Racial issue gets in GOP's way once more

That darn issue of race relations has just bitten the Republican congressional leadership right in the backside.

Don’t you just hate it when that happens?


GOP House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., spoke to a white supremacist group in 2002. The group was founded by a fellow Louisianan, one-time Ku Klux Klan grand dragon/wizard/potentate/medicine man David Duke.

Scalise says now he “regrets” his “error in judgment.” He condemns the views of “groups like that.”

Hey, it was a dozen years ago. No harm done now, right? He spoke six years before entering Congress.

Should he quit his leadership post? Should the congressman quit his House seat? I’m not going there until we know more about what he said and the nature of the invitation.

It does kind of remind me of what happened when former U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., had the poor judgment to say something kind about the late Sen. Strom Thurmond’s 1948 presidential campaign. That was when ol’ Strom broke away from the Democratic Party — of which he was a member back then — to run for the White House as a Dixiecrat. He was a segregationist back then — and proud of it, too! He just didn’t like mixing with black people — even though, as we would learn later, he mixed it big time with an African-American woman, with whom he produced a daughter.

Lott said this about Strom: “When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either.”

Oh, brother. That got Lott into some serious trouble. Lott stepped down as majority leader.

Two questions: Did the invitation to Scalise come from a group — the EURO Conference — identified easily as a white supremacist organization? And did he know of Klansman David Duke’s association with it?

The deal-breaker well might be the Duke involvement. Let’s come clean, shall we?



End of new year's resolutions

The older I get the more I dislike new year’s resolutions.

I haven’t made one in many years. I don’t intend to do so now in public. Having just turned 65 years of age, I figure that now that I’m officially a “senior citizen,” I can get away with going about my business as I usually do.

I’m sure I’ll see a few people at the gym when I return Friday morning. It works out that way every year. The “resolutionists” show up to make good on their pledge to get fit, lose weight and live a healthier life. It’ll tail off after about, oh, two to three weeks.

That’s one reason why I don’t make resolutions of that type. I am one of those who I’ve just described who have good intentions the moment they resolve to do something. Then they forget how committed they were, or they were just kidding all along. I’m never going to ask someone which is which.

Some of the pledges I’ve made I’ve done so privately. I don’t tell anyone. Not even my wife of 43 years. Heck, she knows me too well as it is. I can’t kid her.

So, the new year is upon us. That ball will drop in Times Square in a few hours. I won’t see from my living room. I’ll be asleep by then. I’m old, remember?

Resolutions? Not going to make ’em, at least not out loud.

I’ll just keep on keepin’ on, trying to be the best husband, father, grandfather, brother I can be to those I love.

All that’s left is to wish y’all a Happy New Year.

I’ll be back on this blog with more thoughts — some scathing, some not — in 2015.

Be safe out there.


It's still the economy, stupid

On the eve of the new year, let’s take a quick look at how the economy “tanked” during 2014.

What? Oh, you mean it didn’t? Darn! I must have forgotten about that recent Department of Commerce report that showed the Gross Domestic Product grew at an annual rate of 5 percent for the latest quarter.

OK, I guess that means that the Obama economic policies, those frightening elements that would send the U.S. economy into a tailspin just didn’t do what Republican doomsayers said they would.


As the columnist Eugene Robinson wonders in the Washington Post, what in the world are GOP presidential candidates going to campaign on in 2016?

Those darn monthly jobs numbers keep piling up at a rate of a couple hundred thousand jobs a month. Oh, the deficit? It’s down … by about half of what it was annually when Barack Obama took office.

Gasoline prices? They’re down too. Now, the president isn’t able to take credit for the rapid decline in fuel prices, but he sure got the blame from the GOP presidential field in 2012 when they were increasing. Do you remember?

And yes, Wall Street seems happy. The Dow Jones Industrial Index is at 18,000, up more than double where it was in January 2009, when that “socialist” Obama took office. As Robinson noted in his column: “This is terrific for Wall Street and the 1 percenters, but it also fattens the pension funds and retirement accounts of the middle class.”

Uh, hello? Count me as one of those “middle class” Americans who’s happy with the status of his retirement account.

“For years, a central tenet of the Republican argument has been that on economic issues, Obama is either incompetent or a socialist,” Robinson writes. “It should have been clear from the beginning that he is neither, given that he rescued an economy on the brink of tipping into depression — and in a way that was friendly to Wall Street’s interests. But the GOP rarely lets the facts get in the way of a good story, so attacks on Obama’s economic stewardship have persisted.

And they’ll really get cranked up right along with the 2016 campaign.


