All posts by kanelis2012

Biking around town

Amarillo ought to be a great bicycling city.

It isn’t, at least not yet.

Our weather is quite good most of the year — the recent wind notwithstanding. Our terrain is relatively level, which is good for bicyclists with bad knees. Most of our streets are relatively wide, giving motor vehicle traffic sufficient room to maneuver past slower-moving bicycle riders.

But the city hasn’t yet turned into a bike-friendly city.

City Parks Director Larry Offerdahl is talking now about improving the city’s biking image. The city Traffic Commission will get revisions to the city’s bike plan that could add to the city’s 26 miles of striped bike lanes.

I’ve noticed a few of the city’s bike lanes near my neighborhood. To be candid, they don’t make a lot of sense. The bike lanes start, make a few turns around some blocks and then end. The lanes around Windsor Elementary School, for instance, don’t seem to have any rhyme or reason.

I am hopeful that Offerdahl and his parks staff can put together a comprehensive bike plan that creates a friendly atmosphere for those who want to get out of their air-polluting cars and enjoy the outdoors atop a bike seat.

But there might be a major educational initiative in the works: The city should aim it at motorists who don’t want to share the road.

Lunacy is alive and well

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! What’s Sarah Palin doing criticizing Barack Hussein Obama’s NUCLEAR policy experience when she is so ignorant that she doesn’t even know how to properly pronounce the word? Notice, that I refuse to address Obama as President until I see a copy of his (long form) birth certificate. It would proove that he was born in Hawaii and not Kenya, as many sources claim.. I have seen a “Certificate Of Live Birth” but, according to credible sources, that could easily have been obtained by Obama even if he was born in Kenya. I took an oath when I entered the military to “support and defend the Constitution” and that Constitution requires that Obama proove that he is a “natural born citizen” in order to occupy the office of President. I have seen nothing that prooves that fact. Until I see the proof, I refuse to recognize him as President.

The above note came to me this week. It’s from an Amarillo resident who writes letters to the editor of the paper on occasion. It won’t see print, but I thought I’d share it here — without attribution — to illustrate the lunacy of some of our friends and neighbors. Alas, this guy isn’t the only person who believes this malarkey.

This note made me curious about something. The writer insists that President Obama prove his U.S. citizenship. Have we ever asked such a thing of any of the men who preceded him? Has anyone ever seen George W. Bush’s proof that he was born in Connecticut, or any record of Bill Clinton’s birth in Arkansas? Was Ronald Reagan really and truly born in Illinois?

Electing judges? Fiddlesticks!

I’ve never been a big fan of electing judges, but that’s what we do in Texas.

Today’s runoff for the Texas Supreme Court offers a Grade A example of why it’s a bad idea. Rick Green, a former legislator from Dripping Springs with no judicial experience, is running against Debra Lehrmann, a 22-year veteran of the bench from Fort Worth. Why this contest even went to a runoff is beyond me.

These two candidates were the top two finishers in a crowded Republican primary; Justice Harriett O’Neill is retiring at the end of her term, thus the open seat brought out a number of challengers.

Green arguably may have been the least qualified of the bunch, but here he is in the runoff.

Texans have been watching over many election cycles good judicial candidates getting beat by inferior opponents for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with qualifications. Most of them have lost because merely because they’re Democrats, which is the curse of political death in such a Republican-leaning state. Others have lost because they have “foreign-sounding” surnames; that’s been the case in Republican primaries.

Electing judges is the Texas way. But surely we need to do a better job of educating ourselves as to the qualifications and philosophy of those who seek to do the serious job of adminstering justice in a fair and impartial manner.

Monotone commentary?

We’re going to publish another letter in a couple of days from someone who doesn’t like one of the columnists who appears on our Opinion page. The target of the latest letter once again is Leonard Pitts Jr.

Pitts is a noted liberal columnist; he won a Pulitzer Prize in 2004 for commentary. His essays appear on our page because it’s important to present a wide range of opinion to our readership. But some of our readers don’t like reading his views. Why? Well, the crux of their argument is that he offends the sensibilities of the Panhandle’s conservative majority.

