Social media reveal racists among us

I’ve discovered an unexpected plus about the advent of social media on modern society.

They reveal individuals’ character or their lack of it while identifying who these individuals are to the rest of the world.

Consider the reaction to last night’s crowning of the new Miss America, who is a young woman named Nina Davuluri. She hails from New York. She’s the first Indian-American to be crowned Miss America. The reaction from some of her countrymen? Well, it was quite revealing.

The link attached here reveals the moronic attitudes of Americans toward people of certain ethnicities. I won’t detail here what some of the individuals said about Davuluri. You can access it by clicking on the link.

Suffice to say the young woman comes from a successful family. Her dad is a physician. Nina aspires to follow in his footsteps. She’s a young woman of considerable accomplishment. She is the latest in a long line of such women to own the title of Miss America.

As for social media’s influence on modern culture, we’re seeing by the reactions posted on Twitter to this event, there’s a certain value in allowing idiots to express themselves freely. They’ve exposed themselves to the rest of the world.

As an old friend once told me, it’s better to keep your enemy out front where you can see them rather than have them hiding in the bushes.

Obama is winning the Syria debate

With all due respect to the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, President Obama is emerging as a victor in the struggle to rid Syria of the chemical weapons it now says it possesses.

Mike McCaul, R-Texas, said on Fox News Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin is the big winner here and that President Obama has been reduced to a bit player in this ongoing drama.

Well, that’s about what we’ve come to expect from a leading House Republican.

Living as I do in the heart of Anti-Obama Country, I am acutely aware of the negative views of the president’s handling of the Syria crisis. I am not happy with the way he’s handled some developments in this crisis. I wished initially he hadn’t backed off his threat to strike Syria in retaliation for that government’s gassing of civilians.

But consider what’s happened.

* Barack Obama issued the threat to hit Syrian military targets to dissuade Syria from using chemical weapons in the future.

* Russia, one of Syria’s main allies, steps in with a plan to get Syria to turn its chemical weapons over to international inspectors.

* The Syrians, who at first denied having the weapons, agreed.

* Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart agree to the deal and have given Syria a timetable to comply.

I agree the deal is fraught with danger. Syria might not comply, forcing the United States to follow through with its strike threat.

What was the catalyst for all this? The president’s initial threat to hit Syria.

Does that make Barack Obama look stronger or weaker? I believe it strengthens the president. Of course, those in the opposing party say he is weakened by all this. I would suggest that a strategy that results in Syria giving up its chemical weapons without having to bomb them into doing it takes us closer to an end to a serious crisis.

That view, of course, will be a non-starter for those who think the worst of the 44th president of the United States.

Audie Murphy finally honored by state

I’ll admit to being a little slow on the uptake, but I have to give a huge salute to the Texas Legislature for doing something it should have done, oh, about 15 years ago.

It honored the late Audie Murphy — the most decorated soldier in Texas history — with the Texas Legislature Medal of Honor. Gov. Rick Perry made the award official on Aug. 19 when he signed House Concurrent Resolution 3, which the Legislature approved during its second special session this summer.


The Legislature Medal of Honor was begun with the 1997 Legislature. Murphy should have been the first man so honored. But he wasn’t, for reasons no one has explained.

Murphy, who died in a 1971 plane crash, served in the Army during World War II. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism in connection with his duty in France, when he killed an estimated 200 German soldiers in a single fire fight. His exploits became the subject of legend and lore. Murphy went on to become a film actor and portrayed himself in the film “To Hell and Back,” which told the story of his battlefield heroism.

The failure to honor Murphy, a native of Hunt County, was something of a comedy of errors over the years. The Legislature formerly only honored a single individual per session. It expanded the ranks to two per session in 2011. It’s as if his name kept slipping through the cracks as lawmakers pondered who they would honor.

This man has been honored by foreign governments in Europe, where he fought to liberate a continent from tyranny. When you look up the term “hero” in the dictionary, there ought to be a picture of Audie Murphy included in the definition provided.

