How do humans cope with nature’s wrath?

The question keeps popping into my noggin when I watch and read reports of fire such as the blaze that is terrorizing southern California.

How do human beings hope to cope with the wrath that Mother Nature can bring to us?

I’ve lost track of the acreage destroyed by the fire whipped by the ferocious and relentless Santa Ana wind. It’s in the many hundreds of thousands of acres. It covers many hundreds of square miles. Media reports tell us it’s larger than the cities of Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco. It could be that it’s larger than all of them combined.

I heard just prior to the weekend that the calming wind gave firefighters a break, that they gained ground on the fire. Then the wind kicked back in, setting the firefighters back on their heels.

Yet the firefighters keep at it. Thousands of them are battling this blaze. They’ll stay in the fight for the duration, until the last ember is extinguished.

I heard also they have come from many states to fight these fires. My wife and I caught a glimpse earlier this year of how firefighters rally to fight a common foe. We traveled in October to Oregon, driving through California from Needles all the way to the Oregon border. We saw smoke, but no flames from the fire that erupted in California’s famed Wine Country.

We visited with firefighters mustering at a Nevada County,  Calif., site to fight a blaze burning near Grass Valley. They came from far away to lend a hand. En route north along Interstate 5 we saw a Seattle Fire Department truck heading home, with Old Glory waving proudly in the wind. They epitomize the best of the human spirit.

I suppose I have just answered that question about coping with nature’s awesome wrath.

The human spirit can rise to any occasion.

Press aide goes for the throat against media

Now she’s done it.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the fiery White House press secretary, has now accused journalists and their bosses of “deliberately” reporting false news stories to advance an agenda.

Think of this for a moment. This is the White House’s front person with the media, the person who is supposed to develop a healthy professional relationship with those who report on the goings-on within the White House.

And by “healthy,” I don’t mean necessarily an always-positive relationship. “Healthy” implies that a certain two-way respect between sources and those who report on what they say and do.

The media-White House relationship should be listed in critical condition. At best.

White House at war with media

I am presuming that Sanders is speaking for Donald John Trump when she makes such hideous assertions. What she has done on the president’s behalf is accuse these professional journalists of violating the very tenets they vowed to uphold when they signed on to their craft.

Sanders said the media are “purposefully misleading the American people” by publishing and broadcasting reports that reporters and editors know are false.

I toiled in journalism for nearly four decades. Did I make mistakes while reporting the news? Sure I did. Did I correct them? Yes. Were any of them the result of some intent to advance a political agenda? Never.

I know I am speaking only for myself. I cannot know how others did their job, except that I always have accepted that other mainstream journalists adhered to a pledge that they would report truthfully and fairly.

To hear the White House press secretary assert that White House beat reporters are acting with deceit and dishonor is beyond offensive.

Actually, Mme. Press Secretary, election didn’t settle it

Sarah Huckabee Sanders says the 2016 presidential election decided what voters think about the accusations by women against Donald Trump.

Let me ponder that for a moment. Umm, actually it didn’t settle it. Or perhaps it did in a way that Sanders didn’t intend.

Several women have accused the president of behaving badly toward them; they have alleged incidents of groping, unwanted kissing and assorted tomfoolery they didn’t seek or want.

This is news today because of the sexual abuse allegations that have brought the downfall of Hollywood moguls, actors and politicians. Trump remains untouched. Some senators have called on Trump to resign, just as three members of Congress have done. Other critics are suggesting an ethics investigation is in order.

Oh, what did the election settle? Sanders said Trump’s Electoral College victory meant the issue is gone.

Nope. It isn’t.

Let’s see. How did Trump do in the popular vote? He received 62,985,134 votes. Oh, and how many votes went to Hillary Rodham Clinton? 65,853,652.

That’s a difference of 2,850,518 votes … in Hillary’s favor.

Thus, I do believe Sarah Sanders is mistaken if she thinks the election settled anything.

Amarillo is hardly a Texas ‘outpost’

I hereby declare that never, ever again should Amarillo consider itself to be some sort of remote outpost in the great state of Texas.

