Down with the rebel flag … in most places

I totally understand the outcry and backlash against the Confederate battle flag in the wake of a recent massacre.

The flag has come to represent hatred, bigotry, bondage … all things of which the nation shouldn’t be proud. It has become the symbol of arguably the nation’s pre-eminent hate group, the Ku Klux Klan.

This weekend it became an attraction at a NASCAR race at Daytona Speedway, the Taj Mahal of the sport.

Racing fans flew the flag proudly, proclaiming it represents — to them, at least — Southern “heritage.”

Whatever. To many of us, it represents a lot of other things that have nothing to do with heritage.

But I’m wondering about why a certain television network, TV Land, has decided to discontinue showing “Dukes of Hazzard” reruns on its affiliate stations because it depicts a car driven by two redneck cousins that has a battle flag image painted on its roof.

If ever a show poked good-natured fun at some aspects of Southern culture, that TV show was at the top of the heap. Every one of the characters on that show was a caricature of sorts. The Duke boys, Uncle Jesse, Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane, all of ’em were intended to make fun.

I never recall anything remotely racist being depicted on that show.

Yes, the flag need not fly on the statehouse grounds in the very state where a racist murderer gunned down nine people with whom he was studying the Bible in Charleston, S.C. It need not be depicted on motor vehicle license plates, or should it fly on public property anywhere in this country.

But to target a light-hearted TV show?

I don’t get that one. Someone will have to explain that to me.

My wife: bird whisperer

I am married to an extraordinary woman.

She’s smart, intuitive, loving, pretty — and she’s got this way with birds.

I saw evidence of it once again this weekend.

There have been three distinct encounters with birds that tell me she’s got this interesting gift with our feathered friends.

* The first time occurred many years ago, in Portland, Ore. I wasn’t there to see it. She told me about it. I believe her account. It involved a large crow that ended up in our dining room. It was making that loud sound that crows make. She managed to talk the crow out of the dining room, into the living room and out the front door.

* The second time occurred in Amarillo. It was about 2003 or 2004. Our kitties were still young and spry. Our little female, Mittens, stalked a cluster of sparrows that were scarfing up some dropped bird seed among my wife’s day lilies. Mittens crept forward, then sprinted and leaped into the flowers. The birds scattered. All but one, which ended up in Mittens’ jaws. Our cat looked at me wide-eyed and then sprinted into the house, bird in mouth. She dropped the bird, which then flew into our bedroom. My wife talked the bird into a corner, where she picked it up, inspected it for injury. Seeing none, she let the bird go and it flew away to join up with its pals.

* The third time occurred just this weekend. A blue jay had come down through the chimney and ended up atop our kitchen counters high above the floor. We managed to coax the bird into the dining room. My wife grabbed a broom and nudged it under the jay’s feet. It then flew to a ledge over our front door. I opened the screen. My wife nudged the broom under the jay’s feet once again. It climbed onto the business end of the broom as my wife spoke soothingly to it. She lowered the broom — and the blue jay flew off to points unknown.

Hmmm. I’m now wondering: Is there a market for a bird whisperer?

Bastrop County preps for ‘invasion’?

Here’s an interesting take on the upcoming military exercise planned by U.S. Special Forces, including Green Berets and SEALs, in Bastrop County, Texas.

It comes from former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who served in the Clinton administration Cabinet.


As the U.S. military prepares to launch one of the largest training exercises in history later this month in Texas, many of the residents of Bastrop County suspect a secret Obama plot to spy on them, confiscate their guns and ultimately establish martial law. They aren’t “nuts and wackos. They are concerned citizens, and they are patriots,” Albert Ellison, chairman of the Bastrop Republican Party tells the Washington Post. Bastrop’s former mayor, Terry Orr, says the fear “stems a fair amount from the fact that we have a black president,” who people believe is primarily concerned with the welfare of “illegal aliens” and blacks. “People think the government is just not on the side of the white guy.” The current Bastrop mayor, Kenneth Kesselus, says the distrust is due in part to a sense that “things aren’t as good as they used to be,” especially economically. “The middle class is getting squeezed and they’ve got to take it out on somebody, and Obama is a great target.”

An economic recovery that only enriches the top breeds bigotry and invites scapegoating. It has happened before in history.

What do you think?


Here’s what I think. I think Reich’s comment about nature of the current recovery breeding “bigotry” and “scapegoating” is right on target. I also believe that’s just part of what’s fueling this mistrust of the military. I think some of it involves visceral loathing of the commander in chief by those who’ve bought into the myriad conspiracy theories surrounding his election, re-election and his service as president of the United States.

The crackpot Internet baloney that went viral around the world about the so-called Jade Helm 15 exercise being part of some plot by President Obama to declare martial law is a symptom of what’s become of the flow of rumors that get passed around as “information.”

Those who read this stuff, buy into it and then pass it along to gullible friends and acquaintances are contributing to the poisoning of what used to be considered reasonable political discourse.

And look at the comments of the former Bastrop mayor who suggests some of it stems from the president’s racial heritage. Is he right? You be the judge.

‘No’ means no, in Greece

In Greece, they celebrate something called “Oxhi Day.”

“Oxhi” — and this is the rough spelling of the word, given that the Greek alphabet looks nothing like ours — is the Greek word for “no.”

It’s meant to mark then-Greek Prime Minister John Metaxas’s refusal to let Italian troops use Greek ports during the early years of World War II. Metaxas told Italian dictator Benito Mussolini “oxhi!” to his ultimatum; Mussolini then invaded Greece on Oct. 28, 1940 — and promptly had his troops slaughtered by the Greek army as they sought to advance south from Albania.

The Italian invasion stalled in the face of the ferocious Greek resistance. Adolf Hitler’s Nazi troops came in to rescue Mussolini from further humiliation — and conquered Greece.