The Texas Legislature has corrected a serious oversight by honoring Audie Murphy with this long-overdue recognition.

Don’t mess with this Texas slogan

Texas tries to get serious about littering … so much so that it has adopted a slogan that to many millions of Americans, and even some Texans, has taken on an entirely new meaning.

“Don’t Mess With Texas” has been around since the mid-1980s. The state’s General Land Office launched the anti-littering campaign with the slogan that has, shall we say, become as popular as a Friday night football tailgate party.

The New York Times story linked here discusses how Texas is trying to protect the integrity of its slogan. I have an idea: How about using it exclusively for its intended purpose, which was to tell people they shouldn’t litter the state’s vast and varied landscape.

Texas officials say they’re trying to preserve the slogan’s original meaning. Some leading politicians, though, aren’t following suit. As the Times article noted, then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush used the phrase in a political context when he accepted the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2000. Other pols have thrown the slogan around to tout some people’s view of Texas machismo.

As the Times reported: “The phrase is known around the world, and it is important for everyone to recognize that ‘Don’t Mess With Texas’ means ‘Don’t litter,’ ” Veronica Beyer, a (Texas) Transportation Department spokeswoman, said in a statement. “When an alleged infringement is discovered, the department quickly seeks the appropriate legal remedy, which is usually a cease-and-desist demand of the unauthorized use and all future uses thereof. In the majority of such cases, our request for the violator to cease and desist has been all the action required.”

I couldn’t agree more with that view. The problem for the state, though, is how to reel in those who keep abusing the slogan.

Tanner vs. McCartt for Potter County judge

I’m going to make some assumptions about the upcoming race for Potter County judge in 2014.

One is that the two most serious Republican candidates already have declared their intention to seek the seat now held by County Judge Arthur Ware. The other is that no serious contender is going to enter the contest. A third assumption is that there won’t be a serious Democrat running for the seat, given that the Potter County Democratic Party is virtually comatose.

So, we’re left with two women with vastly different capabilities: former county court administrator and Ware’s one-time right-hand woman, Nancy Tanner, and former Amarillo Mayor Debra McCartt.

Ware, who’s not running for re-election, has endorsed McCartt — which shouldn’t be a surprise given that he fired Tanner from her county job earlier this summer for reasons he hasn’t yet explained.

So the question becomes: How will these women present their political credentials and what will they say is their strongest suit?

Tanner has a long list of actual accomplishment on her dossier. She’s run the court system; she has been at Ware’s side during the two decades Ware has been county judge; and she’s done much of Ware’s actual job since the judge suffered a devastating stroke in 2010. She knows the county well. She is well acquainted with county department heads and elected officials.

McCartt’s history is quite different. She served as mayor for three terms after serving a couple of terms on the Amarillo City Commission. McCartt is an immensely popular personality in Amarillo. She loves the city and served admirably as Amarillo’s chief spokeswoman during her mayoral tenure. However, the city’s political structure doesn’t give the mayor much actual power; the administrative duties are done by the city manager. Furthermore, the mayor and the four commissioners all represent the same constituency, since they all are elected at-large. But I’ll go back to my thought about McCartt’s personal popularity. It’s huge and I believe it will matter a great deal when the two candidates square off in public forums to debate the issues.

Potter County voters already have demonstrated a tendency to go with popularity over professionalism, as they did in 2000 when county Republicans nominated Mike Shumate to be sheriff over Art Tupin. Shumate had a checkered career with Amarillo Police Department, but developed a cult following when he ran the APD Crime Stoppers program; Tupin, meanwhile, served as chief Potter County deputy sheriff under Jimmy Don Boydston and was eminently more qualified for the job than Shumate. That didn’t matter to county Republicans. Shumate then breezed to victory in the general election that year over a Democratic candidate no one has seen or heard from since the votes were counted.

