City follows Scout motto of being prepared

I have lived in three cities in my life: my hometown of Portland, Ore., Beaumont, Texas and now, Amarillo.

Of the three, Amarillo is by far the best-prepared-for-snow-and-ice community of them all. The comparison to Beaumont probably is ludicrous, given that the Golden Triangle city hardly ever gets snow. When it does snow there — which it did once during our time there — the city becomes paralyzed. Portland does get snow most winters. Sometimes it’s severe, as it was during the winter of 1968-69, when I was home for Christmas leave from the Army and spent virtually the entire time cooped up at home with my parents. Man, what a blast that was. But when a major snowfall blankets Portland, that city seems woefully ill-prepared to cope.

Amarillo is different.

This morning, I pulled out of my house expecting to be slipping and sliding all the way downtown — about a six-mile drive. It didn’t happen.

Every major thoroughfare I traveled — Coulter, 45th, Western and Plains — had been cleared of snow by the plows. I looked up on Interstate 40 and saw traffic moving nicely along the highway. Sand trucks had passed through several intersections. A good friend told me he heard the plow trucks moving past his Paramount Boulevard home in the wee hours.

So, I take my hat off to the city for keeping at least my own path to work clear this morning.

It’s good to be so well-prepared.

Former senator — serial liar

Former U.S. Sen. John Edwards is a serial liar — who came within just a few thousand votes of becoming vice president of the United States.

He cheated on his cancer-stricken wife with a woman who worked as a videographer for his campaign. He lied about the affair to his wife and to the inquiring media, only to admit that he did have such an affair. Then he denied being the father of the woman’s baby daughter, only to admit that, yep, he’s the daddy. He reportedly pleaded with a former staffer and friend to cover it up, professing his love for his ailing wife and saying he wanted to protect her from all this bad publicity.

And all the while, Edwards was presenting himself to his adoring supporters as a dedicated family man, devoted to his wife and children and a champion of the concerns of ordinary Americans.

That might be the most important lie of all.

The word this week is that Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, have separated. Imagine that.

But now get this: The 2004 presidential election, in which Edwards ran on the Democratic ticket as the vice presidential nominee, came within a whisker of electing Sen. John Kerry as president — and Edwards as the VP.

The election came down to who would win Ohio’s 20 electoral votes. President Bush ended up winning that state by 158,000 votes out of more than 5.6 million votes cast. That means a swing of 79,000 votes to Kerry and Edwards and Ohio’s electoral votes go into the Democrats’ column. Thus, Kerry and Edwards win with 271 electoral votes to 267 for Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney — which would have been nearly identical to Bush’s razor-thin winning Electoral College margin in the 2000 election.

Edwards’ fellow Democrat, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, had it right this week. Edwards is “disgusting.”

The smell of money

The story published the other day about residents complaining about the manure smell in southeast Amarillo reminded me of when I first arrived in Texas way back in 1984.

I moved to Beaumont, where the “smell of money” comprised cancer-causing agents being emitted from petrochemical plants throughout the Golden Triangle. We lived there for nearly 11 years, and got (more or less) used to the stench coming from the Mobil refinery near the Port of Beaumont. Those who live in the Triangle region of SE Texas have learned to live with the odor — even though the region has a relatively high rate of cancer-related deaths.

Before that, in my hometown of Portland, Ore., the money smell emanated from the huge paper mill across the Columbia River in Camas, Wash. That was the stench of sulphur used to process the wood into paper products. Given the importance of the wood-products industry in the Pacific Northwest, the odor meant that all was well with the economic lifeblood of that community. I’ve also wondered just how dangerous the sulphur is to the health of those who inhale it when the wind blows down along the Columbia River Gorge.

We moved here in early 1995. The smell of feedlots, particularly when the prevailing southwesterly winds were kicked up, wafted over Amarillo. I remember a local radio station slogan back then that said, “The Panhandle, where the winds of change blow in from Hereford.” It, too, is the smell of money. And its source is being used in all manner of ways, such as fertilizer for the turf farm in Randall County near where residents were complaining about the smell.

But I submit that this particular money smell is of a more organic nature. I am not aware of carcinogenic agents coming from manure.

I recall the stench sickening me one night shortly after I had arrived in Amarillo. But I got over it.

No, it’s not pleasant. But given the danger of certain other scents that drive communities’ economic engines, I’ve learned to live with this one.

Street light on Buchanan gets irksome

My already long list of pet peeves is getting even longer.

