Ladies and gentlemen, Sir Ringo, er … Richard

This is some problem to encounter from this day forward.

How does one refer to Ringo Starr, who’s now a knight? You see, The Beatles’ drummer used his real name, Richard Starkey, to receive his knighthood from the British crown.

But to those of us who came of age when Ringo and his bandmates — John Lennon, George Harrison and Paul McCartney — were blazing new popular culture trails, he was just Ringo. The goofy Beatle. The shortest one of the four of them. The guy who was cute in a homely sort of way; I mean, the girls seemed to scream more loudly for Ringo than for the other lads. Do I remember that correctly?

Sir Paul McCartney was knighted in 1997. The honor didn’t come to John and George, who died in 1980 and 2001, respectively. To my knowledge, the Brits don’t bestow knighthoods posthumously — which I consider to be a shame.

Still, Sir Ringo, I mean, Sir Richard, has joined Sir Paul among the United Kingdom’s most exalted citizens.

OK, I am not one of Her Majesty the Queen’s subjects. Still, to me Sir Richard will always be just plain Ringo.

Will this young man enter the speaker’s race?

The Texas Tribune has listed five state legislators who either have announced plans to run for Texas House speaker or are interested in joining the fray.

I looked the list over and was expecting to see a name from Amarillo. He wasn’t among the five of them.

So, with that I’ll offer this on-the-record request for state Rep. Four Price, the Republican representative from House District 87: Go for it, young man! Join the field of legislators who want to be the next Man of the House!

Price will see this blog post. He already knows that I have great personal regard for him. I am acknowledging my bias, OK?

Rep. Price brings some political muscle to this contest, were he to run for speaker.

First of all, Texas Monthly rated him among the state’s “Ten Best Legislators” in 2017. TM’s editors like his commitment to mental health issues.

Second of all, Price beat back a challenge from a guy who had some serious financial backing from Empower Texans, the far-right-wing political action group that had targeted a number of incumbent legislators. Price rolled up 79 percent of the vote in the March 6 Republican Party primary race. The way I see it, a victory margin of that size has purchased Price a good bit of political capital that he can spend while campaigning for speaker.

Third of all, Price would give the Texas Panhandle an important — and loud — voice in the Legislature at a time when it is experiencing a diminishing level of clout in Austin. It’s part of the state’s shifting population trend, with Central and North Texas growing at a much more rapid rate than the vast reaches of West Texas.

Price told me some months ago that he was part of current Speaker Joe Straus’s legislative team in the House. He endorsed the leadership that Speaker Straus brought to the lower legislative chamber. It follows, then, that a Speaker Price would follow the lead established by Straus, who’s not running for re-election.

I say all this knowing that this decision rests exclusively with Four Price and his family. Were he to run for speaker and then be selected by his House colleagues, he would be elevated immediately from a part-time citizen-legislator to a full-time political leader — even though the job won’t pay him accordingly.

It’s a sacrifice to run for speaker and to subject oneself to the abuse that goes with the territory.

Still, I hope Four Price goes for it.

Nationalists outpointing Globalists in Trump World

Rex Tillerson’s departure as secretary of state fills me with terribly mixed feelings.

On one level, he wasn’t by any stretch my favored pick to lead the nation’s diplomatic effort. He came from big business; he had no real international political experience; he was unable to fill key posts within the State Department.

However, he is a grownup. He clashed with Donald John Trump. He sought to talk the president out of backing away from the Iran nuclear deal; he opposed Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris global warming accord.

Tillerson realizes a fundamental truth about the world and the United States’ role in it, which is that “globalism” is the more realistic approach to cultivating our nation’s alliances. Trump ran for president as a “nationalist.” He wants to “put America first,” but is putting our nation’s world standing in jeopardy.

Trump has nominated CIA Director Mike Pompeo to succeed Tillerson. Pompeo is from the same nationalist mold as Trump, as he demonstrated while he served in the U.S. House of Representatives before making the move to the CIA.

The nationalist wing of the Trump administration is winning the argument within the White House’s walls so far.

Trump keeps harping about America’s interests, which in its way is the height of irony, given his reluctance to condemn the Russians for attacking our nation’s electoral process in 2016.

He has cut loose someone, Tillerson, who believes that the world’s inexorable shrinkage forces this country to think more globally. We cannot escape the influences of other nations and we must be mindful of their concerns.

Should we place other nations’ interests on the same level as our own? No. Neither should we snub them, as Donald Trump seems so terribly inclined to do.

I also must concede that the comment attributed to Tillerson — which he hasn’t denied making — that Trump is a “moron” seems more truthful than ever.

Trump politicizing probe … except that he’s mistaken

Donald J. Trump’s latest rampage on Twitter is making yet another ridiculous assertion.

