Category Archives: national news

Jeter gets monumental sendoff

Derek Jeter’s sendoff as he ends his 20-year career playing baseball for the New York Yankees has been something to behold.

Yes, he’s had a stellar career and yes, he’s been a model of decorum off the field.

The first element is worthy of praise. The second element is what has triggered the media love affair with the Yankees’ captain.

Think about this for a moment.

The public has been bombarded with an incessant downpour of bad news about high-profile athletes. Wife-beating. Child abuse. Drug abuse. Drunken driving. Carousing. Fights in bars. It’s been going on for years.

Then we have this story about Derek Jeter, a young man from Kalamazoo, Mich., who at one time thought about enrolling in the University of Michigan. Then fate came calling. The Yankees drafted him and he went to The Big Apple to play shortstop for the most storied franchise in all of sports — not just baseball.

Now as his career is drawing to a close, the media are looking back on his career with a fondness that seems as much an appreciation for the man he has become as for the skill he brought to the game.

Jeter is now being mentioned in the same breath as Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle — the Four Horsemen of Yankee greatness. I suppose Jeter’s career stats would put him in that category no matter what.

The backdrop of all this pro athlete misbehavior, though, has helped stimulate the affection of a nation that is now saying “so long” to The Captain.

We are not engaging in a religious war

The Values Summit is underway in Washington, D.C., and the usual cavalcade of kooks is drumming up something akin to a religious war.

The international war on terror, they imply strongly, is a war between Christians and Jews against Muslims.

Let’s hold on here.

It is a war pitting civilized human beings against cult followers.

Michelle Bachmann, the lame-duck Minnesota congresswoman, kept harping on what she called “Islamic terrorists.” So did lame-duck Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and a roundtable of “experts” who contend that Muslims pose an existential threat to our way of life.

Give me a break.

Another conservative American president, George W. Bush, was quite astute back when this war began immediately after 9/11 to declare that America is not waging war against Islam. He singled out the terrorists who have perverted a great religion to suit their insane political cause. Does anyone remember when President Bush visited a mosque in New York immediately after touring the wreckage of where the World Trade Center stood?

The Islamic State is not a religious organization. It is a cult. It is a cabal of sociopathic murderers who seek to use religion as a pretext to commit heinous acts of terrorism on innocent people.

They are the enemy. The do not represent Islam any more than, say, the crackpots at Westboro Baptist “Church” in Topeka, Kan., represent Christianity.

The task now is to persuade the goofballs on the right to quit trying to make this a religious war.

It is no such thing.

ISIL is a cult, period

Let’s quit trying to suggest that the Islamic State has anything at all to do with religion.

As in Islam, from which it draws its filthy name.

I’ve made a pact that I’m now going to refer to ISIL as a “cult.” I’ll conceded it’s not an original thought. I’m appropriating it from someone who said it on a news-talk show the other day. If I could remember who said it, I’d credit him specifically.

ISIL doesn’t represent anything about Islam.

I shall concede that I am not a Muslim scholar. I have enough trouble trying to understand my own Presbyterian faith, so I cannot pretend to know much at all about Islam.

However, I am quite comfortable lumping ISIL with other infamous cults.

The worst of them in recent times, for me at least, is the Jonestown cult that committed mass suicide in its Guyana jungle compound in 1978 after gunmen murdered Congressman Leo Ryan and others who had gone there to investigate what was going on with the cult gathering organized by the late Jim Jones.

I would rank ISIL as worse than the Jonestown cult, given the nature of the beheadings they’ve shown the world and the manner in which they treat Muslims, Jews and Christians.

As I have noted already, one group victimized by the ISIL cult has been women in general. Thus, it gladdens my heart to hear about the young major in the United Arab Emirates leading a recent air strike against ISIL in Syria. The major, I hasten to add, is a woman. (See the previous post on this blog.)

President Obama has noted already that “no god” condones the kind of violence that ISIL has brought to others. Indeed, the term “Islamic State” is an insult to a great religion.

Do these monsters represent “religious extremism”? No. They represent something far worse.

ISIS's 'worst nightmare' answers the call

This story absolutely, positively knocks me out.

Major Mariam Al Mansouri has flown a combat mission striking Islamic State targets in Syria.

Al Mansouri is a major in the United Arab Emirates air force.

The major is a woman!

Al Mansouri might be, in the words of, the Islamic State’s “worst nightmare.”

The Islamic State — aka ISIS or ISIL — is at this moment the world’s No. 1 terrorist organization. It is a Sunni extremist cult that beheads prisoners and brutalizes women, denying them any semblance of respect.

These terrorists are animals. President Obama has declared his intention to “degrade and destroy” the terrorist organization.

Accordingly, he and Secretary of State John Kerry have enlisted several nations to join in a coalition to fight ISIL/ISIS. The United Arab Emirates is one of them. Among the service personnel ordered to fly combat sorties against the Islamic State is the aforementioned Major Al Mansouri.

