Category Archives: national news

Bump stocks banned: it’s a start

The U.S. Justice Department has acted — finally! — on a measure that well could start us down a more rational, sane world regarding firearm regulation.

DOJ announced it is going to implement a ban on bump stocks, those devices that turn semi-automatic firearms into fully automatic killing machines.

While the nation has been fixated since Valentine’s Day on the Parkland, Fla., high school massacre, let us remember an earlier slaughter.

A lunatic opened fire in Las Vegas with a semi-auto rifle he had converted into a machine gun, killing 59 people attending a music festival at Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino. He eventually killed himself.

The debate over bump stocks was joined immediately.

Is this measure going to strip legitimate firearm owners of their right to “keep and bear arms”? Not in the least. It is going to potentially deter future madmen from doing what the Las Vegas shooter did, which is turn a semi-automatic rifle into a virtual weapon of war.

In announcing the Justice Department directive, though, we had to leave it to Donald Trump to lay blame on his made-up nemesis, Barack Obama, for “approving” bump stocks.

Trump’s tweet is sort of correct, at a certain level. The decision to allow bump stocks was done at an administrative mid-level at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The president or the attorney general, Eric Holder, had no direct input on the deliberations being undertaken.

Leave it to Obama’s successor, though, to forgo a forward-looking statement and to assess blame on someone else on a problem that needed to be fixed.

So, the Justice Department has acted. It will ban bump stocks. It will seek to prevent gun owners from creating machine guns.

This is by no stretch of anyone’s imagination a decision that launches us down any sort of slippery slope. It makes sense.

Trump still doesn’t get his ownership of issues

This comes as no new great news flash. I’ve known it all along. So have you.

Donald Trump today demonstrated with absolute clarity that he doesn’t understand a fundamental tenet of governing. It is that effective governance at the highest levels is a team sport.

The president signed that $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill. While announcing his signature this morning, Trump laid some heavy lumber on Congress, namely congressional Democrats. He blamed them for wanting to gut our military; he blamed them for opposing reforms on illegal immigration.

He blamed Congress for sending him a huge bill that “nobody has read,” yet he signed it anyway. Trump said he’d “never sign” another bill like this ever again.

What one never hears from this guy is that he is a player, too, in government’s fits and starts, its occasional paralysis. He does not fathom how effective government is supposed to work. It is designed to bring the executive branch and the legislative into the same room, to reach common ground, to compromise where possible.

Does this individual get it? No. He doesn’t. Trump continues to lay blame at everyone else’s feet. He continues to assert that the other guys are at fault. The other guys, in this case, are lawmakers of the other party.

The president’s business background did not prepare him for the delicate nature of legislating and negotiating with legislators. He’s always been the Big Man in Charge. It’s always been his game to win.

I keep circling back to this fundamental shortcoming in Donald Trump’s shocking ascent to the presidency: His entire professional career was centered solely, exclusively on self-enrichment, on self-aggrandizement and self-promotion.

Every time he opens his trap, every time he tweets out pronouncements and proclamations, we are “treated” to evidence of his utter lack of knowledge and understanding of how government works.

The president needs to take ownership of the failures that come along, just as he is all too willing to take ownership of the successes.

Once again, this morning, Donald Trump showed that he doesn’t understand — nor is he likely to ever understand — the immense complexities of his high office.

That was close; POTUS signs bill after all

That ridiculous, confusing and chaotic individual who serves as president of the United States had some of our heads spinning.

Donald Trump had said he would sign the omnibus spending bill despite its shortcomings; then he threatened to veto it because it didn’t spend enough on illegal immigration reform and border security.

Then he signs it! While bitching about all that is wrong with it.

The president announced a “news conference” to accompany its signing. Then he rambled on and on — and on some more! — for more than 30 minutes. He blamed Democrats for gutting the military, for stalling on immigration reform while ignoring the reality that the bill he signed is a bipartisan measure with plenty of Democratic votes in favor of it.

I struggle to listen to Trump’s remarks entirely. His repetitiveness is mind-numbing in the extreme, not to mention his astonishing use of non-specific terminology that reveals utter ignorance of the subject matter at hand. How many times did this guy use the term “other things” to delineate supposed specificity?


The signature moment — please pardon the pun — came when he admitted he hadn’t read the 2,220-page bill. “Neither had anyone else,” he said.

So, he signed a $1.3 trillion spending bill that keeps the government running until September without knowing what’s in it. He said that. Correct? He signed it believing that its defense expenditure superseded the shortcomings he said the bill contained.

Oh, and one more thing. The president still refuses to take ownership of any of the failings he hangs on some members of Congress. I long have thought that effective governing was a team sport, with the executive branch working in tandem with the legislative branch of government.

I am quite certain that is what the nation’s founders had in mind.

So, the chaos continues.

First he’d sign it, now threatens a veto

I cannot take credit for this observation, so I’ll give it to my friend David Stevens, a true-blue political libertarian and a newspaper editor in eastern New Mexico.

