Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Monica reminds us that it wasn't her scandal

HLN, which was formerly known as 'Headline News', is a cable TV network spun off CNN by Turner Broadcasting. Today the network broadcasts a mixture of traditional news and real crime stories.

In a recent announcement, HLN said that they would revisit what it called "The Monica Lewinsky Scandal" with a two-hour special program.

Many readers may be too young to know who she is, and those who do may have forgotten all but her name. Let's do a quick review of exactly why Monica Lewinsky became such a public figure, along with a little background as to how she got into such a sensitive position.

In 1995, Lewinsky graduated with a degree in psychology from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. That summer, family friend Walter Kaye, an insurance big wig who was also friends with Hillary Clinton, helped her land an unpaid internship in Washington, D.C. in the office of White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta.

Per Jeff Leen of the Washington Post back in 2008, one of Lewinsky's fellow interns that summer painted her as extroverted, hard-working and ambitious. In the coming months there would be rumors, some started by her own comments, that she had somehow developed an uncommonly close relationship with President Bill Clinton.

By December, Lewinsky had been moved to a paid intern position with the Office of Legislative Affairs. She would later confide in a friend, Linda Tripp, that she had begun an affair with the President a month earlier.

Per a USA Today article in 2008, Lewinsky had her first sexual encounter with Clinton in the private study of the Oval office on November 15, 1995. The two repeated this Oval office tryst under similar circumstances just two days later. 

This was the beginning of a physical relationship that lasted approximately a year and a half. There would be, according to Lewinsky, a total of nine sexual encounters between the two. There was never sexual intercourse, but fellatio and other sex acts were involved.

Described by some on staff as a bit forward, and by others as outright flirtatious, Lewinsky was moved in April 1996 into a position as assistant to the Pentagon's chief spokesman, Kenneth Bacon. The move came because some of her superiors felt that she had grown too close to the President.

Lewinsky also had a reputation as a hard worker who was willing to genuinely put in long hours. She seems to have been an enigma. While exhibiting drive and determination, she also came across as distracted at times, with a fairly obvious crush on the President.

During a February 1997 liaison, Clinton purportedly left stains on Lewinsky's dress during one of their encounters. The revelation that the dark blue dress had been preserved with this "evidence" would later became a part of the public lore involving their relationship. A month later, the two had their final dalliance with one another.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Donald Trump, Elizabeth Warren, and Pocahontas

At the White House on Monday, President Donald Trump honored three members of the Navajo Nation who had helped America as "Code Talkers" during World War II.

The Code Talkers were recruited to the United States Marine Corps during the war. They transmitted messages via radio using a code developed from their unique native language, one which the Japanese were unable to decipher. 

In remembering and honoring the group yesterday, the President chose the occasion to take a swipe at one of his favorite political foils on the Democratic side of the aisle, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts:
"You were here long before any of us were here, although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas.”
The Trump-Warren feud stretches back into the Presidential campaign last summer. Trump was the presumptive Republican nominee. Warren was considered an early contender for the Vice-Presidential slot for the Democrats on the ticket with their own presumptive nominee at the time, Hillary Clinton. 

Warren would attack Trump at Clinton campaign rallies and at her own speaking engagements. Per the New York Times, for instance, Warren called Trump a man born with cash in his fist and hate in his heart.

Trump would then fire back, at one point beginning to use the Pocahontas reference. This was his way of bringing up claims made by Warren throughout her political career that she is partially of Native American ancestry. There have been numerous vitriolic barbs slung back and forth between the two ever since. 

Warren has claimed, per the Washington Post, that she is of Cherokee and Delaware Indian heritage. During her 2012 Senate campaign, this claim was disputed by her opponent, Scott Brown. The Cherokee demanded proof, and Warren was only able to fall back on old family stories. 

The bottom line according to the Post's 'Fact Checker' researchers: "There is no documented proof of Warren’s self-proclaimed, partial Native American heritage..."

Warren's name has also been floated as a possible candidate for the 2020 Presidential election as the Democratic Party nominee. When the President refers to Warren in joking terms as "Pocahontas", he is taking a calculated jab at her. He is also clearly hoping to provoke some type of public response.

Warren responded, of course, stating It is deeply unfortunate that the president of the United States can’t even make it through a ceremony honoring these heroes without throwing out a racial slur.

Per the Huffington PostNavajo Nation President Russell Begaye appeared on CNN’s “New Day” program earlier today and made this comment: 
“Pocahontas is a real person, not something that’s just made up. This is a young lady, a Native American woman that played a critical role in the life of this nation, and to use that person in that way is unnecessary and is being culturally insensitive.”
Pocahontas is a genuine historic figure, not just a character in a Disney movie. She was the daughter of Wahunsenacawh, the paramount chief of the Powhatan people, whose land the original Jamestown colony had settled upon. Her actual life story, though brief, was pivotal in early relations between peoples of the Old and New Worlds.

The White House came back at Warren on Monday afternoon through press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who stated per The Hill: I think what most people find offensive is Senator Warren lying about her heritage to advance her career."

My own feelings on the issue can fairly be summarized by a statement made on CNN this morning by the former communications director for the White House, Anthony Scaramucci. 

