Tag Archives: JFK

Why stay mum on shooters’ names?

I declared my intention recently to no longer identify mass shooters by name when referring to these tragic events in this blog.

A reader of High Plains Blogger than wondered: Why refer to people such as Sirhan Sirhan, James Earl Ray and Lee Harvey Oswald by name?

Fair question. I’ll take a stab at answering it.

First of all, these men all killed notable public figures and officials. Sirhan murdered Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, Ray gunned down the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy. Of the three of these shooters, only Sirhan is alive; he is serving a life term in a California prison.

Their names were thrust into the public domain the way, say, John Wilkes Booth’s name has been in that domain since he murdered President Abraham Lincoln in 1865.

All these men changed the course of history. Thus, I have felt justified in referencing them by name whenever I felt like commenting on the incidents to which they all are linked forever.

These latest string of murderers don’t ascend to that level. They have sought publicity. Thus, I have taken a vow to keep their names off this blog for as long as I am writing it.

I even have acted retroactively, back to 1966, when the madman opened fire from atop the University of Texas Tower. I used to refer to him by name; no longer. He now joins the lengthy — and tragically growing — list of lunatics who have sought to make names for themselves through hideous acts of violence.

One more point: Even the loons who die, either by their own hand or by law enforcement, in the commission of their heinous deeds will not be ID’d in this blog with their name.

That’s my story. I am sticking to it.

Toughest POTUS ever on Russia? Aww, c’mon!

Donald J. Trump has no shortage of hyperbole. The president trots it out whenever he damn well feels like it.

Such as this: “I have been the toughest president on Russia … ever!”

Really? Hmm. Let’s review that bit of bluster, shall we?

October 1962: President Kennedy gets intelligence that the Soviet Union was building offensive missile sites in Cuba. He consults with his national security team. They debate whether to attack the sites, invade Cuba, do nothing, or impose a blockade on the island nation. JFK chooses to blockade Cuba. He then speaks to the world on national TV and warns the communists that an attack on any nation in the Western Hemisphere would result in a “full retaliatory response” from the United States.

The Soviets backed off. They took down the missile sites. World War III was, thus, averted.

June 1987: President Reagan ventures to West Germany. He already has described the communist regime in Moscow as the Evil Empire. The president goes to the Brandenburg Gate separating East and West Berlin and bellows, “Mr. (Mikhail) Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

There have been other instances of U.S. presidents acting sternly in response to Russian (or Soviet) aggression. President Carter ordered a U.S. boycott of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow after the USSR invaded Afghanistan in the previous year. President Bush 41 oversaw the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the eventual dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Clinton, Bush 43 and Obama all had their instances of spine-stiffening resolve as they involve the Russians. I include the Soviet Union era in this discussion because, well, the Soviets were Russians, too.

And yet the current president of the United States, Donald Trump, keeps insisting — without any demonstrable evidence — that he’s the toughest president of all time against the Russians.

Give me a break.

Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of history knows better.

How about returning to the moon? How about going farther?

President Kennedy already had initiated the race to the moon. The United States was a distant second to the Soviet Union when he declared his intention to ensure that we “send a man to the moon and return him safely to the Earth” by the end of the 1960s.

Then the president implored us on. “We don’t do these things because they are easy,” he said. “We do them because they are hard.”

Well, Americans got to the moon first. It was 49 years ago today that the late Neil Armstrong stepped off the ladder onto the moon’s dusty surface and pronounced, “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”

He thrilled the folks back home. Not just in our country, but everywhere. Perhaps even in the Soviet Union.

Mission accomplished.

We sent several more missions to the moon. Astronauts planted flags, dug up lunar dirt and brought it back, they drove around on “lunar dune buggies,” and one of them — the first American in space, the late Alan Shepard — even hit a chip shot that went for “miles and miles.”

Then we stopped going to the moon. It became too expensive. The public lost interest. We won the race. The act of launching three people into space aboard a flaming rocket carrying many thousands of pounds of flammable fuel no longer fascinated the American public.

I am one American who lived through that exciting time. I want them to return.

