Category Archives: national news

ICE gets new director

Sarah Saldana has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate as head of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, aka ICE.

Wow. That was a close a call that never should have been that close.

In that curious game of political gamesmanship on Capitol Hill, Senate Republicans who once sang Saldana’s praises turned on a dime against her nomination. Why is that? Well, it seems they didn’t like her support of President Obama’s executive order delaying deportation of millions of illegal immigrants.

OK, so let’s consider that for a moment.

Saldana was deemed supremely qualified to lead this critical national security agency prior to the executive action. NPR this morning had a report of how the GOP tide turned against her instantly as she backed Obama’s decision. One of her supporters-turned-foes happened to be Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

So, the Republicans wanted her to in effect turn against the policies of the president who appointed her.

What in the name of God’s green Earth did they expect from this presidential appointee? Is this person going to spit in the face of the man who selected her to lead the effort to protect our borders? Of course not!

Yet the GOP caucus in the Senate all but demanded it of her.

All the while, Senate and House Republicans keep harping — correctly, I should add — that the nation needs to do all it can to prevent illegal immigrants from streaming into our country.

Do they want the president to appoint an ICE director or don’t they?

Well, we now have one.

As someone noted this morning on National Public Radio, the job Saldana is about to assume is arguably the most difficult job in the federal government.

If she was a stellar choice prior to her backing the president on immigration, then she remains a stellar choice today.

Let’s get to work, ICE Director Saldana.



Can Sen. Warren actually defeat Hillary?

OK, let’s be clear that while the media routinely refer to a former secretary of state as “Hillary,” no one is going to call the senior senator from Massachusetts “Liz.”

One prominent conservative columnist, though, does believe that Sen. Elizabeth Warren has an honest chance of defeating Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 2016 race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

New York Times columnist David Brooks believes Warren has tapped into the Democrats’ populist/progressive base. She is taking on the banking industry, a favorite target of those progressives.

Brooks isn’t predicting a Warren nomination, he’s merely stating that he thinks she’s got a puncher’s chance.

Pardon me if I seem a bit skeptical.

Money wins these things. Hillary Clinton has tons of it in the bank and even more of it awaiting her the moment she announces her candidacy. The former secretary, senator and first lady can thank the Supreme Court for that advantage, given its ruling that well-heeled political action groups can give unlimited amounts of money to campaigns.

I’ll hand it to Brooks, though, for going out on a limb.

One more thing. Warren said today she isn’t running for president. She didn’t vow to stay out of the 2016 race until the end, just that she isn’t running. That means today. Tomorrow? It hasn’t arrived yet.

It’s still Hillary Clinton’s nomination to squander.


Senate approves surgeon general … finally!

For the first time in I don’t know how long, the United States has a top doctor.

He is Vivek Murthy, who today was approved by the U.S. Senate to become the nation’s next surgeon general.

Despite his sparkling medical credentials and the work he has done to combat HIV/AIDS, senators had held up his nomination because he has spoken out against gun violence, calling it a public health issue.

Imagine that. A physician wanting to control gun violence because bullets injure and kill people.

His confirmation vote today was 51-43, with Republicans overwhelmingly opposing him because he is no friend of gun-rights advocates. Some Democrats joined their Republican colleagues in opposing Dr. Murthy.

One of them was Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who issued a statement opposing the doctor because, according to Manchin, his political views muddled his medical policy. I understand why Manchin joined other senators in opposing Murthy. It’s because he’s scared of gun-rights groups such as the National Rifle Association and the potent political power they possess.

That doesn’t make it right.

Vivek Murthy is perfectly qualified to serve as surgeon general. His views on gun control are well-known, but they do not infringe on his ability to help set medical policy or recommend measures to promote good health on behalf of the Obama administration.

Indeed, had their been a surgeon general on board during the recent Ebola mini-scare, there might not have been a need for the president to appoint an “Ebola czar” to coordinate the administration’s response to the disease’s arrival in the United States.

OK, so that task is done. We have a surgeon general. It’s good to know that at least 51 senators had the guts to vote in favor of hiring a chief medical officer to advise the nation on how to take better care of its health.


