Back home safe; no errors


This is the latest in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on upcoming retirement.

I am happy to report that my wife and are now measuring — partially at least — the success of our fifth wheel trips by the absence of rookie errors.

We’re still fairly new in this RV traveling experience, but we’re finding it easier as we undergo the growing pains associated with this new lifestyle.

We have just concluded an eight-day jaunt through much of north and central Texas. We spent Christmas evening with our son, daughter-in-law and grandkids in Allen; and, oh yeah, we had those hideous tornadoes to contend with the next night.

We got through it all, had a wonderful time, saw “Star Wars” with our son, played with our granddaughter who’s starting to refer to us as something that sounds vaguely like “Ma-Maw” and “Pa-Paw.”

But, hey, Emma is not yet 3, so that’ll likely change. We’ll settle on whatever she wants to call us . . . just as long as she calls, you know?

Then it was off to San Marcos, which is roughly halfway between San Antonio and Austin, where we visited with one of our nieces, her husband, their two daughters and my wife’s brother,  all of whom live in or right near Austin.

After three nights there, we headed toward home and spent another night at San Angelo State Park. We cooled our jets, got a good night’s sleep and rolled onto the Texas Tundra, where we discovered someone had plowed the snow off our street — and into a large pile right in front of our home.

We’re learning out way through this RV business. It’s getting easier each time out, although we’ve learned not to take anything for granted.

I’m not sure when we’ll become experts at it. Frankly, I like being forced to think about ensuring we don’t cut corners too tightly, or making sure we put the wastewater cap back before we shove off.

But we’ve already begun thinking about the next excursion.

And, of course, the next big adventure.



Trump shows up on terror video . . . who knew?


Here we go. Donald Trump has shown up on a terrorist recruitment video produced by Al-Shabaab.

Remember when Hillary Rodham Clinton lambasted Trump’s anti-Muslim rants as providing fodder for terrorist groups? Trump called her a liar. So did his supporters.

To be clear, Clinton’s contention did not include visual evidence of such a video at the time she made it during the latest Democratic presidential candidate debate.

But now there appears to be actual video out there purporting to show clips of Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric.

It makes me wonder, though: Did the publicity surrounding Clinton’s accusation give the terrorists the idea to include Trump in the recruitment video? Or was the video in production all along?

It’ll be tough to pin down cause-and-effect here. Suffice to say, though, that Trump’s fiery rhetoric — the words that spit in the face of what the Republican presidential frontrunner calls “political correctness” — may have produced a consequence we all are likely to regret.


Daughter followed Dad into legendary status

HOLLYWOOD, CA - MAY 31:  Singer Natalie Cole attends a ceremony honoring David Foster with the 2,499th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on May 31, 2013 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

It’s rare when the child of a legendary performer becomes a legend in her own right.

When the news broke today of the death of Natalie Cole, I kept reading the word “legendary” to describe the singer’s career.

She was the daughter of one of American music’s greatest singers . . . ever! Nat “King” Cole died in 1965 at a much-too-young age.

His daughter, Natalie, who Dad once said “had it” as a youngster, would outlive her father by a good bit.

She was troubled by issues of her own: drug abuse that produced hepatitis C. She died today of complications from hep C.

It saddens beyond measure to hear of this latest loss.

Then again, I am proud that Natalie Cole stood tall in the face of her struggles. She had been sober for many years. She fought back. She continued to dazzle audiences with her magnificent voice.

What’s more, she never backed down from what troubled her. She spoke openly about her difficulty with drugs. In that context, Natalie Cole became a role model.

This 65-year-old woman did not bask in her father’s reflected glory. She left her own giant footprint in an entertainment industry that demands much of the children of great entertainers.

Natalie Cole delivered.


Taking aim at … political correctness


Political correctness has become Public Enemy No. 1 . . . if you’re a Republican Party presidential candidate.

Those GOP debates have featured full frontal attacks from the candidates on that nefarious character called political correctness.

It gives them license, I suppose, to say whatever they want regardless of its offensiveness, ignorance or stupidity.

I want to take up for political correctness as it’s been defined by those who blame it for every national ailment under the sun.

I know. You’re surprised beyond belief.

Political correctness is not the bogeyman that candidates have identified as the enemy. Yes, there are times when PC language can go too far, when people who use it do so because they are afraid of committing the slightest offense.

But the anti-PC rhetoric we’re hearing on the campaign trail is aimed at candidates who insist that there should be nuance when talking about international diplomacy. They level their verbal fire at candidates — and current officeholders — who decline to use certain language to describe the enemies with whom we are at war. They seek to attach the PC label simply to those who choose to disagree with them, with their gratuitously harsh language.

So, the enemy now becomes political correctness.

The audiences who hear the candidates lambaste those who prefer to speak more precisely cheer them on. They like what they consider to be “bold” rhetoric; others of us watching and listening from the political peanut gallery would describe it more as “reckless.”

