Terrorists must be destroyed

I shall now repeat this slowly.

Hamas … is … a … terrorist … cabal … bent … on … Israel’s … destruction.

There. Are we clear now?

http://www.politico.com/story/2014/07/mike-rogers-obama-benjamin-netanyahu-friction-109433.html?hp=l5

Accordingly, should Israel seek to negotiate with this organization as long as it remains dedicated to the eradication of the only democratic state in the Middle East?

Absolutely not.

Now, will someone please advise the president of the United States that Hamas has no place at any bargaining table until it lays down its arms and renounces its evil intention regarding Israel.

The fight goes on. President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appear to be at odds over how to handle Hamas. The president wants Israel to extend its cease-fire; the prime minister won’t do anything until Hamas stands down.

I’m with the Israelis on this one.

I do not doubt for a second that the United States remains committed to supporting Israel’s security and to maintaining our ironclad alliance with that nation. The president has declared as much repeatedly since taking office nearly six years ago, just as all of his predecessors in the Oval Office have done.

However, he needs to demonstrate some appreciation of the heinousness of this group’s agenda. It is attacking civilians with missile attacks. Israel has as much right to defend itself as any country on Earth, which is precisely what it is doing. The only reason Israel hasn’t suffered more civilian casualties is because its sophisticated “Iron Dome” missile defense system works well in protecting the nation against hostile acts.

So let’s stop attaching some kind of moral equivalence to what’s happening in Gaza.

Hamas picked this fight. Israel is intent on finishing it.

VA reform deal struck

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sander, I-Vt., can stop being mad at U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla.

The two lawmakers have worked out an agreement that reforms veterans health care with the aim of ending the scandalous delays that have rocked the Department of Veterans Affairs.

This veteran thanks them.

http://www.politico.com/story/2014/07/veterans-affairs-reforms-deal-109425.html?hp=f1

The deal will be revealed Monday.

Sanders had grown testy in recent days as Congress prepares to take a five-week recess. He had expressed anger at Miller’s unwillingness to negotiate a deal that closes the gap between the House and Senate versions of the reform. The men chair their bodies’ respective veterans affairs committees and so they got together over the weekend to hammer out a deal that should pass both houses of Congress and end up on President Obama’s desk.

Politico reports that specifics aren’t yet clear but the reforms are expected to give the VA secretary broader authority to fire administrators who mess up and it allocates more money for veterans seeking health care if they cannot be seen by medical staff at a veterans medical clinic.

As Politico reports: “While Sanders and Senate Democrats prefer the bill’s costs to be treated as emergency spending, there is a strong push from Republicans to raise revenue or make other cuts to offset the bill’s costs as much as possible.”

There must be no more delays on improving veterans health care. Politicians of both parties keep proclaiming their deep, abiding respect for veterans and vow to give them top-flight medical care. I appreciate their kind words.

Their bickering over what should have been a slam-dunk, though, is testing a lot of veterans’ patience.

Get it done.

Will shatters the Fox mold

http://mediamatters.org/video/2014/07/27/foxs-george-will-we-should-tell-child-immigrant/200215

George Will might find himself out of a job if the Fox New Channel brass takes serious exception to what the commentator said this morning on Fox News Sunday.

He said, and you should watch the clip attached here, that the United States of America ought to welcome the “criminals with teddy bears” into our culture, not send them back to their Central America homeland where they face possible, if not probable, harm.

I’ll just dispute one point in Will’s comment here. He mentions the nation has 3,141 counties. Divide the number of counties into the 57,000 or so child refugees who’ve come here and you have a mere handful of children moving into each county. That logic presumes we can distribute the children evenly among all American counties.

Whatever.

I found the exchange between Will and Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace stunning.

Will is right to note that we’ve handled far more immigrants than what’s happening right now at the border. The “wretched refuse” ought to be welcome, he said.

Wow! I think I’ll try to catch my breath now.

This man's death really hurts

Maybe you’ve known someone like this individual.

Really smart. Lots of what’s called “institutional knowledge” of a community. Great word skills. A historian who could recite in minute detail the unfolding of significant events.

