Tag Archives: NPR

God answered this pastor’s prayer

BLOGGER’S NOTE: This post was published originally on KETR-FM’s website.

Do not ever tell the Rev. Chet Haney that God doesn’t answer prayers.

On June 19 of this year, Haney – senior pastor of Highland Terrace Baptist Church in Greenville – got word of a terrible storm brewing and moving rapidly toward the church he runs. Rev. Haney had to make a decision … in a major hurry!

It was a Wednesday night and the church was preparing for its usual Wednesday night worship service. Haney had to decide whether to cancel the service. He made the call: There would be no Wednesday night worship at Highland Terrace.

“I then put out the word for two prayers,” Rev. Haney said. “One was to pray that everyone stayed home. Do not go out into this weather,” he said.

The second prayer, he said, was to “have God take authority over this storm.” So, just how did The Almighty “take authority”? Haney said the storm hit 15 minutes later and that on its way to pummeling the church, the destructive funnel cloud lifted off the ground twice and missed hitting the Hunt Regional Medical Center hospital as well as a crowded apartment building.

“Then it hit the church,” he said. “We were very fortunate,” he said, given that no one was injured inside the structure when the EF-1 storm plowed into the building. He said there were about 20 people inside when the storm went through.

“Pieces were ripped off the building and they tore through the building like torpedoes,” he said of the fragments that hit the education wing at the height of the storm. “There could have been children in there,” had there been Wednesday night services. “The sanctuary had gaping holes in it,” he said.

By all means, Haney said, God answered their prayers. The city avoided injury or much worse, he said, thanks in part to the various social media platforms that put the word out as the storm approached the community.

“We were told first that it was a case of straight-line wind,” Haney said, “but then they changed it back to calling it a tornado.” Haney said he was initially a bit reluctant to cancel the services, saying that “I didn’t want to cry ‘wolf!’”

Repair work has begun on Highland Terrance Church, but it is a long way from being done, said Haney. The church has been conducting its Sunday service at Greenville High School, which has loaned its auditorium to the church. Highland Terrace’s Wednesday night service has been taking place at the Fletcher Warren Civic Center.

Soon, though, the church campus’s atrium will be completed, and the church will resume worshiping there, beginning Jan. 12. “That will be a big step forward for us,” Haney said.

The final cost of full restoration of the church campus has yet to be determined, Haney said, explaining that the church is waiting on the insurance company to determine how much money the church will receive.

Haney said he hopes to have the work completed no later than the next 18 months.

“Texas Baptist Men dropped off a pallet full of tarps,” Haney said of the help the church received in the immediate storm aftermath. “We got lots of bottled water, brooms, mops” and assorted other cleanup equipment, Haney said.

“The town was hit hard by the storm,” Haney said. “Downtown was hit hard and some in our church family lost power for several days,” he said, adding that he heard that “Lowe’s and Home Depot ran out of tarps.”

Haney does not appear openly dismayed by the destruction brought to the church building. Indeed, he counts – and cherishes – the blessings he and his church family have received as they continue their recovery from the wrath that befell them.

Haney said, “The church survived, even though the building received all that damage.”

Hey, just try to tell Rev. Chet Haney that God wasn’t watching over the community.

This retirement journey keeps taking strange twists and turns

Retirement is so much cooler than I thought it was when I entered this world just a few years ago.

I have been able to devote more time to this blog. I have been able as well to sleep in if I choose. My wife and I have taken our fifth wheel recreational vehicle on lengthy and not-so-lengthy trips to hither and yon. We have been able to spend more time with our precious granddaughter.

I also have just begun a gig as a freelance reporter for a couple of Collin County weekly newspapers.

What’s more, today I got to participate in a live radio broadcast. Yes, a live event. It went on the air as we spoke the words. Did it make me nervous going in? Uhh … yes. It did!

However, it worked out far better than I expected it would.

I’ll now set the stage.

Mark Haslett is a friend of mine who works as news director for KETR-FM, the public radio station affiliated with Texas A&M University-Commerce. He plays host to a weekly radio show called “North by Northeast.” It airs each Friday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Did I mention it’s a live show? Oh, yeah. I forgot.

Well, I also write for KETR-FM’s website. Haslett asked me to be a guest on his show. I agreed, knowing it’s a live event and also knowing it would give me the heebie-jeebies.

