All posts by kanelis2012

Now they’re calling it ‘Gulpgate’

Poor Mark Rubio. He’s being ridiculed for the silliest of reasons.

Then again, are they so silly?

The Florida Republican senator was asked to give the GOP’s response to President Obama’s State of the Union speech Tuesday night. In the middle of his speech, he was hit with a touch of cotton mouth. He looked for the water bottle and had to reach way beyond his grasp to grab it; the then took a quite audible gulp of water on national TV.

Many in the media have taken shots at Rubio, who has been hailed by Time magazine with a cover story that calls him the savior of the Republican Party. His status in that regard will be determined in due course.

But one awkward moment in front of millions of Americans is not a deal-breaker.

It is, however, the stuff of lessons to be learned. Rubio’s only been in the national stage since 2011, when he took his Senate seat and became an immediate media star. That’s what makes the Gulpgate moment so funny. Politicians routinely get dry mouths when the lights shine brightly. It’s wise, therefore, to have the water handy, where one can grab it without slipping off the TV screen.

Rubio won’t get caught ever again, I’m quite sure, making that kind of clumsy grab on national television. In this media age, stagecraft does matter. The young senator will have to learn it if he aspires to even higher office.

Cruz puts on shameful sideshow

Sen. Ted Cruz wants to know what about Chuck Hagel? He wants the former Nebraska senator to account for his personal income before becoming the next secretary of defense?

I believe that’s what the Texas Republican – who’s been in the Senate a little more than a month – wants to know. What a disgraceful display of petty petulance. Cruz said something about wondering whether Hagel had received payments from “radicals.” What the … ?

Cruz made the comments this week just as the Senate Armed Services Committee was voting on whether to send Hagel’s nomination to the full Senate for an up-or-down vote.

What galls me the most is that this kind of cheap theater comes at the expense of a decorated Vietnam War combat veteran from someone who’s never worn the nation’s military uniform. Hagel got roughed up pretty badly as he testified before the committee, which recommended him to the full Senate on a strictly partisan vote. Cruz was one of the roughest on Hagel during the former senator’s hearing.

Hagel, it should be noted, is a Republican – just like the pols who grilled him. That he has been nominated for this key Cabinet post by a dreaded Democratic president hasn’t gone over well with his former colleagues. But leave it Cruz, who never served with Hagel in the Senate, to take these questions to a new low.

And leave it to fellow Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona – the former Vietnam War prisoner and unsuccessful GOP presidential nominee in 2008 – to put Cruz in his place. “Chuck Hagel is an honorable man,” McCain said of his fellow Vietnam vet, “and no one on this committee” should impugn Hagel’s integrity or honesty.

I think Sen. McCain is talking to you, Ted.

The Games never will be the same

Somewhere, my ancient ancestors are spinning in their crypts. The cause of their disruption? It’s the decision by the International Olympic Committee to throw away several centuries of tradition by eliminating wrestling effective with the 2020 Olympics … at a site to be determined.

If ever there was an example of athletic heresy, the IOC has just committed it.

Wrestling is among the original Olympic sports. And I don’t mean “original” as in the 1896 Games in Athens, which ushered in the modern Olympic era. I refer to the original original Games, the event that began eight centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ.

Those first games, which began in 776 B.C. in ancient Olympia, featured a few footraces and then wrestling. The competitors then ran and grappled in the nude. Eventually, the athletes entered the arena wearing clothes, but the point here is that wrestling has been a part of the Olympics since its very beginning.

Rhythmic gymnastics? Synchronized swimming? Cricket? Swimming, for crying out loud? They’re staying, even though they were added to the competition much later than wrestling.

Amarillo, of course, has a bit of a personal stake in the demise of Olympic wrestling. One of our city’s own, Brandon Slay, won a gold medal in the 2000 Sydney Games. And he’s understandably upset with the IOC decision.

But so am I, for entirely different reasons. For me it’s a matter of ethnic pride. My Greek ancestors introduced the Olympics to the world. And wrestling was a big part of that festive event.

Allow me this point of personal privilege. My wife and I visited ancient Olympia in southern Greece in 2001 and walked around the track of the 2,800-year-old stadium. My mind’s eye filled with images of athletes as well as spectators gathered on the gentle slopes surrounding the stadium as we strolled the peaceful site. The 2004 Athens Olympics shot put and discus competitions took place in that very venue – with no bells and whistles or electronic scoreboards. Fans stood on the slopes, just as they did in ancient Greece.

An IOC official said the decision is based on “what’s good for the Games.” What utter baloney. The IOC has just dishonored centuries of tradition which, I believe, is a big part of what comprises the Olympic spirit.

Republicans to offer competing response to SOTU

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is going to offer the official Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union message tonight.

He’ll be followed by another Republican senator, Rand Paul of Kentucky, who’s going to give the tea party response.

Huh? What gives here?

