Remember: 9-11

9-11-01
Today marks the 16th anniversary of the September 11th terror attacks.

Those who witnessed it live or on TV will never forget that day.  It’s one of those events of such magnitude you remember where you were, who you were with, and what you were doing at the time.  Some memories fade over time, this is one we should hope won’t, lest we forget what it is we never want to go through again.

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A Bad Call by the U.S. Courts

With the memory of the big football game still fresh in the minds of many, here is an allusion to that sport that explains the recent rulings against President Trump’s travel ban…

Imagine that during a NFL game,  one team’s coach calls a new play.  The play works and the team seemingly scores a touchdown, but the referee throws a flag, calling a penalty.  The coach of the offence team politely beckons the ref to the sideline for a chat.  The coach cites the rulebook to the official saying every element of the play was legal, from the players on the field, to their movements, to their contact with opposing players etc.  The referee says the penalty will stand because he felt the other team wasn’t prepared for such a play, and therefore the play wasn’t fair. The play goes up to the review booth and the call on the field stands and there was no touchdown.

That’s basically what happened this week with the U.S. District Court and 9th Circuit Court reversing the president’s perfectly legal travel ban.  Like the referees in the example, the judges made a call based not upon what the “rulebook” says, but what they thought was equitable.  That is not their job, their job is to know the rules and make sure the government sticks to those rules when enacting policy.  It’s not for them to judge if a policy is good, only that it is legal per statute and the Constitution. It’s for us, the voters to decide if the president’s policy was a good one.  The courts need to stick to their jobs and not assume the responsibilities delegated to others under our system of government.

President Trump, Day One

Congratulations to Donald Trump, our 45th president.

trump-1st-100-daysJust after noon Friday, Donald J. Trump was sworn in as our 45th president.  An improbable run for the White House that began over a year ago culminated in President Trump taking the oath of office in front of the Capitol building.  Inside the Mall, tens of thousands cheered.  Outside the Mall, thousands protested, at times violently, while others showed support.  Immediately after being sworn in, he gave his inaugural address that focused on how he would put America first in every decision as president saying, “We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first.”

Rebels Without Causes

President Trump’s inauguration was marred by violence as anti-Trump protesters lashed out on the nation’s capital.  While much of the protesting was done peacefully, there were many protesters determined to disrupt the proceedings, showing little respect for their fellow citizens attempting to show support and maybe catch a glimpse of our newly minted 45th president.   Part of the problem is that for many, protesting has become a sport, a diversion devoid of any real meaning. It no longer seems to matter what the subject is, or even if the problem is real or imagined. These rebels without causes have taken to protesting like others do skiing or rock climbing. It’s just another outdoor sport except it’s borne from societal decay, done not for any real purpose than the adrenaline rush. Perhaps the worst part is that it dilutes the message who peacefully protest for sincere, heartfelt causes that deserve our attention.

Year in Review: Early 2016

2016-yirEarly 2016 saw the presidential race go into full swing.  It seems like a lifetime ago, but the year started with Presidential debates, the most interesting being those on the Republican side.  16 men and one woman began their campaigns in earnest. The stage literally was not big enough for all of them, so was created the undercard debate.  One candidate, Carly Fiorina, emerged as the only candidate to earn a spot on the big stage with the true contenders. Meanwhile on the Democrat side, Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-avowed Socialist caught fire with connecting with of all groups, the far-left leaning youth.  Iran became a campaign issue when the extremely dubious nuclear agreement went into effect, coincidently, four American hostages that were held in Iran were freed.  Later it would become apparent that their freedom had been purchased in the dark of night with unmarked bills.

Farewell Antonio ScaliaThe Executive branch was not the only branch to undergo far-reaching change. In February, the country lost one of its greatest jurists, Antonin Scalia, a conservative justice on a split Supreme Court.  Before the end of March, three different Republicans had won primaries, including several won by Donald Trump, establishing him as a serious contender for the nomination.  Bernie Sanders became the hot ticket on the Democratic side, stringing together early primary victories, showing that there would be no early coronation for Hillary.  Meanwhile, terrorism was set to rear its ugly head again in Europe.  The attack in Brussels, the capital of the European Union exposed the dangers of letting in millions of lightly vetted migrants and refugees from countries with serious terrorism problems.  Further attacks were to come, peaking in the middle months of the year.

Helping Syrian Christians Caught in the Crossfire

EGG HARBOR TWP, NJ

 

Candle for Homs, Syria
Candle for one of the many Syrian cities ravaged by the civil war.