Subsequent presidents have given somewhat tepid support for the initiative of returning to deep space. The end of the Cold War in 1991 removed the Soviet Union from the world landscape. The Soviet descendants, though, have continued to send explorers into space. They now carry passengers with them. Some of them are Americans.

I am acutely aware of the expense of such exploration. However, it was what we were put on this Earth to do, to reach beyond our planetary comfort and to learn more about the world beyond.

Donald J. Trump has continued the presidential push — such as it’s been — to return one day to space. I want NASA to redevelop its own manned program. It’s what we do — and we do it well.

My sense is that enough time has passed since the last moon mission that we’ll get quite excited when the next rocket blasts off into the heavens with crews that will take the next “giant leap for mankind.”

‘Deep State’ emerges as villain

I was waiting for this to occur.

A member of Congress, a Republican and a founder of something called the Freedom Caucus, has now accused the “Deep State” of conspiring to get him tossed out of Congress.

Several former Ohio State University wrestlers say they were sexually abused by a team doctor and that Jim Jordan — an assistant coach at the time — looked the other way. They say he did nothing to stop it.

Gordon says the Deep State is working to conspire against him.

Who or what is the Deep State? I understand it is supposed to mean those in power who are immune from voters’ wishes. Wikipedia describes it thusly: It is a term used “within political science to describe influential decision-making bodies believed to be within government who are relatively permanent and whose policies and long-term plans are unaffected by changing administrations.”

So, it’s the Deep State at work against Jordan, a champion of the little guy. Right along with Donald J. Trump, the billionaire who became president after spending his entire professional life engaged exclusively in self-enrichment, self-glorification, self-aggrandizement and self-adoration.

The Deep State has now become a throwaway term. It’s right up there with the “mainstream media” and the “Washington elite.”

Deep State is fairly new to the American political vernacular, even to those who spend a good bit of time studying politics and the people who practice it.

However, like most conspiracy theories, any Deep State notion presumes that its members — whoever the hell they are — are able to concoct some plot, execute it and then keep it all secret.

This notion is as nutty as the conspiracies that linger over the murder of President Kennedy, that President Bush masterminded the 9/11 attack or that President Obama was born in Africa.

Deep State? It’s fake news, man!

Still missing this great American

Forty years ago, on the Fourth of July, 1978, I walked into my house and got the news from my wife.

My grandmother had just passed away. She is the one on the right in the picture above. My reaction kind of surprised me then: She was in her 80s and I knew she had been sick; still, I put my arms on the fireplace mantle and sobbed, cried like a baby.

The picture, by the way, is of three of my grandparents. There was Diamontula Filipu and her husband, George, my mom’s parents; the lady on the left is my dad’s mother, Katina Kanelis.

This is a poignant remembrance. For starters, I always remember Yiayia’s death, as she did die on the anniversary of the birth of her adopted home country. My wife reminded me a few days after learning of Yiayia’s death that she picked the Fourth of July just to be sure I’d remember.

We called her Yiayia, because that’s Greek for “grandmother.” Indeed, her southeast Portland, Ore., neighbors called her Yiayia; the store clerks did, too. The mailman, the milkman called her Yiayia.

I have referred to Yiayia in previous blogs as a “great American.” She was a diminutive patriot who stood taller than anyone around her when she talked about her country.

She emigrated here from Turkey in the early 20th century. Her husband, my Papou George, already had relocated to Portland to await Yiayia’s arrival. She got off the boat at Ellis Island in New York City, processed through immigration, then asked someone how long it would take her to get to¬† Portland. The person she asked presumed she meant Portland, Maine, and told her it would take about four hours.

Four days later, she ambled off the train on the other side of a vast nation. Intrepid? Yeah, she embodied the meaning of the term.

She shares this date of Earthly departure with two other great Americans: Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, both of whom died on the same day, July 4, 1826 — precisely 50 years after the nation they helped create came into being.

I hold up Yiayia’s American greatness to any who have lived in this country. Whether they were born here or came here of their own volition, Yiayia stood tall among them.

