Saturday, November 21, 2015

French Citizens Need to Play Cowboys and Terrorists

A week after the terrorist slaughter of 130 mostly French civilians and the wounding of another 350 in Paris, the French are still reeling and making pilgrimages to the sites of the shootings and bombings.

It would be uncivilized to deny the French their time of mourning or to pass judgment on what may or may not constitute responsibility for the murderous rampage that hasn't been seen in that magnitude since World War II. But at some point there has to be an analysis of the killings, how they occurred and why they occurred.

And I don't mean from the standpoint of the liberal whine "What did we do to them? Why don't they like us?"

One of the most shocking revelations concerning the orgy of slaughter in Paris was that it was carried out by only 8 Islamic terrorists, and most of the killing was done by psychopaths carrying AK-47 semi-automatic rifles. Also, according to eyewitness accounts from survivors of the horror inside the Bataclan concert venue, each of the gunmen had to stop shooting on occasion to reload.

Survivors and news reports are thus far silent on whether any of the approximately 1,500 patrons inside the Bataclan made an effort to rush the terrorists, who were calmly and precisely shooting their targets. Only when police forces finally charged the hall, where hundreds were still being held as hostages or playing dead while bleeding from their wounds, did the attackers die, one by blowing himself to bits.

Francophiles, those who devote their lives to all things French and have a reputation for disdaining anyone who does not believe that the US lags far behind Europe in cultural matters, have long bashed Americans for our "cowboy" mentality. But I can't conceive of an attack on a concert hall anywhere in the United States, packed with people rocking to the sounds of a heavy metal band of all genres, where the patrons would simply stampede for the exits or hide until the police arrived.

Even without weapons there would be a rush to tackle the shooters, similar to what occurred on Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, or on a high-speed train from Amsterdam to Paris last August when three American passengers took out a terrorist armed with a Kalashnikov, a pistol and a box cutter. Many, if not most, Americans have an ingrained sense of responsibility to do something in the face of certain death, even if that something means to die with honor while thwarting their attackers.

I realize that there are soft targets in the US where a terrorist attack would be more likely to succeed; cities such as New Orleans, Washington, D.C., New York or Chicago for instance. Those cities have extraordinarily tough gun control laws which have effectively disarmed the citizenry leading to out-of-control murder rates. They are sitting ducks for terrorist attacks.

But even in those cities it would not likely end well for terrorists to attack a concert by an emerging rap star for instance, if hordes of Chicago gang-bangers had decided their night out would include a few hours of live music.

Without question there are many people in France who love the United States and strongly believe in our centuries old alliance. But many also believe that most of us are of the Ugly American variety, and don't know the difference between a brasserie and a brassiere.

The point here is not to be snarky or to gloat, but simply to note that there are many philosophies in the world and sometimes it takes a blend to get things right. Take for instance the news report late last week where a French father was talking to his young son in front of a makeshift memorial piled high with floral arrangements.

The boy said, "The bad men have guns."

"But we have flowers," the dad responded.

Beautiful sentiment. Just the kind of peace-at-all-costs sentiment that will get both of them murdered by unrepentant Islamic extremists who see killing "infidels" as a holy calling. Unless the next group of victims is trained to defend itself.

There are ways to blend our national philosophies to the good of all. Perhaps if the Francophiles get down off their high horses, so to speak, and look at the good in America for a change, they can see how it can be applied to the betterment of the average Frenchman.

Perhaps the French educational system can add some foreign flavor to its philosophy curriculum in the future. Let the boys study philosophers such as Jean-Paul Sartre to understand existentialism, but throw in a little Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill Hickok and Billy the Kid for realism.

And if the typical French family includes a jeune fille who is enthralled with the lifestyle of Simone de Beauvoir, even the stories of her occasional ménage a trois, why not throw in a little Belle Starr and Annie Oakley for balance. At least they could shoot, n'est-ce pas?
Sunday, November 01, 2015

Biased Media Knows No Boundaries

Voters who tuned in to the Republican presidential debate on CNBC last week were treated to an unabashed display of media bias as interrogator after interrogator asked questions that were condescending, inaccurate, belittling and rude.

Until, that is, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz used his allotted time for one in a series of really stupid questions to go on the offensive rather than meekly submit to the attacks. Following the example set by Cruz the candidates rose up and called out the CNBC hacks for what they were. The backlash against the network ranged from the audience booing the questioners to the Republican National Committee severing its ties for further "debates."

