All posts by kanelis2012

Call it a career, Judge Ware

It’s time for me to get something off my chest.

Potter County Judge Arthur Ware needs to do one of two things: Either resign his office or declare that he will not seek re-election to the job he’s had for the past two decades. Of course, the first option precludes the second one. Either way, it’s time for the judge — who I admire greatly for all he has done for the county and the country — to end his career.

Ware cannot do his job. He suffered a devastating stroke in 2010 that left him paralyzed on one side of his body and unable to speak coherently. He manages to force a word or two out at a time, but he is unable to articulate county policy, or argue a budget point, or converse with anyone who stands before him in a probate hearing. I saw him about two years ago at a downtown Amarillo restaurant. I sought to engage him in conversation. He answered with single words. “Yes” and “no” had to suffice. It was a sad encounter.

Earlier this week, the judge was shot down by his four Commissioners Court colleagues on his request for a pay increase. Every one of the commissioners opposed the increase. At least two of them spoke quite harshly about the judge, one of them saying he should take a pay “decrease” and other saying the county would be “negligent” by approving the proposed pay raise.

And after taking the verbal battering from his colleagues, Ware had no response. Why? He couldn’t verbalize the thoughts that no doubt were running through his head.

I’m not privy to all the ins and outs of county politics and policy these days. I do know a couple of key points. One is that a number of qualified individuals are considering a run for county judge in 2014, when Ware’s term is up. Another key point is that candidates for county office must be able to articulate a policy. They must make public appearances at, say, church picnics, candidate forums, televised debates, the Tri-State Fair, grange halls, feed stores and … well, you get the idea.

I say all this with deep affection for the man. I remember meeting Ware when I arrived in Amarillo in early 1995. He wasn’t that many years removed from his active-duty deployment as a Marine called to fight during the Persian Gulf War. His office is adorned with Marine Corps banners, flags and assorted photos and other paraphernalia. Semper fi, Judge Ware.

He scored a huge coup in 1995 when the county purchased the Santa Fe Building for 400 grand. He took a colleague and me on a tour of the then-vacant building and talked effusively of the grand plans he had to turn it into a county office complex. After a few hiccups along the way, the county got it done.

He fought for the county’s inclusion in a tax increment reinvestment zone to help fund downtown Amarillo’s redevelopment, acknowledging forcefully that the county courthouse indeed, sits in the middle of the downtown district.

But all that is in the past. The here and now has produced a sad spectacle.

Arthur Ware cannot possibly campaign for an office the functions of which he no longer is able to perform. Tell the public, judge, what you plan to do. My best advice is to quit now and spare yourself further humiliation at the hands of your colleagues.

Thanks for all you do, Amarillo firefighters

You know … there are times when you get to witness your tax money at work and you come away quite satisfied with what you see.

Such an event occurred Thursday afternoon at the Canyons Retirement Community. My wife and I — not to mention the residents and the staff at the place — are grateful for the professionalism demonstrated by the firemen who came to assist.

I stopped for a brief visit around 1 p.m. with my mother-in-law, who lives at the Canyons. Upon walking into the lobby, I detected a faint smoky order. I went to her apartment and said, “I think I smell smoke.” We both went into the hall and, yep, sure enough, the smell had gotten a bit stronger. “I’m going to tell the manager about this,” is said. I walked back into the hall and was stunned at the sight of smoke so thick you couldn’t see down the hall.

I then blurted out a bad word and told my mother-in-law, “We’re getting the hell out of here!” I plopped her into her wheelchair and we raced away from the smoke and found a fire exit. We went outside and then let the door slam shut behind us. We’re locked out. But hey, we’re safe.

The firefighters arrived seconds later. Two ladder trucks came, along with an ambulance. The police arrived. The fire — which began in the apartment next to my mother-in-law’s apartment — was extinguished immediately.

There we sat. I called my wife to tell her what had happened. “Is Mom OK?” she asked. Yes. She’s just fine. We were actually joking about the incident, although I’m quite sure the woman who lived next door to my mother-in-law wasn’t laughing. I would call her several times to keep her advised. We had only one vehicle available at the moment, so it was a little while before I was able to get her and bring her to the Canyons to be with her mother.

The rest of the residents were gathered in the lobby or on the front patio. I couldn’t get Mom down the stairs, we had to sit for quite some time. The sprinkler system went off and had flooded the hallway with about 2 inches of water, some of which seeped into residents’ apartments. The firemen would have to give us the all-clear before we could get her back.

I found the manager. “Is your mother-in-law OK?” she asked. Yep. “Where is she?” On the fire escape. “I’ll get some firemen to take her downstairs,” she said. “How will they do that?” I asked. She said they’d carry her if they need to. I laughed out loud. I told my mother-in-law what might occur. We both howled at the prospect of some brawny firemen slinging her over his shoulder like a sack of spuds. It didn’t happen. They got an elevator to work at the other end of the building. The smoke had cleared and we wheeled her to the elevator and she joined her friends in the dining room.

