Nothing ‘routine’ about police work

I once got schooled and scolded by a law enforcement official after I reported an incident I referred to as a “routine traffic stop.”

That was nearly 40 years ago. I did it once. I was told by this individual, who worked for a sheriff’s department in Oregon, that “there’s nothing routine” about a traffic stop.

Lesson learned.

Today, a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper pulled someone over in a traffic stop just south of Dallas. The man shot the trooper to death. The suspect fled and was captured in Waller County north of Houston.

Nothing ‘routine’ here

I don’t have any details of the traffic stop. All I can presume is that the trooper never expected that the stop would be the last duty he’d ever perform as a law enforcement officer.

This puts in the starkest terms possible about the dangers our police officers face whenever they put on the uniform and go to work every single day. They suit up, say goodbye to their loved ones and expect to return home at the end of the day.

Traffic stops are supposed to be “routine,” but too often they can erupt in violence.

One of those traffic stops did so today. With tragic results.

This is one of those news accounts that breaks my heart and fills me with immense respect for those who swear to “serve and protect” the public.

Is graffiti abatement still on the city’s agenda?

Paul Harpole became Amarillo’s mayor in 2011 after campaigning on a vow to rid the city of graffiti that was scarring private property.

He orchestrated the launch of a program aimed at cleaning up buildings that were being “tagged” by gang members and would-be gang members.

Then he left the mayor’s office earlier this year. The current mayor, Ginger Nelson, campaigned on a multi-faceted platform of issues ranging from economic development, to fiscal accountability, to beautification of our public rights-of-way. There are plenty of other issues, too.

I don’t recall reading about graffiti abatement as I pored through Nelson’s list of municipal priorities.

So, my question is: Did the graffiti abatement program vanish when Paul Harpole walked away from the mayor’s office?

I hope that’s not the case.

One mayor’s effort to rid the city of a nuisance should become part of the next mayor’s agenda as well. Don’t you think?

Harpole stays the course on graffiti battle

I thought Harpole had the right idea when he decided to take on the “artists” who deem it OK to deface other people’s property.

Mayor Nelson appears quite dedicated to her vision for making the city a better, more attractive place for its 200,000 residents. I believe part of her overall strategy needs to include her immediate predecessor’s aim to rid the city of graffiti.

Media getting the lashing they deserve

It hurts a bit to say this, but the so-called “mainstream media” are getting trashed — for the right reasons.

The media have been criticized for the slant of their coverage of news events, of politicians. Conservatives have labeled the MSM as tools of the liberal political establishment. I haven’t bought into that argument.

What’s happening now to the media, though, is an examination of a culture that seems to pervade it. We are witnessing the toppling of media heavyweights because of the way they behave toward women … allegedly.

Bill O’Reilly at Fox News: gone; Charlie Rose of CBS and PBS; he’s toast; Mark Halperin of MSNBC: he’s outta there; Glenn Thrush of the New York Times and MSNBC: he, too, is gone; Michael Oreskes of National Public Radio: see ya later.

What do these men have in common? They all were accused by women of making sexual advances on them, of committing acts of sexual harassment, of sexual abuse. The allegations include groping, prancing around in the nude, making inappropriate remarks … and some things I probably shouldn’t mention here because they’re in poor taste.

The word now is that media outlets are soul-searching. They are schooling their employees — the males at least — on how to behave, how to treat their female colleagues.

What gives this story its extra legs quite arguably is that the media have been covering the sexual misdeeds of others, namely politicians and entertainment tycoons. That coverage has exposed media companies — and the men who report and comment on others’ conduct — to the very revelations we have learned about their own behavior.

As Politico has reported: “We have robust policies in place and have become more focused on communicating those policies across the organization,” said New York Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha in an email. “In recent weeks, we’ve reminded employees of our Anti-Harassment, Equal Employment Opportunity, and Non-Discrimination policies and we’ve highlighted the many ways an employee can raise an issue or file a complaint, including through an anonymous hotline.”

That’s fine. Now it’s time for the Times and other media outlets to root out the bad actors within their ranks immediately.

Giving thanks on this special day … and always

My family members know I love all of them beyond measure. They know I am grateful for the love they give me in return.

