Another 'czar' might emerge in Washington

It’s been some time since we’ve heard the term “czar” kicked around Washington, D.C.

But here it comes again, this time in the form of legislation that creates a “hostage czar” who would coordinate efforts to gain the release of Americans held hostage abroad.

U.S. Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., has proposed the Warren Weinstein Hostage Rescue Act, named in honor of the man killed early this year in a drone strike on a suspected al-Qaeda compound.

Allow me this one request for the legislation: no negotiating with terrorists, please.

Delaney said this: “Hostage rescue is incredibly complex and multiple agencies have a role in the process, which at times has complicated our ability to act efficiently.”

So, he wants to create a hostage czar to coordinate those efforts.

It’s at best a symbolic gesture. It could prove fruitful, but only if it maintains a policy of refusing to negotiate with terror organizations to gain the release of these captive Americans.

I know what you’re thinking: Hey, we “negotiated” with the Taliban to obtain the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl; we released five Taliban officers in exchange for Bergdahl. Isn’t that “negotiating with terrorists”? Well, I believe the Taliban is a terrorist organization, but the White House doesn’t call it such — so, technically, the U.S. government didn’t negotiate with a terrorist outfit to gain Bergdahl’s release.

In hindsight, it looks like a mistake because (a) the Taliban comprises terrorists and (b) Bergdahl now is facing desertion charges.

Still, the Weinstein Hostage Rescue Act should be free of language that allows us to negotiate with any recognized terrorist outfit.

Socialist could do HRC a huge favor

Bernie Sanders’s campaign for president next year is likely to produce a huge favor for the Democratic Party’s frontrunner, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Sanders is an unapologetic socialist. He’s an independent U.S. senator from Vermont. He’s going to attack Clinton from the left as the two of them seek their party’s presidential nomination.

The favor? It will be that Clinton will be seen as the mainstream candidate and — perhaps — more palatable to the vast middle-of-the-road sea of voters who dislike extremists on either end of the political spectrum.

Republican candidates and members of the TEA party wing of the GOP try all the time to label Clinton as some kind of “closet socialist.” Well, she’ll be running for her party’s nomination against the real thing.

Sanders has no qualms about extolling the virtues of wealth redistribution, which is a socialist tenet. Clinton doesn’t say such things — out loud, at least. That doesn’t stop her fervent critics from hanging the socialist label on her.

So, look for Hillary Clinton to welcome Sanders’s attacks. She’ll parry them easily and possibly deprive her Republican foes a key weapon in their own arsenal against the probable Democratic presidential nominee.


Search for justice takes surprise turn in Baltimore

The case of Freddie Gray’s death while in Baltimore police custody has taken a startling turn.

Six police officers are charged with homicide in Gray’s death from a severed spine while he was being detained.

Then came an expected reaction.

The African-American community is elated that the officers are being charged. Others, namely the police union in Baltimore, are calling for the county prosecutor, Marilyn Mosby, to recuse herself. The union wants Mosby to select a special prosecutor. Why? Is she incapable of prosecuting the police officers fairly? Is it fair to wonder whether the fact that Mosby is African-American — as was Gray — has something to do with the union’s demand that she recuse herself?

Well, I’m wondering it out loud.

Mosby’s findings suggest that Gray was denied medical attention after he cried out for it.

I don’t want to applaud these charges. Frankly, the turn of events means this case is going to keep tempers roiling in Baltimore for an undetermined length of time. The media will find every way possible to report on every detail of the case. Let us also understand that the officers deserve the presumption of innocence; the burden will fall on the state to prove their guilt.

My hope, as an American who lives far from the seething anger in Baltimore, is that this case can proceed with all deliberate speed and thoroughness.

I will place my trust that Marilyn Mosby is up to the task that awaits her.


Even conservatives are aghast at Abbott?


This letter is from a former Republican member of the Texas House of Representatives. He calls himself a conservative and a “patriotic American.”

He is horrified at the notion that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has instructed the Texas State Guard to protect Texans against Navy SEALs and other special forces.

His letter to Gov. Abbott says it all.

I’m out.

Malala gets justice

Malala Yousafzi has gotten the justice she deserves … I hope.