I have spoken on the radio before. It was in 2008 in Amarillo, at High Plains Public Radio. Haslett worked at HPPR then. National Public Radio wanted to talk to journalists who worked in vastly different political environments during an election year; NPR sought out someone who worked in a Republican-leaning “red” area and a Democratic-leaning “blue” region. I got the call to talk to NPR about the Texas Panhandle’s outlook for the upcoming presidential election. NPR did a great job of editing the audio we produced, making me sound cogent and coherent.

This live gig was a different animal. There would be no editing.

Haslett and I talked about Texas politics, the curious recent controversy involving the lame-duck Texas House speaker, the state of journalism in today’s changing media climate and I even got to share a couple of extraordinary experiences I enjoyed during my 37 years working as a print journalist.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this wonderful new experience was that it went by like lightning. They told me at KETR this morning that it would fly by rapidly. Oh, man … they were so right.

Before I could barely catch my breath, the hour was done. Haslett signed off. I leaned back in my chair and heaved a sigh of relief that I didn’t mess up.

Could I do this again? Yes. Probably. Just not right away. I have great admiration for those who talk for a living. I prefer simply to write.

UT hazing case brings disgraceful behavior front and center

Blogger’s Note: This blog post appeared originally on KETR-FM’s website.

I guess I missed out on a lot of “fun” while attending college back in the day.

The “fun,” had I joined a fraternity at Portland (Ore.) State University, would have included hazing. You know, things that involve sleep deprivation and assorted other forms of what would qualify as “torture” if it was being done to soldiers captured by the enemy on the battlefield.

Nicholas Cumberland died Oct. 30, 2018 after being hazed at the University of Texas by the Texas Cowboys, a fraternal group that UT-Austin has suspended for six years. Cumberland died in an automobile accident. He had been subjected to the kind of activity that clearly should be considered torture. The university has just released a report detailing the incident and the punishment it has leveled against the organization linked to the tragedy.

I find this kind of activity to be reprehensible. I’m an old man these days, long removed from my own college days. I was a young married student when I enrolled at Portland State. I lived with my bride and would go home each day after class. Thus, I avoided being sucked into the kind of activity that fraternities do to their members.

As KTRK-TV reported: “Cumberland was paddled so hard, he had ‘significant bruising on his buttocks nearly a month after the Retreat and car accident,’ records allege.”

Yes, the young man was on a “Retreat” when the vehicle he was in rolled over.

We hear about this kind of thing all the time. It’s certainly not unique to UT-Austin, or even to any public college or university in Texas. My hope would be that university educators and administrators everywhere in this nation would be alarmed enough to examine how their own fraternities conduct themselves.

A report by the UT-Austin Dean of Students Office notes that the Sept. 29, 2018 retreat included students bringing, among other things, “copious amounts of alcohol.” They also brought a live chicken and a live hamster, presumably to arrange for the frat pledges to kill the animals in bizarre fashion.

I get that I didn’t get to experience the full breadth of college life back when I was trying to get an education. I had seen enough already, having served a couple of years in the U.S. Army, including a tour of duty in Vietnam. So, I wasn’t a totally green homebody when I enrolled in college upon my return home.

I still cannot grasp the “benefit” accrued by hazing students to the point of killing them.

Perhaps the death of Nicholas Cumberland could prompt university officials to take a sober look at certain aspects of campus life and whether some elements of it result in campus death.

Happy 40th birthday, NPR’s ‘Morning Edition’

I am a giant fan of National Public Radio. My staple most mornings is to listen to NPR’s “Morning Edition” broadcast while traveling in my car while running errands.

I learn more from that broadcast than I ever learn from the morning drive-time idiocy I hear on commercial radio channels. For instance, I learned this week that “Morning Edition” has turned 40 years of age.

Its first broadcast occurred the morning after the Iranian militants captured those 53 Americans at the embassy in Tehran.

But during the discussion of “Morning Edition’s” 40th birthday, I heard a fascinating discussion of how politics has changed since NPR first went on the air with its morning talk show.

It came from Ron Elving, a contributor to NPR, who noted that in 1979, Congress was full of “liberal Republicans” and “conservative Democrats” who liked each other’s company. These days, according to Elving, both major political parties have been hijacked by ideologues on both ends of the spectrum: liberals are now called “progressives” and occupy much of the Democrats’ congressional caucus; conservatives have done the same thing to the Republican’s congressional caucus.

What’s more, neither side wants to commune with the other. Members of Congress, particularly those on the right, bunk in their offices at night. They choose to make some sort of goofy political statement, rather than becoming involved socially with their colleagues in their own party, let alone those in the other party.

Politics has become a contact sport, the NPR talkers said to each other, lamenting the demise of a kinder, gentler time in D.C.’s political life.