During war civilians always suffer, but what happens when neither side has their well-being in mind?  In Syria, the Assad government aided by their Russian allies fight a host of rebel factions with little regard to collateral damage done to non-combatants. On the other side are hardline Islamists such as ISIS who have even less compunction against killing civilians and in fact, actively target them.  Christians and other religious minorities have been singled out by the Islamic fighters for genocide.  This prompted the formation of Christians United for Peace:  Syria, a non-profit group dedicated to helping the Syrian Christians and other minorities caught in the crossfire.  Recently, the organization held an event to raise awareness of the desperate situation of Syrian Christians in Egg Harbor Township, NJ.  Atlantic City Councilman and member of the Pastoral Council at the Parish of Saint Monica Catholic Church. Jesse O. Kurtz was asked to help put the event together.

 

Jesse O. Kurtz
The Honorable Jesse Kurtz (R), Atlantic City, NJ

Jesse O. Kurtz explains why he got involved with the effort and what he believes the event he organized accomplished:

“The genocide in the Middle East of Christians is surreal.   I think that is one of the reasons that more people are not speaking out about it.   The key of this event was to bring awareness to the reality of Christian genocide in the Middle East.   The speakers did an excellent job of sharing personal testimonies, as well as offering top quality talks on the history of Christians in the Middle East, the case for why the current violence is indeed genocide, and what life is like for the Church in Syria and Iraq.”

And indeed, the Syrian people have suffered greatly due to the civil war.  According to the IOCC:

  • Since 2011, Syria’s violent civil war has claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people and displaced more than 7.6 million.
  • More than half of Syria’s population has been displaced from their homes, often multiple times, creating mass instability and uncertainty for its people.

Secretary of State John Kerry:

“We know that in areas under its control, Daesh (ISIS) has made a systematic effort to destroy the cultural heritage of ancient communities – destroying Armenian, Syrian Orthodox, and Roman Catholic churches; blowing up monasteries and the tombs of prophets; desecrating cemeteries; and in Palmyra, even beheading the 83-year-old scholar who had spent a lifetime preserving antiquities there.”

The event held at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox was attended by approximately 400 persons, including clergy from the Syriac Orthodox Church, Greek Orthodox Church, and Roman Catholic Church.  Each of these Christian communities has suffered at the hands of ISIS.  Other guest speakers ranged from history professors to witnesses to the strife in Syria who gave firsthand accounts of the human tragedy.  It is one thing to watch brief glimpses of the war on TV, but it is quite another to hear accounts of people who have seen firsthand the devastation.  As an outside observer, one cannot completely understand the experience of the Christians now in Syria, but one can certainly feel for them and understand that this is more than something that we see unfolding on our TV screens each night, but a real catastrophe affecting millions of real people.

The event of course was more than just about raising awareness; it was about raising contributions to the four key Christian charities Christians United for Peace: Syria.  Those aid organizations are:

  • International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC)
  • The Knights of Columbus Christian Refugee Relief Fund
  • Middle East Council of Churches
  • International Christians Outreach

These organizations provide the following critical and essential supplies:

  • Basic food supplies
  • Clean water
  • Cooking equipment
  • Baby supplies, including diapers
  • Dignity kits for women
  • Clothing and shoes
  • Mattresses and bedding

When we think of genocide, often think of the holocaust and the mass killing of Jews during WWII, or we think of Rwanda, or the ethnic cleansing inside the former Yugoslavia.  As with the liquidation of the ghettos in WWII by the NAZI’s part of genocide against the Christians and Yezidis involves the mass theft of anything of value.  Not just valuables, but life’s essentials were taken, like medications and even shoes.  The victims of the ISIS genocide in Iraq and Syria that were “lucky” enough to be allowed to escape to Kurdish territories were done so in such a way as to cause maximum hardship if not outright death by sickness and starvation.  Imagine the liquidation of the Jewish ghettos combined with the Trail of Tears forced upon the American Indians, and you get some sense of the torment ISIS put Christians and Yezidis through.

This was one comparatively small event, held in a small New Jersey shore town, but Councilman Kurtz thinks that with help, some relief can be brought to this ancient Christian community:

“There is now a group of hundreds of people locally aware and looking to bring relief and hope to our persecuted brethren.   We shall see what next steps are directed through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.”

Amen.