Oxhi Day has been a big deal for Greece.

Now the word takes on a fresh meaning. The Greeks have said “oxhi” to demands for more austerity, which was a condition of more bailout money from the European Union.

The result might be that Greece leaves the EU, becoming — in the words of some observers — a “fringe nation” in Europe.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras vows to renegotiate a better deal for Greece. His left-wing government has grown weary of the austerity demands that others have placed on his country.

But to be candid, the Greeks seem to need some more austerity to help them curb their spendthrift habits. They have spent themselves into a tremendous debt crisis that they cannot solve — seemingly — by themselves.

I wish my the people who live in the country of my ancestors had voted the other way. The future of a once-vibrant nation now appears at best to be murky.

Just saying “oxhi!” might not be enough to save this proud country from ruin.

What if Atkinson goes?


Let’s play a little game of “What if …?”

Are you ready? Here goes.

What if Amarillo City Manager Jarrett Atkinson decides — against the expressed wishes of one of the city councilmen to whom he reports — that he doesn’t want to resign?

What if, then, the City Council decides to terminate the city manager?

What if the city then launches a national search to find a new chief executive for the city administration? Lord knows they aren’t going to look inward for that one, given that they want “change” at City Hall. Nor should they. The job is a big one and it requires someone with considerable skill and — as seen in recent weeks — someone with a rhino hide.

What if the council dangles a job posting out there, offers to pay the next city manager a lot of money and it gets responses from dozens of qualified candidates?

What if, then, the city manager applicants one by one start looking at the city’s recent history? They note that the council fired the city manager who was up to his eyeballs in planning a downtown revitalization project. They also take note that one of the councilmen who wanted Atkinson to quit had barely taken his oath of office before spouting off.

Then they wonder, do I really want to go work in that environment, for that body of council members who were so quick to dismiss an experienced public servant?

What if the process drags on for months as the city keeps combing the country for the right person who’s willing to come to Amarillo, Texas — which, while it’s a nice city with nice people, isn’t exactly paradise?

Finally, what if the city manager selection process drags on so long that all the hard work that’s gone into redeveloping downtown Amarillo gets flushed down the toilet?

Therein lies the potential predicament that awaits these City Hall change agents.

Good luck, gentlemen.


Oh, I really and truly dislike doing this, but I’m going to do something that goes against my grain.

I want to call out my former employer on a key political matter.

The Amarillo Globe-News today published an editorial that was spot-on. It said that a vote — if it comes — that opposes the multipurpose event venue planned for downtown Amarillo would scuttle the city’s progress for years to come.

It’s in the attached right here. Take a look.

OK, having endorsed the paper’s editorial policy on the city’s downtown redevelopment proposals, I have a question to pose to my former employer.

Shouldn’t you to come to grips publicly with the recommendations you made in the May 9 municipal election that well might have helped elect three new members to the City Council, two of whom you’ve criticized roundly since they took office?

I ask that question with some trepidation. If the role was reversed — and I had survived a company “reorganization” scheme in the summer of 2012 — I might not care a damn bit what a former editor would have to say about the job I’m doing. Now that I’m on the outside looking in, well, I feel compelled to pose the question to my former colleagues.

The paper backed the candidacies of Mark Nair, Randy Burkett and Elisha Demerson in the race for the City Council. It offered no recommendation for mayor, even though the incumbent, Paul Harpole, was far superior to his challenger. The paper backed just one incumbent council member, Dr. Brian Eades.

Two of the three new council members — Demerson and Burkett — have taken serious shots from the paper over what the Globe-News has described as uninformed comments and votes on public policy matters. Nair, meanwhile, has been praised for asking relevant questions about the downtown projects at an informational meeting the other day. Nair also has called for the resignation of City Manager Jarrett Atkinson, who’s been a critical player in the downtown revitalization effort.

So …

The paper backed the three “candidates of change” for the City Council. All three of them made their intentions clear. They want change at City Hall and they want it now. Surely they informed the paper’s editorial board of their positions when they interviewed for the offices they were seeking. Indeed, having sat through many of those over more than three decades in daily print journalism — in Amarillo and elsewhere —  I know how that process works.

The newspaper has taken the correct position with regard to downtown revival efforts.

However, this resident of Amarillo — that would be me — is having trouble squaring the Globe-News’s backing of the three change agents with its view that the MPEV needs building and that it is essential to keep the downtown plan moving forward.

I don’t intend to diagnose anything here, but I am sensing a bit of editorial schizophrenia.




City faces serious fracturing

While we’re on the topic of the newly reconstituted Amarillo City Council, let’s discuss for a moment a serious result of what might transpire over the next couple of years.

We have a serious division of interests among the five members.

Three of the council members — Elisha Demerson, Mark Nair and Randy Burkett — want significant change. They want it now. They aren’t waiting.

The other two members — Mayor Paul Harpole and Councilman Brian Eades — don’t want it. They do not want to see the city manager leave office, which the others apparently want to see happen.

The three-member new-guy majority also is looking skeptically at the downtown plan as it’s been presented. They might want to gut the whole thing.

The other two? They’re all in with the plans for the multipurpose event venue, the downtown convention hotel and the parking garage.

One of the more fascinating back stories of all this drama involves the mayor. Paul Harpole, though, represents precisely the same constituency as his four council colleagues. They’re all elected at-large. That gives the mayor little actual political power. He doesn’t have veto authority. He cannot direct other council members to do anything. They all operate independently of each other, or at least have the potential for doing so.

All that unity, oneness of purpose and collegiality that used to be the mantra at City Hall?

It’s gone, at least for the short term.

What we’re likely to get is something quite different. Let us now see if this is the “change” that works for the city’s advancement.