Oklahoma botches an execution

Clayton Lockett is dead.

To some, it’s no big deal. He was a murderer who was sentenced to die for a hideous crime. He didn’t depart this world quite the way the state of Oklahoma desired. He suffered terribly in a botched execution.

Still no big deal? Well, it is.


Oklahoma executioners used a drug cocktail for the first time. They thought they’d administered the lethal injection, only to have the condemned man lurch on the gurney, gasp, choke, thrash about before succumbing.

Hey, he was a killer who deserved to die, right? Some have even ventured that he should have suffered the same level of agony he delivered to his victim.

Well, the government is supposed to be above that kind of barbarism. States that execute inmates for their capital crimes should do so humanely. That’s what civilized governments prescribe for this kind of punishment, isn’t it?

It appears that the individual who inserted the needle into Lockett’s arm missed the vein. The drugs began to flow, but not into the man’s bloodstream. Thus, the suffering occurred and it has caused state officials to look deeply into the methods they use to carry out these punishments.

None of this should be grist for jokes, or snide comments about whether a condemned criminal has gotten “what he deserved.” If states are going to execute inmates for these capital crimes, it is imperative they develop fool-proof methods that do not produce the kind of ghastly drama that played out this week in Oklahoma.

Donald Sterling (cont.)

If the Donald Sterling saga continues — as I’m sure it will for some time — I am hoping it can veer toward the whole issue of race in America and the conduct not only of celebrities, but of all of us.

The National Basketball Association has banned the Los Angeles Clippers owner for life because of his hideous racist rant overheard in a phone conversation with his much younger girlfriend. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver took the bold step today and also fined Sterling $2.5 million. The owner will face immense pressure from other team owners to sell his team, presumably to someone outside his family.

That’s a good first step.

But then I heard a New York Times sports columnist, William Rhoden, take the discussion a bit farther as it relates to African-American athletes..

Rhoden, who also is African-American, called on highly paid professional athletes to begin honoring themselves by stop using the “n-word” in locker rooms. He said it’s common for these athletes to use that despicable word to each other.

Given that I am not black, I suppose I cannot quite understand why intelligent human beings would use such language … even as some kind of inside joke.

Of the many African-American friends I’ve had over many years of living, I’ve never heard any of them refer to each other with that highly pejorative term. Even in the Army back in the late 1960s, when I was bunking with black soldiers, I cannot recall a single time hearing it.

I’ll take Rhoden at his word — as well as others who’ve reported it over a great length of time — that the word can be heard in locker rooms.

Professional athletes of all racial and ethnic backgrounds have been rightly offended by what has transpired in recent days regarding the hateful speech spewed forth from this particular team owner. They’ve protested by tossing warm-up jerseys on the floor, worn black socks while competing, made statements condemning the words that came from Sterling’s mouth and called for a national discussion about race relations.

One prominent black journalist, though, made a brief point in a TV interview today that deserves to be heard over and over.

It is for African-American athletes — the targets of one team owner’s reprehensible tirade — to start speaking with respect to each other. The “n-word” must be silenced.

NBA boss earns his spurs by banishing owner

Adam Silver has been commissioner of the National Basketball Association for just a few weeks.

Today he earned his spurs, showed his chops, manned up and did quite well to punish an NBA team owner for revealing some truly disgusting views on race.

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has been banned from team and league activities for life; he will have to pay a $2.5 million fine and will be pressured by the NBA Board of Governors to sell his team.


That was the decision announced today by Silver … and it has drawn widespread praise from around the NBA and indeed the country. Given the terrible battering that has come over Sterling’s remarks, the league needed something off the court to cheer.

Sterling’s comments came in a phone call with his quite young girlfriend. He said he didn’t want her associating with African-Americans in public and said he doesn’t want African-Americans attending games involving the team he has owned for three decades. The sum total of the man’s tirade betrays a disgusting view of a wealthy team owner toward the vast majority of the athletes who participate in the NBA and a good many of the coaches who lead these young men in their athletic endeavors. Most of the players are black, as are a hefty number of the head coaches.

FoxSports.com reported, “Sterling still owns the team, but going forward he is immediately barred from attending any NBA games or practices, being present at any Clippers office or facility, participating in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team, or being part of any league business.”

The league cannot take the team away from the owner, but 75 percent of the league’s owners — for whom Silver works — can endorse the sanctions against him and can force Sterling to sell the team, presumably to someone who doesn’t hold this individual’s disgusting views.

And what will happen to the $2.5 million Sterling will pay? It will go toward organizations whose mission is to fight bigotry and intolerance; the NBA and its players association will select the organizations.

The action taken today by the NBA is the brightest light shining over a league thrown into turmoil. Its players have performed magnificently in light of this team owner’s bizarre rant and they deserve credit for continuing their excellence on the competitive court.

