Category Archives: International news

Ancestral homeland climbs back

Greece is the land of my ancestors … all of them.

My mother’s parents emigrated to the United States from Turkey, but they were Greeks through and through. My father’s lineage goes back to the southern peninsula of Greece.

So, when news of Greece is bad, I ache a little bit more than I would if the news were about, say, Sweden or Poland. The Greek economy has been in the news a lot lately. And when the news is good, such as when Greece played host to the spectacular 2004 Summer Olympics, my pride swells.

My heart is gladdened just a bit with news from Reuters News Agency that the Greek economy — you’ll remember, when much of Europe was trying to bail them out with cash — has come back.

Reuters reports: “Seasonally adjusted figures showed the euro zone weakling posted three consecutive quarters of growth this year, even though it had only been expected to exit what the government has
called Greece’s ‘Great Depression’ in the third quarter.”

What has pulled the Greek economy out of the ditch? Some economists have suggested tourism has given Greece its heft. The country has discounted lodging prices and the country continues to be a magnet for tourists looking for a little culture, sunshine, beautiful landscapes and a walk through some of the grandest antiquities on the planet.

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting my ancestral homeland three times and I plan to return. My wife, who’s made the trip with me said, “Of all the places we’ve been, this is the one place I want to see again and again.” That, folks, is high praise.

So I’m glad to read about the good news about Greece that has gone largely unreported. The media were certainly quick to tell us about the gloom and doom.

According to Reuters: “The news is a boost for Greece’s government, which has been promising austerity-weary Greeks better times ahead.”

I hope to read more about those “better times” when they arrive.



Off your duff, Congress, and move on immigration

If nothing else at all, President Obama’s decision to proceed with an executive order delaying the deportation of 5 million illegal immigrants has shamed Congress into doing something — anything! — constructive to engage in this debate.

There’s been a lot of accusatory talk from Republicans about the president defying “the will the people,” or “circumventing the Constitution,” or even acting “lawlessly.”

They have no plan.

The Senate did pass an immigration reform bill a year or so ago, but the House of Representatives sat on it. They dithered and dilly-dallied, stalled and stymied any move to enact some improvements in federal law that bottles up efforts by undocumented immigrants to attain legal status and work toward eventual citizenship.

So now Obama has taken action.

I keep looking at the order he signed and wonder: What is in it that angers the GOP so much?

It prioritizes the arrest and deportation of criminals; it seeks to put more federal security on our southern border; it enables children of illegal immigrants who were born in the United States to stay with their parents; it allows illegal immigrants to, as Obama said, “come out the shadow” and work openly and, yes, pay federal personal income taxes.

My main objection to the order was in its timing. I believe the president should have waited for the new Congress to take its seat. Oh well, he ignored the advice from a middle-of-the-country blogger. My feelings aren’t hurt, Mr. President.

Now it falls on Congress to get off its collective duff and approve a comprehensive immigration reform bill that helps restore the nation’s role as being the Land of Opportunity for all.




House intel panel dismisses Benghazi myths

Well, shut my mouth and dip me in sesame seeds. A key congressional committee has determined that the CIA officials who responded to the terror attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya were “heroes,” and not goats.

Perhaps you’ve heard the term “Benghazi.” It’s become a mantra for those interested in condemning the State Department over its action relating to the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the diplomatic compound in the Libyan city. Four men were killed, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

Congressional Republicans have wanted to tar then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton over what happened at the compound.

Now we have the House Select Committee on Intelligence dispelling some of the myths associated with the attack and the criticism of the U.S. response to it.

The committee, chaired by Republican Mike Rogers of Michigan, said this, according to Politico: “The committee … found the U.S. government didn’t fail to send assistance to the Americans under siege by Islamic militants and there was no ‘stand down order’ from the State Department. The committee also dismissed the notion that there was an ‘intelligence failure’ the allowed the attacks to occur.

Imagine that. The panel charged with investigating intelligence operations within the government says the attack was what the administration said it was: a chaotic event brought on by a group of terrorists looking to kill Americans.

Will that dissuade the persistent critics who are hell bent on damaging the presidential prospects of the former secretary of state? Don’t hold your breath.

Chairman Rogers, though, has done a service for those around the country — such as yours truly — who have grown weary of congressional witch hunters looking for a scenario that matches the outcome they’ve already determined.



Now it's Congress's turn to act on immigration

President Obama has made his speech. He’s done what the law allows him to do. He has issued an executive order that starts to move immigration reform forward.

Now he has challenged Congress to enact a bill that would apply permanent solutions to the nation’s immigration problem.

