Fly ‘commerical’ to Kabul? You bet, Mr. POTUS

Donald Trump’s decision to cancel the military flight for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a congressional delegation to Europe and Afghanistan was fraught with protocol breaches as well as a nonsensical travel recommendation.

The president responded to Pelosi’s request that he postpone the State of the Union speech until after the government is reopened. He acted petulantly by canceling the military air transport planned for the delegation; hey, he’s the commander in chief so he can do that sort of thing.

However, he blew Pelosi’s cover that she wanted to fly to Afghanistan to visit our troops, to show them her support for the work they are doing to keep us safe from international terrorists.

That was a violation of protocol. These flights into combat zones are kept secret for an obvious reason: to protect those who traveling their from possible attack from our enemies.

Oh, but then Trump offered this idiotic recommendation: Why not fly “commercially” to Afghanistan? What? Does he even know about how dangerous that would be? Moreover, is there even any commercial air travel to Afghanistan available?

The president’s bald-faced ignorance of so many aspects of government and history and protocol suggests to me that he fired off that response without giving any of a moment of thought.


Impeachment due? Maybe, but not just yet

The talk around D.C. is heating up, that Donald J. Trump’s impeachment is becoming more of a fait accompli with each revelation.

Allow me this plea just one more time: The U.S. House of Representatives must wait for Robert Mueller’s report to be finished, for it to be released, and for Congress and the public to have enough time to digest its contents.

The special counsel reportedly is in the final stages of his exhaustive investigation into whether the president’s campaign “colluded” with Russians who attacked our electoral system.

But now comes this, from Buzzfeed News. It is that Trump’s former lawyer/fixer Michael Cohen has said that the president instructed him to lie to Congress about a meeting involving the development of a Trump Tower complex in Moscow. If the president issued such an order, critics suggest, that right there constitutes an obstruction of justice — which happened to be one of the charges leveled against President Clinton when the House impeached him in 1999.

Mueller’s office has issued a denial of part of what Buzzfeed reported, which is that Mueller had compiled corroborating evidence to back up what Buzzfeed reported.

The word now is that House Democrats might be feeling pressure to launch impeachment proceedings now instead of waiting for the special counsel to finish his work.

They would be mistaken . . . bigly!

Mueller’s report is going to tell Americans far more than they know about the probe and about what Donald Trump might or might not have done while being elected president of the United States in 2016.

I happen to be willing to wait for Mueller to let us know what he has before urging anyone to impeach the president.

Americans have invested a lot in this investigation already. It has cost many millions of dollars in public money. Accordingly, I want it released as fully as possible to the public. If it is released, we’ll get to know the truth.

If the truth suggests an impeachment is inevitable, then fire up the machinery. Not before we know the truth.

Get ready for an assault, Amarillo ISD Board of Trustees

If I were a betting man I’d wager damn near all I had on how the next Amarillo Independent School District Board of Trustees meeting is going to unfold.

My strong hunch is that a young volleyball coach, Kori Clements, will be Topic A on the minds of a large crowd of spectators gathered in the AISD board meeting room on Tuesday night.

You see, Clements tendered her resignation letter the other day as head volleyball coach at Amarillo High School. She doesn’t have a new job awaiting her. Nor did she break any rules. Nope. Instead, she is leaving one of the plum high school coaching jobs in all of Texas because she was harassed, harangued and hectored by a zealous parent of one of the student-athletes on the team. It’s one season and out for Coach Clements!

Indeed, Amarillo High is one of the premier high school volleyball powers in Texas, winning numerous state titles.

What’s more, there’s a whole lot of chatter apparently bouncing around Amarillo that the parent most certainly should have known better than to interfere with a coach doing her job.  I also understand that Coach Clements is getting a whole lot of love from the Amarillo High athletic community.

Kori Clements apparently did her job well. The problem, as Clements said in her letter of resignation, was she wasn’t playing the daughter of the offending parent enough. She had the temerity — and that’s my term, not hers — to play the best athletes on the Amarillo High girls volleyball team.

