Merrick Garland to preside over Trump appeal? Oh, the irony

The irony here is just too obvious and too rich to ignore.

Donald Trump’s legal team is going to appeal a federal judge’s ruling that the president must obey congressional demands to turn over his financial records.

And just who is going to preside over the federal appeals court that will consider this case? None other than Judge Merrick Garland, the man who by all rights should be sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court instead of serving as chief of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

This is quite fascinating.

President Barack Obama nominated Garland to the high court after the sudden and shocking death of Justice Antonin Scalia in early 2016. Justice Scalia had been dead mere hours when U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared that President Obama would not get to fill the SCOTUS seat. Obama was in the final full year of his presidency and McConnell insisted that the next president be allowed to perform that constitutional duty.

In truth, Merrick Garland was a superb choice. He should have been given a hearing. He should have been confirmed by the Senate. He wasn’t because of McConnell’s partisan grandstanding.

Now the judge gets to preside over an appellate case filed by Donald Trump.

My hunch is this: Judge Garland is going to demonstrate for the entire world his impartiality, his legal judgment, his expertise and knowledge of the U.S. Constitution . . . and will show us precisely why he should be sitting on the United States Supreme Court.

POTUS’s ‘goading’ continues at full throttle

At the risk of sounding as if I’m repeating myself: Donald Trump is really starting to pi** me off.

As in royally, man!

I happen to subscribe to the Speaker Nancy Pelosi doctrine of presidential impeachment. She doesn’t want to impeach the president. She knows how divisive such an act would be. She also can count votes.

The speaker likely has the votes in the House to actually approve articles of impeachment. The Senate, though, is far more problematic. Why? Because it is full of Republican cowards who are afraid to stand up to a president who is usurping their constitutional authority to investigate the executive branch of government.

And this is where my anger really boils at Donald Trump.

He has “instructed” a former White House counsel to skip a House committee hearing. The ex-counsel, Don McGahn — the guy who said Trump ordered him to fire special counsel Robert Mueller in an effort to obstruct the probe in the “Russia thing” — has agreed with the president. He won’t show up.

Therefore, we have another demonstration of presidential executive overreach.

The court system has declared that Trump must turn over his financial records to Congress; the president will defy that order, too.

Trump has instructed his entire White House staff to ignore congressional subpoenas, angering the legislative inquisitors even more.

Thus, we now have a situation that Pelosi described not long ago. Donald Trump is “goading” the House to impeach him knowing that he would survive a Senate trial that is still run by Republicans. Indeed, only one GOP House member has declared that Trump has committed offenses worthy of impeachment. The Senate GOP caucus? Crickets.

I get the argument that some are pushing that House Democrats have a “constitutional duty” to seek impeachment if the president continues to flout the law. I also understand the political consequences of the House impeaching and the Senate letting the president wriggle off the hook.

This guy, Donald Trump, is giving me a serious case of heartburn. No amount of Pepto is going to cure it.

Happy Trails, Part 159: RV’ing is fun, but not permanently

It’s time for me to make an admission.

Owning and operating a recreational vehicle has its limits on the amount of joy I get. It’s not that I dislike any aspect of traveling in a 28-foot fifth wheel, pulling it behind our beastly Dodge pickup. It’s that we actually can spend too much time in it before we get, oh, ready to park it and get back into the house we call home in Princeton, Texas.

I am prone to suffer from a bit of cabin fever.

We just returned from a four-day jaunt back to the Texas Panhandle. We attended a marvelous reunion with dear friends in Hereford. Then we came home.

Let me stipulate once again: We enjoy traveling in our RV. We enjoy taking it around the country. We’ve hauled to both the east and west coasts; to the Great Lakes region; along the Gulf Coast; all over Texas.

Each of those adventures is highlighted by a return home. We like living in a dwelling that is planted firmly on good ol’ Earth.

We did live in our RV for a time while we were preparing to sell our house in Amarillo in advance of our move to the Metroplex. We emptied in late 2017, put our belongings in storage. We brought in a paint crew to paint the entire interior of the house. We replaced the ceiling fans and repaired some other fixtures.

All the while we were living in our RV. We were parked at an RV park in Amarillo. We were able to travel to hither and yon. We would come back to the RV park. We would catch our breath and then head out again.

