Today is our 397th day back in Iraq.
There have been no new casualties reported.
We find this morning's Cost of War
passing through: $ 1, 628, 099, 450, 000. 00
So, I've got a rare week - being away last week, most of the stories I had saved have gone stale. But the "easy" part about writing this column is that it's easy to find fresh material. I will resist the temptation to waste any time on the bloviating blowhard with the hair, except to say this: "Mr. Trump bears a striking resemblance to that circular muscle that is commonly found at the end of a mammalian digestive tract."
Let's take a brief look south. We've not fired shots over Cuba since 1961, but for the past five decades it has been on the front lines of the Cold War. For more than two decades, it's been the last vestige of the Soviet client-state, and we all know what finally happened over the last few months. It is a generational thing; the older Cubans that I know, including most who fled the Castro regime with little more than what they could cram into a suitcase, are bitterly opposed to normalizing relations. The rest of America tells a different story, though.
Nearly three-fourths of Americans think the United States should have diplomatic ties with Cuba, but they’re not sure how far to go in lifting sanctions, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll released Monday as full diplomatic relations between the two countries were formally restored.
“Relations between Cuba and the U.S. I think are long overdue. There’s no threat there,” said Alex Bega, 30, of Los Angeles. “I think the sanctions we have on them are pretty much obsolete.”
The resumption of normal ties ended decades of acrimony between the two nations that was hardened when President John F. Kennedy and Cuba’s Fidel Castro fought over Soviet expansion in the Americas. The new diplomatic status, however, does not erase lingering disputes, such as mutual claims for economic reparations, Havana’s desire to end a more than 50-year-old trade embargo and the U.S. push for Cuba to improve human rights and democracy.
The new poll also found that 58 percent of Americans approve of President Barack Obama’s handling of the U.S. relationship with Havana while 40 disapprove. By contrast, only 39 percent approve of his handling of the U.S. role in world affairs more generally, while 59 percent disapprove.
“I just disapprove of his politics in general,” said Julie Smith, 40, a university administrator from Bowling Green, Kentucky. “I just don’t think that us trying to improve relations with Cuba is beneficial to the United States.”
Respondents were split on what to do about the sanctions on Cuba. Forty-eight percent thought they should be decreased or eliminated entirely while 47 percent favored keeping them at their current level or increasing them. Five percent didn’t answer.
Here's something I bet you never considered, even after the shootings in Tennessee. Did you know that military personnel don't routinely carry firearms on duty, even while on their bases? As part of that well-regulated militia we hear tell about, you'd think that open-carry would rule the day. But it actually doesn't - military sidearms are among the more tightly controlled weapons around the base. Some lawmakers want to change that, but as it turns out...it isn't that easy
The military has a problem with guns.
Following last week's murder of five service members in a violent and still-unexplained shooting spree in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the Defense Department once again has found itself in the midst of a broader national feud about gun control, gun rights and public safety.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter has ordered a full review of facility security policies due by the end of this week.
Meanwhile, inside the military, many leaders remain skeptical that the solution to safety concerns involves more troops carrying more weapons.
Outside the military, the issue has become a political lightning rod.
Several governors already have pre-empted the Pentagon' own assessment by rushing to allow National Guard personnel to carry weapons on bases and in recruiting stations.
On Capitol Hill, several top lawmakers are looking at similar measures for active-duty members, in effect allowing more troops to carry personal firearms around military property.
Several Republican presidential candidates are voicing support for those measures after the Chattanooga tragedy. For months, Tea Party favorite Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has been pressing congressional leaders to hold hearings on loosening restrictions regarding arming troops on domestic military bases.
And on Monday, a top National Rifle Association leader released a statement blaming the deaths of the five service members on misguided gun control policies.
“It’s outrageous that members of our armed services have lost their lives because the government has forced them to be disarmed in the workplace,” said Chris Cox, executive director of NRA's Institute for Legislative Action. “Congress should pursue a legislative fix to ensure that our service men and women are allowed to defend themselves on U.S. soil.”
But so far, the Defense Department has not expressed concern about existing laws.
The July 16 Chattanooga attack is the latest in a series of tragic incidents that has prompted Pentagon reviews, in particular after the 2009 shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, and again after the 2013 shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington.
Each review has underscored the military's caution about the inherent risk of carrying firearms.
"DoD does not support arming all personnel. We hold this position for many reasons," Army Lt. Col. Valerie Henderson, a Pentagon spokeswoman said Monday.
Those reasons include safety concerns and the risk of accidental discharges, she said.
Moreover, providing law enforcement-style training and qualification tests for additional parts of the force could be extraordinarily costly, she said.
Other costs of expanding firearms use would include complying with various screening laws, for example the Lautenberg Amendment that restricts access to weapons for people with domestic violence convictions, Henderson said.
And any change in military procedures or federal law must comport with a dizzying patchwork of state-level gun control laws.
In addition, concerns about weapons in the military community has intensified in recent years amid the soaring rate of military suicides, the majority of them involving firearms.
Some top defense officials have criticized some lawmakers' efforts to limit the authority of commanders to restrict firearms access for troops identified as being at high risk for suicide.
Finally today, remember all the histrionics about some training that was scheduled to happen in Texas recently? I may have missed the boat here, but it started while I was away last week. There were many dark conspiracy theories, but so far - nothing has happened.
BASTROP — For four months, this pretty town along the Colorado River has been ground zero for rumors of a sweeping federal plot to disarm and round up American citizens.
But there was little evidence of continued anxiety over the military training exercise known as Jade Helm 15 as the operation got underway Wednesday.
“I just think it’s a bunch of hooey. All it takes is one person to get on the internet and say something,” said Bud Sinclair, a retiree who sat drinking iced tea on the patio of a roadside restaurant along FM 1440 just outside of town.
The operation that military officials describe as a routine training exercise — and conspiracy theorists warned is a prelude to martial law and the wide-scale round-up of citizens, who would perhaps be warehoused in mysteriously closed Wal-Marts around the state — began in a dozen Texas counties and across the Southwest. It will continue through the summer.
It will involve 1,200 service members distributed across locations throughout several states. Some training is reportedly taking place on private land near Camp Swift, a former Army base built during World War II now owned by the Texas National Guard about eight miles from downtown Bastrop.
Fears over Jade Helm’s launch reached a boiling point in April at a meeting of the Bastrop County Commissioners Court, when concerned citizens peppered a military spokesman with questions about the operation.
Shortly after the Bastrop meeting, Gov. Greg Abbott asked the Texas State Guard to keep an eye on the exercise to ensure Texans' "safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed.” After Abbott’s directive, which drew bipartisan criticism, hysteria over the possible military takeover exploded into the international spotlight. According to recent reports, the Texas State Guard will not be monitoring the operation from the field, but from Austin.
A group called Counter Jade Helm has also mobilized to serve as a watchdog, dispatching members to various sites of the operation and soliciting any information locals may have on how the exercise is going in their communities.
At the same time, it has been careful to distance itself from the seedier elements of the Jade Helm furor, branding itself as an effort to help the military's efforts, not thwart them.
"CJH is not about conspiracy theories," the group's website reads. "This exercise is not about the what-ifs of our government."
A call to Pete Lanteri, one of the group’s leaders, was not returned.
Sure is a crazy summer out there.