Why the masks, terrorists?

The thought keeps occurring to me: Why do terrorists keep covering their faces when they make these videos intended for international distribution?

Have you ever wondered?


The picture on the link here shows an Islamic State goon waving a knife at the camera. All you see are this fellow’s eyes. Why don’t they show themselves to the public? Why don’t they reveal their identity?

Is it because:

* They believe what they’re doing is wrong?

* They don’t want international cops, spooks, commandos, anti-terror analysts to identify them?

* They’re cowards?

Maybe it’s all of the above. I’m going with the coward angle, kind of like the way the Ku Klux Klan goons cover their faces under hoods.

Terrorists don’t comprehend that they commit criminal acts when they behead innocent victims. They don’t seem to have any understanding of “right” and “wrong” the way you and I do. They’ve perverted every single principle, concept and tenetĀ under which civilized human beings live.

They’re surely hiding from the good guys, which might imply they know what they’re doing is wrong. I believe it’s more akin to the last part. They don’t want to get caught because they’re afraid of the consequence they’ll face.

Fear. Cowardice. Get it?

Some of them have deserted from military organizations in their home country, usually somewhere in the Middle East, to join forces with ISIL, Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Qaeda … whatever. They’re hiding their faces from their former military commanders.

In the end, though, it all seems to smack of cowardly acts. Just as lynchings were the acts of cowards in the United States a century ago, these terrorists have zero sense of honor and courage.


House members reaching into Senate affairs

It’s downright fun to watch members of one congressional body suggest the way members of the other congressional body should do their job.

Let’s presume that the upper chamber, the Senate, would prefer that the lower chamber, the House of Representatives, mind its own business.


Then again, they’re all on the same team, yes? They’re all interested in doing what’s right and correct for the country, aren’t they?

Maybe so. Maybe not.

U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, thinks the Senate should change its filibuster rules to strip power from Democrats. He wants Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to invoke the so-called “nuclear option” by not allowing Democrats to filibuster GOP-sponsored bills to death. The issue at hand is the Department of Homeland Security funding measure that’s being kicked to death on the floors of both chambers.

Remember when then-Majority Leader Harry Reid did the same thing when Republicans were in the minority? You’d have thought GOP senators’ heads would explode.

Now the fortunes are reversed. The GOP controls the Senate, along with the House. But among the Republican majority there exists a restive band of malcontents, the TEA party caucus, that wants to shake things up not only in their own body, but in the other one as well.

That’s where Labrador and fellow House TEA party insurgent Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., are seeking this change in Senate rules.

Someone needs to inform both of these young men about the institutional rivalry that exists between these two bodies. Senators represent their entire states and serve for six years. Those House members represent certain congressional districts, which have been gerrymandered — more than likely — to elect people of certain ideological stripes; they’re elected to mere two-year terms.

The Senate considers itself a more deliberative body; the House by nature is more raucous. Senators likely won’t admit to it, but they look down their noses at their House colleagues.

Thus, it is at some peril that Reps. Labrador and Huelskamp seek to tell the folks at the otherĀ end of the Capitol Building how to conduct their business.

Tread carefully, fellas.


Brooks, Shields speak with reason, clarity

If only conservatives and liberals could speak to each other the way these two fellows speak on subjects that have driven the ideologies so far apart.

If only …

David Brooks is a conservative columnist for the New York Times; Mark Shields’s left-leaning column is circulated in newspapers all across the country.

They took on the issue of what to call the terrorists with whom we are at war.

I particularly liked Brooks’s assessment of whether the monsters are “Islamic terrorists.” His view? All religion is open to interpretation. Christians, Jews and Muslims all interpret their faiths differently. He said the terrorists don’t practice mainstream Islam, but they’re Islamic, so why not call them such?

I don’t necessarily think it’s important that we call these terrorists Islamic. We know what they’re doing. As Shields noted, most of the Islamic State’s victims are Muslims. They’re also killing Christians and Jews. They’re evil in the extreme and we need to respond accordingly — which we are doing.

But the discussion on PBS is worth seeing anyway.

If only the two sides could talk to each other the way these fellows do.


Speaker's future suddenly gets cloudy

It might be that a supposition put forward to me months ago by someone close to House Speaker John Boehner might be panning out.

Boehner might want to throw in the towel on his effort to be the Man of the House. He might just quit and go home.

The speaker got a swift kick in the face yesterday as House Republicans teamed up with Democrats to defeat a short-term funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security. Those TEA party Rs remain angry with President Obama over his immigration-related executive action — which granted temporary delay in deportation of 5 million illegal immigrants — so they want to defund the DHS to stick it in Obama’s ear.