But it isn’t like many of our friends and acquaintances have done. I know some folks who have taken off in their RVs and spent years living in them.

I’ll be honest. That ain’t my bag. 

My wife and I have embarked on a marvelous journey into retirement. It involves our RV. We love traveling in it.

Living in it, though, is another matter.

Still, the journey will continue for as long as we are able to keep enjoying it.

Give POTUS the dickens on climate change, Your Highness

Climate change is happening. It isn’t a hoax. It isn’t a made-up figment of billions of Earthlings’ imagination. Honest. It’s happening right now in real time.

One of the world’s pre-eminent climate-change activists happens to be the United Kingdom’s monarch-in-waiting, Prince Charles.

Prince Charles is going to play host soon to Donald Trump, president of the United States and one of the world’s pre-eminent climate-change deniers.

Thus, the visit is filled with controversy, and Trump hasn’t even arrived yet.

Trump has said climate-change is a hoax drummed up by China, which he alleges is trying to undermine the U.S. fossil fuel industry. Of course, as he does with virtually every allegation he makes, the president doesn’t offer a shred of evidence to buttress whatever he says.

Prince Charles agreed to meet with the president when he makes his initial state visit to the U.K. These visits usually involve a meeting with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Any meeting with her son, the heir to the throne, isn’t required of visiting heads of state.

But it’s good that Trump will meet with the prince.

It also is my fondest hope that Prince Charles raises the issue of climate change with Donald Trump. Oh, I wish I could be the proverbial fly in whatever room where such a meeting would occur . . . although I doubt there will be a fly anywhere near the two men, if you get what I mean.

There’s also the situation involving the possible meeting between Trump and Sadiq Khan, the Muslim mayor of London. Trump has spoken ill of Muslims, saying how they “hate America”; he has tried to enact travel bans of Muslims to the United States. Along the way, he has managed to offend Muslim worshipers, such as Mayor Khan.

The issue at hand, though, is whether the planet’s climate is changing and what the world’s leading industrialized nations are doing to minimize the damage being done to our ecosystem. The Brits are being proactive, responding to the rhetoric espoused by the Duke of Windsor and other environmental activists. Americans, though, are hamstrung by the president’s rescinding of environmental regulations aimed at curbing carbon emissions, a serious cause of Earth’s annual warming.

Give the president the dickens on climate change, Your Highness.

I am one American who is on your side. I am quite sure I’m not alone.

FW police chief goes from hero to zero … just like that!

Well, as the saying goes: No good deed goes unpunished.

OK, it’s a stretch, perhaps. But on the day that the media were reporting on the miracle rescue of an 8-year-old girl from someone who snatched her from her mother’s arms, Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald — whose department pulled off the rescue — was fired by City Manager David Cooke.

The chief of police touted the department’s community policing policy as helping arrest the suspect.

Cooke said he needed a “change in leadership” at the Fort Worth Police Department. He reportedly canned Fitzgerald without warning and elevated the deputy chief into the acting chief’s role.

My noggin is spinning, man!

There reportedly had been some tension between the chief and the police union. The chief also reportedly had some harsh words with other colleagues and other city senior staff. Fitzgerald also had been in the running to become chief of the Baltimore, Md., Police Department, but recently bowed out of that effort.

The now-former chief of police says he intends to spend time with his family and consult with a lawyer to consider his next move.

This is, shall we say, kinda weird.

Community policing to the rescue!

No war with Iran!

Donald John Trump continues to send astonishingly conflicting messages.

Back when he was running for president of the United States, Trump said he opposed sending U.S. troops into “useless” wars. He cited the Iraq War as Example No. 1 of a war that wasn’t worth the fight. I happen to agree with him.

Now here he is, two-plus years into his term and the president is threatening to go to war with Iran. What the hell?

Why is that? Iranian-backed Yemeni forces have been launching rocket attacks against Saudi shipping. They are threatening the flow of oil out of the region. Trump says Iran’s continuing provocation could prompt a devastating response from this country.

We have sent the USS Abraham Lincoln battle group into the Persian Gulf. We’re flexing our muscles. We’re telling the Iranians: Don’t mess up, here, or else you’re going to pay too drastic a price.

Trump made the correct call to end our involvement in these wars with no end. Now, though, he has surrounded himself with a cabal of uber-hawks — led by national security adviser John Bolton — who seem hell bent on going to war with the intention of overthrowing the ayatollahs who run the Islamic Republic of Iran.

