‘Southern heritage’ surfaces yet again

Can there be a more profound demonstration of what the Confederate battle flag means to most Americans than what transpired recently at a famous Atlanta, Ga., church?

Surveillance video captured images of a couple of men placing the flag around Ebeneezer Baptist Church, where the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — one of the 20th century’s greatest Americans — used to preach.

Hmm. Very interesting, don’t you agree?


Why do you suppose the individuals seen on the video were doing that? Was it because they wanted to demonstrate their “pride” in their “Southern heritage”?

Or, perhaps they wanted to send some other kind of message to the congregants at the church, the vast majority of whom are African-American.

Here, folks, is why the Confederate battle flag has become such a symbol of hate.

It’s been in the news lately. Nine African-Americans were murdered by a white gunman as they studied the Bible together in Charleston, S.C. A young suspect arrested and charged with the crime is known to have hatred toward African-Americans and he, too, has been photographed displaying with great pride the Confederate battle flag.

The South Carolina legislature voted to take the battle flag down from the statehouse grounds where it had flown since the 1960s to protest landmark civil rights legislation enacted by Congress.

Now this, at Ebeneezer Baptist Church.

“To place Confederate flags on the campus of Ebenezer Baptist Church – after this horrific act in Charleston [and] in the wake of all that’s happening in our country – whatever the message was it clearly was not about heritage,” the Rev. Raphael Warnock said. “It was about hate.”

Do you think?

GOP field now appears complete

Pssst. I’m about to let you in on a secret.

The Republican Party’s presidential field now appears set. Sixteen men and one women are running for the White House.

The final candidate — I hope! — announced his candidacy today. It’s former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore. I know, I know. Your enthusiasm is boiling over.

Jim Gilmore formally declares White House bid

Gov. Gilmore’s message: We’re heading in the wrong direction. He’s going to strengthen our place in the world. He’s going to reverse the “Obama-Clinton” foreign policy debacles.

The problem with Gilmore’s announcement was that no one heard it. Donald Trump, the party frontrunner, was in Scotland today, of all places. And the public is still talking about him.

The rest of the field? It doesn’t matter, apparently. The Donald is sucking up all the attention — as if that’s a surprise.

Meanwhile, Jim Gilmore has climbed into the arena.

Does this complete the field? Let’s hope so.

‘Change’ set to present itself at City Hall

Amarillo downtown

Amarillo residents are likely to get a pretty good look at the “change” that arrived at City Hall with the election of three new City Council members this past spring.

It’ll occur Tuesday when the council discusses in public the fate of a proposed outdoor entertainment venue.

Will the council take the issue to a vote? Will it decide the fate of the venue by itself? Will it put the whole off for another day?

The change we’re about to see — as it relates specifically to downtown revival plans — is a divided council. Imagine that. We’ve seen a council — and before that a “city commission” — that spoke with a single voice on most issues large and small. Oh, occasionally we’d get a contrary vote from the late Councilman Jim Simms on, say, whether to ban texting while driving. But generally, the council voted as a bloc.

That’s not likely to happen with this multipurpose event venue matter.

The three new men — Elisha Demerson, Randy Burkett and Mark Nair — are speaking with a single voice among themselves. They were the agents of change in this year’s campaign. They could decide to send this matter to the voters in a November referendum: up or down on the MPEV. The other two council members, Mayor Paul Harpole and Councilman Brian Eades, are likely to vote “no” on a motion to send this matter to the voters.

There seems to be a good chance we’ll see more of these 3-2 splits on the council as it regards a whole array of tax-and-spend issues. Perhaps we’ll see it when the issue involves the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation, which fairly regularly presents economic incentive issues to the council for its approval.

Suppose we get a tax abatement request from a business seeking to expand its operations. Will the council split on that as well.

There’s always been an unwritten rule at City Hall — and at the Amarillo Independent School District board — that when the governing board approves an issue, all members line up behind it.

“Change,” as presented by the winning candidates for this year’s City Council race, very well might not allow council members to abide by that rule.

City Hall once prided itself on its unanimity, unity and cohesiveness.

I’m betting something quite different is going to unfold this coming week.


Waiting with bated breath for GOP debate

It’s time for an admission.

I am waiting anxiously for Aug. 6. That’s the day 10 of the seemingly endless list of Republican presidential candidates will line up to debate each other.

I now will admit something else. My eyes will be riveted on Donald Trump. I am anxious to watch how he reacts to the barrage I know he’s expecting to get from his GOP opponents.


I’d call them “rivals,” but the term connotes a level of competitiveness among them. So far, it’s been Trump by a mile, according to the polls.

I still believe Trump will flame out. I believe he won’t hold up under intense examination. I think it is quite possible he can say something so outrageous, so inflammatory, so shocking that even hard-core Republicans will toss Trump aside.

Trump’s statement about John McCain’s war record ought to have been enough. So should his blanket denigration of illegal immigrants coming here from Mexico — all 11 million or so of whom he says he’ll deport if he’s elected president.

