Hey, Bernie, Fidel was a bad dude!

I got into a snit the other day with some supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who at this moment is the front runner for the Democratic Party presidential nomination.

They chewed me out for dismissing his candidacy. Well, here comes Round Two.

Bernie Sanders is wrong to give the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro any props for the “good” he did while leading the island nation for a seeming eternity.

Sanders told Anderson Cooper on “60 Minutes” Sunday night that Castro enacted a literacy program when he took over the Cuban government in 1959. “That’s a bad thing”? Sanders asked, rhetorically.

Well, no. It’s not. However, none of that negates the firing squads that Castro deployed to rid Cuba of political dissenters. Nor does it counter the myriad human rights abuses that Castro imposed during his tyrannical reign. Nor does it overrule the fact that in 1962 he welcomed Soviet missiles onto his island, allowing the Soviet Union military geniuses to program the missiles to strike targets in the United States.

Sen. Sanders is trying to make it clear that he despises autocrats, strongmen, dictators and tyrants. He is drawing a line between himself and Donald Trump, who professes to be “in love” with North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Un.

OK, that’s fine. However, Sen. Sanders needs to navigate his way around any effort to speak well of another tyrant, Fidel Castro.

If Sen. Sanders has any hope of winning the 2020 presidential election in the event that Democrats nominate him this summer, he’ll have to assuage the anger he is igniting among a key voting bloc of Cuban expatriates in South Florida that has long memories of Fidel Castro’s monstrous rule.

Has Trump been ‘chastened’ by impeachment? Not even!

Some of the congressional Republicans — House members and senators alike — who voted to acquit Donald John Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress talked about him learning the lessons of the impeachment and trial.

Hmm. Has the president learned anything? Is he feeling chastened by the acquittal in the Senate?

Umm. No. He isn’t. He has learned a single constructive thing.

Instead, he is feeling emboldened. Trump is proceeding as if the acquittal actually means something other than Republicans (more or less) standing behind him. Except for GOP U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah voting his conscience on the abuse of power impeachment allegation, the rest of the Republican caucus refused to budge.

Trump, though, sees it this way: an acquittal is an acquittal. It doesn’t matter how it came to pass.

He issued those 11 pardons and commutations. He fired Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire because the DNI briefed members of Congress on reports that Russia is attacking our election system this year just as it did in 2016. The president is purging his administration of those who would seek to provide critical analyses, replacing them with yes men and women, with blind loyalists.

What’s more, the president is dismissing reports about Russia’s renewed attack on our election. He is disparaging, just as he has done so many times already, the hard work of our expert and patriotic intelligence analysts who speak with a single voice on one critical point: Russia is attacking us! 

Donald Trump is unleashed. He should frighten all of us.

Now … a good word for a good deed

It’s not all gloom and doom, anger and angst out there in this contentious election season.

I came upon a wonderful example of community generosity while working on a story for a local weekly newspaper here in Collin County.

It came from a gentleman who contributed $21,000 to an animal rescue outfit based in Farmersville. Dell James owns a McKinney tax company. He kicked in a five-figure donation to Shutt’er Down Ranch, which cares for injured, neglected or abandoned animals — ranging from emus, to donkeys, pigs, horses, cattle, goats, sheep.

The ranch is looking to acquire a mobile veterinary clinic that would provide spay and neuter service for animals, along with vaccinations. Ranch officials tell me the clinic will cost around 100 grand; so James’ contribution will go a long way toward making that clinic a reality.

Dell James, a Farmersville native, wants to help the organization, so he contributed the money and then sponsored a professional basketball game in Frisco featuring the Texas Legends and South Bay Lakers — minor-league clubs affiliated, respectively, with the Dallas Mavericks and the LA Lakers of the NBA.

I want to offer a salute to Dell James for the contribution he delivered to Shutt’er Down Ranch and to the ranch for the good work it does to provide some old-fashioned TLC to God’s creatures.

MSNBC host needs to issue a full-throated apology

Chris Matthews has stepped in it. Big time.

