Barack and Bibi: Let's make peace

President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are speaking to each other.

That’s good.

Now it’s time for the next step. Let’s stop squabbling and get back to a public understanding that Israel remains this nation’s most critical Middle East ally and the two heads of government need to return to having each other’s back.

Netanyahu fanned the flames of anger between Washington and Jerusalem when, during the final days of his parliamentary election, he backed off on his previous support for a Palestinian state. Then his Likud Party won control of the Knesset and Bibi said, in effect, “I didn’t really mean what I said about the Palestinian state.”

As Politico reported, Bibi’s backtracking hasn’t exactly been accepted fully by the White House: “The White House has worked to cool down the rhetoric and public tension. But it’s not letting go. When Netanyahu insisted during the congratulatory phone call Obama waited to make that he was already backtracking and they’d get past this, an unimpressed Obama responded by saying, sure, but you said what you said. He and his aides believe it’s now up to Netanyahu to repair a rift that they stress is only about the peace process, not the larger commitment to Israel.”

Everyone on the planet knows that U.S.-Israeli ties are rock-solid, no matter what President Obama is saying these days about the frayed state of bilateral relations. If the shooting were to start, Bibi knows Barack — or whoever succeeds him in January 2017 — will be there.

It’s time to put this nastiness to rest. Make up in public, gentlemen.

Wishing an end to 'at the end of the day'

Admit it. Some phrases drive you crazy.

Maybe it’s the one your mother always used. My mother used to say, as I smirked at her while she scolded me: “Wipe that smile off your face before I wipe it off for you.” My smirkiness got me in trouble occasionally years later when I was inducted into the Army and the drill sergeant would get in my face about something. I usually got punished for it — smirking the whole time.

A contemporary phrase is about to drive me insane. It’s the one politicians use far too often.

“At the end of the day …”

There it is. I’m on the verge of declaring all-out war against anyone using that within earshot of yours truly.

I might even establish it as a sort of litmus test for politicians seeking my vote. If any of them ever use the “at end of the day” lead-in to some obtuse answer to a direct question, I’m likely to disqualify that candidate from consideration to whatever office or she is seeking.

A colleague and friend of mine used to maintain a lengthy glossary of what she called “irksome phrases.” She’s changed that category to “nefarious phrases,” or NPs for short.

She, too, has declared war on the use of those phrases.

Hands down, without the slightest hint of doubt, my most irksome/nefarious phrase is “at the end … ” Good grief, I cannot even type it any longer.

The only theory that makes sense to me as to why it’s become so popular among politicians is that it makes them sound smarter than they really are. They say it as a prelude to whatever comes next out of their mouth, as if the next point after the word “day,” is so profound, so important, carries so much weight that you hear the irksome phrase and then you expect to be bowled over by the politician’s wisdom.

Well, politicians, I’m on to you.

I get what you’re doing. I won’t stand for it.

If you intend to win my vote, stay away from that hideous phrase. It’s driving me insane. I value my sanity more than you should value your trumped-up brilliance.


First big RV trip: a rousing success

This is the latest in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on impending retirement.

We can declare our first-ever multi-state, multi-day trip in our recreational vehicle to be a success.

And a rousing one at that.

We shoved off from Amarillo the morning of March 21 and arrived back home just yesterday. Our travel took us to Mesa, Ariz., where we met up with my sister and brother-in-law, who had driven their RV from just north of Vancouver, Wash.

We had a serious blast with them, enjoying the sunshine, a bit of fellowship with fellow RV owners encamped at the park in Mesa and visiting with our aunt and uncle, who live about an hour’s drive south of the Phoenix area.

Except for a couple of mechanical issues we’re going to resolve with the folks who sold us our fifth wheel, our trip began and ended well for us.

But we did learn a valuable lesson while towing our 28-foot RV: Do not venture somewhere until you know for certain whether you can be comfortable getting there — and then coming back out.

We pulled out of the RV park Friday morning to start our trip home, but then we decided to take a gander at an attraction called Tortilla Flats, about 25 miles or so northeast of Mesa along an Arizona state highway. We looked at our map and assumed we could keep on going to a more significant highway once we finished visiting the attraction, which was billed as a replica of a ghost town.

You know what they say about assuming … yes?

Tortilla Flats sits along a very narrow road, with plenty of curves, switchbacks and, I should add, some seemingly harrowing areas. We hauled our fifth wheel through and along all of it en route to Tortilla Flats. For a bit of the trip in there, the road was bordered on side by rocky cliffs and the other side by, well, a serious drop-off into a bright blue lake full of boaters and kayakers.

I had a nightmare scenario of getting the fifth wheel too close to the edge and being pulled into the drink backward by the plummeting RV.

We got there just fine, but then learned that getting out would present a bit of a challenge. The paved road became an unpaved road once we got past Tortilla Flats. We were advised by a young restaurant waitress that we should just go back the way we came in.

Well, OK. But to get turned around, we had to take the RV up a dirt hill, onto a parking area and get it pointed in the right direction for the return trip back to Apache Junction. It required us to back the thing up.