I am grateful and thankful for the friends I have acquired over many decades of living. I believe they know of — and appreciate — my love for them, too.

Now the rest of you know what they know and understand the gratitude I am expressing to them today and every day.

I feel moved to express my thankfulness and gratitude for my country. And for the system of government under which we Americans live.

You see, I am grateful in the extreme that my government allows me to write this blog. I put these musings out there multiple times each day. I use it to vent my frustration with the government, and with many of the people who operate the government. These people are responsible for making the laws under which we live and for administering them in accordance with the U.S. Constitution.

The framers of the Constitution established the Bill of Rights, which are contained in the first 10 amendments to that document. The First Amendment lays out freedom to worship, freedom of the press and freedom to seek redress of grievances. This blog, thus, is protected by at least two of those First Amendment clauses.

My retirement status has given me the freedom to speak only for myself. I do not shy away from that. I’ll keep pounding away for as long as I am able to maintain a cogent thought in my noggin and string sentences together that make a semblance of sense.

Some people in power who happen to read what I write won’t like what they read. That’s too bad — for them!

For me? I will just keep giving thanks for the opportunity to speak my mind.

What’s missing? Oh, wait! Longhorns vs. Aggies

I was 34 years of age when my family and I moved to Texas. That was in 1984.

At the time I was a fairly avid collegiate football fan. I grew quickly to appreciate one of the country’s more intense gridiron rivalries not long after arriving in the Golden Triangle.

I refer to the University of Texas-Texas A&M rivalry. They used to play that game on Thanksgiving Day. My wife and I became friends in Beaumont with diehard Aggie alumni. They were four brothers, all of whom graduated from A&M; their children went there, too; and so did their grandchildren. They bled Aggie Maroon. I was schooled immediately — and often — about how much Aggie football meant to Texas Aggie families.

I even learned to refer to the University of Texas as “texas university.”

Then the Aggies decided they wanted to bolt to the Southeastern Conference. They wanted to play tackle football against Arkansas, Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee … and some other schools.

Then the rivalry was dissolved.

I am still somewhat saddened that we can’t see the Longhorns play the Aggies on Turkey Day.

I have no particular allegiance to either school. I didn’t attend either of them; neither did our sons. I wrote a year ago about missing a Thanksgiving tradition. I still miss it.

Missing a Thanksgiving tradition

Can’t there be a way for the athletic directors at these schools to work out a non-conference game that pits these football teams against each other … on Thanksgiving Day?

C’mon! You can do this!

White House protests too much

I have a simple bit advice for the White House press office, which seeks to explain the nature of the president’s time away from Washington.

Settle down, will ya?

The Trump family has jetted off to Florida to spend the Thanksgiving weekend at their resort. Fine. Enjoy yourself, Mr. President.

Back at the office, the White House keeps insisting that the president is taking a “working vacation.” Press aides keep telling the media that the president is hard at work while he plays golf, frolics with his grandkids and does whatever he does when he’s not in the Oval Office.

C’mon, gang! I’ve long defended presidential vacations by noting that presidents never are “off the clock.” I know that the current POTUS has squawked about the vacations his immediate predecessor, Barack Obama, would take. I called him out when he would insist he would “never” take a vacation were he elected president. I defended President Obama for taking time away from the stressful atmosphere in the Oval Office.

I’ll do so again with Donald Trump. Which brings me back to my point: The president of the United States is supposed to be available to answer the call, whether he’s at his Oval Office desk or on the 18th green.

Message to White House press office? Stop insisting on calling it a “working vacation.”

Sign of the times: security concerns at holiday events

I cannot possibly watch every cable and broadcast news channel at once, but I am pretty certain they are saying essentially the same thing about the big Thanksgiving Day parades in some of the nation’s major cities.

Security is tighter than ever at them all.

This is a sign of the times. This post-9/11 world of ours has alerted us to the dangers posed by international and domestic terrorism.

They have presented themselves in horrifying ways, with goons running over spectators with motor vehicles. They detonated explosives. There have been stabbings and shootings.

New York City and Philadelphia are staging big parades today. The rest of us out here in Flyover Country will watch on TV — and many of us will hold our breath that we can get through this happy day and give thanks that tragedy doesn’t strike.

