Martin, we hardly knew ye


How frustrating it must be for Martin O’Malley.

The former mayor of Baltimore and former governor of Maryland didn’t register among Iowa Democrats tonight in that state’s presidential caucus.

All that effort. All the time spent. All the posturing and preening one must do to get people’s attention when you run for president is all for naught. Nothin’, man.

O’Malley is going to “suspend” his campaign, which means it’s over. Suspension of campaigns is political-speak that enables candidates to keep raising money to pay off debts incurred for their failed efforts.

O’Malley couldn’t outshout Bernie Sanders or outspend Hillary Clinton. So, he’s about to be gone from the campaign.

His departure won’t matter much. Clinton and Sanders will fight it out between them.

You know what? To be brutally honest, I cannot think of a single landmark issue that set O’Malley apart. Clinton’s toughness and hawkish foreign policy has become her key point; Sanders’ battering of Wall Street and his call for wage equality have become his signature issues.

O’Malley was just the third candidate in the ring.

He will spin it positively, of course, as politicians do.

The frustration, and the pain, must hurt.


Feeling more ‘retired’ these days


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

I’ve mentioned already that I have assumed a new status at one of the four part-time jobs I’ve been working during the past year.

The new on-call/as-needed status means that I’m spending more time at home working my three other jobs, all of which allow me to work from my study.

One of them does require that I leave the house to interview subjects for news stories I write.

But here’s what I’ve discovered about this new phase of my life as I inch toward full retirement: I like the untethered feeling.

What’s more, I’m getting more comfortable with it.

Yes, I have errands to run and things to do around the house. I get to keep posting items on this blog, which gives me great joy as I’m able to comment on this and that.

These days, though, my wife and I spend a good deal of time talking to each other about our future. The conversations almost always involve spending more time with grandchildren, traveling in our recreational vehicle, sprucing up our home and just feeling good these days about our lot in life.

I’m not yet ready to jettison the rest of my jobs. They all involve journalism, which for decades — while I was working full time for The Man — defined me to my friends and acquaintances. It doesn’t define me that much these days, which is the way I want it to be. Still, my work with two TV stations in Amarillo and a weekly newspaper in New Mexico give me great pleasure.

My former career is getting much smaller in that proverbial rear-view mirror. That’s all right, too.

Life is good.


Let’s just call him ‘Silent Clarence’


I actually thought it had been longer than a mere decade since Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas had asked a question during oral arguments before the nation’s highest court.

Nope. It’s only been 10 years.

The New York Times article attached here spells out what Justice Thomas has settled on as his reason for remaining silent.

It’s discourteous, he told the Times.

Discourteous? You mean if a lawyer says something that you believe needs clarification, but none of your court colleagues wants to seek some clarity, that you don’t want to be rude by asking the lawyer a question?

I don’t quite get that.

On second thought, it makes no sense at all.

Justice Thomas was President George H.W. Bush’s pick in 1991 to serve on the court. He succeeded perhaps one of the most argumentative men ever to serve there, the late Justice Thurgood Marshall, who earned his Supreme Court spurs by arguing successfully before the court on the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision that ended desegregation in public schools.

President Lyndon Johnson made history by appointing Marshall to the court in 1967, making him the first African-American to serve there.

Justice Thomas is a decidedly different type of high court jurist, both in judicial philosophy and temperament, apparently, than the man he succeeded.

I believe President Bush offered a serious overestimation of Clarence Thomas when he called him the “most qualified man” to sit on the high court.

That said, Thomas has been true to his conservative principles over the past quarter century.

As for the next time he asks a question of a lawyer, you can be sure the media will make a big deal of it.


‘Moonshot’ cancer initiative must go beyond Obama years

Vice President Joe Biden points at President Barack Obama during the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, Pool)

Why do I get this nagging knot in my gut that President Obama’s so-called “moonshot” effort to find a cure for cancer isn’t getting enough attention on an important aspect of it?

