All posts by kanelis2012

GOP needs money, but not this way

William McKenzie’s blog, which is attached here, takes the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee to task for what only can be described as a crass money-grab.

Former President George W. Bush received a heart stent this week. The RCCC sent out letters to supporters asking them to send President Bush a get well message. But when they responded with the good wishes, they are sent to a site that asks them to kick in some cash for the RCCC; the amounts run from $5 to $250.

Here is part of what McKenzie wrote:

“Now, I get that political parties have to raise money. I spent a decade helping raise money for a moderate Republican organization in D.C., so I am not averse to fundraising.

“But was there no one within the bowels of the House GOP’s fundraising operation who counseled that this may be just a bit unseemly? I mean, here’s a former Republican president who is recovering from a heart procedure and, whoosh, out comes a fundraising plea. The man was not out of Presbyterian Hospital until this morning but the fundraising gears evidently were clicking.

“I don’t doubt that Bush would like to see his party thrive financially. And I have no idea what he thinks about the letter. But it strikes me as a prime example of how far we’ve come in the gamesmanship of politics.”

You go, Bill.

And get well, Mr. President.

Explain those fears, Mitt

Mitt Romney talked some sense in trying to curb some congressional Republicans’ enthusiasm for shutting down the government while defunding the Affordable Care Act.

Bravo, Mitt! The right-wing rogues within his party — the folks who never quite trusted the centrist-leaning former Massachusetts governor — are out of control. They’re the tea party new guys who don’t quite understand the consequence that will cascade down on them if they succeed in shuttering the federal government.

But then Romney veered off into a strange little tangent about what has happened since President Obama’s re-election — in which he defeated Romney by nearly 5 million votes.

“I must admit. It has been hard to watch or read the news,” he said. “What we feared would happen, is happening.”


I kind of wish Romney would go into detail about what is happening that upsets him so much, or what is happening that would have been different if President Romney were at the helm.

Let’s see: We’ve added about a million jobs since Obama’s re-election; unemployment is down to 7.4 percent, which isn’t great but it surely is a lot better than the 9 percent jobless rate the president inherited when he took office in January 2009; the budget deficit has been slashed significantly; we’re continuing to kill terrorists around the world.

Have we reached a state of geopolitical nirvana? Of course not. The Obama administration has committed some serious mistakes. Those errors, though, do not rise to the level of “scandal” that’s being portrayed in the right-wing mainstream media.

My threshold question to Mitt, though, is this: How would any of this been different had you been in charge?

Watch out, Stockman enters fray

Republican Steve Stockman, who in my mind is vying for the title of Texas’s looniest member of Congress, says he has a plan to defund Obamacare without shutting down the government.

Stockman hails from the Houston suburb of Friendswood. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 2012 after a 16-year hiatus from Congress; he had served a single term from 1995 to 1997 before being drummed out because he was, um, a bit on the flaky side.

His flakiness hasn’t really subsided in the interim. He’s back with a vengeance, threatening for instance to seek to impeach President Obama for enacting executive orders to get some things done in Washington — given that the GOP-led House isn’t doing anything constructive.

Stockman now says has a plan to stop the Affordable Care Act.

Stockman’s resolution would suspend any federal funds that would support any provision of Obamacare. The bill attacks the health care program, stating that a majority of lawmakers believe it violates the Constitution, according to the Houston Chronicle. I believe the gentleman from the Gulf Coast misstates the level of belief in the law’s constitutionality. It might be that most Republicans — who comprise a majority of the House — believe the law to be illegal. It’s a stretch, though, to suggest that most of the entire House — which still has a significant number of Democrats — has lined up in that camp.

And if memory serves, the Supreme Court ruled that the law is constitutional. Aren’t the justices — most of whom were appointed by conservative Republican presidents — supposed to settle these things?

Oops not a big deal, for now

Gov. Rick Perry had another one of those “oops” moments this week.

He said he was glad to be in Florida, when in fact he was speaking in New Orleans, the city in, um, Louisiana.

He’s been drawing some of the expected barbs. The lame-duck Republican Texas governor deserves most of the jabs that get tossed his way. This one counts.

The problem here is that Perry’s campaign for the presidency – if he’s planning another one in 2016 – hasn’t yet gotten off the ground. He hasn’t yet officially declared his candidacy. This was a one-stop appearance. It would be different if he were in the midst of a whirlwind campaign, stumping from state to state.

I can recall the 1968 Democratic presidential primary campaign. U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy launched his campaign in March of that year and began a frenetic 80-day run for the party nomination. He covered a lot of territory in a very short period of time.

An assassin ended that effort, tragically, on June 6.

But I recall one campaign appearance in which he mistakenly said he was in Nevada when he actually was speaking in Nebraska … or maybe it was the other way around. Whatever, he got his states mixed up. The crowd corrected him on the spot and he laughed it off with typical RFK good humor.