She never returned to her native Turkey. She always said she was “home” and had no desire to return to where she entered this world as an ethnic Greek in what the current president of the United States might call a “sh**hole” country.

She might not have been allowed into this country that seeks a “merit-based” immigration system. She lacked formal education. She didn’t have any professional skills that I can recall. She merely was a loving wife, mother and grandmother. My sisters and I spent much time with her, playing silly games and laughing at stories she would tell about her beloved husband, George, who died when I was a baby.

Yiayia also was a patriot. She adored FDR and JFK.

I miss her to this day. So should the country she loved with all her heart.

‘We knew what we were getting’

The person who made the above statement is a friend of mine. I’ve known him for many years. We’ve shared a lot of laughs and even a bit of heartache together.

The knowledge of which he speaks concerns the presidency of Donald John Trump. My friend has said that Trump wasn’t his first choice as president, but given the choice he had in 2016 he felt compelled to vote for him.

Baggage and all.

I think my friend speaks for a lot of Americans who continue to sing the president’s praises. The reasons for those praises likely will escape me for as long as this man is in office, or even perhaps even longer.

My friend is an educated man. He is erudite and sophisticated. I wouldn’t classify him as one of the “deplorables” who — in the infamous words of Hillary Rodham Clinton — back Trump to the hilt come hell or high water.

However, I have trouble understanding whether he actually accepts the idea that a presidential candidate would denigrate a Vietnam War hero by saying he likes “those who aren’t captured” by the enemy, as Sen. John McCain was in 1967. Or that he gives a candidate a pass for mocking the physical disability of a noted journalist. Or that it’s OK for someone to boast to a TV host about grabbing women by their genitals because he’s a “star.”

Then there’s the lying. Yes, I know about politicians’ penchant for exaggeration, or for self-aggrandizement, or how they twist the truth to take on different meanings. Trump lies. Flat out! He says things that are demonstrably false.

What’s more, his lies often border on defamation of others. To wit:

Barack Obama ordered the wiretap of his 2016 campaign office: wrong. Millions of illegal immigrants voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016: wrong. Ted Cruz’s father might have been involved in President Kennedy’s murder because he was seen talking to Lee Harvey Oswald prior to the tragic event: false. Trump’s investigators had “evidence” that Barack Obama wasn’t born in Hawaii, but that he was born in Kenya: false.

I won’t get into the serial philandering and the endless array of failed business enterprises and the thousands of Americans who lost everything investing in these deals.

Trump’s supporters knew all this and still they elected him?

Maybe so. It simply blows my mind.

But there’s good news to report. Our friendship will persevere despite our political differences. For that I am eternally grateful.

Another NASA celebrity astronaut leaves us

There once was a time when astronauts were celebrities. We knew their names. We followed their careers. We got up early to watch them blast off from the Cape Canaveral, Fla., launch pad.

Another such astronaut — and please pardon this intended pun — has left this Earth for keeps. Alan Bean died today at age 86.

He was the fourth man to walk on the moon, aboard Apollo 12 in November 1969. He made the flight to the lunar surface with the late Charles “Pete” Conrad.

Alan Bean didn’t achieve the kind of celebrity status of, say, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, the seven men selected to fly in the initial Mercury missions, or most of the Gemini astronauts who came along later.

Bean was among those picked for the third group of space pioneers, the Apollo program. He joined NASA in 1963 after serving as a Navy test pilot.

My years in the Texas Panhandle makes me remind you that Bean hailed from that part of the world. He was a native of Wheeler, a tiny town east of Amarillo.

My most glaring memory of Bean’s time on the moon stems from some innovative measures he took to deploy a camera on the lunar surface. The camera wouldn’t start taking images. What did Bean do? He grabbed a hammer and beat on the device! Then it worked.

NASA doesn’t have a manned space program of its own these days. We’re sending our astronauts into space aboard Russian rockets. I’m trying to imagine how Presidents Kennedy and Johnson would react to that bit of aerospace irony.

Back in the day, though, Alan Bean was among those individuals we prayed for when they rocketed into space. As President Kennedy said about the goal of sending astronauts to the moon and returning them safely, “We don’t do these things because they are easy. We do them because they are hard.”

