‘Rule of capture’ might become campaign issue

An interesting issue may be emerging in the race for Texas governor.

Is it OK for a leading candidate for governor to talk about water conservation when he has drilled a well on his property to collect all the water he can use — and avoid municipal fines in the process?

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has sunk a well on his property in an exclusive Austin neighborhood. Austin, as is much of the state, is snagged in a punishing drought. It has imposed restrictions on lawn-watering. Abbott — along with other well-heeled residents — has gotten around that drilling his own well.


Abbott is using the time-honored “rule of capture” doctrine in Texas that enables property owners to use whatever they can from under the ground. The courts have upheld this practice, even though it might deplete groundwater supplies for others.

“To me it’s just unconscionable. It’s a total disregard for the resource,” said Andrew Sansom, executive director of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University and the former head of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “What we should be doing is reducing our consumption of water.”

The drought has had its impact on West Texas. Remember what used to be known as Lake Meredith? A recent survey of all the state’s surface-water reservoirs shows the one-time “lake” at 0 percent of capacity, meaning that it’s virtually empty.

The Hill Country also is in serious trouble with its water. So, what about the leading Republican candidate for governor digging his own well? Does it become an issue for his major GOP primary opponent, Tom Pauken? Will the likely Democratic nominee, state Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, make it an issue?

Should they? Certainly they should.

Leadership requires leaders act the part, not just talk about it.

From my vantage point way up yonder in the water-starved Panhandle, I believe the attorney general might have dug himself into a bit of a political hole.

Implode the Dome … if it must go

The voters of Houston have spoken. The Astrodome, once called the Eighth Wonder of the World, appears headed for destruction.

Houston voters said “no” to a plan to turn the Dome into an exhibit hall. It would have saved the place, kept it erect and standing proud.


It’s not going to happen. Destruction appears imminent.

Allow me this one request if that’s the fate awaiting the Dome.

Blow it up all at once. Implode the place. Knock it down with one fell swoop. I’m thinking “big bang” here.

The alternative to imploding the structure would be too difficult to watch over the long haul. Knocking it down with a wrecking ball would take an interminable length of time. I don’t know if I could stand seeing pictures of the place being taken down piece by piece.

It’s kind of like watching a prey animal being eaten alive by a predator.

I get that Houston’s voters have the final say on the Dome’s future. I also get that New York watched as the House that Ruth Built — aka Yankee Stadium — was taken down to make way for a “New Yankee Stadium.” The Dome isn’t even as elegant as the old Yankee crib.

I’m still saddened by the result of the vote in Houston.

So, if it’s meant to be that the Dome must go, do it quickly. Please

JFK conspiracy theories still abound

I am in a distinct minority of Americans.

Most of my countrymen believe something even more sinister happened on Nov. 22, 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was gunned down in Dallas.

I am not one of them.


No sir. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe he managed to fire of three shots from that building in downtown Dallas. I believe the third shot struck the president and killed him instantly.

I also believe the Warren Commission, led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, offered convincing enough proof that Oswald did the terrible deed.

NBCNews.com wonders why so many Americans believe in some conspiracy theory. My guess is that it gives them something to talk about. Perhaps it also boggles their minds that a loser such as Oswald could pull off one of the 20th century’s most hideous crimes.

Let’s face it, Oswald was every bit the loser. He was a Marxist who sought to defect to the then-Soviet Union. He was a devotee of Fidel Castro, the Cuban commie who was ruling the island nation at the time of the JFK assassination.

I have read accounts of the Warren Commission report. I’ve read detailed books looking at all sides of the panel’s findings. I’ve decided that Oswald did it. He acted alone. He killed the 35th president of the United States.

Why the interest 50 years after the fact? Human nature just doesn’t allow people to put these matters to rest.

POTUS’s apology nothing new or unique

President Obama’s critics are making much hay — too much, if you ask me — of his recent apology to those who’ve had their insurance policies canceled as the Affordable Care Act kicks in.

He said he’s sorry. Big deal.

He’s not the first president to apologize to Americans. He won’t be the last.


* Former President Richard Nixon apologized in 1977, three years after resigning his office in disgrace over the Watergate crisis. He said he was sorry for letting people down. He apologized to Americans across the land for the mistakes he made.

