Louisville renames airport after hometown legend

While we are wringing our hands over the shuttering of our government and other matters involving the president of the United States and our Congress . . . we now have some news to cheer.

Louisville, Ky., airport authority officials have voted to rename their city’s international airport after a man who became arguably the most famous person on Earth.

Welcome to Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport.

The three-time heavyweight boxing champion would have turned 77 years of age. On the eve of that birthday, the Louisville Regional Airport Authority board announced the name change. It honors the memory of Ali, who died in 2016 at the age of 74.

This news cheers me greatly.

“Muhammad Ali belonged to the world, but he had only one hometown, and fortunately, that is our great city of Louisville,” said Mayor Greg Fischer.

Man, oh man. What a world we live in.

Back when he was still known as Cassius Marcellus Clay, the man who grew to become a living legend faced outright discrimination simply because of the color of his skin. His fists led him to great heights after winning an Olympic gold medal in boxing. He won the heavyweight title in 1964, scoring a huge upset over Sonny Liston. Then he had his title stripped from him after he refused to be drafted into the Army in protest of the Vietnam War. He was banned from boxing for more than three years. Ali came back and then won his title again in 1974 by knocking out George Foreman. He lost it once more, then regained it with a victory over Leon Spinks.

He spoke brashly as a young man. Then he became a voice for the dispossessed as an older man. Ali fought for his rights as a U.S. citizen. Then, while stricken with Parkinson’s disease after his retirement from boxing, The Champ became an advocate for those suffering from debilitating illness.

Now his hometown’s international airport will carry The Greatest’s name. It makes me want to buy a plane ticket simply to fly into Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport.

Is pressure mounting for POTUS to cave on shutdown?

Sitting as I am out here in the middle of Trump Country, I am in no position to state with absolute knowledge about what happens in Washington, D.C.

Still, I cannot stop thinking that pressure may be building to some sort of spontaneous combustion concerning this partial government shutdown.

Eight hundred thousand federal employees are without paychecks. They are starting to rumble. They are demonstrating. They are demanding action by the president and Congress. The speaker of the House has pulled back her invitation to the president to deliver his State of the Union speech in the House of Representatives, citing security concerns created by the government shutdown.

The president has ordered some federal employees back to work, but without pay! That order well might be unlawful, which could prompt yet another lawsuit against the president.

Donald Trump wants to build The Wall along our southern border. He wants to spend about $5.7 billion for The Wall. Congressional Democrats are resisting him. Trump said he would take responsibility for shutting down the government; then it happened, but now Trump is blaming Democrats for the shutdown.

It’s not going well for Donald Trump. There might be some weakening of his position, even though he’s still talking tough.

The government needs to reopen. Those hundreds of thousands of employees need their income restored. Yes, we need to negotiate some form of enhanced border security.

Is there a semblance of humanity and common sense to be found anywhere in Washington? If so, then it needs to present itself, the government needs to return to full functionality and both sides need to actually talk to each other about how they can find some common ground.

That is how you govern.

The Woman of the House shows her mettle

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has laid it on the line to the president of the United States.

Donald Trump is no longer invited to speak before the U.S. House of Representatives to deliver his State of the Union speech.

She wrote the president a note telling him of her concerns over “security,” given the government shutdown and how the furloughing of critical security personnel makes it impossible for Congress to protect the president, the vice president, the full congressional membership, the Supreme Court, the Cabinet, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the diplomatic corps.

So, her message to the president? Deliver the SOTU speech in writing, as other presidents have done. That’s if he is wedded to the Jan. 29 date scheduled for his in-person, live TV speech.

Pelosi wants the government reopened fully before the president speaks to a joint congressional session.

Thus, she is demonstrating — as if the president needed any proof of it — that she is the Woman of the House and that Donald Trump has met his match.

Now let’s find this youngster’s killer

The harsh and heartbreaking truth has been revealed to a rural Texas Panhandle community.

One of its sons, Thomas Brown — missing since November 2016 — is dead. Someone found his remains near Canadian in Hemphill County. Forensics experts were able to determine the identity of those remains.

The family is grieving. As is the community that Thomas called home.

No one likely is able to dictate to the authorities on what to do next, but I am going to use this blog to make a specific request of them.

The Department of Public Safety and the Texas Rangers, along with Hemphill County and Canadian police must spare no effort or expense in finding out what happened to this youngster.

