Dysfunction reigns in U.S. House

How much more chaotic can it get in the People’s House?

Probably a lot more than what we’re witnessing, but we we’re getting now is a sideshow worthy of a circus barker.

http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/31/politics/congress-immigration/index.html

The House of Representatives canceled a planned vote on a border security/immigration bill after leaders failed to get enough support among rank-and-file members to support it. It would cost about $659 million, far less than the $3.7 billion President Obama requested when the child refugee crisis erupted on the nation’s southern border.

Meanwhile, the Senate is wondering what to do with a larger bill.

What happens now? Well, Congress is about to take a five-week summer recess, which means that, all of a sudden, the border crisis isn’t quite as “urgent” as House leadership proclaimed it to be.

As I recall, they were yammering at the White House to do something about it. The president responded with his emergency spending request, but the persistent critics said, “Not so fast, Mr. President. We aren’t going to write a blank check here.”

Now the House has come apart at the seams yet again over a possible solution proposed by that guy who lives down the street in the White House.

This is effective governance? I think not.

Go for it, Bibi

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made a solemn vow to destroy all the tunnels through which the Hamas terrorists transport weapons to use against Israeli citizens.

The completion of that mission is not to be negotiated, he said, to which I only can add: You go, Mr. Prime Minister.

http://news.msn.com/world/netanyahu-vows-to-complete-gaza-tunnels-destruction

Netanyahu’s mission is to destroy Hamas. How in a sane world can anyone dispute that goal? Hamas started the fight that has exploded into all-out war between Israel and the terror organization that has vowed to destroy Israel — as in wipe it off the map. To think that some folks, say, in the United Nations and even the White House believe Hamas is worthy of holding a place at a negotiating table is laughable on its face.

The Israelis see it differently, and with good reason.

The Israel Defense Force has responded with overwhelming power against Hamas. No one should accept the death of innocent victims. The Israelis say they are not targeting civilians. Yet the cost in civilian lives has been too great and no one should want to see it continue.

Hamas’s role as instigator, in my view, places the responsibility for the carnage on that organization. Hamas can end this conflict simply by standing down, by dismantling its rocket batteries and by ending its assault on Israeli neighborhoods.

And then it should renounce its intention to eradicate Israel.

As for the tunnels, they need to be destroyed. It is through those underground passage ways that Hamas is bringing its destructive weapons.

***

I cannot pretend to be an expert on this conflict. I have, however, been to the sites of previous attacks launched by Hamas against Israelis living near the Gaza border. The people of Sderot and Ashkelon allowed us to look at homes damaged by rocket fire in late 2008 and early 2009. I’ve heard testimony from Israelis who told my traveling party and me about building codes that require every home in Israel to be furnished with reinforced bunkers that protect residents against future attacks.

Well, those future attacks have arrived.

Netanyahu and the Israeli military are getting hammered by critics who equate their response to what Hamas has started. They are wrong.

I wish for the fighting to stop as much as anyone else. However, let’s be sure to put the responsibility for it squarely where it belongs: on the terrorists who started this bloodshed in the first place.

Surprise! House votes to sue Obama

Well, that took vote took not a single political observer by surprise.

The U.S. House of Representatives, in a party-line vote, has decided to sue President Obama because he has assumed too much executive authority to suit their tastes.

http://thehill.com/homenews/house/213859-house-votes-to-sue-obama

Who knew?

The vote was 225-201. Five Republican House members voted against the lawsuit idea; zero Democrats voted for it.

Now what?

Well, the House is going to file a lawsuit on the grounds that the president abused his executive authority by postponing the employer mandate requirement in the Affordable Care Act. House Speaker John Boehner says Obama “changed the law” when he did that, and that he overstepped his authority in going over Congress’s head.

This might be the most bizarre political stunt since independent counsel Ken Starr uncovered Bill Clinton’s foolishness with the White House intern — giving Republicans enough ammo to impeach the 42nd president of the United States.

Boehner hopes to prove that Congress has standing to sue the president. He’ll probably get it. Then he’ll have to prove that Obama somehow broke the law in exerting his authority as president, or that he’s liable for damages created by his action — which, incidentally, is what Republicans who hate the ACA actually favor.

This is goofy beyond belief.

Interestingly, the five GOP “no” votes came mostly from the nut-case wing of the Republican House caucus. These are the folks who would rather impeach the president rather than merely sue him.

You know, I’m kind of glad Congress is getting the hell out of Washington for the next five weeks. It’s obvious the gasbags who run the House of Reps aren’t interested in actual governing.

Go home, y’all.

Same-sex marriage debate gets weird

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has just put forward one of the more, um, interesting arguments opposing same-sex marriage.

