Saturday, October 20, 2012


Next week the American people and the world will witness an historic debate.

The issue can be stated in different ways.

How do you wage war on terror?

What do you do about religious murder?

No doubt during the Obama vs Romney rematch, there will be much said about the President’s speech in the Rose Garden on September 12.

Did he call the Benghazi attack terrorism or didn’t he?

Oddly enough, I think that if you were to ask both candidates why the Benghazi consulate was attacked, they would agree that the attackers were radical Islamists who hate the United States and everything it stands for.

They hate the United States because it tolerates ridicule of their prophet. Because it tolerates what the Quran brands as sin. Female immodesty. Consumption of alcohol and drugs. Homosexuality. Abortion. Gambling.

Because we are infidels. Because we are Christian. Because our religious teaching tells us to love the sinner, no matter how much we hate the sin.

After 9/11/2001, President Bush took great care to insist that Americans love and respect our Muslim brothers and sisters.

He saw what any thinking person would see, what President Obama sees, and surely what Governor Romney sees as well. A rising public animosity toward Islam.

So how do we keep the war on terror from becoming a religious crusade?

The answer is very simple. You treat Islamic terrorists exactly the same way you treat misguided Christians who murder abortionists.

By bringing them to justice. By punishing them to the full extent established by the law. By demonstrating that no amount of misdirected righteousness excuses or mitigates the killing of a human being.

Here’s where next week’s debate will get interesting. Exactly how do you do that? How do you punish terrorists?

Are there different rules for domestic and foreign terrorism?

If the terrorist kills 13 people at Fort Hood, in Texas, on American soil, do you dink around for years without even bringing him to trial because he won’t shave off his beard?

But if you find him in Pakistan or Yemen, do you just bump him off with a cadre of Navy Seals or take him out with a remote controlled drone?

If our mystical and faceless ‘intelligence community’ decides that it has identified the killers of Ambassador Stevens, do we send a detachment of CIA agents to Libya with orders to waste them?

In his Rose Garden remarks, the President said;

And make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.

And he also said:

We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to do things. Either we administer justice according to the rule of law, or we extract revenge in the manner of the Mafia.

If our Ambassador to Canada were assassinated, we would expect his killer to be prosecuted by the Canadian authorities or extradited to the United States.

If any nation refuses or neglects to protect our diplomats and our embassies, they are not our friends, and should be treated as such.

The President repeatedly urges us to ‘make no mistake.’

He should heed his own advice.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


I hate sloppy work. Especially when I am the perpetrator.

The other day put up a blog. Misspelled ‘Libya’ in the title. Misspelled my own name twice in the email.

Worst of all, I published the blog without first running it by my severest critic. The missus, God bless her, said she didn’t like it. All over the place, she said.

Couldn’t figure out what I was trying to say.

So, in the spirit of dogged perseverance, I’ll try again.

I began with this quote from the President’s speech in Cairo on June 4, 2009:

I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.

I was trying to connect the dots. I was trying to make a point about President Obama’s foreign policy that would help explain the inexplicable.

Why did the White House cling to the ‘offensive video’ explanation of the attack on our embassy in Benghazi despite the proven fact that they knew there was no spontaneous demonstration?

They had to know it was an organized terrorist attack. Still, they sent U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice out to do the Sunday morning TV talk shows four days after the event.

Her mission: keep insisting that the slaughter in Benghazi was an offshoot of the demonstrations in Cairo, a natural reaction to a scurrilous video.

Our President is a Christian. I take him at his word. He joined Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s church when he was in Chicago working with inner city churches to organize the neighborhoods.

His mother and maternal grandparents were not church going folk. He idolized his father, who was a Muslim. He has spoken often about his knowledge of and respect for, the Islamic faith and traditions.

His speech in Cairo described a Utopian dream. A world in which every nation was at peace with every other nation, where historic feuds and conflicting cultures would be smothered in an atmosphere of good will and understanding.

I think he expects Muslims to see him as their friend, their champion in a hostile world of Christianity.

And I think he really believes that his presence in the White House will keep the peace in the Middle East.

Unhappily, the world is messy and life is more complicated than can be untangled in a single speech.

The President is at pains to declare that the vast majority of Muslims are good people. They don’t riot. They don’t kill.

But good people don’t like their homeland to be invaded by foreigners. Which might explain why the Afghans we have trained and equipped to corral Al-Qaeda have started shooting our soldiers.

Good people don’t like to see their religion mocked and desecrated by negative stereotypes. And when the promise to “fight negative stereotypes” is no more effective than the promise to close Guantanamo, good people are unhappy.

I don’t think that the Nation of Islam feels any more kindly toward the Pax Americana today than it did when President Obama took the oath of office.

His claim that the killing of Osama Ben Laden was anything other than a symbolic victory rings hollow.

His promise to send more billions to finance social programs in the Middle East is no more effective in placating ancient hostilities than was the tribute our nation paid to the Barbary pirates before Thomas Jefferson sent the United States navy into the Mediterranean.

Neville Chamberlain proved the folly of appeasement three quarters of a century ago. Ronald Reagan proved that peace is better preserved through strength and determination.

Nations which permit their people to invade our embassies and kill our diplomats are not friendly. We should treat them as such.

