Getting used to these gas prices

UPDATE: The price of regular unleaded gasoline dropped another nickel per gallon since this item was posted. The hits just keep coming.

My wife and I deserve some of the credit — maybe just a teeny-tiny bit of it — for the falling gasoline prices in Amarillo and around the country.

You ask: Why is that? I’ll tell you.

I went to the service station Saturday morning to put gasoline into my hybrid car, the one that runs on electricity as well as gasoline. It’d been 16 days since I last put gas into my little Prius buggy. I filled it up. Total cost? $15.95. That’s it. I burned less than 6.5 gallons of gasoline for the past two-plus weeks.

Therein lies one of the causes of this downward slide of oil prices, which means the price of gas also is coming down. Gas prices in Amarillo today average about $2.39 per gallon of unleaded regular. That’s more than a buck a gallon less than what it was a year ago!

We aren’t alone. Others are doing the same thing, buying fuel-efficient cars, which burn less gas, which means less demand on oil supplies.

Then came word this past week that OPEC — that consortium of oil-producing countries — won’t cut production. I guess they figure there’s still money to be made pumping oil out of the ground. So, OPEC won’t manipulate the supply side of this equation, at least for the time being.

My wife and I are happy to be doing our part. Now, if only we could get the price of diesel to come down a bit more so we don’t feel guilty driving our big ol’ pickup — which is parked most of the time.

You’re welcome.


Oh, for that 'new car smell'

Sometimes a simple throwaway line has this way of sticking to the wall.

President Obama just might have uttered it recently in an interview. He said the next president may need to bring a “new car smell” to American voters.

Former Clinton pollster: Hillary lacks ‘new car smell’

And that brings up the question: Does Hillary Rodham Clinton — the presumptive frontrunner for the Democratic Party nomination in 2016 — have that “new car smell”?

A former Clinton pollster, Doug Schoen, doesn’t think so.

According to The Hill: “‘The president said [last week] that the next president needs … a new car smell, and it’s pretty hard for me to say … that she [Hillary] has a new car smell,’ Schoen told radio host John Catsimatidis in an interview to air Sunday on New York’s 970 AM.”

Yes, she’s been in the public eye for a long time, dating back to 1992 when Bill Clinton told Americans if you elect him as president, “you get two.” She became a highly visible first lady, then became an equally high-visible senator from New York and then became an even more highly visible secretary of state in the Obama administration.

New car smell?


For that matter, Mitt Romney seems a bit musty himself if you consider that he’s run twice for president, been a high-profile governor in Massachusetts and also helped rescue the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.

A Quinnipiac Poll shows Romney leading Clinton narrowly in a head-to-head matchup. But, hey, the election is two years off.

I’d bet real money that “new car smell” just might become something of a jingle once the next campaign gets going.


DHS boss on short list for Defense post

Jeh Johnson has emerged as a favorite to become the secretary of defense.

This could be a most intriguing choice, not so much for the job he could get, but for the job he would abandon.

Johnson is the current secretary of homeland security. He’s a sharp lawyer and a former Air Force general counsel, which is a civilian post. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has submitted his resignation but will stay on until the new defense boss is confirmed by the Senate.

The Senate confirmed Johnson as homeland security secretary in a 78-16 vote and he figures to be confirmed for this new post.

Ah, but what about the homeland security job?

This might cause some serious headaches for President Obama.

The Department of Homeland Security is the lead Cabinet agency on this immigration matter, which Obama inflamed with his executive order the other day that delays the deportation for 5 million illegal immigrants. Senate Republicans — who’ll take control of the Senate in January — might see this as their chance to stick it to the president. They could block whoever the president picks to lead the Homeland Security Department.

It could get tough, bloody, nasty — which well could be the norm for the remainder of Barack Obama’s presidency.

As I’ve said repeatedly, the president deserves to populate the Cabinet with people with whom he feels comfortable. Jeh Johnson is qualified to be the next defense secretary. Barack Obama will find an equally qualified individual to protect the homeland.

It won’t matter to those who are angry over the president’s legal and constitutional executive order on immigration.



This apology needed to be made

Elizabeth Lauten is on the staff of a Republican member of Congress.

She’s apologized apparently for a ghastly message she posted on Facebook. The reaction to it initially, though, was ferocious — and deserving.

Lauten’s targets were — get ready for it — the daughters of President and Mrs. Obama. Malia and Sasha Obama came under fire from Lauten because they were, um, acting like teenagers at a public event.