We sized up our turning area and decided we could get the truck and the RV lined up to back up in a straight line enough to get it turned toward the right direction.

So … we did.

And out we came. Back to Apache Junction, back to the main highway and off toward Payson, Holbrook and then on to Gallup. N.M., for a night’s stay.

We breezed home along Interstate 40 the next day.

All is good. Our fifth wheel has been cleaned of the bugs that splattered it on the way to Mesa.

Once we get the mechanical issues resolved, we’ll be ready to ride.


Fiorina as next president?

Carly Fiorina says she’s highly likely to seek the Republican Party nomination for president of the United States next year.

She says “competence” is the core issue that needs to be discussed.

Interesting, if you think about it.

Fiorina touts her business acumen. Hmmm.

She once headed a giant company, Hewlett-Packard, managing a conglomerate with thousands of employees. Then things got a little dicey at HP. Stock value plummeted. Many of those employees were laid off.

Then the HP board decided the company wasn’t going in the direction it wanted, so it blamed the CEO. That would be Carly Fiorina. She was “forced to resign,” or terminated, or she just quit to “pursue other interests.” Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace brought that up. Her response: “We took Hewlett Packard from about $44 billion to $88 billion in six years. We quadrupled cash flow. We went from a market laggard to a market leader in every product category and every market segment.”

But, but, but … why did they let you go, Ms. Fiorina?

Fiorina is going to wait until April or May to make a probable announcement.

She’ll have to explain some of this competence stuff as she hits the trail.

Good luck with that.


Schumer headed for minority leader role

Harry Reid apparently has anointed Chuck Schumer as his successor as the leader of U.S. Senate Democrats.

Oh, that’s just great!

Reid, D-Nev., announced he won’t seek re-election next year. Schumer, D-N.Y., mounted a quick campaign to succeed Reid. It worked.

It’s not that Schumer is going to be bad for Senate Democrats, or even bad for the country. It’s just that Schumer some years ago inherited a dubious distinction from another senator who decided to retire. The distinction is being identified as part of the “most dangerous place in the world.”

It used to be said of Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, that the “most dangerous place in the world is between Gramm and a television camera.” Gramm left the Senate and handed that unofficial title over to Schumer.

Harry Reid has been called a lot of things; some of them are kind, others are not, depending on who’s saying them. “Camera friendly” isn’t really one of them. He speaks quietly and isn’t known to be a media hog. One cannot say that about Schumer, who’s as garrulous as they come.

Once he becomes leader of the Senate Democrats in 2017 — either as minority leader or majority leader, depending on whether Democrats retake control of the Senate in 2016 — he’s going to be everywhere. Probably at once.

Former Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Scarborough said on “Meet the Press” this morning that that he believes Schumer will be a far greater constructive force as Democratic leader than Reid. Scarborough is more of an expert on these matters than a lot of folks. I hope he’s right.

However, we’d better get ready to see a lot of Democratic leader Schumer on our TV screens in the years ahead.


State using religion to discriminate?

Indiana seems like a nice enough place, with nice people motivated to do nice things to and for others.

Why, then, does the state’s legislature send to Gov. Mike Pence a bill that allows people to possibly concoct a religious belief in order to discriminate against others?

Pence this past week signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which prevents someone from suing, say, a business owner from doing business with you based on the business owner’s religious beliefs.

Pay attention here: The bill is aimed squarely at gays and lesbian who could be denied service from those business owners.

Reaction to this law has been furious. Business owners across the nation have declared their intention to cease doing business in Indiana as long as the state sanctions discrimination against their employees. With the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four tournament set to be played in Indianapolis, there could be a serious backlash that inhibits the money the state hopes to earn.

This law looks for all the world — to me at least — as if the state is using “religious freedom” as a shield to protect those who wantonly discriminate against those who have a certain sexual orientation.

What we have here looks like a misuse of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, which guarantees the right of those to hold whatever religious belief they wish. The state is suggesting the First Amendment takes precedence over the 14th Amendment, which guarantees all citizens “equal protection” under the state and federal laws.

Imagine a couple wanting, say, to buy a home. Can a lender refuse to loan the couple the money to buy the home simply by pulling the “religious freedom” statute out of thin air — or out of some bodily orifice, for that matter? The law, as I understand it, prohibits the gay couple from suing the lender because the law protects the lender from being hassled over his or her religious beliefs.

The appearance of using religious liberty and freedom as a pretext to allow overt discrimination is a disgrace.

What makes a good commander in chief?

Scott Walker says that being an Eagle Scout prepared him to be commander in chief of the greatest military force in the history of the world.

So, there you have it. Join the Scouts, earn enough merit badges and you, too, can serve in the Oval Office.

The Republican Wisconsin governor was answering the question on a conservative radio talk show.

I won’t dismiss Walker’s Eagle Scout accomplishment as being irrelevant as Walker prepares to enter the 2016 GOP presidential primary donnybrook.

