Amarillo to get new link to Austin

Amarillo is being hooked up more tightly to Austin, via a new air carrier that will provide direct non-stop daily service between the cities in September.

Fascinating, yes? I couldn’t help but think of a former state legislator who once half-joked about splitting the Texas Panhandle from the rest of the state when he first took office in 1991.

State Rep. David Swinford once pitched a notion out loud that the Panhandle was so far removed from the state capital that it should become a separate state. I asked the Dumas Republican lawmaker about that idea when I first arrived in Amarillo in 1995 and he acknowledged that he was semi-serious about it.

The idea never got sufficient traction.

So, here we are, more than two decades later and we get news that Via Airlines is going to begin direct air service between Amarillo and Austin this fall. The in-state air carrier plans one flight out of AMA and one flight back each day, with the hope of expanding service if traffic merits it. Via currently operates a fleet of 50-passenger regional jets.

Via officials along with Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport officials say there’s sufficient interest in getting from the Panhandle to Austin to merit this new service. I guess travelers don’t like flying first to Dallas Love Field via Southwest Airlines, or to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport via American Airlines before connecting to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

We’ll see how this goes. It does bode well for the future of the Panhandle and the growing reliance the region has on its air service, which happens to be quite good. AMA already provides direct service to Las Vegas, Phoenix, Denver, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston. Now we can add Austin to the list of business and leisure travel destinations.

I also am quite sure that former Rep. Swinford no longer wants to split the Panhandle from the rest of the state.

It’s all right, really, to say you made a mistake

Donald J. Trump’s famous resistance to saying he’s sorry for anything has come into play once again.

The president signed an executive order that rescinds his policy that allows the separation of young children from their parents at the border. It was part of his “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration.

He had said repeatedly that he couldn’t do it. He said Congress was the only authority that could change the policy. He blamed Democrats for enacting a law — that doesn’t exist!

But … today he walked all of that back. The executive order was done by one man: the president.

So, why doesn’t he just acknowledge he was mistaken? Why doesn’t he tell us that he had the authority all along?

He doesn’t want to look “weak.” He doesn’t want to give anyone any ammo to shoot at him — politically, of course.

But you know what? His refusal to acknowledge the obvious only gives his foes even more grist to use against him.

Donald Trump wants to be seen as a strong leader. However, the president’s insistence on looking strong only weakens him.

Go figure.

What has happened to the GOP?

The Party of Abraham Lincoln has become …

The Party of Donald J. Trump. The “Party of Child Abuse.” The Party of Demonization. The Party of Insult and Innuendo.

So it appears as longtime Republicans of stellar standing are calling it quits on their party.

Perhaps the most notable recent defection came this week as Steve Schmidt, Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign adviser and GOP “strategist” renounced his party and said he intends to start voting for Democrats. He calls the Republican Party “vile” and said it no longer represents the high and noble ideals that produced its founding in the mid-19th century, which was to end slavery.

There have been other well-known Republicans. Former U.S. Rep. — and current TV talk show host — Joe Scarborough is one; Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist George Will is another.

Geraldo Rivera, whose own Republican credentials at best are a bit suspect, told his fellow Fox News colleagues that the GOP has become the “party of child abuse.”

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, the Tennessee Republican who’s leaving the Senate at the end of the year, referred to the “cult” that is developing within the GOP. Other Republican officeholders and office seekers are reluctant to cross the president for fear of being skewered by him.

U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina criticized Trump, who then endorsed his GOP primary opponent. What happened? The opponent won and Sanford will be out of office at the end of the year, if not sooner.

Yes, it’s fair to ask: What in the world has happened to the Grand Old Party, which once was known as a great political party?

It’s been co-opted by a guy who before he ran for president had no political experience. He had no public service experience. He still has virtually no knowledge of how government works or how it requires teamwork that involves players from both sides of the aisle.

Heaven help us.

Shameful sign removed … for real?

Media are reporting something good coming out of something hideous.

Fox News says that ghastly sign that invited “liberals” to “please continue on I-40 until you have left our great state of Texas” has been taken down.

I don’t live in the Texas Panhandle these days, so I’m left to take the media outlet at its word, that the sign is gone. It had been erected in Vega, Texas, just a bit west of Amarillo.

