Texas pulls in a big 'fish'

Score one for Texas.

Toyota announced that it is moving its U.S. headquarters from California to a site in Plano, just north of Dallas. The move means an estimated 3,000 job are coming to the Metroplex.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is touting the state’s business-friendly environment as a reason for the move. Even though I’ve been critical of the governor’s job-poaching forays into other states, I do commend him — and the state — for creating circumstances that attract high-dollar companies, such as Toyota, to set up shop in the Lone Star State.


Texas has no state income tax. It doesn’t place burdensome regulations on businesses. The cost of living in Texas is significantly lower than many other states, such as California. You can get much better housing for the money here than you can in California and that has to be a huge selling point for prospective employers.

However, as the Texas Tribune reports, wages in Texas are lower than they are in other states. We are a “right-to-work” state where unions aren’t particularly strong.

I hasten to note that many of these aspects about doing business in Texas are well-known to Fortune 500 companies throughout the world. Thus, Gov. Perry did not need to venture to California or other so-called “high tax” states to poach jobs.

Still, the news about Toyota is good for Texas and it likely will signal a huge wake-up call to California and other states to do a better job of keeping their own businesses.

Benghazi is back

Benghazi is the story with no end.

It’s back in the news, thanks to some emails uncovered by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group. The emails purport to buttress the idea that the Obama administration lied about what happened at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012.

They contend the administration engaged in a willful cover-up of the “truth,” whatever it is, about the violence that resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.


I’ve never believed in a cover-up. I do believe the administration made some big mistakes in trying to report what happened in that chaotic fire fight. They trotted out the U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice, to say things about which she wasn’t briefed sufficiently. Rice had a set of talking points that turned out to be incomplete and wrong.

That constitutes a cover-up? Is it a deliberate deception?

No. It was a bungling attempt to get ahead of a still-developing story.

Still, the right-wing mainstream media has sought to keep this story alive and kicking — particularly if the then-secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, decides to run for president in 2016. It’s looking as though she’s going to run and that, all by itself, is reason enough — in the eyes of her critics — to keep hammering away at Benghazi.

Never mind that independent analyses have concluded there was no deliberate lying; they conclude that the U.S. embassy security network failed, but only because officials misjudged the intensity of the fight that was ensuing at the consulate; Clinton herself has taken responsibility for the failure to protect our personnel, but that’s not good enough to satisfy her critics on the far right.

The story will continue to boil and bubble. Were it not for Hillary Clinton’s still-budding presidential candidacy, it would have faded away long ago.

Waiting for the next big horse race

Horse-racing buffs know that this is Kentucky Derby weekend.

I’m not one of them. I’ve never really gotten into horse racing, let alone betting on the ponies. As for racing’s Triple Crown, well, I don’t care much about that, either.

Except when a certain thing happens. I begin to care about when the same horse wins the first two races of the Triple Crown: the Derby and the Preakness.

Then comes the Belmont Stakes and that is when I get interested. I usually tune in to the final Triple Crown race to see if the Derby and Preakness winner can win the Triple Crown.

The first time I got really interested in this three-horse event occurred in 1973, when Secretariat astounded the world by winning the Belmont Stakes — and the Triple Crown — in utterly astonishing fashion. (See link attached to this blog and you’ll see what I mean.)

Of all the great stories and observations about that race I’ve heard, my favorite came from jockey Ron Turcotte.

As Secretariat galloped into the home stretch, Turcotte has said, he noticed he couldn’t hear any other horse noises; no horses grunting, no hooves pounding … only the sound of his own horse’s hooves pounding along at a record pace.

It was then that Turcotte turned around and saw that Secretariat was running all alone. The second-place horse was about 20 lengths back. I should add that at no point in the race did Turcotte hit his horse with the whip jockeys use to make their beasts run faster.

I’m sure some folks will get all excited about the Kentucky Derby. I’ll get excited if the Derby’s winner pulls off another win at the Preakness.

Then I’ll get excited.

Dust is tough to mow

A word to the wise is in order as the Texas Panhandle recovers from this latest dirt/wind/mud-rain episode.

When you crank up the lawnmower, be sure you’re wearing some kind of mask.

I did precisely that — cranked up the mower — this morning and learned the lesson the hard way.

Every fourth pass I made with the mower across the lawn was downwind, meaning that the dirt that was embedded in the grass blew into my face. I should have known better than to try this chore without adequate protection.

I got the job done, then had to re-bathe to wash the dirt away.

All this is worth mentioning only to remind us all of how it used to be around here, many decades ago.

The Dust Bowl.

Its very name conjures up hideous memories among those old enough to recall when the sky filled with dirt from horizon to horizon. It blackened the sky. It blotted out the sun.

Those who didn’t flee to calmer locations, usually out west, stayed and fought their way through it. They were still standing when the dirt stopped flying. It took years for the weather to cycle its way back to something approaching “normal” around here. But it did.

When I think about that level of suffering, I don’t feel so bad about having to cope with a little dirt flying out of the grass as I cut it.

Still, a mask would have been nice.

