Clam up, will ya, Rep. King?

U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., is one of many members of Congress who’s in love with the sound of his voice.

Allow me to stipulate that this is a bipartisan love affair. Democrats and Republicans are equally guilty of popping off when they should perhaps show some discretion.

King told a radio station that he is inclined to believe who ever killed three people and injured dozens more at the Boston Marathon on Monday is linked to a foreign terrorist group “or could be a white supremacist.”

OK, congressman, sure thing. Then again, it could be just some deranged crackpot.

King is known in D.C. as an expert on national security issues. He’s usually one of the first sources the TV networks seek out whenever an event such as the Boston bombing occurs. To be honest, though, this kind of public speculation does nothing but raise anxiety among those of us just wanting some answers from those who can provide them. Some congressman spouting off isn’t one of them.

I listened earlier today to Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, along with local and federal authorities say they have no idea yet who’s responsible for this terrible deed. President Obama spoke this morning and said essentially the same thing, but assured the nation that the perpetrator — whether one person or many — will be brought to justice.

It is my fond hope that in this time of grief and anger that our elected representatives refrain from this kind of needless guesswork. How about next time someone asks, “Congressman do you think this was an act of foreign or domestic terror?” they could say, “I don’t have the foggiest idea. Let’s allow the authorities do their job.”

Gov. Perry takes aim at Land of Lincoln

You have to hand it to Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

His fearlessness is a thing to behold. And I don’t mean that necessarily as a compliment.

Perry’s latest job-poaching strategy is now aimed at Illinois. He’s taken out an ad in a business journal that goes directly after employers who might want to relocate in Texas.

You’ll recall that a few months ago, Perry ventured to California to recruit business owners there to bring their operations to Texas. He openly antagonized California Gov. Jerry Brown. I’m guessing he intended to do precisely that, given that Perry is a partisan Republican and Brown is an equally partisan Democrat.

And what about the Illinois governor? He is Patrick Quinn, another dreaded Democrat who more than likely doesn’t much like the overtures that Perry is making in his state.

The last time I commented on Perry’s job-hunting venture, some of my friends said I was being unfair because, they said, the governor is merely doing his job, which is to promote Texas. I certainly understand his desire to create jobs for Texans.

But what’s still a bit unsettling to me is the brazen approach Perry is taking with these public-relations tactics. It’s one thing to promote Texas’s business climate in the relative quiet of a corporate conference room or a board meeting. It’s quite another to make a grand show of it, which he did in California and which he is doing now with the Illinois effort.

Here’s what he posted in an “open letter” published in Crain’s Chicago Business: “If you’re a business owner in Illinois, I want to express my admiration for your ability to survive in an environment that, intentionally or not, is designed for you to fail. With rising taxes and government interference on the upswing, your situation is not unlike a burning building on the verge of collapse.”

Subtle, huh?

Still, there’s something to be said for the gumption the governor is showing. I cannot help but wonder how it might play with voters who – believe it or not – might have to consider whether someone who wants to take jobs away from their state is presidential material in, say, 2016.

Good riddance, cyber medal

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke some common sense language in scrapping a plan to award medals to those who operate unmanned drone aircraft from control centers thousands of miles from the battlefield.

Hagel’s decision rescinds an act proposed by his immediate predecessor, former Secretary Leon Panetta, who had wanted to create a medal that individuals could earn for their work in conducting the war with the unmanned aircraft and other cyber operations.

The Pentagon instead will assign a pin that these service personnel can attach to existing medals. Observers have compared it to the “V” placed atop Bronze Star medals, which recognizes valor on the battlefield.

I don’t have a problem with recognizing the valuable work being done by these highly trained servicemen and women. Creating a new medal, though, seems a bit much.

Veterans groups and other critics had called the award the Nintendo Medal; its official name is the Distinguished Warfare Medal. The Nintendo reference, though, brings to mind what the military brass told us time and again when the public saw video of the air attacks that began the Iraq War in 2003.