I am not prone to insist that Trump rely on his own instincts, but on this matter, he should do exactly that.

However, Trump also says Iran shouldn’t have nuclear weapons. But wait! We had that treaty that aimed to end Iran’s nuclear development; then the president pulled us out. But . . . there are reports from other nations still involved in the agreement that suggest that Iran is actually complying with the conditions set forth by then-President Obama and then-Secretary of State John Kerry.

I’m baffled. Confused. Bumfuzzled.

Listen to that wiser angel whispering in your ear, Mr. President.

Community policing to the rescue!

Do you doubt the effectiveness of a law enforcement agency building relationships with the community its officers swear to “serve and protect”?

Check out the story that broke today in Fort Worth.

An 8-year-old girl was snatched from her mother’s arms. The abductor fled with the girl to a motel in the city. A neighbor’s door-bell camera managed to capture part of the incident. The neighbor phoned police while the mother was screaming in the street for her little girl. The police arrived and with the help of the neighbor and others in the area, they managed to locate the fellow who grabbed the girl; they arrested him and he now is in custody.

I watched the report of the story this morning on the news and was so pleased to hear the Fort Worth chief of police heap praise on the citizens who stepped up to assist the cops in the finding the suspect in the abduction.

Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald spoke also of the community policing effort his department has employed to help the police department build effective relationships with neighborhoods throughout the diverse, sprawling and rapidly growing city.

The chief made certain this morning to praise the efforts of the residents who came to the little girl’s rescue.

I have lived in communities that have placed great emphasis on community policing. Amarillo is one of them.

The late Chief Jerry Neal helped push the concept forward during his lengthy tenure as Amarillo’s top cop. Community policing withered away during the time Robert Taylor served as chief. Then-interim city manager Terry Childers made arguably his only sound hiring decision when he brought Deputy Plano Police Chief Ed Drain to serve as “interim” chief of the Amarillo PD; Drain later was promoted to permanent chief and has restored community policing’s place near the top of his policy agenda.

Police policy is among the many things about which I know very little. However, I know a sound policing police policy when I see it. Community policing works.

The little girl who had the scare of her life — not to mention her desperate mother — are testimonies to the effectiveness of community policing.

Big-time turnover on tap for Amarillo school board

Let’s see how this works out, but it looks to my eye as though the Amarillo Independent School District board is set for a potentially major shakeup.

The personnel lineup on the board is going to change this week.

Scott Flow didn’t seek re-election. Jim Austin and John Betancourt did seek new terms, but they lost in the election early this month. That means three incumbents on the seven-member board aren’t taking the oath for their new terms.

Then there’s this: There could be an AISD resignation coming up, which means four incumbents are out of the picture.

Why is this a big deal? Well, the board has been under the gun lately. Board members have been excoriated over the way they handled the resignation of a popular Amarillo High girls volleyball coach, who resigned after a single season at the helm of one of Texas’s top athletic programs.

It looks to me as though the school system is suffering from a possible leadership controversy. I won’t call it a crisis just yet, but it’s looking dicey at AISD.

The former coach quit while citing pressure from a parent who hassled over playing time decisions. The board didn’t back the coach. Neither did the administration. The board has kept its collective mouth shut, citing “personnel matter” as its reason. Meanwhile, the chatter is growing around the district.

The school system’s governing entity has not helped itself, or the system it governs.

An AISD constituent has filed a complaint with the Texas Education Agency — naming the offending parent as a member of the AISD board! Ohh, not good . . . you know? The whispering and tittering continues. Still, nothing from the board.

A “coalition” of parents who are demanding AISD transparency is now getting into the picture.

At minimum starting this week, the AISD board will have a significant minority of new faces and possibly clearer voices.

Or . . . there might be a new majority in the making.

I’m looking forward to seeing how all this plays out.

Infrastructure is too big to ignore

Of all the policy pronouncements that Donald Trump has made since becoming a politician, two of them ring true to me.

Yeah, I know. It’s just two. One of them involves judicial sentencing reform. The president is pitching the idea of getting rid of federal sentencing standards that too often, he says, send people into the federal prison for longer terms than they deserve.

However, I want to discuss briefly the other notion. Infrastructure repair, rehab, rebuilding, renovation.

