Glass houses can, and do, shatter

Enough, already.

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s announcement today that he cheated on his wife brings down yet another high-profile Republican politician who once stood foursquare in favor of “family values.”

He joins Nevada Sen. John Ensign, who admitted to something similar just the other day. Then we have Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, who consorted with a hooker in Washington, D.C. Florida Rep. Mark Foley embarrassed his party when he sent lurid e-mail messages to young male pages in the U.S. Capitol.

I agree that Democrats are guilty as well of this foolishness. Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer took a tumble with a hooker; former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards admitted to cheating on his wife, Elizabeth, while she was battling breast cancer and then we have that former president who messed around with the intern while serving as Leader of the Free World.

But pardon me for sounding extra harsh on these latest announcements. Sanford and Ensign have held themselves up as paragons of virtue, only to be exposed as anything but. And that’s the problem with the party under which they serve.

Can we now call a halt to these lectures on morality?

Ware preaches Patriotism 101

Potter County Judge Arthur Ware wears his patriotism on his sleeve, right next to the Marine sergeant’s stripes he wore while serving in Operation Desert Storm.

Ware doesn’t want to remove the M-60 tank that’s been parked next to the county courthouse since 1993. He calls it a memorial to those who have served, and fallen, in defense of the country. The tank, which Ware said is on loan from the Department of Defense, might have to move to another location. Where? That’s not clear.

The county is restoring the courthouse, largely with money obtained from the Texas Historical Commission. Ware doesn’t like being dictated to by the THC about what he believes is a local matter — namely the tank. But if the THC digs in its heels and orders the county to relocate the tank, then it will cost money that Ware believes should be spent on restoring the courthouse. Ware doesn’t want to spend the money on tank removal. He wants the tank to stay where it is, as a testament to those who have defended the nation.

Ware sent me an e-mail this morning, which he said included an inscription on a C-ration box found at Khe Sanh after the heroic Tet offensive siege of early 1968. “Freedom has a special meaning for those who have fought for it, that the protected will never know,” the message said.

I get that.

But it’s worth wondering whether this is a battle worth waging. Wherever the tank goes, it should stand as a fitting memorial.

We can’t hear you, commissioners

Potter County commissioners are meeting these days at the top of the Santa Fe Building, while the county courthouse is being restored down the street. The new digs — in the refurbished auditorium on the 11th floor of the Santa Fe Building — are nice.

But, man, the acoustics in the room are terrible.

Commissioners chatted among themselves, and to staff members Monday — and the audience was left in the dark. And when County Auditor Kerry Hood — she of the soft voice — spoke to County Judge Arthur Ware about a matter under consideration for county action, members of the public couldn’t understand a word she was saying.

“Speak up, Kerry. We can’t hear you,” came a plea from the audience.

The room is a giant echo chamber. Add to that echo the incessant hum of the air conditioner, you get a situation that needs improvement if these public meetings are going to conduct business in the open.

Commissioners will be meeting at the Santa Fe Building until mid- to late 2011, when the courthouse project is expected to be completed. There’s time to fix the acoustics, gentlemen of the commissioners court.

Rest in peace, Jim Holston

I’m saddened today.

A good man has passed away and Amarillo has one less gentle soul among its ranks.

Jim Holston was involved in hospice care for decades. He battled openly and courageously for years against prostate cancer. I recall seeing him one day at a downtown lunch spot and he spoke matter-of-factly about the struggle he was having with the disease.

Perhaps it was his hospice training that enabled him to talk so crisply — even cheerfully — about a potentially fatal illness.

But Jim was great conversationalist no matter the topic, and he always had a good word to pass along whenever our paths crossed.

Jim’s family and friends will gather at 2 p.m. Saturday at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church to celebrate his wonderful life.

I’m guessing that Jim would want it to be a happy event. It won’t be hard to keep smiling. It will be difficult, though, to keep my eyes dry.

Who’s the pest, the fly or PETA?

I will admit that I cannot prove this, but — so help me — I saw this complaint coming the moment I saw the president kill that pesky fly.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has griped that President Obama shouldn’t have killed the fly that was annoying him during a televised interview in the White House.

PETA, which makes its annoying presence felt in the Panhandle from time to time, said Obama instead should have captured the fly and released it into the great outdoors. Even flies, PETA said, deserve to be treated with respect, love and compassion.

The president, of course, didn’t do as PETA had wanted. He waited for the fly to land on his arm, then he took it out — thwapp!! — with a single blow. “I got that sucker,” he boasted to MSNBC’s John Harwood.

Good for you, Mr. President.

The world now has one less fly. But rest assured, our planet has no shortage of them.

Recycling becomes a way of life

Keep Amarillo Beautiful needs to hire some of the kids I saw in Jerusalem recently.

I was sitting in a sidewalk cafe in the Old City. Then I looked up and saw two boys patrolling empty tables, looking for plastic bottles. They grabbed all the bottles they could find and tossed them into a bag.

Recycling is a way of life in Israel. Israelis recycle plastic bottles, glass bottles, newspapers, aluminum cans — and water. It’s the water recycling that is most interesting. You can see Israeli homemakers pouring water they had used in cooking their vegetables onto their gardens.

The recycling emphasis reminds me of my former home state of Oregon, which in the 1970s enacted a “Bottle Bill” that pays money for bottles and cans returned to grocery stores.

Keep Amarillo Beautiful, the brainchild of Dusty McGuire, does a decent job of promoting these efforts here. But it hasn’t sold it yet on the population at large, which still is tossing a large quantity of these materials into the trash can, only to be hauled off to the landfill where it is buried forever.