"At the end of the day — we're getting a little bit too micro-managing with each other's languages and the whole political correctness movement," Scaramucci said per The Hill"I think most people, in general, are tired of it ... I'm totally tired of it."

Monday, November 27, 2017

Tax reform postcards from the edge

The Republican controlled United States Congress is attempting something significant that has not happened in more than three decades. Yet it is something that almost everyone in both parties believes to be grossly overdue.

Updates to the United States tax code have not been accomplished since Ronald Reagan was President.

That long ago legislation passed a voice vote in the House of Representatives in December 1985. It then took another seven months before finally passing the Senate in June 1986. President Reagan then signed the Tax Reform Act of 1986 into law on October 22, 1986.

Over the ensuing decades, further changes to the tax code have been discussed and debated in both formal political circles as well as in the media and in academia. Many on both sides of the American political aisle have voiced their concern that tax reform was necessary. Agreeing to the specifics and getting such reform done has been much more elusive.

Charles Rangel is as liberal a Democrat as you are going to find. He served in Congress for nearly five decades before retiring earlier this year. Per Brainy Quotes, Rangel once stated "We all want a simpler code, but tax reform is about much more. It is about ensuring that everyone pays their fair share."

Those final words have usually become the rub. What makes up a "fair share?" Reaching any consensus is becoming nearly impossible now in an era where American politics are as partisan and polarized as any in history. 

That 1986 tax legislation was actually co-sponsored by a pair of Democrats, Congressman Dick Gephart and Senator Bill Bradley. While Republicans held a 53-47 advantage in the Senate, the final vote in support for tax reform was 97-3. 

When the 2017 House vote was taken on November 16, no Democrats voted for it. None. Their mantra, as it has always been, claimed that Republicans were cutting taxes for "the top 1%" of earners, while giving no or little actual relief to the middle class. 

The Speaker of the House, Republican Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, responded per Naomi Jagoda and Cristina Marcos for The Hill that "Passing this bill is the single biggest thing we can do to grow the economy, to restore opportunity and help these middle-income families who are struggling."

The fact is that on most issues, especially the big ones, votes in both the House and Senate now come down rigidly along party lines. Where there used to be a dozen or more "swing" votes to be had, legislators of either party who could be appealed to and lobbied for support, that is rarely the case today. 

There is always an obligatory appeal to the middle class by both parties. Each claims to want to bring relief to those middle income earners. Yet somehow, the two parties can never agree on any issue that will actually help the middle class.

Getting actual tax reform done now is going to come down to one party or the other gaining control of both the House and the Senate. Then they are also likely to need a President of their same party who is willing to sign the new tax proposal into law.

Right now, Republicans have just such control. The GOP holds a slim 52-48 edge in the U.S. Senate, and a tight 239-194 edge in the House of Representatives. And, of course, a Republican now sits in the Oval office for the first time in eight years.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Sunday Sermon: In the end, we all become one with God

1 Cor 15:28
Today marks the final Sunday in the liturgical year of the Catholic Church. 

Next Sunday begins the season of Advent, the four-week period leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ.

As Advent begins, the readings at Mass will begin to lead us towards that most important and holy moment in the history of humanity.

Today, however, we peer into the future, to the end of time itself.

The second reading today was from the first letter, sometimes called an epistle, written by Saint Paul to the Church at Corinth.

The Yale Divinity School calls this first letter from Paul to the Corinthians "a masterpiece of pastoral theology." Of this important and lengthy 16-chapter work, Yale further states:
"It challenges us to think about how we relate to the wider world that we fully engage even if it does not always share our values, provoking us to imitate Paul’s pastoral logic, which probes fundamental convictions to see how they apply in difficult situations."
Corinth today lies in south-central Greece, approximately 48 miles west of Athens. But the Corinth of Paul's time could be located about two miles southwest of today's city. Paul himself founded the original church in Corinth around 50 A.D., less than two decades after Christ's death.

Paul's first letter to the Corinthians was written during one of his stays at Ephesus. It includes a number of important teachings, and contains a handful of famous sayings that have survived through today.

The focus of my piece today comes from near the end of Paul's letter, and relates to the end of time. Here, Paul talks of Christ's return at the second coming, stating that he will destroy "every sovereignty and every authority and power" before finally destroying the "last enemy", death itself.

Paul then finishes by stating that once everything has been subjected to Jesus Christ, then Christ himself will be subjected to God. This is, as Paul puts it, "that God may be all in all." In the end, we will all become one with God, through Christ.

You can choose to interpret the exact physical and meta-physical mechanics of that merger with our Creator in a number of ways. However you choose to do so, the fact is that we don't know when these events will take place. Will they even take place in our lifetimes?

The more important point is that, no matter when the end times come, there is something that we can all and should all be doing right now. We should all be preparing now by subjecting ourselves to Christ.

Jesus said "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Clearly the most important thing that we can do right now is ensure that we are believers. That we recognize that Christ gave up his life so that we could be freed from sin.

This acceptance, this subjecting of ourselves to Christ in accepting and celebrating his role in our lives, gives us a chance to join God as one of those "all in all" at the end.

A joyous season is about to begin. The birth of your Savior is not far off. As this holy time of year approaches, remember exactly whose birth it is that we will be celebrating. In the end, we all become one with God. That is only made possible by the one who is about to be born.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

What is a "Traditional American?"

