and Chandra, who took 20,269 votes and finished third, split the non-white vote in a race that saw a total under-vote of more than 25,000. (Hall is now an assistant county prosecutor, meaning she essentially works for McGinty.) Together, Hall and Chandra received a combined 37.6 percent of the vote.

McGinty went on to handily defeat an African-American criminal defense attorney, Ed Wade, who ran as an independent that November, in the heavily-Democratic county where President Obama got 69 percent of the vote to Mitt Romney’s 29 percent. McGinty did even better, beating Wade 79.6 percent to 20.4 percent. But 164,884 residents who voted for Obama simply didn’t vote in the prosecutor’s race—an amount equal to 40 percent of McGinty’s 386,091 total votes.

The upshot: Many voters either skipped the race on the ballot, or simply sided with the Democrat down ticket from Obama.

The results didn’t mean McGinty ever had broad favor with Clevelanders, or even his peers. He had a reputation during the 1980s as a crusading assistant county prosecutor with a lock-’em-up and throw-away-the key philosophy—a popular stance in the crack cocaine era—but who also saw a number of his cases reversed on appeal. His critics point to numerous citations for prosecutorial misconduct, including one for hiding exculpatory evidence in a 1988 case of a man sentenced to life in prison for the rape of his own 8-year-old daughter, but who later was granted a new trial.

Perhaps McGinty’s highest profile botched case was that of Anthony Michael Green, a black man convicted of raping and robbing a white cancer patient at the hospital where he formerly worked, based solely on the victim identifying Green after his picture alone was included in two separate photo arrays shown to the gravely ill woman. The case was overturned based on DNA evidence with the help of the Innocence Project in 2001, after Green spent 13 years in prison (the real rapist eventually confessed and got five years.)

And though he expressed regret for the wrongful conviction, McGinty threw in the flourish of admonishing Green for allegedly bragging about his sexual exploits, something Green denied, and effectively causing his own conviction.

McGinty ran for judge in 1992, the year of Bill Clinton’s national ascendancy, on a mantle of cracking down on political patronage and corruption, and of course, getting tough on crime. He won, but he continued to irk attorneys and colleagues alike with moralizing lectures in court. He once went off on radio shock jock Howard Stern while sentencing a man accused of sabotaging a Stern broadcast, calling the radio host a “crude and obscene rabble-rouser,” prompting Stern to retaliate on the air by trying, unsuccessfully, to boost McGinty’s 1994 re-election opponent.

The question now is whether times have changed so much since the ’90s that McGinty will now pay a political price for his bare-knuckles style, for his handling of the Rice case, and for the failed prosecution of Michael Brelo, the police officer acquitted in May of manslaughter in the deaths of unarmed black motorists Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, who died in a hail of 137 bullets following a police chase in 2012.

Cuyahoga County’s population is 30 percent African-American, and black leaders could in theory get behind O’Malley, who has said he would have brought the Rice case to a more expeditious close, though he has not said if he would have come to a different conclusion.

O’Malley, who filed just weeks before the deadline, isn’t well known to black leaders, but he has been reaching out to pastors and civic leaders seeking their support. His brother, who heads the local electrical workers union, has also been hitting the phones on O’Malley’s behalf. McGinty is sure to accuse O’Malley, who has ties to the old Cleveland patronage system, of trying to bring back the bad old days of machine politics.

And not all of McGinty’s critics are convinced O’Malley would be any better. “We are opposed and always have been to Tim McGinty as Cuyahoga County Prosecutor,” said David Patterson, the president of the Carl Stokes Brigade. ”His reputation as a pro-police, anti-African American prosecutor relative to the ‘justice’ system is well known throughout the black community. O’Malley, on the other hand, is a protégé of former County Prosecutor Bill Mason, whose track record was at least as bad as McGinty’s. We believe McGinty will be voted out but in reality the O’Malley alternative is like exchanging a cobra for a rattlesnake.”

Rev. Jawanza Colvin, who pastors Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland, said the non-endorsement by the county party was a big deal, and an indication that whatever they think of O’Malley, a majority of influential Democrats, black and white, are ready to wash their hands of the current prosecutor. Colvin said it was the outcry by a coalition of organizations, including the Cleveland 8, the group that went to court to try to obtain indictments against the officers in the Tamir Rice case this summer and of which he is a member, Cleveland’s Movement for Black Lives, the NAACP, and the Children’s Defense Fund that led to the unprecedented number of party leaders who “abstained” from endorsing either McGinty or O’Malley.

