All posts by kanelis2012

Declaration of war? Not even close, Mr. Foreign Minister

A statement by North Korea’s foreign minister might have gotten muddled in the translation, but I feel the need to set the record straight for this fellow.

Ri Yong Ho has accused Donald J. Trump of “declaring war” on North Korea with his threats of using military force if the North Koreans continue to threaten the United States and our allies.

According to Reuters: “The whole world should clearly remember it was the U.S. who first declared war on our country,” Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told reporters in New York.

Let’s step back here.

I believe Ri needs a quickie lesson on U.S. government civics.

The president of the United States cannot “declare war” on anyone. A declaration of war in this country is a multi-step process, Mr. Foreign Minister — which is something that is alien to you and your dictator/despot Kim Jong Un.

The president prepares a declaration document, which he then presents to our Congress. He then requests the legislative branch of government to issue a declaration. The last time we did that was on Dec. 8, 1941, the day after Japan attacked our naval and Army air forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Congress voted virtually unanimously to declare war; by the way, U.S. Rep. Jeannette Rankin of Montana voted “no,” just as she had done when Congress declared war against Germany during World War I. Foreign Minister Ri also should know that Rep. Rankin wasn’t jailed — either time — for her principled votes.

Do I agree with Donald Trump’s bluster and bellicosity with regard to North Korea? No. He’s risking — with his taunts and childish name-calling — the potential for provoking Kim into doing something stupid in the extreme.

But he didn’t “declare war.” That’s not how we do it in this country. Our founders established a system that limited the president’s power to issue such a declaration. He’s got to ask for it from the legislative branch of government.

There. Lesson over.

That’s how you ‘unify’ a nation, Mr. President?

My goodness, Donald Trump. When are you going to get it?

You’ve been handed yet another opportunity to say the right thing. To offer a soothing word of assurance. To tell those who are protesting U.S. government policies toward an important segment of our population that you hear them, that you will work to assuage their concerns.

So, what do you do?

You suggest that National Football League owners and football execs should fire the “sons of b******” who refuse to stand during the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the start of games. Then the NBA champion Golden State Warriors said they oppose your view on the kneeling issue. Your response to them was Classic Trump when you disinvited them to the White House for a ceremony honoring their accomplishment.

You, Mr. President — the Leader of the Free World and head of state of the greatest country on Earth — have used your high, exalted office to score points with your political base. You have inflamed emotions on both sides of this issue.

Have you forgotten, sir, how you pledged to “unify” the nation once you took office? Or how you intended to be president for all Americans? Or how you would spend your waking moments working to “make America great again”?

I know the answer to that. You haven’t forgotten any of that. In my view, they were empty platitudes. You didn’t mean a word of it when you made those pledges.

I am left to wonder out loud, Mr. President: Do you have any idea what you are doing? Do you have a clue about what this high office to which you were elected entails?

You have managed yet again to make an absolute hash of a situation that has spiraled out of control partly because of your divisive, fiery rhetoric that is precisely the wrong thing to provide at a time when we need words of calm assurance.

One of the unwritten rules of your high office means you are obligated to be the voice of reason during difficult circumstances. As you have demonstrated time and time again since taking office, sir, you are failing this test.

I am left, then, to ask yet again: When are you going to get it? Ever?

PBS ‘Vietnam War’ episode misses a key element

I remain utterly transfixed by the Ken Burn-Lynn Novick documentary series “The Vietnam War.”

It contains some of the most compelling television I’ve ever witnessed and I am so proud of PBS for its longstanding commitment to this type of educational broadcasting.

Having tossed out that bouquet, I want to offer this barb at what I witnessed tonight.

The series tonight focused on the Tet Offensive, which the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese launched against dozens of South Vietnamese cities on Jan. 31, 1968. “The Vietnam War” rightly points out that Tet likely was the political turning point, the singular event that turned American public opinion solidly against that bloody conflict.

Tet also produced what arguably was the most singularly graphic moment in that war. It was the photo of Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan’s summary execution of a Viet Cong suspect.

Loan was head of South Vietnam’s police department when he found the suspect and shot him dead on a Saigon street. The picture would earn a Pulitzer Prize for Associated Press photographer Eddie Adams. It also would deliver a lifetime of misery for Gen. Loan, who was vilified because reporting of the incident at the time failed to the tell the whole story.