Regarding Nice, France and Baton Rouge

GWOTNice, France and Baton Rouge, Louisiana have more in common than the French origins of their names. They were both sites of recent terrorist attacks.  In the case of Nice, it was Islamist terror that killed more than eighty people in that resort town.  It was done in the name an extreme ideology that does not value human life.  It was an act of revenge for real or imagined offenses perpetrated upon innocents that had nothing to do with the terrorists’ grievances.  In the case of Baton Rouge, it was an act of anti-police terror that saw the murder of three police.  Like the tragedy in France, the attack in Baton Rouge was done in the name of an extreme world-vision so distorted it negated the value human life.  It too was an act of revenge.  Neither attack will do anything to further the supposed cause of the attacker.


Terrorism:  the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal

Source: Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary


In the case of Nice, Paris, Istanbul, Orlando, etc., the brand of terrorism was an all-too familiar one– Islamic extremism. These fit the definition of terror because they were acts of violence in support of a religious/political cause, that of violent jihad.  In short, these extremists want to impose their vision of Islam on everyone.  With virtually every attack, vengeance is cited as a motive.  The perpetrators cloak their actions in religion, or in the righting some alleged wrong.  Never does the Islamic extremist make an introspective assessment of their negative situation, it is always someone else, Jews, Westerners, apostates, etc. who are to blame for the societal problems they face.

Like the Islamic extremist, the anti-cop extremist engages in acts of extreme violence against innocents in order to further a political goal.  Also like the jihadist, the anti-cop terrorist acts from a misguided notion of justice.  Unlike the vast majority who share their stated cause, the violent extremist has no compunction against killing people who may have no association with the perceived injustice they lash out against. Though their base grievance might have some aire of legitimacy– that the deaths of blacks at the hands of police in several cases may have been unnecessary and avoidable, the extremest has little interest in true justice, but perceives vengeance as justice. No introspection here either, in the absolutist mind of extremist, the source of their problems has to be due to the actions of others, and those others are always in the wrong.  Killing anyone even resembling the ‘other’, in this case cops, helps solve the problem in the twisted logic of the terrorist.

Innocents have died recently in tragic attacks by extremists in the name of what they see as see as a worthy cause.  In one case, the cause is a long-standing animosity against all things and persons not a part of their perverted version of Islam. Over eighty people were killed without regard to whether or not they actually had any connection to the government or society they hold at fault for their situation.  In a city thousands of miles away, three police were murdered in an apparent act of vengeance for the actions of their fellow officers.  These murders follow the recent killings of police in Dallas, ostensibly  for the same reason, and act of vengeance for a perceived injustice.  The bitter irony in the case of Dallas is that the vast majority of protestors actually had no qualm with the police that were targeted, but police in other cities in America. On top of that, the police that were killed in that incident died protecting the very people who were protesting others of their profession they accused of wrongly killing blacks.

The other bitter irony is that in neither Nice nor Baton Rouge, will the acts of terror do any thing to further the stated or assumed causes of the attackers. Both attacks qualify as terrorism by definition, though only one has popularly been described as such.  Terrorists believe that the ends justify the means.  They claim for themselves the status of freedom fighter or enforcer of justice, but there is no justice in their actions, only vengeance and hatred.  Whatever their stated cause or grievance, they have twisted that cause beyond all semblance of legitimacy to the point that those who they purport to serve must disown their actions.  The individuals who committed these acts on two continents in pursuit of different goals both confused evil for good, vengeance for justice, and wrong for right. For that we can and should describe both as terrorists.

Quick Thoughts 7/11/16

Eagle Union Hillary Tesimony

  • If you chant “No justice no peace!” and that’s exactly what you get– no justice, no peace, don’t be surprised.
  • Speaking of “No justice no peace!”, the ‘no peace’ aspect in several instances now has meant the murder of cops.  Do the people shouting this slogan have any idea what they’re chanting?
  • To his credit, President Obama condemned the despicable shooting of Dallas police officers during his visit to Poland last week. It wasn’t with quite the passion and anger he reserves for condemning Republicans especially while overseas, but was appreciated.
  • According to FBI Director James Comey,  Hillary Clinton was “extremely careless” in dealing with our state secrets.  Is that anything like ‘extreme negligence’?
  • Also according to FBI Director James Comey, the FBI didn’t use Hillary’s testimony before Congress in their investigation.  Too bad, they might have spotted a few untruths in her testimony.  Silly Congress, assuming a ‘through investigation’ meant looking for discrepancies between statements made under oath to them and statements made to the FBI, especially since any discrepancy would logically entail a crime.
  • Hillary famously testified for eleven hours before Congress regarding Benghazi and her emails.  If you can’t find at least one false statement after eleven hours of a Clinton testifying under oath, you’re really not trying.