If GOP takes Senate, it’ll need to govern

The stars apparently are lining up for a Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate, or so the experts are saying.

Let’s assume they’re right. A RealClearPolitics average of all the major polls show a six-seat shift, precisely the number that the GOP needs to become the majority in the Senate.

I’m not clear about the House of Representatives, where Republicans have ruled since 2011. Perhaps their control will tighten.


This much is becoming clearer as the mid-term elections approach: If Republicans are destined to control the entire legislative branch of government, then they need to prepare to actually govern, as in enact legislation that President Obama can actually sign into law.

So far since January 2009, when Barack Obama took office, Republicans have done their level best to block just about every major initiative the president has put forward. It started with the financial bailout package which the GOP opposed, but which got enacted over its objections.

Then came the 2010 mid-term election. The House switched to Republican control. Then the fun really began.

Republicans opposed the Affordable Care Act; they’ve conducted an ongoing series of show hearings on Benghazi and the Internal Revenue Service’s vetting of conservative political action groups’ request for tax exempt status; they’ve opposed immigration reform; increasing the minimum wage and a host of other White House initiatives.

If the Senate flips, then we’re going to see donnybrooks develop over confirmation of, say, the next attorney general and a series of lower-level appointments the president will seek.

I’ll buy the notion that the legislative branch of government is going to turn Republican.

Will legislators keep trying to stick it in the president’s eye or will they actually compromise when possible on key bills and send them to the White House in good faith? And will the president follow suit and sign these bills into law?

Republicans have mastered the art of obstruction since Democrat Barack Obama became president. Let’s see if they can learn the art of governing.


Great public school teachers: priceless

Shanna Peeples is a former colleague of mine. She used to bleed printer’s ink, writing — quite well, I should add — for the Amarillo Globe-News.

Shanna gave that career up some years ago to enter another calling, as a public school teacher.

She teaches English these days at Palo Duro High School in Amarillo and this week received the highest honor a secondary teacher can earn: Secondary Teacher of the Year from the Texas Education Agency.

Think about this for a moment.

Texas comprises more than 1,200 independent school districts, and more than 2,000 secondary schools. All told the state employs more than 300,000 teachers in primary and secondary education. They educate 5 million or so children at all levels.

So, the honor that Shanna earned represents something quite special.

First, it honors the great work she does for Palo Duro High students. She is dedicated to their well-being and they are devoted to her, most of whom seek to do their very best to make Ms. Peeples proud of them.

I haven’t had the honor of watching Shanna teach her students. I’ll just accept with gladness and pride in my former colleague that the TEA has honored a great teacher for doing great work in a great school district.

Indeed, honors such as these should be valued by everyone who cherishes public education. Shanna’s work symbolizes the dedication that great teacher devote to their calling every single day.

How do you put a value on that dedication? Precisely how do you measure the good that these teachers bring to the students in their care during the school day?

Good teachers can become role models for the students in their care. Great teachers become embedded in students’ memories forever. We all remember the great teachers we’ve had along the way and whatever positive outcomes develop in our lives, it’s a very good bet indeed that some of the credit belongs to a teacher who steered us in the right direction when we needed a mid-course correction.

You cannot put a price on the value that good educators bring to those who are coming along. Shanna Peeples represents the greatness that exists in our public education system.

From where I stand, the TEA has chosen well and our future is in good hands as long as we keep producing high-quality educators.



Warning: The drought ain’t over!

I noticed recently that Amarillo’s year-to-date rainfall total is slightly ahead of normal.

That gives some folks comfort. It gives others the mistaken notion that the drought that has grabbed the High Plains by the throat for the past four or five years has abated.

Nothing of the sort has happened.

The Amarillo rainfall total likely will finish around normal by the end of the year. I cannot predict that with any certainty, but it seems like a pretty good bet.

The problem with these droughts is that the depletion of water requires a lot of rainfall and snowfall to make it up in a brief period of time. When I say “a lot,” I mean epic proportions.

I had the pleasure of taking part in a statewide public television reporting project on the state of water in Texas. “Texas Perspective: Water” covered the condition of our water supply from the Panhandle to the Rio Grand Valley, from Deep East Texas to the Trans-Pecos. Everyone interviewed said the same thing: We’re in a drought.

It’s worse in some areas than in others, but statewide the condition of our water supply is at varying levels of precariousness.


It is my fervent hope that Amarillo residents and business owners keep the drought in mind as they go about their day. We can hope for continued rain. Maybe we ought to pray for it.

Let us not be tricked into believing the drought is over just because this year has brought us “normal” amounts of precipitation — which in this part of the world isn’t very much.


Perry to N.Y.: Learn from us

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has placed an important phone call to his colleague in New York and offered a critical piece of advice.

Don’t make the mistakes we made in Texas when handling an Ebola case, Perry reportedly told Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Good advice, governor.


The Texas Ebola case ended tragically for the Liberian man who brought the disease to the state. He died under the care of medical professionals in Dallas. A nurse who cared for him has just been released from medical care after she came down with the virus. Now  New York doctor who was in West Africa treating Ebola patients has been diagnosed with the disease and he apparently is responding to treatment.

Perry called Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio to offer his assistance on how to handle the disease. Gov. Perry’s prime advice? Follow all the necessary medical protocols to the letter. A breach in protocol in Dallas apparently led to the nurse getting infected, according to the governor’s office.

