Tag Archives: Golden Triangle

National Climate Assessment: Harvey wasn’t a one-time event

Get ready, my fellow Texans. It’s quite likely, according to the National Climate Assessment, that Hurricane Harvey wasn’t a one-time catastrophe; there might more of them perhaps in the near future.

Hurricane Harvey delivered in the late summer of 2017 a one-two punch never seen before along the Gulf Coast. It roared in as a monstrous hurricane at Corpus Christi and Rockport, delivering huge storm surges off the Gulf of Mexico along with heavy wind.

It backed out over the water, then meandered up the coast and came in — again! — as a tropical storm. The second hit delivered 50 inches of rain over Houston and the Golden Triangle, putting vast stretches of the upper Texas coast under water.

Well, the National Climate Assessment says we can expect more of the same, or perhaps even worse. Why? Earth’s climate is changing. And, yes, the assessment delivered by the federal government is in direct contradiction to the half-baked pronouncements delivered by the president of the United States, Donald John “Stable Genius” Trump.

Trump says climate change is a “hoax.” He doesn’t accept the scientific community’s findings about the changing climate and the warming of the planet.

What’s more, scientists are concluding that human activity is a significant contributor to these changes.

According to the Texas TribuneThe White House downplayed the findings of the report, saying in a statement that it was “largely based on the most extreme scenario.”

But the report makes a compelling case for the reality of disastrous climate change impacts — in large part because they are already occurring. The report highlights Hurricane Harvey, wildfires in California and other recent extreme weather events, describing them as consistent with what might be expected as the planet warms. It also details the crippling impact a multi-year drought had on Texas agriculture from 2010 to 2015, thanks not only to less direct rainfall but to the reduction of water released to farmers for irrigation.

Who are you going to believe, a politician — Trump — with no background in science, let alone public service or scientists who make their living studying and determining these things?

I’m going to stand with the scientists.

One-party rule: dangerous for democracy

High Plains Blogger critics aren’t likely to believe this, but I have been opposed to one-party domination for, oh, as long as I can remember.

Yes, that means Democrats who control all the power can be as harmful to the cause of good government as Republicans.

That stands as one of the reasons I favor flipping at least one congressional chamber on Tuesday when we go to the polls for the 2018 midterm election. I want Democrats to seize control of Congress to act as a check on the narcissistic maniac who has hijacked the Republican Party and brought otherwise sensible GOP members along with him on his dangerous journey toward who knows what.

You can stop chuckling now, critics of mine.

There was a time when I commented publicly about how Democrats controlled local government in a region I used to call home. That would be the Golden Triangle of Texas, that region between Houston and the Sabine River, which serves as the border between Texas and Louisiana.

I arrived in that part of the world in the spring of 1984. Democrats occupied virtually every public office there was to be found. Republicans were an endangered species in that bastion of Democratic policies and politicians. The Triangle was so reliably Democratic that Democratic politicians running for statewide office rarely campaigned there. They took the region for granted. They knew they could depend on their votes on Election Day.

That began to change before I left the region in January 1995 for the Texas Panhandle. Jefferson County elected a Republican to its commissioners court and GOP candidates began winning a smattering of offices.

Then we moved to the heart of Republican Country, where the modern Texas conservative movement called its heart and soul. The Panhandle is as reliably Republican as the Golden Triangle used to be reliably Democratic.

The Panhandle isn’t changing its stripes.

But on the national level, we see the GOP in control of both the legislative and executive branches of government. I do hope that changes when the ballots are counted late Tuesday and/or early Wednesday. I want Democrats to seize control of Congress. It appears they might take control of the House; the Senate likely will remain in GOP hands.

Whatever the outcome, if the Democrats take the House, they’ll at least be able to institute some checks on the nutty nonsense that emanates from the White House and is endorsed by the Senate.

If it happens, then we might see a return to good government.

Let us hope for the best.

Editorial boards need not reflect the community

A friend of mine challenged a blog item I posted earlier today that called attention to the Dallas Morning News’s endorsement of Beto O’Rourke in this year’s campaign for the U.S. Senate.

My friend noted that “of course DMN” would back the Democratic challenger to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. Dallas County voted Democratic in 2016, as well as in 2012 and 2008. The paper, my friend noted, was going with the community flow.

I felt compelled to remind him that newspaper editorial boards — at least in my experience — do not necessarily strive to reflect the community’s leaning.