My website has a supporting page on Facebook named "Traditional Americans" on which I share many of the pieces that I write.

In addition to my own pieces, the page functions as a news and commentary aggregator. I present articles and pictures found around the web each day relating to topics that I feel would be of interest to followers.

Recently, the page cover picture was changed to reflect a Thanksgiving greeting. It included an American flag surrounded by a Fall season theme.

Accompanying the picture was a brief description of the page direction:
For folks with traditional American Judeo-Christian values. Conservative-leaning politically and socially. Pro-US military and law enforcement.
Some folks who apparently disagree with that message decided to comment.

"Wow so you are saying anyone who doesn’t agree with your beliefs is not American. That is exactly opposite of why we have America," said one.

"Actually, this post by this group is the antithesis of the founding fathers values. They, like Jesus, were the liberals of their time. For that, I am very thankful," said another.

"So no "Happy Thanksgiving" to anybody that is not in your camp?" said still another.

Of course, all of that missed the point of the post. That particular post, as would be anything and everything presented at the page, is not directed towards everyone. It is directed at fans of the page.

If you're not a fan of the page, if you don't agree with or care about what it stands for, then why follow it or comment on it in the first place? There are literally thousands of political, religious, and social pages available on Facebook. Follow and enjoy those that espouse your own points of view.

I understand that sometimes we feel that messages of hate or discrimination are being disseminated, and we want to stand up and challenge those. Still others genuinely enjoy a healthy debate. And frankly, there are those who disagree with a position or worldview, and simply enjoy being argumentative. 

I responded to each comment in what I felt was a strong but measured way. But these particular comments did give me pause to think. What do I mean by "Traditional Americans?" What does that term actually mean?

The page description was founded as, and remains today, exactly as highlighted above in that Thanksgiving post. 

The dictionary folks of Merriam-Webster define "traditional" as consisting of or derived from tradition, handed down from age to age, adhering to past practices or established conventions. Among that same sources definitions for "American" is a U.S. citizen.

United States citizens interested in sharing past practices or established conventions handed down from age to age in our nation. Folks who espouse American Judeo-Christian values and who are also conservative-leaning politically and socially. Pro-US military and law enforcement. Folks who are interested in and/or share those same interests. I would say that is a pretty fair definition of the intended audience for the page.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Celebrities, unlike the rest of us, can sometimes live forever

Early 1970's pop star and teen idol David Cassidy passed away this past Tuesday at the age of 67 years.

Cassidy had been born in April 1950 into a show business family. He was the only child of Jack Cassidy, a Tony Award-winning actor as well as a singer, and Evelyn Ward, a TV and stage actress.

Ward died in 2012 of dementia, a condition that David would also be diagnosed with just two years later.

Earlier this year, David publicly announced his own battle with the illness. He was then forced to retire after the dementia began to seriously manifest itself, particularly in forgetting lyrics to songs he had been singing for decades.

Cassidy was then hospitalized last week suffering from liver and kidney failure. He was placed in a medically-induced coma, which he came out of this past Monday. Doctors were hoping to keep him alive until a liver came available for transplant, but he died the following day of liver failure.

It was a sad, struggling ending for a man who had exited middle age and was turning towards old age. But the fact is, few people are going to remember David Cassidy as a man in his 60's. They are not even going to remember Cassidy in his 40's or 50's.

As with most celebrities, David Cassidy is going to be perpetually in his 20's. It will be the Cassidy in youth, the one staring out at you from the picture that accompanies this story, that millions will carry in their mind for the rest of their lives.

Cassidy made his Broadway debut in 1969 in a show that quickly closed. But he was encouraged to make a screen test, moved to Los Angeles, and picked up guest appearances on a handful of big name television shows.

In 1970, Cassidy got his biggest break. He was cast in the starring role of 'Keith Partridge', the oldest son on a new television series "The Partridge Family" about a music-making clan headed up by a single mother.

The original plan was for the acting cast to do none of the actual music or singing for the show. But Cassidy lobbied for and won the right to sing, and his became the voice of the group on the show and in recordings.

The Partridge Family label created ten albums during its four-season run from 1970-74, and Cassidy sang lead on the vast majority of the songs. He also recorded a handful of solo albums during this period. The group received a 1971 Grammy Award nomination for Best New Artist, and also a pair of Golden Globe Awards.

Thanks to songs like "I Think I Love You", "I Can Feel Your Heartbeat", "I'll Meet You Halfway", "I Woke Up in Love This Morning", and "Doesn't Somebody Want to Be Wanted" the bubblegum pop sound of the band, and thus Cassidy's melodic voice, will live forever with fans of multiple generations.

This also leads to the larger point of this piece. Celebrities can often live forever. Think about it. Long after you and I, and likely anyone else reading this article, is gone from this orb the names, music, and works of numerous celebrities will keep them living on.

Artists who passed away in recent months, years, and even decades such as Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, John Lennon, George Harrison, Michael Jackson, Prince, and Tom Petty still have their music played regularly. Decades from now that is likely to still be the case.

The feats of notable athletes such as Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali, Jim Thorpe, Jesse Owens, Arnold Palmer, Wilt Chamberlain, and Johnny Unitas are still remembered and celebrated. Again, decades from now that will still be the case.

