Memorial recalls memory of favorite veteran

WASHINGTON — The atmosphere in the nation’s capital has become overheated, overblown and overstated. It’s not a happy place if you are a politician who wants to do the right thing, but you get caught up in the daily — if not hourly — struggles between the two major political parties.

They all ought to come to this place perhaps once a week. They should cast their eyes on the World War II Memorial, which reminds us of just how titanic our struggles can get.

I came here with my wife, our niece and her husband. It was hot that day. During our entire walk along The Mall, I managed to put contemporary politics aside. I thought instead of my favorite veteran. I’ve written before about my father, the late Pete Kanelis. He served during this struggle, the one that enveloped the globe from 1939 until 1945.

The picture above honors those who served in the European Theater of World War II, as Dad did. He saw combat as a sailor in the Med.

Yes, I have heard about critics of this particular memorial, one of the newer exhibits along The Mall. It’s too gaudy, too grand, too big, they say. It really isn’t, at least in my view. It honors a massive military engagement. By the end of the global war, more than 16 million Americans suited up to enter the fight; whether it was at home or abroad, they answered the call and performed magnificently.

They were, as the author/journalist Tom Brokaw has written, The Greatest Generation.

At the other end of the WWII Memorial pool is a section devoted to the Pacific Theater of Operations.

There, too, Americans and their allies fought across the vast ocean to take back land conquered by Japan. They endured sacrifice most of only can imagine. My favorite veteran happened to be in The Philippines when President Truman ordered the dropping of the atomic bombs in August 1945. The enemy surrendered. Thus, I remain convinced that the president likely saved Dad’s life. I am eternally grateful for the president.

We walked along the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. They all reminded us of the nation’s greatness and they allowed me to set aside the ongoing anger and anxiety I am feeling about the present day.

Later in the day, we saw Marine One fly overhead on its way back to the White House, carrying the president of the United States back from wherever he had spent the weekend.

I had been filled with awe at what we had seen. In that context, seeing the presidential aircraft made me appreciate the struggles that accompanied the building and the development of the world’s greatest nation.

Dad would have been proud, too.

Why take aim at grizzlies, Mr. President?

Donald J. Trump’s latest executive order has me scratching my head in utter disbelief.

The president has removed the Yellowstone grizzly from the Endangered Species List. I don’t get this one. Not at all!

There are roughly 700 of the beasts in the wild near the fabled national park that sits in the northwest corner of Wyoming and which straddles the state lines of Idaho and Montana.

Seven hundred!

Is that a lot of the big bears? I don’t consider 700 animals as constituting a glut of them. The president, though, suggests that the Yellowstone grizzly population has increased sufficiently to warrant its removed from the ESA.

“The ongoing recovery of Yellowstone grizzly bears is an undeniable example of how the ESA can bring a species back from the brink. However, we are concerned over how grizzly bears and their habitat will be managed after delisting,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a former congressman from Montana, hailed the delisting. So did Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead and Montana U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, both Republicans.

Call me an unapologetic animal lover. I don’t want these magnificent beasts’ habitat compromised any more than it already has been, even with its listing on the ESA.

I’m not at all clear on the ill effects that the bear’s presence on the Endangered Species Act has brought to any human being. Where is the harm? What does its removal from that list mean for the beasts’ future?

Amarillo official on verge of poetic job promotion

Bob Cowell is on the cusp of possibly scoring a remarkably poetic change in his professional career.

Cowell is the Amarillo deputy city manager who for a time served as the top municipal administrator until the City Council selected Jared Miller as the new city manager. Cowell had applied for the permanent appointment, but was passed over for Miller, who came to Amarillo from San Marcos, the Hill Country city where he also served as city manager.

OK, here’s where it gets interesting.

Cowell has been named one of five finalists for the San Marcos city manager’s job. He could be tapped to succeed the man who left that post to take the municipal administrative reins in Amarillo.

I don’t know about you, but I think that’s rather cool.

Even though I do not know Cowell, my hope was that he would stay on as deputy manager if the City Council selected another individual to lead the city staff. I understand, though, that a man’s got to do what’s best for himself and his family. Heck, I left my home state of Oregon in 1984 to pursue my own career way down yonder in Beaumont, Texas — and in the process subjected my wife and two young sons to some serious culture shock; we powered through it and Texas is now home.

I am going to root for Cowell to get the San Marcos gig. He appears to have been a solid and steady hand in Amarillo. He well might be what they need in San Marcos to run that community’s city hall now that Jared Miller has trekked northwest to Amarillo.

It would be poetic, yes?

No time for delay on MPEV

I remain a strong supporter of Amarillo’s efforts to reshape its downtown district.