OK, here’s the moral of this tale. The firefighters reacted tremendously. I am grateful for the courtesy they extended to the residents who peppered them with questions. They were anxious to get into their apartments. The firemen understood that and showed extraordinary patience with the residents.

The carpet cleaners came and sucked the water up with some power vacuums. The place was secured. And by 7 p.m., almost everyone had returned to where the live — except the lady who’s cooking fire started the whole thing.

Thanks, Amarillo Fire Department. You guys did well.

We’re polling ourselves to sleep

This just in: Hillary Rodham Clinton might win Georgia’s electoral votes if the election were held today.

Got that? But here’s the kicker. The next presidential election ain’t happening until November 2016. That’s more than three years from now. As the saying goes, it might be a dozen lifetimes away from now. Heck, it might be a hundred, or a thousand lifetimes.

It’s all kind of interesting, I suppose, to release these polls on the spot. But they matter not one little bit in the grand scheme.

HRC might not run. I’m betting she will, though, especially when she sees polls that show her putting places like Georgia in play. President Obama lost the state in 2012, but not by landslide proportions.

So much of this polling just feeds the frustration some of us out here in Flyover Country have about the national political media. They’re obsessed with the horse race aspect of these campaigns. Yes, they do cover the issues — such as what candidates say about the economy, national defense, the environment, the big stuff.

The public seems to demand so much of this horse race coverage that the media fall into the trap of reporting on all these polls even when there still are years remaining until the next election.

Enough of the polling, already.

Matt Damon sits in the hot seat

Matt Damon is a terrific actor and by all accounts a devoted husband and father … but he’s turning out to be not such a great advocate for public education.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has taken Damon to task for — are you ready for this? — enrolling his kids in private school while busting politicians in the chops for slashing money for public schools.

I must say that Jebbie’s got a point.

It takes me back to a time in Beaumont, where I worked in journalism for nearly 11 years, when a similar issue came up involving a candidate for the Beaumont Independent School District board of trustees. The late Howard Trahan was a good man and dedicated to public schools.

Then I learned during one of his campaigns for re-election that he sent his own kids to a Catholic school. I asked him a direct question: Is it right for you to make policy regarding public schools when some might question whether you have enough faith in that public school system to educate your own children? Howard became visibly angry. He said it was his own kids’ decision to attend private schools. I asked him a follow up question that went something like this: But aren’t you the parent? He got even angrier.

The Damon kerfuffle is instructive in this regard: If you’re going to use your high profile and celebrity status to argue for a cause, you need to demonstrate that commitment. Or else you open yourself to critics who can question your sincerity.

POTUS is misdirected on port sites

A friend and former colleague brought something to my attention overnight that I must share here.

Seems the president of the United States needs a lesson in Geography 101. My friend was scolding me a bit because I needled Gov. Rick Perry for not knowing where he was when he delivered remarks the other day from a podium in New Orleans, La. He said he was in Florida at that moment. Not good, right? My pal wants me to apply the same level of zeal to critiquing Barack Obama as I did to the Pride of Paint Creek.

President Obama said this on Jay Leno’s talk show Tuesday night:

“If we don’t deepen our ports all along the Gulf — places like Charleston, South Carolina, or Savannah, Georgia, or Jacksonville, Florida — if we don’t do that, those ships are going to go someplace else.”

Ouch, Mr. President.

All of those ports face the Atlantic Ocean, not the Gulf of Mexico.

Shouldn’t the leader of the Free World know better? I’m quite sure the president’s many critics on the right will ensure that he gets his share of fiery criticism.

Obama snubs Putin, gets cheers from both sides

President Obama’s decision to forgo a bilateral summit meeting with Russian President/strongman Vladimir Putin has drawn high praise from, get this, Republicans as well as Democrats.

Obama is going to Moscow to attend a meeting of the G-20 nations. He’d been scheduled to meet privately with Putin prior to the economic summit. Then something happened. Putin decided to grant temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency contractor who’s been on the lam as U.S. authorities have implored to answer for leaking national security secrets to the rest of the world.

Obama’s decision was the right one as it sticks it in the eye of Putin, who has shown little interest in cooperating with his so-called American “partners” in trying to resolve the Snowden matter.

In truth, Obama has few options to persuade the Russians to hand Snowden over to U.S. authorities. The United States has no extradition treaty with Russia, so the Russians are free to act as they see fit. That doesn’t mean the American president has to take it lying down.

Barack Obama’s canceling of the bilateral summit has embarrassed Putin on the world stage.

To which many of us would say: Putin had it coming.

As the link attached to this blog notes, U.S.-Russia relations are heading for the deep freeze, which of course is nothing new.

GOP needs money, but not this way

William McKenzie’s blog, which is attached here, takes the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee to task for what only can be described as a crass money-grab.