Boehner sought to stave off a DHS shutdown. The measure failed, but then the House and Senate came up with a one-week funding plan. We’ll be back at this at the end of next week.

So … now the chatter has turned to whether Boehner could be tossed out by the raucous Republican rabble-rousers. Twenty-five GOP members voted against Boehner to be speaker when the new Congress convened. Others might join the anti-Boehner parade.

That source I mentioned who had said he thought Boehner might pack it in was speculating about whether the speaker could contain the rebel wing of his party. His thought this past fall was that Boehner would be re-elected as speaker, then he would resign from Congress and do something else — such as become a lobbyist or a K Street consultant.

I shudder at the thought of someone from that TEA party wing — and I’m thinking of East Texan Louie Gohmert, who actually sought the speakership against Boehner — taking control of the House gavel.

Given the wackiness that hasn’t gone away, absolutely nothing at all would surprise me.

Let’s all watch this one play out.


Terrorists, union protesters: all the same?

Robert Reich is a former labor secretary during the Clinton administration.

He posted this message on Facebook today in response to a patently absurd statement made at the Conservative Political Action Conference by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Reich wrote this:

“Can it get any lower? Last night, at CPAC’s ‘beauty pageant’ for right-wing presidential hopefuls, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was asked how he would fight ISIS if elected president. Walker referred to his political fights with teachers and labor union members in his home state: ‘If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.’ I doubt Walker really believes Americans who peacefully protest for a decent wages are analogous to foreign barbarians who saw off peoples’ heads. But to him and the other right wing-nuts of the Republican party, political opponents are enemies rather than fellow citizens, to be ‘taken on’ mercilessly. This is why they can’t (and mustn’t) govern America.”

There you have it.

A governor who has all but declared war on the union movement in his home state equates facing down peaceful protesters in the streets with the monsters who are terrorizing innocent people on the other side of the world.

This is the kind of rhetoric that CPAC has been hearing from its dog-and-pony show of candidates strutting across the stage to fire up their followers.

The serious thinkers of the Republican Party need to be heard above the demagoguery that’s getting all the attention.

I share Reich’s belief that Walker really equates the protesters with terrorists. Then again, why does he spew such garbage? Oh, I almost forgot. He’s appealing to his party’s “base.”

Snowball stirs climate change debate

U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe’s snowball stunt has done something quite useful.

It has sparked another round of debate over whether Earth’s climate is changing.

The Oklahoma Republican sought to debunk the climate change theorists when he brought the snowball to the Senate floor this week. It’s really cold in Washington, D.C., the chairman said. So the snowball is a symbol of what he believes, which is that climate change is a load of crap.


Actually, it’s not.

As the brief essay attached to this post notes, although the D.C. temperature was quite cold, that very day it was swelteringly hot in Opa Loca, Fla. — 87 degrees hot, as a matter of fact.

Does the temperature in Opa Loca on one day mean that Earth’s climate is changing? Not any more than the snowball in D.C. disproves it.

But the debate is a good one.

Science has produced mountains of evidence to suggest that the planet is getting warmer. Yet we keep hearing deniers suggest that the planet is getting colder. The polar ice caps are melting. No, wait! They’re getting larger.

The climate is changing because of human activity, scientists have concluded. Others say the climate change is part of an epochal cycle.

Here’s a notion worth considering. What if we actually did reduce carbon emissions significantly by requiring industrial plant managersĀ to do a better job of controlling what they’re spewing into the atmosphere? How about if Third World governments cracked down on those who are obliterating forests and reducing the level of oxygen being pumped into the atmosphere to counteract the carbon dioxide that contributes to the carbon levels? What if we did all we could do to make the air cleaner with less carbon?

Wouldn’t that sustain the planet longer? Wouldn’t all that work slow the deterioration of our resources, if not reverse it?

Chairman Inhofe can deny the existence of climate change. But a cold day in D.C. doesn’t prove his point.

I am not going to buy into the notion that doing nothing about any of this is good for the only planet we have.


'Delusional wing' of GOP stalls DHS funding


That’s the only word I can think of to describe what’s happened today in the U.S. House of Representatives.

A majority of the House rejected a plan to keep the Department of Homeland Security functioning for the next three weeks.


The Senate had approved a bill to fund the agency until September. Senators had agreed to strip out provisions aimed at stopping President Obama’s executive order on illegal immigrations, which House and Senate TEA party members detest passionately.