The MSNBC “Hardball” host is taking intense social media fire over a remark he made over the weekend in which he likened Sen. Bernie Sanders’ big win in the Nevada caucus to the Nazi invasion and conquest of France during World War II.

One serious problem has emerged immediately after Matthews shot off his loud and boisterous mouth. Sanders, who is Jewish, lost many of his family members during the Holocaust.

Social media have gone berserk. Viewers are calling for Matthews, a veteran newspaper columnist, a former congressional aide and a longtime cable TV broadcast personality, to resign. Short of resignation, social media critics are calling on MSBNC to fire Matthews for his display of extreme insensitivity.

Here’s what I think ought to happen.

Chris Matthews needs to go on the air and issue an apology. And I don’t mean one of those phony “If I offended anyone” non-apologies. He needs to say something like this: “I made a terrible mistake. I am sorry for what I said. I engaged my motor mouth without turning on my sensitivity filter. I blew it and I apologize to everyone who heard me make that hideous comparison on the air.”

If the apology doesn’t stem the criticism, then he should quit. My hope would be that a full-throated, sincere apology might do the job.

What’s more, Matthews — who is known for his machine-gun delivery — needs to re-calibrate the manner in which he delivers his commentary.

Still waiting for sign of life in that downtown parking garage

I admit that I am not as dialed in to affairs of Amarillo as I was when I lived there. Still, social media surely would light up like a Christmas tree if there would be any new businesses opening in the city’s downtown parking garage.

It’s been quiet, man.

The parking garage went up with plenty of promise. I remain optimistic about the future of the project. However, my optimism is being tested.

Last I heard Joe Taco was going into the structure next to Hodgetown, the Amarillo Sod Poodles’ home baseball field.

Anyone else set to join the popular eatery? Hmm. Not that I’ve heard.

I will not object to being corrected. I check local media outlets from time to time. Still not hearing it.

My optimism is still strong. However, everything — even my own usually unbridled hope — has its limits.

Being the first female for an office isn’t a ‘selfish’ motive

A Houston appellate court judge running for a seat on the Texas Supreme Court has come up with one of the more, um, creative epithets to hurl at a primary opponent.

Jerry Zimmerer is running in the Democratic primary for the SCOTEX chief justice spot. His opponent, Amy Clark Meachum, wants to become the first woman ever elected to the chief justice on the state’s highest civil appellate court.

Zimmerer calls Meachum “selfish” because she wants to the first female. Yep, that’s what he says. It’s selfish of her to break through a barrier that has lasted too long as it is.

He says he wants the “best candidate to win.” Hey, so does Meachum. She believes she’s the better candidate for the office. She believes she’s better than Zimmerer … and not because she’s a woman and he’s a man.

They both are judges. Meachum was elected to the trial court in Travis County in 2011; Zimmerer was elected in Harris County in 2018.

So, let them fight it out over who is better qualified.

The idea that one of them wants to be the first woman ever elected to an all-male political stronghold is no reason to vote against her.

I am now leaning toward Amy Clark Meachum when the time comes to cast a vote.

So there …

Democratic establishment channeling GOP counterparts from 2016

How fascinating it is to watch the Democratic Party establishment wringing its hands over the possible — and I won’t yet say “probable” — nomination of a presidential candidate who’s far from the mainstream.

Does it remind you of anything, say, from just four years ago?

The 2016 Republican Party primary battle featured a large field of contenders having to fend off a challenge from a political outsider. Yep, Donald John Trump gave the GOP establishment fits. He stuck his finger in the establishment’s collective eye.

In 2020, the outlier is a guy named Bernie Sanders, who’s doing the same thing to the Democratic establishment.

Try this similarity on for size: Sanders serves in the U.S. Senate as an independent from Vermont; Trump only ran as a Republican because it presented the easier path to nomination and then to election, as he had no active involvement with the party prior to running for the presidency. Trump had no public service experience. He spent his entire adult life seeking to enrich himself.

Sanders’ critics say he isn’t a real Democrat, just as Trump’s critics said in 2016 — and many of us are saying now — that he isn’t a real Republican. I believe criticism of both men on that point has its merit.