I’m wondering now about the why and by whom. Why did the person who put the sign up decide to remove it? I’ll hold out some glimmer of hope that whoever is responsible for it got shamed into taking it down.

The billboard that contained the sign is owned by Randy Burkett, a former Amarillo City Council member. He served a single term from 2015 to 2017, then decided he wouldn’t seek a second term.

Good deal, yes? Given his ownership of this billboard, I’d say “yes, definitely.”

Such a closed-minded point of view on a well-traveled public interstate highway sends a chilling message to those passing through. Their unmistakeable takeaway is that people with a “liberal” or “progressive” world view are not welcome here.

What the hell kind of message is that to send in a nation that is supposed to welcome all kinds of thought and political expression?

I do hope the message is gone. I also hope it stays gone.

As for who put the sign up and then took it down, may this individual — whoever he or she is — decides to exercise at least a modicum of discretion when expressing a political point of view.

Only Congress can fix it? How did POTUS do it?

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen made it clear: Only Congress can fix the situation regarding the policy that enabled Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to separate children from their parents at the border.

The president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, said the same thing.

So did the White House press office.

What, then, happened today? The president signed an executive order doing the very thing he and his aides could be done only by congressional fiat.

Was the president lying? Did he tell the nation’s DHS secretary to lie? Did the secretary lie on her own, all by herself?

Trump ends family separation … now what?

Donald J. Trump today heeded the din of dissent across the nation over a policy that separated young children from their parents at the nation’s southern border.

The president’s executive order ends the policy in a 180-degree reversal. Families won’t be separated. Children won’t be delivered to camps to await some disposition of their fate while the government decides what to do about their parents’ illegal entry into the United States.

I am glad to see the president react in this manner. His rhetoric today, though, continues to sound defiant. He lays blame for this situation on his predecessors in the Oval Office.

So, the question remains: What happens now?

Republicans in Congress joined their Democratic colleagues in calling for an end to this inhumane policy. I am heartened to hear the bipartisan outrage, just as I am heartened to witness Trump backing down from his previous statements.

I am left to wonder, too, why he would say today that he “didn’t like the sight” of families being separated. When did that “sight” upset him? Did it just happen? Or was he upset all along? If it’s the latter, then why continue to implement such a policy?

Well, he acted today as he should have done before this crisis erupted. Now it’s time to find a comprehensive solution to the nation’s immigration policy.

Get busy, Mr. President and members of Congress.

The message? We don’t need your money!

I’m trying to put myself inside the skull of my friends at the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce or the Amarillo Convention and Visitors Council.

They no doubt know about that moronic sign west of Amarillo, the one that tells liberals to keep on going.

Don’t bother stopping in Amarillo, or in Vega (where the sign is planted) or in Wildorado, Adrian or in any of the cities and towns along the length of Interstate 40 that crosses the Texas Panhandle.

While you’re at it, the sign implies, don’t bother spending any of your money here if you’re one of them damn liberal thinkers. Don’t even think about eating here. Or booking a night or two of lodging here. Or buying groceries.

Just keep on going.

That’s what the sign suggests y’all just do. Pronto, man!

The sign is the product, apparently, of a former Amarillo City Council member who by all rights should know better than to dissuade people from spending their money in the Panhandle.

But … Randy Burkett is so damn ideologically rigid — or so it appears — that he he has tossed the needs of the greater community into the crapper just so he can demonstrate a silly penchant for political grandstanding.

Nice going, Mr. Burkett. This is how you show your “love” for the Texas Panhandle and the “great state of Texas”?

That’s the spirit … of a closed mind

Oh, this is such a great country. It enables anyone to speak for what passes as their “mind,” no matter how moronic, idiotic or hateful his message might be.

This sign has gone viral throughout the vast social media network. It sits along Interstate 40 near Vega, Texas, a nice town just west of Amarillo. I used to live in Amarillo. This sign has given me my first pangs of relief that I no longer live in a community where this kind of closed-minded thinking is so damn pervasive.

Randy Burkett owns the sign. He runs an outdoor advertising company. He served for two years on the Amarillo City Council. Then, in 2017, he decided against running for a second term. I am one voter who is glad he took a hike and removed himself from elected public office; my hope is that he never returns to the elected public arena — ever again!