On the Hollywood scene, acting professionals such as Marilyn Monroe, Alfred Hitchcock, Marlon Brando, Bette Davis, Orson Welles, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Newman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, River Phoenix, and James Gandolfini come to mind among many others. We'll be watching them perform for decades, as we already have been for some who have been gone that long.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The history of Thanksgiving in America

Embed from Getty Images
President George W. Bush visits the Thanksgiving Shrine in Virginia in 2007

Today is Thanksgiving Day here in the United States. As we gather to celebrate with family and friends, let me offer a short history lesson on the holiday origins in America.

In the fall of 1619 the Margaret set sail from Bristol, England on a roughly two-month voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. Captain John Woodliffe would bring his ship with 38 settlers safely to what was known as Berkeley Hundred on December 4.

Berkeley Hundred was a land grant from the Virginia Company of London, an English stock company formed by King James I in order to fund the establishment of colonial settlements in America.

The Berkeley Hundred land grant went to a group of five men, including John Smyth, who became the official historian of the group. Over the next two decades he collected documents relating to the settlement of what would be known as "Virginia", and these still survive today.

The land grant was for some eight thousand acres along the James River a few miles west of Jamestown, which itself had been the first British colony in the New World just a few years earlier.

The proprietors of the Virginia Company had directed in their granting of the land charter that "the day of our ships arrival...shall be yearly and perpetually kept as a day of Thanksgiving." The settlers of the Margaret did indeed keep that celebration, doing so more than two years prior to the popularly remembered landing of the Mayflower at Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Over the hundreds of years since, there have been many disputes as to the official beginnings of this holiday which has become formally known as Thanksgiving Day here in America. Most of those disputes have been sources of regional pride battles between Virginia and the New England area.

When he became the first President of the United States, George Washington proclaimed that Thursday, November 26, 1789 was an official "...day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God."

It was from this Washington proclamation that most formal Thanksgiving celebrations were celebrated on the final Thursday in November. However, it was not an official national holiday. 

Following decades of lobbying by schoolteacher and author Sara Hale of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" fame, President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 called for such an official Thanksgiving Day holiday on the last Thursday in November. However, the rancor of the Civil War caused the celebration to become delayed until the 1870's.

The United States would then celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November until the early days of World War II. On December 26, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law a joint congressional resolution moving the official celebration to the fourth Thursday in November. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Alabama U.S. Senate election: the problem with not voting for Roy Moore

Moore (L) faces Jones (R) for Alabama U.S. Senate seat
The special election for an open U.S. Senate seat taking place in Alabama on December 12 is pivotal for a number of reasons.

One of those reasons is that Alabama residents need to be represented in the Senate by someone who will fight for the values held dear to the majority of the citizens of the state.

The second reason that this election is so vitally important is the continuance of Republican control of the Senate as a voting body.

There are 100 seats available in the Senate, two from each of the 50 states. Currently, the Republican Party enjoys a 54-44 edge with two Independent representatives. Those two, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, are "independent" in formal affiliation only. They are both reliable Democratic Party votes.

So the actual current working makeup of the United States Senate shows a 54-46 voting edge for the Republican Party. Since most important issues are settled by a simple majority these days, Democrats need to flip just five seats in order to take control.

Bill Clinton and Barack Obama sat in the Oval Office for 14 of the last 23 years. Control of the U.S. House of Representatives slipped into Democratic Party control three times during the Obama years.

For the majority of the last two decades, the U.S. Senate has been in Republican Party control. However, that control has usually been by a fairly slim margin. Republican senatorial control has been vital to keeping America from slipping down a Liberal Progressive slope

In Alabama, Richard Shelby was elected to one of the two senate seats as a Democrat all the way back in 1986. However, he switched over to the Republican Party in 1994 as part of the Republican Revolution. Now age 83, Shelby was elected just last year to a new six-year term.

The other Alabama seat was held since 1997 by Republican Jeff Sessions. He became the current U.S. Attorney General in the Trump administration, and Luther Strange was appointed as his temporary successor. Republicans have thus held both Alabama senate seats for over two decades.

Back in September in a hotly contested race, Strange lost a runoff to Roy Moore for the Party nomination to fully succeed Sessions. Moore is now set to face Democrat Doug Jones in the December 12 election. The winner will hold the senate seat formerly held by Sessions through 2020.

Under normal circumstances, Moore might be expected to win this election fairly easily. He is the far more conservative of the two candidates in a state that has gone Republican in Presidential elections for over nearly forty years.

However, these are not normal circumstances. Moore has recently been accused by a half-dozen women of either sexual assault or harassment decades ago. Moore has either denied the accusations, or stated that they were consensual with younger women who were past the age of legal consent.

Moore is a former state judge who served twice as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. He has been a colorful, often controversial public figure for decades. His rulings have frequently come down on the side of protecting conservative values.

These accusations have raised questions among some, especially due to their surfacing at this time, with Moore running for such a powerful and influential seat in government.

Folks have had plenty of time to digest these accusations and Moore's responses over the last few weeks. As I wrote this past weekend, people are going to believe what they want to believe on most of these situations.

Numerous liberal publications and commentators, and even some conservative Republican big names, have called for Moore to drop out of the race. They would prefer to have him step aside willingly, and then install a candidate with less baggage into the race. Moore has stated unequivocally that he will not step aside.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Real American Hero: John Mihalowski

The old series continue to return here with the first "Real American Heroes" piece in over four years.

