Category Archives: Uncategorized

Klansman’s endorsement draws strong response from brass

This doesn’t happen every day.

A noteworthy former (allegedly) member of the Ku Klux Klan applauded the president of the United States for his statement equating hate groups with those who protested their presence in Charlottesville, Va.

The reaction from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I must add, was compelling and quite stunning in its own right.

David Duke gave a proverbial high-five to Donald John Trump because the president reverted to his original response to the Charlottesville riot. He at first blamed the violence on “many sides”; then he read a prepared statement in which he singled out the Klan, the white supremacists and the neo-Nazis for the bloody violence. The second statement drew a rebuke from Duke, who expressed disappointment in the president.

Trump wasn’t finished. He walked into the Trump Tower lobby on Tuesday and then proceeded to level a barrage of fire against the “alt-left,” and said “both sides” were responsible for the riot.

Duke was happy — yet again. He issued a statement praising the president for fulfilling the promise of his election.

Enter the Joint Chiefs of Staff. To a man they issued individual statements condemning racism, bigotry, intolerance and hatred. They said such conduct and attitudes were intolerable in their respective service branches. Their statements looked for all the world to be a direct repudiation of the idiocy that flew out of the commander in chief’s mouth at Trump Tower.

Check out their statements here.

Then Joint Chiefs chairman, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, weighed in and said bigotry won’t be tolerated in any of the military services.

Is it a coincidence, then, that White House chief of staff John Kelly — also a retired Marine general — looked as though he was watching a train wreck as it was happening the other day while the president was delivering his remarks?

Umm. Nope.

Amarillo might learn just how insulated it can be

Amarillo sits half a continent away from the turmoil that erupted in Charlottesville, Va., where groups of protesters erupted in a riot this past weekend.

One group sought to protest attempts to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee; this group comprised white supremacists, KKK members and neo-Nazis. The other group opposed the first group. They clashed. One woman was killed when someone rammed a car through a crowd.

The nation has been buried under the fallout.

So, what does this have to do with Amarillo?

We have in this city a statue commemorating a Confederate officer. It’s at Ellwood Park. We also have a school named after the same Confederate general who became the focus of the violence in Charlottesville. What has fascinated me for the two-plus decades I’ve lived in Amarillo is that Robert E. Lee Elementary School educates a student population that comprises a significant number of African-American children. Does that fascinate you, too? It should.

Amarillo sits out here in the middle of the nation. We seem to be somewhat immune to many of the disputes that erupt on either oceanic coast. I’m wondering if our community’s insular outlook is going to last as the national debate rages and roils over these Confederate monuments.

Amarillo’s public school system has named many of its campuses after individuals responsible for Texas’s independence. The names of Houston, Travis, Bowie, Crockett, Fannin and Lamar all are meaningful to Texas history. We have schools named after pioneer families; a school has the name of a Spanish explorer; other campuses don’t bear the names of individuals.

Lee is a bit different. I’ve noted already that the general fought to destroy the Union. Yet in many communities he is saluted, honored. The Confederacy is part of our national “heritage,” people insist. It also symbolizes a bloody war that was fought over the enslavement of human beings, some of whose descendants attend school in a building named to “honor” someone who fought to destroy the nation — and keep those people in bondage.

Do I advocate changing the name of the school? I’m going to remain neutral on that one — at least for the time being.

My interest at this moment lies in the possibility that this national discussion is going to find its way to our community. All it will take, I suppose, is for parents to broach the subject of changing the name of Lee Elementary School with the Amarillo Independent School District Board of Trustees.

I’ll wait to see if this intense national debate finds its way to the Texas High Plains.

McCain has earned bipartisan praise and good wishes

I feel like sharing this 10-minute video from the 2008 Al Smith Memorial Dinner.

It features U.S. Sen. John McCain, the Republican Party’s nominee for president of the United States. He brought the house down with his good-natured barbs at his “friend and colleague” Sen. Barack Obama. His comments also were laced a healthy measure of self-deprecation.

The Al Smith dinner is a quadrennial event that brings the two major-party nominees together to raise money to benefit the Catholic Church’s good work.

Given the terribly sad news about Sen. McCain’s cancer diagnosis and the outpouring of support from across the political spectrum, I thought I’d share this video to illustrate how politics need not be so full of hate.

This is for you, Sen. McCain.

Does this counterprotest remind you of anything?

I really enjoy hearing about current events that conjure up previous such events with which I have some familiarity.

Some Ku Klux Klan members sought to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Va. Then they were met by a boisterous and rowdy counterprotest from those who wanted to drown out the KKK’s point of view.