Rubio was elected in 2010 after a bruising campaign in Florida and after which he was ordained as the golden boy of the GOP’s tea party wing. He’s conservative, “telegenic” (which is code for “handsome”), smart and eloquent. Rubio does a fine job, in my view, of representing the Republicans’ new brand, which is a sort of in-your-face conservatism that seems to play well with the party’s hard-core base voters.

Rubio’s response ought to be enough to satisfy the Loyal Opposition, yes? Apparently not.

Now up steps Sen. Paul, who’s considerably less graceful verbally than his colleague, Rubio. It was Paul, you’ll remember, who told then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that had he been president at the time of the Benghazi, Libya attack that killed four people this past September, he would have “relieved you of your post.” To which many millions of Americans, myself included, laughed out loud at the very idea of a President Rand Paul.

All this double-dip Republican response to a Democratic president’s State of the Union speech only illustrates the conflict that’s raging within the once-proud “Party of Lincoln.” Indeed, Honest Abe likely is spinning in his grave.

I find it rather sad.

Yes, the planet is warming, honestly

Those with their heads in the snow, er, sand have begun the chorus of doubt about whether Planet Earth is actually warming.

Amarillo got its usual 6 inches of snow overnight. It’s cold out there, which always is related to the presence of snow on the ground. That big blizzard pounded the NE corner of the United States the other day under about a yard of snow in some places. Local observers here, and there, have declared – as they usually do – that the global warming fears are all a left-wing, enviro-nut, big brother conspiracy to destroy the industries that have created the greatest nation the world has ever seen.

Of course, these denials ignore considerable data that affirm what many of us fear, which is that Earth is warming up. Most recently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration  reported that in 2012, the planet warmed up a full degree year over year from the previous high temperature. That’s significant chiefly because record-setting temperatures usually occur only in fractions of degrees, according to NOAA; that it would warm up by a full degree is unprecedented.

The consequences of this warming? The seas will rise, coastal cities could be swamped, polar ice caps will melt – endangering wildlife that depend on the ice.

I have seen a proverbial blizzard (pun intended) of data that support the global-warming findings.

The remaining dispute centers on what’s causing it. Lefties blame carbon emissions sent into the atmosphere from fossil-fuel-burning industries; righties say the planet’s warming is all part of the planet’s epochal cycle.

Let that debate continue. What shouldn’t be disputed is whether the planet is getting warmer. It is.

Turnout dipped a bit in 2012 … so what?

President Obama’s re-election this past November came with a bit of a hitch: Turnout for the election was down a bit from when he was elected the first time in 2008.

I wonder: Why is that such a big deal? It really isn’t, simply because election turnout in this country hardly ever is boast worthy. You see, unlike a lot of “democratic” nations, we don’t require voting. It’s strictly voluntary. Thus, Americans are free to vote or sit elections out, whichever option floats their boat.

The 2008 turnout spiked to more than 61 percent of eligible voters. Sen. Barack Obama defeated Sen. John McCain handily, become the first African-American president in U.S. history. It was a watershed political moment and Americans responded by turning out in record numbers. Four years later, with the economy still struggling and many Americans unhappy with the nation’s direction, the turnout dipped slightly to around 58 percent. The presence of a desultory Republican challenger on the ballot didn’t help.

The 1972 election produced a significant decline in turnout because that election for the first time included voters younger than 21 years of age. The Constitution was amended the previous year to allow 18-year-olds the right to vote and most of that huge pool of new voters responded to that grand news … by not voting.

But the turnout got even worse. By 1996, with Bill Clinton running for re-election against Sen. Bob Dole and Texas businessman Ross Perot, the percentage declined to 49 percent, which is a ghastly statement of voter apathy.

Should the turnout be better in the greatest nation on Earth? Of course it should. However, the beauty of our system is that government doesn’t require us to vote. This exercise strictly is up to us as citizens. I’m betting political scientists always will struggle to find solutions to our national apathy. Better to force them to search for these answersrather than invoking a law forcing many of us to do something we’d rather not do.

Me? I like the pageantry associated with Election Day. And no one has to force me to vote.

This is truly a great country, right Ted?

U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Loony Bin, is inviting a special guest to President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night.

It’s none other than the Motor City Madman, Ted Nugent, himself. Stockman, who now represents a portion of East Texas in Congress, has extended the invitation to the man who has called Obama “un-American,” who once said that he were to win re-election that Nugent would be in jail (which some took as an implied threat against the president), who once said that Obama should be “shot” like a coyote, and who once, well … I think you get the point.

Nugent, the washed-up rock-and-roll guitarist, is an avid hunter and gun owner. He seems to hate – and I don’t believe that’s not too strong a verb – those who want to place more controls on guns. How do I know that? He’s virtually said so himself.

I don’t begrudge Nugent’s love of guns. That’s his right. I do begrudge, though, the virtual hate speech that continues to spew from the guy’s mouth when it comes to those who disagree with him on matters relating to guns.

Suffice to say that Steve Stockman is a member of Nugent’s fan club. Stockman was one of a handful of GOP congresspeople who has threatened to impeach the president if he tries to exert executive authority mandating controls on guns.