It’s noted in a blog posted by Dallas Morning News editorial writer/blogger Jim Mitchell. It quotes a legal brief filed by the AG in defense of Texas’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

“Because same-sex relationships do not naturally produce children, recognizing same-sex marriage does not further these goals to the same extent that recognizing opposite-sex marriage does,” the brief reads. “That is enough to supply a rational basis for Texas’s marriage laws.”

http://dallasmorningviewsblog.dallasnews.com/2014/07/ag-greg-abbott-texas-opposes-gay-marriage-because-the-state-has-an-interest-in-procreation.html/

How about that?

As Mitchell notes correctly, this comes from an individual — Abbott — who proclaims to be opposed to government overreach into people’s private lives. Now he argues that he wants to preserve marriage for the purpose of allowing straight couples to produce children.

Intriguing, yes?

Well, I think so.

I get that same-sex couples cannot produce children the old-fashioned way. I also get that same-sex couples are quite capable of rearing children in loving homes, that they can promote “family values” and be caring partners to each other and set perfectly legitimate examples of fidelity to their children to emulate.

So, I am not sure I quite get Abbott’s reasoning as he argues against a federal judge’s declaration that the Texas constitutional ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the laws of the land.

Mitchell adds: “The state has no role in procreation. That’s a slippery slope that conservative and liberals should find common ground. You can’t argue in favor of getting the government out of the lives of consenting adults and then turn around and claim that the state wants more children.”

Do you think this might become a campaign issue as Abbott seeks to become the next governor of Texas? I’ll say “yes.”

Explain gas prices, please

My list of things that need explaining keeps growing.

I’ll add another item right here.

Why is it that gasoline prices shoot up a dime or more per gallon at one shot, but trickle back down a penny, maybe two, at a time?

It’s happening all over Amarillo. Gasoline dealers across town are advertising prices for unleaded regular gasoline at a penny less than they were, say, yesterday. The “new normal” for cheap gasoline, remember, bears no resemblance to what we used to call “cheap.” But that’s another story.

I’m trying to get a handle on why the price escalates so rapidly and then stays at that new level until someone up the gasoline sales chain of command decides to start ticking it back down.

I keep thinking there’s some kind of mind game going on. Gas dealers want us to get used to the higher prices, it seems, so that the next price spike doesn’t seem as painful.

Or … gasoline dealers want to hang on to their profits for as long as they possibly can before giving some of it back. Is that the case?

I know. I should call one of the gasoline dealers and ask them personally. I happen to be acquainted with one of the leading dealers in the city.

Maybe I can ask him. However, if I do, will he give me a straight answer?

More sanctions, pain for Russia

President Obama is tightening the economic vise around Russia, along with Europe.

It’s time. Perhaps it’s past time. Whatever the case, the Russians need to be punished for their adventurism in the affairs of a sovereign and supposedly independent nation.

We’re talking about Ukraine.

http://www.politico.com/story/2014/07/obama-sanctions-russia-ukraine-109510.html?hp=f1

The president’s announcement comes in conjunction with the European Union’s declaration of even tighter and tougher measures taken against Russia, which has been interfering militarily in Ukraine’s internal political struggle.

As Politico reported: “Stepping up the West’s showdown with Russia , European leaders Tuesday declared plans to impose sanctions against state-owned Russian banks, as well as certain types of oil-industry equipment and so-called dual-use technology capable of use by the military. The U.S. added three banks to its sanctions list, resulting in five of Russia’s six top banks subject to sharp limits on refinancing of debt.”

The Russians have been implicated in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, killing nearly 300 innocent civilians flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. The flight had the tragic misfortune of flying over Ukrainian airspace, where it was shot down by Ukrainian separatists aligned with Russia — which reportedly provided the weaponry to shoot down MH 17.

Russia is engaging in a disgraceful interference that cannot be allowed to stand.

No one should be foolish enough to want to launch a ground war against the Russian military. The economic sanctions, though, should be made to stick and should be applied with maximum pressure to cause equally maximum pain on an economy that’s already suffering.

Obama is right to dismiss contentions that the United States and Russia have entered a “new cold war.” The war we’re talking about is burning quite hot. Russia needs to stand down and let the Ukrainians decide their own fate.

Impeachment tops Democrats' agenda

Politics has this curious way of creating story lines one wouldn’t normally expect.

It now appears that Democrats, not Republicans, want to discuss openly this notion of impeaching President Barack Obama, according to The Hill newspaper.

http://thehill.com/homenews/news/213582-dems-cant-stop-talking-about-impeaching-president-obama

Why is that? Because Democrats are hoping to gin up interest among their base of supporters prior to the 2014 mid-term elections for Congress. Democrats want to retain control of the U.S. Senate and want to prevent further tightening of Republican control of the House.

They figure that by talking about the lunacy of impeaching the president that Republicans will be seen as the party more intent on destroying a presidency than in actual governing.