I find it so very interesting that the KKK would protest this statue removal. It’s also ironic, given the view expressed by some Americans that honoring Gen. Lee only honors “tradition” and “Southern heritage.” The irony is that the Klan would mount the protest. The Ku Klux (bleeping) Klan! The racist hate group known for its extreme violence over many years against African-Americans and non-Christian minorities.

Heritage? History? Give me a break.

But … back to my point.

The counterprotest reminds me of something that occurred right here in Amarillo, Texas, in 2006. The Klan wanted to protest federal housing policy, so they decided to come to Amarillo. City officials granted the Klan a permit to demonstrate at City Hall. Just as the KKK started to blather its nonsense, in walked a horde of counterprotesters led by none other than the late Stanley Marsh 3.

Marsh — who was wearing his familiar white suit that looked as though it was borrowed from Col. Sanders — was banging some cymbals, if memory serves, and he was walking in front of a lengthy line of horn-blaring, drum-pounding, shouting protesters who — just like those in Charlottesville — sought to outshout the Klansmen.

I get that the KKK is entitled to free speech under the First Amendment’s guarantee of that particular civil liberty. So, too, are those who wanted them shouted down.

Here’s how the Washington Post reported it.

They did it in Charlottesville, just as they did in Amarillo.

I’m on the side of the counterprotesters.

What? Ringo turns Double-7?

Ringo Starr has become a metaphor for my old age.

Oh, where has the time gone? You know who this guy is, right? He came into the world with the name Richard Starkey. He grew up in Liverpool, England. He played the drums a bit. Then he joined this band that had just fired its original drummer. They needed someone new to play the sticks for them.

John, Paul and George hired Ringo and, well, as they say: the rest is history.

He was the oldest of his new bandmates by just a few months; he was born July 7, 1940, just ahead of John Lennon, who was born Oct. 9 of that year.

Ringo’s musical imprint — along with that of John, George Harrison and Paul McCartney — became the signature not just for my generation, but for others that have come along since then.

But … not for everyone.

A couple of years ago, when Ringo was turning 75 — which is one of those landmark birthdays — I approached a colleague of mine at the business where I worked part time. I mentioned to her — suffice to say she is a good bit younger than yours truly, let alone Ringo — that it was Ringo’s 75th birthday. Isn’t that cool?

She gave me a blank stare and, as the Good Lord is my solemn witness, she said: Who’s Ringo Starr?

I’m pretty sure my jaw hit the ground. I also am pretty certain that my eyes damn near flew out of my head. How in the name of all that is holy and sacred does this young woman not know anything about Ringo Starr, one-fourth of the band that shaped her parents’ generation?

“Why, I never,” I answered my friend. “Don’t you know that this guy helped raise me?” And he did, too — right along with those three other guys.

If only Ringo would see this blog and know that in that one fleeting instant I had his back. The old drummer is about to turn 77. I hope my former colleague has learned just a little something about this living legend.

She just has to ask her parents.

Obamas’ vacation now a matter to criticize? Wow!

I thought this was a satirical item when I first saw it, but apparently it’s for real.

Fox News Channel contributors are criticizing the vacation destinations of Barack and Michelle Obama. Yes, that would be the former president and former first lady of the United States, two individuals who now are private citizens … more or less.

According to The Hill: Citing “travel experts,” it said that “the level of luxury the Obamas enjoy on their vacations is unprecedented for a modern-day president.”

Here is how The Hill reported it.

Fox asked Patrick Caddell, former pollster and policy adviser to President Carter, about his view of it. Caddell described the Obamas’ vacation destinations as being like the “lifestyles of the rich and famous.” They’ve been to Bali and to luxury resorts in Hawaii, which I guess doesn’t go down well with those who work at Fox.

I won’t belabor this point, but Fox News is quite friendly to Donald J. Trump. Since I don’t routinely watch Fox News, I am reluctant to draw conclusions about its coverage of the president’s pricey excursions to his own resort in Florida. Is the network as hard-nosed in its examination of the current president as it appears to be of his immediate predecessor? You decide.

The difference is that the Obamas are footing their own bill for their vacation; the Trumps are vacationing on our dime.

Therefore, I believe Barack and Michelle Obama are entitled to vacation wherever they damn well please.

All eyes on Justice Kennedy?

Anthony Kennedy is going to be the man on the hot seat Monday.

You can rest assured the U.S. Supreme Court associate justice knows it, too.

It’s the final day of the court’s current term. Justice Kennedy has been on the high court bench for 29 years. He’s the senior member of the court.

There’s some chatter around Washington, D.C., that Kennedy is going to announce his retirement from the bench on Monday. It’s reported that there will be a reunion of Kennedy’s law clerks on Monday; they’ll sit around, slap each other on the back and swap memories of working for the justice.