“War isn’t a video game,” they would remind us. Indeed it isn’t.

A pin attached to an existing medal provides significant recognition for the work being done by drone controllers.

Shocking, simply shocking

In this highly political environment, it is a lead-pipe cinch that someone – or many individuals – will make partisan hay out of what happened today in Boston.

Two people are known to have died today in the twin explosions near the finish line at the Boston Marathon. Nearly 30 more are injured. A terrorist act? Certainly it was – and it matters not one bit whether it was a right-wing group, a left-wing group, a foreign organization or a home-grown group that did the terrible deed.

That someone would detonate these devices in the midst of a cheering crowd is by definition a terrorist act.

My fervent hope in these early hours and beyond is that we concentrate fully on finding the perpetrators and bringing them to justice.

None of us needs to hear political recriminations. But rest assured: They’re likely to come pouring forth … any minute now.


‘Illegal’ means what it says

Congressman Bobby Rush is letting political correctness get the better of him.

The Illinois Democrat wants the House of Representatives to stop using the term “illegal immigrants” when referring to those who come into this country, um, illegally. His new preferred tem is “undocumented foreign nationals.”

OK, let’s not split hairs here.

I happen to be all for many provisions that President Obama wants to enact: The Dream Act would in effect grant amnesty to those who were brought here illegally by their parents when they were too young to do anything about it. I also favor streamlining legalization procedures to enable those who are here illegally to obtain legal resident status. I do not want to round up the 11 million or so people who are here illegally and send them back to their country of origin.

But I also do not feel the need to mess with the language to define individuals who failed – for whatever reason – to enter this country through legal means.

Rep. Rush is engaging in some kind of meaningless semantic exercise. “undocumented foreign nationals” means the very same thing as “illegal immigrants.”

The folks who sneaked into this country broke the law. Thus, they have committed an illegal act. Give them a chance to make it right. But let’s not get caught up in playing silly word games.

Now that’s an apology

Barry Smitherman knows how to say he’s sorry for his mistake.

I give him plenty of credit for it, too.

The chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission was man enough to stand up and say he is sorry for a message he posted on social media that included a noose. He intended to send a message of warning to the 16 Republican U.S. senators who voted to break a filibuster against gun-control legislation pending in the Senate.

Smitherman, also a Republican, opposes legislation that would require universal background checks for those seeking to buy a firearm. But he chose some poor imagery, he said, in depicting his position.

There was none of that “If I offended anyone …” language in his apology. Nor was there any of that annoying passive-voice “mistakes were made” stuff in it. He stood up and said he is sorry. Period.

I had the pleasure of meeting Smitherman in early 2012 as he was running for election to the Railroad Commission. He comes across as an erudite fellow who knows a great deal about the oil and gas industry, which the Railroad Commission regulates in Texas.

It’s curious, however, that he would weigh in on an issue over which the RRC has zero purview. Perhaps he’s thinking about running for another public office down the road, eh?

Whatever. He erred in using the noose image and said he is sorry for doing so.

Apology accepted, Mr. Chairman.

‘42’ tells the story well

I want to stipulate up front that I am not qualified to review films.

But having watched “42,” the film about the Jackie Robinson’s entry into Major League Baseball, I do intend to declare that the movie tells a compelling story in a tasteful way.

I was a bit apprehensive, believing that the story would be too Hollywoodized for my taste. I don’t believe that’s the case.

Robinson broke into the big leagues in 1947, becoming the first African-American ballplayer to suit up in an all-white sporting enterprise. He earned his spurs, becoming the National League’s Rookie of the Year with the Brooklyn Dodgers; Robinson was the NL’s Most Valuable Player in 1949.

The film tells the story of the intense hatred Robinson felt from fans and fellow players – opposing players and teammates. It also tells the story of strength, of character, of pride and of determination.