Add to that a heart that seemed bigger than his body.

That’s how I am attempting to describe a longtime friend and colleague who, I have just learned, died early today. His name was Julian Galiano.

I worked with Julian for several years at the Beaumont Enterprise way down yonder on the Gulf Coast of Texas. We struck up an almost-immediate friendship.

We were both of Mediterranean descent — he was Italian, I am Greek — and he picked up on that right away. He’d greet me with common Greek sayings. I’d respond with the tiny bit of Italian I know. We laughed a lot about large and trivial things.

I was struck almost immediately at how much he knew about Beaumont and the surrounding area. He was dedicated deeply to Lamar University, where he earned his degree. He could recite facts about people and events related to Lamar.

It dawned on me early on that I needed to rely on this guy as a source for local knowledge. I was new to the region. Julian knew that and always made himself available to this new guy — me — whenever I needed to fill in some blanks to understand the full context of a story.

Not long after I learned what a valuable source he was, it occurred to me that the newspaper that employed us both was underutilizing this guy’s talent. He was a sports copy editor, which he loved doing. I concluded that he needed to be the city editor of the newspaper, the newsroom’s chief line editor, the guy who made assignments to reporters, told them where to look for leads, gave them tips on who to call, what to ask, where to go.

I told Julian all of that. He laughed. He wanted no part of it. He was happy doing the job to which he was assigned, which was to make reporters’ raw copy more suitable for publication.

Fair enough.

Julian and I stayed in touch for many years through social media — and through occasional phone calls — after I left Beaumont for the Texas Panhandle. And almost without fail, he would ask about my family: How’s Kathy doing? And how about Peter and Nathan?

I’m grateful that we never lost contact.

Now he’s gone. What a huge loss for those who called him colleague and friend.

This one hurts. A lot.

Hamas is the villain … period!

What in the world am I missing here?

Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. It launched missiles into Israeli neighborhoods, targeting civilians. Israel has responded with brute force. The Israeli counterattack has killed many Palestinians, including children — which, of course, is a tragic consequence of this action.

The United Nations is now criticizing Israel because of the force it has used to seek an end to the terrorist rocket attacks?

Give me a break.

http://news.msn.com/world/hamas-agrees-to-24-hour-holiday-truce-in-gaza-war

I totally understand that the Palestinians are living in squalor in Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas. I also understand their anger at the Israeli settlements going up there and along the West Bank, which is territory seized by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War.

However, don’t Israelis want to live in peace alongside their Palestinian neighbors? Haven’t the Israelis been included Palestinian Arabs in their society, even into the government?

I keep coming back to the question: How would the United States react if missiles started flying into cities along our borders with Canada and Mexico?

The world is watching the unraveling of a deeply complicated situation. It does, however, contain a relatively simple solution.

Hamas should lay down its arms, recognize that Israel is going to stay in the region, renounce its ancient hatred of Israel, and then it should get out of the way and let the Palestinian Authority negotiate in good faith a permanent peace treaty with Israel.

Launch a tunnel offensive

Egypt has ratcheted up its campaign against the tunnels that burrow from the Sinai Peninsula into Gaza.

Now, finally, we might be getting somewhere.

http://news.yahoo.com/egypt-army-destroys-13-more-gaza-tunnels-093712884.html

The Egyptian army reports it has destroyed 13 more tunnels through which Hamas terrorists are transporting arms — such as rockets — from Egypt into the region governed by the Palestinian Authority. It’s also the origin of the rocket attacks that have resulted in the violence that has killed nearly 1,000 Palestinians and Israelis.

As Yahoo.com reports: “The Palestinian militant group Hamas, which is the main power in Gaza, reportedly uses the tunnels to smuggle arms, food and money into the blockaded coastal enclave.”

Let’s look for a moment at a key element in this struggle.

Israel signed a peace agreement with Egypt during the Carter administration. As such, the treaty bound Egypt with Israel as a de facto ally in the Middle East. To my way of thinking, it then becomes incumbent on Egypt to do what it can to help Israel protect itself.