But you don't have to wait for another national political event to see examples of media bias; it is all around us and in myriad formats.

Take for instance the race for First Selectman in Stonington, Connecticut where former Congressman Rob Simmons is the Republican candidate, facing incumbent Democrat George Crouse. Simmons, who has decided to continue his lifetime commitment to public service by serving his hometown, was endorsed by The Day newspaper as a man who can get things done locally and in the state Capitol.

But after receiving the endorsement from the largest newspaper in the area, Simmons was subjected to a scathing commentary from a reader in the newspaper's digital edition, which lead off by accusing Simmons of war crimes when he served in Vietnam a half century ago. Aside from the obvious veteran bashing, the accusation is a rehashed attack that was launched at Simmons by then incumbent Congressman Sam Gejdenson back in 2000, when Simmons successfully challenged Gejdenson for Connecticut's 2nd Congressional District seat.

At that time Gejdenson initially claimed his campaign had no connection to the attack on Simmons' credibility, but ultimately had to publicly apologize. Simmons served two tours in Vietnam, and then returned as an operative for the Central Intelligence Agency for an additional two years. He ultimately retired from the US Army Reserves as a Colonel in Military Intelligence.

Simmons has amassed a distinguished military and political career, and has been a lecturer at Yale University and the University of Connecticut as well. He was never accused of war crimes in any forum outside of gutter politics, yet the libel that was aimed at him remains in the commentary section of The Days digital edition.

Although most reputable news outlets require that readers identify themselves and refrain from launching unsubstantiated attacks on candidates in the last campaign days leading up to the election, The Day appears to have made no effort to remove the libelous commentary.

Apparently, racist, sexist, profane or otherwise unsavory commentaries are scrubbed from the website, but scurrilous libelous attacks on distinguished veterans are allowed to stand. The commentary was signed by the pseudonym R. O. Thornhill, who the Simmons campaign believes is actually a close adviser to the Crouse campaign.

Meanwhile, the town of East Hampton, Connecticut, home of the late Gov. Bill O'Neill saw its own version of media bias erupt this past week. The weekly newspaper Rivereast ran a front-page article on the local school board chairman, a Democrat, deciding to prohibit any town official from doing business with the school system.

This after the chairman "discovered" that nearly 18 months ago, Republican Mark Philhower, a member of the local Town Council who owns a Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning firm called Tech Unlimited, had done some work for the schools. The sudden announcement came in the form of a motion that was not part of the regular agenda for last week's school board meeting, just a week before the election.

The reason for the hasty action is, according to the chairman, because he had only just discovered this egregious violation of … something, although we're not sure exactly what … and had to act immediately lest it be repeated.

The problem with the coverage hits many buttons. First the chairman's point of view dominated much of the article, before Philhower's response is noted in the final graphs, half of which were on the jump page. More important, after contacting Philhower, I learned that two essential matters he had told the paper's editor were left out.

First, he isn't the only office holder who has done work for the town, especially for a department over which he has no control. For instance, the owner of a school bus company which has held millions of dollars worth of contracts with the town, also served on the local zoning board. Philhower could not recall the local democrats raising any issue about the propriety of this arrangement, especially in the days just before an election.

Second, the work Philhower did for the schools was of an urgent nature, amounted to about $6,000 and took place in February, March and May of 2014, mostly in the coldest part of the winter. Both of these items should have been noted, and Philhower's response should have been much higher in the story, rather than the supportive but not especially detailed comments from school board Republicans.

Obviously, on-line commentaries, libelous though they may be, and cheap political shots by small town politicians don't rise to the level of national news personalities attempting to sway a presidential election. But the principle is the same.

Our system of government springs from local politics and the people who take the time to serve on local boards and commissions deserve just as much consideration as should be given to national level office seekers. The local media has just as much responsibility to act ethically as the national and international media should … regardless of the less than stellar example set by what is called the Mainstream Media.

Otherwise, as Philhower noted, the cheap attack on his credibility and his business, exemplifies "why good people don't want to run for office."

Or, as Sen. Cruz said during CNBC's political debacle, ""The questions asked in this debate illustrate why the American people don't trust the media."


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