Forgiveness for Lennon's killer? Oh, boy

Mark David Chapman wants what from Yoko Ono?

He wants the wife of the man he murdered 34 years ago to forgive him?

This one boggles my mind.

Chapman received a 20-years-to-life prison sentence for shooting music legend John Lennon in the back. He’s been denied parole several times in the years since then. John’s widow has argued with the New York state parole board against setting her husband’s killer free.

Now the man who put several generations of music lovers — not to mention those of us who loved The Beatles — into perpetual mourning wants Yoko Ono’s forgiveness.

How would I feel if such a tragedy had occurred in my life? Would I be able to forgive the individual who did such a terrible deed to someone I love?

I do not believe I could.

Then again, it is impossible to thrust oneself into another’s conscience when pondering such a request.

Therefore, I won’t offer any advice to Yoko Ono on how she should respond to this request from the man who murdered her husband.

But if it were me …


Declining oil prices bad for economy?

Economics isn’t my specialty. Indeed, I don’t have any specialties.

I’m trying to understand why some economists now think the declining price of oil and the concurrent drop in gasoline prices is somehow bad for the recovering U.S. economy.

Does anyone else remember when crude prices were skyrocketing from, say, $40 per barrel to more than $100? The stock market went bonkers. Investment accounts were drained of billions of dollars.

However, the oil industry made a gigantic comeback. NPR this morning did a story from West Texas detailing how pump jacks that once stood like dinosaurs have jumped back to life and are pulling out of the ground.

A lot of other factors have contributed to the nation’s economic rebound.

Moreover, a lot of factors are contributing to the glut of oil that’s driving its price downward.

Now we hear that the economic recovery might be jeopardized by the plunge in oil prices.

The oil boom might fizzle out at the production end, but what about the increase in disposable income for motorists who aren’t pouring as much money into their fuel tanks?

Will they be able to spend more of that income on other essential — and non-essential — items?

Economics can be a complicated issue. This oil price up-down cycle has me confused.


McCain vs. Cheney on torture

An interesting face-off is occurring within the Republican Party over the definition of torture.

In one corner is Sen. John McCain, a former prisoner of war and a serious expert on torture.

In the other corner is former Vice President Dick Cheney, who’s never been subjected to torture but who supports the use of what’s called “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

McCain says the United States shouldn’t use those “EITs” on suspected terrorists because they aren’t in keeping with American values.

Cheney says he’d do all it all over again if given the chance and says the EITs do not constitute torture.

Let’s see. Who’s more credible? I think I’ll go with McCain.

I’ll be clear. I didn’t vote for McCain when he ran for president in 2008. Nor did I vote for the George W. Bush/Cheney ticket in either 2000 or 2004. Politics isn’t part of my leaning.

What informs me here is McCain’s stature as a war hero and a POW who endured torture at the hands of his North Vietnamese captors from 1967 to 1973. The man knows torture. He says without hesitation that waterboarding, rectal feeding, sleep deprivation and stress positions constitute torture.

Cheney’s first-hand knowledge of torture? He doesn’t have any. However, he speaks with an equal lack of hesitation that we gained knowledge from the bad guys by using the EITs.

McCain disputes that assertion, saying that captives will “say anything” to avoid further pain and suffering.

How does McCain know that? Again, he speaks from brutal and intense personal experience.

Yep. I’m siding with McCain on this one.


Rectal feedings were 'necessary'?

Someone will have to explain to me how the practice of “rectal feeding” becomes a medical necessity.

Yet it’s a practice that Karl “Bush’s Brain” Rove defended this morning on Fox News Sunday.

The term was revealed in that Senate Intelligence Committee report on the treatment of terror suspects by the Bush administration immediately after the 9/11 attacks. One of the revelations is the practice of “rectal feeding,” which Rove said this morning was a “medical necessity.” The report issued by the Intelligence Committee’s Democratic members said otherwise.

Maybe I don’t get out much, but this practice is new to me.

