About those walls …


As long as we’re talking about building walls to keep illegal immigrants from streaming into our country, let us ponder some things.

My wife wondered recently about the proposed Trump Wall along our southern border. “What does Donald Trump propose to do about those who would tunnel under the wall?” she asked.

Good question, Girl of My Dreams.

What does Trump propose for the wall and how deeply does he want to sink it into the dirt along our 1,900-mile-long border with Mexico? Ten feet, 20 feet, 30 feet … 100 feet!

Has he heard about how the infamous drug kingpin El Chapo dug his way out of that maximum-security prison in Mexico?

OK, so Trump has been joined in the Build-a-Wall chorus by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who said over the weekend it’s worth considering a wall between the United States and Canada.

That one would be roughly double the length of the Trump Wall.

Remember that we have a significant border with the Canadians along our Alaska state line.

So, not only would a U.S.-Canada wall stretch 3,000-plus miles along our countries’ east-west border, it would go another 1,200 or so miles north and south from the southern tip of the finger of Alaska that deeps south to, um, the Arctic Ocean — wa-a-a-ay up yonder.

And while we’re on the subject of the northern border, Gov. Walker, what are you going to do about some shared attractions?

Niagara Falls — which my wife and I visited in 2011 — comes to mind immediately.

This wall-building rhetoric is easy to throw out there. It gets applause and cheers from the Republican Party faithful.

However, this nonsense requires some serious thought … which we have not yet heard from any of the people who want to be president of the United States.



Texas Democrats … wherefore art thou?

AUSTIN, TX -  FEBRUARY 18:  Texas Governor Greg Abbott (2nd L) speaks alongside U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (L), Attorney General Ken Paxton (2nd R), Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (R) hold a joint press conference February 18, 2015 in Austin, Texas.  The press conference addressed the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas' decision on the lawsuit filed by a Texas-led coalition of 26 states challenging President Obama's executive action on immigration.  (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

Ross Ramsey is as smart a Texas political analyst as they come.

Thus, his analysis of the moribund state of the Texas Democratic Party is worth your time to read.

Democrats nowhere to be found.

The Texas Tribune editor hits out of the park.

His thesis basically is this: If Texas had a viable two-party political system, the big mistakes being made by two statewide Republican officials would become immediate fodder for the opposing party.

He references Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller.

Paxton’s been indicted for securities fraud by a grand jury in his home county … that would be Collin County.

Miller — who Ramsey refers to as “Yosemite Sid” — has come out for cupcakes in classrooms and said he want to return deep fryers to public school kitchens. Ramsey also reports: “His campaign Facebook page shared a post featuring a picture of an atomic bomb blast and the words ‘Japan has been at peace with the US since August 9, 1945. It’s time we made peace with the Muslim world.’ His political staff removed it, said one of his workers had posted it and stopped short of an apology.”

What’s been the fallout of all this? Nothing. As Ramsey reports: “You can argue about what Democratic voters might think about Paxton and Miller. But those Democratic sentiments, whatever they are, apparently don’t matter to the Republicans. If they were worried about the reaction from the other party’s voters — or concerned that GOP officeholders were creating opportunities for candidates from the other side, they’d be doing something about it.”

When you’re the king of the mountain, by golly, you can say and do almost anything in a one-party state.


Nuke deal becomes partisan numbers game

iran nuke deal

There once was a time — it seems like an eon or two ago — when foreign policy decisions weren’t divided along party lines.

Those days are gone. Maybe they’ll be back. Eternal optimist that I am, I remain hopeful for a return of sanity in our federal government.

The Iran nuclear deal is the most glaring example I’ve seen of how partisanship now supersedes national unity in the face of threats from adversaries.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, became the 31st Democrat to endorse the deal brokered by Secretary of State John Kerry and officials from five other great powers. Its aim is to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Iran has insisted it intends only to provide energy for its people; of course, no one believes that.

Congressional Republicans appear united in their opposition to the deal. Democrats are mostly united in favor of it, although some have declared their intention to vote “no” when the issue comes up for a vote.