A community’s suffering continues

Life in a small town has its charms, as I’ve been told by those who grew up in rural America.

The closest I have come to small-town life occurred for brief period in the early 1980s when our family moved from Portland to Gladstone, Ore. But Gladstone is a suburb of Portland, and is surrounded by the hustle and bustle of urban life.

I mention this today because of the on-going grief that has gripped a rural community in the Texas Panhandle.

Canadian is home to around 2,900 residents. One of those residents, though, has been missing for a year. His name is Thomas Brown. He is a Canadian High School student. He disappeared one year ago, on Thanksgiving, 2016.

He hasn’t been seen or heard from since.

I have been reluctant to comment on this story. I have not been following it closely, given that my attention has been diverted in many other directions.

I will not venture an opinion on what I believe has happened to Thomas. But as I have tried to catch up a bit with this story, I am saddened beyond measure by the grief of those who love Thomas and who pin their waking hours to hoping he returns to them safely.

What strikes me, too, is how events such as this affect small, rural communities. The nation’s heart shattered when the gunman opened fire at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, a community of roughly 400 residents. Everyone in that town knew at least one of the 26 victims who were slaughtered by the madman. The community may never recover from its shared grief.

My sense as well is that Canadian also may not recover from its sadness until it determines Thomas’s fate. Everyone’s hope, quite obviously, is that Thomas returns home and is able to explain his whereabouts.

Until then, a Texas Panhandle community continues to struggle with its emotions. Prayers are most definitely in order.

Happy Trails, Part 56

My full-time retirement is not yet a year old, but we’re building a bank of memories already about this new life we’ve begun.

Today, though, brings to mind a memory I left behind when my 37-year career in print journalism came to an end.

It occurred on Thanksgiving Day, 1989. I was far from home. I was traveling through Southeast Asia with about 20 other editorial page writers and editors. I have written about it before. Here is the blog item I posted in 2014 about that remarkable day:

A Thanksgiving to remember … in Vietnam

The post details the traveling we endured on that day. It was a bit harrowing. It produced none-too-pleasant “fantasies” about what might happen to us as we proceeded from Cambodia to Vietnam on that uniquely American holiday.

That particular journey was one of the more remarkable events in a career I left behind more than five years ago.

I built many wonderful relationships during more than three decades as a journalist. Indeed, the journey we took in 1989 through Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam resulted in a friendship I forged with one fellow that I cherish to this day. Indeed, our wives have become dear friends, too. We watched each other’s children grow into adulthood.

As much as I miss those days and the fascinating sights I was able to see while pursuing the craft I enjoyed for so many years, I continue to look forward to more adventures in an entirely different context.

I give thanks for what I’ve been allowed to do for my professional life. I also give thanks for the relatively good health I enjoy that I trust will enable me to pursue what lies ahead.

Life is good, ladies and gents.

Hey, Kellyanne, stop the campaigning!

Kellyanne Conway is acting just like her boss, the president of the United States. She cannot stop campaigning on behalf of politicians.

However, unlike Donald John Trump — whose position allows him to do such things — Conway has this restriction she seems to ignore. She is an executive branch employee. She draws a publicly funded salary to offer advice and counsel to the president. Therefore, she is not allowed to engage in partisan political activity.

Doing so puts her in violation of the Hatch Act.

Conway now is facing an ethics complaint because she spoke out on “Fox & Friends” on behalf of Alabama Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore. No can do, the complaint says. The Hatch Act applies to senior White House advisers as much as it does to mid-level bureaucrats.

What did Conway say? “Doug Jones in Alabama, folks, don’t be fooled. He will be a vote against tax cuts. He is weak on crime, weak on borders. He is strong on raising your taxes. He is terrible for property owners.” 

Jones is the Democrat who’s running against Moore for the Senate seat. That sounds for all the world like an endorsement of Moore. Does it to you?

Sure it does! Except the White House is pushing back, saying that Conway didn’t “advocate” for a candidate. Huh? Of course she did!

Conway would do well to stick only to policy matters when speaking in public. Leave the politicking to the politicians.

Commentary on politics, current events and life experience

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