That strategy took a giant leap forward this week with the announcement that organized minor-league baseball is returning to Amarillo. The San Antonio Missions are moving their AA franchise to Amarillo and they intend to play their Texas League hardball schedule in the brand new multipurpose event venue.

The return of organized/affiliated minor-league baseball fills a 37-year void. I’ve heard a lot of cheers around the city since the announcement was made. I share the enthusiasm not only for the baseball team’s pending arrival, but for what it bodes for downtown’s future as the community keeps moving its revival forward.

Here’s the thing, though, that gives me a minor case of heartburn: The team will play ball beginning in April 2019, when the season starts.

I ventured downtown today for a noon meeting and drove past the still-vacant lot across Seventh Avenue where the MPEV will be built. There’s nothing going on there.

The ballpark will have to be built, polished up and ready to go in less than two years.

What that means to me is that there is no time to fiddle around here. No time for dawdling. No time for delay.

We’ve all witnessed major construction projects get hung up along the way. Contractors have trouble with certain subcontractors; the weather can play havoc on construction schedules; shipments of material get hung up along the way.

The MPEV is set to cost around $45.5 million. Hotel occupancy tax revenue is supposed to fund most of it. I have faith that the funding mechanism has been well-considered. I also have faith that the Panhandle’s baseball-loving community is going to fill the estimated 4,500 ballpark seats to watch their new team play hardball.

I will be waiting with bated breath for the design to be finalized and for work to begin. Don’t make us wait too long, though.

The clock is ticking.

Who in the world can trust POTUS?

Donald J. Trump’s obsession with Twitter is diminishing his standing around the world, or so it would appear.

I keep circling back to a question: How do world leaders trust anything the president of the United States tells them when he continues to tweet ridiculous messages?

Take these instances involving Trump and his tweets:

* He said former President Barack Obama ordered the wiretapping of his campaign office. That was false.

* The president said Hillary Rodham Clinton’s popular vote margin “victory” in the 2016 election was because of “millions” of illegal immigrants voting for her. Another falsehood.

* He says Germany is making “too many cars” and selling them to Americans.

* Trump ripped into London’s mayor after the Manchester shooting by misquoting what the mayor said about the threat of international terrorists.

I am missing many more examples just since Trump became president, but you get the idea.

The man cannot control his impulses. He fires off these tweets and then changes the subject. He meets in private with world leaders and then blabs his brains out about them.

The president’s Republican allies in Congress, though, give him a pass. House Speaker Paul Ryan blithely states that Trump is “new at this,” meaning he’s “new” at governing, new at understanding the limits of presidential power.

The world is a volatile place, which I am sure the president understands. What I do not get is why he cannot control himself. I’m pretty sure we’ve got leaders all around the planet who are wondering the same thing.

No tapes, just intimidation?

What are we to surmise from Donald John Trump’s admission that he didn’t record conversations with former FBI Director James Comey?

Here is what I want to draw from it.

It is that the president tried to bully and intimidate the former FBI boss who he fired over the “Russia thing,” meaning the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged connection with Russian government hackers.

The bigger question is whether the intimidation constitutes an obstruction of justice by the president of the United States. Special counsel .Robert Mueller is looking into it; he’s hiring a team of lawyers to assist him in this probe.

Trump’s initial tweet about whether Comey should “hope” no tapes exist tells us plenty about the president’s state of, um, mind. The tweet certainly implied there might be some recording. Now the president has admitted that he didn’t do it, but left open the possibility that a third party recorded the conversation.

Oh … please!

The president is a bully, a phony, a bluffer and a serial liar.

None of it constitutes grounds for removal from office by itself. It does make me wonder, yet again, how this guy got elected president in the first place.

Can’t get past the ACA repeal process

As I look over the outlines of the congressional Republicans’ effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, I see precisely one element that’s worth supporting.

That would be the end of the “individual mandate” that requires all Americans to have health insurance or else face a federal penalty. That particular part of the ACA has bothered me from the get-go.

The rest of it? I cannot accept what the GOP has tried to do — in secret, with no Democratic input, no public testimony (other than the angry rhetoric members of Congress have heard at town hall meetings across the country).

This is star chamber legislation, despite what Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell today said to the contrary.

***

Which brings me to my major point.

The process stinks to high heaven. Yes, it stinks even more than the way the ACA came into being, which wasn’t ideal, either. Still, the Democrats who ran Congress in 2009 at least were able to solicit public commentary while seeking in vain for contributions from their Republican colleagues in crafting the legislation.

Now we hear from former President Obama, who today weighed in with his scathing critique via Facebook. “Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm,” Obama wrote. “And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.”