That fundamental coaching decision didn’t set well with the parent who, through her harassment, sought to interfere with the way the coach was doing her job.

Clements, who graduated from Amarillo High and who played for a legendary girls volleyball coach, the recently retired Jan Barker, has had enough. So she quit.

The AISD board has, shall we say, a “situation” on its hands. It’s going to discuss this “personnel matter” among trustees. The Texas Open Meetings Law stipulates that governing bodies are empowered to discuss these matters in executive — or private — sessions, away from the public’s eyes and ears. The law, though, doesn’t require it. The school district is allowed to waive that executive privilege if it so desires.

I won’t bet all my cash on whether the board will decide to discuss this in the open, providing a remarkable degree of transparency. It is my strong preference that it do so. After all, Coach Clements’ letter of resignation was in itself highly transparent, given the reasons she stated as to why she was leaving this post after just one season.

I don’t live in Amarillo these days. However, as luck would have it, my wife and I are venturing back next week to the city we called home for more than two decades. I intend to take a look and lend an ear to what transpires in the AISD board room Tuesday night.

It might get ugly. And for good reason.

‘Hodgetown’ it is!

Jerry Hodge has gotten 2019 off to a rockin’ start, wouldn’t you say?

I mean, he awakes on New Year’s Day to learn that he has been named Man of the Year for 2018 by the Amarillo Globe-News. The newspaper cited the former Amarillo mayor’s work in helping bring a minor-league baseball team to the city, among many other activities he has engaged in to make the city a better place.

Oh, and then we find out that the new ballpark under construction in the city’s downtown district will be named after the Man of the Year.

Welcome to Hodgetown. How about that?

Hodgetown will be the home field for the Amarillo Sod Poodles Double A baseball team that opens its season in early. The Sod Poodles will open the season in Corpus Christi on April 4, but then will have their home opener at Hodgetown on April 8.

According to KFDA NewsChannel 10: “We approached Jerry with this name because he shares the common interest of positively impacting our community and has proven so over the last 50 years,” said President and General Manager of the Amarillo Sod Poodles Tony Ensor. “This community, spearheaded by Jerry, had a dream of bringing not just baseball, but professional, affiliated baseball back to Amarillo and now that it has been brought to life, there is no better way to honor and recognize his hard work to make the dream come true than by including Jerry’s name on our new home.”

The Sod Poodles name was chosen from a list of five finalist submissions. I initially hated the name. Then I grew to like it — if not actually love the name. Sod Poodles became my favorite among the five names being considered.

I didn’t think too much about what to call the ballpark where the Sod Poodles will play hardball.

Now that I have given it some thought, I kind of like the Hodgetown name.

It is fitting to be named after a man who worked hard to bring the team here from San Antonio. I like, too, that it doesn’t carry some kind of corporate name. Yes, Hodge earned a fortune as head of Maxor, a pharmaceutical firm based in Amarillo. I hope the Sod Poodles management will resist the urge to put a corporate name on the ballpark.

So, Hodgetown it will be!

I have to say that Jerry Hodge will be rightfully proud.

Chris Christie tells is like it is?

I suppose you could surmise that former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is still angry at getting canned as Donald Trump’s presidential transition boss.

Christie once campaigned against Trump for the Republican presidential nomination, saying some mighty unkind things about the eventual GOP nominee along the way. Then once Trump vanquished him, he lined up behind the nominee. He worked hard for his election. Then the president-elect asked him to lead the transition into the Oval Office.

Oops! Then the newly elected president replaced him with Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

Christie now has written a book titled “Let Me Finish” in which he says that Trump has surrounded himself with “amateurs” and “grifters” and “weaklings” and “convicted and unconvicted felons.”

Wow, man!

But wait! Didn’t Trump tell us he would hire only the “best people” who, as he does, know the “best words”? Gov. Christie doesn’t think that’s the case.