Stevens wondered on social media why Donald J. Trump is threatening to veto an omnibus spending bill that pours money into a budget, while at the same time he extols the virtues of a big tax cut. The president wants to spend even more money on Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals and, of course, on the wall he wants to build along our southern border.

Just for the record, I agree with Trump on DACA funding, but disagree strongly with him on the wall matter.

Still, my pal David is perplexed at how a so-called “conservative Republican” can make such threats. I agree with my friend.

I’ll just offer this observation: Trump can make these veto threats because he is a classic RINO, a Republican In Name Only. He isn’t an actual Republican, with an actual political philosophy, with a rock-solid ideological base. He governs on whims and on who is the last person to have his attention.

Trump said earlier in the week that he would sign the spending bill to prevent a government shutdown, even with his misgivings about it. Now, in a tweet (sheesh!), he threatens to veto the whole thing because it doesn’t spend enough money.

The other big mystery? How is it that Republican “base” voters continue to stand behind this clown?

Let’s see how this guy works out

Of all the things Donald J. Trump said while campaigning for the presidency in 2016, one of the few statements he made with which I agree dealt with the Iraq War.

He called it a “total disaster.” Which it turned out to be … on so many levels.

So, who does the president hire as his next national security adviser? John Bolton, an Iraq War advocate, a premier uber-hawk and a guy known for a fiery world view that seems to require that America embark on nation-building whenever it sees fit.

Trump shoved H.R. McMaster out the door this week after press secretary Sarah Hucakbee Sanders assured us that all is well between the president and the national security adviser.

It turns out it wasn’t. McMaster actually was one of the grownups within the Trump inner circle. He is a U.S. Army lieutenant general, a battle-tested scholar. He also disagreed with Trump on a number of key issues: Russia, the Iran nuclear deal come to mind.

Now the president has brought on board a guy who agrees with him on the Iran nuke deal. He’s extremely hawkish on North Korea, too, meaning that he just might counsel the president to go to war with Kim Jong Un if an opportunity presents itself.

Gosh, I feel decidedly less comfortable knowing that John Bolton is returning to the federal government.

Bolton did say that he knows his role, that the president sets policy. His new duties will be to provide advice and counsel on national security matters.

Throughout all of this chaos, though, is the pattern already established that Trump hardly takes a moment to listen to anyone. I am left to wonder: Is the president going to heed the reckless advice that John Bolton is capable of delivering?

Oh, my. I am gnashing my teeth.

Welcome to the new normal in Trump World

Let’s call it the “New Normal” in the world of Donald John Trump Sr.

The president of the United States announced via Twitter that he would meet with North Korean strongman/boy Kim Jong Un. He didn’t tell Secretary of State Rex Tillerson any of this in advance.

Then he fired Tillerson and brought in CIA Director Mike Pompeo to run the State Department.

And then … he places a congratulatory phone call to another despot, Russian goon Vladimir Putin, who stole an election — the one that re-elected him, poisoned a former spy and his daughter, meddled in our 2016 election. He placed that call against the vehement advice of his national security team. Trump didn’t bother to mention a word about the poisoning or Putin’s attack on our electoral system. He couldn’t be bothered with any of that small stuff.

Then the national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, resigned — today! Trump then announced he was hiring John Bolton, the fiery former United Nations ambassador, the uber-hawk.

The president is set to meet with a prime U.S. adversary, North Korea, in the midst of a nuclear threat. The secretary of state is fired; the national security adviser has quit. Oh, and the State Department has virtually zero deputy or under secretaries to do the necessary spade work in preparation for what could be either a landmark summit … or a complete bust!

Trump’s take on all of this? Hey, it’s no problem! He’s forging at this moment the perfect team to surround him.

Oh, brother. The man has gone through four communications directors, he has hired his second White House chief of staff, he has just hired his third national security adviser. He forced out a press secretary. And all this has occurred with just 15 months of the man’s administration!

That’s normal? Not in any manner that makes sense.

In Trump World, though, it’s all part of the game plan that will “make America great again.”


Another top Trumpkin bails on POTUS

It’s a laugh a day at the Donald John Trump Sr. White House. Except few Americans find little actual humor at what is transpiring.

Today’s chuckle comes from John Dowd, the president’s now-former lead lawyer in this Russia matter. Dowd has called it quits, packed it up and gone on his way.

Why? Well, imagine this if you dare: Dowd says he is leaving because his client isn’t heeding his legal advice. Shocking, yes?

Trump isn’t inclined to listen to anyone. Not his lawyer. Or his national security team. Or his chief economic adviser. The secretary of state.

The national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, implored Trump against congratulating Vladimir Putin on his re-election in a rigged vote; Trump patted Putin on the back anyway and McMaster is now thought to on his way out. Former chief economic adviser Gary Cohn didn’t want Trump to impose trade tariffs on imported steel and aluminum; Trump imposed them and Cohn quit. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson battled Trump on all manner of Russia-related matters; Trump fired Tillerson.