My example? Take a look at all the money, manpower and machinery at work repairing, renovating and rebuilding the highways that course through this city.

Interstate 40, between roughly Quarter Horse Drive and Soncy? Serious rebuilding is underway. Interstate 27 from the I-40 interchange south to 34th Avenue? More reconstruction. I-27 northbound from 26th Avenue? More of the same. Loop 335 on the southern edge of the city? Ditto, man!

I am unaware of the total dollar cost the Texas Department of Transportation is spending on all this work. I’m pretty sure it’s in the high tens of millions.

Let’s flash back for a moment.

I was working in Beaumont in 1991 when I heard about a freshman legislator from the Texas Panhandle who suggested openly that the state needed to partition itself into several parts. This fellow didn’t like the way state government allegedly “ignored” the Panhandle. My initial reaction was, shall we say, not terribly flattering toward this gentleman.

Four years later, I moved to Amarillo and became acquainted with state Rep. David Swinford, a Dumas Republican. I asked him about his desire to carve up the state. He smiled and didn’t deny that was his intent, although it seemed to me at the time that he was only half-serious — or maybe he was half-joking … whatever.

We developed a good professional relationship over the years. I became convinced that Swinford’s desire in 1991 might have taken off had it earned any support from legislators downstate.

Suffice to say today, though, that Amarillo hardly sits at the edge of some desolate frontier. The state ended up building two prison units here about the time Swinford took office; Texas Tech University installed a pharmacy school near the city’s complex of hospitals and medical clinics.

I surely have heard how Amarillo is closer to the capitals of neighboring states than it is to Austin. And, yes, I’ve heard multiple tales of how President Johnson allegedly closed the Air Force base  here because he was mad that so many Panhandle counties for voted for Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election.

But … that was then.

On this very day — and for the foreseeable future — Texas highway construction is telling us that the state is acutely aware of Amarillo’s importance to the rest of Texas.

Patterson ‘remembers the Alamo’

It turns out that former Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson has a particular motive for seeking to get back into his former job.

He is angry at the way the current commissioner, George P. Bush, has handled the Alamo. Bush has taken the Alamo restoration efforts away from the General Land Office and put it in the hands of private concerns.

Patterson doesn’t like that. So he’s aiming to do battle with Bush with the idea of returning to the GLO the idea of caring for the Alamo.

As R.G. Ratcliffe writes in the Burka Blog: During Patterson’s tenure, the famous Texas battleground was transferred from the Daughters of the Republic of Texas to the land office, but Bush has been widely criticized for handing off restoration plans to private foundations.

Ratcliffe reports that legislators are critical of the move because the foundations are too secretive and aren’t being held accountable for what they’re doing to restore the Alamo. Patterson contends, according to Ratcliffe, that Bush set up the privatization arrangement so that he could take credit for cutting the size of a government agency.

Read Ratcliffe’s blog here.

Patterson says he doesn’t want a job. He said he decided to run because he couldn’t find another Republican to challenge Bush. He told Ratcliffe that Bush is too enamored with being a “small-government Republican” intent on cutting the budget. Patterson is angry that Bush has dismantled the GLO’s hurricane response that Patterson created; as a result, there have been delays in getting aid to Hurricane Harvey victims along the Texas coast.

Patterson is having none of it.

He wants to challenge Bush, whose campaign team is touting as the “most conservative land commissioner” in Texas history.

This might shape up to be a most fascinating Republican Party primary. I get the appeal that Bush is seeking to parlay as a budget cutter and a small-government kind of politician.

I happen to be more of a “good government” fellow, who hopes that Patterson — one of my favorite Texas politicians — can mount a serious challenge to the fellow who succeeded him.

Oh, yeah, there’s also the Clinton matter

I feel the need to launch a bit of a preemptive strike at those who are inclined to take issue with an earlier item I posted on High Plains Blogger.

It wonders whether Donald John Trump should consider resigning the presidency in the wake of resignations of three key members of Congress: Democratic Sen. Al Franken, Democratic Rep. John Conyers and Republican Rep. Trent Franks — all of whom quit over allegations of sexual harassment and sexual abuse.