The example I gave him involved my nearly 11 years in Jefferson County, the largest county of the Golden Triangle region of Southeast Texas.

I worked for the Beaumont Enterprise, serving as editorial page editor. On my watch, the Enterprise endorsed Republican presidential candidates in three elections: 1984, 1988 and 1992, even though Jefferson County voters endorsed by significant majorities the Democratic candidates for president in all three elections. I told my friend the following: So … newspapers do not always reflect the communities’ political leaning. They adhere to their own philosophy or — more to the point — to their ownership’s philosophy.

So it was in 1984 particularly, when the publisher told us point blank that we were going to recommend President Reagan’s re-election. There would be no discussion. A different publisher told us the same thing in 1988 and 1992: We were going to endorse George H.W. Bush for election in ’88 and for re-election in ’92.

That’s how it works. The newspaper and its corporate ownership march to their own cadence, not necessarily the drumbeat of the community it serves. I went to Amarillo in January 1995 and learned the same thing, although the Texas Panhandle is even more solidly Republican than the Golden Triangle was solidly Democratic in the 1980s and early 1990s.

What’s more, Morris Communications, which owned the Amarillo Globe-News until 2017, is far more wedded to conservatives and Republicans than the Hearst Corporation, which still owns the Beaumont Enterprise.

It is true that Dallas County has tilted Democratic in recent election cycles. It also is true that the Dallas Morning News has endorsed plenty of conservative candidates and stood behind plenty of conservative issues over many years.

The Morning News is not a doctrinaire publication. Although I do not know what transpired when the paper’s editorial board deliberated over whom to endorse in this year’s Senate contest, I know that the published record reflects an editorial board that is far from rigid in its political outlook.

Believe me, I know a rigid media organization when I see one. I’ve worked for them.

There’s something to this ‘Texas friendly’ thing

I concluded not long after moving to Texas in 1984 that Texans, by nature, are a most hospitable bunch.

It’s not a trait unique to Texans. However, it is a quality I didn’t grow up with in my native Oregon.

My wife and I just returned from a walk through our Fairview neighborhood and, so help me, I lost count of the number of times I waved at and/or said “good morning” to total strangers.

Almost everyone we usually encounter either greets us initially or returns a greeting from either of us, usually with a smile.

Why is this so remarkable? I want to mention it in the context of what we keep hearing about our government leaders and how angry they are at each other and how that anger is being projected toward their “bosses,” the voters — such as you and me.

I don’t find that to be the case as I go about my day.

I am generally a social animal. I like people. I like being around them. I enjoy the give-and-take with strangers. I like talking to people and getting to know them just a bit beyond the surface level — although I know enough not to get too personal with my inquiries.

Maybe it’s the nosiness in me. I was a reporter/editorial writer/editor for a lot of years and that particular personality trait served me well as I cultivated sources during my career.

When we moved to Texas back in the spring of 1984 I was taken aback almost immediately by the friendliness of the folks who live along the Gulf Coast, in the Golden Triangle, where my family and I called home for nearly 11 years.

Then my wife and I uprooted ourselves in early 1995 and ventured a good bit up yonder to the Panhandle. We encountered the same sort of openness and friendliness as we greeted strangers.

What’s interesting, too, about West Texas is the way motorists wave at each other while traveling along lengthy stretches of highway. One can drive several (dozen) miles at times without seeing another motorist; when one approaches from the opposite direction, the driver is likely to toss you a wave … or he or she might lift an index finger off the steering wheel as you whiz by.

I guess that’s what those signs at the border mean when they welcome visitors to “Drive Friendly, the Texas Way.”

One doesn’t get that kind of greeting in the Metroplex, where such right-of-way desolation doesn’t exist, if you get my drift.

And so … about the time you get dismayed at the negative tone you hear on the news each day emanating from the halls of power, I have a solution for my fellow Texans.

Get out of the house and take a walk through the neighborhood.

Happy Trails, Part 128: Getting tired of rain … again!

I once posted a blog item that told of how I had grown to appreciate the rain, given that we lived in the Texas Panhandle, where annual rainfall amounted to fewer than 20 inches.

We moved to Amarillo from Beaumont, where it rains a lot more than that; we moved to Beaumont from Portland, Ore., where it rains constantly. Growing up I hated the rain.

