Waiting to hear from the former special counsel

I know what I will be doing on the 17th of July.

I will be watching TV as former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III talks to two key congressional committees about that Russia investigation he conducted for 22 months.

Yep. The special counsel, who vowed to be finished talking publicly about it, is going to speak in public, in the open and on the record to the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees.

For those of us with a keen interest in what Mueller concluded, this will be — to borrow a phrase — a “must-see TV” event.

The committees had to subpoena Mueller to talk to them. Mueller agreed. Now, the question will center on how much Mueller will divulge that he hasn’t already done in his 448-page report, which he filed some month ago.

Mueller appeared just recently a few weeks back to declare that he didn’t “exonerate” Donald Trump of obstructing justice, and that he had found reason to clear the president, he “would have said so.” Trump, of course, spun that declaration into something unrecognizable, saying he had been cleared of “collusion” and “obstruction of justice.”

Well, now we will get to hear more from Mueller, the former FBI director, a career prosecutor, a meticulous legal eagle and a man of impeccable integrity. That won’t dissuade, of course, Republican committee pipsqueaks from seeking to discredit this dedicated public servant.

Mueller probably is unhappy about getting the subpoena. However, he knows that he must adhere to it, unlike the president of the United States, who has blocked aides and senior advisers from speaking to congressional inquisitors.

I will look forward to what this man has to say.

No problem with appointing school trustees

I am hearing a bit of grumbling from up yonder in my former digs in the Texas Panhandle about whether the Amarillo Independent School District should appoint two school trustees.

The school board has two vacancies to fill. Trustees are likely to select two individuals to fill the seats formerly occupied by John Ben Blanchard and Renee McCown. The other option is to conduct a special election to fill those seats.

The AISD board comprises seven members. Right now it’s got just five. My feeling is that the school board is quite capable of interviewing/vetting applicants for the posts, then swear them in and allow them to serve until the next scheduled election.

It falls heavily on the board to find applicants who can serve the community well. So why not let the board of trustees — who’ve already been elected by their constituents — perform that responsibility?

They are aware of the complaints, I am sure. Some of the gripes concern the lack of Hispanic representation on the current board of trustees. That’s a critical element, given AISD’s heavy Hispanic student population among its 33,000 public school students.

I am absolutely convinced the school board can lobby throughout the community for qualified leaders from any of the district’s increasingly diverse ethnic population base.

Is it better to appoint or to elect board members? Well, elections are a more costly proposition than the appointive process. They also require some time for candidates to campaign for the office they are seeking, which would keep the seats vacant for what arguably is longer than is necessary.

So, study the applicants. Question them thoroughly.

Indeed, there’s no legal requirement that trustees these people privately. In the interest of full transparency, I think it’s absolutely reasonable to visit with them in public. Give constituents — the folks who pay the bills with their property taxes — the chance to hear these applicants’ answers to trustees’ questions.

The appointment process can be done with full public awareness and buy-in.

Have at it, Amarillo ISD trustees … and good luck.

‘She’s not my type’?

OK, Mr. President, here is what I heard you say in response to the allegation from writer E. Jean Carroll that you attacked her some years ago.

She says you raped her. You contend it didn’t happen.

Then you said, “She’s not my type.”

Is that some sort of an admission, Mr. President, that if E. Jean Carroll was your “type” that you might have, oh, sought to have your way with her? I mean, you admitted to such boorish behavior in that “Access Hollywood” interview you did in 2005 with Billy Bush, correct? That was you on the recording who said you could grab women by their “pu***,” because you’re such a “celebrity.” Wasn’t it?

Of course, no one can corroborate what she accused you of doing, although a couple of individuals she allegedly told at the time have confirmed that she did tell them “in the moment” that you did what she alleged. Oh, and your statement about having never “met” her has been more or less debunked by that picture of the two of you yukking it up; I believe your first wife Ivana is present in the picture, too. Hey, maybe we ought to ask her. Don’t you think?

This “not my type” denial, Mr. President, is your typically crass response to these serious allegations.

It just goes to show — at least it does to me — what a sickening individual you are.

Good riddance to this legislative … blowhard

I want to be among those who say so long, farewell and good riddance to a Texas legislative blowhard.

State Rep. Jonathan Strickland, a onetime member of the Texas Freedom Caucus, has announced he won’t seek re-election in 2020.

The Republican from Bedford distinguished himself mainly through his fervent debates on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives. He got little legislation enacted into law.

Although he did finally score something of a win when the Legislature approved — and Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law — a measure that bans cities from using red-light cameras to help fight lawbreakers who run through street signals that order them to come to a complete and full stop.

Nice going, pal.

He quit the Freedom Caucus — a group aligned with the TEA party faction of the GOP — to concentrate on “grassroots issues.”

Well, now he is soon to be gone from the Legislature. He represents a district on the other end of the Metroplex. Still, his votes matter to all of us, given that state laws cover everyone who lives in Texas.