The new commissioner, though, has shown a remarkably stiff spine and an equally suitable outrage over what one of his bosses, Donald Sterling, has been caught saying out loud.

Looking more like Dust Bowl

As I write these few words, the sky is looking browner than I remember it ever looking … ever.

I’ll admit I’ve lived in the Texas Panhandle a mere 19 years and four months. My history here isn’t as long as many folks’ time on the High Plains. My wife and I do have enough of an institutional memory, though, to call ourselves fairly experienced in this region’s sometimes-strange weather.

Today it’s about as “strange” as it’s gotten during our time here.

The wind is blowing at a sustained 30 mph. It’s gusting to around 60 mph.

I sat this morning waiting for a friend to show up for a cup of coffee. I sat at a coffee shop literally at the edge of the city. The wind started to kick up and as I looked toward the southwest, across a large stretch of pasture, I watched the dirt begin to billow into the sky.

Then it rolled in atop us at the coffee shop.

And then — all at once — about a dozen cell phones began buzzing “storm alert” warnings … mine included. A collective laugh went up from the room. “No kidding. Dust storm? Who knew?” one woman muttered.

I won’t pretend to know what the Dust Bowl was like. I’ve read about, heard stories about it, seen documentary films about it. The pictures are hideous. The stories of suffering, hardship and death are even more so.

Still, the weather today is beginning to look a lot like those pictures.

When is this going to end?

Speak carefully … always

Secretary of State John Kerry is the latest victim of the urge to record everything everyone says every time they say it.

That does not for a moment excuse what he said the other day in what was supposed to be a closed-door meeting, which is that Israel may be turning into an “apartheid state” if it doesn’t hammer out a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority.


The term “apartheid” is poison in polite international policy company. South Africa implemented that disgraceful policy for many decades in which it denied the black majority living there the rights of citizenship. Whites and blacks couldn’t interact with each other. The policy ended with the release from prison in the early 1990s of the late Nelson Mandela. The rest is history.

Kerry’s use of the term at the very least was careless. It well may have damaged U.S.-Israel relations beyond repair.

Why wasn’t he smarter than to make his point another way? Didn’t he learn from recent history, such as the time Mitt Romney was caught on an audio recording at a fundraising dinner making his infamous “47 percent” remarks about how nearly half of Americans are going to vote Democratic because they depend on government subsidies and handouts? Didn’t he learn from the video recording of Congressman Vance McAllister making out with his staffer? There are countless other instances of people in high places being caught saying and doing things they regret because someone had a recording device hidden somewhere.

A Daily Beast reporter recorded Kerry’s statements the other day, getting past detection and apparently not heeding ground rules stipulating the meeting wasn’t open to the public.

In this world of instant communication where everyone has a set of electronic eyes and ears, the only response simply is: Too bad.

'Apartheid state'? Israel?

What in the name of all that is sensible was Secretary of State John Kerry thinking?

He was speaking in a closed-door event and then suggested Israel was in danger of becoming “an apartheid state” if it doesn’t work out a two-state peace treaty solution with the Palestinian Authority.

I heard it today and am shocked beyond belief at what he said. Should he resign, as some congressional and media critics have suggested? Not just yet. But he’d better have a clear explanation of what precisely he meant.


The term “apartheid” is as highly charged and offensive as they come. It was the long-standing racial separation policy used in South Africa to deny blacks any rights of full citizenship in a country in which they comprised the overwhelming majority. Only upon the release from prison of the late Nelson Mandela and the country’s first fully free and fair election in 1994 would bring an end to that heinous policy.

Now, to suggest Israel could become something similar if it doesn’t make peace with the Palestinians goes far beyond anything reasonable.

Kerry followed up his statement, recorded by The Daily Beast, with this: “… I have been around long enough to also know the power of words to create a misimpression, even when unintentional, and if I could rewind the tape, I would have chosen a different word to describe my firm belief that the only way in the long term to have a Jewish state and two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two state solution.”

Kerry has made a Middle East peace agreement his No. 1 priority since becoming secretary of state in 2013. He has worked hard to bring Israel and the Palestinians to the negotiating table. Then this past week, the Palestinian Authority announced a unity government agreement with Hamas, the notorious terrorist group that wants to eradicate Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, understandably angry with the PA, suspended the talks.

The secretary of state has harmed the peace process further by using such inflammatory language. If there is a model of government diversity and democracy in the Middle East, it is Israel. The nation has a significant Muslim minority; its government has installed Muslims in key positions; it remains a bastion of freedom in a region governed by tyrants.

Yes, John Kerry should have chosen his words more carefully. If he cannot make it right — and soon — with Israel, then he should consider resigning.

Kissing congressman to bow out

Vance “The Kissing Congressman” McAllister has announced he won’t seek re-election to a seat he’s held only since this past November.

Good deal. He should go home and try to restore his marriage.