Hmmm.

So, it would be better for these fine folks to read only those opinions with which they agree. What a boring world that would be.

We seek on our Opinion pages to present conservative and liberal views — and opinions that fall somewhere in the vast middle ground. Pitts occasionally gets people’s dander up. Good for him. I guess the fire that flares off the keyboard of some of our more conservative contributors — Michelle Malkin comes to mind — doesn’t offend them. That’s all right with me.

As for me, I actually like reading opinions with which I disagree. I seek out good writing and good thinking wherever I can find it, even if it makes me angry.

I look at these essays as being good for my heart health. My blood gets oxygenated whenever I hyperventilate after reading something that I find truly outrageous.

Indeed, it does irritate me mildly when I read complaints from readers who want us to toss aside a columnist because he or she thinks differently from the vast majority.

But we’re happy to publish them.

Et tu, Billy?

I’ve been stewing about this all day.

Billy Payne, the chairman of the Augusta National golf club board, chewed the daylights out of Tiger Woods. I admit he’s entitled to his opinion about the misbehavior of the world’s greatest golfer.

But the tongue lashing he delivered the day before Woods teed it up to start his 2010 golf season after all the scandal that has engulfed him for the past five months baffled me.

What did Payne say that hasn’t been said by thousands of pundits already? What new insight did he provide? What was the point of the lecture?

Woods’ problems are among the most documented of any athlete/celebrity in the past decade, or longer. The whole world, it seems, has an opinion of Woods’ behavior, his dalliances, his infidelity, his incredible arrogance. None of it is favorable to Woods.

So here comes Billy Payne to weigh in at the last minute. Why?

Payne has taken some grief from those who contend that he has no moral standing to lecture Woods about anything, given that Augusta National includes zero women among its members and only recently desegregated its ranks. That criticism has merit.

But my concern is that he said nothing that hasn’t been said already. He regurgitated the litany of well-deserved condemnation that has been heaped on Woods already. Had the chairman remained silent, he wouldn’t have exposed himself and his organization to the criticism they’re getting now.

There. I feel better.

Now, back to golf.

Recycling gets boost

Good news for those of us who think green.

Allied Waste is installing additional recycling bins at a new drop off site on Plains Boulevard, near the Hastings Distribution Center.

The new bins make it easier for residents in central Amarillo to take waste products for recycling, rather than tossing them into the Dumpster, and eventually ending up in the landfill.

I like to recycle. I grew up in Oregon, the founding capital of the U.S. environmental movement. I haven’t been as recycling conscious since moving to Texas more than 25 years ago. But my family and I adapted nicely to a curbside recycling program that Beaumont instituted some years ago. Much less garbage ended up in the landfill while the program was in effect.

To that end, it still baffles me that Amarillo hasn’t instituted a curbside program. I know it’s costly, but the energy savings accrued from using recycled products — rather than making them from scratch — is significant over the long term.

The addition of the bins at Plains Boulevard is a welcome addition to the city’s recycling infrastructure.

Do as the RNC says, not does

I’ve been watching the trouble brewing with the Republican National Committee with a bit of amusement.

The party that blasts the daylights out of those big-spending Democrats — with good reason — now has been caught spending a bit lavishly as well. RNC Chairman Michael Steele likes to live large. He travels in pricey limos, rakes in big money with speaking fees, sleeps in posh hotels and lavishes donors with lots of perks and goodies.

And all the while, his party preaches moral rectitude as part of its political platform.

And then comes the latest: It seems that a staffer arranged for some donors to visit a strip club in Los Angeles that features lesbians and “bondage.” Hoo boy.

I’m not concerned much with how the Republican political leadership spends its donors’ money. None of it comes from my pocket. (Full disclosure: I don’t give to the Democrats, either.)

What does pique my interest is how one major party can portray itself as the protector of family values and fiscal responsibility while behaving in a manner that is quite contrary to the message it is delivering to the masses.

We toss the word “hypocrite” around a lot these days. Many politicians of both parties have been branded with the word: John Edwards, John Ensign, David Vitter and Newt Gingrich are four who come immediately to mind. Gingrich is my favorite hypocrite, having blasted President Clinton for his dalliances while at the same time cavorting with a much-younger House staffer behind his own wife’s back.