“She is (a) fully qualified, highly trained, combat ready pilot, and she led the mission,” Yousef Al Otaiba told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” according to

This is fantastic. A female UAE air force officer has led a combat mission to destroy military targets manned and operated by sworn enemies of women all around the world.

The delicious irony is way beyond measure.

Holder builds solid legacy at Justice

Eric Holder might have been the poster child for partisanship.

He’ll stay on the job as U.S. attorney general until the Senate confirms his successor, but the time has come to say something about his time at the Justice Department and to wonder what lies ahead for what is certain to be a stormy confirmation process.

I’ll just say it up front: Holder has been a great attorney general.

That doesn’t mean his time at Justice has been free of mistakes. He’s made some.

Chief among the blunders is likely the Fast and Furious gun-tracking program that strangely put firearms in the hands of dangerous drug-runners, who then used the weapons to bring considerable misery to federal law enforcement authorities.

Congressional Republicans, of course, jumped all over the Fast and Furious program as a monumental failure. It was meant to allow gun merchants to sell firearms to drug dealers with the hope of tracking their movement. It didn’t work.

Congress sought to get him to testify about Fast and Furious and he just enraged the GOP more by refusing to cooperate fully.

So, that project has failed.

Another mistake was Holder’s decision not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act when it stood as federal law. Whether one agrees with the law that essentially prohibited same-sex marriage or not, the AG took an oath to defend the laws of the land, no matter what. He failed in that regard. DOMA, though, later was thrown out by the Supreme Court, which made the refusal to defend it more or less a moot point.

However, Holder has served as a civil rights champion. He has elevated the discussion of equal protection for all Americans to a level not heard since the days of the late Robert F. Kennedy, when he was AG from 1961 to 1964.

As the nation’s first African-American attorney general, Holder has standing on this issue that none of his predecessors enjoyed. Holder recommitted the federal government to civil rights when he went to Ferguson, Mo., in the wake of the shooting death of a young black man by a white police officer.

Politico reports: “Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont praised Holder for ‘restor[ing] the Civil Rights Division to its historical mission’ and declared that ‘his dedication to defending Americans’ voting rights, at a time when these constitutional rights are under attack, has been supremely important.’”

Holder is seen by his foes as a polarizing figure. Perhaps he is, but that’s more a function of the divisions in American society he revealed by his commitment to creating a more just society for all Americans.

So, what lies ahead? As with virtually everything involving the Obama administration, I’m guessing we’re going to see a brisk challenge to whomever the president nominates to succeed Holder.

I’m hoping the next attorney general will get the thorough vetting he or she deserves, but that the Senate will act quickly to get that individual on the job.

We're worried about presidential salutes?

On a day when the president of the United States delivered an important speech to the United Nations, the mainstream conservative media got all worked up over — what? — a salute the president delivered to a Marine.

He snapped a salute while holding a cup of coffee.

Stop the bleeping presses, will ya?

This is huge!

The presidential salute is a relatively new custom. It began with Ronald Reagan. George H.W. Bush didn’t return salutes from military ceremonial troops. Bill Clinton did; so did George W. Bush. Barack Obama does it, too. Retired General of the Army Dwight Eisenhower didn’t return salutes when he served as president, either.

There’s nothing written in the social protocol for presidents that requires them to return salutes. They’re civilians who happen to serve as commander in chief.

Yes, it’s good that they return the salute smartly. Presidents with no military experience — e.g., Clinton and Obama — need to be taught how to do it. They’ve learned how to return the salute.

But let’s not get all worked up over a Latte Salute. Let’s recall the strange moment when President Bush tried to return a salute while trying to control a restless dog. (See the picture included in the attached link.)

Let’s also focus on things that really matter.

Gas prices to drop? Where?

The headline from The Associated Press caught my eye online today right after I noticed that gasoline prices in Amarillo had spiked 17 cents per gallon overnight.

The AP story tells of how gas prices might fall below $3 per gallon by year’s end.

So help me God Almighty, the roller-coaster ride that gas prices take makes me want to hold on with both hands.

Our gas prices had been falling steadily over the course of the past month. They hit $3.02 per gallon of unleaded gas — until last night.

Then the prices shot back up in the biggest overnight spike I’d seen in some time: 17 cents.

Now we hear about further declines? In “some parts of the country”? Gas prices will fall below $3 per gallon?

This is the new normal, friends.

Back when it gas hit the then-unheard of price of $3 per gallon, oil experts were talking about $5 gasoline. One of the was none other than the legendary Texas Panhandle oilman Boone Pickens. He was among those predicting very expensive gas. It hasn’t happened.

Now it appears the price is going the other way.

AP reports that fall is a time when prices usually decline. Refiners switch to cheaper grades of oil. Lately, though, we’ve seen greater automotive fuel efficiency, more alterative energy production and conservation at many levels. All of this results in greater supply as demand declines.

The global price decline is a different matter. AP reports: “The drop in global crude oil prices is a surprise. Despite increasing violence and turmoil in the Middle East, the world’s most important oil-producing region, the global price of oil has fallen to $97 a barrel, close to its lowest level in more than two years.”

