Presumptive speaker, um, ‘speaks’ the truth

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of Calif., talks about the Domestic Energy and Jobs Act, part of the House GOP energy agenda, Wednesday, June 6,2012, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The man presumed to be the next speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives managed quickly to reveal what many of us have suspected all along.

It is that the Benghazi committee formed by Speaker John Boehner was intended to torpedo the presidential campaign chances of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

So said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy the other day when he was talking about Clinton’s sagging poll standing. He “credited” her decline to the formation of the Benghazi panel and its continued investigation into the fire fight that resulted in 2012 in the deaths of four brave Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

GOP critics hit back at McCarthy

Some congressional Republicans aren’t happy with what McCarthy said. They have called his assertions inappropriate and have demanded that he apologize to Clinton for implying a partisan motive in forming the panel in the first place.

The attack was a terrible tragedy. Clinton has acknowledged it. Some in Congress, though, keep insisting that there was some sort of cover-up, a conspiracy, a calculated lie in reporting what happened that night at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

Clinton has said there was no cover-up. That hasn’t suited the GOP investigators, who keep hammering at the issue.

Boehner is leaving the House at the end of the month. The House is expected to vote next week on a new speaker. It’s presumed that McCarthy will get the gavel.

Is this what we can expect from the new Man of the House, more partisan targeting?


What harm do background checks bring?


I am a law-abiding, taxpaying, loyal American patriot, who once wore my country’s uniform and went to war to protect it.

I also own a couple of rifles. They’re hidden away. I don’t take them out very often.

But as the nation today ponders the impact of the latest mass shooting by a maniac, this time at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., I am compelled to ponder: What would happen if I went to a gun store to purchase a firearm and was forced to wait a few days while the government performed a background check?

President Obama has called yet again for more stringent laws that might help prevent future maniacs from getting their hands on a gun.

Gun-rights groups — chiefly the National Rifle Association — will argue against any such action, contending it would violate the Second Amendment guarantee that Americans have the right to “keep and bear arms.”

Suppose we had mandatory background checks.

I’d go into the gun store. I’d select my weapon of choice. I would pay for the firearm. But I couldn’t take it home. Why? The business owner would submit my name to, say, the FBI or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for that mandatory federal background check.

I would wait a number of days. Let’s say it’s a week.

The check comes back. I’m clean. I can then pick up my firearm, take it home … and perhaps store it along with the two rifles I already own.

Have my Second Amendment rights been “infringed”? Have I been denied the right to “keep and bear arms”? Is the government going to disarm me?

No to all three things.

Why on God’s Earth can’t we enact a law that might prevent someone else from committing the kind of dastardly act that took place today in Roseburg?


Here we go again … more gun violence


The list of cities and towns that have become synonymous with gun violence keeps growing.

Littleton, Austin, Blacksburg, Tucson, Newtown, Charleston, Aurora, Killeen. I know I’ve missed a few.

Let’s add Roseburg to that infamous list. A gunman today opened fire at Umpqua Community College in southern Oregon. Ten people were killed.

The gunman died in a fire fight with police.

Gun violence erupts again

This one hurts. It happened in my home state.

I’ll tell you just a bit about Roseburg. It’s a conservative community. Douglas County derives much of its income from logging. It’s a pretty part of the state, rather peaceful … really! Many residents there like to hunt deer and elk.

But here’s the latest version of the same question many of us keep asking when these spasms of violence erupt: Isn’t there a way to impose reasonable regulations that can keep guns out of the hands of maniacs while protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens?

I know what the Second Amendment says. It ends with the phrase ” … the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

I endorse that principle. Honestly.

However, I keep coming back to the idea that stricter regulations — such as background checks on every person who purchases a firearm — can protect citizens’ right to “keep and bear arms” while denying permission to others who might pose a threat to society.

Gun-rights group and their powerful allies in Washington believe we have enough regulations on the books already. Bad guys will get guns no matter what, they contend.

If that’s the case, that no additional regulation is going to stop forever the kind of senseless carnage that erupted today in Roseburg, then are we going to just continue with the status quo and do nothing to tighten the rules that could prevent someone in the future from doing what that maniac did today?

The status quo is not working.


Trump disgraces the campaign yet again


Donald Trump is a disgraceful demagogue.

The Syrians who are fleeing the bloodshed in their country — made worse by the introduction of Russian air strikes against anti-government rebels — are seeking asylum in other countries.

The United States is one country that has agreed to accept them.

Trump, the leading Republican presidential candidate, said he’ll “send them back” if he’s elected president in 2016.