Thomas’s mother said all she wants are prayers. I’ll accept that, but that’s not all she needs. She and the rest of Thomas’s family need to know what happened to him. They need complete and unequivocal closure.

They never will get over this tragedy completely. They can come a good bit closer to it than they are at this moment with a thorough and intense investigation into the fate that befell the teenager.

This case is extraordinary given the amount of time Thomas was listed as “missing.” The family no doubt held out some glimmer of hope that he would return alive. I have some intimate knowledge of that, inasmuch as a close member of my family once was listed as “missing” for a mere eight days before police found his remains.

The Texas Rangers are the elite investigative arm of the DPS. These folks are very good at what they do. Whatever it takes, they need to look for as long as they have any semblance of hope of determining what happened to this young man.

Moreover, they need to determine who inflicted this terrible misery on a Texas Panhandle family and community.

William Barr: Trump’s newest ‘grownup’

William Pelham Barr has emerged — in my mind, at least — as Donald Trump’s latest “only grownup” in his administration.

Now that former Defense Secretary James Mattis has exited the Trump administration, it now falls on the attorney general-designate to assume the role of grownup.

Based on what I have heard during two days of testimony before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Barr might be ready to step into that key role.

Barr would take over a Justice Department that supervises the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is examining whether Donald Trump’s presidential campaign “colluded” with Russians who interfered in our 2016 election.

Barr has hit several pitches out of the park. He vows to let Mueller complete his probe without interference; he pledges that he would not follow an unlawful order from the president; he stands by Mueller — with whom he has been friends for 30 years — as man of impeccable integrity; he says Mueller is not engaged in a “witch hunt”; he says he won’t be “bullied” by the president of the United States.

OK, with all that said, Barr did whiff on at least one pitch from the Senate Judiciary Committee. He won’t mess with laws governing whether a president can be indicted. Nor did he promise to make the Mueller report public, which I believe is imperative, given the public expense of the investigation.

In the grand scheme, I believe Barr should be recommended for confirmation by the Judiciary panel and the full Senate should confirm him. He won’t get the unanimous confirmation he got when he served as AG during the George H.W. Bush administration from 1991 to 1993. It’s a different era now. A different type of president has taken office and he has upset almost every single element of what we used to call “normal” in American politics.

Trump fired Jeff Sessions as AG only because Sessions recused himself from the Russia matter. Sessions did what he had to do under DOJ rules of ethics. There could no way for him to lead an investigation into a presidential campaign in which he played a key role as a national security adviser. So he backed out, enraging Trump.

Barr promises he won’t be bullied by the president. I hope he stands firm on that. He no doubt knows what he is getting into by accepting this job as attorney general.

Which to my mind makes him a serious grownup in an administration that is sorely lacking in them.

Let’s await Mueller report — and accept whatever it reveals

I have spent a lot of time, energy and emotional capital expounding on the virtues of special counsel Robert Mueller.

He’s a man of impeccable integrity. He is a meticulous prosecutor. Mueller once led the FBI. He has served under Republican and Democratic administrations. He is a former Marine and Vietnam War combat veteran.

Those of you who read this blog understand my feelings about Mueller.

That all said, I want to gird us all for the possibility — even though it might seem remote — that when Mueller finishes his investigation into alleged “collusion” between the Donald Trump presidential campaign and Russian operatives — he might come up empty. Mueller’s report might prove to be a serious anti-climax.

I fully intend to accept whatever conclusion Mueller reaches.

Do I want him to come up empty? No. I do not. I believe he has pored through a mountain of evidence of wrong-doing. There might be an absence of criminal activity. There even might be a lack of evidence that the president has committed an impeachable offense.

The way I look at it, if we’re going to stand by the special counsel’s integrity and his character, then we should stand by him even if he doesn’t deliver what many of us think he might — let alone should — deliver to curious Americans.

To be sure, Donald Trump’s supporters already have slung epithets at Mueller. Led by the president himself, they contend he is on a “witch hunt.” That he has surrounded himself with “Hillary-loving Democrats.” That he has found “no evidence of collusion.” Therefore, it appears that if Mueller does produce a damning report that they will shout “rigged!” and “phony hoax!” from the highest rooftops they can find.

I am hoping that those of us on the other side will refrain from that kind of sour-grape bitching if Mueller produces nothing at the end of this investigation.

To that end, I hereby declare my intention to accept whatever Mueller concludes, even if it fails to satisfy what I had hoped would be a different ending. If we believe that Robert Mueller is a stand-up man, then we need to stand by that belief.