My hunch, if Nugent actually shows up to the State of the Union, is that the Madman won’t applaud. Any bets on whether the TV cameras look for him when the president enters the House of Representatives chamber?

So long, Saturday mail delivery

Count me as one American who supports the end of Saturday mail delivery to help the U.S. Postal Service stay afloat.

USPS announced its plans to shut down Saturday delivery as a way to save an estimated $2 billion annually. The service has been bleeding money for years. It keeps raising postage rates, which now stand at 46 cents to deliver a first-class letter; in my view, that’s still a pretty good bargain for sending someone a piece of mail across this vast country.

It’s not that I dislike my mail carriers. They do a fine job in our Amarillo neighborhood. On most days you can set your watch to the time they show up with that day’s mail. USPS critics suggest the service ought to use more “cluster boxes” to deliver mail, which would reduce the time it takes to distribute the mail along their routes. We already have that in our ‘hood. Problem solved here.

Of course, we all know who the villain is in this drama. It’s the Internet, which has sunk its teeth into mail delivery the way it is savaging other business enterprises.

Newspapers come to mind, yes?

Few of us send actual letters any longer … although I recently did just that in reconnecting with someone with whom I served in Vietnam, and I’m hoping to hear back from him soon. Our mode of messaging our friends and family? Email and “social media” have taken the place of letters. And let’s not forget how many of us – including little ol’ us – pay virtually all of our bills online.

These days, the bulk of our USPS deliveries consist of “junk mail,” catalogues and other solicitations.

No, I won’t miss Saturday mail delivery when the USPS pulls the plug on it. Getting mail five days each week is good enough.

Panhandle Day: Fruitful or wasteful?

I’ve long been intrigued by the practice of leading business people and civic leaders piling onto an airplane, or into motor vehicles, going to Austin for a day of glad-handing and back-slapping for something called “Panhandle Day.”

Many friends of mine have taken part in this activity. Based on what I’ve been told over many years in Texas, here is what I perceive happens:

Delegation arrives, shows up at legislators’ offices, visits with representatives and senators, tells them what the region needs from the Legislature, shares some food and drink with each other and the legislators (and staffers), attends a few committee hearings, has an after-hours gathering of fun and frivolity and then comes back home.

This endeavor is costly to the businesses and the local government agencies that spring for this field trip.

Now, I recognize fully that almost all regions of the state do this very thing. The Golden Triangle region of Southeast Texas assembles its collection of luminaries for a similar exercise. I saw that parade take off from Beaumont every other year when I worked in that part of the state.

But what I don’t quite grasp is the tangible benefit that any region gets directly from this type of contact with local government representatives and state authorities while on this junket.

Has the Panhandle gotten a state-funded project approved that wouldn’t have been approved had the delegation not made the trip to Austin during the legislative session?

I understand fully the value of having senior legislators at their post protecting the interests of the region. I also know that our legislative delegation over many years has taken very good care of the Panhandle. West Texas A&M University and Amarillo College have thrived in good part because of the efforts of our senators and House members. Texas Tech University’s medical school in Amarillo is doing well, also because of those efforts. Yes, they’ve taken plenty of budget hits in recent years and local administrators have done well here cutting when and where it’s necessary. The state is spending plenty of money maintaining our highways … and causing traffic delays, I should add.

All of that is good and welcome, particularly at a time when Gov. Rick Perry and other state brass keep telling us the state can’t afford to spend any money on anything. Of course, Perry blames the feds for every problem that falls on the state and takes credit for every success Texas enjoys, but that’s another story.

But are any of these successes a direct result of the biennial Panhandle Day migration? I keep wondering …

Drone attacks under attack

CIA director-designate John Brennan stands by his boss’s use of drones against terrorists bent on destroying the United States of America.

Someone please tell me: Why is that such a bad idea?

The drones have been used by the Obama and the Bush administrations with deadly effectiveness. Both presidents, Barack Obama and George W. Bush, sought to deploy these pilotless aircraft seeking to minimize the hazards to young American pilots. What’s more, the missions have worked.

Has the drone policy worked flawlessly? Of course not. Then again, manned airstrikes and commando raids have gone bad on occasion. That’s is one of the givens of battle, whether they’re being controlled by men in the field or in a computerized control room many thousands of miles away.

Brennan’s hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee also featured questions about whether it’s legal to kill American terrorists, such as what happened when a drone strike in 2011 took out a major al-Qaida leader in Yemen – who also happened to have been born in the United States. I prefer to take a pragmatic view: Someone who sides with an organization that declares its intention to kill Americans becomes an enemy of this nation; he takes up arms against us and exposes himself to the consequences of thrusting himself into harm’s way against the mightiest military force in the history of the world.

Granted, the CIA should be as transparent as possible about the drone strikes, which Brennan pledged to the committee. But in times of war, there must be some secrets kept from the public.

I happen to agree with Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., who called Brennan the “right man for the job” of CIA director. And Brennan stood firm on what is proving to be a successful strategy in protecting this nation against who seek to do us harm.