Ten men who attacked the then-15-year-old child activist were sentenced in a Pakistani court to life in prison. Malala, who suffered a grievous gunshot wound to the head has recovered.

She’s gone on with her life and, oh by the way, winning the Nobel Peace Prize this past year for her work in advancing the cause of children in her native Pakistan.

The men who attacked here were Taliban terrorists — and, yes, I’ll call them “terrorists,” even though the White House declines to use that term to describe the monstrous men who align with the Taliban.

What troubles me, though, is that a Pakistani court has convicted these men. Why the concern? Pakistan hasn’t exactly been the most reliable U.S. ally in our fight against international terrorism. The Pakistanis haven’t committed themselves fully to the fight against the Taliban, al-Qaeda and now the Islamic State.

Remember, too, that Osama bin Laden was killed by Navy SEALs in May 2011 in his compound in the middle of a major Pakistani city.

Should we expect Malala’s assailants to spend the rest of their lives in prison?

The hope is that they will. The expectation, though, well … let’s just wait and see.

Baltimore riots hit home in strange way

Strange as it might sound, the Baltimore riots are troubling to my wife and me in a way we didn’t quite anticipate.

We spent a week in that beautiful city in the summer of 1996.

We attended a meeting of editorial writers and columnists. I was a member of what was then known as the National Conference of Editorial Writers. I had the pleasure of attending several of those national conferences over the years: Lexington, Ky., Phoenix, Ottawa, Seattle, Kansas City, Mo., Providence, R.I. — and Baltimore.

Of all the places my wife and I attended together, Baltimore is the one city she said she’d visit again and again.

Now these riots have hit us harder than they would have had they occurred in virtually any other great American city.

The Inner Harbor with its row houses, the crab cakes, Fort McHenry and the general ambience of the city charmed us to no end.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley — who also served as a Baltimore mayor — believes the city will recover from this dark chapter in its storied history. I do hope he’s right. I, too, believe the city will recover — eventually.

Two former visitors to that lovely city — my wife and I — are pulling hard for the city to reassemble itself and return to the charming place we remember.


Opportunity knocks … once again

Old men do have a future, even if it could be fleeting and temporary.

How do I know that? A new door has just opened for me and I’ve decided to walk through it.

I’ve accepted a challenge from a friend and former colleague who’s asked me to help him produce a weekly newspaper in eastern New Mexico. My friend, David Stevens, is looking aggressively for a managing editor for the Quay County Sun in Tucumcari. For the time being — and hopefully not too long — he’s going to rely on yours truly to help him with the task of publishing the Sun.

David — a recent inductee into the Panhandle Press Hall of Fame — edits the Clovis News-Journal and the Portales News-Tribune; the papers’ parent company also owns the Quay County Sun.

Here’s how it went down.

David sent me a text message today, asking me to call when I had a few minutes. I called.

“I’ve got an opportunity for you and you won’t have to leave the house,” David said.

“OK, what’s up?” I asked.

The opportunity provides me with a chance to work with a young reporter in Tucumcari, who’ll send me news budgets weekly. We’ll agree on stories he’ll cover for the next edition of the Sun. The reporter then will draft the stories, he’ll e-mail them to me, I’ll edit the raw copy and send the files back to him.

The Quay County Sun goes to press each Tuesday and is distributed the next day. During the day Tuesday, I’ll receive PDF files of the pages — again via e-mail — from the reporter who’ll build the pages at the Sun’s office in Tucumcari. I’ll proof-read the pages, call the reporter on my phone, recommend changes to the pages. My young colleague will make the changes and then put the pages, in newspaper jargon, “to bed.”

The Quay County Sun publishes about 16 pages weekly. I’m told we’ll be producing eight to 12 pages with news copy on them.

That, as they say, is the new opportunity.

My friend, David, is well aware of my other commitments: the blog I write for Panhandle PBS, the special projects reporting I’m doing for KFDA-TV’s, and my part-time job at an automobile dealership in Amarillo.

This new gig is going to be a first-class blast.

My daily print journalism career may be over, but I keep turning these corners and running smack into unexpected challenges.

As I keep telling my friends and strangers I meet on my daily travels through life … I am having way more fun than I deserve.