Baby Moses law needs exposure

Maybe I’m not paying much attention, but I rather doubt it. Amarillo’s civic leadership needs to get the word out to our community’s young mothers about the Baby Moses law.

It’s a 10-year-old statute that allows people to drop their children off at emergency providers within 60 days of the child’s birth. There will be no questions asked. There will be no charges filed. It’s meant to save the lives of children whose parents cannot — or will not — care for them.

Perhaps a greater awareness of the law might have prevented the death of an hours-old infant the other day in Amarillo. I say “perhaps” only because a 15-year-old girl is accused of a crime for which she has not been convicted. Potter County authorities accuse her of killing her baby hours after the baby’s birth. The baby died of asphyxiation.

Lots of investigation will ensue. One avenue might be whether the community is sufficiently aware of the Baby Moses law. I’m thinking Amarillo is in dire need of a major PR campaign to educate the public — now.

What a waste of time

Can there be anything of less use than forcing a member of Congress to apologize to the House, even though he’s already apologized to the man at whom he directed an idiotic shout?

House Democrats on Tuesday introduced a resolution rebuking the actions of Republican Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina for shouting out “You lie!” to President Obama during the president’s address to a joint session of Congress this past week.

Wilson apologized immediately for his comments to the president — who accepted it. That’s not good enough for the House leadership, whose members contend that Wilson embarrassed the House as well as the president.

So, they want to make him pay, by golly, for his outburst. With what? A public dressing-down? Wilson is loving the attention, which he never got before he shot off his mouth this past week.

This is a waste of time. Wilson’s remarks spoke for themselves. The setting required maximum dignity, which Wilson didn’t exhibit. He behaved boorishly. That ought to stand as a testament to this guy’s lack of class.

The House leadership can’t do anything more to this clown.

Meanwhile, members of both houses of Congress have many more productive matters at hand. Do the words “health care” mean anything to these people?

Now, go to the back of the room — please

How does an obscure, back-bench member of Congress make an instant name for himself?

One way is to holler “You lie!” at the president of the United States during a speech to a joint session of Congress, an event that usually compels maximum decorum and dignity.
The hoo-haw over Republican Joe Wilson’s outburst at President Obama this past week would be comical if it wasn’t so impolite and undistinguished. Wilson has apologized to the president, which he was pressured to do from members of both sides of the aisle. Now the Democratic majority in the House wants him to do it again, in a speech on the House floor. Wilson has said he won’t do it a second time and the media are climbing all over the guy. I’m guessing this individual is loving the attention, given that he hardly ever got any before he lost control of himself this past week.
My take?
Rep. Wilson was a nobody the instant before he shot off his mouth — and he is a nobody now. He acted shamefully and deserves to be sent to the back of chamber where no one outside of his South Carolina congressional district will ever hear or see him again.

All politics is, um, local

The tepid response from Amarillo-area educators to President Obama’s speech to students today is a clear reflection of the broader constituency.

Look at it this way: The president’s speech likely will be shown live in virtually all classrooms in school districts where Obama polled much better than he did here.

Consider these locations: Alameda County, Calif., Dallas County, King County, Wash., Cook County, Ill.? Students in those regions got to watch Obama live, in real time, as he spoke to them about the virtues of working hard in school.

Here, though, the calculation is much different. Obama finished far behind Republican presidential nominee John McCain in the 2008 presidential election. Thus, the teachers’ and school administrators’ reluctance to show the speech live to students is understandable.

Politics shouldn’t govern whether the president is allowed to offer wisdom to students starting a new school year. But that’s the nature of the proverbial beast — and the nation’s politican in chief knows it better than anyone.

Work hard and study? What an outrage!

I guess we’re getting close to seeing and hearing just about anything these days.

President Obama wants to speak Tuesday night to the nation’s school children. He wants to encourage them to study, to work hard, to listen to their teachers and to obey their parents. But not even as straightforward a message as that is immune from the nut jobs who are accusing the president of trying to foist some evil agenda on those young and tender minds.

What in the world is going on here?

I got a call late this past week (I was away from the office for a few days of R&R with my wife) from some guy who said that “no way” was he going to let his child hear the president’s message. “I don’t like the guy,” the caller said. That was enough of a reason, apparently, to ensure that Obama’s message was blocked out here. He wanted to know if Amarillo ISD was going to let the kids hear the president’s 18-minute speech, and was hoping for all the world that it wouldn’t allow its students to be poisoned by President Obama.

This craziness is beyond the pale.

If Americans are worried about the president of the United States offering words of time-honored wisdom to our children, then this country is in even deeper trouble than we think.

And in this corner … Perry or Hutchison?

The eyes of the nation will be on Texas next spring.

Political junkies such as me will enjoy immensely the spectacle of two big hitters laying haymakers on each other. Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison are vying for the Republican nomination for governor — a job now held by Perry.

What’s yet to be determined is how Texas Democrats are going to garner any attention.

I can guarantee that Perry and Hutchison are going to command virtually all the media’s attention from now until the primary next March. That leaves the Democratic Party primary as sort of a preliminary event occurring simultaneously with the Big Show on the Republican side.

I also can guarantee that the rest of the nation will be peering this way for a clue on how Perry campaigns and how Hutchison counters the governor’s sure-fire appeal to the conservative base within the GOP.

