Top of the Ticket
Political commentary from David Horsey
There is no exit strategy to avoid a long fight against terror

Whenever I see some talking-points-mouthing congressman or catchphrase-spouting think tank dweller insistently telling a cable news host that America needs an “exit strategy,” I think to myself, “Dream on, sucker.” Obviously, it’s good to look before leaping into the next foreign cesspool, but the exit strategy concept is an illusion heaped on a delusion when it comes to the war on terror.

The fight against radical Islamists isn’t the Mexican War or the Spanish American War in which the opponent was a government with an army, land to grab and an interest in ending it all when the going got too rough. The enemy in this war is a hydra-headed beast that regenerates each time it gets cut down. Unlike the Mexicans and the Spaniards – or the Germans and Japanese and Russians – the forces Americans face today seem more interested in dying for their god than living for another day, which means the fight will not end easily and the exits will just be doorways to more dusty battlefields. 


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Congress will want war with Islamic State to be Obama's alone

President Obama’s Wednesday night speech laying out his strategy to defeat and destroy the radical Sunni Muslim militant group Islamic State inspired me to go into my library and pull a book off the shelf. That book is historian Jay Winik’s tome “April 1865: The Month That Saved America.”

Winik presents a fascinating and somewhat iconoclastic analysis of the closing 30 days of the Civil War, arguing that peace was not inevitable as Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox. Some Southerners wanted to fight on, to retreat into the hills and the swamps and fight a guerrilla war. Confederates had the means to do it – there were still rebel armies in the field – and many had the will.

Coupled with Lincoln’s assassination days after Lee's surrender, a protracted fight against unconventional forces might have drained the resolve of Unionists. Certainly, it would have deepened the bitterness between North and South and may have made reconciliation impossible. The United States might never have...

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City liberals lose out to rural Republicans for control of House

Folks in the hinterlands who complain that they want their country back should stop whining. They have a lock on the House of Representatives and a good shot at owning the Senate, too. Meanwhile, the majority of Americans, who live in cities and close-in suburbs, are stuck with having their government tilted in favor of the rural minority.

That may be hard for aging conservatives out in the cornfields and cow pastures to believe, but the numbers show it is true. Demographically, the United States is changing rapidly – the number of nonwhite voters is steadily increasing, and younger citizens of all races do not share their elders' fears of gay marriage, secularism and dark-skinned newcomers – yet the Republican advantage in the House has actually gotten bigger.

How can this be? Well, an analysis in the New York Times by Washington correspondent Nate Cohn gives a good explanation. “Democrats often blame gerrymandering, but that’s not the whole story,” Cohn writes. “More than ever, the...

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History of economic exploitation still hinders black Americans

Now that the confrontation between outraged black protesters and heavily armed white police in Ferguson, Mo., has subsided, most of America has moved on to other news. The police shooting of Michael Brown that sparked those protests did prompt a brief debate about the use of force by police in African American communities, and the U.S. Justice Department has stepped in to investigate bias, bad policies and poor community relations in the local police departments. But, as concerning as deadly encounters between cops and black kids may be, they are just one symptom of a far deeper problem of race that Americans continue to evade. 

Yes, it is true that the most overt forms of racial discrimination have been banished. A black family lives in the White House. Black celebrities and sports stars are widely admired, even beloved, by white Americans. Where, 40 years ago, African Americans were nearly absent from TV screens, now black actors take the lead in numerous popular television programs...

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Hackers have no right to steal private images of celebrities

With my job as a cartoonist and columnist for one the nation’s biggest newspapers comes a modicum of minor celebrity, but I can’t imagine a big market for naked pictures of myself. This is not the case for true celebrities, such as Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Kirsten Dunst, Kim Kardashian and Rihanna, who, along with as many as 100 others, had private nude photos of themselves stolen from Apple’s iCloud storage system and posted for public perusal online.

Whether the hackers were out to make money or simply to prove their technological prowess, they caught the attention of the FBI, which is now investigating. There is talk of the thieves being charged with distributing child pornography because one series of stolen pictures featured U.S. Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney who was under 18 when the photos were shot. The website took down its Maroney shots after it heard from her lawyer. The slightly older celebs, though, are apparently still fair game.

A representative for the...

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In gun world, giving an Uzi to a child makes perfect sense

Sam Scarmado, the owner of the Bullets and Burgers outdoor shooting range in Arizona, went on TV Wednesday to stress how perfectly safe his recreational facility is, despite Monday’s accidental shooting death of one of his instructors at the hands of a 9-year-old girl with an Uzi. That, and many of the other things he said in an MSNBC interview, reveals just how weirdly the values of the gun world skew from the world in which most Americans live.

A cellphone video of the shooting shows the instructor patiently helping the slight, brown-haired child to hold and aim the automatic weapon and shoot live bullets at a target. She takes one shot and all is fine, but when she squeezes the trigger for multiple bursts, the girl cannot handle the recoil, the gun bucks to the left and a bullet goes into the instructor’s brain.

It’s a tragedy for the dead man and his family and for the little girl who will deal with the killing for years to come. Scarmado said he was praying for the girl and...