Rick Perry will need to keep his compass dialed in if he’s going to seek the big prize in three years. This first little hiccup doesn’t bode for well for what might lie ahead.

County judge gets his comeuppance

Am I the only person in Amarillo who wonders whether Potter County Judge Arthur Ware’s behavior of late has angered his colleagues on the Commissioners Court?

The judge asked his colleagues this week for a pay raise during the next budget year, but the commission — all four members — told him in effect “no dice.” Commissioner H.R. Kelly told Ware he needed a decrease in pay rather than a $2,700 annual increase. Why? Well, Ware isn’t doing his job.

To be fair, Ware’s inability to do his job isn’t his fault. He suffered a grievous stroke in 2010 that has left him significantly impaired. He cannot speak effectively. Ware’s paralysis along his right side remains a tremendous handicap as well. He has had to spend lengthy periods of time “off the clock” undergoing intensive rehabilitation. The result of all this has been that many of his duties have been farmed out to other county officials.

I am among those with great respect for the service Ware has given to the county, and indeed to the nation by virtue of his service during the Persian Gulf War as a Marine.

I’m scratching my head, though, over his request for a raise when he hasn’t done the job to which he’s been elected.

That’s not the end of this drama. He recently fired longtime and loyal administrative assistant Nancy Tanner. He still hasn’t explained why he fired the person upon whom he has depended for 20 years. State employment law doesn’t require Ware to explain, given that Texas is an “at will” state that allows employers to fire anyone for any reason, or for no reason. That’s no reason for him to stonewall the public.

Commissioner Alphonso Vaughn said the county would be “negligent” if it gave Ware a pay raise, given that he has been unable to do much of the work required of him.

The county judge, who once enjoyed the unqualified support of many officials and staffers at the courthouse, is facing a serious decision about his public service career. Does he seek re-election next year? If he does, how in this world is he going to explain how he is capable of doing a job he hasn’t done since that crippling and tragic stroke?

As for the raise, Ware’s colleagues took the only action available to them.

Yep, the planet is warming

My late mother had a saying that took to task those who failed to see the big picture.

“That guy is so narrow minded,” Mom would say, “that he can look through a keyhole with both eyes.”

It always made for a good chuckle when she said it, but her wry wit seems a bit more topical these days when I hear people debate whether Planet Earth is getting warmer. More evidence has arrived that suggests it is doing exactly that.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association has issued a report that talks about melting ice caps, rising sea levels, loss of marine habitat and threats to coastal communities on every continent. The average annual temperature worldwide is getting warmer, NOAA reports.

The San Antonio Express-News reports that the State of the Climate report also notes, “Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels reached 400 parts per million last May, and averaged 392.6 for 2012, the highest in 800,000 years.”

The CO2 level is troublesome in this regard: The deforestation of tropical regions in South America, Africa and Southeast Asia is well-known; those trees didn’t just die of “natural causes.” They were cut down by human beings and as we all learned in junior high school science class, vegetation — such as trees — consume CO2 while emitting oxygen.

The global-warming naysayers keep harping on anecdotal evidence that the world isn’t actually getting warmer. They chide environmentalists such as former Vice President Al Gore for crying “wolf!” over the global warming issue. Remember the brutal winter we had in the Amarillo in late 2012 and early 2013? The temps stayed cold for seemingly forever. Yes, the prolonged cold produced plenty of jokes debunking the global warming “alarmists” who supposedly are out to destroy the fossil-fuel industry because of all that gas it spews into the atmosphere.

Let’s not debate that global warming is in fact occurring. We can debate, perhaps, whether it’s manmade or part of the planet’s epochal cycle. Either way, a lot of human beings and wildlife are being put at risk.

Does humankind have a way to stem global warming? Sure it does. First, though, it has to find the will.

Now it’s Johnny Football?

Is there no end to the chuckleheaded behavior of noted American athletes?

New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez has been suspended by big league baseball, along with a dozen other players over allegations they took performance-enhancing drugs.

Now it’s Johnny Manziel, the Texas A&M University Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback who’s under investigation for taking money for signing autographs.

The Aggies have opened their football camp and are thought to be among the top five college football teams in the country. Manziel, aka Johnny Football, is a big reason why A&M is riding so high.

Now, though, the NCAA is said to be investigating whether Johnny Football broke one of the singularly rules of college football. Somewhere in the NCAA handbook it says athletes can’t take money for anything. The blue-chip athletes get a free college education in exchange for applying their athletic skill. Therefore, taking money – or trading on their famous name – is forbidden expressly by the rules.

Did Johnny Manziel take money or didn’t he for taking part in an autograph-signing session?

I sincerely hope the young man didn’t do it. However, I cannot help but think of the old saying about finding fire under all that smoke.