The president accuses special counsel Robert Mueller of stacking his legal team with Democrats who were loyal to whom he has referred to as “Crooked Hillary” Clinton.

It’s part of Trump’s effort to discredit, disparage and disrespect the team Mueller has assembled to examine some serious issues relating to the president’s campaign team’s alleged relationship with Russians who sought to meddle in our 2016 presidential election.

It is true that most of the lawyers working for Mueller are registered Democrats, as if that by itself is going to taint the investigation — which cannot be stated with any degree of certainty on its face.

Oh, but wait! What about Mueller? And what about the guy who appointed him special counsel, Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein?

This is where I can say that Mueller, a former FBI director, is a registered Republican. Rosenstein, who was appointed to his deputy AG post by Donald Trump himself, also is a registered Republican.

The two top dogs in the Russia investigation are Republicans, man! Does that matter? Does that tilt the investigation toward the Top Republican, Trump?

No. I am going to put my faith that Mueller will do his job in accordance with what the law and the U.S. Constitution allow. The special counsel knows a lot more about both than the man — Donald Trump — who keeps hectoring him.

The ‘next generation’ is stepping up

I am not inclined to bemoan the future of our country based on the behavior of those who comprise “the next generation.” I have sought over many years to give my younger fellow Americans the benefit of the doubt that they’ll step up when it counts the most.

We are witnessing the next generation doing precisely that as it relates to its fear and concern over gun violence.

A lot of Panhandle students are going to march this weekend from Ellwood Park to the Potter County Courthouse. They are part of a national movement called “March For Our Lives.” I read today that national organizers are expecting as many as 1 million marchers from coast to coast.

The Amarillo march is being organized out of Caprock High School, with students seeking to generate interest in communities far beyond Amarillo.

The catalyst is that slaughter in Parkland, Fla., on Valentine’s Day. A gunman killed 17 students and staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. This massacre was merely the latest in a horrifying string of such mass murders.

It has energized a generation of Americans. Some of them have become media stars. They have spoken with remarkable eloquence about their fear and their desire to see political leaders take action against gun violence.

These young people have taken the point in organizing these marches. They are giving older folks — such as yours truly — greater faith that our country is being taken over by responsible citizens. They are energized by what they deem to be a crisis. They are taking action. They are engaging in activities that signal good citizenship.

These concerns about “younger generation” go back many thousands of years. Quotations attributed to the Greek philosopher Plato lament how badly children behave, how disrespectful they are of their elders and how “they riot in the streets, inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?”

Today’s youngsters make me proud and affirm my faith that our country will find its way well into the future.

Hillary tries to walk it back … good luck with that

Try as she might, Hillary Rodham Clinton is trying to do the impossible. As my late friend and colleague Claude Duncan used to say, “You can’t unhonk the horn.”

Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, went to India and told an audience that those who voted for her came from more economically progressive and advanced states; those who voted for Donald Trump were, um, less progressive and advanced.

Oh, boy. You can’t go there, Hillary Clinton.

She has been criticized roundly for her remarks. I am joining in that criticism. Yes, she received my vote in 2016 and she would get it again were she to run against the guy who beat her.

Her “explanation” rings hollow. She said she didn’t intend to offend anyone with her remarks. Clinton wrote on Facebook: “I meant no disrespect to any individual or group. And I want to look to the future as much as anybody.”

Look to the future? Sure she does. I take that statement to mean she wants to set her remarks aside and doesn’t want to keep explaining herself.

“No, it’s not helpful at all,” Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin said on “Fox News Sunday,” when she was asked to comment on Clinton’s comments.  “In fact, my friend Hillary Clinton is wrong.”

According to The Hill: Clinton also implied that women who cast a ballot for Trump did so due to “ongoing pressure to vote the way that your husband, your boss, your son, whoever, believes you should.”

“As much as I hate the possibility, and hate saying it, it’s not that crazy when you think about our ongoing struggle to reach gender balance — even within the same household. I did not realize how hard it would hit many who heard it,” Clinton said in her explanation.

Now she realizes it. I’m glad she sought to clarify what she meant to convey. Still, I am having difficulty trying to separate the intent from the spoken word.

Giving thanks once more for local heroes

I cannot say this enough, so forgive me if you have heard this before.

Our firefighters and other first responders continue to amaze me. I am grateful beyond measure for the work they do, the service they provide and the protection they provide to the community they swear to protect.

Some wildfires erupted west of Amarillo last night. The wind was merciless, relentless and unforgiving. The people who ran straight toward the potential danger kicked into high-gear action immediately.

Amarillo and Potter County fire crews were able to contain the blazes in fairly quick fashion.

It occurs to me that these folks are pretty damn good at this firefighting stuff. No, they’re real good at it.