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Tea party voters could dump Mitch McConnell just by staying home

The dilemma facing the true grass-roots tea party believers -- the dilemma they do not acknowledge -- is that their primary goal of whittling and whacking away at big government undercuts their secondary goal of saving the middle class from the greedy grip of big corporations.

If Democrats have a unifying philosophy, it is that government needs to be effective enough to curtail the economic and environmental abuses of unfettered capitalism. Republicans, on the other hand, preach the dogma that smaller government and unrestricted corporate power serves the best interests of the common man and woman.

The tea party folks have largely bought into that belief, but still are uncomfortable with Republicans who appear to be too much in thrall to big business. That is partly why a big tea party effort was mounted against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky’s Republican primary. McConnell was rightly seen as the epitome of the GOP establishment that the tea partiers so disdain....

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America survives Obama vacation; chattering pundits are shocked

Stunning news: President Obama is back from his vacation and America is safe once again.

Given the shock and awe exhibited by inside-the-Beltway pundits, you would think the president had abandoned his job like a driver leaping from a careening school bus filled with fourth-graders. Islamic extremists were marauding across Iraq while that country’s prime minister was refusing to step aside for his successor. Israeli bombs were pummeling Gaza. Cops were battling protesters in a St. Louis suburb. The Russians were infringing on Ukrainian territory. And there was Obama, putting on the ninth green.

Seemingly worst of all, in the minds of Obama’s critics, was the Hillary hit. In the Washington Post, Dana Milbank listed the various searing hot spots that Obama might be neglecting, but started off with this even more immediate catastrophe: “Hillary Rodham Clinton, his once-loyal secretary of state and his likeliest successor, has gone rogue, criticizing his foreign policy as too timid.”...

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African elephant slaughter nears tipping point toward extinction

African elephants face a looming threat of extinction. Add that to a summer of bad news.

Since the beginning of June, we have seen a passenger jet shot down over Ukraine; an army of Islamic maniacs committing atrocities in Iraq; Israelis and Palestinians acting out their fears and hatreds in Gaza; hundreds of Central American kids running the U.S.-Mexico border; police battling protesters in suburban St. Louis; wildfires burning up the West; not to mention the more personal tragedy of Robin Williams’ suicide.

The constant suffering humans inflict upon one another is gut-wrenching, of course. It takes a cold heart not to feel empathy for the innocents facing death and dislocation in war zones or to have a bit of compassion for children seeking refuge from drug gangs. Still, as awful as we can be to one another, we are not running out of human beings (unless the worst-case scenarios about climate change come true, in which case we are all doomed). African elephants, on the other hand,...

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James Foley beheading shows vicious barbarity of Islamic State

Hollywood has come up with some fearsome swarms of monstrous villains -- think of the orcs in “The Hobbit” or the zombies in “World War Z” -- but those computer-generated creatures are nothing compared with the all-too-real swarm of monsters that have rallied to the black banner of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. 

ISIS (or ISIL, the alternative version of the name that substitutes the broader geographic term, Levant, for Syria) may be the most despicable band of barbarians to plague the world since the Khmer Rouge finished stacking up the skulls of their victims in Cambodia 35 years ago. Emerging from the chaos of the Syrian civil war, ISIS militants have swept across the Iraqi desert and seized control in much of that country over the last two months.

They are not the first armed force to bring havoc to that tortured land, but they are arguably the worst. Driven by a fanatical allegiance to an extremist form of Sunni Islam, ISIS shock troops have carried out crucifixions and...

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Should our cops be commandos?

Among my grandfather's many jobs was a stint as police chief in Anacortes, Wash., back when it was a boisterous and sometimes violent cannery town. There was plenty of trouble to be managed among the fishermen drinking and fighting in the saloons and brothels, the Chinese immigrant cannery workers in their rickety shacks and out on the water where smugglers ran the Canadian border and hid out in the misty coves and channels of the San Juan Islands. 

With only a knife, a pistol and one deputy, Grandpa somehow managed to maintain law and order. If he were in charge of the small city’s police force today, though, he would have access to all kinds of high-caliber weaponry and armored vehicles to outfit a team of tactical officers in uniforms that would make them look like combat soldiers in Afghanistan. The federal government and military contractors would be eager to supply him with such gear, even though Anacortes is now a quiet community where the only reminder of the wild old days is a...

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Racial prejudice and militarized cops are a bad mix in America

The killing of a young black man by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., and the subsequent military-style police response to protests has illuminated two very disturbing phenomena. One is older than our republic -- racial prejudice -- and the other is relatively new -- the militarization of America’s cops. 

Generally, I have great sympathy for police. They get stuck dealing with all the bad consequences of our shameful failure to deal with numerous social ills, from mental health to poverty. That being said, here’s what I think about the situation in Ferguson: The police were out of control and did things they would be unlikely to do in a white suburb. 

If the accounts given by numerous eyewitnesses are to be believed -- and the people I’ve seen interviewed seem quite believable -- the fatal shooting of the unarmed 18-year-old black man, Michael Brown, was murder. There was a confrontation of some kind between Brown and the cop who shot him, but the policeman appears to have started...

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