He wants to spend a lot of money. What’s the cost? A trillion bucks? Two trillion? More than that?

The details of how much money it will cost or how the government will find the money to spend remain murky. We need to repair our bridges, our highways and our airports. Those are the three elements of our national infrastructure the president has mentioned specifically.

Yes, he is dealing with an extremely hostile Congress. The hostility runs red hot in the House of Representatives, which now is being run by Democrats. If you believe the media, you presume I suppose that every one of the 235 House Democrats detest Donald Trump deeply. They don’t want to do anything to advance a legislative agenda item. At one level, I cannot blame them, given the manner in which he “governs,” which is to say he doesn’t have a clue.

On another level, though, the nation needs to build things again. It needs to re-charge its energy level to improve the quality of our ground and air transportation.

I see studies almost weekly that tell us about crumbling bridges. In Texas, where I live, we are passionately in love with our motor vehicles. We need safe highways and bridges over which to drive from point to point.

The Texas Department of Transportation is hard at work rebuilding and renovating bridges and highways throughout our state.

However, TxDOT funds only go so far. We are part of the United States of America. Every state, even one as big and rich as Texas, ought to be able to lean on the federal government for funds to renovate part of the national infrastructure.

The president and congressional Democrats are supposed to meet this week to talk over the issue of how to come up with the money they might need to rebuild this essential element of life in our country. Don’t ask me for a clue. I have none.

I do know that life in 21st-century America requires enabling its citizens to get from point to point safely and without worrying whether the street or the bridge on which they are traveling won’t collapse under the weight of their vehicle. Airport service needs to be maintained at the highest level possible; currently, it isn’t.

How do we get there? From where I come from, I believe it’s called deploying “good government.”

Time of My Life, Part 33: Hoping it would hit the fan

My career as a print journalist allowed me to do many remarkable things, and to see many remarkable places.

Two of those career elements came together a decade ago. I now will explain.

About two or three weeks after I reported for work at the Amarillo Globe-News, my boss — publisher Garet von Netzer — informed me that someone from the Rotary Club of Amarillo would call me and invite me to join that Rotary club. “We need to have someone in that club,” von Netzer said. Thus, I was slated to join the Rotary Club of Amarillo. When Garet von Netzer said I would join, well, I had no choice.

I got the invitation from the late Basil Walker. I joined and then settled into my membership. I made a lot of new friends. More than that, though, I developed many valuable sources for potential issues I might cover as editorial page editor of the Globe-News.

Some years later, in 2008, I applied for — and received — an appointment to lead a team of young professionals to Israel as part of Rotary International’s Group Study Exchange.

That journey illustrated how my career allowed me to travel abroad. I was able to travel twice to Southeast Asia; I traveled three times to southeastern Europe; as president of the Rotary club, I was allowed to travel to Denmark and Sweden to attend Rotary International’s annual convention in 2006.

Then came this Israel adventure.

I was torn while training with my team members for this event. In late 2008 and early 2009, violence erupted in Gaza. Hamas terrorists lobbed rockets on Israeli communities. The Israelis responded with brute force, inflicting considerable damage at quite a cost in human life.

If the Israeli counteroffensive were to continue, our trip might be canceled. My Rotary mentor — with whom I was working to prepare for the trip –told me that RI was working closely with the State Department monitoring the situation in early 2009.

Israel’s potent armed forces took control. They put down the Hamas uprising. Order — if not peace — eventually was restored.

Our trip commenced in May 2009. We would spend four weeks in Israel. We stood on the doorstep of the Gaza Strip. We looked down onto the valley below the Golan Heights. We stood below a fortified fence along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, where another terror outfit, Hezbollah, was capable of doing damage.

For the entire four weeks, I harbored a wish; it wasn’t exactly a secret, although I don’t recall sharing it with our Israeli hosts. I wanted all hell to break loose while we were there.

No, I did not want to put our team in danger. I would have hoped we could get them on the next plane out and headed for home.

However, the reporter in me wanted to be able to cover events unfolding in real time.

It didn’t happen. Our journey was spectacular, even in the absence of violence and mayhem.

Don’t misunderstand me on this. I have never, ever harbored an instant of regret over the peace and tranquility we enjoyed while traveling through one of the world’s most thrilling nations.

If it had gone the other way, though . . . I was ready.