Dad made a joke; the girls rolled their eyes. They apparently made some faces that signaled boredom. Then Lauten took aim at the clothing the girls wore, suggesting they were more fitting for a bar than for a White House event, which incidentally was the traditional presidential pardoning of Thanksgiving turkeys.

Of course, Lauten just couldn’t resist taking a shot at the first couple. She wrote: “Dear Sasha and Malia, I get that you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re part of the First Family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part that you play. Then again your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department.”

Give … me … a … break.

Lauten’s boss, U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn., hasn’t commented publicly on what his staffer wrote in the open letter. He needs to scold the dickens out of Elizabeth Lauten for taking pot shots at two teenage girls.

If anyone demonstrated a lack of class — which she has acknowledged in her apology — it was Lauten.



Ferguson cop to leave law enforcement

This might be the least surprising story to come out of the Ferguson, Mo., police shooting incident.

The officer at the center of the controversy is leaving his job. Darren Wilson, cleared of criminal wrongdoing by a state grand jury, is stepping down from the Ferguson Police Department to, shall we say, “pursue other interests.”

His days as a police officer are over. He shot a young black man to death in August and the unrest that erupted in Ferguson and the debate that ensued across the country has yet to be contained fully.

It’s the only call he could have made, given all that has transpired.

Michael Brown’s death has touched off a serious national discussion about police-community relations, particularly as it concerns majority white police departments and the African-American community.

I am passing no judgment on whether Darren Wilson should have been indicted. I wasn’t in the grand jury room and I didn’t hear the evidence that the jurors heard. I’ve read all the conflicting accounts of what happened that terrible night in Ferguson — and I’ll leave it at that.

The aftermath, though, has been tragic at many levels. The criminals who looted, burned and smashed innocent people’s personal property after the grand jury announced its no-bill against Wilson is shameful in the extreme.

And now a policeman’s career has come to an end. Was this young man a good officer? I don’t know that, either.

But he’ll have to find another way to restore some semblance of sanity to his life.

I wish him good luck. He will need lots of it.


GOP field taking shape for 2016


You can now — it appears — count lame-duck Texas Gov. Rick Perry as an unofficially official candidate for president in 2016.

Oh, boy! This is going to be fun.

Perry is courting wealthy Texas political donors, holding out his hand, polishing his message, showing off his new self and getting ready to make yet another run for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.

Politico reports he has some company among those looking for that Texas largesse. It consists of a fellow Texan, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and a former Texan whose family is well-known around here, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Frankly, the Perry-Cruz competition for the GOP nomination — if it materializes — could prove to be the most fascinating political drama I’ve ever seen. I’m not crazy about either of them. I’ll give credit where it’s due, though: Cruz muscled his way onto the national stage instantly after winning the Senate seat in 2012 while Perry has demonstrated — despite his sometimes prickly public persona — to be a powerful vote-getter in Texas.

The dance they’ll engage in will involve both of them trying to outflank each other on the right, where they’ve both staked out some sizable territory of their own already. One of them — or maybe both — might fall of the stage.

Despite what you might have read about Cruz’s relationship with the so-called “mainstream liberal media,” they love each other. Cruz loves the attention the media give him and the media love him because he is so damn quotable. Perry’s relationship with the Texas media has been rocky at times, particularly since his notable absence from any editorial board interviews during his 2010 campaign for re-election as governor. But he’s burnishing that part of his dossier now as well.

Then there’s Jeb. His last name counts for something in Texas, even if it isn’t worth squat anywhere else. He’s the son and brother of two former presidents, one of whom is held in increasingly high regard (that would be Poppy), the other is, well, still trying to reconstruct his legacy. Jeb Bush, though, is smooth, moderate (by comparison to Perry and Cruz), articulate and marketable among Latino Republicans, given that his wife is Latina and one of his sons, George P. Bush, is about to become Texas land commissioner.

Perry’s 2012 effort fell flat. He’s hoping for a different result this time around. As Politico reports: “’If Gov. Perry is going to run, he’s going to be better prepared, and he’s going to have the resources necessary to compete,’ said Henry Barbour, a Republican national committeeman who is helping plan for a Perry 2016 campaign and organizing next week’s donor sessions.”

So, here we go. Hold on. It’ll be fun … I hope.



Good bye to an American icon

Bill Cosby isn’t dead, but his reputation has been dealt a potentially mortal injury.

I hesitate to say categorically that it’s a self-inflicted wound. Charges of sexual abuse and out-and-out rape have come from multiple women over many years against the iconic entertainer.

No charges have been filed by any law enforcement agency. Cosby, though, appears to be toast. He appears headed for entertainment oblivion.