We toss the “hero” term around a bit too loosely. We hang the label on athletes. We’ve actually called actors over many years “heroes” because they portray them on film or TV. I prefer the term “role model” to describe athletes’ public standing. I’ll leave that discussion at that.

As for actual heroes, they work for us, for you and me. They are public servants. Some of them don’t even get paid for their heroism. They are the volunteer firefighters who often serve in the rural communities surrounding Amarillo. They have day jobs but choose to respond when the fire alarm goes off — at which time they rush into harm’s way.

They do this to protect us. They shield us from the dangers that fire presents. These days that danger is heightened by the dual factors of high wind and lack of moisture. I cannot even remember the last time it rained in our community.

One more time — and it won’t be the final time — I want to extend a public thank you to the men and women who answer the call on our behalf. You are heroes. We all appreciate you.

Trump protests too much

Does it make sense to you that someone who denies wrongdoing should keep firing broadsides at those who are investigating allegations of misbehavior? Donald Trump is at virtual war with Robert Mueller.

Trump is the president of the United States. Mueller is a special counsel assigned to look into whether the president did something wrong.

The president denies in one breath that he did anything wrong. In the next breath he rakes Mueller over the coals, calling his probe a “witch hunt” and assorted other pejoratives.

Mueller is examining the president on several fronts. He was selected by the Department of Justice to look into allegations that Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russians who interfered in our 2016 presidential election. He is trying to determine whether there is any obstruction of justice efforts aimed at blocking the investigation. Mueller also is now looking at the Trump Organization’s business dealings with Russian interests.

Trump is howling. He is bellowing. He is tweeting his rage at Mueller.

Why is the president so angry? Why is he so enraged that Mueller — a former FBI director and by most people’s estimation a stand-up, first-class, meticulous lawyer — is doing the job he was charged to do?

Mueller is keeping his mouth shut. He is not talking publicly about his investigation. He is acting professionally. He has assigned his team of legal eagles to pore over the mountains of data they have collected.

Trump is doing quite the opposite. He is yapping, yammering and yowling daily — if not damn near hourly — via Twitter about Mueller’s probe. Is that a logical response of someone who is in the clear? I don’t believe it is.

It would seem more appropriate for the president to do two things: Keep his trap shut and then give the special counsel every bit of information he seeks.

Instead, every Trump tweet or public statement about Mueller only heightens the suspicion that he well might have something to hide. He might say he is innocent of wrongdoing. The president’s actions, though, suggest something quite different.

Happy Trails, Part 84

My faith in our first responders remains strong.

They answered the call last night and fought some wildfires just west of Amarillo. The fire, fueled by howling wind and tinder-dry fuel, for a time threatened portions of the vast medical center way out yonder.

I awoke this morning and learned that the fires had been contained; no loss of life or even any injury. The wind is still brisk and the TV forecasters are telling us they’ll subside sometime this afternoon or evening.

It cannot settle down quickly enough.

Thank you, firefighters. You are heroes in every sense of the word.


There. That all said — with great sincerity and respect — I want to share a nasty “fantasy” I’m feeling.

The other evening, with the wind screaming just outside our RV, I had this nightmare scenario. We’re about a quarter-mile south of a high-speed freight rail line. Trains roar past us day and night. The TV weathermen and women tell us about the sparks generated by trains and the potential for starting fires.

The nightmare goes like this: We’re lying in bed. Someone knocks on our fifth wheel door. We open it. The park hosts tell us we have 10 minutes to vacate our spot and get as far away from an approaching fire that has just ignited along the rail line to our north.

Don’t laugh! Please!

I am now thinking it might be appropriate for my wife and me to come up with a 10-minute evacuation drill in case someone knocks on the door in the middle of the night.

Either that or we’ll pack it all up on our own time — and head to the next place.

The latter event is far more likely to occur than the first one.

How can we trust Trump’s word?

Ty Cobb, one of Donald Trump’s lawyers, has put it on the record: The president is not considering, nor has he discussed, firing special counsel Robert Mueller.

There you have it. We’re supposed to take Cobb’s word for it. We’re supposed to presume that the president’s word is as good as gold. He won’t act. He won’t do something incredibly stupid, which would be to fire Mueller before he has completed his probe into Russian meddling, alleged collusion with the Trump campaign and potential obstruction of justice by the president or his team members.

Pardon my skepticism. I don’t trust anything, not a single word, that comes from (a) the president, (b) any member of his inner circle or (c) anyone with any connection with this individual.

What the president says today is subject to immediate change tomorrow — if not later in the same day.

Reuters reports: “In response to media speculation and related questions being posed to the administration, the White House yet again confirms that the President is not considering or discussing the firing of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller,” said Cobb.

Sure thing.