So it has gone over the past four decades.

NPR itself has become a whipping child for those on the right, who accuse the network of harboring a sort of “liberal bias,” in my view is a creation of those who want the media to present the news with their own fiery bias. NPR takes great pain to ensure that it presents the news straight down the middle lane.

As I listened to the “Morning Edition” talkers this week reminisce about how much politics has changed over the past 40 years, I found myself longing — yet again! — for a return to the way it used to be inside the halls of power.

It well might return if Americans awaken on Election Day 2020 to the damage that the politics of resentment and anger is doing to our public institutions.

RIP, Cokie Roberts

Blogger’s Note: This item was posted originally on KETR-FM’s website.

Cokie Roberts was born to do what she did.

She hailed from New Orleans, La. Her dad was a legendary congressman. Hale Boggs, though, disappeared somewhere near the North Pole in 1972 when his plane vanished; his body never was found. Hale Boggs’s wife, Lindy, succeeded him in the House of Representatives and she, too, forged a successful career in public service.

And then there was Cokie, a child of Washington who became a legendary journalist whose voice became well-known to listeners of National Public Radio and then – along with her face – to viewers of ABC News.

Cokie Roberts died this week at age 75, reportedly of complications from breast cancer, the disease that struck her many years ago.

Many of us, me included, had no idea she had relapsed. Or that she had suffered from any “complications.” I thought she was in remission.

Now she is gone. Her voice is stilled.

At the risk of sounding like some kind of chump frontrunner, I want to share a brief Cokie Roberts story that I hope distills just a bit of the type of individual she was.

I attended the 1992 Republican National presidential nomination convention in Houston. The Astrodome, where the RNC held its convention, was crawling with journalists. There were titans like Roberts and, well, not so titanic figures such as myself. I was working for the Beaumont Enterprise at the time and given that Beaumont sits only about 85 miles east of Houston, my bosses sent me down the highway to cover it.

I happened one afternoon to be waiting to enter the Astrodome when the convention staff shut the doors. As I recall it, Vice President Dan Quayle was entering the building and staff shut down entry to allow the VP free and easy access to his seat in the giant hall.

I looked to my right and there was Cokie Roberts standing next to me. She didn’t grumble. She did complain. We exchanged shrugs and we had some small-talk chat while we waited for the doors to reopen.

This is worth mentioning, I believe, because Cokie Roberts didn’t seem outwardly to think of herself as better than anyone else. She was caught in the crush of journalists and waited just as patiently as the rest of us.

Her commentary and analysis were always incisive and insightful. She knew her way around Washington, having grown up there and being exposed to the movers and shakers of public policy.

Cokie Roberts shoved her way into a world populated almost exclusively by men. She made her mark. Her voice became an important one. Her NPR listeners could depend on her insight on Monday mornings when she would offer her look at the week ahead in politics and public policy.

As NPR reported: In a 2017 interview with Kentucky Educational Television, Roberts reflected on her long career. “It is such a privilege – you have a front seat to history,” she said. “You do get used to it and you shouldn’t, because it is a very special thing to be able to be in the room … when all kinds of special things are happening.”

I am going to miss her wisdom and her honest reporting.

Princeton grapples with rapid growth

Blogger’s Note: This blog item was published originally on KETR-FM’s website.

Princeton City Hall is a non-descript structure on U.S. 380. The City Council meets there. The city administrative offices are located inside the structure the city leases from the building owner.

It comprises about 6,000 square feet. The Princeton Police Department works out of another structure, as does the Princeton Fire Department.

Well, if City Manager Derek Borg and the City Council have their way, they intend to break ground in about a year on a shiny new municipal complex about a mile east of the current site.

First, though, the city needs a “concept” of what the new complex will look like.

Borg is awaiting the concept from the architectural firm the city has hired, GFF Architects, based in Dallas. He’ll present it to the council, which then would approve it. Then the city hopes to break ground on a massive new public/private endeavor on the north side of U.S. 380.

There will be restaurants and other commercial enterprises, plenty of greenspace, two lakes, natural vegetation, wetlands, a bridge that goes over the wetlands to protect their integrity.

“We’re in the very early stages of the concept,” Borg said. “The next thing will be to look at the cost and how it can be funded.”

OK, so what’s the city’s role here?

Borg said Princeton has outgrown its tiny City Hall. It needs a lot more space. The city intends to bring police and fire administrations under one roof along with other departments. How much space would the new City Hall complex entail? Borg estimates 40,000 to 45,000 square feet, or about eight times the size utilized now, admittedly for only part of the city government’s administration.