Now … it’s the president’s lead lawyer who is walking away.

Dowd has had enough. Trump seems to want to take a more prominent role in his own legal defense against the special counsel, Robert Mueller, who is proceeding with a meticulous probe into “the Russia thing.”

I am left to recall what I’ve heard so many times: Someone who represents himself in a legal proceeding has a fool for a client.

In this corner, the former vice president …

It has come down to this.

A former vice president of the United States, Joseph R. Biden, spoke to a Miami conference and said if Donald J. Trump and he were in the same high school, he would “beat the hell out of him.” The issue on the table dealt with the treatment of women by men.

So, what does the president of the United States do? He responds via Twitter (naturally, yes?) that “Crazy Joe” lacks emotional and physical strength and that he — Trump, of course — would take him out. Here is Trump’s tweet: “Crazy Joe Biden is trying to act like a tough guy. Actually, he is weak, both mentally and physically, and yet he threatens me, for the second time, with physical assault. He doesn’t know me, but he would go down fast and hard, crying all the way. Don’t threaten people Joe!”

I do not know which is worse: the former VP saying out loud that he would beat up the president or the head of state responding via social media with a “so’s your mama!” retort.

This is the kind of stuff one usually sees occurring between middle-schoolers. It’s a close call, but I’ll give the “raspberry” in this exchange to the president.

He is the one who occupies the office that, in an earlier time, used to command decorum, dignity and discipline. The former vice president is known to be a bit loose of lip at times; but this is the first time I’ve ever heard Biden actually state a desire to do physical harm to another public figure.

Trump, though, actually has extolled the virtue of beating someone up, such as what he has said about demonstrators who showed up at his political rallies. That, however, occurred before he won the election and took the presidential oath of office.

Donald Trump promised many times he would be “more presidential” once he took that oath.

Well, so much for promises.

Rep. Gohmert shows why he sits on the GOP fringe

U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert sits on the fringe of the Republican Party’s congressional caucus for a reason, as he has demonstrated once again.

The East Texas member of Congress thinks special counsel Robert Mueller should be fired. He doesn’t like that the former FBI director and a crack lawyer is investigating Donald J. Trump on several levels. He is concerned that the counsel might actually find some criminality in his probe into whether the Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russian goons who meddled in our 2016 election.

I need to point out here that the GOP leadership wants Mueller to continue. Even some of the back bench members of both the House and Senate GOP caucus know the consequences if the president gets Mueller removed.

Actually, Gohmert the Goober knows it, too. He said, “The only reason that he is not going and the president is not going to fire him and that I am not calling for him to be fired now is … because of all the establishment Republicans that think they would have to come after Trump if he were fired.”

Oh, really? The Republican congressional leadership would “come after” the president for, oh, obstructing justice or for abusing the power of his high office? Is that what he means?

If that’s the case, then the Republican leadership would be correct to sound the impeachment bugle and Rep. Gohmert is utterly wrong in calling for Mueller to be fired.

Mueller was given a broad mandate when Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed him special counsel; the task fell to Rosenstein after AG Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia matter after serving as a Trump campaign and presidential transition official with ties to Russians who had contacted the Trump political organization.

Rosenstein’s appointment of Mueller was hailed by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Gohmert, though, says he had trouble with Mueller’s selection from the get-go.

I’ll offer this bit of advice to Gohmert, which I’ve also offered to the president: If there is nothing to be found — which Trump insists is the case — then let Mueller reach that conclusion and announce it to the world himself.

Meanwhile, Louie Gohmert needs to settle down and let Mueller do his job.

Technology serves Austin PD — and the public — quite well

Technology sometimes gets a bum rap. Such as in Amarillo, where city officials are employing cameras to help officials deter motorists who believe stop lights are merely a suggestion and not an order.

I want to applaud the Austin Police Department, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for using high-technology measures in helping the cops track down a serial bomber who had terrorized the city for nearly three weeks. He detonated five explosive devices, killing two victims and injuring many more.

A young man was photographed at a FedEx center dropping off a package. The police got a good look at the image, then tracked him to a hotel in Round Rock. Austin PD deployed a SWAT unit to arrest the man, who took off in his car.

Police gave chase, and then the man blew himself to bits by setting off a bomb he was carrying in his own vehicle!

This is what I would call some first-rate police work.

Technology came into play. Austin PD used it to its fullest advantage. Granted, the man alleged to have set off the bombs seems to have made a fatal mistake by showing up — in all places — at a FedEx station where it could be assumed that officials are watching everyone’s every move every minute of every day. Right?

Austin’s terror appears to be over, provided the bomber didn’t plant other devices that have yet to be detonated. The individual who terrorized a major American city appeared to have sophisticated knowledge of how to assemble and plant these devices.

I’ll continue to hold my breath and hope that Austin has gotten past this terrible, frightening episode.

I also want to applaud Austin police and federal agency officials for their diligence and their thorough investigative techniques in bringing their hunt to a conclusion.

As they say: When it works, technology can be a wonderful thing.