* President Ronald Reagan, while not actually apologizing, acknowledged he “misled” Americans about whether he was selling arms to Nicaraguan rebels, aka the Contras, in exchange for deals to secure the release of Americans held prisoner in Iran.

* President Bill Clinton expressed “deep regret” over his inappropriate relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. He didn’t actually apologize during that nationally broadcast mea culpa, but we got the point.

OK, so President Obama’s rollout of the ACA has gone badly. The website wasn’t prepared fully to handle the volume of Americans seeking to enroll. Then came the cancellations of insurance policies, which the president said wouldn’t happen. “You can keep your health insurance” if you’re happy with it, he told us. Remember?

My thought is this: The ACA is going to be tinkered, fine-tuned and improved as we move farther into its implementation. Do I understand all of it? No more than its ardent critics understand it. I’m not yet willing to toss it aside and declare it a disaster, as they have done.

As for the presidential apology, it’s been overblown.

Talking and driving is actually a gas

I’ll admit that I’m not as technologically advanced as many Americans.

That is why this notion of Bluetooth technology in automobiles is so fascinating to me.

I took a phone call the other day from my son, who called my cellphone number. I was walking across the parking lot at work. We chatted as I walked toward my car. I got into my vehicle and started it.

Immediately, the phone switched over to the radio speaker and I was able to drive off the parking lot while continuing my conversation with my son.

It knocked me out!

I told him so. He laughed and said something like, “Well? What did you expect?”

He equated my fascination with this technology — which I admittedly resisted getting for many years after it became available — to someone born in the 19th century awakening in the 21st century and finding streets buzzing with automobiles.

Maybe that’s an accurate metaphor.

What I do know is that I am still struggling with the guilt of talking on the phone while driving my car. I know city ordinances do not prohibit me from doing so. Amarillo has this law on the books that says it’s illegal to use a handheld device while driving a motor vehicle. I am grateful the City Commission enacted the law — even though I have yet to actually witness a police officer pulling someone over for breaking that rule.

I am guessing my guilt will dissipate with time. Won’t it?

Persistent Perry keeps talking about jobs

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is nothing if not persistent.

He’s just authorized another national political ad that touts the job creation that’s occurred in Texas on his interminable watch as governor.

According to the Texas Tribune: “In a new ad for Americans for Economic Freedom, an organization aimed at helping Rick Perry champion Texas’ economic model, the governor and possible presidential contender talks about national job creation strategies.”

Interesting, eh?

Job growth in Texas has been largely a private-sector phenomenon. Gov. Perry has helped champion a business climate that is conducive to employers wanting to come here. I applaud that.

It fascinates me that Republicans such as Perry are quick to take credit for job creation while dismissing job growth that occurs on Democrats’ watch. I shall single out the dismissive attitudes the GOP has assumed regarding job growth during the Obama administration. The Labor Department this week announced that 204,000 jobs were created in October and it revised upward by 60,000 the number of jobs created during the previous two months.

Those jobs also are result of mostly private-sector activity.

Texas’s relatively good health is well-known around the world. Gov. Perry has reason to be proud of the state’s economic growth. Does he deserve the credit for jobs being created outside of government?

He thinks he does.

I’m wondering now if he’s ever going to give credit to the guys in the other party for the successes they, too, have enjoyed.

Texas prosecutor to pay for his crime

I guess if you live long enough you’ll get to see just about anything.

This story from the Huffington Post is a serious eye-opener.


A former Texas prosecutor and judge, Ken Anderson, is going to jail for sending an innocent man to prison for decades. It’s the first time in history that this has actually happened.

Perhaps you’ve heard of this case. Michael Morton was sent to prison for allegedly killing his wife. It turns out, though, that the prosecutor in the case — Anderson — intentionally withheld evidence that could have let Morton off the hook. Twenty-five years later, Morton finally walked out of prison.

Anderson’s career took off, according to the Huffington Post. He became a judge in Williamson County, near Austin. Morton, meanwhile, sat in a prison cell and worked to get himself released from his unjustified imprisonment. Anderson eventually resigned from the bench when all hell broke loose regarding the Morton case.

