Where are the pro-camera forces?

It’s become almost a truism that those who are against something are more fervent in their opposition than those who support something.

I present you Exhibit A: the petition to get Amarillo City Hall to rescind its red-light camera ordinance. I’ll reiterate something I’ve stated already, which is that I do not believe the “aginners” comprise a majority of the city’s 200,000 residents. But here they are, traipsing around the city trying to get enough signatures to persuade the City Commission to take back its decision to deploy the cameras at dangerous intersections.

And this prompts the question: Why aren’t there petitioners mustering signatures from those who support the cameras? I think I know the answer. It’s because those who support the cameras aren’t motivated enough to get off their duffs and make their case as publicly as those who oppose them.

It’s human nature. It’s the way we’re wired. There must be some genetic disposition at work here.

I truly hope the city stands by its principles on this one. The cameras were installed during the Debra McCartt mayoral era at City Hall. McCartt was adamant that the cameras would protect motorists by snapping pictures of violators running through red lights. The city writes up a ticket, sends the owner of the offending vehicle a citation in the mail and orders the owner to pay up or else. McCartt left office in 2011 and her successor, Paul Harpole, to his great credit has kept the momentum going forward. The commission recently decided to expand its deployment to three more intersections.

I know that somewhere are motivated individuals – such as those who live near where the cameras are working – who feel strongly enough about them to launch a counter-offensive against those who want them removed.

Time to get busy, folks.

Stand your ground, commissioners

Amarillo city commissioners are getting pressure from petitioners seeking repeal of an important city ordinance.

They should resist this call.

At issue is whether to keep the ordinance that enabled the city to install cameras at intersections to catch those who run through red lights. The city deployed cameras at six intersections initially, then voted to expand the deployment to three more. The concept is a simple one: The cameras photograph the license plates of the offending vehicles and the city then sends citations to the owners of the vehicles, who then can pay the fine or appeal the citation to the municipal court. If they win, they don’t pay; if they lose they pay up.

I’m still struggling with the logic behind the complaints, which I think are overstated, meaning I don’t believe a majority of Amarillo motorists object to the cameras – and honestly, I question whether the complainers comprise even a significant minority of Amarillo residents.

The petitioners are saying the city should hire more traffic police rather than relying on machinery to catch offending motorists. Are those petitioners then willing to pay more tax money for the cops? Do they have any idea how expensive it would be to station enough traffic police around the city stem this tide of red-light running?

Of course the complaints have run the full range of ridiculousness: the cameras invade motorists’ privacy; the cameras are just to make money for the city; offenders want to face a human accuser instead of a camera.

The cameras have worked. They have generated revenue for the city to spend on traffic improvements, which state law requires. They also have helped deter red-light runners who are aware of the presence of the cameras, given that the city must post warning signs at every intersection where it has deployed the cameras. They have prevented potentially serious auto accidents.

The best answer to the complaints is one that’s been given already by city commissioners and traffic officials, but it deserves to be repeated here: If you don’t like the cameras, then obey the law, don’t run the red lights and you have nothing to worry about.

No need for teachers to lock ‘n load

Amarillo-area public school officials are taking the reasoned approach to dealing with gun violence.

They don’t plan to arm school personnel with firearms. I applaud them.

Gun violence has taken center stage in recent weeks. The heartache in Newtown, Conn., has become the nation’s heartache. Twenty first-graders died in a massacre brought to them by a deranged teenager, who also killed six teachers who tried to protect the kids against the madman.

The reaction to that terrible event from public institutions and individuals has been varied and at times a bit overheated. But I’m glad that Amarillo metro-area school officials are taking a measured approach to protecting our children.

Their response is quite different from what Childress school officials’ decision to arm certain personnel and keep firearms locked up in “secure locations” on school campuses. I wish them the very best luck in ensuring that they train their personnel adequately so that they don’t make a tragic mistake in the event they need to unlock the weaponry.

Amarillo Independent School District Superintendent Rod Schroder said this week the district is “actively reviewing our security procedures.” That active review must be comprehensive, but it need not include putting more firearms in school buildings.

One option might be what’s been done for years in Dumas: creation of a school district police department.

I won’t pretend to have the answers to the gun violence problem. One proposed “solution” that does concern me is the notion of putting more guns in school.

How do you define ‘cheating’?

Former Republican South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford says he never “cheated taxpayers,” but did admit to some grievous personal mistakes.


He wants to represent the state in Congress once again and is seeking the House seat he held before he was elected governor. But then his personal life took a bizarre turn in 2009 and his career ended.

