Sexism alive and well … in U.S. Senate

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has revealed what many folks knew already: the Senate is full of sexists.

The New York Democrat has written a book in which he chronicle how her male colleagues have said patently offensive things they’d never say to another male.

This is a kind of “Ball Four” moment, or at least I hope it is. “Ball Four” was a book written by former New York Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton that revealed to the world that Yankee great and baseball Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle was a drunk, carouser and womanizer. Who knew? I didn’t.

Perhaps Gillibrand’s book¬†is likely to¬†peel the hide off the Senate’s pretense of being this distinguished deliberative body full of noble statesman who take themselves oh, so very seriously.

Gillibrand’s memoir, “Off the Sidelines,” talks a bit about how senators would say things to her about her weight, her appearance, the weight she gained and lost during pregnancy. One senator told her how he likes his women “chubby.”

Is this the kind of thing a woman would say to a male colleague? I’m trying to imagine Gillibrand or any other female senator talking to an overweight male senator and telling him how she likes her men with¬†meat on their bones.

Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, who’s been covering the Capitol for a lot of years, thinks there’s hope that change might be coming to Capitol Hill. She writes that “the older fanny pinchers are giving way to a new generation of male senators with more experience of women¬†(including their often high-powered wives) in the workplace.”

The question has come out: Why not identify the senators? No need to do it. They know who they are, as do their colleagues, male and female. It’ll come out in due course and then public opinion will take over.

Good job, Sen. Gillibrand.




Texas abortion fight takes key turn

A federal judge has ruled that a critical part of the Texas anti-abortion violates the U.S. Constitution.

Good for him.

The judge is Lee Yeakel, who presides over the U.S. District Court’s Western District of Texas. His ruling declares that a provision in the law that requires abortion clinics to meet the same standards as hospitals puts an unfair restriction on a woman’s right to obtain an abortion if she chooses.

Thus, the fight will continue. The state is certain to appeal this ruling. The leading candidate for governor, Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, is a strong supporter of the law; his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Wendy Davis, rocketed to national political fame when she led a filibuster in 2013 to “kill” temporarily the bill that would become state law.

Yeakel ruled that the intent of the law was to close only existing licensed abortion clinics. The law, he said, goes too far in establishing the stricter standards on par with ambulatory surgical centers.

So, why the curious turn here?

Yeakel was appointed to the federal bench by Republican President George W. Bush, another strong anti-abortion politician.

I’m as certain as I’m sitting here that we’re going to hear comments from critics of the ruling declare their disgust with “unelected” federal judges overreaching and “writing laws from the bench.”

Again, this is the beauty — not the bane — of the federal judicial system. Judges aren’t beholden to their political benefactors, the politicians who select them for these lifetime jobs.

Abbott says he’ll appeal the ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court in New Orleans, where he thinks he’ll get it overturned.

Would those judges be overreaching and writing laws from the bench?



Debate is off, now it's on

Someone pick me up off the floor. I’m getting dizzy trying to keep up with the on-again, off-again, on-again Texas gubernatorial debate status.

Republican candidate Greg Abbott backed out of a planned debate with Democratic candidate Wendy Davis. That announcement came Friday.

Now comes word that the candidates will debate Sept. 19, in McAllen.

Hey, what gives?

I’m glad they’ll debate. Frankly, I’d like to see more of them prior to the election this November.

The Texas Tribune posted an interesting item profiling the debates the candidates for Texas governor have had dating back to 1982.

Abbott and Davis need to face off.

Abbott had backed out of a Dallas debate because his new debate planner, Bob Black, didn’t like the roundtable format agreed to earlier by Abbott and Davis campaign advisers. I considered that to be kind of chicken bleep of Black to pull the plug on something his guy had agreed to already.

The Davis camp accused Abbott of being scared. No surprise there.

Now the two are going to meet under the auspices of another TV network.

They’ll travel to South Texas.

How about coming way up yonder? To Amarillo? How about talking to us about your plans to implement further statewide water management plans. Water’s a big deal around here. How about talking about how you intend advance efforts to develop more affordable wind-powered electricity. You two know this already, but we’ve got lots of wind blowing.

I’m glad to hear that Abbott and Davis will face off at least once. More would be better.


War is no option

President Obama makes it clear: There will be no U.S. military intervention in Ukraine.

That’s a relief.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir “Tough Guy” Putin makes it equally clear: Don’t mess with Russia.

Now, are the Russians tougher than we are? Which military establishment is stronger than the other one? This loyal American knows the answer to both questions.

None of that is the issue. World peace and the consequences of trying to force the Russians out of Ukraine militarily are too horrible to ponder.