There once was a time when this country represented inclusiveness. It welcomed all sorts of thoughts, beliefs, points of view. Sadly, the message displayed on this billboard offers a grim reminder of a thought that used to be expressed openly throughout the Texas Panhandle.

Do you recall the John Birch Society, one of the forebears of what’s been referred to these days as the “alt-right”? Birchers were — and still are — supreme isolationists. They want the United States to pull out of the United Nations. They were the godfathers (and godmothers) of the “America First” movement now espoused by the likes of Donald John “Stable Genius” Trump Sr. They wanted no part of any internationalism in our country. They used to plant signs in Amarillo that demanded that we “Get U.S. out of the United Nations.”

Now we see this kind of message springing up?

It is shameful in the extreme to telegraph this kind of closed-mindedness to the thousands of travelers who blow through the Texas Panhandle daily along I-40.

Yes, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants individuals such as Randy Burkett the right to spew this message. It also gives folks such as me the same right to call it what it is.

Trash.

GOP drumbeat is getting louder

Well, shut my mouth and call me speechless.

U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, the Clarendon (Texas) Republican, has weighed in with a stout statement of criticism of Donald J. Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration.

Here is what Thornberry said today in a statement released by his office:

“Our immigration system is in need of a major overhaul, but there is no excuse for separating children from their parents. We should begin with heightened border security and interior enforcement, not the division of families. The House is currently considering legislation to secure our borders in the most humane way possible and to address the status of DACA recipients currently in our country. We also need to reform our legal immigration system so that decisions are timely, contributing to the health and well-being of country.”

Can you believe it? Neither can I. But he said it. Welcome aboard the indignation band wagon, Rep. Thornberry.

“There is no excuse for separating children from their parents,” Thornberry said.

He is right. No excuse. None. Zero.

Yet the president of the United States keeps doubling and tripling down on this hideous policy, all the while blaming congressional Democrats for enacting a bill that they never enacted.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican, has promised to introduce legislation that keeps families united. He has been joined by the state’s senior U.S. senator, John Cornyn, another Republican lawmaker. U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan has declared his intention to work toward ending this policy.

Will the president listen to these individuals? Will he do what he needs to do and stop this hideous treatment of children who have been caught up in the immigration sausage grinder?

He will if he has a speck of decency in his soul. Many of us, though, wonder if he does.

Happy Trails, Part 110: Put away … already!

I am married to Wonder Woman.

No, she doesn’t spin around and morph into a super heroine dressed in some goofy red-white-and-blue costume.

But … she’s a wonder nevertheless.

This woman with whom I have shared my life for 47 years has managed to find places to put possessions we had stuffed into a 2,150-square-foot house in Amarillo into a “luxury apartment” that is just a little more than half that size in Fairview.

Now, is every single thing precisely where we intend to keep it? Probably not. We’re likely to discard some of these possessions. However, as you look through our new digs you get the sense that it’s actually assembled in a livable fashion.

I credit Wonder Woman for this. She is the master of packing and unpacking. She is systematic in her approach. She takes time to survey the situation, then attacks it with gusto.

Wonder Woman is reluctant to take too much credit for this skill she exhibits. She credits it to the number of times she moved as a much younger person. She learned this packing-unpacking skill at a young age, she’ll tell you. So it becomes sort of second nature for her.

Me? I’m not wired that way. Although I do consider myself to be more adaptable than I thought I might have been. Our move from Oregon to Texas in 1984, when we both were in our 30s, required me to activate that adaptability wiring. It worked. I was able to acclimate myself nicely to life along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Then again, I left the proverbial “heavy lifting” to Wonder Woman, who arrived  in Beaumont a few months after I landed there. She got there at the same time the mover arrived with our possessions. And, yes, she was able to store our worldly goods into an apartment where we lived for a time until we decided to purchase a home.

We repeated this process nearly 11 years later when we moved from Beaumont to Amarillo. Same story, a new verse. Wonder Woman did what she knows how to do.

We’re retired these days. You know that already about us. Her skill at unpacking, though, remains unrivaled.

I am grateful beyond measure. I am one lucky fellow.