Instead of hyperventilating and tossing out “lawless” accusations against the Obama administration, perhaps the GOP-led Congress — both the Senate and the House of Representatives — can do what it hasn’t yet done. Fix the immigration problem that has brought us to this point.

Obama has delayed the deportation of 5 million undocumented immigrants. He has ordered border security officials to prioritize the arrest of gang members, suspected terrorists and common criminals — and then deport them post haste.

A good number of the rest of the illegal immigrant population? They can “come out of the shadows,” as the president said.

Constitutional scholars have been saying for a good period of time that Obama stands on solid legal footing in doing what he did this evening. Politicians have been saying something else, that the president is “overstepping his authority,” that he’s creating a “monarchy,” that now calls himself “Emperor Obama.”

Well, what the 44th president of the U.S. did was no more dramatic than what many of his predecessors dating back to Dwight Eisenhower have done. The drama has come from the furious opposition on the Republican side of chasm.

Do I wish he would have waited for the new Congress to take its seat? Yes. He didn’t listen to me.

But the president did what the law allows him to do.

So now the ball has been batted back to Congress. Pass a bill and send it to the White House.


Here come the 'snow trolls'

Yes, this story was inevitable, given the brutal cold snap that has smacked much of the country.

A leftish media watchdog group refers to them as “snow trolls,” the folks who think that since it’s cold outside that global warming/climate change is a liberal plot.

My answer always to those who think like that simply is this: Look at the big picture, the longer term.

Some noted publications have noted, for example, that the Texas Panhandle will be wetter and colder than normal this winter. I’ll cite the Farmer’s Almanac as one such source. Its accuracy is about as reliable as most weather forecasters, which likely isn’t very reliable.

But it got cold around here the past few days and in this part of the world, which is full of climate-change deniers, it provides plenty of grist for the so-called “snow trolls” to suggest the liberal plot conspiracy is at work regarding climate change.

Lake Erie is producing mountains of lake-effect snow in upstate New York. The Buffalo Bills are supposed to play host to a professional football game Sunday, but it looks dicey.

I know that the debate is ongoing. I also know that folks produce all kinds of scientific evidence that the planet is actually cooling off. There also is other evidence that suggests the opposite is happening. Year over year temperatures are increasing.

Those polar ice caps? They really are shrinking.

But as the comedian Stephen Colbert joked, the “snow trolls” sound like the guy who says “hunger is cured because I ate tonight.”


No ransom — ever! — for ISIL captives

Are you kidding me? Some folks still want the United States of America to pay ransom for hostages being held by Islamic State terrorists. Am I reading that correctly?

Not just no, but hell no! I’d use a stronger profanity than that, but you get the point.

Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated President Obama’s view that the United States shouldn’t put a price tag on those being held captive.

“The president continues to believe, as previous presidents have concluded, that it’s not in the best interest of American citizens to pay ransoms to any organization, let alone a terrorist organization,” press secretary Josh Earnest said at a White House media briefing. “And the reason for that is simple — we don’t want to put other American citizens at even greater risk when they’re around the world.”

Indeed, innocent Americans have died in gruesome fashion at the hands of these monsters. We learned after journalist James Foley was killed that his family had sought to negotiated a deal privately with the terror organization, but the effort fell short. It reportedly was stymied by government officials who didn’t want to enrich ISIL by giving them money — with no guarantee that Foley’s life would be spared.

The U.S. government cannot — it must not ever — negotiate with the Islamic State. It must hunt them down, bomb them to bits, do whatever it takes to kill every one of its leaders and as many of its murderous minions as it can find.

Pay them ransom? Never!




Israel feels terrorists' wrath yet again

Someone needs to explain to me in elementary terms why terrorists deserve any semblance of civil treatment.

Four worshipers at a Jerusalem synagogue were murdered early today by a couple of terrorists. Israeli police shot them to death at the scene of the carnage they left behind.

Three of the victims were American-Israelis, one was a British-Israeli. They were worshiping in peace when two Palestinian cousins wielding axes and knives began slashing them to death.

And who do you suppose has endorsed this vicious act?

Among others was Hamas, the terrorists who run the so-called government in Gaza, the place that keeps originating attacks on Israelis civilians.

Does this make any sense to anyone?

The terrorists complain about Israeli settlements in territory captured by Israel during the Six-Day War of 1967. So rather than talk to the Israeli government, they choose to bomb innocent victims, shoot them dead in the street or, in the case of the attack today in Jerusalem, slash them to death in a horrific attack.

Israeli officials vow to respond with all necessary force to put down this latest round of violence.

How in the world can one justify this? How in the same world can one criticize a nation for trying to protect its citizens from this kind of barbarism?


ISIL defines itself

The Islamic State may have defined itself much more sharply with its dastardly execution of an American aid worker in Syria.