The only option now must be the economic one.

The European Union is pondering even more stringent sanctions on Russia. So is the United States of America, working in concert with the EU.

Meanwhile, the critics back here at home — far away from the struggle — keep yammering about the “military option.” None exists.

Russian troops reportedly have “invaded” Ukraine, violating that country’s territorial sovereignty. Obama has condemned the Russians, including Putin. He’s vowing that Russia will pay a price for its violating its neighbor’s territory. The sanctions already imposed are taking a big bite out of a Russian economy that’s on the ropes as it is.

Are we going to bomb the Russians? No. We should put the economic squeeze on them.

Keep tightening the vise, Mr. President.


Time for 'new president'?

“If the president doesn’t have a strategy, maybe it’s time for a new president.”

You know who said that? U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., in remarks at a Dallas ballroom after speaking at an Americans for Progress meeting.

Pretty darn profound, don’t you think?

He’s talking about President Obama’s declaration that he doesn’t yet have a strategy to deal forcefully with ISIL, the hideous terrorist organization seeking to overrun governments in Syria and Iraq.

Paul has joined a number of other critics who’ve hit the president hard for not having such a strategy.

It’s the “maybe it’s time for a new president” comment that makes me chuckle.

Let’s see: We’re nearly halfway through Barack Obama’s second term as president. We’ll be getting a new president in January 2017, which is just around the corner.

The 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution forbids Obama from seeking a third term. So he’s out of the campaign game.

Yeah, it’ll be time for a new president … in due course.


Hooray for socialized medicine!

This is the latest in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on impending retirement.

Update: My Medicare card arrived in the mail today.

It arrived much more quickly than I was led to believe it would get here. It doesn’t matter.

I’m quite thrilled about it, to tell you the truth. My Medicare benefits take effect Dec. 1, which is 16 days before my 65th birthday.

The most curious feeling I have at the moment is this strange desire to get sick enough to present it to a health care provider. It’s not that I’m wishing bad things to happen. It’s just that now that I’ve got this Medicare benefit card, I’m strangely anxious to use it.

Is there something wrong with me?


The United States Postal Service delivered an important piece of mail to me today.

It came from the Social Security Administration and it informed me that — get ready — my Medicare hospitalization insurance takes effect in December.

I think I’ll remember this day right along with the day I got my draft notice.

I’ve just taken another step toward retirement. Man, it feels good.

The application was far easier than I thought it would be. I logged in at, assigned myself a goofy password, filled out a questionnaire, swore that everything I said on it was factual and true, and then submitted it.

I’m now in The System.

As I mentioned here before, I will forgo all the various parts A, B, C, D … whatever. The Veterans Administration health care system — in which I also am enrolled — is likely able to take care of other health needs if and when they arise.

We’ve heard a lot lately about “socialized medicine.” Critics of the Affordable Care Act — aka Obamacare — just can’t stomach the idea of The Government providing health insurance for people who don’t have it. They’ve sought to demonize the notion of socialized medicine.

It’s a hilarious effort to walk themselves back from a program that’s been in effect since 1965.

For nearly 50 years, elderly Americans have had access to socialized medicine. It’s working quite well.¬† This December, when I turn 65, I’ll receive another piece of mail from the Postal Service. It will be my Medicare card, which I’ll get to show health providers when I need medical care.

Now, that¬†socialized medicine system¬†— Medicare — has another customer.

That would be me. I’m happy to be on board.



GOP Rep. Cole tamps down Obama criticism

U.S. Rep. Tom Cole must be running a fever. Perhaps he’s been in the hot Oklahoma sun too long.

The Republican lawmaker actually said¬†President Obama is being “commendably cautious” about developing a strategy¬†to deal with ISIL.

Commendably cautious? What’s going on here?

Cole is one of the few GOP lawmakers to¬†suggest that Obama shouldn’t be rushed into developing such a strategy. Indeed, Cole noted that the White House has crafted “the elements of a strategy” already.

I’m one of those who said the other day that the president needs to get cracking on a strategy to deal with ISIL, the notorious terrorist group that many experts say makes al-Qaeda look like a Boy Scout troop.¬†I still believe the president shouldn’t waste time.

Then again, it’s refreshing to hear at least one leading congressional Republican suggest that critics are hyperventilating needlessly.

Cole takes appropriate note of the complexities facing the White House in the Syria conflict. Bashar al-Assad is fighting ISIL. The United States hardly is Assad’s friend. Indeed, President Obama has called for Assad’s ouster. Who should replace him? Certainly no one who’s friends with ISIL.