Sanford’s declaration that he never “cheated taxpayers” needs some examination. Allow me this shot at analysis:

Look at the record. Over Fathers Day Weekend 2009, it was revealed that Sanford’s office staff put out word that the governor was “hiking on the Appalachian Trail.” Oops, turns out he wasn’t doing that at all. The married governor instead was in Argentina engaging in a romantic rendezvous with his Latin American girlfriend. Thus, the governor, who had duped the public into thinking he was doing one thing in fact was doing something quite different many thousands of miles away. And he was getting paid with public money to do it.

Therefore, I submit, that constitutes “cheating taxpayers.”

I will stipulate that Sanford didn’t embezzle money. He didn’t dip into the till. He didn’t make private investments with the public’s money. He didn’t spend state sales tax revenue on some personal gambling habit.

But the deceit associated with his South American frolic when he supposedly was clearing his head in the cool Appalachian Mountains air amounts to cheating Palmetto State taxpayers.

Sanford needs to roll out another strategy in his quest for political redemption.

Nix Confederate memorial idea

The Beaumont Enterprise, where I used to work so very long ago, has taken the appropriate stance on an idea to erect a Confederate memorial alongside Interstate 10 in Orange County, Texas.

The paper is against it. Good going, folks.


Orange County is the southeastern-most entry point into Texas from points east. I-10, one of the busiest highways in the United States, carrying many thousands of vehicles daily from Cajun Country into the Lone Star State.

The paper’s view is that the Confederate memorial reminds the vast majority of Americans of the bloodiest war in U.S. history, when more than 600,000 Americans died on battlefields throughout the eastern half of the country.

And, as the paper noted, the memorial would be placed in a location where many political leaders are trying to re-brand their image. Namely, many conservatives are finding themselves being labeled with names such as “intolerant,” “divisive,” “out of touch” and, yes, even “racist.”

Are any of these labels true? That depends on who defines them. One undeniable truth is that national attitudes and outlooks are changing among many millions of people.

Placing a statue honoring the Confederacy, which comprised states that pulled out of the Union because of disputes ostensibly over “states’ rights” – and which many historians have said actually meant the right to enslave human beings – would be offensive on its face to the vast majority of Americans.

And I have witnessed racism at a ghastly level. Where? In Orange County, Texas.

Nix the Confederate memorial idea.

Sanford’s first campaign ad: a doozy

Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford wants to serve in the House of Reps once again and he’s released the first of the campaign to win back his old House seat.

Here it is:


He tacitly admits to making “mistakes.” Well, he made a major blunder on two horrendous levels. One was that he cheated on his wife, with whom he took a sacred vow not to do for as long as they both shall live. The second mistake was lying to the world about where he was over Father’s Day Weekend 2009. His staff said he was hiking along the Appalachian Trail when in fact he was in Argentina frolicking with his girlfriend.

Did he instruct his staff to lie or did he just lie to them and force them tell falsehoods unknowingly? It doesn’t matter. The man duped the public.

Michelle Malkin, one of the nation’s more fiery conservative columnists, tweeted today that Sanford “makes me want to throw up.” He treats his “adultery and humiliation of his family like a typo,” Malkin said in her tweet.

Malkin is justified in her nausea. Sanford made far more than a simple “mistake.” And now, in this TV ad, he invokes God’s grace and benevolence as a tool to cultivate votes. “We all make mistakes,” Sanford says in the ad. No, Mark, we don’t … not like that.

Sanford makes me sick, too.

New guy likely to provide lots of comment grist

Bloggers all over the country should be rejoicing at the arrival of Ted Cruz to the U.S. Senate.

On the job just a few weeks and he’s already managed to:

* Wonder aloud whether the next defense secretary has been accepting speaking fees from radical groups.

* Question whether said defense boss-designate and the secretary of state – two decorated Vietnam War combat veterans – were “ardent” enough in their support of the military.

* Draw a rebuke from a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, himself a former Vietnam prisoner of war and a one-time Republican nominee for president of the United States, for “impugning” the integrity of the probable new defense secretary.

To be honest, although the grist mill may be clogged with material on which to comment as it spews from Ted Cruz’s mouth, it leaves me chagrined. Why? Cruz represents Texas, which I have called home for nearly 29 years.

I am going to hate listening to others ridicule my state merely because most Texas voters elected this guy to the Senate in November 2012. Late-night comics will have a field day. Liberal commentators will join them. And perhaps even some conservative pundits are going to grow weary over time of the kinds of statements Cruz utters. They’ll become incensed that the Senate’s Republican elders will allow him to pop off as he has done with such regularity in so little time.

Used to be that Senate newcomers were to be seen and seldom heard. In this new age, though, new guys get to be seen and heard at the same time.