As long as we’re insisting on resignation …

Critics of this blog might be inclined to remind me that President Bill Clinton should have quit, too, when allegations surfaced about women with whom he had sexual relations. One woman accused him of rape; another accused him of sexual harassment; yet another was revealed to have engaged in some dalliance with the president while she was working as a White House intern.

I’ll answer any such response this way: President Clinton went through a serious round of “due process.”

The House of Representatives impeached him for lying to a grand jury about his relationship with the White House intern. Republicans who ran the House at the time were looking for a reason to impeach Clinton; the president gave them one by lying under oath.

Then came the trial in the Senate, presided over by Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Senators heard the evidence, heard the rebuttal to the evidence and then acquitted the president on all the charges brought by the House.

Due process, man. That is what transpired in 1998.  We haven’t been through anything of the sort as it regards the current president.

So, please spare me the “Clinton should have quit, too” mantra. He went through hell by being impeached. He paid a price. Whether it was a sufficient price for what he did depends on whether you agree or disagree with the Senate verdict.

I happen to agree with it.

Mr. POTUS, media aren’t the ‘enemy,’ really

Donald John Trump Sr. just can’t stop attacking the media.

He demands that media outlets fire reporters who make mistakes. He calls media organizations he dislikes “fake news.” He tears into reporters at press conferences.

The president has labeled the media as “the enemy of the American people.”

Here is something he needs to grasp: The media own their mistakes; they hold themselves accountable, which is something the president appears to be genetically incapable of doing as it regards his own missteps.

Trump flies off the rails

For the life of me I cannot grasp how this guy gets away with what he says and how he attacks the press with such abandon. The media’s job, according to the often-stated truism, is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

Every president who preceded Donald Trump has had run-ins with the media. Yet they have accepted the media’s role in a free society. Trump, though, doesn’t grasp that reality. His insatiable appetite for positive coverage blinds him. When he doesn’t get the kind of affirmation he believes he deserves — even when he absolutely doesn’t — he flies into rages.

Is that reasonable? Is it rational? Is that the way a president behaves?

It would be easy to pass this all off as so much silliness, except for this key element: Donald Trump is the Fake News Purveyor in Chief.

He is the one who lies incessantly. He makes contentions that have been disproven with regularity. Trump makes outrageous assertions about his foes and boasts of triumphs that are figments of his imagination.

When the media report his lies, distortions, fabrications, prevarications they are merely doing their job.

The truth is something that Donald Trump simply cannot stand.

As long as we’re insisting on resignation …

Three U.S. senators — two Democrats and an independent who sides with Democrats — have broached a subject that’s on the minds of millions of Americans.

If we’re going to demand and accept the resignations of senators and House members over allegations of sexual abuse, assault and harassment … how about demanding it of the groper in chief, Donald John Trump Sr.?

My distaste for Donald Trump as president of the United States is documented quite thoroughly on this blog. He has behaved like a slug and a boor among women. Moreover, he has actually bragged about it!

Now we hear from Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Corey Booker, D-N.J., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., all of whom have said that the president should resign just as Democratic Sen. Al Franken, Republican Rep. Trent Franks and Democratic Rep. John Conyers have done.

I won’t climb aboard that hay wagon just yet. However, Trump and his acknowledged misbehavior — and the myriad complaints and allegations that have been leveled against him — do suggest one of the more profound ironies of the “Me Too” movement that is swallowing powerful men.

Trump’s recorded voice has him boasting to a TV host about his grabbing women by their genitals. He boasted about how his celebrity status enabled him to kiss women whenever he felt like it. He has talked about how he was able to walk in on half-dressed beauty pageant contestants because, by golly, he was the boss.

Trump’s “punishment”? He was elected president of the United States. The election does not absolve him of anything. Instead it brings it all into sharp relief when juxtaposed with the allegations that have forced other politicians to walk away from their public service jobs.

I’m not prescient enough to know where this “Me Too” movement is going from here. Perhaps it will gather even more steam. It well might explode inside the Oval Office. Or … it might fizzle and die.