But the guy doesn’t talk like a regular politician. He talks like the showman he is. He boasts about his wealth, seemingly not believing that such boastfulness is anathema to the ears of millions of Americans.

I get that many of us find this guy “refreshing.” It’s just going to be a fascinating bit of political theater this coming Thursday watching him juxtaposed with nine other more typical candidates for the highest office in the land.

Trump vows to be “nice” when he takes the stage for the Fox News-sponsored joint appearance.

We’ll  see about that.

Pro football rookie is ‘too good to be true’?

There is a story making the rounds that suggests a “new normal” among prospective professional athletes.

It’s that some pro scouts, team executives and analysts just cannot believe that a possible star athlete doesn’t carry any baggage, that he’s got to have something wrong about him.

Marcus Mariota won the Heisman Trophy this past season while playing quarterback for the University of Oregon.


He’s a fine young man. He’s devoted to his family. He finished his college education, earning his degree at Oregon. He’s the proverbial Boy Scout.

Then we hear that Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich reports that some National Football League analysts and scouts were spooked by the absolute absence of any skeletons in Mariota’s closet.

As Larry Brown writes in MSN.com: “The NFL is so used to finding at least something wrong with players that they balk when they can’t dig up any dirt.”

OK, Mariota isn’t perfect. He got a speeding ticket in Eugene, Ore., during his final year at Oregon.

But that’s it. Apparently.

Are we going to believe now that NFL general managers, scouts, coaches — maybe even the fans — demand that their star athletes punch out women, abuse drugs, steal things or launch into profanity-laced rants on national television?

The Tennessee Titans thought enough of Mariota to draft him No. 2 overall.

I’m going to go with the Titans’ judgment on a young man who certainly looks like the real thing.

Should online comments meet same standards as printed comments?

online papers

Word has been bouncing around Amarillo about the suspension of online comments to news and opinion articles in the Amarillo Globe-News.

I don’t know the particulars, as I don’t talk to the higher-ups at the paper these days. Nor do I subscribe to the print edition, which means I get very limited access to the online version of the publication. I get a few “free clicks” each month, then I have to pay to read it online — which I do not do.

OK, but what about the suspension of the comments?

It brings to mind an on-going debate I believe is still occurring in editors’ and publishers’ offices around the country. It centers on whether online comments should meet the same standard as those required for publication in print editions.

I’ve long believed they should.

I guess the AGN suspended the comments because many of them were getting a bit too harsh, intensely personal and were impugning people’s integrity. So, I reckon publisher Lester Simpson suspended the comments until he figures out what to do about their tone.

This is the monster the Internet has created. Too many of these online commenters — and they’re not limited, of course, to just this market — are allowed to get away with too much. They can submit their opinions using bogus handles, not their real names. They use that shroud of anonymity to attack individuals and to sling accusations like so much feed lot manure.

Back in the old days, when the printed paper was the sole source of information for a community, there was a standard that contributors were asked to follow.

Give your name, address and a daytime phone number where the editor of the editorial page or his/her representative can contact you. The paper would then publish the writer’s name and his or her city of residence. The paper would insist that the writer stick to the issue and refrain from personal attacks. Editors then would remind readers that there are laws against libeling someone in print and that the paper wouldn’t tolerate anything that even hinted at potentially libelous material.

The presence of the writer’s name had at least one positive benefit: It tended to elevate the tone and tenor of whatever discussion was occurring.

These days, with anonymous snipers lurking in cyberspace, that civility occasionally disappears.

Oh sure, some readers like reading this stuff. They find it entertaining. An individual, someone I know personally, complained this week that the online edition of the paper has gotten “boring” without the comments, and that he liked following the give-and-take among readers.

Well, OK. Sometimes, though, the give-and-take starts to draw blood unnecessarily.

This is the new age of journalism. It has brought an entirely different set of questions, issues and problems to handle.

My suggestion? Set the same rules for online comments that you do for print.

Intelligent commentary plays just as well on a computer screen as it does on the printed page.

Trump to young mother: You’re disgusting!

Is this what we can expect from the Donald Trump for president campaign?

More quibbling about things such as a lawyer wanting to take a break from a deposition to feed her baby?


Honestly, I am quite unnerved by this latest kerfuffle.

A lawyer, Elizabeth Beck, was questioning Trump about a real estate deal gone bad. She wanted to take a break to operate a breast pump to feed her infant child. Trump reportedly went ballistic, calling her “disgusting.”

The New York Times reported the 2011 dispute. Trump’s response? Beck supposedly wanted to feed her daughter in front of him, which made him uncomfortable.

So, how are we supposed to react to these kinds of stories involving a man seeking to become leader of the Free World and commander in chief of the world’s greatest military apparatus?

This is sideshow material. I’d rather concentrate on hearing Trump explain how he intends to keep the economy moving, how he intends to keep working to save the environment, how he intends to repair relations with Russia and how he intends to keep fighting the war against international terror.

And there’s lots of other issues as well.