This series normally remembers and honors heroes from the American military ranks. Many were recipients of the Medal of Honor. This is the highest and most prestigious honor which can be bestowed upon a member of the United States military. It is awarded to recognize outstanding acts of valor.

However, the series is not limited to winners of that honor, or even solely to the military. For instance, in April of 2010, I told the story of Brandon Darby, whose conversion from radical leftist to undercover FBI informant saved numerous lives and helped keep America safe.

Thus far, my series has told the story of 10 of these individuals. With this piece, 'ROH' will continue regularly into the future.

Today the spotlight shines on late United States Navy diver John Mihalowski for his actions on May 23, 1939. For those who know their history, this places his actions a full two and half years prior to American involvement in World War II.

There have been 3,516 Medal of Honor recipients to date in the history of the award. Only 193 of those honored came for actions performed during peacetime. Mihalowski, who died in October 1993, is the last such living recipient.

Mihalowski also did not perform his valorous actions alone. He was one of four recipients for actions performed that day. The other three honorees, Orson Crandall (1960), James McDonald (1973), and William Badders (1986) all predeceased him. All should be remembered, and Mihalowski has been highlighted simply for being that last living Medal of Honor recipient for actions during peacetime.

The events leading to the heroic actions of these four brave men actually began on May 12, 1939 when the submarine USS Squalus undertook a series of test dives off the coast of New Hampshire. Over the next 10 days, Squalus successfully completed 18 dives. It was then on May 23, while attempting her 11th dive, that things went tragically wrong.

Approximately six miles off the coast at the Isle of Sholes, Squalus main induction valve failed. The sub quickly flooded, and 26 men were immediately drowned. The remaining crew were able to prevent final compartments from flooding, but the sub sank to the bottom in some 243 feet of water.

The submarine rescue ship Falcon was dispatched to her aid with our four heroes on board as part of the crew. Falcon was equipped with new technology, the McCann Rescue Chamber. This device was capable of holding up to eight rescued crew members, as well as two rescuers.

Mihalowski and the three other Real American Heroes were the divers assigned to the actual rescue operation. The men utilized newly developed heliox diving schedules which were designed to help overcome cognitive impairment symptoms that had previously accompanied such efforts.

Using the MRC and the heliox schedules, the four men were able to rescue all 33 remaining Squalus crew members. Mihalowski and Badders, who was the senior member of the dive crew, made one final effort to rescue possible survivors in the Squalus flooded portion.

While no survivors were discovered there, the effort was extremely perilous for those final two divers. As their Medal of Honor citations read, both men were "fully aware of the great danger involved...became incapacitated, there was no way in which either could be rescued."

Monday, November 20, 2017

Islamism Series: American Jihad in the second decade after 9/11

On July 23, 2008 here at my website, I introduced the "Islamism Series", which was inspired by a class on 'Radical Islam' that I was teaching at that time.

Over the next year and a half, I wrote 20 pieces in the series. The aim was to educate folks on the history of radical Islam, to comment on current Islamic terrorist attacks, and to keep Americans alert to the continuing threat.

As with other series that have resumed in recent days with the re-launch of this website, the "Islamism Series" returns as well. As with the others, it will continue into the future with periodic articles which will continue those original goals of education and commentary on what I believe to be that continuing threat.

Perhaps you've forgotten, or you haven't put the pieces together for yourself. With so much going on these days in the nation and world, who could blame you? But the fact is that radical Islamic attacks right here in America are continuing.

Since the historically devastating attacks of September 11, 2001 there have been at least 14 successful attacks by adherents to the tenets of radical Islam right here in the United States. There have been further countless planned attacks which have been thwarted by law enforcement.

Some would have you believe that this is a brand new phenomenon. Perhaps actual terror groups such as ISIS are just beginning to formally sanction attacks. However, individuals inspired by groups like ISIS have been committing terror attacks for some time.

Of the successful post-9/11 attacks, 13 have occurred since 2009. Nine have happened in just the last four and a half years. If anything, the pace seems to be picking up. This is a problem that is going to get worse, possibly much worse, before it ever gets better.

So in renewing this series, let's start by reviewing what has happened since the last piece was published in February 2010. Something to catch us up. A reminder that we need to continue to be vigilant.

That last piece in the "Islamism Series" came out in February 2010, just months after a pair of attacks on the United States military here in our homeland. 

In June of 2009, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad (born Carlos Bledsoe) committed a drive-by shooting outside of a military recruiting center in Little Rock, Arkansas. In the shooting, U.S. Army Private William Long was killed and another soldier was wounded.

Five months later, U.S Army Major Nidal Hasan, an army psychiatrist, committed the largest mass shooting on a United States military base in our nation's history. Hasan killed 13 and wounded some three dozen others. 

Since publication of that last piece in the series to this point, more blood has been shed on American soil by Islamic radicals. The first actually came on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

On September 11, 2011 in Waltham, Massachusetts, three men had their throats slashed and were nearly decapitated by Ibragim Todashev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Both of these men had Chechen family backgrounds, and had come under the influence of radical Islam.