‘ISIS has been defeated’

Vice President Mike Pence made a startling declaration just today, only hours after terrorists detonated a bomb in Syria.

He said the Islamic State “has been defeated.” Really, Mr. Vice President?

ISIS took responsibility for the bomb blast that killed several people, including at least one American. Pence, though, doubled down on Donald Trump’s decision to bring our troops home, out of Syria, after declaring too that ISIS has been defeated.

Today’s bomb blast demonstrates quite clearly that ISIS remains a threat.

Yet the president and vice president continue to foment a blatant lie about the fate of our sworn enemy.

Astounding!

SOTU delay might serve Trump’s best interests

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has made a perfectly reasonable offer to Donald J. Trump: The president should delay his State of the Union speech until after the federal government reopens fully.

No word yet on whether the president will accept Pelosi’s request.

Why is it in Trump’s best interest?

Consider the following:

Democrats and Republicans are locked in a death match over The Wall. Trump wants it built. Democrats oppose it. The deadlock has produced the partial government shutdown that Trump once said he would be “proud” to own. The State of the Union speech is designed to give the president to declare whether the Union’s strength is strong, weak or somewhere in between.

Trump surely is inclined to declare that the SOTU is “strong.” Were he to do so, he would become the butt of jokes throughout the nation, if not the world.

Accordingly, perhaps the speaker has Trump’s best interests at heart by requesting a delay. I don’t know, obviously, what fueled the request. If you think about it, though, I find it a way out of the president exposing himself to national or international ridicule.

The speaker’s letter to the president talks about security concerns related to the shutdown. That’s legit, too.

The back story might lie more as a PR move. There’s no requirement that Trump deliver his SOTU speech on Jan. 29 as planned. He could do so in writing, as Pelosi has suggested.

He might do well to take Pelosi’s offer. Put the speech off until he can report that the State of the Union is in better shape than it is at the moment.

Check out Pelosi’s letterĀ here.

I call this ‘devotion to duty’

This picture says it all for me. It is not a statue. It is a living, breathing U.S. Army soldier. He is standing guard at the Tomb of the Unknown at Arlington National Cemetery.

Yep, it is snowing. It is bitterly cold. But there he is, along with the rest of the garrison assigned to stand watch over one of our nation’s most sacred memorials.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott posted this picture on Facebook. I share it here to join the governor in saluting these men — indeed, the rest of our military force. “God bless our military,” Gov. Abbott said.

One more quick point: These men are assigned to perform this intensely precise duty in addition to their regular duties while stationed with the 3rd Army Infantry Regiment at Fort Myer, Va. They do not perform this duty exclusively. Their infantry unit is required to maintain its fitness for combat duty in the event that they would get such an order from the commander in chief.

They stand their watch at the Tomb of the Unknown — no matter what!

Barr faces different Congress in a different era

William Pelham Barr surely knows that he is stepping onto political terrain that is a universe apart from where he once ventured.

President George H.W. Bush nominated him to be attorney general in 1991 and he sailed through confirmation, being approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee and by the full Senate.

Another president, named Donald Trump, has selected him for the top justice job once again. Will he sail effortlessly to confirmation? Nope. It won’t happen.

This is a different time. We have a different type of man in the Oval Office. The climate in Washington is far more toxic than it was when the AG-designate strode upon the national scene back in the old days.

The government is partially shut down. Questions are swirling all around the president. The previous attorney general, Jeff Sessions, got fired because he acted ethically by recusing himself from an investigation into a circumstance in which he was a principal player; he then incurred the president’s wrath for standing up for the rule of law and for DOJ ethics policies.

William Barr is facing tough questioning from Senate committee Democrats. He is handling himself well and I happen to believe he should be confirmed as attorney general, largely because he is now on record as committing himself to ensuring that a key investigation into Trump’s campaign is completed fully and without political pressure or interference.

Yes, there is plenty to concern Americans. I would prefer that Barr commit to letting the public view special counsel Robert Mueller’s report when he issues it. However, he has stated that Mueller — whom he has known for 30 years — is not engaging in a “witch hunt” and has expressed confidence in the integrity of his probe.

And . . . he has told senators that he won’t allow the president to bully him the way he did Jeff Sessions.

This confirmation process is going to be a lot tougher for William Barr than it was the first time. It’s merely a symptom of the era into which we entered upon the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States.