Colvin indicated that depending on the case he makes to the community for what he would do differently in the prosecutor’s office, momentum could ultimately fall to O’Malley, or, unlike in 2012, to an as-yet undeclared third-party candidate. Either way, Colvin predicts McGinty will lose.

“When we start to connect the dots from Tamir Rice, to Chicago, to Ferguson, to Baltimore… we have seen how prosecutors have operated differently in using their discretion,” Colvin said. “A lot of us in the activist community have gotten a whole new education on the criminal justice system. But it really just comes down to the importance of voting.”

McGinty won’t be the only Democratic canary in 2016’s prosecutorial coalmine. He and Cook County, Illinois, prosecutor Anita Alvarez, who took a year to bring charges in the Chicago police-involved shooting death of Laquan McDonald, will face primary voters on the same day: March 15, 2016.

It will be a date criminal justice reform activists, and big-city Democratic prosecutors, will be watching very closely.

 

By: Joy-Ann Reid, The Daily Beast, December 30, 2015

December 31, 2015 Posted by | Criminal Justice System, Tamir Rice, Timothy McGinty | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Stick A Fork In Ben Carson”: A Man Who Has Already Come To Grips With Failure

Two days before Christmas, Steven Ginsberg and Robert Costa of the Washington Post landed an interview with Ben Carson. It was conducted in Carson’s basement man-cave. The below ground-level setting is appropriate because the transcript reads like an obituary.

Dr. Carson laments virtually everything, from his annoying advisers who keep urging him to be more combative, to his inability to get mulligans for his many missteps, to the quality of the electorate, to the way the media twists his words, to the way his campaign has spent money. The overwhelming sense you get is of a man who has already come to grips with failure.

And that’s a failure in itself because the interview was supposed to demonstrate that he understands his campaign’s problems and is preparing to retool and make a big push before Iowa.

What struck me more than anything, though, is how there was no mention of any of the 13 ridiculous things that Ben Carson actually believes. The mistakes, insofar as they are detailed at all, are limited to foreign policy blunders, like his insistence that the Chinese have a large presence in Syria. But, arguably, Carson began to slip right around the time that it came out that he thinks the Egyptian pyramids were built to store grain. It became increasingly clear that Carson doesn’t just have some far-right views on abortion and war crimes and the Holocaust and censorship, he actually has a borderline crazy belief system.

One wonders in this day and age how much this actually hurts you in a Republican nominating contest. After all, the guy in first place is the country’s most famous Birther. There are certainly areas where being an over-the-top bomb thrower helps you win support from the GOP base. Arguably, this was the way Carson won his initial popularity and support on the right. I assume this is what his advisers believe, too, and it’s why they’ve urged him to throw bombs not just at the president and his health care plan and reproductive rights, but at his Republican opponents.

Maybe his lack of foreign policy experience really is the best explanation for his precipitous fall in the polls. The only problem with that explanation is that Donald Trump should have suffered right along with Carson in the aftermath of the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. Maybe Trump’s bluster and bravado cover his lack of expertise better than Carson’s mellower act.

Whatever the explanation, Carson seems like a man who is already beaten before the first vote is cast. And he knows that he’s injured his reputation in the bargain.

Carson: A weak person isn’t selected by CNN and Time magazine as one of the 20 foremost physicians and surgeons in America. That was before they discovered that I’m conservative. A weak person doesn’t have all of these honorary degrees. Most people of accomplishment have one, maybe two or three honorary degrees at most. It’s the highest award that a university gives out. I have 67. That’s probably not indicative of a weak person who doesn’t get things done.

Costa: Has this campaign helped or hurt that reputation, that legacy?

Carson: Without question, it will hurt it. But it’s not about me. I’m willing to sacrifice that legacy and that reputation if we can get our country turned around. One person is not a big deal as far as I’m concerned.

If Carson thought there were the slightest chance that he’d win the nomination, he’d certainly not answer that question by saying that “without question” the campaign will end up hurting his reputation.