Hey, let's pray for some rain

Happy National Day of Prayer, everyone.

This is the day we set aside to pray. In reality, every day should be a day to pray. They’ll make speeches in Washington and in other places around the country. The president will make some remarks about prayer and how faith in God bolsters us when we’re down.

It’s been said the “least we can do is pray.” It’s also been said prayer is “the most we can do.” It shouldn’t be a last resort, but rather a first resort.

No matter which faith we follow, the power of prayer — while it is undefined — is there to be felt.

Those of us who live in the Texas Panhandle have a particular prayer, I’m thinking. It’s for rain. Other Americans today have had more rain than they can handle and they are praying today for the Almighty to make the floodwater recede and to give them relief from that misery. I wish that their prayers come true. Others are praying for strength as they struggle to recover from tornadoes that tore through their communities. Death has come to those places and we should pray for them as they battle through their grief.

For us, though, our needs are different. We’ve had precious little rain for, oh, about four years in a row. We’ve been suffering a different kind of misery. Blustery wind in recent weeks has kicked up dirt in volumes many of us who live here haven’t seen before.

We went through some kind of hell on Tuesday. There’s no other way to say: It was ugly out there, giving us just a dirty taste of what the Dust Bowl must have been like eight decades ago.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry drew some ridicule a couple of years back when he called on Texans to pray for rain. He made a big deal out of the power of prayer. The governor didn’t deserve the needling he got from critics over what he sought.

People of faith — and they comprise a large majority of us — rely on prayer to get us through difficult circumstances.

So, let’s pray for some rain today. Will it work? Will the sky open up as we ask God for relief? If it does, can we say without question that prayer had nothing to do with a positive result? I prefer to think we can proclaim that prayer works.

And if it doesn’t bring immediate relief, we also can assume God is at work — on his schedule.

No such thing as 'private conversation'

An old axiom is even truer in today’s world.

It is that one should never say anything that he or she doesn’t want repeated.

Welcome to the 21st century, Donald Sterling.

The Los Angeles Clippers owner has been banned from the National Basketball Association for life. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver imposed the ban and fined Sterling $2.5 million because he went off on a disgusting, racist rant in what he thought was a private conversation with his, um, girlfriend.

The rant, which has become the talk of much of Planet Earth, has consigned Sterling to a most unwelcome role of pariah. He’ll likely have to sell his team. He is no longer able to participate in any team or league activities. He’s a goner.

What does this mean, though, in terms of privacy? It means that in this world of instant communication, where everyone has a camera or a listening device, one must take the greatest care to keep from saying something he or she doesn’t want known. He likely didn’t know he was being recorded and he surely didn’t believe his girlfriend would be the one to reveal the conversation, which I am certain is the case.

Sterling went off for about an hour, telling his girlfriend he doesn’t like her associating in public with African-Americans; he said he doesn’t want her bringing African-Americans to games involving his team. He made an absolutely disgusting spectacle of himself and in the process made a hero out of Commissioner Silver, who acted decisively — and correctly — in issuing the harshest sanction possible against the team owner.

Recent history is full of examples of public figures being “outed” by people with cameras or audio recorders. For example, Mitt Romney fell victim to a recording of his infamous “47 percent” comment about Americans who vote Democratic because they depend on government. Others have had their private behavior exposed for all the world to see. They have said things they’ve later regretted.

Donald Sterling provides the latest shining example of the price one pays for speaking from the depths of his soul, which in this case has been shown to be a dark place, indeed.

'Money is not speech'

The late President Gerald Ford chose well when he selected John Paul Stevens to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1975.

The former justice today provided proof of President Ford’s wisdom.

Justice Stevens went to the Senate today and told senators that “money is not speech,” and that anonymous unlimited campaign donations harm the democratic process.

Good for you, Mr. Justice.


Stevens, in a rare appearance by a former court justice before a congressional committee, said: While money is used to finance speech, money is not speech. Speech is only one of the activities that are financed by campaign contributions and expenditures. Those financial activities should not receive precisely the same constitutional protections as speech itself. After all, campaign funds were used to finance the Watergate burglary, actions that clearly were not protected by the First Amendment.”

At issue is whether unlimited campaign donations give rich donors greater access to power than average folks, such as, you know, you and me. Stevens said “yes.”

Billionaires are giving huge amounts of money to Democrats and Republicans alike. They are hiding behind the anonymity that recent Supreme Court decisions give them.

At the very least, there needs to be full disclosure of these donations. The public needs to know who’s giving the money. Citizens deserve to understand their motives for giving it and what they perhaps expect in return for those enormous cash gifts.

A better solution would be to limit those donations to reasonable amounts.

What is so un-American about leveling the playing field and giving all interested voters a shot at influencing those who would seek to lead our country?

As the Huffington Post reports: “Recent Supreme Court rulings have permitted individuals and corporations to write unlimited checks to independent political committees, while other groups can accept cash and disclose the donors’ identities months or years later, if ever.”

Mitt Romney said famously during the 2012 Republican primary presidential campaign that “Corporations are people too.” Actually, they are not. They are juggernauts that are able to trample the political process.