What the city needs are a few dedicated kids to take these bottles, cans and newspapers to the nearest recycling bin.

Road work does not end

Sigh.

More roadwork in Amarillo. Will it ever end?

Texas transportation work crews are repaving the Canyon E-Way southbound. They’ve closed the inside lane, narrowing traffic to just a single lane for portion of the way. All this road construction makes me appreciate the finished product.

They’ll be resurfacing the highway, presumably to a smooth finish that makes our vehicles travel quietly over them. I dislike intensely the rough surfaces that make the tires roar under my car, or under my wife’s truck. Why? I cannot hear the radio when I’m driving. Thus, I have to turn the thing way up.

The road work is a bit of an annoyance, I’ll admit. But I do appreciate the end of it, and not just because those ubiquitous orange cones will disappear — until TxDOT decides to tear up the next road.

That was some welcome

I’m going to rat out an unnamed immigration officer, who managed to tick me off just moments after my wife and I returned from Israel this past weekend.

We arrived at Newark’s international airport early Sunday after a 12-hour flight from Tel Aviv. We trudged from the gate to the passport control section of the airport, right along with hundreds of other passengers who had gotten off our flight — and probably one or two others at the same time.

We stood in line and waited, and waited, and waited.

Finally, we decided to move to a station where the immigration officer was processing returning Americans more rapidly.

No sooner had we gotten to the new line, then the officer barked at us: “I’m closing the line after these people in front of you. Go somewhere else.”

He shot me an icy stare. I shot one back.

We moved to another line, got our passports stamped and we moved on to baggage claim, where we went through customs. Incidentally, the young man handling our luggage was just as efficient as the snarky immigration dude, but a whole lot friendlier.

Why do I mention this?

Well, we had been treated exceptionally well by our Israeli hosts. I had been away for five weeks. My wife joined me for the final week for a little sightseeing, mostly in Jerusalem. We had just flown a dozen hours on an airplane. I had next to zero sleep.

And then some bozo in a uniform treated us badly.

The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service needs to teach its employees some manners. This clown seemed to have forgotten that he works for us, not the other way around.

Not a bad guy to be found

A strange thing happened on our final full day in Israel. We laid eyes on literally thousands of Muslims — seemingly all at once — and didn’t see a terrorist in the bunch.

It was shortly after noon on Friday. My wife and I were atop the Mount of Olives, where we could hear the Muslim prayers coming from inside the walls of the Old City. We trekked down from the hilltop to Lion’s Gate, at the eastern wall.

Then came the crowd, and I mean it was huge. The prayers had ended and the folks who had congregated inside the Old City began filing out through Lion’s Gate. They streamed out, and kept streaming out for what seemed like an eternity.

My wife and I waited patiently for the crowd to begin to thin out. We waited some more. And some more. We both were struck by a peculiar notion, which was that no one paid us any attention. Each member of the throng of thousands seemed intent on getting to wherever they were headed, and paid zero attention to a pair of foreigners.

I looked for a suspicious character in the crowd. I’ll be darned if I could find one. Little boys and girls giggled as they unwrapped their frozen fruit treats. Women dressed in their traditional Muslim attire trudged along among the masses of men who comprised the vast majority of the massive crowd.

I asked an Israeli police officer nearby, “How long will this take?” About 10 minutes, maybe more, he said. We waited another 10 minutes or so. My wife joked that perhaps we were witnessing a parade and that everyone was just walking in a long circle.

Then the young officer stood up and waved us over. “Do you want to go now?” he asked. “Yes,” we both answered.

So, we got right behind the heavily armed officer as he forced his way through the crowd into the Old City. We were riding in his “wake” as he nudged steadily through the crowd, walking in the opposite direction of where the outgoing throng was moving.

It helps to know people, right?

But in this post-9/11 world in which some folks actually believe all Muslims are intent on killing us “infidels,” a refreshing reminder of the fallacy of those beliefs arose from the masses of folks who had just said their prayers on a blazing hot day in the Holy Land.

These folks have ample reason

When we landed in Israel on May 10, we were greeted with a big surprise: no customs forms and a smooth walk through immigration, where agents glanced at our passports, stamped them and sent us on our way.

It won’t be nearly that smooth when we leave on Saturday.

David Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv is a shiny, modern terminal. It’s also crawling with security guards. Most of our Rotary Group Study Exchange team flew home on June 7. One of our team members stayed behind for a week of vacation. My wife arrived that day for a week of R&R with me.

Our team members who have gone through the security check have been dragged through the airport sausage grinder. On Saturday, it’s our turn.

One of our team members, Aida Almaraz, sent back a note advising us to be at the DB-G airport four hours-plus early, instead of the customary three hours. I watched the security officers go through her baggage item by item when she left. She confirmed that it doesn’t get any easier once you obtain your boarding pass. Aida then said that the Continental flight had begun boarding by the time she and her companions — Katt Krause and Shirley Davis — had arrived at the gate. And they had been there for three hours already!

I understand why the Israelis are so adamant about airport security. They’ve been the target of many terrorist hijackings and other acts of violence over many years. They have become the masters of ensuring that bad guys don’t climb aboard a commercial jetliner.

But, as an Israeli friend of mine muttered through clenched teeth as we watched our GSE team run through the ringer, “The terrorists have given jobs to many people.”

That’s fine with me … just as long we get home safely.

Commentary on politics, current events and life experience

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