I will not miss this man’s fiery objection to normal rules of order in the Texas House. Indeed, he managed to anger many within his party — and damn near lost to a Democratic challenger in 2018.

So, maybe he read something into those election results and decided to pack it in.

See ya, dude.

Worst mistake? Hiring someone who follows the law? Wow!

That was an instructive interview that Donald J. Trump agreed to this past weekend … wouldn’t you say?

“Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd asked the president to reveal his major regret since taking office. Trump said it was a “personnel” matter, specifically his decision to appoint Jeff Sessions to be attorney general.

My jaw dropped.

Todd asked, “Why?” Trump said it was because Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation into alleged collusion with Russian operatives who attacked our electoral system.

Now, let’s ponder this for a moment.

Trump said his biggest mistake was hiring an AG who followed the law by recusing himself from a probe into an activity in which he — the AG — was involved. There was no way Sessions could investigate himself. So, he followed Justice Department policy by pulling away from the investigation, given that he was a key player in the campaign and in the transition to the presidency.

Sessions followed the law. Meanwhile, Trump appears to have no trouble with other Cabinet officials who were forced to resign because of ethical violations. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price quit because of travel violations; Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke resigned over similar accusations; same thing for Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt.

All that’s OK with Trump. Meanwhile, senior adviser Kellyanne Conway is accused of violating the Hatch Act by using her position as an executive branch official to launch partisan attacks against Trump opponents. That’s OK, too!

The president surrounds himself with scumbags and hangers-on and becomes enraged at a Cabinet officer who actually followed the law.

Good grief!

Jeff Sessions was a lousy choice to be AG for a lot of reasons. His decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, though, was not one of them. He merely revealed an understanding of the law and ethics that Donald Trump does not get. 

AISD board ought to include this applicant

This just in: A former Amarillo mayor has tossed her name into the mix to be considered for appointment to the Amarillo Independent School District Board of Trustees.

Yep, that would be Debra McCartt.

This news excites me. I happen to know McCartt. I also happen to believe she would lend some needed gravitas to the board. She also would bring some important governing experience to a board that has gone through its share of turmoil in recent months.

Here is what McCartt said today on Facebook: I’m excited to announce that I have officially thrown my name into the hat to fill one of the two open spots on the Amarillo Independent School District’s Board of Trustees. As you know, I’ve always had a passion for serving my community and have a long history of working in education, including eight years as a teacher and most recently a substitute. Educating our children is one of the most critical investments that we can make! I would love to be able to work to make our already excellent school district even better for our students. Stay tuned! 

I’m going to “stay tuned,” all right.

Two board seats need filling, as McCartt points out. One of them once was occupied by John Ben Blanchard, the other by Renee McCown. They both resigned shortly after the May election that produced several newcomers to the seven-member board.

Why is McCartt a fascinating candidate for appointment? It’s because she brings an enormous level of energy to a governing body such as this.

She served three terms as mayor of Amarillo. Prior to that she served a couple of terms as city commissioner. She earned her spurs on that governing board. Indeed, I was fond of suggesting that McCartt defied “the laws of physics” by seeming to be everywhere in the city all at once. She was a tremendous advocate and spokeswoman for the city.

I believe her ability to speak passionately for the city transfers to the Amarillo Independent School District.

I mentioned the tumult that enveloped the school district. It involved the resignation of a high school volleyball coach the implication that a school trustee had interfered with the coach’s performance of her job. McCown was the trustee allegedly involved in that mess. A complaint filed with the Texas Education Agency said that McCown had interfered on behalf of her daughters, who played for the Amarillo High School Sandies volleyball team. The coach quit and said in her resignation letter that the board and administration had failed to give her the backing she believed she needed.

To the best of my knowledge, McCartt does not have any children currently enrolled in the Amarillo public school system. I do not know if she has any grandchildren in the system.

I do know, though, that her time as a city commissioner and mayor did not include any accusations of meddling. She knows her limits as a member of a governing board and follows the rules to the letter.

There will be other good candidates, to be sure. I just feel the need to weigh in on this application in the hope that the AISD board gives Debra McCartt full consideration for an appointment.

I believe she would be a great addition to the school board.

Economic sanctions, yes; going to war, no!

Count me as one American who far prefers the measures that Donald Trump has taken to respond to provocation in the Persian Gulf region than what has been threatened over the course of the past several days.

The president has signed an executive order that imposes harsh economic punishment on the Islamic Republic of Iran. The alternative? That would be sending planes and missiles into Iran to strike military targets and quite probably provoke a military response from the mullahs who run the show in Tehran.

Option No. 1 is far better than Option No. 2.

What might the Iranian response be to the economic sanctions? I suppose they can close the Strait of Hormuz, where a lot of shipping hauls petroleum to points around the world. The good news for the United States is that this country is far less dependent on Middle East oil than it has been in the past.

