The Oklahoma Standard …

I learned about a term today I didn’t know existed.

It’s called The Oklahoma Standard. The Daily Oklahoman editorialized today about what Memorial Day means to residents of the Sooner State. It’s a bit different than it is perhaps for the rest of the nation.

The editorial referenced Memorial Day holidays in 1995, 1999 and now in 2013. In 1995, Memorial Day fell just after the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City was blown apart in an act of domestic terror; the perpetrator was captured, tried and executed. In 1999, the holiday arrived on the heels of a terrible tornado that ripped through Moore and Midwest City. This year, the holiday comes in the wake of yet another tornado that destroyed much of Moore.

The Oklahoma Standard, according to the Oklahoman, is the giving spirit of Oklahomans who rush to aid their neighbors in times of trouble. Noting the cleanup that’s just beginning in the aftermath of the latest tragic tornado, the Oklahoman said: “Thousands of Oklahomans have volunteered their time, labor and resources to help their neighbors, providing everything from shelter to water to clothes to cash to a shoulder to cry on. This outpouring was not unexpected. The Oklahoma Standard saw to that.”

The Oklahoma Standard. May it live in the hearts of all Americans.

‘I don’t trust the Republicans’

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, doesn’t trust those of his own political party, which means he’s really and truly distrustful of those in the other party.

I’m still scratching my head over what he said on the Senate floor the other day.

If he doesn’t trust either Republicans and Democrats, does he trust anyone? Is there an ounce of trust and good will in this man’s body? Or is he out to wreck the government, tear it down, rebuild it into something else – perhaps in his own image?

This guy is getting weirder by the day … and that’s really saying something because he’s been pretty weird ever since he took office all those many months ago.

Yeah, he’s been in the Senate all of five months and he’s managed to step on just about every set of toes there is. To what end is not yet clear. I know he’s not the first politician to take a public office perhaps with his eyes on a larger prize down the road. This individual’s brass, though, is breathtaking.

He’s even managed to antagonize the senior statesmen within his own party, such as Sen. John McCain, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee and Vietnam War prisoner.

Former Sen. Bob Dole, one of his party’s elders, said the other day the Senate is “badly bent.” Dole would be on the outs with the likes of Cruz, a tea party golden boy. The man, though, knew how to legislate and managed to forge constructive working relationships with senators from the other party, such as his good friend and fellow World War II veteran the late Sen. George McGovern.

I’m trying to imagine Ted Cruz forming that kind of bond with someone on the other side. That image just refuses to take shape in my mind’s eye.

This is a day of special thanksgiving

I don’t dwell too much on these kinds of things, but I’m thinking today of a young man I knew briefly many years ago.

His name was Jose DeLaTorre. We served in the same U.S. Army aviation battalion at Marble Mountain, a heavily fortified outpost just south of Da Nang in what used to be called South Vietnam. He served in a different company than I did; he worked on a UH-1 Huey helicopter crew while I was assigned to a fixed-wing outfit, the 245th Aviation Company, which flew OV-1 Mohawk reconnaissance aircraft.

One day in June 1969, Jose came bursting into our work area full of enthusiasm. He was going home in just a few days. I recall he’d extended his tour in ‘Nam several times. I think he had served something like 32 months in-country. I recall he usually was full of it – even on his quiet days. But on this day, Jose was pretty much out of control with excitement.

Later that day, his Huey company scrambled on a troop-lift mission. DeLaTorre did what he usually did when his company got the call to lift off: He strapped himself into an M-60 machine gun and flew as a door gunner on the mission.

It was supposed to be a “routine” drop at a landing zone. It wasn’t. The LZ was “hot,” meaning the ships were greeted by heavy enemy fire when they arrived.

You know how this tale turns out.

DeLaTorre was killed in action that day.

I didn’t know him well. Indeed, it took me 21 years – when I visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in D.C. in 1990 with my wife and sons – to learn he hailed from Fullerton, Calif. I saw his name carved into The Wall. I paid my respects and, yes, choked back the lump in my throat.

Today I’m thinking of that effervescent young man and the 58,000-plus other names on that monument, as well all those who have fallen in battle since the beginning of this great republic.

May they all rest in peace.

Thank you for your sacrifice.

Even a non-musician loves this one

I am not a musician.

Heck, I can barely play the radio. But I saw this link recently and it just blows me away.

Randy Bachman, the guitarist and a founding member of Bachman Turner Overdrive, talks of visiting the Abbey Road studio in London and learns the secret to what he calls the most famous chord in rock-music history.