This thing with Elizabeth Beck? It likely could speak to how he views women’s issues and women in general, which are important. They seem more appropriate for one of those daytime “talk shows,” rather than issues for discussion in the heat of a presidential campaign.

Families getting glimmer of closure … finally

Take it from me: The family members of those 239 people lost and presumed dead aboard Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 have been clinging to the faintest hope imaginable that their loved ones are still alive.

Why? Because no one has found a trace of the huge jet that reportedly crashed more than a year ago.

Until now.


Investigators are combing through a piece of debris that is now believed to part of the Boeing 777 that vanished March 8, 2014 after it took off from Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing.

No trace of the plane has been seen since. Now, though, a piece of debris has been found on the other side of the Indian Ocean. It’s believed to be from MH370.

Not quite 35 years ago, my father was fishing in British Columbia with some friends and business associates. They crashed their small boat. Two of the four men aboard survived the crash; the other two died. Searchers found one of the dead men right away. Dad, though, remained missing for eight days.

I speak from experience that every single day we waited for word about Dad’s whereabouts was filled with a glimmer of hope that he actually survived. That’s what your emotions do. They play cruel trick on you. You know in your head that the worst has happened, but you hope in your heart for the best.

Our hopes were dashed when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police informed us of the grim discovery they made several miles downstream in the inland where the crash occurred.

The families of the MH370 passengers and crew well might be living that very nightmare today as they await word on what was found in the Indian Ocean.

I hope — for the sake of those still-grieving loved ones — that they determine this piece of wing came from the doomed aircraft.

City Council taking aim at the MPEV?

Amarillo Mayor Paul Harpole and his City Council colleagues are set to commence an important discussion on the future of a proposed outdoor multipurpose event venue.

A part of me fears the worst. It is that the council will cast a highly split vote to refer this matter to city residents in a non-binding referendum that will ask: Do you want the city to proceed with building the MPEV? Yes, the referendum would be non-binding, but only a fool would go against what the voters decide.

The council vote — if it occurs — could be on a 3-2 split. The votes to refer the measure to residents could come from the three new men on the council — Elisha Demerson, Randy Burkett and Mark Nair. The three of them have stated publicly their concerns about the MPEV, the process that brought it forward and whether the city really needs it.

Count me, gentleman, as a constituent who believes in the project, the process that produced it and the potential it brings for downtown Amarillo’s hoped-for rebirth.

Another part of me remains hopeful that reason will prevail.

It’s a better than safe bet to assume that Harpole and Councilman Brian Eades want the MPEV process to keep moving forward. I would bet real American money they would vote “no” on sending this matter to a vote in November.

You might be thinking: Is this goofy blogger — that would be me — against giving residents a say-so in an important project?

The answer would be “no.” I believe in the democratic process as much as anyone. But in reality, we’re dealing here with a representative democracy, meaning that we elect individuals to represent our interests. We elect them to lead.

My own preference would be to have council members vote on this matter themselves.

There’s no compelling need to put this matter up for a popular vote. Residents of this city have had ample opportunity to view this project from the get-go. They’ve had equally ample opportunity to speak out.

Yes, there seems to be a serious divide in our city over this MPEV. There also seems to be an equally seriously divide among members of the city’s governing body. A 3-2 split on this issue — in either direction — does not represent a consensus. Think of it as a body that mirrors, say, the U.S. Supreme Court, which often votes 5-4 on landmark rulings; the court is split often along ideological grounds — pitting conservative justices vs. liberal justices.

The best option, to my way of thinking, would be for the five men who serve on the City Council to take a deep breath and ponder the consequences of killing this MPEV, whether they do it themselves with an up-down vote or refer it to voters to decide at the ballot box.

Do they really and truly want to scuttle a project that’s been years in the making? Do they really want to scrap it at this stage of its development and force the city to start from scratch, spending more time and money on an issue that’s been examined from every possible angle?

If they intend to deep-six this entertainment venue, then they will send the city skidding backward.

It’s going to be a big day at City Hall next Tuesday.

Have a good time on vacation, Congress?

This brief rant from Democratic Party loyalist Bill Press is too good not to share.

So, I’ll do so today, and will let Press speak for himself.


Don’t you wish you were a member of Congress? We pay them $175,000 a year to work for us. And what do we get for it?

Well, consider this. Yesterday, John Boehner announced that the House would recess this afternoon, two days early, for its August recess – and they won’t be back in town until after Labor Day. But, of course, they’ll still get paid.

And what about that Highway bill? Oh, no. That’ll have to wait until September.

What about that Iran nuclear deal? Sorry, no time now. They’ll get around to that sometime after Labor Day.

Well, what about climate change, immigration reform, minimum wage, criminal justice reform, gun safety, or all those other pressing issues we’ve been waiting for them to do something about?

Sorry, no time for them now, either. According to Boehner, members of Congress have more important things to do. Like going to the beach. Or going on taxpayer-subsidized Codels.

Yes, don’t you wish you were a member of Congress? We pay them $175,000 a year to work for us. And what do we get for it? Nothing.


I will add only this: Democrats did the same thing when they ran the place, too.