You can stick a fork in him. His presidential ambitions are done.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, December 28, 2015

December 30, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Foreign Policy, GOP Primaries | , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Role Of Black Women In The Democratic Party”: A Group That Doesn’t Get Much Attention In Our Political Discussions

We’re hearing a lot these days about the angry white base of the Republican Party. Beyond analysis of this group as the core of support for presidential candidates like Donald Trump, there are people who suggest that Democrats (like President Obama) need to reach out to them either to calm the waters of our political divide or as people who might be lured back into the Democratic Party.

There are occasions when people also refer to the base of the Democratic Party. Often it is assumed that this group is made up of the most liberal activists – in this election cycle, Bernie Sanders supporters.

But take a moment to look at some of the data in a report about a group that doesn’t get much attention in our political discussions these days: The Status of Black Women in American Politics.

First of all, the number of black women who turn out to vote is higher than any other demographic group – 70% in 2012. That number has been rising since 1996, so it is more than a response to the candidacy of Barack Obama. And no group votes more consistently Democratic than black women. Here are the figures since 1992:

1992 Bill Clinton – 87%
1996 Bill Clinton – 89%
2000 Al Gore – 94%
2004 John Kerry – 90%
2008 Barack Obama – 96%
2012 Barack Obama – 96%

As a comparison, in the above elections no Democratic candidate got more than 48% of the vote from white women.

But, perhaps you say that the issue for Democrats these days isn’t presidential elections, but midterms and off-year elections. The report points to the following example:

In the 2013 gubernatorial election in Virginia, 91% of Black women voters voted for Democratic winner Terry McCauliffe, while 54% of non- Hispanic White women voters voted for Republican Ken Cuccinelli.

Some may suggest that this base of the Democratic Party doesn’t need to be catered to because they have no other place to go in our two-party system. There is some truth in that. Given the current status of the Republican Party, it is clear that they have no interest in wooing black women into their ranks. But when it comes to the future of the Democratic Party, it’s important to keep this in mind:

Finally, Black women represent a significant portion of the Rising American Electorate (RAE), an estimated 115 million eligible voters – and nearly half of the electorate – composed of unmarried women, people of color, and people under 30 years old. Black women sit at the intersection of these groups, representing just over half of the 26.9 million eligible Black voters and 19% of all eligible unmarried women voters (Lake, Ulibarri, and Treptow 2013). They also represent the most active and dependable contingent of the RAE, contributing to its growing influence and playing an essential role in building coalitions across RAE groups to influence electoral outcomes in future races.

Beyond all that, it is interesting to notice which groups in our political system continue to draw our attention and which ones are too often ignored. Black women are playing an increasingly active role lately in the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Democrats who ignore that do so at their own peril.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, December 28, 2015

December 30, 2015 Posted by | Black Women, Democrats, GOP, White Women | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“What The GOP Gets Wrong About ISIS”: The Positions Staked Out By Republican Politicians Are Crazy

As we come to the end of a year of terror—actually, of horror—and we enter a year of terrible campaigning by some horrible candidates for the presidency of the United States, one might wish the Republican front-runners would step back from the path of religious zealotry, racist paranoia and torture envy. But … no.

As the debates in mid-December and the sparring since have showed us, they are detached from many realities, but especially the reality on the ground in Syria, which I have been covering first-hand with frequent trips there since 2012.

So, now, back in the United States, I watch in consternation the nauseating spin about Radical Islam, carpet bombing, waterboarding, surveillance of everyone, blaming refugees. The Republican “strategies” for dealing with the so-called Islamic State sound like a laundry list of the monumental failures from the 9/11 decade.

Was it “political correctness” that knocked down the twin towers and kidnapped and tortured my friends? No, it was something much more sinister, and something much more sophisticated than these candidates seem to realize, or to be.

There is a reason, of course, for them to deflect questions about military tactics against ISIS. There are no easy answers, and even the difficult options are severely limited. No realistic proposal for tackling the jihadi group will play well with primary voters and all of the candidates know it. Presumably, this is why the Republican candidates have taken the discussion into the realm of paranoid fantasy and insinuation, where they seem much more comfortable.

Consider Donald Trump’s bizarre statement that “we should be able to penetrate the Internet and find out exactly where ISIS is.” Actually, we know exactly where the Islamic State is and have a good idea of where its main bastions are. We essentially already know what is needed to fight them.