Republicans were damn fools to nominate Trump in the first place. To my mind he has proved himself to be a disaster as president. One of his GOP primary foes, Jeb Bush of Florida, predicted accurately that he would govern as a “chaos and confusion” president. Trump has delivered on that prediction.

What’s in store for the Democrats if they manage to nominate Sanders? I’ve already declared that I believe he is likely to lose big to Trump. Then again, as I’ve noted before on this blog, my prediction skills are quite suspect.

I mean, I never thought Trump would be elected. Hah! Silly me. Silly all those other folks who thought they had the 2016 election pegged.

Missing this kind of PDA from POTUS and FLOTUS

I just know I am going to catch grief from critics of this blog … but, what the heck. I am going to say this anyway.

I miss seeing this kind of funny display of affection from the first couple of the United States.

These pictures showed up on my Facebook news feed. I figure they were snapped in January, when Michelle Obama celebrated her 56th birthday. She and her husband were goofing off, exhibiting a good natured public display of affection.

I vaguely recall the occasional stuffed-shirt criticism that came at them when Barack Obama was president and Michelle Obama was first lady.

Their White House successors haven’t shown this kind of public affection for each other that I can remember.

Pictures such as these demonstrate a level of humanity in our elected leader and his spouse. It’s a refreshing sight to see, even from a former POTUS and FLOTUS.

Still steamed over red-light cameras’ demise

I must admit that I am still angry with the 2019 Texas Legislature, which in itself is no great flash. A lot of Texans are angry with legislators for a lot of reasons.

My main source of anger stems from legislators’ decision to pull the plug on red-light cameras that cities have deployed to help police enforce traffic laws. I mean, too many motorists are none too inclined to obey red lights at intersections which are intended to order motorists to stop and not proceed until the light turns green.

The result has been serious automobile crashes. Motorists occasionally stop and then race through the intersections before the light changes from red to green. Or, they just keep on racing on through.

Dallas city traffic officials reported this past week that the red-light cameras had helped reduce auto accidents. They also generated revenue for the city to use on traffic infrastructure improvements, which the Legislature required of cities when it enacted the red-light camera law in the first place.

Then came the pronouncement from Gov. Greg Abbott, who signaled his willingness to sign legislation banning cameras when it got to his desk. The Legislature delivered it to him and, by golly, he kept his word. Dammit, anyway!

At least the Legislature had the good taste to allow cities to keep the cameras deployed until their vendor contracts had expired. Indeed, my wife and I recently visited Amarillo, where we lived for 23 years before moving to the Metroplex, and noticed that the city still has it cameras working. They’ll be unplugged in due course.

As a social media acquaintance of mine noted in reaction to an earlier blog post on the subject, driving on public streets is a “privilege” and not a right guaranteed for motorists, who all they have to do to avoid getting cited by cities is just follow the law.

Don’t run through the red lights!

Hey, Blago … you aren’t a ‘political prisoner’

I have to weigh in briefly on a ridiculous assertion by the former Illinois governor who contends he was a “political prisoner” sent to prison for eight years by “corrupt prosecutors.”

Rod Blagojevich had his sentence commuted by Donald Trump. He’s now out and is telling the world that he was imprisoned because of, um, pure politics.

Actually, he wasn’t sent to the slammer for those reasons. A jury of his peers convicted him of trying to “sell” a U.S. Senate that had been vacated by Barack Obama, who had been elected president of the United States. He was caught in a recording offering the seat to the highest bidder. I believe that fits the description of, dare I say it, a “quid pro quo.” It was an illegal act that stunk to high heaven.

Blago wasn’t a political prisoner. He got caught participating in an unseemly, corrupt political act. He was told to pay a price of a 14-year prison sentence.

Then along came Donald Trump, the former “Celebrity Apprentice” TV host. Blago had been a contestant on his show. So the former TV celebrity-turned-president thought he’d do his good friend a favor.

He set him free.

A political prisoner? Hah! Give me a break!

CNN’s Anderson Cooper challenged Blago’s assertion. Check it out here.

Gov. Blagojevich is off his rocker.