If the name of that second killer in Waltham sounds familiar to you, that's because it should. A year and a half later, Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev committed the Boston Marathon bombing. The brothers killed three, caused 16 others to lose limbs, and injured hundreds more.

In September of 2014, Alton Nolen was suspended from his job at Vaughan Foods in Moore, Oklahoma, just outside of Oklahoma City. Nolen went home, got a knife, and made his way to the company's main offices. There he attacked one female employee, slashing her throat and completely beheading her. He then slashed another female employee as well. 

As he attempted to behead that second woman, Nolen's attack was stopped when he was shot by the company C.O.O., who also happened to be a reserve sheriff deputy. An FBI investigation revealed that he had become radicalized, and used "Jah'Keem Yisrael" as his name on Facebook.

The following year, in July 2015, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez committed a pair of drive-by shootings at U.S. military facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He killed four U.S. Marines and a Navy sailor in the attack, injuring a police officer and a military recruiter.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sunday Sermon: Giving thanks for modern religious

Another day marks the return of another regular series to my website. This time it will be the weekly 'Sunday Sermon' series geared towards religious/spiritual issues.

This series is one of my oldest, beginning all the way back in September 2005. It ran fairly regularly through 2013, but then disappeared for the better part of three years.

I briefly resuscitated the series a year ago, but it turned out to be for just three installments. The last of those was published nine months ago.

Well, 'Sunday Sermon' is back for good now with this, the 70th installment in its history. All of the previous articles and any into the future can be viewed simply by clicking on that 'Label' found immediately following this piece when viewed in its web version.

Today's piece covers a topic of vital importance, one that speaks specifically to the Catholic Church. That would be the difficult decision made by young people in the 21st century in joining a religious order.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is currently engaged in its annual St. Charles Boromeo Seminary Appeal. The appeal is an attempt to raise money for the seminary through donations from parishioners.

There are currently fifteen young men at St. Charles who are in the midst of their studies to become a Catholic priest. They come not only from Philadelphia, but from all across the country. They entered the Seminary from high school and college, from careers on Wall Street, and from service to our nation's military.

During today's Mass at St. Christopher's Parish in the Somerton section of Philadelphia, Father Sean English was the celebrant. In his homily, Father Sean spoke of his own decision making process after college. Father told of how, once he knew that he did indeed want to enter the Seminary and become a priest, the process of telling his family and friends took another nine months.

Father Sean's last name may indeed be "English", but he is a young Irishman through and through. There was a time when it was expected that a young man from an Irish American family would become one of three things: a cop, a politician, or a priest.

You would expect that his family might be overjoyed at having their son enter the priesthood. But it was still a difficult decision for Father Sean to tell his parents of his decision. To tell them that their son would not be having children to pass along the family name.

The Catholic Church has to be thankful that he heard a call from Christ, and had the courage to respond positively. Father Sean is an outstanding young priest. He is exactly what the Church needs more of, both here in American and across the globe.

It's a difficult decision, surrendering yourself to a life of service to others. It is not so very unlike the calling that I felt myself at one point, to serve my community as a police officer. It is not unlike the call that many feel to serve the United States as a member of the military.

When called to a vocation, rather than simply taking a job in private industry, you have to surrender a certain amount of freedom. You must accept that you are going to help as many people as you can, under the most difficult circumstances. Not only will you face ridicule, but at times you will face outright opposition.

That call to the priestly vocation has been made particularly difficult in recent years by the priest abuse scandals which came to light over the last decade or so. Those scandals were then exacerbated by denials and cover-ups from some in the Catholic Church hierarchy.

But here is a fact. No matter those scandals, the Church needs priests. The priesthood is a vital institution for the survival of the Church into the future. The Church needs good men to step forward and become priests.

As a police officer, I have seen radicals charge that the entire profession is corrupt. There are some who believe that every police officer is racist, abusive, or both. I know from firsthand experience that is not only false, but that officers who fit into those categories are extreme rarities.

Do they exist? Yes. They exist in every profession. When those officers personal beliefs result in abusive actions, they often become newsworthy, sometimes sensationally so. But the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of police officers are good, decent people like everyone else. They try to help their community every single day while raising their own families.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

TV Watch: Justified

Embed from Getty Images
Timothy Olyphant (plaid shirt) starred in "Justified" from 2010-15

It's been three and a half years since the last piece in my "TV Watch" series came out. That last article in February 2014 covered the action-packed Cinemax drama "Banshee" starring Antony Starr and Ivana Milicevic.

Since that time, more and more Americans have taken on the phenomenon of binge-watching television series. This involves watching all episodes of a show in a short period of time via an OnDemand service, or through a pay service such as Netflix or Amazon.

Many times, I have found myself in conversations regarding which series folks are currently binging. Some of these conversations have turned me on to some of my favorite television shows.

I have also passed along some of my own favorites as a recommendation to others. That is what I'll be doing now with 'TV Watch' over the next few months. As the series continues with occasional pieces, I'll be highlighting some of my favorite shows from the last decade or so that have concluded their original runs, but which are available for you to enjoy on those various OnDemand or pay networks.

Near the top of any recommendation list that I could make would be "Justified", which originally aired on the FX network from March 2010 through April 2015. It's 78 episodes over six seasons make up one of the best and most original cop dramas in television history.