Princeton Crossroads is the name of the developer, which Borg said the city is trying to enlist to get “some level of developer participation” in completing the project. “We certainly don’t want to drag this on forever. We want to deliver this project,” he said.

It’s critical to bring police and fire administrations under the same roof as the rest of the city, Borg said, joking that the fire department “is working right now out of its trucks.” Borg, though, has some credibility cracking jokes about the fire department, given that he served as fire chief before becoming city manager.

“It’s going to take a year to build this complex,” Borg said. “We want to break ground in late 2020,” he said.

The cost is still to be determined, he said. Borg did note that the city has a few funding options to consider. One is the obvious option: a bond issue that would go to a vote of the city’s residents. The bond issue would pay only for the bricks and mortar of the public complex. Another option would be to issue certificates of obligation, which the City Council can do without voter approval. Borg did not offer a preference for which funding option would work best for the city.

Princeton clearly is on a fast-track growth trajectory. It’s 2010 census stood at 6,708 residents. Borg believes the population will at least double that amount when they count the residents for the 2020 census. U.S. 380 is under heavy construction along virtually its entire length through the city. Texas Department of Transportation crews are finishing up the median improvements now, but then will begin work on adding one additional lane in each direction through Princeton, turning the four-lane thoroughfare into a six-lane highway to accommodate the expected increase in traffic.

Thus, with the growth that’s occurring, it becomes imperative for the city to build a municipal complex that delivers services to its expanding population.

And what about the City Council’s level of support? Borg said the council is all in and that council members – led by Mayor John-Mark Caldwell – want to proceed as soon as possible.

All this growth does have a way of presenting “headaches” most public officials would wish to confront.

Coach brings checkered past to the field at Mount Vernon HS

Blogger’s Note: This blog item was published originally on KETR-FM’s website. I want to repost it for High Plains Blogger readers as well.

School is about to begin in Texas, which means that football season also is nearly upon us. I don’t know about you, but I might be looking with just a little bit more interest than usual at Mount Vernon High School, waiting to see how the team performs in its first season under the coaching leadership of a guy who – although he is a brilliant coach – shouldn’t have this job.

Art Briles is the new head football coach at Mount Vernon. You remember this guy, right? He once coached at Baylor University. He led the Bears to a lot of victories during his time in Waco.

But then he got into trouble by looking the other way while his players were raping women all over the university campus. Some of the players faced criminal charges; many of them were convicted. Briles, though, claimed to not know what his players were doing.

Well, the story got away from everyone. It swallowed up Baylor University. It consumed Waco. Briles became the face of a scandal of which he lost control.

Baylor University Chancellor Kenneth Starr – whose investigation into sexual misconduct at an entirely different level led to President Clinton’s impeachment in 1998 – was forced to resign. Baylor Athletics Director Ian McCaw also resigned. The Baylor regents then fired Briles.

Briles wandered in the coaching wilderness – in Canada and in Europe – for a time before Mount Vernon High came calling.

The Mount Vernon Independent School District’s decision to hire this guy remains a difficult tonic for many Northeast Texans to swallow. I don’t live in the Mount Vernon district, but I’m not terribly far away, living in Princeton. Yes, Briles’s hiring sticks in my craw, too.

The rationale for hiring Briles seems to track along two lines: He deserves a second chance and, perhaps more importantly to some, he’s a heck of a football coach.

I maintain the notion that Mount Vernon ISD could have found any number of equally competent football coaches who aren’t tainted with the scandal that has stained Briles’s reputation.

I have no personal interest in Mount Vernon Tigers’ football fortunes. I suppose I should cheer for the young athletes who will work hard to compete on the field under Briles’s leadership. However, this coach’s presence on the sideline taints Mount Vernon’s reputation.

Is that fair? Do I intend to punish the young men who play football to the best of their ability? No. I just cannot set aside the hideous circumstance that cost the coach his job at a Division I university in the first place.

If Mount Vernon wins a lot of football games in the years to come, how can we measure the cost – if not the damage – to the school district’s reputation in hiring this guy?

British diplomat states the obvious: Trump is inept

I am inclined to tell the British ambassador to the United States: Tell us something many on this side of The Pond don’t know.

Leaked memos from Ambassador Kim Darroch reveal a point of view that the Donald Trump administration is incompetent, inept, unpredictable, unreliable and untrustworthy.

Gosh. Who knew?