MLB’s big dog has been hammered

Bud Selig is now officially my favorite major sports commissioner.

Roger Goodell? David Stern? Gary Bettman? Forget about it.

Major League Baseball’s top man has done the right thing by giving Alex Rodriguez — the one-time heir apparent to Barry Bonds as MLB’s so-called all-time home run king — a 211-game suspension. A-Rod is out for the rest of this season and all of 2014, depending on the outcome of his expected appeal. (I say “so-called” because Hank Aaron, whose mark Bonds surpassed, will remain the real HR king in my eyes; he belted 755 of ’em without cheating.)

Indeed, now A-Rod appears headed for another “heir apparent” role as it regards Bonds: the heir to the most soiled reputation among those believed to have cheated their way into baseball’s record books.

What makes this suspension so welcome is that Selig dropped the hammer on one of the game’s biggest stars. He didn’t reserve this harsh punishment for some utility player or pinch hitter. A-Rod has more than 600 home runs, fifth-most in baseball history. He was closing in on 3,000 base hits and a bunch of other standout numbers I don’t care to discuss today.

A-Rod’s sin has been his involvement with the Biogenesis clinic and its alleged dispensing of performance-enhancing drugs, such as human growth hormones, testosterone and other banned substances. A-Rod has been implicated in all of that, apparently with a mountain of evidence to back up the allegations.

Furthermore, Selig reportedly was steamed at Rodriguez’s insistence in calling all the shots in the negotiations with the baseball front office, which Selig would not tolerate.

Selig has demonstrated some serious manliness in standing up to the game’s great players. He’s already suspended Milwaukee Brewers star Ryan Braun — who plays in Selig’s hometown — over the use of banned substances. And today, he handed out significant suspensions to a dozen other players apart from Rodriguez.

It’s that 211-game suspension that stands out, given Rodriguez’s standing among the current players and the fact that it likely means the end of the line for the star who’s approaching 40 — which makes him an “old man” in the world of big league baseball.

Major League Baseball’s commissioner is making an example of those who think they can get away with cheating — and is setting a sparkling example for other commissioners to follow.

RNC concern for fairness: real or contrived?

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has issued a stern warning to NBC and CNN: Don’t air films about Hillary Rodham Clinton to avoid being shut out of Republican presidential debates during the 2016 election season.

I can’t pretend to know what’s in anyone’s heart, but Priebus says showing such a film would create an unfair advantage for the former first lady/senator/secretary of state were she to run against a Democratic Party primary field. Oh, he also mentions the advantage she’d have against the Republican nominee in the fall campaign, were she to be nominated by the Democrats.

“This suggests a deliberate attempt at influencing American political opinion in favor of a preferred candidate,” Priebus wrote. “I find this disturbing and disappointing.”

You know what? I think he might have a point. I wonder, though, about the wisdom of cutting the networks out of the debate process by showing the film. CNN is planning a feature-length film about HRC’s public service career; NBC is planning to air a four-part miniseries.

A couple of questions need fleshing out, however. Will these films look at the bad along with the good? No one in the know is saying how HRC will be portrayed. The best option would be characterize her in a neutral light — which wouldn’t be nearly good enough for those on the right who despise her so deeply. It might not be good enough, either, for those on the left who support her so ardently.

Make no mistake that Hillary Clinton is a compelling public figure. Still, it’s not yet been determined whether she’s actually going to run for president in 2016. Everyone with an opinion on the matter seems to think she is a shoo-in to seek the White House one final time.

Stranger things than a surprise announcement to the contrary, though, can and have happened.

Stay tuned.

Al-Qaida threat prompts needed response

The standing down of U.S. embassies throughout the Middle East provides an example of a lesson learned from a tragic event.

I refer to Benghazi, which has become a sort of shorthand for the terrible Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in that Libyan city, which left four U.S. officials dead, including the nation’s ambassador to Libya. Benghazi also has become a prime target for right-wing conspiracy theorists who keep contending that the “scandal” is the result of gross negligence on the part of the Obama administration and the State Department.

I contend, however, that it was a tragedy brought on by the confusion of a fire fight that certainly was the result of some mistakes. Are senior administration officials to blame for purposely deceiving the public? I doubt that is the case.

But the standing down of embassy compounds shows that national security officials can learn from those mistakes and seek to prevent future tragedies.

Al-Qaida reportedly had been planning some kind of major attack on U.S. installations, which prompted the State Department, the CIA and the National Security Agency to order the closures of the embassies and the heightened alert of our military forces stationed near the trouble spots.

I, too, wish Benghazi never had happened and I wish we could bring those brave Americans back to life. What’s done is done and the nation mourns that tragedy. I am grateful, though, that our national security team can learn from — and act on — the mistakes it has made.