As I understand it, the procedure involves pureeing food and then inserting it into individuals’ rectum. This is how suspects are, um, fed by their captors. Sounds yummy, doesn’t it?

Well, it’s apparently quite a painful process. It inflicts misery on those receiving these food injections.

If the suspect is refusing to eat as a form of protest, aren’t there other ways to “feed” them? Sedation, perhaps, and an intravenous line inserted into their arm would seem to do the trick.

The Senate report suggests the procedure was meant to torture the suspects and to get them to reveal battle plans or other “actionable intelligence” to which our military and spooks could respond.

It seems to me that rectal feeding goes a good bit beyond what is acceptable.

Leave it, though, to Karl Rove to defend, as necessary, a practice that is ay beyond disgusting.


Still waiting for Cosby's magic words

Bill Cosby has — more or less — broken his silence on the allegations of sexual abuse that have piled up on him.

The Hollywood Reporter link isn’t very long, as Cosby didn’t talk long to the New York Post reporter interviewing him. He made a reference to his lawyer not wanting him to speak to the media.

The allegations are serious and, to be quite candid, are sounding more believable with each new alleged victim coming forward. The most notable accuser has been supermodel Beverly Johnson, who has accused Cosby of drugging her and having his way with her.

My major source of skepticism about all of this centers on the length of time that has passed since these alleged incidents occurred. Moreover, Cosby’s never been charged with a crime.

Still, in the comments that have come forward, either from Cosby himself or from his legal team, I am still waiting to hear or read the “magic words” from the accused.

They are: “I did not commit these acts.”

It troubles me terribly that Cosby hasn’t declared categorically in public that these alleged acts never occurred. It also troubles me, if it’s the case, that his lawyers might have instructed him to keep quiet on that specific point.

The silence from this entertainment icon is speaking volumes. Maybe I’m just hearing things, so to speak.

My goodness, I hope that’s the case. I am fearing the worst.


Cruz doesn't play well with GOP 'team'

You just have to love the way Sen. Ted Cruz is antagonizing his fellow Senate Republicans.

They want to finish a budget deal so they can go home for Christmas, finish their shopping, kick off their shoes and relax with their families.

What does the freshman lawmaker from Texas do? He launches a procedural move that keeps the Senate in session through the weekend because, by golly, he wants to undercut President Obama’s executive action on immigration.

His Republican pals, even some of his TEA party allies, are having none of it.

What gives with this showboating grandstander?

Oh, I forgot. He wants to run for president of the United States eventually and he might jump into the 2016 race. It’s all about Cruz. Forget that the government needs money to function, you know, do things like entertain visitors who visit our parks and do perform certain essential services that citizens demand.

As Politico reports, the GOP leadership is unhappy with this new guy: “Senior Republicans say there’s a problem with Cruz’s strategy: The GOP lacks the votes to stop Obama on immigration now, the $1.1 trillion spending package was speeding to passage, and they won’t resort to shutting down the government to mount their objections. Plus, the weekend session could allow Obama to get even more of his nominees confirmed.”

According to Politico, some Republican senators are openly angry with the Cruz Missile. Even fellow TEA party advocate, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., is ticked off. So is Susan Collins, R-Maine. Oh, and how about the incoming Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.?

Suffice to say that McConnell is likely to have a few four-letter words with the young Lone Star blowhard.

Keep yammering, Ted. Some of your fellow Texans — such as me — are enjoying this sideshow.


This is 'community policing' at its finest

William Stacy well might become the face of compassionate, community policing.

He’s an officer with the Tarrant (Ala.) Police Department.

A woman was caught shoplifting some eggs from a store. The officer arrived. Instead of arresting her, he bought her the eggs. The scene was caught on video, which then went viral. Donations began pouring in.

The woman, Helen Johnson, was desperate. She had lost her job. She lacked the money to feed her children and grandchildren. William Stacy’s reaction to all of this could have been much different.

Oh, and when you look at the link attached, you’ll notice that Ms. Johnson is black and Officer Stacy is white.

In this time of tempest and tumult involving white police officers and black constituents, this link provides a healthy dose of goodness to counteract the anger we’ve been witnessing.