Good luck with that, Democrats.

Serious Republicans know the country has no appetite for an impeachment. They also know they have no actual grounds to do any such thing. Yes, we hear from nut cases within the Republican Party — with former half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin leading the chorus — who want to impeach the president. Speaker John Boehner says it won’t happen; I’ll stick with the speaker of the House on that one.

Will this impeachment talk stir the Democratic voter masses enough to stem the GOP tide this November? Time will tell. If it doesn’t and the GOP captures control of the Senate, well, then we’ll see if Republicans actually can govern.

WT to get actual Amarillo campus

Someone once told me that if Amarillo had been chosen as the home for what was known as West Texas Normal School, what is now West Texas A&M University today would be the size of Texas Tech University.

WT would enroll 30,000-plus students rather than just a shade less than 8,000 who attend school’s Canyon campus.

Still, the news that WT is purchasing the Commerce Building in downtown Amarillo and relocating its downtown operations from the Chase Tower to a new campus setting is good news for the school and, I hope, for the development of the downtown business district.

WT is getting some foundation grant help as well as financial aid from the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation to make the move.

As I understand it, WT plans to renovate completely the Commerce Building, from which existing businesses are relocating. The university plans also to dress up the area around the building, creating what they have referred to as a “campus atmosphere.”

Most interesting of all is that WT’s downtown Amarillo operation enrollment has far exceeded what the school had projected when it opened in the Chase Tower. The student enrollment is about 75 percent greater than expected, with more than 1,000 students attending classes in three floors of the 31-story office tower.

WT’s century-old presence in Canyon, of course, is well-established. Think, though, of the possibilities if the downtown Amarillo campus takes off. Might there be incentive to grow the Amarillo campus even more?

It’s heartening as well to see the relationship between West Texas A&M and Amarillo begin to blossom. There hasn’t always been that kind of warmth. Both the city and the university will reap yet untold rewards if they continue to build on it.

Red-light cams up for scrutiny?

Amarillo isn’t Chicago, a fact that makes many residents in the Texas Panhandle quite grateful.

A story out of the Windy City, however, might serve warning for Amarillo traffic engineers to perhaps take a look at some technology being employed here to stop red-light runners.

http://dailysignal.com/2014/07/27/rahm-emanuel-seeks-quell-controversy-red-light-cameras-chicago/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social

Chicago city officials are reviewing thousands of citations issued as a result of motorists being caught by the electronic devices. They have issued many enough citations to generate about $400 million in revenue since 2007, about the time Amarillo deployed its red-light cameras at selected intersections.

Critics in Chicago have questioned the validity of the tickets, noting a dramatic increase in citations at certain intersections.

What’s the problem? Is it the vendor that supplied the equipment to Chicago? Is there some under-handedness going on that, given that it’s Chicago after all, isn’t surprising to some of us?

I continue to support the concept of using these devices to help police intersections where motorists frequently run through red lights. Chicago officials, though, note that the cameras there have produced only a negligible improvement in the safety on city streets.

That’s sure to bring out the critics in Amarillo, even though they seem to be relatively few.

Still, the questions surrounding Chicago’s deployment of the cameras should give other cities that use them reason to examine their own enforcement policies.

That should include little ol’ Amarillo, Texas.

Two-game suspension? For this?

Where I come from, beating someone unconscious is a firing offense.

If you’re a National Football League running back, though, you can get off with less than a slap on the wrist.

Ray Rice has been caught on video beating the daylights out of a woman who’s now his wife. The NFL “punished” the Baltimore Ravens running back by forcing him to sit out the first two games of the upcoming season.

Gosh, I hope Rice can recover.

http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/lupica-roger-goodell-missing-inaction-article-1.1881565

The so-called punishment makes a mockery out of the NFL on a couple of levels. It virtually gives Rice a pass for committing an act of violence against another human being. It also suggests the NFL has an arbitrary and totally uneven policy regarding players who commit serious wrongdoing.

The quarterback Terrelle Pryor received a five-game suspension for getting involved — while he was attending Ohio State University — in a memorabilia scam.

Ray Rice beats his then-girlfriend senseless and he is booted for two games?

What in the world is going on here?

As Mike Lupica writes in the New York Daily News:

“Now Rice gets two games. One of the things we hear is that he had no priors before this incident. Good job, Rice! Only point-missers think that is relevant in the case of a man taking a hand to a woman.

“No one cares whether Rice was a first offender with this incident or not. The offense at hand — and by his hand — is enough. Goodell had the chance to set a proper and strong precedent here and chose not to. Maybe the problem here is that being The Enforcer has turned out to be this kind of job, even as Goodell’s league gets more prosperous and more popular than ever.”

Commissioner Goodell, you’ve got a big problem.