I am thinking the same dynamic may play out in the Tanner-McCartt race.

Tanner’s learning curve would be much less severe than McCartt’s, given that Tanner has done much of the job already and McCartt has little actual hands-on experience with managing the complexities of government.

Let’s all stay dialed in on this contest. It’s going to be a fascinating campaign that likely might reveal lots of things about Potter County’s voting public.

Stay the course with red-light cams

I am tipping my proverbial cap to the Amarillo City Commission for showing the courage of its convictions relating to the red-light cameras it has deployed at intersections throughout the city.

Rather than buckling to a vocal minority of critics, commissioners are increasing the number of cameras. They’re adding even more electronic eyes to watch for those individuals who cannot seem to avoid running through red lights and endangering other motorists and pedestrians.

It’s an interesting display of backbone. Lubbock installed red-light cameras some years ago and then pulled them down when the critics got too loud. Amarillo, on the other hand, has stood firm against the critics, telling them flat out that if you don’t want to get slapped with a fine, simply obey the law.

This criticism, incidentally, has puzzled me.

I cannot prove it from my perch, but I cannot get past this nagging notion that if someone were to conduct a thorough public opinion survey of residents regarding the red-light cameras, there would be a substantial majority of respondents who would favor them. I suspect there might be a large “no opinion” result in the sampling, but those who do have an opinion on the red-light cameras would endorse them — in my humble view.

However, the red-light camera critics in Amarillo have been vocal. They’ve managed to bluff and bluster more loudly than their small numbers would suggest.

Let’s understand one key element of the cameras’ deployment: The city isn’t raking in large sums of money for frills and needless expenses. State law requires cities to use the revenue derived from the fines they collect to go directly toward traffic improvement projects. Amarillo has done that.

So now the city is marching ahead with its program to persuade motorists to obey the red traffic lights that command them to “Stop.”

Maybe one day, the scofflaws will get the message.

Sen. Cruz a moderate? On immigration?

Ted Cruz has developed a small, but possibly dangerous, crack in his hardliner’s armor.

It involves immigration and the junior U.S. senator from Texas may find himself on the outs with the very Republican Party base that helped elect him to the office in November 2012.

The tea party wing of the party hates any kind of immigration reform. Cruz, a first-generation American — he was born in Canada to an American mother and a Cuban father — sees immigration a bit differently than those who up to this point have worshiped every word that comes out of his mouth.

Cruz says he supports granting legal status for those already in this country illegally and wants to make it easier for them to gain citizenship. Hey, isn’t that Sen. Marco Rubio’s take on immigration, and hasn’t the Florida Republican gotten into trouble with the tea party base in his state over that very thing?

“I have said many times that I want to see common-sense immigration reform pass,” Cruz told the Texas Tribune. “I think most Americans want to see the problem fixed.”

Sure enough. But the tea party crowd that supports Cruz wants to “fix” the problem by rounding up undocumented immigrants and deporting them. Or, as GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney said during the 2012 campaign, make life so miserable here in the United States that they could “self-deport” themselves back to the countries of their birth.

Political reality may be about to smack Ted Cruz right in the face.

Putin’s remarks do matter … a lot

Vladimir Putin’s assertion that the United States of America is not an exceptional nation has drawn fire from both sides of the political aisle in this country.

With good reason, I should add once again.

Yet, some political hounds, such as former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., have dismissed Putin’s remarks as being irrelevant, that they don’t matter.

I have to disagree with Gingrich.

Putin wrote — or as Gingrich said correctly, someone wrote it for him — an op-ed column in the New York Times in which he challenged American politicians’ view of this country as being “exceptional.” I won’t rehash the points I made in an earlier blog post about Russia’s relative mediocrity compared to America.

It is folly, though, to dismiss Putin’s remarks simply because he is a former KGB spy, as Gingrich did. He is leader of a significant nation that possesses a huge nuclear arsenal left over from the Cold War and the era when Russia was known as the Soviet Union. Russia is still a significant player on the world stage.