The good news is that the nurse, Nina Pham, is now Ebola free.

There was some more advice Perry gave to Cuomo and de Blasio, according to the San Antonio Express-News:

“Perry shared some more lessons in separate Friday phone conversations with the officials, including regarding ‘the importance of informing the public about the realities of the Ebola virus in order to reduce misconceptions about its transmissions,’ his office said.”

Ah, yes. Public information.

A lack of accurate information has helped lead to the near-hysterical response in some quarters to the arrival of this disease.

A thorough dissemination of facts always should be of prime concern.

It’s good to remember that Ebola likely wasn’t on medical professionals’ radar when the patient arrived from Liberia. It’s on everyone’s mind now.

Gov. Perry has some valuable experience to share and it’s good that he’s sharing it.


Shooting shatters ‘profile’

When news broke of the shooting at the Marysville, Wash., high school, and it was known that the shooter was a student, one of my first thoughts became: What kind of loner/outcast would do such a horrible thing?

Then the second shock arrived. The shooter was a freshman at Pilchuck High School who was popular with his peers, an athlete and a young man who’d just been named homecoming prince.


Then I watched a former FBI profiler, Clint Van Zandt, tell MSNBC that this case arguably is the most “baffling” he had seen, given that Jaylen Fryberg was the quintessential non-stereotype we’ve attached to individuals who do these kinds of horrifying deeds. Van Zandt essentially said you could throw the profile book out the window.

Fryberg killed himself after shooting another student to death and injuring four others, three of them critically.

The argument will rage once again over how this young man obtain possession of the weapon he used to bring such destruction to the school just north of Seattle.


We’re going to hear from gun-owner advocates that no laws could have prevented this from happening. Gun-safety advocates will argue the opposite.

And look and listen for the National Rifle Association — among others — to proclaim that the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment is so sacrosanct that to touch any part of it would render it utterly meaningless.

Interestingly, Washington state voters are going to decide a referendum on the state’s ballot that expands background checks to include all gun purchases.

It’s fair to ask: Would such a provision have kept the weapon out of Jaylen Fryberg’s hands? Probably not.

It also is fair to ask: Do such laws make it just a little harder for nuts to obtain guns … and do they infringe on legitimate gun ownership?

“Yes” to the first part. Absolutely “no!” to the second.

Hey, what about that lawsuit?

Politico asks an important question: Why haven’t congressional Republicans filed that lawsuit against President Obama, contending that the president has misused his executive authority regarding the Affordable Care Act?

It’s just a short distance from Capitol Hill to the federal courthouse. The House GOP could file the lawsuit and get this thing started, yes?


Well, I have a two-part theory: First, the lawsuit lacks merit and, second, filing the lawsuit now with the world focused on much more grave issues, such as international terrorism, makes Republicans look petulant.

Politico also points out that the employer mandate, which is what the president delayed through his executive action, is set to kick in on Jan. 1. If the mandate starts — requiring employers to offer insurance to employees — then the lawsuit becomes moot.

House Speaker John Boehner announced his intention to sue Barack Obama with great fanfare. Then the world went up in flames in Syria, Iraq, Gaza, Nigeria, Ukraine — have I missed anything?

The president has been tested time and again by real crises, not pestered by made-up problems brought to bear by political opponents at home whose sole intent is to stick it to him.

I still contend the speaker is a reasonable man. He knows how it would look for him to pursue this lawsuit now.

Almost no one in Washington believes that the ACA will be repealed. It’s working. It is providing insurance to millions of Americans.

If the Republicans were going to strike a blow against what they say is executive abuse of power, well, the time has passed.

Let’s move on to things that really matter.

Let’s try governing.

Idiocy runs rampant

The idiocy that some cable “news” networks try to pass off as punditry continues to amaze me.

Allen West is a retired Army officer, a former member of Congress and a current “contributor” to the Fox News Channel.

He said the best way to combat the activities such as the shooter who invaded the Canadian Parliament building this week in Ottawa is to close down certain mosques and “Islamic Centers” and deport imams who are “feeding Islamic terrorists.”


Here’s part of what West said on a radio interview:

“We’re not saying, you know, we start shutting down mosques and Islamic Centers. But the ones who are feeding us these violent jihadists, they need to be the ones that are shut down. Like I said, the imams, the mullahs that are there running these mosques and centers, they need to be deported. Because we have to say, this is, you know, a zero-sum game. We’re not tolerating it.”

Let’s bring this issue home, to Amarillo.

A prominent Amarillo physician, who happens to be Muslim, erected such a center on the far western edge of the city some years back in honor of his mother.

I actually heard someone express fear that the center would become a “school” for terrorists, that the center would breed bad guys who then would spread their hatred in the form of violence perpetrated against “infidels.” I told this individual with whom I am acquainted that terror cells do not operate in the open like that; they operate under cover of darkness that no terrorist organization — no matter their so-called religious affiliation. They’re not going to advertise their association with a clearly marked and identified structure, such as an Islamic center.

This individual didn’t get my point.

How about we just maintain keen vigilance, stay alert at all times and hunt down the terrorists we can identify?

Civilized nations all around the globe — and that surely includes the United States of America — are doing that already.