Real-time pictures not necessary

Take a moment to look at the picture attached to the post linked to these brief comments.

The picture will tell you all you need to know why some images need not be broadcast in real time, live and as it is happening.


Dallas Morning News blogger Jim Mitchell’s essay says it well. It’s as if someone goes up to a grieving family member and asks “How do you feel?” about losing someone they love.

Family members learned of the fate of those aboard AsiaAir Flight 8501 by watching live pictures of personnel recovering bodies from the Java Sea, where the plane crashed Sunday.

Mitchell writes: “It brings to mind 9/11, the most photographed real-time event in history, and the controversial ‘Falling Man’ photograph of a trapped World Trade Center worker plunging to his death from an upper floor. As I recall, the photo was published but for the most part was deemed too graphic and disturbing and has not appeared in U.S. newspapers (and probably television news) since then.”

Think for a moment how any of us would react if we are watching television and crews are possibly pulling your very own loved one from the water. Doesn’t the Golden Rule apply here, the one about doing onto others as you would have them do onto you?

Does anyone really need to see these images live, as they’re happening?

The answer, of course, is no.


NYPD disgraces itself in its grief

The New York Police Department has committed a disgraceful act of showmanship in the most inappropriate context imaginable.

It occurred during the funeral of one of its fallen comrades, Officer Rafael Ramos. And it happened when Mayor Bill de Blasio rose to speak in honor of the officer’s memory.


As the New York Times noted in a scathing — and spot on — editorial: “Mr. de Blasio isn’t going to say it, but somebody has to: With these acts of passive-aggressive contempt and self-pity, many New York police officers, led by their union, are squandering the department’s credibility, defacing its reputation, shredding its hard-earned respect. They have taken the most grave and solemn of civic moments — a funeral of a fallen colleague — and hijacked it for their own petty look-at-us gesture. In doing so, they also turned their backs on Mr. Ramos’s widow and her two young sons, and others in that grief-struck family.

“These are disgraceful acts, which will be compounded if anyone repeats the stunt at Officer Liu’s funeral on Sunday.”

The officers turned their backs on the mayor as he spoke about the officer’s heroism and his service to the city all of those officers have sworn to protect. He and Officer Wenjian Liu were gunned down the other day by someone angry over a Staten Island grand jury declining to indict an officer in the choking death of Eric Garner. The shooter then killed himself.

Why are the officers angry? They contend the mayor hasn’t done enough to protect the police department from this kind of senseless violence.

So, to make their point, they engage in a cheap stunt at a solemn event.

The mayor has stated every possible way he knows how that he supports the police department. He has spoken in honor of the officers who put their lives on the line every single day they go to work. He has heaped enormous praise on those who have fallen and has pledged his unwavering support for those who remain on duty.

This is the response he gets from the men and women of the NYPD?

The term “disgraceful” almost doesn’t seem adequate to describe what they have done not just to the mayor but to the families of the fallen officers.

Air tragedy reaches a known conclusion

The families of another air tragedy are coming into my mind this morning as I learn that searchers are recovering victims and debris from a jetliner crash in the Java Sea.

AirAsia Flight 8501 went down over the weekend on a two-hour flight from Indonesia to Singapore. Bad weather was the culprit. It was an Airbus 320 and it crashed into the sea with a depth of just 150 feet.

Closure has arrived for the families of those who were lost. There will be no survivors.


The other flight? It’s that Malaysian Air Flight 370 that vanished on March 8 somewhere over the Indian Ocean.

Searchers have found nothing, not a single piece of debris, not a single artifact from the Boeing 777 that disappeared from view. That flight was en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. It turned suddenly in another direction. Then it was gone. Just like that. Gone!

The speculation about where it went, what happened to it has been alternately desperate and insane.

It has produced some of the wildest theories heard since, oh, Amelia Earhart’s disappearance over the Pacific Ocean in 1937.

One tragedy has reached the conclusion everyone expected.

The other one has yet to be resolved. The pain of many anxious families continues.

Congressman Felon ready to quit

Well now, it turns out that the latest case of congressional corruption is going to end the right way for Americans who actually expect their elected representatives to behave legally and ethically.

Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., who had pleaded guilty to tax fraud, mail fraud and assorted other felonies, is now set to quit his congressional seat.

Good deal. No, it’s a great deal!


Grimm is a back-bench member of Congress who once served in the FBI. He campaigned for Congress on a platform of crime-fighting and getting rid of corruption. Then it turns out he’s one of them, one of the bad guys.