I wish the Burns-Novick documentary would have told us tonight about the media’s role in demonizing Loan.

You see, Loan shot the man dead because the suspect had been part of a VC hit squad that killed a colleague of the general — and his wife and six children. Loan knew about what had happened to his friend and his family. His men arrested the suspect. Loan ordered one of his officers to shoot the suspect; the officer balked.

So, Loan took out his pistol and shot the man in the head.

Nguyen Ngoc Loan had snapped. He proved to be a human being subject to human emotion,

“The Vietnam War” didn’t tell the whole story tonight, nor did it explain why — because of the lack of full reporting in the moment — that picture came to symbolize the absolute horror of war.

However, by golly, I am going to watch the rest of this utterly spell-binding television event.

I am hooked.

NASCAR owners weigh in on anthem controversy

This might be the least surprising development imaginable in the festering controversy over athletes refusing to stand when they hear “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Some key NASCAR heavyweight owners have issued fair warning to their crew members — including drivers — who don’t stand when they play the National Anthem at the start of each automobile race.

You stand or you will get fired! Got it? Good!

This issue has become a serious talking point ever since former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick started a protest this past season by kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem. Kaepernick said he was protesting treatment of African-Americans.

It’s gotten a lot bigger this season. The president of the United States has weighed in, suggesting NFL owners should fire the “sons of b******” who refuse to stand during the Anthem. The NBA champion Golden State Warriors were disinvited to the White House because some of their star players have expressed support for the sideline demonstrations.

The protests are being led by mostly African-American athletes. NASCAR, of course, comes from a different environment altogether. It’s rooted in the Southern culture. Its fan base is overwhelmingly white. As are its drivers, owners and associated crew members.

The different approach to this National Anthem protest business is on stark display. As The Sporting News reported: Hall of Fame driver Richard Petty and current team owner of the No. 43 Cup Series team of Aric Almirola agrees with Trump.

“Anybody that don’t stand up for the anthem oughta be out of the country. Period. What got ’em where they’re at? The United States,” Petty said, adding that any protester within his organization would be fired. 

We live in a tremendously diverse country. Its diversity is being played out right before our eyes as we prepare to watch sporting events — and see how athletes of all stripes react to the sound of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Happy Trails, Part 44

A big moment is approaching rather rapidly for my wife and me as we progress farther into our retirement journey.

We’re getting close to pulling the plug on our landline, our home telephone.

Is this a big deal? It is! For me.

You see, I once declared my mission in life was to be the last man on Earth to own a cellular telephone. I resisted purchasing one for as long as I could.

Then I declared victory and purchased a cell phone. I haven’t been without it ever since. My wife has one, too. We have different phone numbers.

But we’ve kept our landline, or as we used to call it in the Army, our “Lima Lima.” 

We’re preparing to move eventually to the Metroplex. We still have some work to do before that day arrives, but the to-do list is shrinking.

When we vacate our house, hopefully soon, we’ll notify our telephone provider that we no longer will need the number. We’re going to rely exclusively on our cell phones.

I am well aware that for many folks and readers of this blog, that is no big deal. Our sons are landline-free. Many other younger members of our family are, too. We have friends who are roughly our age who’ve made the leap. They’re happy with it.

I reckon I’ll be just fine, too, when that day arrives. But still …

I grew up with landlines. They’ve been an integral part of my life. I actually can remember every single phone number I’ve ever had dating back to the house where I lived beginning in 1953. I know. It’s  a sickness that needs a cure.

The advantages of cell phone use are well known. You take the number with you wherever you go. We intend to be on the road a good deal in the years ahead. I’ve mentioned already about intention to visit as much of North America as we can before we’re no longer able to do so.

However, we cannot be without our phones. Thus, the cell phone becomes our singular mode of communication.

Sigh. Wish me luck, please, as we prepare for this big step. I’ve noted to friends and family that everyone should have one big challenge awaiting them before they check out. Ours is coming up quickly. It involves pulling the plug on our landline.

I’ll keep you posted.

Sen. Seliger gets needed challenge

I used to drive former state Rep. David Swinford borderline batty with my occasional columns about the need for incumbents to get challenged at every election cycle.

My argument always has been that political incumbents at every level need to defend their record against legitimate challengers to their incumbency. The Dumas (Texas) Republican legislator understood that argument … but he still would express some mild (and good-natured) displeasure at my stating it.