Now we have relocated to Fairview, just north of Dallas.

It has been raining here. A lot! It’s making me grow tired of the rain yet again.

My wife and I spent a few days out of town. We pulled our RV from our garage location in Amarillo to Copper Breaks State Park, about a dozen miles south of Quanah. It rained a good bit while we were there, but it was mild compared to what fell on the Metroplex and the Hill Country while we were staying at Copper Breaks.

Then we returned home Wednesday, driving into the deluge that had flooded much of the Metroplex.

Now we hear that “a lot more rain is on the way,” according to a TV meteorologist.

OK, I am not going to gripe about the rain. I know it brings life to any region that is fortunate enough to receive it. I also know that it brings destruction if it comes too rapidly; just as those who live along the Llano River in the Hill Country have learned.

I guess it’s just in my nature to bitch about the rain, just as I griped for more than two decades while living in Amarillo about the lack of it and the incessant sunshine.

Now that I am older and possibly wiser (although that’s open to plenty of debate, as my blog critics might suggest), I’ll just have to learn with what I cannot control.

Entering crucial stage of midterm campaign

I’ve seen this kind of thing happen before. A “wave election” occurs when the least likely incumbent takes a fall, signaling a dramatic change in fortunes for the halls of Congress.

In 1994, I had a ringside seat for one of those events. Longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Jack Brooks of Beaumont represented one of Texas’s last Democratic bastions in the Golden Triangle. He’d been in Congress for more than four decades. His foe that year was a guy who came out of nowhere.

Steve Stockman shocked the political world by beating the late “Sweet Ol’ Brooks” to take his House seat as part of the Contract With America GOP delegation.

I figured at the time if Brooks was to lose, the entire House was going to flip. Sure enough. He did. The House did flip.

Stockman lasted one term before being defeated for re-election in 1996. He was elected again much later, but then lost again after another single term. He’s now facing prison time for fraud.

Fast-forward to the present day. Texas’s U.S. Senate seat is in play. Democrat Beto O’Rourke is trying to unseat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in a state that is as Republican as it gets.

The way I figure it today, if somehow O’Rourke manages to pull off what looks like the Upset of the Ages, then the U.S. Senate stands a good chance of flipping from Republican to Democratic control.

It’s a steep hill for the El Paso congressman. He trails the Cruz Missile. But not by much. I see polls that swing from 2 points to 8 points. Cruz should — by standard political measures — be way up. He’s not.

O’Rourke well might lose on Nov. 6. I don’t want him or his allies to claim some sort of “moral victory” by making it close. A loss is a loss. For my money, Cruz needs to lose. He might represent a lot of Texans’ values. He doesn’t represent mine.

If the Cruz Missile gets blown out of the sky, then I am betting that the entire Senate turns over.

Believe me, stranger things have happened — just as it did in the Golden Triangle all those years ago.

Happy Trails, Part 121: Getting used to this response

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. — So … I was waiting this afternoon for Old Faithful to shoot itself into the air.

I turned to a gentleman and his wife sitting behind us on a bench. We talked for a moment or two: about Vietnam (we both were wearing caps revealing our war connection) and about the fact we were sitting on a huge volcanic fault that might explode some day, maybe soon.

Then he asked, “Where are you from”? I stumbled for a moment.

Then I mumbled being “from near Dallas.”

My retirement has taken my wife and me to Fairview, just north of Dallas between Allen and McKinney. I haven’t grown entirely comfortable telling strangers that I am “from the Dallas area.”

I can’t explain it, other than to suggest that Fairview isn’t as widely known to folks as, say, Amarillo and Beaumont, where we lived for more than 30 years while I worked for a living in daily print journalism. Most people I have met over the years know where Amarillo and Beaumont are on the map. Indeed, when I mention “Amarillo,” I often get a response that goes something like, “Hey, isn’t that the place with the big steak?”

As I grapple momentarily for the right way to tell folks where I now reside, I am left sounding awkward and perhaps a bit feckless.

It’ll come. Soon.

‘Gotta love minor league ball’

I suppose it could be a lot worse, or a lot more worthy of argument, as Amarillo, Texas, awaits the naming of its new AA minor-league baseball team.

The team owners are pondering a list of five names that emerged as “finalists” to be considered for the new team name.

My favorite, if you want to call it that, is Sod Poodles, which the Elmore Group said is an old-time term used to describe prairie dogs, a critter common throughout the High Plains.