The Hill story on Obama post is here.

Why is it mean? It gives tax breaks to the wealthy; it rolls back Medicaid insurance for poor Americans; it wipes out federal money for Planned Parenthood, a major contributor of health services to women.

The Senate version of this new measure resembles the House version. The House managed to approve it with a 217-213 vote. Today, four conservative GOP senators said they can’t support the Senate version, which — if they hold their ground — dooms the measure.

McConnell is going to tempt them with goodies and other amendments. We’ll have to wait for whatever rabbit McConnell pulls out of his hat.

If the end justifies the means by which congressional Republicans have cobbled this legislation together, then we’re witnessing an exercise in political cynicism at its worst. The GOP aim — to my way of thinking — has been solely to strip Barack Obama’s legacy of this landmark law.

Let’s all wait now for the Congressional Budget Office — the famously non-partisan auditing agency — to “score” this latest GOP monstrosity. If the numbers show what previous CBO analyses have revealed — that millions of Americans will lose their health insurance — then we’ll get to listen to GOP lawmakers criticize the CBO for being too, oh, dire or negative.

The dance, then, will continue.

No WH tapes? Well, who knew?

Donald J. Trump campaigned for president claiming he wasn’t a “politician.” However, he’s developed the art of the standard politician’s dodge.

He implies something, then takes it back and then suggests someone else might be responsible for what he referred to in the first place.

The president today tweeted a statement that said he did not tape any conversations with former FBI Director James Comey just prior to firing him. That settles it, yes?

I guess so.

Except that now he suggests that a third party might have taped conversations he and Comey allegedly had about whether the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign over that infamous “Russia thing.”

This past month, Trump tweeted something that stated Comey “had better hope” no one had recorded the meetings. The implication seemed clear: Trump might have done so himself. Today he said he didn’t.

Then he added this morsel via Twitter: “With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are ‘tapes’ or recordings of my conversations with James Comey,” he tweeted.

Good ever-lovin’ grief, man. He is the president of the United States of America. He has at his disposal every possible resource to know with absolute certainty who could have done such a thing within the confines of the White House, if not the bleeping Oval Office itself.

This clown continues to play games with the system and, most of all, with the people he purports to represent as their president.

Read The Hill’s report of the president’s disclosure here.

That’s some good shootin’, eh?

There might be no greater example of the difference in battlefield strategy between our side and the Islamic State than a story I’ve just read.

A Canadian special forces soldier fired a high-powered rifle shot at an ISIS fighter and killed him — from a distance of two miles! The kill shot reportedly set some form of record for long-distance sniper fire.

The 3,450-meter shot took 10 seconds to hit its target after being fired from the weapon. The soldier was perched atop a high-rise structure when the incident occurred over the past 30 days.

Wow, man!

I love this quote from a Task Force 2 spokesman: “Instead of dropping a bomb that could potentially kill civilians in the area, it is a very precise application of force and because it was so far way, the bad guys didn’t have a clue what was happening.”

Therein lies the difference between the good guys and the bad guys. ISIS, al-Qaeda, Taliban and other terrorist organizations target civilians. They intend to inflict mass casualties on so-called “soft targets.” The approach taken by U.S. and allied forces in return is to seek to minimize such collateral damage.

In the case of this Canadian sniper, well, he did his job with extreme precision — not to mention extreme prejudice.

Read the USA Today story here.

According to the newspaper: “Canada has a world-class sniper system,” the source told the paper. “It is not just a sniper. They work in pairs. … This is a skill set that only a very few people have.”
They also have to account for wind speed and the increasing downward motion of the bullet as it loses speed over such a long distance.

Count me as one who is glad to know these guys are on our side in this fight.

13 men writing major legislation — affecting women

There’s a certain sense of astonishment at this bit of news.

Thirteen members of the U.S. Senate have written a draft of a bill that affects one-sixth of the nation’s gross domestic product.

They’re all Republicans; no Democrats are allowed.

They’re all men.

And here’s the astonishing part of it: The draft legislation seeks to eliminate all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, a leading provider of health care services for women.

Where are the women of the Senate? Why are none of them working on this bill?

It’s like the Senate has become a boys’ club. I am now waiting for the sign on the conference room door that tells us “No girls allowed.”

This is how you produce legislation affecting such a huge portion of the national economy? This is how the Senate Republican leadership is developing a bill that seeks to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

It’s un-democratic. It’s un-American.

If you’re going to craft legislation that has a tangible impact on more than half of the nation’s population, it should be incumbent on lawmakers to include members of that demographic — the women of this nation — in putting it together.