Timothy Olyphant stars as deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, who battles the bad guys operating in and around his home turf of Harlan, Kentucky.

Harlan is a small town and county located in extreme southeastern Kentucky near the Cumberland River, bordered by mountains and ridges. The mountainous geography and warm, humid climate help set the stage for the series.

Olyphant is in some ways the typical smart aleck style law enforcement officer. His quick wit and superior intelligence often helps him disarm his opponents, both literally and figuratively.

One of my all-time favorite lines in TV history came out of the mouth of Raylan Givens:
"You run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole. You run into assholes all day, you're the asshole."

And as with many a good ol' Cowboy hat-wearing southern boy, he can back up his mouth. Raylan is good with both a gun and with his fists when needed. But he's quick enough with both that wit and his gun that he rarely needs to actually use his fists.

A running thread throughout the series finds Raylan battling with the outlaw Crowder family, especially one whom he knew since childhood. Boyd Crowder, as played marvelously by Walton Goggins, proves to be Raylan's principle nemesis.

Raylan's personal life is complicated by ongoing flirtations with both his ex-wife Winona Hawkins (Natalie Zea) and Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter), Boyd's sister-in-law. Though Winona disappears for large stretches of the series, she will return and prove critical as it winds to a conclusion.

Both Raylan's personal and professional lives are also constantly complicated by his father, Arlo Givens (Raymond J. Barry), who is suffering from the early signs of dementia. Unlike Raylan, Arlo has spent much of his life on the wrong side of the law, often with Boyd's father Bo Crowder (M.C. Gainey) who is a key figure in the shows first season.

As the show progresses, Raylan is forced to battle newly emerging threats, some from locals such as the Bennett and Crowe families, others from out of town drug operatives.

That renegade Bennett clan includes family matriarch Mags Bennett, played by Margo Martindale, and her sometimes bumbling but always villainous son Dickie Bennett, played by familiar face Jeremy Davies. Both Martindale and Davies won Emmy Awards for their roles. The Crowe family is a bunch of alligator farmers, and is led by another familiar face in Michael Rapaport.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Rock & Roll Heaven: Chris Cornell

After a nearly seven year break, this piece marks the return of my "Rock & Roll Heaven" series, which began nine years ago.

It was originally intended to be a week-long mini-series of articles. That first week included pieces on Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Michael Hutchence, and Jim Morrison. However, I also offered that I might consider continuing the series with additional occasional pieces. 

After receiving positive feedback, the series continued over the next two years. The musicians highlighted after the original mini-series were Karen Carpenter, Ty Longley, and John Bonham. All articles in the series can be enjoyed by simply clicking on the series 'label' at the bottom of this piece.

Bonham, the drummer for Led Zeppelin who Rolling Stone magazine has ranked as the top drummer of all-time, died in September of 1980. He was just 32 years old. The alcoholic Bonham died after a two-day drinking binge.

That factor is a hallmark of my series. All of the artists portrayed were icons in their generation, and died young under controversial or dramatic circumstances. 

Icon of his generation. Death under controversial circumstances. That perfectly fits the loss earlier this year of Seattle grunge band icon Chris Cornell. The lead vocalist for Soundgarden and Audioslave, Cornell's death on May 18, 2017 was ruled a suicide. He was known to have suffered from substance abuse issues and depression.

Like many popular rock artists of the early 1990's, Cornell emerged from the Seattle, Washington scene. He was born in Seattle on July 20, 1964, and so was less than three years younger then me. 

He helped form Soundgarden in 1984, and by 1990 the band was receiving a Grammy Award nomination for their debut album. They continued to record and tour together through 1996, and their 1994 album "Superunknown" won the band a pair of Grammy Awards.

One of those 1994 Grammys was "Best Hard Rock Performance" for the song "Black Hole Sun", perhaps their most well known among the wider music-listening public.

Of those early 1990's years with Soundgarden, Cornell stated the following:
"Nobody came to Seattle to sign a band or write about you or put your song on the radio, so everything there was very genuine. I’m privileged to have been in that place at that time. I also put a lot of energy into that. We really had to beat the doors down."
In 1990, Cornell had to cope with the death of his close friend and roommate, Andrew Wood. A fellow musician from Seattle, Wood died in March 1990 following a heroin overdose. In an interview with Jim Farber for The Guardian just a year ago, Cornell stated: 
“I’ve always had really difficult time with loss. I didn’t deal well with Andy’s death. After he died, numerous times I’d be driving and I would look out the window and I thought I saw him. It would take me five minutes to update to the moment and realize, ‘no, he’s actually dead.’
Cornell recorded a 1990 tribute album to Wood with a project band known as Temple of the Dog. This band included members who would go on to form Pearl Jam. 

Temple of the Dog featured the first recordings by Eddie Vedder. Originally from San Diego, his friendship with Cornell helped legitimize Vedder in the Seattle music scene. The two would remain close friends, and Cornell would go on to work with Pearl Jam a number of times over the next two decades.

In 1985 at age 20, Cornell began dating Soundgarden's manager, Susan Silver. They married in 1990, had a daughter in 2000, and divorced in 2004. Later that year he married Vicky Karayiannis. The couple would have two children, a daughter born in 2004 and a son a year later.

His Irish-Catholic father and Jewish mother were both alcoholics according to Cornell. If true, that propensity towards addiction was already going to be a factor at some point in his life.