But I got an interesting message from a friend of mine who wanted to provide a bit of perspective to this whole matter of team-naming.

My dear friend writes: I know you’ve been agonizing over the Amarillo team’s name, but here are some examples from Thursday’s Word Sleuth: Bees, Curve, Fire Frogs, Hooks, IronPigs, Lugnuts, Muckdogs, Owlz, Rawhide, Snappers, Stone Crabs, TinCaps, Yard Goats, and my personal favorite, Biscuits and Gravy. Love that minor league ball!

My friend, who lives in Beaumont, Texas, also wants me to mention “Golden Gators,” which was the name of a team that once played hardball in the Golden Triangle.

Yep, I love minor league ball, too.

The Amarillo team’s ownership said it wanted to build a community talking point with the list of finalists. It seems to have succeeded in that mission. Whatever name they reveal for the team is sure to get ’em talking.

But … I’m still all in for the Sod Poodles. Yeah, it’s a weird name, but the fans will get used to it. Of that I am certain.

What do I miss? The weather!

AMARILLO, Texas — Yep. we’re back where we lived for about a third of our lives on Earth.

Tonight I think I have discovered what I miss the most (sort of) about the Texas Panhandle.

I’ll stipulate up front that we made many friends here before departing for the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex earlier this year. I miss them terribly already.

The next thing? Man, it’s gotta be the weather.

We’ve been getting re-accustomed to downstate humidity while we have settled into our new digs in Fairview. It hasn’t been narly the struggle it was when we first moved to Texas in the spring of 1984; we left Oregon for — gulp! — Beaumont, in the Golden Triangle, or, as I like to call it, The Swamp.

Then we moved to Amarillo in 1995. It was in January. My blood had thinned out (if that’s possible) during our years way down yonder, so getting used to the Panhandle winter was a project. But we did.

We have returned for a few days while we prepare to depart for Yellowstone National Park and Grand Coulee, Wash.

We’ve had a hot, humid, sticky summer in Fairview. We parked our fifth wheel tonight at an RV park and have enjoyed the cool breeze wafting through our vehicle.

Ahh, yes! The weather. We likely are going to miss the Texas Panhandle’s version of the four seasons.

Why endorse in primaries?

A newspaper editorial endorsement for a political primary election brings to mind a decision I made several years before the end of my own journalism career.

It was that we shouldn’t make such an endorsement unless a primary race was tantamount to election, meaning that there would be no contested two-party primaries for that particular office.

The endorsement that got me thinking about the issue came from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, which recommended former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty in that state’s Republican primary.

Read the endorsement here.

It wasn’t always that way. I used to work for newspapers in Beaumont, Texas and in Oregon City, Ore. We made primary endorsements at those newspapers.

Then I moved to Amarillo to become editorial page editor of the Globe-News. After a period of time, I persuaded the publisher that primary endorsements were not nearly as relevant as general-election endorsements. So, why do them, especially when the candidates had another election in the fall?

Amarillo is in the middle of heavily Republican territory. In many instances, particularly in Randall County — which comprises the southern half (roughly) of Amarillo, Democrats damn near never run candidates for local offices. That means the GOP primary means the winner is all but assured of election, barring a surprise and successful write-in campaign.

We elected then to endorse only in those primary races featuring contests in just one party. That meant the Republican Party.

I came to realize that primaries are essentially a political party function. They are run by the political parties. The local party chairs are in charge of managing the ballots and ensuring that all the fees are paid.

If by chance there would be contested primaries in both major parties, we would take a pass on offering a recommendation in the primary; we preferred to wait for the general election campaign to make our recommendation known.

That was then. I now wonder whether newspaper endorsements mean anything any longer. Texas Gov. Rick Perry decided in 2010 to forgo any editorial board interviews with Texas newspapers; he was angry at the way newspapers treated him. The Globe-News that year endorsed former Houston Mayor Bill White, as did the vast majority of Texas newspapers. Gov. Perry won big anyway.

Donald Trump got few newspaper endorsements in 2016. You know how that election turned out.

If I had to do it all over again, I think I’d do it the way I decided to do it. No primary endorsements unless a party’s primary meant virtual election to office.

I also might give serious thought to giving up on the idea of offering endorsements for any race … ever!

I mean … what’s the point?