However, I much prefer the economic sanction route than the military strike option that has been on the table. How much sense does it make to send young Americans into harm’s way because Iran is shooting down unmanned, unarmed surveillance aircraft? None, if you want my to know my humble view on it.

The sanctions imposed by the United States include freezing of assets owned by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and others within the Iranian government. As NPR reported, it is not entirely clear how the United States is able to obtain access to those assets, but Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin assures us that the assets are frozen; the ayatollah can’t get ’em.

Fine. Then perhaps now we can actually talk to the mullahs and try to calm the tension that has rattled the world, not to mention governments in Saudi Arabia and Israel, two of the mortal enemies Iran has targeted with threats.

As the late, great Winston Churchill once noted, it is far better to “jaw, jaw, jaw than to war, war, war.”

No such thing as ‘free college’

As long as I’ve declared my opposition to Bernie Sanders’s candidacy for president of the United States, I want to discuss briefly what I believe is the goofiest notion of the Vermont U.S. senator’s campaign platform.

He is promising to provide a “free college education” for any publicly funded college student in the United States of America.

I have tried to figure that one out. I cannot get there.

As near as I can tell, there is no such thing as “free college.” Such a pledge reminds me of the motel marquee that offers guests who stay there “free cable TV” and “free hot breakfast.” I always chuckle and think, “Who are they kidding? They’re hiding the costs in the room rate.”

Free college is a non-starter. It cannot possibly be enacted, given the costs that public colleges and universities have to cover. Absent student tuition and the attendant fees that go with a college education, these institutions cannot possibly provide the kind of education they are able to offer.

As for the “free” aspect, how do we fund these institutions? With more tax revenue!

I offer this rebuke of Sen. Sanders’s pie-in-the-sky promise as one who attended college with help from Uncle Sam, courtesy of the GI Bill offered to military veterans. That “pre-paid” college assistance allowed me to avoid acquiring the crippling student loans that so many students have to bear when they finish their schooling and head out into the working world.

This notion of offering “free college,” though, in my view is a serious head-scratcher.

Bernie still singing off the same song sheet

I just have to get this off my chest: Bernie Sanders annoys me.

The independent senator from Vermont is running for president once again. He sought the Democratic Party nomination in 2016, but fell short of the delegates he needed.

He’s back in the game this year, again as a Democrat.

Why the annoyance? He is singing off the same song sheet he used in the previous election. When given free rein to talk about the issues of the day, he turns to his favorite: income inequality. 

OK, it’s not an unreasonable issue. However, the senator needs to immediately expand his list of talking points. The presidency requires its occupant to focus on a wide range of issues. The war against terror? Russia’s election interference? Syria? NATO? The future of the European Union? Trade policy? Infrastructure repair and rebuilding? Budget deficits and the national debt?

It always turns back to income inequality. All of it. It never seems to fail.

Sen. Sanders has had his day. He came up short the previous time. There now are 24 actual Democrats running for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination.

I know what you’re thinking. So has Joe Biden had his day. He has run twice for president already. He came up far short both times. Barack Obama selected him to serve as vice president, a task he performed well for two terms.

I just am hearing a more well-rounded, diverse and global list of issues that are driving his candidacy.

Start talking to us, Sen. Sanders, about something other than income inequality. Oh, and tell us just how we will be able to afford to send every student to college for free.

Loving the blog, but not so much the back and forth

I’ve told you already how much I love writing this blog. It gives me a release for pent-up frustrations, enables me to say something good about people when they deserve it and it serves to help me maintain whatever skill I have in stringing sentences together.

Writing for this blog does produce some moments of frustration. I want to share one with you.

I have my share of critics out there in Blog Reader Land. I don’t mind that in the least. In fact some of them keep me humble, honest and I hope sharp.

Given that I distribute High Plains Blogger on a number of social media platforms, I hear from critics who challenge me with questions. If I am tough on Donald Trump, they want to know why I don’t recognize the sins of those on the other side of a given political divide.

I choose not to answer those critics. Why? Because their minds are made up. As is my mind … on most occasions and matters.

A couple of critics have challenged my reticence on social media. They don’t appreciate my silence when they take me to task. One critic once said that I don’t respond to those who disagree with me. I have actually gone back and forth with some of those who disagree with my world view. They are actual friends, not Facebook “friends,” of which I have quite a few — and a few of whom often challenge my spewage on this blog.

One fellow believes I also fail to correct misstatements on my blog; he calls them “lies,” apparently believing I make these misstatements knowing they are false. He manages occasionally to state what he believes is the truth, so I let that stand as the correction.

I choose to avoid the give and take, the back and forth and the attempts at getting the last word because I know it’s futile. I won’t change their minds. They won’t change mine.

As I have noted before, I prefer just to put this stuff out there. I let my assertions stand on their own and then let others argue among themselves over their validity.

But … I so love writing this blog.