The problem is that no matter how good our intel is, there is still the pesky issue of how to take and hold territory, which is a costly proposition. And while ISIS potentate Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi recently conceded he’s been losing ground, but gradually, he figures that, up against the disorganization of his enemies, and the U.S. presidential campaign is a prime example of that, he will be able to get it back—and then some.

Then there’s the question of torture, or “enhanced interrogation techniques,” and the notion that they could have prevented the Paris attacks in November that killed 130 people.

At a Council on Foreign Relations event Chris Christie said “it’s not a coincidence to me that this happened in the aftermath of restricting these programs and remember also demoralizing the intelligence community. That awful report that came out from the Senate Democrats at the end of last year was a complete political instrument that did nothing more than demoralize American intelligence officers all around the world.”

Using religious language like “Radical Islam” has also been touted as a Republican “strategy” for some time. Such words, one way or the other, have zero effect on the ground.

Ted Cruz’s anti-ISIS strategy is to rename the terror group, which results in a meaningless sound bite, not a strategy. You can rebrand a cancer however you like; the threat it poses will be unchanged. But the “Radical Islam” rhetoric plays well into a broader trend of advocating racial, ethnic and religious profiling by the general public. Cruz’s followers do not hear the word “radical,” as any spin doctor knows. They cut straight to “Islam” as the threat.

When asked if the American government should engaging in profiling, Jeb Bush’s answer was concrete and definitive: “Yeah, absolutely, that is what screening is. We should be profiling. Of course we should. This is Islamic terrorism. The Democrats have no clue about this, or they refuse to call it what it is. These are Islamic terrorists that are trying to take out our country and destroy Western civilization. If you start with that premise, which I think the great majority of Americans believe, then you have a totally different approach on how you deal with it.”

Yet when asked about his military strategy, Bush replied with a platitude: “The main thing we should be focused on is a strategy to defeat ISIS…. Leading the world, funding [the military] to make sure we have a military that is second to none and doing the job.”

When Republicans rally so strongly behind the anti-refugee hysteria, torture and religious rhetoric, it is because they need unifying issues that allow them to attack President Barack Obama and, by extension, Hillary Clinton.

According to Robert Y. Shapiro, a professor of government at Columbia University, the refugee issue is a convenient tool used by the GOP to criticize the Obama administration without confronting military realities.

“I think they want to keep the focus on the refugees since, first, they are a reminder of Obama’s perceived failure against the Syrian government and the conquests of ISIS,” says Shapiro. “Second, they are a reminder of the potential terrorist threat which is an issue on which the Republicans, since George W. Bush, have had the high ground over the Democrats. The current polls strongly reflect this.”

“It is a way of avoiding the tougher issue of what to do about Syria and ISIS,” says Shapiro. The political strategy keeps the focus on the the failings of the Obama administration and its longtime secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.

If there is one thing Republicans agree on, in fact, it is that Obama somehow created ISIS. Yet when it comes to exactly why they think that, the reasons are vastly different and completely contradictory.

So, for instance, former New York (9/11) Mayor Rudy Giuliani said in a recent Fox News interview that he believes ISIS is an “Obama creation.” According to Giuliani, ISIS rose to prominence because Obama refused to implement a no fly zone over Syria after the Assad regime’s chemical weapon attacks in 2013.

According to Trump, however, ISIS is a result of Obama’s weak personality and his intervention in Libya, which Trump says destabilized the region. Trump has also claimed that he believes Obama may have directly armed ISIS, and that America should support Russia’s intervention in Syria.

According to Ted Cruz, political correctness is to blame and Obama should try to ramp up the religious rhetoric.

According to Jeb Bush, ISIS is Obama’s fault because he drew down U.S. forces in Iraq, allowing the jihadis to fill the vacuum.

Rand Paul insists that Obama “armed the allies of ISIS.”

On the far-out fringes of the right (whose votes are coveted as well) there are the persistent conspiracy theories that Obama is a secret member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and that moderate Republican Sen. John McCain met with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIS, when he visited Syria.

If Obama is a dictatorial warmonger, a secret jihadi or, as Christie puts it, “a feckless weakling,” what Republican could come to his defense?