Merkley said something quite wise in announcing his support of the deal: “The future, whether we approve or reject the deal, is unknowable and carries risks. But the agreement offers us better prospects for preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and more tools and leverage to ensure that outcome.”

We cannot predict the future with absolute certainty, he said.

Democrat backs Iran deal

Is the deal perfect? No, but then again, when have we ever struck the perfect foreign policy agreement with anyone?

The agreement aims to derail whatever intentions the Iranians have of developing a nuclear bomb. It allows inspections of sites. It dismantles centrifuges. It allows the rest of the world to bring back strict economic sanctions if the Iranians are caught cheating on the deal.

None of that is enough to persuade Republicans to back it.

So, the world’s greatest military power is now showing to the world that its foreign policy team is being undercut by partisan political divides when it should be demonstrating an unflinching resolve to stand united against a rogue nation.

It’s turning instead into a numbers game, with Democrats seeking to pile up enough votes to filibuster Republican opposition to the deal while also gaining enough votes to sustain a certain presidential veto of any GOP rejection of the deal.

This is no way to conduct foreign policy.


Welcome back, Mme. Tax Collector


This doesn’t happen every day in county government.

In fact, this is the first time I’ve seen it occur in more than 30 years observing politics and government in Texas.

Randall County’s tax assessor-collector, Sharon Hollingsworth, only thought she was retiring this past week. She’s getting her old job back after the woman appointed to succeed her, Christina McMurray, decided she wanted to return to her old job in the county tax office.

So, McMurray quit the tax assessor-collector job and Hollingsworth is returning to her post — albeit temporarily.

She still plans to retire and go fishing with her husband. I spoke with Hollingsworth a few days ago when I learned of her plans to retire and she expressed joy at the prospect of getting on with the rest of her life.

Well, it’s going to wait a little while longer.

According to the Canyon News: “Randall County Judge Ernie Houdashell said that the court will go back on the search for a replacement for Hollingsworth, thanking her for continuing her service until a replacement can be qualified and sworn in.”

At least there’ll be no on-the-job training required for county’s newest tax assessor-collector.



So long, President Davis


Weep not for the removal from the University of Texas-Austin grounds of a statue.

It is of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

The statue removal has been the subject of considerable angst at the campus. In the end, a judge said the statue could be removed.  So today it was taken down, wrapped up, put on a truck and will be taken to the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.

It need not be shown in a public place where everyone — including those who could be offended by a statue depicting someone who led the secessionist movement in the 19th century.

Davis statue comes down

It’s one more action taken in the wake of that monstrous shooting in Charleston, S.C., of nine African-Americans by someone who allegedly declared his intention to start a race war. A young man has been charged with the crime and this young man is known to have racist views and has been pictured with symbols of the Confederacy.

Do you get why the Jefferson Davis statue might be highly offensive, say, to many of the students and faculty members at UT-Austin?

According to the Texas Tribune: “UT Student Body President Xavier Rotnofsky — who proposed the removal of the statue as part of his satirical campaign — said the fight is over and he is happy to see the statue being moved.

“’It’s very satisfying,’ Rotnofsky said. ‘What started off as a very far-fetched idea during the campaign — we came through with and the school year has barely started.’

“He said the national conversation after the South Carolina shooting and the passion of students on UT’s campus made the removal possible.”

Yes, Davis is a historical figure in the strictest definition of the word. He also was a traitor to the United States of America. Has anyone lately seen any statues, for instance, of Benedict Arnold?

So, put Davis’s likeness in a museum, where it can be looked at and studied by those with an interest in the Civil War.

And be sure it includes all the reasons that Davis and the Confederacy went to war against the Union in the first place.

Texas stood tall in time of tragedy


Ten years after the fact, Texans perhaps should take stock of a time when our state stood tall as our neighbors fled a savage onslaught.

Hurricane Katrina killed nearly 2,000 Louisiana residents and drove many thousands more than that from their homes. And of those thousands who were displaced, many of them came to Texas.