It’s the chord that begins “A Hard Day’s Night.” Diehard Beatles fans – such as yours truly – know what I’m talking about.

The coolest part of this brief audio link, though, is the sound of Bachman’s voice when he puts all the pieces together – courtesy of Giles Martin, the son of legendary Beatles music producer Sir George Martin – and then strums the chord.

It knocks me out to hear a musician get so tickled as he learns the secret to a bit of rock-and-roll history. When Bachman talks about all the various notes that John, Paul and George played to put that magical sound together, he might as well be speaking Martian to me.

But when he gets downright giddy at the sound that comes from all of it, well, he is speaking language any of us can understand.

Obama can put Bush era to rest now

The great New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd asks a pertinent question.

“Do we dare to hope that the Bush administration is finally at an end?”

That was the lead in her column published in today’s NY Times. The rest of it is attached:

President Obama had to spend a great deal of his first term trying to explain how – in his mind – the nation plunged so deeply into its fiscal mess. He also had to explain why he believed the Iraq War was wrong.

He did so quite deftly by reliving over and over the presidency of George W. Bush, who recently opened a presidential library and museum at the Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas.

But now that he’s been re-elected and is beginning his initial descent toward the end of his presidency, Barack Obama finally can finally stop referencing the Bush presidency when it suits his political needs, said Dowd.

I cannot really blame him for the tactics he used to win re-election. Indeed, the Republicans thought they had Obama right where they wanted him: struggling to right an economy that crashed and burned at the end of the Bush administration and which Obama sought to correct with some hasty stimulus measures that drove the national debt and deficit into the next universe.

You know what? The Obama Economic Plan appears to be working.

Thus, there’s no more reason to blame President Bush for failed policies.

Oh yes, there’s the war thing too. The Iraq War has come to something resembling a conclusion, although bombs are still killing civilians in Iraq. The Afghanistan War is drawing closer to an end, but we’ll still have troops there even after our combat role has been taken over completely by Afghan security forces.

So, let’s answer Dowd’s question. Yes, the Bush administration has ended. Now let’s allow historians to determine its place.

Dole speaks of ‘badly bent’ U.S. Senate

Bob Dole is a creature of the U.S. Senate and he knows it well.

The former Kansas Republican lawmaker – and two-time nominee for national political office – says the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body is “badly bent” and needs repair.

Do you think?

Dole spoke on Fox News Sunday today and lamented what’s happened to the body he used to lead as its majority leader. He decries the Republicans’ use – or misuse – of the filibuster, complaining that the Senate now needs 60 votes to pass virtually anything.

Dole once was considered a Republican bad boy, mean-spirited in the extreme. As a vice-presidential nominee on a ticket headed by President Ford in 1976, he once referred to all the deaths that occurred during “Democrat wars.” Twenty years later, as his party’s presidential nominee, Dole had softened his approach a bit, but not much while losing that year’s election in a near-landslide to President Clinton.

Now, though, he’s an elder statesman, part of what the tea party wing of his party calls the “establishment wing” of the Republican Party. He well might become a target for the GOP insurgents who have taken joy in knocking off its partisan elders.

He ought to be taken seriously as one who has served his country with valor in war – and suffered grievous battlefield wounds in the process – and with distinction and honor as a U.S. senator.

Memo to feds: Cut the red tape

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has expressed appropriate concern about her state’s recovery from the tornado that tore through one of its cities.

Too much red tape could slow the recovery effort, said the Republican governor.

She will need over a period of time to get on the phone and call the man who is coming to Oklahoma today to express his support for the effort to rebuild Moore. I can imagine this conversation occurring sometime in the next, oh, month or two:

Hello? Mr. President? This is Mary Fallin. Look, Mr. President, I need help here.

“You’ve already promised that the federal government will be by our side as we recover from the tornado that hit Moore. Will you please, sir, deliver on that promise by ensuring that FEMA gets the money to us quickly and that we can avoid the bottlenecks that seem at times to stop the funds from getting immediately to those who need help?

“I know you’re busy. But I’m busy, too. I’m trying to get a town rebuilt that is just a few miles south of us here in the state’s capital city. My people are hurting and they’re closer to me than they are to you.

“Please, Mr. President. Cut the red tape.”

For his part, the president needs to listen and act.

What would Bullock do?