If he does retire, and it’s not altogether certain he will, you can bet that the fight to succeed will make the Neil Gorsuch battle look like a day at the beach in comparison.

What sometimes gets lost in discussions about Kennedy is that he wasn’t President Reagan’s first choice for the high court appointment; he wasn’t even the Gipper’s second choice. The first pick, Robert Bork, was rejected by the U.S. Senate after a bitter confirmation hearing and debate; the second choice, Douglas Ginsburg, withdrew his name from consideration after he admitted smoking marijuana while in college.

Along came Anthony Kennedy, who the president hoped would be a stellar conservative on the court. Justice Kennedy has turned out to be a centrist, a swing vote, someone who’s sided with liberal justices as well as conservatives on key decisions.

And therein lies the crux of the battle that would consume the nation’s capital if Kennedy decides to hang up his robe.

Justice Gorsuch replaced a conservative on the court, the late Antonin Scalia. Yet that fight proved to be consequential, too. The reasons why escape me, given that Donald Trump replaced a known conservative justice with someone believed to be from the same stripe … although Justice Gorsuch has yet to demonstrate that he is as strictly conservative as Scalia.

The day a swing justice or a liberal justice retires or is otherwise unable to serve is the day all hell will break loose as long as Donald Trump is president of the United States.

Mueller’s job appears safe … for now

I am going to give Donald John Trump the benefit of the doubt on what’s being reported about special counsel Robert Mueller’s immediate future.

Mueller will continue his probe of the president’s campaign and its alleged contact with Russian government goons/hackers who sought to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

Trump has decided — as I understand it — that he won’t ask a deputy U.S. attorney general to fire Mueller.

Did sanity overcome the president? Has he been infected with the “sound judgment bug” required for those who occupy the highest office in America? Did someone tell him about the horrendous political consequences were he to engineer Mueller’s ouster?

Trump’s staff reportedly talked him out any cockamamie notion of firing Mueller. He’s already canned the FBI director, James Comey. The Justice Department picked Mueller to provide a semblance of integrity to an investigation that needs to be done thoroughly.

Mueller’s on the job

I continue to be utterly flabbergasted at the president’s inability to control the messages that pour out of the White House. What’s more, he cannot find capable, competent staff members to operate his White House communications department.

These reports get leaked out about the president considering a patently and profoundly stupid act … which would be firing the special counsel.

Democrats and Republicans all over Washington are highly complimentary of Mueller, his reputation, his record and his dedication to detail.

Let the man do his job, already!

Where do the recruiting limits exist?

Lane Kiffin is the head football coach at Florida Atlantic University and he’s had his share of controversy over many years involved with intercollegiate football.

Now come reports that Kiffin is robbing the cradle in search of football players.

He reportedly is going after middle school students. One of them is reported to be a — sheesh! — sixth-grader.

Kiffin has been known in football circles as a hothead and a loudmouth. He coached the Oakland Raiders; he was head coach at the University of Tennessee; he ventured to the University of Southern California as head coach; then he wound up as an offensive coordinator at the University of Alabama. All along the way he managed to anger folks with whom he was associated.

Robbing the cradle

Someone might have to explain to me: How does a college football coach know what kind of player a sixth-grader is going to be when he comes of age?

Maybe more to the point is this query: Why can’t an intercollegiate football coach let a kid be a kid without exerting recruitment pressure on him?

I will concede that there’s a lot about football recruitment I don’t understand. What I’ll never get is why a college coach would spend time recruiting someone who is barely pubescent.

Happy Trails, Part 20

SAYRE, Okla. — We have discovered a feature of RV travel that we didn’t expect to find.

It’s called “Public RV” camping.

We discovered it in this community that sits precisely midway between Amarillo and Oklahoma City. We camped at a city-run park that just happens to have about 60 RV campsites. Some of them are pull-through sites, which is our strongly preferred type; they have water and electricity; we get decent antenna TV reception.

And we paid all of $12 for our overnight stay. Twelve whole American dollars! 

We have discovered this form of RV camping while scouring through our huge directory of campsites across the country.

My wife and I have made pact that we’re going to look for this kind of campsite as we continue our trek across North America.

We aren’t too big into those fancy-schmancy RV “resorts.” People are packed too tightly into some of them we’ve seen. We prefer a more “rustic” setting to park our fifth wheel.

We do use our Texas state park pass that gets into our state’s parks for free; sure, we pay for nightly use, but the pass waives our entry fee.

Sayre’s park is actually quite nice. It’s clean, well-manicured, well-lit, pet-friendly.

It’s also inexpensive. We fixed-income travelers appreciate that aspect of “public RV” camping most of all.