I get that U.S. citizens deserve the presumption of innocence. The allegations, though, are adding up. They have an eerie similarity. These women have talked about fear in bringing the allegations to light; they feared the fallout that would come by suggesting this gigantic entertainment figure would do the things they have alleged he has done.

Then one came forward. Then another, and another, and another. I’ve lost count of the number of women who’ve accused “The Coz” of doing terrible things to them.

Now we hear that the University of Massachusetts-Amherst has asked for — and received — Cosby’s resignation as an honorary faculty member; he received his master’s and doctorate in education at UMass-Amherst.

This ongoing and burgeoning scandal sickens me — as it sickens millions of other Americans who have laughed at Cosby’s everyman monologues and marveled at the role model he has become to so many men around the world.

I hope it’s false, as Cosby’s lawyer insists it is. I fear for the worst.


Rice can return … but where?

A judge has ruled that Ray Rice can play football again.

You remember this young man. He punched his then-fiancée in the face, knocked her cold in a New Jersey casino elevator. He then got dumped by the Baltimore Ravens and was suspended indefinitely by the National Football League.

A judge has said the former Ravens running back didn’t like to the NFL and that Commissioner Roger Goodell overstepped his discretion by suspending Rice indefinitely.

Case closed?

Not entirely. Rice is without a team. My question is, who is going to hire a guy with the kind of baggage this young man is packing around?

I wish the suspension had stuck. The NFL is trying to mend its ways regarding domestic violence. The Rice case was thought to be a textbook case of a highly paid pro athlete gone out of control. Rice is one of several who face this kind of scrutiny.

It’s embarrassed the league, Rice’s employer. And speaking of employers, don’t they have the right to insist that the people who work for them behave in a certain manner?

I guess Rice will come back, or will at least attempt to come back.

We’ll see if winning matters more than character.


Now the judge opposes death penalty

So, we’re supposed to sing high praise because a Texas Court of Criminal Appeals judge has declared his opposition to the death penalty.

Is that what we’re supposed to do?

I would, except that Judge Tom Price is about to leave the state’s highest criminal appellate court in January, which makes his declaration a mere symbolic act.

Price, who’s being replaced by Bert Richardson — the judge presiding over Gov. Rick Perry’s abuse of power court proceedings — wrote this, according to the Texas Tribune: “Given a substantial amount of consideration to the propriety of the death penalty as a form of punishment for those who commit capital murder, and I now believe that it should be abolished.”

Price’s statement came as he was one of three dissenting votes rejecting an appeal for clemency for death row inmate Scott Panetti, who’s scheduled to die by lethal injection in just a few days. Panetti’s been diagnosed with acute schizophrenia and death penalty foes have sought to have his death sentence commuted.

Price now is on board with them.

But he’s leaving the court.

So what good is his declaration … now?

Perhaps he can carry his opposition into the private sector and try to talk some reason into his former CCA colleagues who continue to reject other appeals on similar grounds.

“My conclusion is not reached hastily,” Price wrote in his dissent. “Rather, it is the result of my deliberative thought process from having presided over three death-penalty trials as a trial court judge and having decided countless issues related to capital murder and the death penalty as a judge on this court.”

Price didn’t seek re-election this year. He’s served on the all-Republican CCA since being elected in 1996. I applaud his coming out against capital punishment. I now hope he carries the campaign forward.


Majority has caught up

Hey, what’s going on here? I’ve long considered myself to be among a distinct minority of Americans refusing to climb onto the gloom-doom bandwagon.

Now it turns out we comprise a majority of Americans who think the country is heading in the right direction.

A CNN/ORC poll says most Americans think the nation is trending correctly. It’s just a 52 percent majority, but according to, the poll reflects the most positive outlook since 2007, the year just prior to the financial collapse.

As CNN reports: “And it marks consistent improvement in the mood of the nation over the past few months, despite a series of national security crises and continued gridlock in Washington. In September, 50 percent of respondents said things were going well.”

The falling price of oil, heating oil and gasoline is putting more money in people’s pockets, which is a good thing as the Christmas shopping season commences. Gasoline today in Amarillo is about $2.41 per gallon of regular unleaded. And OPEC announced today it would not cut production, which is going to continue to put downward pressure on oil prices as supply continues to outstrip demand.

Will any of this stop the naysayer and goofball critics from trumping up crises where they don’t exist? Oh, probably not.

I’ll just keep going about my business, acknowledging that the nation remains strong, with a positive outlook despite the yammering of those looking for political advantage.