Chadwick Boseman portrays Jackie Robinson and bears even a vague resemblance to the late baseball icon. Harrison Ford portrays Branch Rickey, the Dodgers’ executive who opened the door for Robinson’s entry into the big leagues. 

I don’t want to single out elements of the film. As I said, I’m not a film critic.

But the film’s telling of an important American story – even with its ear-splitting use of the “n-word” – is worth seeing.

Sign says it all

One of my fondest wishes – and I’ve got a few of them – is for all the morons who think they can text while driving a motor vehicle would see the message being flashed on those Amber Alert electronic signs next to Amarillo’s two stretches of interstate highway.

The message says: You talk, you text, you crash.

They’re flashing constantly to motorists as they whiz by along Interstates 40 and 27.

Amarillo has established a no-talking-while-driving ordinance. The Texas Legislature has been considering a statewide ban on texting while driving; I am not sure where that one stands at the moment.

I mention all this knowing full well too many motorists are ignoring the city’s prohibition against talking on handheld cellphones while they are driving, say, their Suburban Assault Vehicles through heavy traffic, often with kids in the back seat.

And, no, just seeing those signs isn’t going to stop the idiots from continuing that highly hazardous practice.

Idiots, by definition, pay no attention to these warnings – which is why they’re idiots.

Have I mentioned that they’re morons, too?

April is National Distracted While Driving Month and the signs, courtesy of the Texas Department of Transportation, will be flashing the message for the entire month.

If only they would do some good.

Sigh …

No. 42’s legacy stands for all time

I’ve listened to a lot of commentary in recent days about Jackie Robinson, the man who broke baseball’s racial barrier in 1947 when he became the first African-American to suit up in the big leagues.

I believe it was the Boston Celtics basketball legend Bill Russell – the first black coach in the National Basketball Association – who said it best. Robinson, he said, probably wasn’t the best player in the Negro League when the big leagues were looking for a player to break that barrier. But he possessed the strength of character, the spine of steel and the resolve to withstand what everyone knew was coming: the hate-filled racial epithets that would be thrown at him.

And he stood up and stood tall in the face of it all.

I’m going to see the film “42” later today with my wife and one of my sons. I’m looking forward to seeing how Hollywood tells this compelling story. I pray the filmmakers tell the truth as I understand it, which is that Jackie Robinson was willing to pay a huge price for the chance to play against the best baseball players in the world. He didn’t pay that price stoically at all times. He was hurt emotionally many times along the way. But he tried his best to show the public face of strength.

Some years ago, MLB did something unprecedented. The league retired a number, 42. That was number Robinson wore on his Brooklyn Dodgers uniform. I’m aware that at least one player is wearing the number today, Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees, who’s going to retire at the end of this season. But the big leagues no longer will allow any team to issue that number to another player ever again.

I cannot think of a player who deserves that honor more than Jackie Robinson.

Robinson died in 1972 in his early 50s of diabetes-related complications. I so wish he could be here to soak up the respect and love he has engendered. Lord knows he didn’t get it in 1947.

Newtown and background checks

I am willing to concede one point to the gun-rights crowd about background checks and whether they would have prevented the Sandy Hook school massacre in Newtown, Conn.

The National Rifle Association has been saying repeatedly that background checks wouldn’t have prevented the madman from killing 20 children, six educators, his own mother and then himself.

I can agree to that single point.

Adam Lanza’s weaponry came from his mother’s house. He took the guns from dear ol’ Mom and killed her with one of them before he set out to slaughter the rest of his victims. Mrs. Lanza had obtained the weapons legally. Why she owned a Bushmaster, though, remains a mystery.

But the point is that checking Adam Lanza’s background is irrelevant as it relates to this particular crime.

The NRA’s use of the Sandy Hook example to make its point about background checks, though, begs the bigger issue … which is that background checks can block known criminals from purchasing weapons they might want to use to harm other human beings.

Commentary on politics, current events and life experience

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