I got stopped yet again today by a traffic signal that, 99 percent of the time, serves no purpose.

It’s on Buchanan Street, between the Amarillo Civic Center and the Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts. The only entry onto the street at the light is a driveway from the Performing Arts center parking lot. This was around 11 a.m. today. Nothing was going on at the center. Thus, there was no need — none — for the light to stop northbound traffic on Buchanan.

Why can’t that light be converted to a blinker during those many hours when the G-N Center isn’t hosting an event? Then, when there’s something going on, the city can turn the signal on to allow traffic from the parking lot onto the street once the event is over. That policy could apply when something is going on at the Civic Center and when parking spills over from the east side of the street to the west side, at the Globe-News Center parking lot.

There. Problem solved, with one less pet peeve on my long list. I’ll bet I’m not alone.

Listen to this man tonight

The president of the United States has a big day ahead of him. He’ll take care of the country’s business and then, tonight around 8 (CST), he’ll stand before a joint session of Congress and deliver his first State of the Union speech.

Pay attention, ladies and gents, and put your texting devices away. Oh, and avoid the unbecoming outbursts that became the back story of the previous time President Obama spoke to y’all.

The president has some serious things to discuss tonight. Jobs, the overall state of the economy, the on-going war against terrorists and the general state of matters in the United States will be covered. It’s reported that Obama even might admit to some mistakes during his first year in office. The president deserves the undivided attention of the elected reps sitting in front of him, and they shouldn’t be tweeting, twittering, texting, twisting and twirling to their friends, supporters and family members while the president is speaking to them.

Let’s remember, he’s been invited formally by the House of Representatives. That’s the protocol involved here. He’s a guest in the People’s House. And he should be treated with respect.

As for the outburst, one should hope everyone in the audience will have the good manners to keep their traps shut, unlike Rep. Joe “You Lie!” Wilson, R-S.C., who — the last time President Obama spoke to a joint session — embarrassed many Americans with his well-chronicled outburst.

Pay attention, folks.

McCain vs. Hayworth — bring it on!

Conservative vs. conservative.

That’s the nature of a key Republican U.S. Senate primary race out west, in Arizona.

John McCain, the incumbent, is facing a challenge from former radio talk show host and ex-U.S. Rep. J.D. Hayworth, who says — get this — that McCain isn’t conservative enough.

Interesting stuff.

McCain, as many millions of Americans are aware, is a war hero. He was captured by North Vietnamese soldiers when his plane was shot down in 1967. This valiant naval aviator spent more than five years being tortured and beaten within an inch of his life in captivity. Yet he continued to resist his captors’ attempts to pry information from him. McCain rejected an offer for an early release from his prison cell in Hanoi.

And now he’s being challenged by an upstart who thinks McCain — who has had the temerity during his long congressional career to work Democrats — doesn’t quite fit the mold of an Arizona conservative.

Hayworth has hung that terrible “moderate” monicker on McCain.

Someone needs to remind Hayworth that McCain, the GOP nominee for president in 2008, was conservative enough for many middle Americans. McCain captured 80 percent of the vote in the Texas Panhandle, even though a good many Republicans here grumbled that McCain was just too darn moderate for their liking. Still, he polled tremendously in this part of the country.

McCain no doubt will pull out the heavy artillery to use against Hayworth.

What else would one expect from someone who’s taken part in an actual war, not just a mere political skirmish?

Perry skips the ed board

Gov. Rick Perry has decided that he isn’t coming to Amarillo to seek the Globe-News’ editorial endorsement. He might come for an airport rally, or to rouse support among his allies.

 

We aren’t taking it personally. The governor won’t visit with any editorial boards this year as he campaigns for re-election to his third full term. His campaign press secretary, Mark Miner, says Perry can spend his time more wisely than sitting in a conference room for two hours being grilled by crusty newspaper editors. I presume he means doing things like shaking hands at plant gates and grange halls, or filming TV political commercials.

 

Hmmm.

 

There’s a certain genius to this strategy. Perry is trying to stick it in the eye of the “mainstream media,” which has become the favorite target of those on the right end of the spectrum, the folks who believe the “liberal media” deserve their scorn.

 

It’s not yet clear whether Perry’s main Republican primary rival, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, will come a-callin’ prior to the March 2 primary. But it is worth noting that Hutchison has stopped by several times during the past 15 years I’ve been associated with this newspaper; the same is true for her Senate colleague, fellow Republican John Cornyn. Perry has been here twice since becoming governor, once in 2002 and again in 2006, when he was running for re-election.