Friday, October 12, 2012


This blog is for my dear friends and beloved relatives who will be voting for the reelection of the incumbent President of the United States.
First of all, progress in human society is like walking. Putting one foot ahead of the other. Shifting the balance from left to right, right to left.
Saint Thomas Aquinas called it ‘the common good.’ The Constitution of the United States calls it the general welfare. The Pope calls it social justice.
And some conservatives call it redistribution of the wealth.
It is the panoply of causes that need support. It is that vast array of things we spend money on which conscience and sound public policy require. The poor. The sick. The elderly. Kids. Schools. Universities. Hospitals. Libraries. The environment. Drug and alcohol abuse rehabilitation. Science. Religion. Research. The Arts. The list goes on and on.
Some voices on the left have decried the fact that Mitt Romney has not made all of his income tax returns public. That complaint has been central to a narrative that defines him as a greedy, self-centered capitalist, who writes off 47 percent of the American people because they don’t pay income taxes.
I think that most fair minded people would assume that the numbers on Romney’s recent tax returns probably reflect the numbers on his tax returns generally.
That said, here’s what we know: last year he made 13.7 million dollars. He paid 1.94 million in federal income tax. He donated 4 million dollars to charities.
The word ‘charity ‘comes from the Latin for ‘love.’
It means giving freely and generously because we care. It means giving out of a sense of social responsibility. It means answering the conscience-bound call for social justice.
Charity is the personal response to the call of the common good. It is how we share what we have with less fortunate neighbors. It is how we contribute to the general welfare.
So why don’t we add up income taxes and charitable contributions to determine somebody’s ‘social justice quotient’ ?
I submit that in 2011, Mitt Romney’s contribution to the common good, his participation in promoting the general welfare, amounted to 43% of his total income.
That doesn’t really sound like a greedy capitalist.
But it does make us focus on an underlying difference in political thought.
Is the common good the exclusive province of government, and particularly, the federal government?
Do a free people retain a prerogative to decide for themselves how to promote the general welfare?
Or have we relinquished our sense of social justice and the fulfillment of our responsibilities to each other to a distant, monolithic bureaucracy?
An important factor in our charitable giving is always an assessment of efficiency.
How much of our money actually gets to the people and causes we are trying to help?
When administrative costs and fund raising expenses dwarf the bottom line that reaches the needy, we stop giving.
The federal government has the same responsibility to shore up confidence in the taxpayers as the United Way has to convince the public of its efficiency.
How much energy does the Department of Energy generate?
How much education does the Department of Education deliver?
Is the taxpayer getting a bang for his buck? Are food stamps better than meals on wheels? What services are so critical to the common good that we keep providing them even if it means borrowing from China to do it?
These might be good questions for a Presidential debate.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


She fixed a beautiful meal. Shish kabob.

Colorful. Bold. Imaginative. And delicious. Surprisingly delicious. Chicken, oranges, pears, and veggies. Cooked on the grill. And tender green beans.

It began with a good white wine. Enough for a glass and a little more. She toasted Pine Valley and my upcoming golf trip.

I lit the candles.

It was a perfect evening. One of those times when two eighty-three year old lovers can laugh and call up the memories of days and nights long ago, when the flame was bright and the future danced before our eyes, beckoning us to dream, to hope, to believe that there would be still better tomorrows.

Dessert was a Weight Watchers ice cream bar. Chocolate and vanilla on a stick. Just the right touch of self indulgence to finish off a perfect evening.

I should have left the room right then.

I should have come down here to my man cave and written a blog. Or played spider solitaire for a couple of hours until it was time to go to bed.

But no. Not me. Not that night.

I had to go into the pantry and get the chocolate chip cookies.I had to go to the fridg and get another bottle of wine.

If one is good, two is better. If some is good, more is better. Right?


Pretty soon conversation turned into discussion. Discussion became debate. Debate became argument. And Pop! There goes the moment. In the echo of a word, a phrase, a thoughtless unnecessary comment, the mood crumples like an unwatered flower.

Roses become dandelions. The music stops.

Once again, I have initiated a three day snit. Once again, I have stupidly, thoughtlessly invited a period of hostile silence, clipped answers, averted eyes, pursed lips and touchless days and nights.

It’s 5:47 AM. I’ve been awake since three.

Tossing and turning, I compose a letter. How many letters in 61 years? How many tears? How many unhappy hours have I caused her? How many sleepless nights?

You can’t get them back, those ugly moments. You can’t brush them off, make them disappear. You did what you did. You said what you said. It’s done. It’s there. Another wart. Another wound.

Young people and not-so-young people ask me, “What is the secret of a happy marriage?”

I don’t honestly know. Polly says it’s being friends. Best friends. Her test is, “Would you say that to your best friend?” “Would you treat your best friend that way?”

I dunno. Maybe I would.

Maybe I do hurt friends and family in a thousand thoughtless ways. In what I do and say. In what I don’t do and don’t say.

Happily, my darling wife has a bottomless reservoir of tolerance and forgiveness which always prefers happiness over unhappiness.

Other folks don’t always tell you. They just clam up, disengage or disappear.

All I know is that Catholic guilt works for me. A lifetime of saying “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” has a way of easing the aftermath of hurt feelings.

It’s the best I can do.