AG Barr now must make good on pledge

U.S. Attorney General William Barr has the potential to emerge as one of the few grownups to serve in the presidential administration of Donald J. Trump.

The Senate confirmed him this week with a 54-45 vote, which I thought was much closer and more partisan than I expected. However, he’s now the head guy at the Justice Department.

AG Barr’s task now is to make good on the pledges he made to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing.

Barr said he wouldn’t be bullied by the president of the United States; he said special counsel Robert Mueller will be allowed to finish his exhaustive probe into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian election attacks; he has expressed faith in Mueller’s integrity and professionalism.

I have faith that Barr will make good on his pledge. This isn’t his first DOJ rodeo. Barr served as attorney general from 1991 to 1992 during the George H.W. Bush administration. He is a top-notch lawyer. Yes, he’s a partisan, but we should expect that from any AG regardless of his or her party affiliation.

So, Mr. Attorney General, I implore you to be faithful to your sworn statements in front of the entire nation, if not the world.

Trump raid on military projects produces bipartisan ire

So, the president of the United States has done it.

Donald Trump declared a national emergency where none actually exists. He wants to build The Wall. He is intent on erecting that structure along our southern border to, as he said, stem the flow of human traffickers, drug dealers, murderers, terrorists and assorted riff raff he insists are “pouring” across the border.

That isn’t happening, no matter what the says.

There’s more, though. He wants to pilfer money already appropriated for defense projects to pay for construction of The Wall. That move has produced criticism from unlikely sources, such as from Republican U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, the Texas Panhandle congressman who once chaired the House Armed Services Committee. Thornberry, now the ranking member of Armed Services, says wall construction is not part of the military mission. Thornberry, who isn’t prone to criticize the president, opposes this initiative.

Congressional Democrats are going to contest the emergency declaration. Of course they oppose Trump’s decision.

The president, though, appears to be miffed that members of Congress who should have stepped up didn’t do as he wished. So he’s conducted this end-around.

The current chairman of the House Armed Services panel, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said this: “It is utterly disrespectful of U.S. national security and the needs of our men and women in uniform, and it further undermines his credibility in requesting the upcoming defense budget.”

That’s the president’s modus operandi. He says he “loves” the military and the men and women who defend the country. However, he is quite willing to undercut their work so he can build The Wall.

Happy Trails, Part 144: The move-in will commence

PRINCETON, Texas — Pardon me for showing you this picture once again. I just have to divulge that we’ve signed on many dotted lines. We did so late this morning as we “closed” on the purchase of our “forever home.”

So what happens now?

The move-in will commence. However, given that we’re now retired and given also that we have a bit of time left before our tenancy in our apartment expires, we’re going to take just a bit of time to make this move.

But . . . not too much time.

We’ve got some muscle signed up to help us. Our sons are here. Both of ’em. So we’re going to employ them for as long as we can. We’ll be moving smaller items in our vehicles over the course of the next several days.

This move is a bit different from any we’ve done before. For example, the most recent relocation before this one occurred in March 2018. We vacated our house in Amarillo and moved into our fifth wheel. We emptied the house of all its furnishings, putting them in storage. We painted the place. We replaced some fixtures, seeking to “modernize” them.

Then we accepted an offer. We intended to close a bit later than we did, but the buyer wanted in right away. We had to expedite the move before we shoved off on an RV trip we had planned. We got a little frazzled as we signed the house away.

I don’t expect any frazzling to occur with this move. We have decided to be deliberate, systematic, highly choreographed.

But today was a huge day in our retirement journey. We intended to make our apartment our “forever home.” It didn’t work out that way.

Now, however, we believe we have found the end of our rainbow.

It’s a beautiful sight.

Time of My Life, Part 22: Career ruined penmanship

These were the tools of my craft. They allowed me to chronicle the events and examine the people who made our communities tick.

They also contributed to the destruction of something that once gave me a source of pride: my penmanship.

My wife and I signed a whole lot of documents today while closing on the purchase of our new home in Princeton, Texas. Our daughter-in-law was there, too, and the title officer complimented her on her penmanship.

That was when I piped up and told her how my career ruined my own handwriting. “What did you do?” the title officer asked. I told her I was a journalist for nearly four decades.