 

But it might be that editorial boards don’t need a face-to-face visit with the hopefuls. The public record is chock full of statements, policy positions and recorded votes from these GOP candidates upon which to make a recommendation.

 

That’s assuming, of course, that they choose to recommend anyone at all.

 

 

 

Damnation to the max

I keep a file in my desk drawer at work. I label it “P&D,” which stands for “Praise and Damnation.” I’ve carried my P&D folder — several of them, actually — with me for more than three decades.

They contain comments from readers who either (a) love the things I write or (b) hate them.

My latest P&D entry, though, is by far my all-time favorite. I’m not sure I’ll ever get a letter quite like the one I got from an Amarillo resident who took serious — and I mean serious — issue with an editorial we published on Wednesday.

The editorial called on the Haitian government to ensure it is accountable to nations that are pouring relief into Haiti to help the people ravaged by the killer earthquake. Here’s the link to the editorial.

http://www.amarillo.com/stories/012010/opi_opin1.shtml

But then I got this note. I can’t reprint it in its entirety here, because it is full of too many four-letter words. The writer calls me a “racist.” But he did say this: “Where have you been when for years Haiti has been the center of the worst child slavery exceeses in the Western Hemisphere? Where have you been in demanding that the former excess of over 400 years of racist oppression be address and reversed? Permit me to answer my own questions. You have been pandering to rank and silly commercial interests — local advertisers who prefer that you continue with your racist crap instead of standing up for the oppressed and helpless. I call your … newspaper ‘—hole journalism.’ It always stinks to high heaven.”

The letter has more of this kind of rhetoric. It is graphic in its personal loathing of yours truly.

To be honest, this letter set me back on my heels. It’s not that he is right, it’s that his criticism is so intensely personal.

And here’s the best part: This guy and I know each other and we had a nice relationship — right up until the moment this note dropped into my lap.

I’ll keep this letter at the front of my P&D file, at least for a while. Most of the criticism I get keeps me humble. This one, though, makes me sad.

Bay State takes on Texas look

Can it be that Texans have more in common with residents of Massachusetts than most of us here, in the Lone Star State, are willing to admit?

Bay Staters expressed their anger Tuesday at the federal government by electing Republican Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate seat held for 47 years by the late Ted Kennedy, a liberal Democratic icon if ever one existed. It’s been reported for weeks now that Massachusetts hadn’t elected a Republican to the Senate since 1972. What hasn’t been reported, though, is that the Republican elected that year was Edward Brooke, an African-American moderate in the mold of, say, the late Nelson Rockefeller. Brown doesn’t appear to have any of the leanings that Sen. Brooke exhibited during his two terms in the Senate, except perhaps his pro-choice views on abortion.

Still, listening to Sen.-elect Brown’s victory statement Tuesday night was akin — almost — to listening to Texas Gov. Rick Perry throw down on the feds in the spring of 2009 when he declared that Texans might get angry enough to want to secede from the United States of America. Brown said he’s fed up and isn’t going to take it anymore, and that the voters in his state have affirmed him with their vote that sends him to Washington.

Thus, we see a bit of a Texas resemblance way up yonder in that Yankee bastion of Massachusetts.

Hey, wasn’t it Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama who declared in 2004 that we are the “United States of America”?

Skating to another term in office

Anti-incumbent fervor? What fervor?

We aren’t seeing it in the the Texas Panhandle. Members of Congress are facing challenges from the left and the right. My colleague Enrique Rangel reported this week that many Texas Republican state lawmakers face challenges from within their own party.

How, then, do you explain that U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon, is heading for re-election virtually unopposed. No one filed against him in his own GOP primary. There isn’t a Democrat to be found in the 13th Congressional District — which spans more than 40,000 square miles from the Panhandle to just north of the Metroplex — who was willing to challenge the veteran lawmaker.

He has some minor-party opposition, which he’ll vanquish without breaking a sweat.

Thornberry is breathing easily, which incumbents do when no one challenges them on the votes they cast on the public’s behalf. He’ll surely say that his job performance rating is high because his constituents approve of the job he is doing. But I keep hearing some grumbles from those who say they’re angry at “all of them” in power in Washington. By “all,” I guess they mean just those who represent someone else’s interests.

But it seems a bit odd that the political storm that is brewing all around us keeps missing this region. I’m still trying to figure out precisely why that is happening.