Cornell stated in a 2006 interview with Dorian Lynskey for SPIN magazine that his early life had been "pretty great." But then a bad experience after trying PCP at age 14 left him with panic disorder and he slipped into depression through his teen years.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Traditional marriage grounded at United States Air Force

Genesis 2:18-23 reads as follows:

The LORD God said: It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him.

So the LORD God formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the air, and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them; whatever the man called each living creature was then its name.

The man gave names to all the tame animals, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals; but none proved to be a helper suited to the man.

So the LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. The LORD God then built the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman.

When he brought her to the man, the man said “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called ‘woman, for out of man this one has been taken.”

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.

The story of the beginning of man and woman's journey together here on Earth is a familiar one to most people, no matter their level of faith or their personal belief.

To some, it is simply that, a story and nothing more. But to myself and more than half of the human population it remains a basic tenet of faith. To most of those same people, this biblical story forms the basic foundation for the concept of marriage.

The institution of marriage has been under attack for decades from progressives here in America. They have made major inroads in their battle to bastardize these sacred unions.

A controversy in the United States Air Force highlights that the battle for marriage continues today.

Colonel Leland Bohannon was set to be promoted to the rank of one-star general. However, one of his subordinates recently filed an EO (Equal Opportunity) complaint against him.

This complaint was substantiated, and now Bohannon has been suspended from his command and is likely to never receive the promotion he earned with decades of sacrifice and hard work.

The complaint was based on Bohannon's position supporting traditional marriage. This past spring, a master sergeant under his command was retiring. The master sergeant is gay, and has a same-sex partner.

It has become tradition to honor the spouse of such a retiree for the sacrifices they have made in supporting the retiree. That honor comes in the form of recognition at the retirement ceremony, and presentation of a certificate of spouse appreciation.

Per the website militarywives.org, during the retirement ceremony an air force wife will be called and escorted to the stage, and presented with a certificate that reads as follows:


In grateful appreciation,
The United States Air Force presents
this certificate of recognition to:

(Spouse Name)

for the commitment and numerous contributions
that made positive impacts to the Nation's defense.
Thank You for the support which gave strength and
purpose to your spouse's service


Holding a traditional Christian view of marriage, Bohannon refused to sign the certificate of spouse appreciation for his retiring master sergeant's same-sex partner. He instead had a more senior military leader sign the certificate. The master sergeant then filed the EO complaint.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Believing what we want to believe

In case you don't pay close attention to the news, perhaps you don't yet know about Roy Moore.

Moore is a controversial 70-year old Alabama politician who is running for a seat in the United States Senate.

A former state judge, Moore has been the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of Alabama twice. He has also been removed from that position twice, each time for standing up for conservative causes.

In the first incident, Moore was ordered by a federal court to have a monument to the Ten Commandments removed from the front of the Alabama Judicial Building. He refused, and the Alabama Court of the Judiciary removed him from his office.

In 2016, Moore was suspended by the same body after he ordered probate judges to enforce Alabama's ban on same-sex marriages after those unions had been found to be constitutional. He appealed this time, was unsuccessful, and he resigned earlier this year.

When longtime Republican U.S. Senator from the state, Jeff Sessions, was appointed as the new Attorney General of the United States in the new administration of President Donald Trump, Moore announced that he would seek that office.

In September, Moore won a runoff election to become the Republican Party nominee for that Alabama Senate seat. He will oppose Democrat Doug Jones in a general election on December 12, 2017.

Moore is a strong, outspoken Christian who has made numerous public pronouncements against homosexuality, abortion, and radical Islam. He is characterized by many as "far right" in his political and social beliefs.

Those publicly spoken beliefs over decades, as well as his judicial rulings, have made him a major target of liberal critics in political circles and the news media.

All of this would be enough to make Moore's candidacy in next month's Senate election a major story. But at that point it would, for the most part, simply be partisan politics at play. Now there is even more controversy surrounding the candidate.

Moore has been accused by multiple women of sexual assault decades ago while he was a young prosecutor. These assaults came in the form of what have been described as sexual encounters with teenage girls.

Witnesses have come forward to support some of the women. Those witnesses are able to at least corroborate what they have described as sexual harassment.

For his part, Moore vehemently denies any sexual assault. But he has alluded to relationships with teenage girls who were over the legal age of consent while he was in his early 30's.

A number of folks on both sides of the political aisle, both political office holders and media members, have called on Moore to provide some reliable information to back his refutations. That, or to withdraw from the race.

Moore continues to retain strong support among the Alabama electorate. Results of a reputable poll released today show him with a 49%-43% lead over Jones despite the allegations. Some politicians have said that if Moore does win, they will immediately call for his removal from office.

Moore is just one of many male public figures to face years or even decades-old sexual assault and/or harassment allegations in recent months.

Similar allegations have been made against such celebrity figures as entertainment mogul Harvey Weinstein and directors Oliver Stone and Brett Ratner. Actors Kevin Spacey, Steven Seagal, Jeremy Piven, Louis C.K., and Ed Westwick are among a number of other Hollywood figures facing accusations. For his part, Piven has vehemently denied the accusations.

Eerie questions have even been raised regarding the conduct of former Vice-President Joe Biden.