Former President George W. Bush received a heart stent this week. The RCCC sent out letters to supporters asking them to send President Bush a get well message. But when they responded with the good wishes, they are sent to a site that asks them to kick in some cash for the RCCC; the amounts run from $5 to $250.

Here is part of what McKenzie wrote:

“Now, I get that political parties have to raise money. I spent a decade helping raise money for a moderate Republican organization in D.C., so I am not averse to fundraising.

“But was there no one within the bowels of the House GOP’s fundraising operation who counseled that this may be just a bit unseemly? I mean, here’s a former Republican president who is recovering from a heart procedure and, whoosh, out comes a fundraising plea. The man was not out of Presbyterian Hospital until this morning but the fundraising gears evidently were clicking.

“I don’t doubt that Bush would like to see his party thrive financially. And I have no idea what he thinks about the letter. But it strikes me as a prime example of how far we’ve come in the gamesmanship of politics.”

You go, Bill.

And get well, Mr. President.

Explain those fears, Mitt

Mitt Romney talked some sense in trying to curb some congressional Republicans’ enthusiasm for shutting down the government while defunding the Affordable Care Act.

Bravo, Mitt! The right-wing rogues within his party — the folks who never quite trusted the centrist-leaning former Massachusetts governor — are out of control. They’re the tea party new guys who don’t quite understand the consequence that will cascade down on them if they succeed in shuttering the federal government.

But then Romney veered off into a strange little tangent about what has happened since President Obama’s re-election — in which he defeated Romney by nearly 5 million votes.

“I must admit. It has been hard to watch or read the news,” he said. “What we feared would happen, is happening.”


I kind of wish Romney would go into detail about what is happening that upsets him so much, or what is happening that would have been different if President Romney were at the helm.

Let’s see: We’ve added about a million jobs since Obama’s re-election; unemployment is down to 7.4 percent, which isn’t great but it surely is a lot better than the 9 percent jobless rate the president inherited when he took office in January 2009; the budget deficit has been slashed significantly; we’re continuing to kill terrorists around the world.

Have we reached a state of geopolitical nirvana? Of course not. The Obama administration has committed some serious mistakes. Those errors, though, do not rise to the level of “scandal” that’s being portrayed in the right-wing mainstream media.

My threshold question to Mitt, though, is this: How would any of this been different had you been in charge?

Watch out, Stockman enters fray

Republican Steve Stockman, who in my mind is vying for the title of Texas’s looniest member of Congress, says he has a plan to defund Obamacare without shutting down the government.

Stockman hails from the Houston suburb of Friendswood. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 2012 after a 16-year hiatus from Congress; he had served a single term from 1995 to 1997 before being drummed out because he was, um, a bit on the flaky side.

His flakiness hasn’t really subsided in the interim. He’s back with a vengeance, threatening for instance to seek to impeach President Obama for enacting executive orders to get some things done in Washington — given that the GOP-led House isn’t doing anything constructive.

Stockman now says has a plan to stop the Affordable Care Act.

Stockman’s resolution would suspend any federal funds that would support any provision of Obamacare. The bill attacks the health care program, stating that a majority of lawmakers believe it violates the Constitution, according to the Houston Chronicle. I believe the gentleman from the Gulf Coast misstates the level of belief in the law’s constitutionality. It might be that most Republicans — who comprise a majority of the House — believe the law to be illegal. It’s a stretch, though, to suggest that most of the entire House — which still has a significant number of Democrats — has lined up in that camp.

And if memory serves, the Supreme Court ruled that the law is constitutional. Aren’t the justices — most of whom were appointed by conservative Republican presidents — supposed to settle these things?

Oops not a big deal, for now

Gov. Rick Perry had another one of those “oops” moments this week.

He said he was glad to be in Florida, when in fact he was speaking in New Orleans, the city in, um, Louisiana.

He’s been drawing some of the expected barbs. The lame-duck Republican Texas governor deserves most of the jabs that get tossed his way. This one counts.

The problem here is that Perry’s campaign for the presidency – if he’s planning another one in 2016 – hasn’t yet gotten off the ground. He hasn’t yet officially declared his candidacy. This was a one-stop appearance. It would be different if he were in the midst of a whirlwind campaign, stumping from state to state.

I can recall the 1968 Democratic presidential primary campaign. U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy launched his campaign in March of that year and began a frenetic 80-day run for the party nomination. He covered a lot of territory in a very short period of time.

An assassin ended that effort, tragically, on June 6.

But I recall one campaign appearance in which he mistakenly said he was in Nevada when he actually was speaking in Nebraska … or maybe it was the other way around. Whatever, he got his states mixed up. The crowd corrected him on the spot and he laughed it off with typical RFK good humor.

Rick Perry will need to keep his compass dialed in if he’s going to seek the big prize in three years. This first little hiccup doesn’t bode for well for what might lie ahead.