Alan Bean and his colleagues just made it look easy. It wasn’t. He needed to beat on a state-of-the-art camera with a hammer to enable the device to record his history-making adventure for the rest of time.

May he now rest eternally.

Presidents should understand value of a free press

Presidents have come and gone over the course of our beloved Republic.

Some tenets, though, remain affixed to our national identity. One of them is a free press and the guarantee that government cannot control it.

The video attached to this blog post offers an example of how one president, John F. Kennedy, understood how a free press is vital to guard against the darkness of secrecy. President Kennedy sought to defend the press as it did its job, even when its reporting cast his administration in a negative light.

The Bay of Pigs is an example of how the president likely wanted the press to look the other way. It didn’t. Nor could the president insist out loud and in public that it do that very thing. The Bay of Pigs was a disaster from the get-go. The military operation in April 1961 sought to overthrow the Fidel Castro government in Cuba. It was poorly planned and poorly executed. As JFK said at he time, “Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.”

The press reported the failure … as it should have done.

What a change we are seeing in the present day with one of JFK’s successors, Donald J. Trump, who insists that negative coverage is the product of “fake news,” which is a denigration of the men and women who take their jobs at least as seriously as the president takes his.

Trump doesn’t get what damn near all of his predecessors have understood. The press is vital to hold public officials accountable for their actions. Without the media doing their job, the government can do irreparable harm to our cherished Republic.

Ivanka takes offense? Get over it, young lady

Ivanka Trump is walking the finest of lines.

She is the elder daughter of the president of the United States. She also is an unpaid senior adviser to the Leader of the Free World.

So, when she gets asked by a broadcast journalist about the allegations of sexual abuse leveled against her father/the president, she reveals why it’s important that the president be mindful of the problems nepotism poses in hiring senior advisers.

Ivanka cannot serve in her “official” capacity without facing difficult questions surrounding her “boss,” who also happens to be her father.

She called the question posed by NBC News’s Peter Alexander “inappropriate.” Wait a minute, young lady. He was asking the question of a senior policy adviser, not of a presidential daughter.

This is why nepotism is a bad thing when it involves people at the highest levels of government.

Many decades ago, the federal government implemented an anti-nepotism policy in response to questions surrounding the appointment in 1960 of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy by his brother, President John F. Kennedy. After JFK’s murder in November 1963 and after RFK was elected to the U.S. Senate the following year, the government enacted a policy that prohibited hiring by presidents of “linear” relatives to paid positions.

It didn’t cover the role that Ivanka Trump fulfills in her father’s administration.

There needs to be some tightening of these rules. If it’s not going to happen, then the president needs to send his daughter packing.

Trump stokes the demagoguery machine at CPAC

Donald J. “Demagogue in Chief” Trump has fired ’em up at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

He has bellowed that if Democrats take control of Congress this year they are going to “take away your Second Amendment” rights to “keep and bear arms.”

Guns are on the top of people’s minds these days. A shooter went berserk in Parkland, Fla., killing 14 students and three educators in a killing spree that has thrown the nation into grief yet again.

So what does the president do? He goes to CPAC and sows terror in the hearts of the faithful. Democrats are going after the Second Amendment, he said.

I do not think that’s going to happen. History is an important guide here. Think about this for just a moment.

Democrats controlled the White House and Congress in 1964, a year after President Kennedy was murdered with a high-powered rifle in Dallas. Did they yank the Second Amendment away then? No.

Nor did they do so after President Reagan was shot and seriously wounded in 1981.

Democrats controlled Congress and the White House in 2009 and 2010. Congressional Democrats failed to reinstate the assault weapons ban.

Thus, Donald Trump is blowing it out his backside when he implies a repeal of the Second Amendment if Democrats take control of Congress. However, he had an audience that gave him lusty cheers when he tossed out that fiery rhetoric.

Are there ways to legislate some solutions to gun violence without taking away the Second Amendment? Yes. It just requires a concerted search for common ground to solve a quintessentially American crisis.

Demagoguery doesn’t cut it.