One of Swinford’s colleagues — Republican state Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo — is getting a serious challenge again this coming year. Regular readers of this blog know that I want Seliger to win his party’s nomination, which is tantamount to election in the GOP-friendly Texas Panhandle.

But he’s going to have to work for it. Which I consider to be good (a) for the incumbent and (b) for the cause of good government.

Former Midland Mayor Mike Canon is stepping up once more to challenge Seliger. The two of them faced off in 2014. The race was close, but Seliger emerged victorious. This year, Amarillo business owner Victor Leal has joined the Republican primary lineup.

The quality of Leal’s candidacy remains to be seen. Canon’s approach four years ago was to talk in TEA Party clichés, talking points and platitudes. He still garnered a lot of votes.

That’s all OK, though.

Seliger has served the sprawling Texas Senate District 31 he has represented since 2004 quite well, in my estimation. That doesn’t mean he should get a free pass.

Representative democracy demands a stout challenge when the opportunity presents itself. It’s doing so in this legislative contest.

Whoever emerges victorious in this primary fight — and I do hope it’s Seliger — figures to be tempered by the difficult campaign he will have endured. That’s good for state government.

No good news in media? Whoa! Hold on here!

Every now and then I feel the need to rise the defense of my former media colleagues who get pilloried unfairly for the way they report the news.

Today provided me that opportunity. It was in a fascinating venue, to say the least.

Our Sunday school class broke into small-group discussions this morning. We had watched a video that talked about extending blessings and expressing gratitude.

Then one of our table mates asserted that “you never hear” good news in the media. Our friend indicated that the media are concerned only about bad news, about negativity, about tragedy and sadness.

“I have to respectfully disagree with you,” I said.

The context of the gentleman’s assertion was the Hurricane Harvey recovery effort and he sought to make a point that the media don’t report on all the effort being made to help the victims fight back from the misery brought to them by the killer storm.

I couldn’t restrain myself. I noted that the media have reported time and time again about the positive aspects of the storm recovery. How did the public know, for example, about the hundreds of relief volunteers lining up at storm shelters in Houston and along the Gulf Coast? The media reported it!

That’s just one example.

My wife noted correctly media consumers aren’t likely to be drawn to be positive news, but they certainly are drawn to negative coverage. It’s the nature of the proverbial beast.

I spent nearly four decades working in the media. I have challenged readers of the newspapers where I worked who have complained to me about “all the negative news” in the paper to look through any edition of the paper and count the stories that have positive spins and those with negative spins. I’ve always believed they would be surprised to learn that the paper contained many more positive stories than negative ones.

In this Internet Age, one can find links to news organizations’ home pages that guide readers to “positive news.” My wife wondered this morning, “I wonder how many readers actually open those links and read those stories.”

On a whole array of issues covering the complete landscape of reportage, the media continue to do their job with professionalism, compassion and dedication. Do all media representatives live up to that standard? No, but you can find bad actors in every single profession or craft in this country or around the world!

I would argue that the media’s focus on negative vs. positive news isn’t necessarily the issue. The question ought to be asked of the public that consumes this information.

‘Big, beautiful wall’ now becomes ‘see-through’?

For as long as Donald J. Trump has been in politics, he has spoken forcefully — if not always eloquently — about his desire to build a “big, beautiful wall” across our nation’s border with Mexico.

Now he’s saying something, um, quite different — and strange!

The president ventured to Alabama and declared that the wall is going to be a “see-through” structure.

Which begs the question: What in the name of erecting roadblocks is he talking about?

I keep thinking that Trump is considering some sort of Plexiglas structure. Clear plastic. We can look at the other side and see who’s trying to sneak in. Is that what he means?

Trump comments on wall outlined

What does this argument do to the president’s assertion that he’d build a wall as high and as deep as possible into the ground to prevent illegal immigrants from coming across the border?

Then we have this ridiculous assertion that Mexico is going to pay for the wall. Uh, Mr. President? You cannot force a sovereign government to do your bidding unless you have some rather drastic and hideous option in mind — such as invading that country and overthrowing its government. You know and I know that won’t happen. So, what’s the deal with this insistence that Mexico is going to foot the bill?