McAllister is the Louisiana Republican who was caught on video making out with his married female staff member, who since has resigned from his staff. Meanwhile, her husband has all but declared his marriage to be over.

What makes this story so bizarre is that McAllister sold himself to his Louisiana constituents as a God-fearing, Bible-thumping, family values-oriented congressman who loves and cherishes his wife and five children. Why, he even ran TV ads touting his love of family.

Then he got caught planting a serious wet one on his staffer … and all heck hit the fan.

What’s more, the husband of the staffer then revealed that McAllister said prior to the election that he was going to remake himself into Mr. Family Man just for the political advantage he would gain.

Well, Rep. McAllister will be gone at the end of the year. Congress will shed itself of one more hypocrite. If only the rest of them would follow suit.

Vise tightens around Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin may be an atypical world leader, coming as he does from a world of spooks.

He does, however, hang with people with lots of money — which doesn’t make him much different from other heads of state and/or government.

Thus, the increased sanctions announced today by President Obama just might persuade the Russian leader to end his effort to foment unrest in Ukraine.


The White House announced that it is implementing further economic hardship on individuals and companies close to Putin. Obama called it a “calibrated effort” designed to inform Putin of the folly of his continued presence in Ukraine’s sovereign affairs.

The sanctions already announced have had an impact. The Russian ruble’s value has plummeted, along with the Russian stock exchange. Russian investments have tanked.

Have the efforts persuaded Putin to back off? No. They have, however, persuaded the Russians to seek a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis, which exploded several months ago with the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Russia president and the subsequent annexation of Crimea into Russia.

We’ve seen a lot of blustering among Russians, Americans, NATO and the European Union. No one should really believe all-out war is going to erupt, despite claims by both sides that the other guys want to start a shooting war.

“The goal here is not to go after Mr. Putin, personally,” Obama said. “The goal is to change his calculus with respect to how the current actions that he’s engaging in in Ukraine could have an adverse impact on the Russian economy over the long haul.”

Actually, Mr. President, the goal seems to be to go after Putin “personally,” which is OK with me and I am guessing a lot of other Americans.

Make him squirm.

Hillary not 'formidable'?

George Will said over the weekend that Hillary Rodham Clinton could be a damaged presidential candidate if she runs in 2016.

He said she is “not formidable.”

Interesting, don’t you think?


Will took note of what he said was the “last time” a major party had a coronation for its presidential nominee. He mentioned Adlai Stevenson’s nomination in 1956. The Democrat then went on to suffer his second consecutive landslide loss to Republican Dwight Eisenhower, who himself was “crowned” by his own party in 1952.

My own memory provides another example of a political coronation. In 1964, the country was reeling from the death of President Kennedy. The man who succeeded him, Lyndon Johnson, began pushing through much of JFK’s unfinished legislative agenda, including the Civil Rights Act.

Democrats were in no mood to fight over that nomination, so they crowned LBJ as their nominee and he then went on to trample GOP nominee Sen. Barry Goldwater in a historic landslide.

It is highly unlikely that Hillary Clinton would win the presidency in two years in such a fashion. It will be competitive, hard-fought and — I hope — edifying for voters.

However, to say the former first lady, senator and secretary of state is “not formidable” is to suggest George Will has been listening too intently to Republican hacks who keep looking for scandals where none exists.

Sterling deserves due process, but …

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers deserves “due process” to determine whether that was him making some despicably racist statements over the phone.

However …

The voice on one end of that phone conversation has to be that of Donald Sterling.


How do I know that?

Because the voice has a distinctive tone. The person has a unique speech pattern. It would seem to be a sure-fire lead-pipe cinch that it belongs to Sterling, who reportedly told his girlfriend that she shouldn’t associate with African-Americans and that she shouldn’t bring them to basketball games featuring the team he’s owned for three decades.

This is an amazing, and still-developing, story.

Players throughout the NBA have expressed outrage over the racist rant overheard on that phone call. Coaches have condemned it. Owners have done so as well. The sports world is reeling over the conversation reportedly between Sterling and his girlfriend. Almost as bizarre is the fact that the girlfriend — known as V. Stiviano — is young enough to be Sterling’s granddaughter; what’s more, she’s reportedly of mixed races, half Latina and half African-American.

What has been Sterling’s response? It’s to say that he doesn’t share the view expressed by “the voice” heard on the phone. Has he denied saying them? Well, not precisely … which leads me to believe that’s him on the recording.

What, then, is to learn through “due process”? I suppose it is whether the phone conversation was spliced and edited to make it sound as though Sterling is a racist. That, too, can be determined quickly.

I don’t know what the sanctions ought to be against the owner if it turns out he said those hideous things. Can the league strip him of his ownership? Can it ban him from ever attending an NBA game in the future?

It’s incredible that the owner of a professional sports franchise with athletes comprising most African-American men would believe such things. Sadly, though, that appears to be the case.