It will have to continue long past the day that Barack Obama leaves the White House for the final time as president.

He turned to Vice President Biden during his State of the Union speech and made Biden the leader of the effort to find a cure for cancer. The president now wants to commit $1 billion toward that goal.

But the 44th president has less than a year to go. There won’t be a cure found before he leaves office. Who’s going to keep fighting that fight? Who’s going to lead the effort?

Would it be Biden, who leaves office the same day as Barack Obama? It ought to be.

We all know someone who’s been affected by this killer. Many of us have endured treatment and therapy ourselves.

There’s certain to be opposition to the president’s call for such a major expenditure. My hope is that we can muster the kind of national will that we managed to find for the actual moonshot initiative launched by President Kennedy in 1961.

According to The Hill: “In any type of major ambitious efforts, unless you set your sights high, you’re almost guaranteed to not get to the type of success that we all want,” an administration official said. “There’s a reason the vice president is aspiring big, it’s the only way we’re going to push the envelope and make this kind of progress.”

True enough. This project, though, is going to require a lot of attention that must persist long after the current administration leaves office.

Whoever succeeds Barack Obama has to commit with the same fervor to the fight to cure cancer.

One demonstration of that commitment would be to keep Joe Biden on the job.


Puppy Tales, Part 16


We’re more than a year now into dog ownership and we’ve learned plenty about the emotional and mental differences between dogs and cats.

My wife and I have been lifelong cat owners/lovers. We’ve understood during our many years together that cats can be at the same time lovable while not caring one little bit about anything or anyone else.

Not so with Toby the Dog.

Our puppy possesses a serious streak of jealousy.

You see, my wife takes care of a couple of little boys; one of them just turned 3, the other one is not quite six months of age. The brothers are sweet little boys but as you can imagine, the younger one requires quite a bit of attention.

So does Toby.

My wife has become expert at multi-tasking as it regards the kids and the puppy.

And with Toby following her around like a little four-legged shadow, she needs to be an expert.

Toby does not snap at the little guy. He doesn’t growl at him. He doesn’t make any gestures toward him that are remotely hostile.

Oh, no. Instead, he just insists — relentlessly! — that his “mother” pay him at least as much attention as she pays the little boy.

He demands she throw his toys around the house. He loves to fetch ’em and bring ’em back. He jumps on her lap whenever she is tending to the little guy’s needs. Toby puts his paws on her leg, demanding that she look at him, talk to him, do something — anything — with him to keep him busy.

Our kitty, Mittens? Oh, she keeps a low profile while the boys are here. She might venture out to grab a bite of food or a drink of water — but only when they’re both napping. She’ll look at us as the tiptoes through a room en route to whatever she intends to do. And the look usually is one of “OK, folks, you do what you’re going to do; I’m just going about my business.”

Toby the Dog is another matter. Completely and entirely.

How does he know we love him? We tell him so. Repeatedly.

Why? Because he demands it.



Iowa set to kick it off . . . but Texas awaits


OK, so the nation’s political junkies’ eyes are turning this morning to places like Ottumwa, Indianola and Dubuque.

Iowa goes to the polls today, sort of.

The rest of us will know sometime this evening who Iowans prefer to become the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees.

I don’t want to dismiss the importance of these caucuses, which both parties do differently. Republicans actually cast ballots; Democrats go into rooms and argue with each other.

It still just involves a single state. Iowa is a fine place. I’ve been there a couple of times. But it comprises a relatively small population and only a fraction of Iowans are going to take part in these caucuses.

The really, really big show starts on March 1.

New Hampshire next week? South Carolina the week after that? Pffftt!

Texas comes into play on that first day in March when we take part in what amounts to a national primary. We’ll join about 20 other states in selecting delegates to the party conventions.

I do not believe the Republican field will be quite as crowded as it is this morning. Some of the 11 candidates will pull out, perhaps after tonight’s caucuses, or after the New Hampshire primary.

The Democrats might still have a three-person race when the dog-and-pony show comes to Texas.