Doesn’t it make sense, then, for Egypt to do all it can to destroy these passages through which Hamas — one of the world’s most notorious terrorist organizations — wages war against Israel?

That the Egyptians haven’t yet declared their intention to destroy all the tunnels and to do what they can to prevent future construction of them speaks to my own distrust of Egypt’s commitment to the peace agreement it signed with Israel.

It’s good that Hamas’s ties to Egypt have worsened since the ouster of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, an ally of Hamas. Now that Morsi is out of power, the Egyptians will make good on that treaty that should help Israel protect itself against the terrorists who seek to do them so much harm.

Impeachment talk is driving me insane

For the ever-loving life of me I cannot fathom how on God’s Earth Republicans around the country think Congress should impeach the president of the United States.

A new poll from CNN-ORC says two-thirds of Americans oppose the notion of impeaching President Obama. Yet the nutcases on the far right keep fueling this idiocy by suggesting the president has committed some specified impeachable offense.

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/213323-majority-opposes-impeachment-calls-and-lawsuit-poll-finds

House Speaker John Boehner says impeachment is a non-starter. Other key Republicans say they oppose it, too. One of them, most interestingly, is former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who got himself entangled in an earlier impeachment effort against President Clinton. It didn’t work out too well for Gingrich and his House GOP brethren. The House impeached the president, but the Senate acquitted him on all the charges. Gingrich, meanwhile, resigned hi speakership and then left the House because of his own shabby personal behavior and because he lost the confidence of his House colleagues.

The pro-impeachment cabal has even less on Obama than the goons on the right had on Clinton. With Clinton, at least they could say the president lied under oath to a federal grand jury about his fling with that young woman who worked in the White House. Perjury is a felony.

President Obama’s alleged misdeed? He’s using the power granted him by the Constitution to invoke executive authority? What else is there?

Republicans are playing with some serious fire if they keep up this nonsense.

Can’t we get back to the business of governing, for crying out loud?

The mid-term elections might give Republicans control of the Senate — but it’s not nearly a sure thing. They’ll likely retain control of the House. If Capitol Hill goes fully Republican, then the GOP will have to settle into the role of co-equal partners in the process of running the richest, most powerful country on Earth.

Impeachment rhetoric from the GOP peanut gallery is an utterly ridiculous exercise.

It is irresponsible and reprehensible in the extreme.

***

Gosh, I now am asking my own congressman, Republican Mac Thornberry: What say you, Mac, about this idea of impeaching the president? Please tell me you haven’t swilled the GOP goofball Kool-Aid.

V-22 Osprey earning its wings

Here is some news that is going to cheer up the good folks assembling a state-of-the-art airship next door to Amarillo’s international airport.

A law student and former Marine who’s studied the bird says the V-22 Osprey is good ship.

View story at Medium.com

It’s shown some weakness, some vulnerability and certainly been through some controversy, but it is superior to the aircraft it was designed to “displace,” the CH-46 twin-rotor helicopter.

It flies much faster and delivers troops and supplies in far less time.

The V-22 has had a rocky ride to be sure. You’ll recall the ship that crashed in Arizona, killing 19 Marines on board. Development and assembly was stopped in Amarillo. Critics began yammering about how dangerous the bird could be to fly.

The Marine Corps and Bell/Textron engineers fixed what was wrong and the aircraft has performed well on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Every leading-edge aircraft has gone through difficulty. The V-22 is really no different in that regard. Its bugs have been troublesome and, yes, have produced some tragic consequences. I ask, though, isn’t that the norm when introducing aircraft with technology never before used?

It takes off like a helicopter, tilts its rotors forward and flies like an airplane. It’s a difficult ship to learn to fly, but as a Marine Corps test pilot told me once years ago, once you learn how to fly the Osprey “it’s a joy to operate.”

I’ll take him at his word.

The Osprey isn’t perfect, as the essay attached to this blog notes. It still costs a lot of money to manufacture and its capabilities have limits.