Yet none can say that Obama is not striking ISIS, because he is. GOP candidates cannot say that Obama has overstepped his executive authority, because this would be interpreted as opposition to the military campaign. The Republican candidates cannot advocate sending in ground troops, because that is an unelectable position.

No one is going to make waves by advocating a no-fly zone, because Hillary Clinton has been the most vocal advocate of an air exclusion area since the beginning of the conflict, long before any Republican candidates raised the issue.

Four years of contradictory statements and shortsighted posturing from the GOP with regard to Syria have made emotionally charged peripheral issues the safest bet when it comes to politicizing ISIS.

A review of Republican positions since the conflict began reveals broad opposition to Obama’s anti-Assad-regime plans and serious criticism of his executive actions against ISIS.

In 2014, John Boehner was quick to criticize Obama’s military actions as unauthorized, but became visibly uncomfortable when asked why he didn’t introduce an authorization to use military force. Numerous Republicans dissented when Obama said he intended to retaliate against the Assad regime for chemical attacks in 2013, and were largely responsible for staying his hand. With regard to military action against ISIS, many Republicans chose to avoid a vote on the subject so they could assess the success of the campaign before risking a position. This is hard to spin as a courageous stance against the Islamic State.

Before the Paris attacks and the current anti-refugee hysteria, the Republican contenders, especially Cruz, had focused their criticism of Obama on the fact that he refuses to equate the Islamic State with mainstream Islam. This is clever, up to a point, because it is vague and draws on a widely held belief among conservatives that political correctness and cultural sensitivity are largely to blame for their unhappiness. Thus Cruz proclaimed, incongruously, “It is not a lack of competence that is preventing the Obama adminstration from stopping these attacks it is political correctness.”

Do the candidates really believe what they are saying about refugees? It is important to listen to the specific words that they and governors opposed to resettlement have been using.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie knows that his biggest weakness is being perceived as soft on Obama, because he worked closely with the president after Hurricane Sandy. In interview after interview, Christie has deflected questions on his refugee scapegoating back to Obama, stating that he does not trust the President to vet the refugees.

During the GOP debates in Las Vegas Christie focused heavily on his involvement with minor terrorism cases as a prosecutor and the fact that he lived in New Jersey on 9/11.

Ted Cruz keeps the focus on buzzwords meant to energize his evangelical base. In a single interview with Sean Hannity, he repeated the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” 19 times. And since the Paris attacks, Cruz has also been sure to repeat the words “tens of thousands of Syrian Muslim refugees” verbatim several times per interview.

Despite all the tough talk none of this rhetoric comes close to resembling a strategy, which is why the GOP has more to lose than anyone from a real debate on military tactics against ISIS.

The fear mongering has been successful turning conservatives against a vulnerable community that had no role in the Paris or San Bernardino attacks. According to a Yougov poll, support for accepting refugees has dropped from 39 percent among Republicans in early September to 17 percent now. The major GOP contenders need issues like refugees and religion to stay in the conversation because they have no clue how to beat ISIS.

In fact, the threat does not come from Obama, refugees, and civil rights, as opposed to from the actual Islamic State. The Republicans give the overall impression that they would increase U.S. military operation and that the Obama administration has no clear strategy. ‘In fact the Obama administration does,” say Shapiro “but it is a much slower long term one… leaving the fighting on the ground to the Kurds and Iraqi forces.”

Most of the actual proposals presented by GOP candidates are basically just variations on that theme.

On the ground in Syria, debates among the Republican candidates have sounded unrealistic if not surreal. It is obvious that ISIS can only be beaten through intelligent alliances and precise military planning. This should not be a great mystery given the fact that ISIS has been beaten before. In early 2014 Syrian rebels forced ISIS into a massive retreat from Aleppo province. I personally had the privilege of visiting parts of Aleppo that were recently liberated. This objective was achieved through military coordination among rebels factions who took heavy casualties.

It’s strange to hear politicians speak about ISIS as though it is some mysterious threat that will require America to change its identity. The leaders and fighters of ISIS are simply human beings, and in battle, they die.

When I hear politicians demonize Syrians and Muslims or advocate torture and carpet bombing, it shows how deep their lack of commitment to the actual fight is.