Therein lies the president’s “commendable caution.”




Benghazi hearings could end quickly

The chairman of a congressional committee looking into the Benghazi tragedy of Sept. 11. 2012 says the probe will conclude sometime in 2015.

Good deal.

For my money, though, the deal could be done by the end of 2014. Heck, it could be finished in the next two weeks..

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., is chairing a select committee’s examination — yep, we’re getting another one — into the Benghazi fire fight and terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in the Libyan city. The attack killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

The target of this probe clearly is then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who’s been accused of trying to cover up what happened that terrible day. Of course, there’s been no independent corroboration of any deliberate cover-up of the event. That hasn’t dissuaded House Republicans from continuing to look high and low for answers to questions arising from the fire fight.

This ground has been plowed and re-plowed time and again. However, by golly, the House select panel is going to keep looking for something to hang on Clinton, a probable candidate for president in 2016.

Americans need to hold Chairman Gowdy to his prediction that his panel will finish its work sometime in the coming year.

I’ll say this for Trey Gowdy: He’s laid down a serious marker that won’t get lost amid all the political chaos that’s about to swarm all across Capitol Hill.


Abbott's not afraid of Davis … is he?

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has just tossed some seriously cold water on the effort to educate voters on the two major-party candidates running for governor.

He’d had agreed to take part Sept. 30 in the only statewide televised debate with Wendy Davis. Then he got a new debate coordinator, Bob Black, who promptly said “no can do.” Abbott, the Republican nominee for governor, has backed out of his debate with the Democratic nominee, Davis, citing some “format” concerns.

This, folks, is a serious bummer.

Davis spokesman Zac Petkanas said this:

“It’s no surprise that Greg Abbott is pulling out of a long planned debate the day after he was defeated in court for protecting billions in public education cuts that have led to overcrowded classrooms, teacher layoffs and shuttered schools. Greg Abbott is clearly too afraid to defend his record of siding with insiders at the expense of Texans — whether it’s defending funding cuts for classrooms, siding with a corporation against a victim of rape or letting his donors take tens of millions of taxpayer dollars intended for cancer research. This is nothing short of an insult to the voters of Texas.”

I’ll leave that kind of mind-reading to the partisans, as I have no personal knowledge of why Abbott dropped out of the debate.

It is, however, a major disappointment if his refusal to debate Davis sticks. I believe¬†there’s still plenty of time to work out through the format problems that seems to have bugged Black, who joined the Abbott campaign earlier this month.

The format calls for a roundtable discussion between Abbott and Davis. It usually doesn’t require time limits. As the Texas Tribune reported: “The looser format is designed to create a conversation and give voters a more candid look at candidates and their positions.”

I’ve known Abbott for a¬†number of years and I’ve found him to personable and engaging. Do I agree with him politically? Umm, no. But that’s not the point. He would seem comfortable in a roundtable format.

WFAA-TV of Dallas, which had planned to broadcast the debate statewide, should start working on a way to (a) persuade Abbott to take part or (b) find a Plan B that suits both candidates.

Texans would do well to hear from these two candidates.¬†If we’re only going to get one statewide¬†debate, then something¬†has to be worked out — immediately.


Tan suit chatter turns puzzling

This is a head-scratcher.

Social media kinda/sorta went off the rails today when President Barack Obama showed up in the White House Brady Press Briefing Room wearing — get ready for it — a tan suit.

I only can conclude that some folks out there in Cyberland have too much time on their hands.

Heck, I suppose you can the same thing about me, as I’m commenting briefly on this matter.

This is just a matter of personal taste, I suppose, but I thought he looked pretty good today in tan. Should he have worn a dark blue suit, or perhaps a black one, given that he was talking about serious matters of state? I don’t know. Nor do I really care.

I was struck a little by the Twitter chatter over the tan suit by my recollection of how President Gerald Ford dressed as he was toiling in the White House back in the 1970s. If you’re old enough, you might remember seeing President Ford attired in a plaid suit.

Then again, that was long before age of social media. Twitter and Facebook didn’t exist. I don’t recall fashionistas commenting then about the president’s wardrobe. I guess the president had other things on his mind — and we had other things on our minds to be concerned about such trivial stuff.

Oh, but I forgot. Some folks actually poked at Barack Obama because he didn’t wear a tie while commenting on the hideous murder of an American at the hands of terrorists in Syria.

Let’s all give it a rest. Tan is a perfectly proper suit to wear. Stick to issues that matter.

Thus, this will be the only time¬†I will¬†comment on Barack Obama’s choice of suit color.