And when a reporter had the temerity to question Grimm about the charges hovering over him, the congressman threatened to break the reporter in half and toss him over the railing to the floor of the House of the chamber several dozen feet below. Oh yes: This was captured on video, as the reporter works for a TV station in Grimm’s congressional district.

As Politico reported: “Grimm, a 44-year-old former FBI agent, admitted a week ago to failing to report more than $900,000 in revenue from a Manhattan restaurant, Healthalicious, that he owned from 2007 to 2010.”

Could this man vote on tax policies affecting all Americans — including those who live far from his Staten Island district? Of course not. Good riddance, young man.


VA whistleblowers deserve national honor

An editorial in the Arizona Republic honors the men and women who blew the lid off the Department of Veterans Affairs shabby health care policies in Phoenix.

They have been named Arizonans of the Year.

For my money, they ought to be named Americans of the Year.


What did they do to merit national acclaim? Oh, they merely revealed to the nation that veterans were dying because hospital administrators were fabricating wait times that vets were enduring as they sought medical care at the VA hospital in Phoenix. As many as 40 them died while waiting for that care.

The news of this scandalous treatment exploded across the country.

Yes, news of this hideous treatment cost an honorable man his job. Veterans Secretary Eric Shinseki, a retired Army general and Vietnam War combat veteran, lost all credibility through his inability to fix the problems that developed on his watch.

As the Arizona Republic editorial noted: “Without the courage of whistle-blowers like (Sam) Foote and (Katherine) Mitchell, the American public would still be under the wholesale delusion that the VA hospital system is run well. We would still believe — erroneously— that the often-troubled VA had turned the corner on providing prompt, quality patient care.”

The impact of this scandal has reached across the country and throughout the enormous VA health care network. The Thomas Creek Veterans Medical Center in Amarillo was not immune from heightened scrutiny as officials sought to ensure that veterans did not fall through the cracks as they had done in Phoenix.

Hey, I’ve got some skin in this game as a veteran who signed up a little more than a year ago with the Amarillo VA system. So I am quite grateful for the attention brought to this disastrous problem by Drs. Foote and Mitchell.

The honor “Arizonans of the Year” somehow doesn’t seem quite fitting enough.


Let’s not cherry-pick Scripture

Read this editorial carefully. It’s a brief but brilliant lecture on how politicians shouldn’t selectively quote Scripture to make a cheap political point.


The target of this opinion from the Beaumont Enterprise is the lame-duck Texas governor, Rick Perry, who told the Washington Post that Scripture tells us there always will be poor folks. As the Enterprise noted, Perry’s comment to the Post is just another way of saying “What’s the use?” in helping the poor.

The editorial also notes that Jesus possibly was referring to an Old Testament reference that calls on us to reach out and help the poor whenever possible.

Conservatives and liberals alike have this annoying habit of turning to the Holy Word and cherry-picking passages, taking them out context, and turning them into their political ammunition to fire at their adversaries. Conservatives use the Bible to argue against gay rights, abortion rights and whether to teach evolution in public schools. Liberals use the Bible to argue for helping the poor.

I’ve always been leery of those who keep citing Scripture — Old and New Testament alike. It’s always good to examine all of what Jesus told his followers or what the prophets were saying many centuries before Jesus Christ’s birth.

Gov. Perry’s misuse of a biblical statement is just one more example that we must not follow.


'Never say never' to Iran

President Obama hasn’t opened the door to any imminent diplomatic ties with Iran.

He hasn’t said we’re about to put aside decades of distrust. He didn’t suggest that the end of the diplomatic freeze-out is in sight.

No, the president told National Public Radio that the United States may “one day” resume relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran. He said he should “never say ‘never'” to a possible rapprochement.


Let’s be sure, though, to keep an ear open to what’s likely to come from the other side. It will be that Obama has gone soft on Iran. He’s sounding like an appeaser.

He is sounding like nothing of the sort.

The president told NPR that the United States and Iran must first resolve the most serious issue dividing the nation. It is Iran’s possible development of a nuclear weapon, which Obama and his immediate predecessor, President Bush, have said categorically must not be allowed to happen. Not ever!

And why is that? It is because of Iran’s stated desire to wipe Israel off the map. It has all but stated categorically that it would use whatever means at its disposal to destroy Israel. That means clearly that if Iran possesses a nuke, it would use that weapon on Israel. Can it be any clearer?

Thus, President Obama is vowing to dedicate the final two years of his term to working toward an agreement that ends Iran’s desire to join an already-too-large nuclear club of nations.

If it’s not done by the time he leaves office, it then will fall on whoever comes next.

Let’s not ever, though, say “never” to reopening ties with Iran.

First things first. No nukes for Tehran.