Most of us here in America, yours truly included, do not buy into Putin’s belief that this country is unexceptional. He has made his point and it is still reverberating around the world.

If he were president of, say, Trinidad and Tobago, then we could dismiss his comments as not worth our time or attention. His great big platform as Russian’s head of state gives Putin a very loud bullhorn.

Perry continues his job-poaching mission

Gov. Rick Perry’s effort to stimulate the Texas economy at the expense of some of the other 50 states in the Union still has me scratching my head.

His latest target is Maryland — which, not coincidentally, is governed by a Democrat, Martin O’Malley. Perry has taken out ads on broadcast media there touting Texas as a place to relocate businesses while also criticizing Maryland as a state that is unfriendly to business.

The Pride of Paint Creek has visited other states, such as California and New York — which also are governed by Democrats — in the hope of luring companies away from those states and toward Texas. He’s used the same tactics in those states as well, telling Californians and New Yorkers, in effect, that they live and work in states that foster horrible business environments.

He had sought to make a foray recently into Missouri, where Gov. Jay Nixon runs things. Did I mention that Nixon also is a Democrat? Gov. Nixon was a bit more forceful in telling Perry to stay away, lambasting the Texas governor for trying to pilfer jobs from the Show Me State. Nixon told Perry that his strategy isn’t very neighborly and he takes great offense at Perry’s effort to bolster his state’s fortunes at others’ expense.

I’ve long thought that Perry was taking a bit of public-relations gamble with this strategy. I do salute the governor for having Texas’s interests at heart, which is one reason why he’s been so electable here. I cannot fault him for wanting to tout the Texas economy.

I remain troubled, though, by his continued politicization of this economic development strategy. Maybe all those other states need to change their regulatory structure, as Perry suggests. Perhaps they can reduce their tax rates or restructure their incentives to retain business and commerce. Isn’t that their call?

And isn’t enough for the Texas governor merely to say that our state is a great place to do business — citing all those positives of which we all should be proud — without resorting to the denigration of those other places?

I find it a bit curious as well that Perry is so fond of touting states’ individualism, referring often to the Constitution’s 10th Amendment when lambasting what he calls a federal government overreach into state matters. Well, doesn’t that individualism also apply to the way states are governed within their own borders?

Therefore, Rick Perry’s job-poaching strategy is an exercise in hypocrisy.

Senator’s past may haunt him

I love it when high-and-mighty U.S. senators try to throw their weight around and then find out their own misdeeds may be used against them.

David Vitter, R-La., may be the latest lawmaker to learn that harsh lesson.

Vitter is pushing a tad too hard to abolish the Affordable Care Act to suit some Democratic senators who are infuriated with his tactics on the Senate floor. So, in the spirit of hardball Louisiana politics — with which Vitter no doubt is familiar — the Democratic caucus might resurrect Vitter’s admitted prostitute solicitation to derail his effort to defund the ACA.

POLITICO reports that Vitter is insisting on a vote to repeal federal contributions to pay for lawmakers’ health care coverage. Democrats are angry enough at the conservative Republican to consider their own amendment which would include senators who solicited prostitutes, a la David Vitter.

“Harry Reid is acting like an old-time Vegas Mafia thug, and a desperate one at that,” Vitter said in a statement to POLITICO, referring to the Senate majority leader. “This just shows how far Washington insiders will go to protect their special Obamacare exemption.”

It seems a bit weird for someone such as Vitter — who consorted with hookers — to throw around terms like “Mafia thug” when talking about a leading Senate colleague. The Senate Ethics Committee didn’t take any action on Vitter’s extracurricular activity back in 2008 because it occurred before he became a senator. Vitter did apologize profusely for his behavior.

Still, I am inclined to invoke the old adage about the common color of kettles and pots.

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