For those of us who like this process, Texas usually has been a sort of political backwater. We have conducted our primaries relatively late in this nominating process, making our votes meaningless.

Not this year.

There will be some real excitement this year that could rival the 2008 primary.

Eight years ago, the Democrats were engaged in a brass-knuckle fight between Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The primary occurred that year while the two of them were still battling for their party’s nomination.

A fascinating development occurred that year. Democrats drew far more attention in Republican-laden Texas. My wife and I live in Randall County, one of the most GOP-friendly counties in this state. The Democratic Party primary polling place was many times busier that day than the Republican polling station at the Baptist church where we vote.

Why? A lot of Republicans were crossing over to vote in the Democratic primary to cast their votes for who they thought would be the weakest candidate who would run against the GOP nominee.

Clinton won the Texas Democratic primary, but the nomination went eventually, of course, to Obama.

The rest is history.

Will there be a similar display of system-gaming this year? Might there be thousands of Democrats casting Republican primary votes to help nominate the person they think would be the weakest foe this fall? The state’s open primary system allows for that kind of tomfoolery.

If it happens, well, that’s how it goes.

Whatever happens on primary day in Texas will matter — a lot — in determining the next president of the United States.

I look forward to all the attention that will come to places like Marfa, Palestine — and perhaps even Amarillo.


Cruz draws rebuke for mailer


All righty, one more comment before Iowans head to their caucus locations.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, one of 11 candidates seeking the Republican presidential nomination, has been slapped down by the Iowa secretary of state over a mailer that went out prior to the start of the caucus.

Cruz, the Texas Republican, sent the mailer out warning of a “violation” if Iowans didn’t take part in the caucus.

The mailer has the appearance of a government document. It looks official.

Except that it isn’t.

Read the Texas Tribune account here.

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate called Cruz’s campaign down for the mailer, saying it isn’t in keeping with state policy. He called it deceitful. Here’s what Pate said, according to the Texas Tribune: “Today I was shown a piece of literature from the Cruz for President campaign that misrepresents the role of my office, and worse, misrepresents Iowa election law,” Pate said. “Accusing citizens of Iowa of a ‘voting violation’ based on Iowa Caucus participation, or lack thereof, is false representation of an official act.”

Oh, yes. One more thing. Pate isn’t a Democrat. He’s a Republican who took office just this past year.

If Pate was a Democrat, one might be able to suggest that he would be driven by partisan interests in condemning the Cruz mailer.

Then again, given the yuuuuuge chasm within the Republican Party, one might wonder if Pate is supporting one of the other GOP candidates.

Whatever. Sen. Cruz’s campaign has been duly chastised.

Not that it matters to the Cruz Missile. He stands by the document.

There. I’m done with the Iowa caucus . . . until it’s over.



Timing of e-mail classification now becomes key


Hillary Rodham Clinton’s decision to use her personal e-mail account was problematical, to say the least.

Now we might be finding out why it has caused the secretary of state so many problems.

She’s running for the presidency. The U.S. State Department issued a statement this past week that several e-mails that went out on that account were “top secret” in nature.

Yes, I am concerned about the use of that personal account, just like a lot of folks are concerned. My major concern is whether any of that top secret information ended up in the hands of hackers who might have broken into that account. Those things do happen, you know.

The question of the moment, though, is this: When did State decide to classify the messages as top secret?

Clinton has said all along that she didn’t send classified material on her personal account. She stands by that contention to this day. Moreover, she has said she did what previous secretaries of state have done. It didn’t come up when, say, Colin Powell was running the State Department.

To be sure, this matter has worsened the trust issue that is dogging her campaign in the very late stages of the campaign leading up to Monday night’s Iowa caucuses.

Let us not get ahead of ourselves.

I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt over whether she sent the material out on her personal account knowing they were top secret.

Clinton said she didn’t jeopardize our national security.

Let’s ask the question: Were these e-mails re-classified just in recent days?