Syrians are the only people I have ever encountered who have actually stood up to and beaten back ISIS. The 2014 rebel offensive was the most significant blow that ISIS has ever been dealt and it didn’t magically occur when Ted Cruz uttered the words “Radical Islam.” It certainly didn’t come from preventing desperate refugees from settling in America. The biggest defeat ISIS has ever suffered came from Syrians who are the exact same religion and nationality that candidates like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are so determined to turn into an enemy.

 

By: Patrick Hilsman, The Daily Beast, December 28, 2015

December 30, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP, ISIS, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Murderous Minds Are Here To Stay”: Altering Gun Laws Isn’t An Absolute Answer, But It’s Change Within Our Control

What made a young couple walk into a health facility and start shooting people? It wasn’t our gun laws. It wasn’t the easy ability to purchase a weapon in this country.

If such things made people killers, all Americans would be killers. In that narrow way, gun advocates who bristle at any change after the San Bernardino killings are right.

No one makes you pull a trigger.

But if you stop the argument there, you’re being naive — as naive as saying no one makes you abuse drugs, no one forces you to drink and drive, no one tells you to give your money to phony investment advisors. Yet we have laws regarding all those things.

Laws, smartly written, address the dangers facing a society. The item in question should be less important than the threat.

But our biggest gun law was written 224 years ago, and it remains mostly about that — guns, and the ownership of them. It’s not about bad behavior, murderous thoughts or anything else that guns frequently exacerbate. We have been arguing over this law, the Second Amendment, for centuries.

But we don’t touch it. Because it’s part of our Constitution. Because it’s cherished by many. And because, supporters argue, it’s not the law that makes people put on vests, drop their baby at a relative’s house, then go on a mass murder spree and die.

That’s a sick mind.

And you can’t legislate against a sick mind.

Recently, the New York Times ran its first front page editorial in nearly 100 years. It called for the end of the “gun epidemic.” Before that, the New York Daily News, in criticizing lawmakers who offered prayers for victims but no new legislation, ran the headline “GOD ISN’T FIXING THIS.”

Naturally, both papers were buried in insults, dismissed as “typical liberals,” and argued against with an avalanche of selected facts and figures that make the case for doing nothing — or for arming more Americans, not fewer. President Obama, calling for tougher gun laws, was shouted down by a well-practiced chorus of critics, who cynically noted, “How’s it working for Paris?”

But being loud and being right are two different things. It’s always easier to scream against change than to create it. Especially since what change would be 100 percent effective? If we banned every gun in the country, some criminals would still get their hands on them, or use bombs instead, etc.

But is that a reason to watch the next whacked out fundamentalist go freely into a U.S. gun shop, legally purchase guns designed for quick, multiple killings, then use them on fellow citizens to go out in a blaze of infamy?

Because you know it will happen again.

I don’t have a fast answer for this. Nor do I have the energy or stomach to argue with hate-spewing people who are so mesmerized by gun possession they won’t budge an inch. It’s pointless.

But I do take issue with those who refuse to accept that mass killings with assault weapons fall under the same category as a hunter wanting to go after ducks. Yes, we have had guns in this country since its inception, but we have not had other things: a media that sensationalizes violence on a global scale, a population that feels alienated, video entertainment that numbs you to murder and a Internet that can connect all these elements with warped minds that see death as a badge of honor.

I’m pretty sure if America in 1791 had IEDs, jihads and YouTube, our Second Amendment wouldn’t read the way it does. But we cling to words written 224 years ago in a world that changes by the blink. This fact remains: people without a previous criminal history can make their first bad deed a doozy with legally purchased American guns, and killing them once they do only speeds up what many of them hope for: a sensationalized death. This is not limited to Islamic fundamentalists. Mass shootings in Colorado Springs (three dead), Oregon (nine dead) and Charleston, S.C. (nine dead) — all in the last six months — had nothing to do with Islam.

We can leave gun laws untouched, but something else will eventually give: maybe surveillance on every home and business; metal detectors on every door frame; random interrogations, sweeping immigration reform, airborne snipers, rounding up of particular religions. All things that will make America look a lot less like America than if its people were a little less armed.

Our choice. But sick, murderous minds are here to stay. How easy we make it for them is the only thing we can control.

 

By: Mitch Albom, The National Memo, December 30, 2015

December 30, 2015 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Violence, Gunsense, Gunshow Loopholes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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