But it plays a key role in our nation’s defense and our neighbors at the assembly plant in Amarillo deserve high praise for the role they play in that effort.

Space flight video chokes me up

I am not prone to weeping openly. That is, I don’t just start sobbing when something pushes my emotional hot button.

But I tend to swallow hard, get a little choked up at sights. Historic videos do that to me.

I cannot, for instance, watch Muhammad Ali light the 1996 Olympic torch in Atlanta without getting teary-eyed; the same thing happens when I watch video of Secretariat winning the Belmont Stakes in 1973 and the announcer says he’s “running like a tremendous machine!”; ditto for watching Sen. Robert F. Kennedy say “on to Chicago and let’s win there” moments before the gunman wounded him mortally in Los Angeles.

So … I’ve been choking back tears this week watching CNN’s series on “The Sixties.” The segment this week dealt with the space race. The United States competed with the Soviet Union to be the first nation to land someone on the moon. We won that race. It was a come-from-behind victory, you’ll recall.

The segment that does it to me every time I see it is the launch of Apollo 8, the first lunar orbit mission that blasted off from Cape Canaveral on Dec. 21, 1968. The launch itself is an emotional moment for me. It reminds me of when my late mother and I would get up early to watch the countdown of those Mercury and Gemini launches. The thrill is something that has never left me.

The CNN series, though, takes you through the launch and quickly to the point where Apollo 8 commences lunar orbit with astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and William Anders aboard.

Then, on Christmas Eve 1968, Borman pulls out his Bible as he trains the TV camera on the Earth-rise over the moon’s horizon and he starts reading from the Book of Genesis … reminding us of our world that God created.

Yep, that chokes me up.

1968 was a hideous year. The Vietnam War was going badly; assassins killed Martin Luther King Jr. and RFK; our streets were erupting in chaos as Americans protested the war.

Then, to have the commander of a space mission read on Christmas Eve from the passage in the Bible that takes us back to the beginning of our very existence in the universe …

As Tom Hanks says on the CNN segment, “Who wrote that script?”

Did condemned man die from 'torture'?

John McCain knows torture when he sees it.

The Republican U.S. senator from Arizona was victimized by it as a prisoner of war in Vietnam for more than five years. So when the 2008 GOP presidential nominee says an Arizona inmate was tortured before he was executed this week, I tend to listen.

http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/25/justice/arizona-execution-controversy/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

I’ll declare here that I oppose capital punishment, largely because keeping someone alive to think about the crime he or she committed is punishment enough — in my book.

Well, this week Joseph Wood became the latest condemned man to die in what amounts to a botched or nearly botched execution. He gasped, moaned, snorted and writhed on the gurney for nearly two hours before succumbing to the drugs pumped into his body. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, another Republican, has ordered a complete review to determine what went wrong; the state attorney general has halted future executions until the review is complete.

Wood wasn’t a good guy. He committed a terrible and violent crime that put him on death row. Hardliners out there say they feel not a shred of remorse over what happened to him on the death chamber gurney. He still got off easy compared to the pain he inflicted on his victims, they will say.

Still, the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits “cruel and unusual punishments.” States that used to hang, shoot, electrocute or gas inmates to death have gone to lethal injection as a form of supposedly “human” execution. Well, James Wood didn’t die humanely. Neither did the Oklahoma inmate who was executed in a hideously botched process in which the lethal drug was injected into tissue, rather than into his bloodstream.

What are states to do? Texas, which had gone on a death row killing spree in recent years, has somehow slowed the pace of executions. We still kill inmates more regularly than other states. We’ve had none of the instances lately of the kind of torture that John McCain described in the Wood case.

“The lethal injection needs to be an indeed lethal injection and not the bollocks-upped situation that just prevailed. That’s torture,” Sen. McCain told Politico on Thursday.

Yes, the state should review its capital punishment procedures. However, if states cannot guarantee prevention of the type of agony suffered by a condemned inmate, perhaps there ought to be some serious debate about ending the procedure altogether.

Let these inmates rot in prison for the rest of their natural lives.