He writes that the people Trump has hired have “set loose toxic forces that may have made Trump’s presidency far less effective than it otherwise would have been. If this tragedy is ever going to be reversed, it is vital that everyone know exactly how it occurred.”

Well, so much for political alliances.

Amarillo school board now faces community scrutiny

We’re heading back to Amarillo early next week for a few days and I think I might take some time to attend an Amarillo Independent School District Board of Trustees meeting.

The board has some questions to answer regarding the sudden resignation of a young coach who quit her job after one season holding one of the more prestigious jobs in Texas high school athletics.

Kori Clements quit as Amarillo High’s girls volleyball coach. She didn’t offer a milquetoast “thank you for the opportunity” to coach one of the state’s top volleyball programs. Oh, no. She said she resigned because the Amarillo Independent School District administration did back her in the face of constant haranguing and harassment she was getting from a parent of the girls on her team.

What’s more, the nagging parent happens to be a key player in the AISD community. I have it on good authority who the offending parent is, but I will keep it to myself.

Clements is a 2006 Amarillo High grad, so she’s got plenty of history with the school system. She isn’t some interloper who landed the coaching gig without knowing the history behind the storied volleyball program. She is a protégé of Jan Barker, the retired AHS volleyball coach and a recent inductee into the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame.

As I understand the situation, Clements — according to the parent — wasn’t giving the parent’s daughter sufficient playing time. The parent then decided to hassle the coach incessantly. Coach Clements sought redress from the administration, asking administrators to pull the parent off her case. AISD administrators failed to back their coach, according to Clements’ letter of resignation.

From what I also understand, the offending parent is in a position to make life seriously difficult for administrators who might intervene on the coach’s behalf.

So . . . with that, the AISD board will convene a meeting Monday night at the Rod Schroder Education Center. My strong hunch is that the meeting room will be full of spectators.

I hope I can find a chair if I’m able to attend. If not, well, I’ll just stand, watch and listen.

PR stunt? Of course it is! They all are!

Donald Trump canceled a trip overseas by Nancy Pelosi, contending that her visit to Afghanistan is a mere “public relations” event.

Wow! No sh**? Of course it was intended as a PR stunt. I mean, the speaker of the House wanted to visit with our troops who the commander in chief thrusts into harm’s way. She wanted to tell them the nation supports them and that despite the partial shutdown of the federal government that the politicians who run the government won’t let them down.

Sure it’s a PR event. However, there is inherint value in it.

It’s as much of a public relations production as the one that the president and first lady performed when they flew to Iraq right after Christmas. The president took selfies with troops, schmoozed with them, hugged their necks, told them he loved them. Then he and Melania flew back home to the chaos that awaited them.

Yeah, these trips are PR events. That’s what commanders in chief and other leading politicians do when they fly into combat zones.

I won’t get into the goofiness of Trump’s cancellation of the Pelosi venture, which looks for all the world to be a retaliatory strike in the wake of Pelosi’s request that Trump delay his scheduled Jan. 29 State of the Union speech before a joint congressional session.

However, for the president to say that the speaker of the House’s planned visit to our troops serves no useful purpose other than it being a PR stunt denies the obvious benefit it brings to the troops who get to see and talk directly to the politicians we elect to ostensibly “run the government.”

Trump lobs a grenade back at Pelosi

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wanted to lead a congressional delegation to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan. It was supposed to be secret, in keeping with standard policy regarding official trips into a war zone.

Then the president of the United States, Donald Trump, pulled the plug on the trip. As commander in chief, he has the power to ground military aircraft for these congressional trips. So he did.

Then he released a letter to the public disclosing that Pelosi was going to Afghanistan, which flies directly in the face of normal protocol. The Pentagon, Congress and the White House don’t reveal in advance about trips into these combat zones.