According to National Public Radio: “We don’t really believe this Administration is going to become substantially more normal; less dysfunctional; less unpredictable; less faction riven; less diplomatically clumsy and inept,” the ambassador wrote in leaked documents, according to the Daily Mail.

Even though what Darroch wrote in the memos dating back to 2017 aren’t exactly a flash for many millions of Americans, it is news chiefly because it comes from the ambassador of one of this nation’s staunchest, most reliable and valuable allies. The Brits have stood with us through thick, thin, warfare and peace.

Now to read these remarks only serve to undermine that relationship. It’s not because of anything the British have done. Ambassador Darroch is responding to the chaos and confusion that fuels damn near everything that occurs with the Trump administration.

Darroch wrote that the administration could “collapse,” but warned “do not write (Trump) off.” Indeed, the carnival barker/president has proven to have many more lives than any cat that’s ever lived.

Still, many millions of us hope that voters in this country will wise up to the mistake many of our fellow Americans made in 2016 by electing Trump to be president in the first place.

I am one of those Americans who hopes Election Day 2020 fixes that egregious mistake.

Economic sanctions, yes; going to war, no!

Count me as one American who far prefers the measures that Donald Trump has taken to respond to provocation in the Persian Gulf region than what has been threatened over the course of the past several days.

The president has signed an executive order that imposes harsh economic punishment on the Islamic Republic of Iran. The alternative? That would be sending planes and missiles into Iran to strike military targets and quite probably provoke a military response from the mullahs who run the show in Tehran.

Option No. 1 is far better than Option No. 2.

What might the Iranian response be to the economic sanctions? I suppose they can close the Strait of Hormuz, where a lot of shipping hauls petroleum to points around the world. The good news for the United States is that this country is far less dependent on Middle East oil than it has been in the past.

However, I much prefer the economic sanction route than the military strike option that has been on the table. How much sense does it make to send young Americans into harm’s way because Iran is shooting down unmanned, unarmed surveillance aircraft? None, if you want my to know my humble view on it.

The sanctions imposed by the United States include freezing of assets owned by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and others within the Iranian government. As NPR reported, it is not entirely clear how the United States is able to obtain access to those assets, but Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin assures us that the assets are frozen; the ayatollah can’t get ’em.

Fine. Then perhaps now we can actually talk to the mullahs and try to calm the tension that has rattled the world, not to mention governments in Saudi Arabia and Israel, two of the mortal enemies Iran has targeted with threats.

As the late, great Winston Churchill once noted, it is far better to “jaw, jaw, jaw than to war, war, war.”

POWs helped build this N. Texas community

Note: I wrote this item for KETR-FM based at Texas A&M-Commerce. I want to share it on High Plains Blogger.

Who knew that German soldiers who fought against our guys during World War II would play a part in building a North Texas community?

Not me, certainly. At least until recently.

I followed some signs the other day in Princeton pointing me toward a World War II POW camp. About three left turns later, I found myself pulling into a city park that is still under development, with an estimated completion date of July 2019.

All I found was a Texas Historical Commission marker noting the existence of the POW camp that actually functioned as such from February 1945 until the end of World War II in August 1945.

Prior to taking prisoners of war from European battlefields, the site is described as a “migrant” camp established in 1941 with the help of the great Sam Rayburn, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives who hailed from nearby Bonham in Fannin County.

It fascinates me to realize that German prisoners of war – men who had been captured trying to kill Americans – actually were put to work on North Texas farms and in Princeton itself. According to the historical marker inscription: “While here, the German soldiers worked on Princeton area farms, providing valuable labor assistance. For many years following the prisoners’ release in 1946, the site again served as a camp for migrant workers.”

There’s a certain poetic irony in the work the Nazi soldiers did on our area farms. Why? The North Texas agriculture community’s ranks of able-bodied men had been depleted because those sons of farming and ranching families answered the call to fight in defense of their way of life against, oh, Germans, Italians and Japanese.

That’s not where the poet aspect of this historic episode ends, however.

Again, according to the Historical Commission plaque: “Not only did the prisoners work in the field, but they also did stonemasonry work in downtown Princeton. Others helped construct a park in Princeton built in memory of the men who served in the armed forces during WWII and a shrine to perpetuate the memory of those who lost their lives in the war.”

Ponder that for a moment. I do not know whether the German POWs knew in the moment that they were would build a park memorializing Americans who were sent to Europe to save the world from the tyrants who sent them to war against us.

I am going to presume that they had to know something was afoot when they went to work in Princeton.

Can it possibly get any more poetic than that?