Perry’s talk this past spring of secession was meant to fire up the faithful. It worked.

Hutchison is seen in Republican circles as a more “moderate” politician. But the Panhandle GOP faithful don’t trust her, chiefly because of her perceived squishiness on abortion. Yes, she remains a strong Second Amendment supporter, which she demonstrated with her vote against confirming Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Political types across the nation will be looking for evidence of a Republican comeback in 2010. Whatever success Perry gets in the primary will set the tone for the rest of the year. If, however, Texas Republicans grow tired of the governor and turn toward Hutchison, then her moderate stance becomes the new standard that the party ought to follow in other statewide and congressional elections.

Shake hands and come out fighting.

Not fit to lead?

“You just don’t get it.”

With that, a gentleman told me early today that my column on Sunday about the late Sen. Ted Kennedy was way off the mark. He had tapped my shoulder, got my attention, and then unloaded.

Kennedy lacked character, the man said, “and that’s why the Panhandle never could support someone like him.” He was referring, of course, to the many personal misdeeds that plagued the senator’s life.

Kennedy couldn’t lead a “Judeo-Christian nation like ours,” he said, noting that the senator’s many sins disqualified him from a position of leadership.

OK. Point taken.

But I’ll just add that the Bible is chock full of references to grace and forgiveness. And I believe it also says that only God is fit to pass judgment on someone’s sins.

I prefer to let the Almighty determine who is fit to enjoy eternal life.

I did, however, get the gentleman’s name and thanked him for his comments. Maybe we can talk some more.

Judge him on his complete record

A man for whom I harbor great respect and affection said this Thursday when we met: “I purposely avoided reading today’s editorial.”

I asked why. He said he couldn’t stomach reading about the subject of the editorial, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. “I have no use for that man,” he said, adding that he detested Kennedy as much for his private misdeeds as he does for his public policies.

My friend clearly was speaking for many thousands of Panhandle residents who share his view of Sen. Kennedy.

I know what he’s talking about. Chappaquiddick.

The tragedy of that terrible day on July 18, 1969 has been chronicled to the max. A young woman died after the car driven by Kennedy plunged into the drink late one night. The two of them had come from a party. Kennedy escaped the car; the young woman drowned. Kennedy didn’t notify the authorities until much later, and then had difficulty explaining his actions for the rest of his life.

The editorial my dear friend refused to read didn’t go into detail on that event. It was meant to pay tribute to a man who had built an unparalleled Senate career of achievement. The editorial noted that Kennedy didn’t have many friends in this part of the world, and acknowledged that Kennedy had been plagued by demons. He misbehaved badly at times, but fought his way out of that lengthy period of his life. He remarried. He sobered up. He became arguably the most effective U.S. senator in the past 100 years.

But the comments made me wonder: Is it fair to judge someone in public life on the basis of a single mistake? I don’t think so. Who among us would want to be remembered solely for one colossal misstep? Isn’t the body of a man’s earthly existence worth considering? Of course it is. Kennedy’s life includes many positive components: His caring for a huge extended family deprived of their own father figures (brothers Bobby and Jack) comes to mind.

Yes, Kennedy was a deeply flawed man. No one doubts that.

He merely was just as human as the rest of us.

Bridge-building about to begin

Relief is in sight for beleaguered motorists who get stuck in traffic waiting for slow-moving trains to pass.

State transportation officials and Amarillo officials have agreed on a deal that will result in construction of a new bridge near the infamous Third and Grand intersection in east Amarillo. That’s where the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad has tracks carrying trains that creep through town at a snail’s pace. The result has been seemingly interminable waits for motorists.

The bridge will cost about $9.1 million. Federal economic stimulus money has allowed the city and the state to expedite the project. The rest of the money will come from a variety of state and local sources. City Manager Alan Taylor has described the economic stimulus cash coming to Amarillo from the Obama administration as “amazing.” Given this region’s political leanings — which do not favor President Obama’s vision of how to restore economic prosperity — that term might be most apt.

It’s time to get this job done.

East Amarillo residents have long complained that the city has allowed this problem to languish for too long. It’s a big job, to be sure.

But as the city and the state iron out the details of this project, it gives residents hope that help is on the way.

Kennedy, critics find common ground

The thought occurred to me this morning as I was pondering the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy.

The old Senate “liberal lion” shared a common trait with some of his harshest critics of the Texas Panhandle. He chose to use his privilege for the public good.

Kennedy was born into immense power and prestige in Massachusetts. He could have gone to work for some high-powered law firm and made even more millions on top of what he inherited. He chose instead to run for the Senate in 1962, where he stayed until his death late Tuesday.

I can count all day the number of privileged Panhandle residents who do much the same thing. I know many of them well. They, too, are born into privilege. They, too, choose to serve the public. No, they don’t earn six-figure salaries in the halls of power on Capitol Hill. They choose instead to serve on volunteer boards and commissions. But they need not do that. They could sit at home, watch their investments grow — or decline — and worry only about their own well-being. And many of them have articulated to me personally their intense disapproval of the things that Kennedy stood for while he served in the Senate.

But still, therein lies the common thread that connects a hard-core liberal such as Kennedy with his equally hard-core conservative critics who populate the Panhandle. Privilege brings an obligation to give back. And that obligation knows no ideological boundary.

Commentary on politics, current events and life experience

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