ISIL isn’t fighting a war against Christians. It is fighting a war against westerners, namely Americans.

So, for this murderous cult to call itself an “Islamic” anything is to commit serious heresy.

Peter Kassig once served as a U.S. Army Ranger, doing his duty as a soldier and a loyal American. Then he left the Army and became an aid worker dedicated to helping civilians caught in the middle of a bloody civil war in Syria.

Along the way, he converted to Islam. He changed his name to Abdul-Rahman Kassig. ISIL captured him, held him captive and then beheaded him in the same brutal fashion it executed two other Americans.

A dear friend of mine, an educated and well-traveled man, noted on social media the other day that ISIL is anything but a religion-based organization. “The leaders of radical Islam are simply a collection of pychopaths, sociopaths, and murderous thugs who probably get aroused by watching be-headings, rapes, and other disgusting acts,” my dear pal noted.

You know, I accept that description — perhaps except for the arousal part.

Still, we are engaging in a fight with an enemy that simply knows no boundaries of decency at any level.

Kassig was seeking to do some good against the forces of evil. He was giving aid and comfort to fellow Muslims. This is the kind of act that requires a summary execution by monstrous killers proclaiming to be carrying out Allah’s holy command?

The Islamic State has just provided a stark reminder — as if the world needed one — of the nature of this beastly cult.



'Immigrant' gets clarification

The term “immigrant” became the subject of a brief tempest after I posted a blog entry that mentioned U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

I mentioned that Cruz opposes immigration reform and suggested there was a certain irony in his opposition, given that he immigrated to this country from Canada.

A friend of mine disagreed with that assertion. He said that Cruz was a U.S. citizen upon birth because his mother is an American. Federal law grants children of U.S. citizens automatic citizenship, so that meant little Teddy was an American the moment he entered this world. That instant citizenship means Cruz isn’t an immigrant, my friend said.

I disagree with my friend.

Thus, I looked up the word “immigrant” in my American Heritage Dictionary.

“Immigrant” is defined simply as “one who immigrates.”

Aha! So, I looked up “immigrate,” which the dictionary defines this way: “To enter and settle in a foreign country.”

Cruz was born in Canada. He and his family subsequently relocated to this country. Teddy grew up to be a smart fellow, went to law school, became a lawyer and now he’s a U.S. senator.

By my reading of the dictionary, that makes Ted Cruz an immigrant.

Why mention this at all? Well, immigration has returned to the front burner of the national discussion. President Obama is likely to issue an executive order that’s going to upset a lot of Republicans, including tea party members of Congress, such as the former immigrant Sen. Cruz. They’ll go apoplectic.

Yes, immigrants such as Cruz entered the country legally. The issue here is how to handle the illegal immigrants who’ve come here. Many in Congress want them deported. The president and his allies in Congress want to give them a chance to achieve legal status and eventually become U.S. citizens.

He’s already deported more illegal immigrants than any president in history. An executive order delaying deportations of about 5 million undocumented residents will constitute a change in policy at the White House.

I just find it curious that a one-time immigrant would feel so strongly that others seeking a better life in this country shouldn’t have a chance to make their dreams come true.




Columnist gets it right on immigration battle

Ruben Navarrette is far from being a flaming leftist Barack Obama sympathizer.

He’s a mainstream conservative journalist and commentator who in an essay posted on has posited the notion that any talk of impeaching the president over an expected executive order would be a foolish overreach.

He is so correct. I wish I could shake his hand right now.

At issue is an expected order the president will issue that could do a number of things to improve the immigration system. He’s sought to do it legislatively, but his congressional foes won’t let it happen. They’ve bottled immigration reform up. Obama has warned them repeatedly that he’d take action and now he appears ready to do it.

I’ve noted already that I don’t want him to act just yet.

When he does, though, it’s likely to ignite a fiery response from the tea party wing of the Republicans who control the House and are about to take control in January of the Senate.

An executive order reportedly is going to do a number of things. It would boost border security. It would delay deportation of about 5 million illegal immigrants. It’s the deportation delay that has Republicans’ underwear all knotted up.

Navarrette’s main point is that none of this constitutes an “impeachable offense.”

The president would be acting solely within his authority granted by the U.S. Constitution, according to Navarrette.

The essayist notes: “Republicans have no trouble deflecting criticism by reminding Latino voters that Obama is in charge of deportations. So, instead of threatening the suicidal tantrums of a government shutdown or impeachment, conservatives should pipe down and let him be in charge of deportations. That doesn’t just mean deciding who goes but also who stays.”

Let’s can the impeachment rhetoric and get down to the business of governing, shall we?