As former Secretary of State John Kerry said via Twitter: The President of the United States just compared visiting our troops in a war zone to a “public relations event.” Another sad day for our nation when that’s how the Commander in Chief sees such a visit.

Kerry is correct to suggest that such trips aren’t just a “public relations event.” The speaker of the House, as the No.2-ranking official in line of presidential succession, reportedly was going to Afghanistan to speak to those troops, to tell them their country stands with them. It’s not just PR. It’s part of what members of Congress — as well as the president and Cabinet officials — do as part of their jobs.

Trump is trying to get Pelosi and other congressional leaders to negotiate an end to the partial government shutdown.

This back and forth is driving me batty. I want the shutdown ended, too. The men and women who have been furloughed and denied their income are suffering needlessly.

Pelosi wants Trump to delay his scheduled State of the Union speech. So what does Trump do in response? He blows the speaker’s cover by grounding a military jet that would have taken her potentially into harm’s way.

I’ve heard a term to describe this rhetorical exchange.


Louisville renames airport after hometown legend

While we are wringing our hands over the shuttering of our government and other matters involving the president of the United States and our Congress . . . we now have some news to cheer.

Louisville, Ky., airport authority officials have voted to rename their city’s international airport after a man who became arguably the most famous person on Earth.

Welcome to Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport.

The three-time heavyweight boxing champion would have turned 77 years of age. On the eve of that birthday, the Louisville Regional Airport Authority board announced the name change. It honors the memory of Ali, who died in 2016 at the age of 74.

This news cheers me greatly.

“Muhammad Ali belonged to the world, but he had only one hometown, and fortunately, that is our great city of Louisville,” said Mayor Greg Fischer.

Man, oh man. What a world we live in.

Back when he was still known as Cassius Marcellus Clay, the man who grew to become a living legend faced outright discrimination simply because of the color of his skin. His fists led him to great heights after winning an Olympic gold medal in boxing. He won the heavyweight title in 1964, scoring a huge upset over Sonny Liston. Then he had his title stripped from him after he refused to be drafted into the Army in protest of the Vietnam War. He was banned from boxing for more than three years. Ali came back and then won his title again in 1974 by knocking out George Foreman. He lost it once more, then regained it with a victory over Leon Spinks.

He spoke brashly as a young man. Then he became a voice for the dispossessed as an older man. Ali fought for his rights as a U.S. citizen. Then, while stricken with Parkinson’s disease after his retirement from boxing, The Champ became an advocate for those suffering from debilitating illness.

Now his hometown’s international airport will carry The Greatest’s name. It makes me want to buy a plane ticket simply to fly into Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport.

Is pressure mounting for POTUS to cave on shutdown?

Sitting as I am out here in the middle of Trump Country, I am in no position to state with absolute knowledge about what happens in Washington, D.C.

Still, I cannot stop thinking that pressure may be building to some sort of spontaneous combustion concerning this partial government shutdown.

Eight hundred thousand federal employees are without paychecks. They are starting to rumble. They are demonstrating. They are demanding action by the president and Congress. The speaker of the House has pulled back her invitation to the president to deliver his State of the Union speech in the House of Representatives, citing security concerns created by the government shutdown.

The president has ordered some federal employees back to work, but without pay! That order well might be unlawful, which could prompt yet another lawsuit against the president.

Donald Trump wants to build The Wall along our southern border. He wants to spend about $5.7 billion for The Wall. Congressional Democrats are resisting him. Trump said he would take responsibility for shutting down the government; then it happened, but now Trump is blaming Democrats for the shutdown.

It’s not going well for Donald Trump. There might be some weakening of his position, even though he’s still talking tough.

The government needs to reopen. Those hundreds of thousands of employees need their income restored. Yes, we need to negotiate some form of enhanced border security.

Is there a semblance of humanity and common sense to be found anywhere in Washington? If so, then it needs to present itself, the government needs to return to full functionality and both sides need to actually talk to each other about how they can find some common ground.

That is how you govern.

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