You see, one of the challenges of doing what I did was to write fast and furious to make sure I got everything that was said or that I was able to record all the events I witnessed. Those events at times come and go quickly and you need to be alert to capture all the salient points that you might want to record as you report on them.

I interviewed plenty of men and women who were equipped with machine-gun mouths. They fired facts, figures, assorted data, cracked quips, made critical points in rapid-fire fashion. I had to capture them all.

So when you have to write quickly, well, you get my drift. One has no time to make sure you write capital letters as you were taught how to write them in the third and fourth grade. Yep, they used to teach that stuff in the old days. No longer.

I usually fared pretty well at report-card time. The teachers graded me highly on my penmanship.

Then I enrolled in college, studied journalism, embarked on my career and, as they say, the rest is history. My once-neat penmanship became history in the process.

I got into my share of beefs over the course of 37 years with the subjects of some of the reporting I did, and the commentary I offered. We’ve all heard about reporters’ notes being subpoenaed by courts when someone wanted to challenge the accuracy of what was reported. I never had my notes summoned.

Damn, I wish I could have had the pleasure of giving up my notes and then daring the lawyers and the judge to try to discern what I wrote.

Only I knew.

All that said, it certainly was a hoot trying to keep up with those events as they unfolded.

No doubt about it: There’s life out there — somewhere

It can be said of many retired people that we have too much time on our hands and too much time to fill our heads with goofy thoughts.

So, when NASA announced the demise of the Mars rover Opportunity the other day, I was filled with just a touch of sadness, but also with gratitude that the 90-day mission lasted 15 years and that NASA was able to collect mountains of data from the Red Planet.

My wife joked that Opportunity didn’t spot any “little green men” traipsing around the Martian surface..

Then I began thinking as I’ve done my entire life. I believe with every fiber of my being that there is life “out there, somewhere, deep in the void.”

I know what the Bible says about God creating humankind in his image. And I believe those words. I also believe the Great Creator was capable of placing life well beyond little ol’ Earth, an insignificant speck in the vast expanse of space.

I cannot even begin to grasp the size of the universe. I mean, “forever” is, well, a distance that none of us can fathom. I’ll just leave it at that.

Therefore, my limited understanding of statistical probabilities tells me that somewhere out there — way, way beyond anything we’ve ever laid eyes on — there must be a planet orbiting a star that has atmospheric conditions capable of sustaining life.

What does it look like? Beats me. Would that life necessarily be oxygen/nitrogen breathing life? Not necessarily. Does that life necessarily mean it is more advanced than we are? No. It might be mere vegetation. Or some sort of creature we cannot define.

Has this life visited Earth? I don’t believe for one second that we have been seen up close by any extraterrestrials.

Opportunity bit the Martian dust after fulfilling its mission far beyond what scientists had hoped it would accomplish. It didn’t see anything. Just remember: Even a journey of tens of millions of miles into “deep space” hardly constitutes a journey that covers the expanse of our universe.

Look at this way: How many grains of beach sand would it take to fill the oceans? Yep, it’s likely even bigger than that out there!

How long will this border budget deal last?

I am trying to ascertain an element of the budget deal that “solves” the border security matter that has gone largely unreported by any media, print or broadcast.

How long will this deal last? Will we be taken to the precipice yet again when the money runs out? Will there be more threats of more government shutdowns in the near future?

House and Senate negotiators cobbled together a border security deal that provides $1.375 billion for The Wall on our southern border. It kicks in more money for other matters related to border security.

The House and Senate have approved it. Donald Trump will sign it. He’ll likely plan to announce a “national emergency” to provide even more money for The Wall.

But . . . how long does this deal last?

This isn’t “good government” as I have understood the meaning of the concept.

POTUS to declare a made-up ’emergency’?

I am just going to stand with those who believe that there is no “national emergency” occurring on our southern border.

Does that mean that we have no problem with illegal immigration? Of course not! It means that the president of the United States, Donald Trump, is seriously overstating the situation to suit some political agenda he wants to fulfill.

Trump has pledged to build The Wall along our southern border. He cannot persuade Congress to give him all the money he wants to build it. So he now intends to sign a border security agreement while declaring the existence of a phony “national emergency.”