Maybe the overnight spike in the heart of Oil Country is an aberration. Let’s hope so, OK?

McCain might run again … for the Senate

John McCain confounds me .

The Arizona Republican is at once an admirable man, a genuine war hero, an annoying gadfly, a petulant loser and a real-life expert on foreign policy.

The senator, who’s 78, says he might run for a sixth term in 2016 but observers say he’s going to get a serious tea party challenge if he suits up for another senatorial campaign. He got a stout challenge in 2010, but thrashed former U.S. Rep. J.D. Hayworth by 25 percentage points.

I think he ought to run at least once more if he’s up to it.

McCain’s biography is well-known. He was a Navy aviator, shot down over Hanoi during the Vietnam War and held captive for more than five years. He suffered terrible torture at the hands of his captors.

His career in public office has been marked by amazing ups and downs.

McCain has run twice for president, nominated by the GOP in 2008, when he lost to Barack Obama.

He’s been a friend of the “liberal” media, which has ticked off conservatives to no end. He’s no liberal, however. He’s voted consistently with the right wing of his party throughout his lengthy career.

Yet … when he carps about President Obama’s decisions he sounds like a sore loser.

Still, he maintains friendships with colleagues on the other side, particularly those with whom he shares combat experience. He has defended the character of his friends John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, both of whom now serve in the president’s Cabinet.

Indeed, my favorite McCain moment might be the time he scolded Senate newcomer Ted Cruz, R-Texas, when Cruz questioned Hagel’s patriotism when Hagel was being examined by the Senate to be defense secretary.

McCain is one of those senators I’d like to meet one day. It won’t happen. If I had the chance I’d likely ask him: Senator, do you confound and confuse some of us intentionally, or is that just a byproduct of a complex personality?

Obama deserves unified nation

The late great Republican Sen. Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan had it right.

Partisanship, he said, should “stop at the water’s edge.”

Put another way: When a president takes a nation to war then it becomes imperative for a nation to rally behind the effort.

President Barack Obama went before the United Nations today to tell the world body that it’s time for the world to step up in the fight against the Islamic State. He didn’t sugar-coat it. He said the fight well could take years. He said ISIL is a tough and resilient foe. He also said that dozens of nations have lined up as part of a growing coalition to fight the terrorists.

But can the commander in chief perform his duty to protect Americans without much of the partisan carping that has plagued him to date? If his Republican foes choose to heed the words of one of their predecessors — the late Sen. Vandenberg — then there might be a unified nation rallying to fight a determined enemy.

Unity, of course, isn’t always the norm.

President Bush was able to rally the nation initially when he took us to war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda immediately after the 9/11 attacks. Much of the support evaporated when he expanded that fight into Iraq in March 2003.

President Clinton had his critics when he started bombing fighters in Bosnia and Kosovo.

President Truman heard the critics when the Korean War dragged on.

And Vietnam? Well, we know what happened there.

Barack Obama received congressional authorization to arm and train Syrian rebels. He’s consulted with political friends and foes in advance of launching the air strikes. Some critics will continue to say the strikes are too little too late.

Let us not undermine this necessary effort to destroy the Islamic State, however, with partisan carping.

Jeter deserves the accolades

Let’s talk a little baseball.

Specifically, let’s talk for a bit about Derek Jeter, the New York Yankees shortstop whose baseball career is about to end in a few days.

Jeter is retiring after 20 seasons with the Yankees and he’s been the subject of two interesting — and opposing — observations.

ESPN blowhard Keith Olbermann went on the air last night and talked about how tired he is of all the adulation Jeter has been getting. Well, whatever, Keith. You are not credible — to me, at least — to talk about anything. I will set your rant aside.

Then I read an Associated Press story this morning that suggests Jeter might be the first unanimous pick for baseball’s Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible in 2020.

I’m not going to jump on that bandwagon, either. Why? It has little to do with Jeter, who has had a stellar career and has behaved magnificently off the field as well.

It’s just that in the history of Hall of Fame voting, no one ever has gotten into the hall unanimously. Tom Seaver, the great pitcher, came closest. All the inductees have voters keeping them off their Hall of Fame ballots.

Looking back on all the years of baseball I’ve followed, I think the perfect candidate for unanimous induction would have been Henry Aaron, the great Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves slugger who chased down Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record. Hank Aaron remains — in my mind at least — the home run king, given that he didn’t banned substances that enabled him to break the record.

More than that, he faced down horrific racism from those who just couldn’t stand the thought of a white guy’s record falling to a black guy. Aaron conducted himself with great courage and grace in the face of that hatred and to this very day remains the model of gentlemanly decorum.

If anyone should have been elected with nary a “no” vote, it’s Hammering Hank Aaron.

He didn’t get there unanimously.

Jeter is one of the greatest Yankees ever. He stands next to the Babe, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle — four men who personified what it means to be a Yankee great. We can place Derek Jeter next to them.

Will he get to the Hall of Fame with a unanimous vote? Well, if Henry Aaron couldn’t do it, I cannot fathom how Derek Jeter gets it done.