From where I sit, reckless rhetoric can — and quite often does — lead to consequences that produce lots of collateral damage in places where it’s hard to repair.

So, when I hear presidential candidates lampoon political correctness from their opponents, I am going to presume for the rest of this election cycle that those who support them accept the bluster that pours out of the candidates’ mouths.

However, will they accept the potential consequences that it produces?


Get ready for open carry

open carry

SAN MARCOS, Texas — I’m sitting inside our fifth wheel listening to year-end celebratory fireworks that for the life of me sound like rifle shots.

Consider that my segue into commenting on a big day in state history that dawns in about three hours.

It’s the day that Texans can carry firearms in the open. We’ll be allowed to strap the shootin’ irons into holsters and wear ’em the way we used to wear ’em in the old days.

The Texas Legislature this year approved open carry legislation, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law.

There have been some interesting provisions about the law that deserve some mention.

One is that privately run colleges and universities have decided to opt out of the law; they won’t allow students or faculty members to carry them on campus.

Another is that some businesses also are disallowing customers from walking through their doors while packing heat in their holsters. One of the more interesting businesses to ban the activity is Whataburger, the Texas-based fast-food restaurant chain.

Those who are allowed to carry guns openly will be those who are registered to carry concealed guns in the first place. I suppose that means if customers want to buy a burger at Whataburger, they will need to keep the guns hidden under their jacket or tucked away in their purse.

I’ve already expressed my reservations about open-carry. I won’t predict that bad things will happen involving those who are packing heat openly. I had expressed concerns when the 1995 Legislature enacted the state’s concealed-carry law, but I’m happy to acknowledge — as I’ve done already in public — that my fears have not been realized.

It’s going to be a new day in Texas. I’ll accept the new law and hope for the best.

Oh, and one more thing. I’ve always advised people, “Don’t ever argue with someone carrying a gun.” In Texas, for the past two decades, that could be just about anyone.

With the new open-carry law taking effect in just a little bit, at least we’ll be able to spot the firearm on someone’s hip before we think about mouthing off.

Tornadoes need federal, political attention


My wife and I laughed — nervously, I’ll admit — earlier today at our good fortune as we prepare to haul our fifth wheel back home.

We left the Texas Panhandle just ahead of a severe winter storm that blew in from the northwest. We headed for the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to spend Christmas day with our son, daughter-in-law and our three grandkids — only to watch while tornadoes ripped through the region the afternoon and evening after Christmas.

The tornadoes resulted in several deaths and untold destruction of property all around our kids’ home in Allen.

I’m not well-versed in what happens next, but the destruction would seem to require some federal help. I am aware that state governors have to ask for it but as I write this brief blog post, I am unclear about whether Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is going to seek federal help to clean up the mess that the tornadoes left behind.

President Obama is due to return to Washington in the next day or so. I want to extend an invitation for him to land Air Force One at D/FW airport and take a look at what happened out there.

And the other candidates for president? I’m aware that Republican contender Ted Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, already has taken a gander at what occurred in his home state.

We’ve still got a bunch of presidential candidates seeking the office. Yes, they can come, too.

Will anything get done? Will there be relief to be delivered to the state? Can it be delivered without attaching strings, such as what occurred when Joplin, Mo., was devastated by tornadoes in 2011 and then-U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor demanded that Congress cut spending elsewhere to “pay” for the relief?

We’ve got a lot of presidential contenders out there on the campaign trail. We’ve also got a president who’ll be flying directly at Texas on his way back to the White House. Texas is a big and important state.

And we’ve got a lot of residents who at this moment likely would appreciate some comfort from words of encouragement and support.



Amarillo council sets down rules of conduct

ama city council

Does a governing municipal council really need to be told — in writing — how to behave when it’s conducting the public’s business?

I guess the Amarillo City Council needs such rules spelled out.

Whatever. It’s good to know the council has accepted the rules on how to behave in public.

The council adopted a set of rules that requires council members to, um, act like adults. Interesting, yes?

The new rules require council members to: maintain order and decorum at council meetings and obey the mayor’s edicts; treat each other and city staffers with courtesy and respect; refrain from using their position to obtain special privileges; and refrain from condoning illegal or unethical behavior.

It fascinates me in the extreme that the council felt the need to adopt these rules and codify them in writing.

Every single one of those guidelines seems as though they always would be understood from the beginning.

A lot of things changed when the City Council took office this past spring. Three new guys joined the five-member council. They promised “changed,” and delivered it in spades. Some of it was good. Some of it was, well, not good. One of the not-good elements emerged quickly as at least one of the new council members began arguing publicly with Mayor Paul Harpole about this and that policy matter.

What’s more, the call for former City Manager Jarrett Atkinson to resign right out of the chute was seen as, well, far less than respectful  . . . not to mention the demand that the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation board be fired summarily.

Change? Yeah, we got it, all right.

Now, though, the change that voters said they wanted has been tamped down a bit to require a level of decorum.

The Amarillo City Council is acting like a collection of grownups — even as it puts its rules of behavior in writing.