The wall is, to quote the president, a “loser.” It won’t protect us. It won’t keep drugs from coming into this country. It won’t stop truly bad guys from sneaking in.

For the life of me I cannot understand why we simply cannot beef up existing security procedures to curb what the president describes as a crisis along our southern border. I’m all in favor of cracking down on illegal immigration. But … build a wall — even a see-through structure?

The president is operating in Fantasyland.

Hey, Mr. POTUS, McCain just doesn’t get scared

I have this hunch that John McCain isn’t one bit intimidated by the commander in chief, the head of state of the greatest nation on Earth.

The Arizona Republican senator has just announced his opposition to the latest Senate GOP effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He has enraged Donald Trump. The president has responded with his usual rant about McCain being disloyal to the Republican Party and to the president.

I’m going to give Sen. McCain all the respect in the world.

He said he cannot “in good conscience” support the ACA repeal effort. His stated opposition is steeped mostly in the bum’s rush process that has pushed this legislation forward. The GOP did it once again with no help from Democrats. McCain has called for a return to “regular order.” Senate Republicans ignored one of their own.

But you see, McCain is the midst of quite an important battle that has not a damn thing to do with politics. He is fighting for his life. McCain has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer. He is undergoing some therapy to battle the disease. But he’s back at work. He is standing up for himself, for his constituents in Arizona and against the president.

You know, of course, about McCain’s other big struggle that has nothing to do with politics. He was a Navy pilot in 1967 when he got shot down over Hanoi, North Vietnam. He was taken prisoner. He was beaten incessantly and suffered many other forms of physical and emotional torture for more than five years.

Does anyone in this country really believe that this war hero is going to be intimidated by a politician? Moreover, does anyone further believe that this man — who’s currently engaged in the fight of his life — is going to be cowed by threats over a decision he has made regarding a mere public policy initiative?

I have not always been a fan of Sen. McCain. I did not vote for him in 2008 when he ran for president against Barack H. Obama. I haven’t always liked the tone he has taken in criticizing his former presidential campaign foe.

However, I’ve never lost respect for the life he has lived and the service he has given to this country. Nor have I ever stopped respecting the extreme hardship he has endured while serving the country he loves so much.

He has stood up to the head of his political party, the president of the United States. Sen. McCain is setting an example of leadership.

Count me now as one of this man’s biggest fans.

Meet one of POTUS’s ‘worst nightmares’

The list of Donald J. Trump’s “worst nightmares” seems to keep growing.

You have Robert Mueller, Stephen Bannon, James Comey, Sean Spicer, Michael Flynn and perhaps Don Trump Jr. standing by to give the Big Man a serious case of heartburn.

Walter Shaub is no slouch in the “worst nightmare” department, though. The former head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, took part in a Texas Tribune discussion to talk about government ethics, which in Shaub’s mind is no oxymoron.

He quit his job at OGE out of frustration dealing with the Trump administration.

As the Tribune reports: The last straw for Shaub, who is now with an organization called the Campaign Legal Center, was having to fight for a month to get basic ethics records that did not even turn out to be useful.

In general, Shaub said, Trump’s actions represent a “significant departure” from “ethical norms.” He added that it will be on the next president to repair the damage that’s been done.

“I put up as good of a fight as I could,” said Schaub, who resigned in July.

I continue to believe that the president’s lack of understanding of government has contributed to the ethical morass he has helped create. Trump’s business background simply is not well-suited to adapt to the complexities associated with service in the massive federal government.

Another panelist at the Tribune event, Richard Painter, former ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, also has been a harsh critic of Trump. According to the Tribune: “People voted for Donald Trump to be a president … not to be a king,” he said. “He’s gotta respect the Constitution or he’s not gonna keep his job.”

There might lie the greatest problem facing Trump as he seeks to shake loose from the crises that are gripping his administration. He doesn’t know — or seemingly want to know — how the Constitution works, how it limits his power and how it sets forth “checks and balances” on presidential overreach.

One such overreach might involve Mueller, the special counsel assigned to investigate the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to the Russian government. As the Tribune reports: “The biggest threat we’re facing is any threat to Bob Mueller being fired,” Shaub said. Should that happen, Shaub said he would take to the streets and that others should too.

Ethics, Mr. President, really do matter. They matter a great deal. Just listen — for once, sir — to these fellows. They know of which they speak.