If it does expand and if it does reach even more deeply into the president’s personal behavior, well … then I believe we need to take these resignation suggestions from Sens. Sanders, Booker and Merkley quite seriously.

So, too, should the president.

Moore’s unfitness for Senate pre-dates sex abuse allegations

Let me be crystal clear.

Roy Moore gave me the heebie-jeebies the moment he won the Alabama Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat that’s about to be filled. That was before the allegations of sexual abuse/predation surfaced about the former two-time Alabama Supreme Court chief justice.

Even if these allegations hadn’t been leveled against, I would be frightened beyond measure about the prospect of this guy joining the Club of 100, the so-called World’s Greatest Deliberative Body.

This fellow doesn’t deliberate over anything. He’s a man of strong opinions about religion, the U.S. Constitution and whether elected officials should obey the Constitution or follow their own religious beliefs.

Moore does not seem to understand that the U.S. government is framed by a secular document.

He was kicked off the Alabama high court the first time for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the court grounds. The state’s judicial ethics commission said the Commandments’ presence violated the Constitution’s implied separation of church and state. Out he went.

Then he returned. What did he do the second time? He said that county clerks did not have to obey the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that legalized gay marriage throughout the nation. The judicial ethics panel weighed in again. It determined he was unfit to serves as chief justice. He hit the road … again.

Now he’s running for the U.S. Senate in the midst of the allegations against him. His fellow Republicans say they want no part of him, although some of them are backtracking on that declaration as the election draws closer; Alabama voters go to the polls on Tuesday.

What’s more, Moore now has the full backing of Donald John “Groper in Chief” Trump. These guys deserve each other.

Why am I interested in this, given that I live out here in Texas and don’t have a vote in Alabama? Because this fellow could be empowered to make federal law that affects all Americans — of whom I am one.

I don’t want this guy anywhere near the Senate chamber. I don’t want him on Capitol Hill. He scares the bejabbers out of me.

It has nothing to do with the notion that women have accused him preying on them when they were underage.

As Sen. Richard Shelby, another Alabama Republican, said: “I think, so many accusations, so many cuts, so many drip, drip, drip — when it got to the 14-year-old’s story, that was enough for me. I said I can’t vote for Roy Moore.”

Those allegations just have poured gasoline on the fire.

Is hell about to freeze over?

Hell is going to have to freeze over if Greg Abbott is going to lose his bid for re-election next year as Texas governor.

This is not a statement of preference, mind you. I’m merely stating what I believe is a stark reality facing any challenger who might square off against him.

A Texas Tribune analysis points out that eight Democrats are lining up to run in the state’s primary next spring. Ross Ramsey believes the early Democratic favorite is likely Lupe Valdez, the recently resigned Dallas County sheriff. Another key Democratic challenger could be Andrew White, son of the late Gov. Mark White.

Read Ramsey’s article here.

Valdez has won election and re-election several times in the state’s second-most populous county, Ramsey points out.

But if she wins the Democratic primary — which is a huge first test —  get a load of the hurdle she faces. She is going to seek to become the first governor on a couple of important levels … and Texas has not been known in recent years as a place prone to establish significant political precedent.

First, Valdez is a Latina. She wants to become the first Latina ever elected governor. Indeed, the state never has elected anyone of Latin American descent. That’s one hurdle.

Here’s the big one: Valdez is openly gay.

She wants, therefore, to become the first openly gay, Latina candidate ever elected governor.

I feel the need to point out that Texas voters a few years ago approved an amendment to the Texas Constitution that outlawed same-sex marriage, even though there already was a statute on the books that prohibited it. That didn’t matter. The state’s voters said not just “no,” but “hell no!” to gay marriage.

Do you believe Valdez can win the governor’s race in a state that has enacted a double-whammy prohibition against same-sex marriage?

As the Tribune piece illustrates, whoever wins the Democratic primary is going to face an enormous task as he or she seeks to topple a Republican incumbent governor.

As Ramsey describes Abbott: He’s a well-financed, popular figurehead for a political party that hasn’t lost a statewide election in Texas in almost three decades.

But … you never know. Hell could get mighty cold.