How many times must it be said: There is no national emergency on our nation’s southern border!

But the president will not be dissuaded. He won’t be deterred. He won’t let facts get in the way of his bogus boastfulness about building The Wall.

Don’t misunderstand me. I do not favor “open borders.” I want our borders secured as much as Donald Trump does. Hell, maybe more so! I simply do not believe the president’s ridiculous assertion about the presence of an “emergency” existing on the border.

Trump wants to usurp Congress’s role in appropriating money for government projects. He seems intent on diverting money to build The Wall from other actual emergencies.

The most galling example of that is a report that the president intends to take money earmarked for disaster relief in California and Puerto Rico for construction of The Wall. Hmm. How in the world can this be seen as anything other than political payback for the intense criticism the president has received for his policies in general and for his response to disasters in those two disparate regions?

The “national emergency” on our border with Mexico is a figment of Donald Trump’s fixation with pleasing his political base.

This fixation makes me sick.

Bill Cosby: He’s no Mandela, MLK Jr. or Gandhi

I don’t usually comment on convicted criminals, but I cannot let this issue pass without offering a brief response.

Bill Cosby, the formerly revered comedian and actor, is now a convicted sexual assailant. A jury convicted him of sexually assaulting a woman. He’s now spending three to 10 years in prison.

But now he says he doesn’t feel remorse because he is a “political prisoner,” in the mold of Nelson Mandela, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi.

No, he isn’t.

Hmm. Mandela was held on Robben Island for 27 years because he protested apartheid in South Africa; Dr. King was held in jail because he opposed oppression of African-Americans in the United States; Gandhi was imprisoned because he wanted independence for India.

Yep, those great men were political prisoners.

Bill Cosby is in the slammer because he was convicted of sexual assault. There is absolutely zero moral equivalence between what he did and why the men to whom he compares himself were denied their freedom.

Be quiet, Mr. Cosby, and do your time.

Trump ignores advice of his party wise men and women

Hey, I believe I am beginning now — finally! — to grasp why Donald Trump’s political “base” is so devoted to him.

The 38 percent or so of Americans who stand by the president have his back because he chooses to ignore the wise political advice of those who know how it works in Washington, D.C. Trump doesn’t have a clue. Neither do the 38 percent of those who support him. So . . . he speaks their language. He gets it. They get him! They’re made for each other.

See? Even those of us who are slow on the uptake are capable of understanding certain things that defy rational understanding.

Where is the emergency?

The president’s decision to declare a national emergency — where none exists — goes against the advice of congressional Republican leaders. They counseled him against it. They fear that it sets a precedent that Democratic presidents in the future could follow. If Trump declares a national emergency because of a phony crisis on the border, Democrats in the White House might be moved to declare an emergency over, oh let’s see, gun violence in our schools, or climate change, or threats from Russia.

The Wall on the border, though, becomes the crux of the national emergency.

Get it? Trump ignored that advice. He’s going to listen instead to the right-wing blowhards/gasbags/talking heads instead of the men and women who know what the hell they’re doing.

He speaks the angry language of the political base. They have each other’s back!

Trump refusing to think strategically on this emergency matter

Donald John “RINO in Chief” Trump is likely to invite a serious bit of political revenge that could occur not long after he leaves office.

An actual Republican president would understand it, but Trump isn’t anything close to being a doctrinaire GOP politician. He is the nation’s premier Republican In Name Only.

You see, if the president declares a national emergency — where no such thing exists — to institute a money grab to pay for The Wall along on the southern border, he opens the door wide open to a Democratic president down the road.

Trump seeks the money to build The Wall from other appropriated funds. Congress is planning a legal challenge if the president follows through with his reported threat.

But . . . what if the national emergency declaration withstands a court challenge? That could mean a future Democratic president could issue a similarly nonsensical national emergency to push progressive programs forward.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised at this, given Trump’s ignorance about government, politics, public policy or national history.

He wants The Wall. He seems to want something that he can claim as a “tribute” to his presidency.

However, there might be a political cost to pay.

It’s a potentially big cost at that!

Commentary on politics, current events and life experience

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