The RNC has some serious housecleaning ahead of it, starting with what to do about a chairman on whose watch all this nonsense has occurred.

A real leader would accept responsibility — and then quit.

Missing the point on threats

The threats of violence against those members of Congress who voted in favor of President Obama’s health care reform law have been beyond disgusting. They’re downright scary if you believe that in the civility that is supposed to be a hallmark of political discourse in this country.

But some of the response to critics of those who were lobbing the threats has been, well, a bit strange.

Consider this nugget from U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, the Panhandle’s senior member of Congress. Yes, he has condemned the the threats of violence and the racial slurs. Good for him.

Then he said this: “I do get somewhat of a feel that some Democrats are trying to use these incidents to smear everybody who opposed health care and that’s not fair.”

He is right, but he’s also missing the point.

So what if Democrats are using the slurs and threats of violence against the health care foes, who happen to be mainly Republicans? That’s what happens in this rough-and-tumble political world.

And surely the congressman, a decent and intelligent lawmaker, doesn’t believe that Democrats somehow possess a monopoly on boorishness. If the tables were turned and Democrats were leveling this kind of hateful speech at their foes, Republicans would be all over them in precisely the same manner and most likely would try to lump all Democrats together. The parties may differ on matters of policy, but their humanity — and human fallibility — bind people of all political stripes together.

So, let’s just stick to the relevant issue. The racial slurs and homophobic epithets thrown at health reform supporters never should have occurred in the first place.

Taking back a promise

I don’t begrudge Kay Bailey Hutchison one bit for taking back her promise to leave office.

Why should she leave now? The senior Texas Republican senator got thumped in the March GOP primary for governor. Yes, she had said she would leave office “win or lose” in March. But she has gone back on it, saying today she will stay in office until the end of her term, which expires in 2012. What are Texans going to do — fire her?

It does stall the ambitions of some high-powered contenders for the Senate seat she has occupied since 1993. Two of them are coming from the Texas Railroad Commission — Republicans Elizabeth Ames Jones and Michael Williams. Another candidate, who also once served on the RRC (as well as the state Senate and as state comptroller), Democrat John Sharp, also wants to serve in the U.S. Senate. Those are the three big hitters, and there likely will be many more stepping forward at the appropriate time and place; I keep hearing the name “David Dewhurst.”

I’ll give Hutchison credit for this: She at least made up her mind quickly and declared her intentions publicly in rapid succession, unlike earlier when she dithered and dawdled over whether to resign her seat prior to the primary — which might have contributed somewhat to her defeat at the hands of Gov. Rick Perry.

Here’s a final word of advice: Don’t change your mind, senator, about leaving the Senate when your term is up. You’ve made yourself quite clear on that point. Taking back that pledge might be more than Texans can handle.

We all pay for helmet-less riders

A report today of a motorcyclist injured critically in an accident in north Amarillo has me wondering — yet again — why the state repealed its law requiring helmets for people operating a motorcycle.

The man wasn’t wearing a helmet. Amarillo police say speed may have played a part in the wreck. His head injuries reportedly are quite severe. No one knows yet whether he’ll recover.

But I have to ask: What if he doesn’t recover fully? What happens if he has suffered permanent brain damage, meaning he cannot work? He then falls under the care of the state for the rest of his life. Suppose he lives a long time. How much money will the state spend on his care? Will it run into the millions of dollars over a long period of time?

It’s this possibility that has me wondering why the state decided in the 1990s to allow motorcyclists to ride without a helmet. Yes, the state requires casualty insurance. I believe the amount is $10,000. Anyone who’s spent more than 48 hours in an acute-care hospital knows that the 10 grand is eaten up almost the moment you check in.

But applying the time-honored — but nevertheless odd — Texas logic about independence and freedom of choice, the Legislature determined that it should not interfere with motorists’ desire to expose themselves to the kind of injuries apparently suffered this morning by that unfortunate motorist in Amarillo.

I pray for the man’s complete recovery.