In truth, I don’t know what prepares someone to be commander in chief. The qualifications of the 44 men who’ve served as president are a mixed bag, to say the least.

A couple of our greatest presidents — Republican Abraham Lincoln and Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt — didn’t serve in the military. Yet they saw the country through two horrific wars. Virtually all Lincoln’s presidency was eaten up by the Civil War and yet he held the Union together. FDR mobilized the nation after the Japanese attacked us at Pearl Harbor and led the nation beautifully as it carried the fight to enemies in the Pacific and across the Atlantic in Africa and Europe.

Republican Dwight Eisenhower ascended to the rank of general of the Army, but didn’t have to mobilize the nation during his two terms as president. Republican Ulysses S. Grant became an Army general, but his presidency was marred by scandal.

Our three most recent presidents among them have very little combined military experience. Democrat Bill Clinton didn’t serve in the military and in fact avoided the draft back in the 1960s; Republican George W. Bush served for a time in the Texas Air National Guard, flying fighter jets stateside; Democrat Barack Obama also has no military experience.

Does prior military service equate to preparation for being commander in chief? I don’t know.

And does such service mean more than achieving an Eagle Scout ranking? I don’t know that, either.

It seems to boil down to judgment and whether a president has the right judgment — and perhaps the temperament — to lead the world’s premier fighting force.

Maybe a stint in Scouting helps develop those traits. Then again, maybe it doesn’t if the individual doesn’t already possess the innate skill and judgment required to do the most difficult job on Earth.



Puppy Tales, Part 12

Did you know dogs get car sick, the way people get car sick?

A member of my family has a large dog that gets sick while riding any distance in a motor vehicle. So my family member and his wife cannot travel far in their car with their pooch.

I am happy to report that Toby the Dog should be renamed Toby the Road Warrior.

We’ve just returned from a weeklong motor vehicle trip to Arizona, where we spent several fun- and  laugh-filled days with my sister, brother-in-law and my aunt and uncle.

And yes, Toby the Road Warrior was a big part of our fun-filled week on the road.

He’s not quite a year old. He’s been on the road with us on trips to the Dallas-Fort Worth area and to Oklahoma City. This trip to Phoenix-Mesa was a test of Toby’s stamina. He passed with an A-plus grade.

How did he do it? Well, he slept most of the way.

Toby also managed to, shall we say, hold it while we were traveling in our pickup. We’d go a few hours between stops. Then we’d get out, stretch our legs and then Toby the Road Warrior would, um, take care of his business.

He’d finish and he’d ready for the next non-stop segment of our cross-country adventure.

Toby the Road Warrior made us proud.

Those signs look different to us now

ADRIAN, Texas — It’s weird how economic trends can make one look at virtually everything a little differently.

Often, we long for the old days. Not today when my wife and I noticed a sign on an abandoned gasoline service station on the south side of Interstate 40 in this tiny town just this side of the New Mexico border.

A Shell gasoline dealership went dark I’m guessing about a year ago. How do I know that?

The sign for regular unleaded gasoline read “$3.89.” That would be the price per gallon of gasoline.

Let’s flash back for a moment to the time when gas prices were skyrocketing into the ionosphere — or some layer far above Earth’s surface. You’d see a sign in front of a vacant gasoline station and it would advertise a price of, oh, let’s say $1.89 per gallon of regular unleaded gas. You’d long for the day when prices would return to that level.

Well, today we received a signal that sent precisely the opposite message. We do not want to see prices return to the total posted on that empty Shell station perched on the farthest western edge of the Texas Panhandle.

We rolled into Amarillo a little while later and were pleased to see that prices hadn’t spiked too terribly while we were away for a week out West.

Perhaps we ought to preserve these relics just to remind us what can happen to the price of fossil fuel when we get careless with the way we use it.



No term limits, please

Harry Reid’s announcement that he’s retiring from the U.S. Senate is going to prompt the predictable calls for term limits for members of Congress.

I’ve heard some yammering from my network of social media friends.

Many of them favor term limits, thinking apparently that voters of various states and congressional districts aren’t smart enough to determine whether their elected representatives are doing a good job for them.

One of my pals — who I am certain echoes the views of others on the right — thinks Sen. John McCain, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Dick Durbin, Sen. Chuck Schumer, and probably dozens of other congresspeople need to hit the road right along with Reid.

My friend is mistaken.

Republican bomb-thrower Newt Gingrich led the revolutionary Contract With America insurgency in 1994. Republicans took control of both congressional chambers, Gingrich became speaker of the House and Congress sought to limit the terms of its members. It has failed every time.

The one aspect of term limits that I favor has been enacted by the GOP House caucus, which limits the number of terms that House members can serve as committee chairs; Democrats ought to follow suit, but that’s a congressional rules decision.

Voters back home — including those in Nevada who’ve kept sending the Democrat Reid back to the Senate — have the right to decide who they want representing their interests in Washington.

Harry Reid did that for Nevadans. He’s now calling it a career. Good for him.

Term limits? We have them already. They’re called “elections.”