It’s good for folks like me who need material with which to work.

But a part of me is holding out that Texas’s senior Republican senator, John Cornyn, takes the new fellow aside and schools him on matters of decorum, which I believe still counts for something in the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body.

National defense is no partisan issue

I can’t seem to let go of this Chuck Hagel-for-defense-secretary brouhaha. Stop me … but not until I get one more thing off my chest.

Sens. John McCain and Lindsay Graham, both Republicans of Arizona and South Carolina, respectively, have let the cat out of the bag over their fierce resistance to Hagel’s nomination to lead the Pentagon.

Both men have said they’re angry with their fellow Republican for turning his back on his party – their party.

What? When did national defense become a partisan issue? When did the secretary of defense have to toe some party line in order to lead an institution whose leaders insist that the men and women who wear their nation’s military uniform forgo political considerations? These brave heroes take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution without regard to politics. They are bound by that oath to follow “lawful orders” issued by anyone farther up the chain of command than they are – and that includes the civilian commander in chief.

Now it seems that because Hagel, who served two terms as a GOP senator from Nebraska, is being punished by his fellow Republicans because he changed his mind on whether the Iraq War was a noble effort. The new White House chief of staff, Denis McDonough, made a salient point this morning on “Meet the Press.” It is that national security and defense issues belong far beyond the partisan realm.

Another distinguished Republican, U.S. Sen. Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan once offered sage advice that his political descendants should heed as they discuss national defense in the context of overarching foreign policy. He said: “To me, ‘bipartisan foreign policy’ means a mutual effort, under our indispensable, two-party system, to unite our official voice at the water’s edge so that America speaks with one voice to those who would divide and conquer us and the free world.”

Are you listening, Republicans?

Sen. Cruz making plenty of waves


Frank Bruni’s column in today’s New York Times is spot on in its critique of Texas’s shiny new U.S. senator, Republican Ted Cruz, who pranced onto the national stage six weeks ago – and promptly embarrassed himself and the state he represents.

My favorite passage from the column is this:

“Separately, in front of an audience of conservatives, he smirked dismissively as he griped that (Defense Secretary-designate Chuck) Hagel and (Secretary of State) John Kerry were ‘less than ardent fans of the U.S. military.’ Those two men fought in Vietnam, and earned Purple Hearts; Cruz never served in the institution he purports to regard so much more highly than they do.

“Only three senators voted against Kerry’s confirmation as secretary of state. Cruz was among them.”

I’ve always thought it to be senatorial custom for new guys to learn their way around the place before stepping on so many toes all at once. Cruz is emboldened, I suppose, by the big victory he scored in winning the senatorial race this past November in Texas, not that it surprised anyone, given the state’s heavily Republican leanings.

The sheer insult, though, of someone such as Cruz questioning the military credentials of two decorated combat veterans simply goes beyond the pale.

There’s really nothing more I can add to Bruni’s commentary. Well said, Mr. Bruni.

‘Goodhair’ talks past the sale

I’ve been trying for several days to process the spectacle that Gov. Rick Perry made of himself when he went recently to California to solicit business for the Lone Star State.

Finally, I think I’ve settled on this conclusion: Perry performed a gratuitous gesture of public relations grandstanding.

Perry ventured to California stating up front that, by gum, he was going to talk business execs into relocating from there to here. We’re just more business-friendly than California, he said, what with all the Golden State’s high taxes, rules and regulations, not to mention all them environmentalists telling business owners what they can do.

Perry’s telegraphing of his mission drew a pithy response from California Gov. Jerry Brown – formerly known as “Gov. Moonbeam.” Brown, who himself isn’t exactly a shrinking public-relations violet, called Perry’s visit, um, “barely a fart.”

My point here is that Texas’s pro-business climate is well-known among every Fortune 500 company on the planet. We have no state income tax; real estate here remains a huge bargain compared to California – even with the real estate crash that hit that state in late 2008; our state’s environmental agencies do not heap huge burdens on those seeking to do business here; our Legislature is filled with pro-business Republicans who vow, along with Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, to do everything they can to maintain that pro-business climate in Texas; and even the Texas Supreme Court, the state’s highest civil appellate court, rules routinely in favor of businesses caught up in civil actions brought by others.

All this is part of the public’s vast knowledge of Texas, which by itself should serve as a sufficient magnet to help attract business. And this state has no shortage of top-drawer, high-dollar companies already thriving in this environment.

So, what was Gov. Goodhair’s intent in making this grand “business recruitment” foray way out west? My only conclusion is that he wanted to call attention mainly to himself. Mission accomplished, governor.

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