Anderson’s sentence isn’t a lengthy one. He’ll serve 10 day in jail and will have to perform 500 hours of community service. The most meaningful element of the sentence, though, is that he will surrender his license to practice law.

Justice finally has been done.

’60 Minutes’ in trouble … again

I once considered “60 Minutes” to be the Cadillac of TV news shows.

It might be becoming the Edsel.

Lara Logan, one of the CBS network’s correspondents for “60 Minutes” apologized this morning for a news report that cast a damning light on the Obama administration’s handling of the Benghazi, Libya terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2012 that left four people dead, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens.


Seems that Logan’s sourcing was a bit questionable. The guy she attributed for much of the information, security contractor Dylan Davies, had given the FBI information that had contradicted what he told Logan’s staff in preparation for the broadcast.

Davies told Logan he was there during the attack; he told the FBI he didn’t get there until the next morning. So … did he see anything or didn’t he?

The attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi remains one of the more tragic episodes in U.S. diplomatic history. It was confusing, chaotic and fiery. That’s what happens in fire fights. Don’t they say often that “truth often is the first casualty” in these incidents?

This isn’t the first time “60 Minutes” has gotten its backside in a sling. In 2004, CBS correspondent Dan Rather broadcast a now-discredited report that alleged George W. Bush pulled too many strings to get himself signed up with an Air National Guard unit and then didn’t fulfill his obligation. Rather essentially lost his job over the shoddy reporting.

“60 Minutes” is scheduled to go on the air Sunday with a full apology and what’s known in the trade as “correction.” It likely won’t retract the story. The correction, though, is necessary if the news show seeks to return to its Cadillac status.

Jobs report was supposed to be dismal

I saw the word “dismal” when reading a projection Thursday of today’s jobs report issued by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Then came the report: 204,000 jobs added to the national payroll in October.

It was far greater than the “experts” had predicted. They said in advance of the report that the government shutdown would have dissuaded employers from hiring folks they normally would be hiring, given that the Christmas shopping season is nearly upon us.

The naysayers out there will focus most certainly on the one-tenth of a percent uptick in the unemployment rate. I share their concern. We cannot seem to reduce significantly the jobless rate while we’re continuing to add tens of thousands of jobs each month.

Politics being what it is, the jobless rate increase will be President Obama’s fault, while credit for the significant boost in the job creation will go to someone else.

I’m quite certain congressional Republicans will find someone in their ranks willing to step up and take the credit.

What’s to love about Texas Constitution?

I hate the Texas Constitution.

Don’t misunderstand. It’s not that it stands for evil intent.

My problem with it is that it so damn archaic and nonsensical.

Consider one of the measures Texans voted on this past Tuesday. It involved whether we here in the Panhandle, or in East Texas, or the Hill Country, or the Trans-Pecos, or the upper Gulf Coast should vote on a tax measure involving the Hidalgo County Hospital District.

The measure passed, as did all nine of the constitutional amendment proposals the Texas Legislature tossed in our laps. Some of them actually mattered, such as Prop 6, which sets up a fund to pay for water development projects across the state. The drought-ravaged Panhandle can use that kind of help from the state.

Back to the Hidalgo County Hospital District. I didn’t bother to vote on that one. Why? I don’t care about tax rates involving a hospital district about 500 miles from here. If we lived on the East Coast, it’d be three, maybe four, states away.

I get why the state’s founders set up a Constitution this way. They wanted to spread power to as many folks as possible. They hated centralization and didn’t want to copy the federal constitutional model. Heck, they partitioned the state into 254 counties, for crying out loud; one of them, Loving County, is populated by all of 71 residents.

If the idea, then, was to create an environment for greater local control, why did they set up a Constitution that requires all Texans to vote on things that have no bearing on their lives? Remember when the entire state had to decide whether to let tiny Roberts County just northeast of Amarillo let go of its hide inspector’s office?

Some issues ought to be a totally local matter and don’t have to involve the rest of the state.

I would ask the Legislature to change the document to make it more modern and make more sense.

Except that such a request will go nowhere. The hidebound traditionalists who populate the Legislature will have none of it.

Get ready, therefore, to vote in two years for issues that will have you scratching your head.

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