Texas Monthly’s Paul Burka wrote a fascinating blog about how Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has squandered the immense power of his office.
I cannot stop thinking of one of Dewhurst’s predecessors, the late Bob Bullock.
Bullock was the crusty Democratic lieutenant governor who made quite habit out of chewing up governors and legislators whenever the spirit moved him, or when he thought matters weren’t going the right way. Dewhurst, one of the more detail-oriented politicians I’ve ever met, has been steamrolled, according to Burka. I’m trying to imagine Bullock allowing that to happen. I can’t draw that picture in my mind’s eye.
It’s a shame, really. I’ve met few public officials who work as hard as Dewhurst. My most recent conversation with him was right after the start of the 2011 Legislature. We spoke on the phone and he spent nearly 20 minutes – without hardly taking a breath – giving me the nuts-and-bolts details of some piece of legislation on which he was working. My sources in the Legislature have told me he isn’t particularly well-liked by his legislative colleagues – the lieutenant governor, after all, presides over the state Senate – but they at least used to respect his work ethic.
Even that’s changed, or so it seems. Burka, who’s been watching Texas politics for longer than just about anyone, believes Dewhurst has been neutered. “The whole Capitol is scoffing at him,” Burka writes.
Bullock wasn’t wired for scoffing, either to receive it or to give it. He was one tough dude.
I didn’t know Bullock well. He left office in 1999 – the same year as his death – but his reputation as a tough dealmaker was legendary. He also knew how to work with Republicans, such as then-Gov. George W. Bush, with whom he built a marvelous political relationship.
That was a different time. Democrats controlled both legislative chambers. Bush had to find a way to do business with them. Bullock was his go-to guy in the Senate, while Democratic Speaker Pete Laney of Hale Center was the Man of the House.
But reading about how Dewhurst has been mauled by the now-minority party in the Senate reminds me of how times and circumstances have changed in the Lone Star State.
As Bullock was fond of saying: God bless Texas.

Now let’s allow the UT-Austin boss to do his job

The Texas Senate has confirmed three new appointments to the University of Texas System Board of Regents.

Can we now get back to the business of letting UT-Austin President Bill Powers do his job … without interference/meddling from regents?

Senate Higher Education Committee Chairman Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, noted some mistakes in confirming earlier regents in 2011 – before Seliger became chairman of the committee. A lengthy confirmation hearing elicited pledges from the new folks that they had no intention of seeking Powers’s dismissal, or that they would meddle in administrative matters.

The new regents are Paul Foster of El Paso, Ernest Aliseda of McAllen and Jeff Hildebrand of Houston. Their confirmation hearing got a bit testy, which one would expect given the assurances that Seliger’s committee was seeking.

The UT System board has been fraught with fighting and quarreling with Powers for longer than anyone would care to remember. Frankly, it’s been embarrassing to the system that is supposed to pride itself on putting education first. That hasn’t been the case with the UT System’s flagship campus.

Just maybe the board can set aside its meddlesome ways and let Bill Powers do the job for which he was hired.

Enough, already.

‘Dark money’ seeks greater influence

Gov. Rick Perry has vetoed a bill that would have forced politically active organizations to be more transparent.

His reason? Perry says the bill would have a chilling effect on people’s right of free speech and political expression.

Oh, brother.

“At a time when our federal government is assaulting the rights of Americans by using the tools of government to squelch dissent it is unconscionable to expose more Texans to the risk of such harassment, regardless of political, organizational or party affiliation,” Perry said in his veto message.

Senate Bill 346 would have required politically active non-profit groups to disclose the source of their monetary donations. Perry believes that requirement stifles free speech. I suggest it does nothing of the kind. It merely allows the rest of us to know who’s giving money to politically active groups and enables other Texans to determine for themselves whether these groups are worthy of public support.

I must ask: What is so unreasonable about that?

SB 346 pertains to non-profits falling under the 501c(4) tax code, which has been under some examination of late with the controversy involving the Internal Revenue Service probe of such organizations and their political activity. The bill was cobbled together hastily in the House of Representatives and it included an exemption for labor unions. My thought on that is that the bill could have been approved and then tightened in 2015 to bring labor unions under the same umbrella as other non-profits. All other groups – liberal and conservative – are covered under the bill.

Of course, conservative activists say SB 346 targets their groups and causes. I don’t think so. As I understand it, the bill pertains to many liberal-leaning non-profits, so their donors are subject to precisely the same scrutiny as those on the right.

But that doesn’t matter to Gov. Perry, who is trying to protect his political allies.

The cause of political transparency has taken another punch in the gut.

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