To where? To the hell hole they’ve just left? To more misery and death? To more persecution? To tyranny?

Refugees flee bloodshed

Trump is a native of New York. Surely he knows about the inscription on the Statue of Liberty, the one that welcomes the poor and the dispossessed.

That the United States would welcome these individuals from the terror they are fleeing is in keeping with the highest ideals of this country.

Trump’s disgraceful demagoguery appeals to the very worst in human beings.

He should be ashamed of himself … except that he’s shown time and again he is without shame.


MPEV campaign aims at older voters


I’m officially an old man now … not that I’m complaining.

A campaign flier arrived in the mail Wednesday. It comes from “Vote FOR Amarillo,” the organization formed to promote approval of a Nov. 3 ballot measure to decided the fate of the proposed multipurpose event venue slated for construction in downtown Amarillo.

“Dear Seniors” is how it’s addressed. The note is signed by none other than past Amarillo College President Paul Matney, who’s my age. He’s a longtime friend and is a key member of this political organization.

The pitch is pretty straightforward, but in actuality Matney is preaching to the choir, so to speak, when he offers these tidbits, which include:

The MPEV can be a successful venue for a number of activities, such as concerts, church services, charity walks, health fairs, car shows, fireworks displays. He didn’t mention it, but yes, baseball games, too.

Here’s my favorite pitch, though. “Property taxes will not be used to build the MPEV and ballpark. Rather, Hotel Occupancy Taxes and private dollars will be used. Visitors to our city are funding this. Not our residents.”

This last message, though, needs to go to non-seniors, folks who aren’t yet 65 years of age. You see, my property taxes are frozen, as the state grants that privilege to homeowners 65 and older. I would hope Vote FOR Amarillo would be aggressive in informing non-old-folks of the reality that property taxes aren’t going to pay for this venue, estimated to cost around $32 million.

The flier’s aim is to promote voting by mail, which is now available to older residents.

Although I appreciate the effort made to inform me of that procedure, I’m going to pass. I intend to wait until Election Day to cast my ballot.

I’ve been on board with this project from the beginning. Nothing has come up to make me change my mind.

However, I intend to stay with my often-stated preference for waiting until the very last day to cast my vote — in case something should arise.


Why the fuss over ‘God’ decal?


“In God We Trust,” according to some folks, is a religious statement.

The way I interpret the phrase is that it has become almost a stock line, a virtual cliché. It now adorns the police cruisers in at least two Texas Panhandle communities — in Childress and Hutchinson counties. The phrase has drawn criticism from anti-religious zealots.

My question is this: Can’t you find more worthy opponents to take on?

Dallas Morning News blogger Jim Mitchell has weighed in with his view that the phrase doesn’t belong on police cars.

In God We Trust can be found on our currency and on public building. Mitchell has no problem with that.

My only gripe about the phrase on police cars is that the cops could have chosen another phrase to place on its cars. How about “To Protect and Serve”?

But the phrase “In God We Trust” doesn’t, in my mind, say anything offensive. The term doesn’t suggest that cops are going to interrogate motorists they pull over about their religious faith, or ask them if they believe in God.

The phrase appears to be merely a statement that the relevant police agency trusts in God — which, incidentally, can be an ecumenical deity that takes in people of various faiths.

As for those with have no faith in God, well, the phrase means nothing to them. That’s fine, too.

But to protest it? Get a life … please.

Almighty pays us back


This isn’t an original thought, I’m sure.

Still, I’ll share it here.

Theories can be proven. Some, though, cannot. My own theory about pictures such as the one I snapped tonight at sunset is that God Almighty is capable of payback.

What the heck. God is capable of anything. Am I correct?

Earth was created with plenty of natural splendor. Lots of mountains, valleys, dense forests, spectacular coastlines, lakes and meadows … you name it. They blanket our planet and give us plenty of eye candy to cherish.

The Almighty, though, didn’t grace the entire planet with that kind of splendor. He gave some regions terrain such as what surrounds us in Amarillo. It’s flat, non-descript and, yes, it can be boring.

However, the Almighty did give us this enormous sky. I’ve noted before that whoever pinned the “Big Sky” label on Montana didn’t lay eyes on the High Plains region.

So, when the sun sets as it did tonight, the first thought that crosses my mind is that God is paying us back for denying this region the physical splendor that’s been spread over much of the rest of the planet we call home.

What the Almighty didn’t grant us in that kind of eye-popping grandeur is compensated for with that huge sky that lights up at the beginning and end of these glorious days.