So House, given a chance to keep DHS operating — and protecting our borders against the bad guys — went along with what Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., called the “delusional wing” of the GOP. It stopped the funding measure.

This is no way to run a government. It’s no way to take the reins of power, which Republicans did when they took command of the Senate in January. The GOP now controls both legislative chambers and this is the result they’ve produced on the first big showdown of the new congressional session.

House Speaker John Boehner has lost control of the body he’s supposed to lead.

The House of Representatives, early in this new era, has disgraced itself.


Preposterous plan saves DHS, for now

Roger Daltrey sang it loudly at the end of The Who classic, “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss!”

Republicans had vowed to govern better than Democrats did when they took over both congressional chambers at the beginning of the year. That vow is in jeopardy.

Why? The House of Representatives, which the GOP has controlled since 2011, is going to fund the Department of Homeland Security — but only until March 19. Then the House and Senate will have deal once again with imminent closure because of Republican anger over an executive action taken by President Obama to deal with illegal immigration.


Congress appears ready to avoid a shutdown at the end of today. The GOP-run Senate wants to approve a funding measure that doesn’t include a provision to strip the executive order of its authority. The GOP-run House, though, isn’t ready to swill that Kool-Aid.

What a terrible way to run the government. A Band-Aid here and there. Then we return to the same crisis mode that sends everyone’s blood pressure through the ceiling.

Obama sought to delay deportation of 5 million illegal immigrants. Congress didn’t like that the president acted alone, even though his predecessors have done so on the same issue over the years.

Republicans are so intent on stopping the deportation order that they’re threatening to de-fund the very agency, the Department of Homeland Security, that is charged with protecting the nation against bad guys trying to sneak into the country.

What kind of governance is that?

TheĀ new boss is no better than the old boss.



Texans split on in-state college tuition issue

How do you like this one? Texans are split nearly evenly on whether illegal immigrants should be allowed to pay in-state tuition rates if they choose to attend public colleges and universities in Texas.

This issue has brewed hot and hotter for a long time in Texas.

Here’s the deal: Lots of young Texans were brought here illegally their parents. These young people have grown up as Americans, living in Texas, adopting in many cases to our state and national culture. They want to improve themselves, so they seek to attend a public university.

Some folks, though, don’t want to allow them to pay in-state rates, whichĀ are a lot less expensive than out-of-state rates.


The University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll shows 43 percent of Texans oppose granting in-state waivers, while 42 percent favor it. The vast majority of Republicans oppose the waiver, while a large number of Democrats favor it.

I’ve long believed that granting the in-state tuition waiver for these young students is a humane policy. Even some key Republicans — such as formerĀ Republican governors,Ā George W. Bush and Rick Perry — have favored it. Indeed, Perry’s support of allowing in-state tuition for these undocumented immigrants made him a prime target of other Republicans campaigning for president in 2012.

Allowing the in-state tuition rates for these students does not harm the public university system in Texas, as some have contended. It enriches the system by granting young students a chance to attain the goals they have set for themselves — while living as Texans.


Look at global picture, Sen. Inhofe

It was just a matter of time before someone would do this.

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., brought a snowball to the Senate floor Thursday to prove, by golly, that climate change is a hoax.


Inhofe chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and he also is one of the Senate’s leading deniers on climate change/global warming. He just will not tolerate the notion that climate change might be caused by carbon emissions thrown into the air by manmade sources — you know, coal-fired power plants, oil refineries, petrochemical plants,Ā deforestation, motor vehicleĀ exhaust … those kinds of things.

So he pulled a snowball out of a bag and noted how “unseasonable” the temperature is outside the Senate chamber, meaning it’s really cold out there.

I just want to remind the senator that conditions outdoors at any particular time doesn’t prove a single thing about this issue. He knows that, of course, but he refuses to look at the big picture when it might go against whatever point he seeks to make.

My friends on the right keep insisting that climate change is a concoction brewed by leftist influences out to destroy American industry. Scientific data, though, suggest that the planet’s climate is changing. It’s getting warmer. The only debating point left is over whether it’s manmade or part of some ecological cycle that Earth experiences every few million years.

Whatever, Chairman Inhofe should cease playing silly snowball games.

Yes, it’s cold in the Texas Tundra, too, Sen. Inhofe. It’s snowing as I write these words. The temperature is in the low teens.

Is it prudent to use current weather conditions to pass judgment on what science has been tracking over many years? It’s wiser to look at the really big picture.