Most found refuge downstate. Some came to the High Plains.

As Erica Greider writes in her Texas Monthly blog, the manner in which Texas responded to the crisis provided the state with one of its shining moments.

Greider writes: “… Texas’s response to Katrina has to count as one of our state’s finest moments. We saw real leadership from people like Rick Perry, then the governor, and Bill White, then the mayor of Houston, among many others, and real graciousness on the part of millions of Texans, who welcomed so many neighbors at their time of need. I’d like to think that’s who we are. And I’d like to think it’s a good reminder for us today, since 10 years later we have the flaring tempers and frayed nerves without the proximate cause of a historic natural disaster: when people work together, progress is possible.”

Here’s the blog post

Amarillo responded well during that time. We set up emergency quarters for the residents who came here. We gave them shelter, food, medical care, counseling services and placement advice as they sought to collect themselves after having their lives shattered by the storm’s wrath.

It’s good that we don’t have to respond in such a fashion all that often. But when we do, it’s also good to know we are able and willing to answer the call for help.



What did the PM know about bin Laden?

Pakistani media personnel and local residents gather outside the hideout of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden following his death by US Special Forces in a ground operation in Abbottabad on May 3, 2011. The bullet-riddled Pakistani villa that hid Osama bin Laden from the world was put under police control, as media sought to glimpse the debris left by the US raid that killed him. Bin Laden's hideout had been kept under tight army control after the dramatic raid by US special forces late May 1, 2011 in the affluent suburbs of Abbottabad, a garrison city 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of Islamabad.  AFP PHOTO/ AAMIR QURESHI (Photo credit should read AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images)

Oh, how I wish I could be a fly on one of the White House walls when Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif comes for a visit with President Obama.

I would love to hear a conversation that goes something like this:

President Obama: Welcome, Mr. Prime Minister. But let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we? I know you weren’t in office on May 2, 2011 when our SEALs took out Osama bin Laden. But I have to ask, didn’t you get a full national security briefing from your predecessor when you took over?

Nawaz Sharif: Well, yes, Mr. President. Of course.

Obama: What did he tell you about bin Laden’s presence in Afghanistan, where our men killed him while he was hiding in plain sight in Abbottabad? Surely he knew bin Laden was there, right?

Sharif: I don’t know what you’re talking about …

Obama: Oh, stop right there. Everyone with half a brain in this country believes your government knew that bin Laden was in that large compound just a stone’s throw from that military academy. How could your intelligence folks have missed detecting his presence?

Sharif: We don’t snoop and spy on everyone and everything in our country.

Obama: Knock it off. This guy was the most wanted terrorist on the planet. The entire civilized world — and that include Pakistan — wanted him killed or captured. You operate a sophisticated intelligence network there.

Sharif: It can’t detect every person’s move.

Obama: But surely it can detect the movements of a man who stood 6 feet 5 inches tall and whose face has been plastered on TV screens around the world for a decade, ever since the 9/11 attacks.

Sharif: If you think our government knew of bin Laden’s presence, is that why you launched the raid in secret, without ever telling us you were invading our airspace?

Obama: Airspace … shmairspace, Nawaz. The bad guys invaded our airspace on 9/11 — and killed 3,000 innocent victims. Bin Laden took credit for doing that damage. Do I really care about airspace concerns? No. I wanted him dead and by God, we were intent on making sure we killed him.

Sharif: Well, back to your initial question. I wasn’t told anything about bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan. Even if I was told, I cannot disclose  national security secrets, not even to you.


Will this conversation occur when the Pakistani prime minister visits the White House on Oct. 22? Oh, probably not. Then again, not every conversation occurs when there’s media present.

I’m going to hope that Barack Obama presses his guest for some answers to the burning question: What did the Pakistanis know about Osama bin Laden and when did  they know it?

Pakistani PM to visit White House


Let’s wall off entire U.S. … not!

First bricks of new house. Brick wall foundation isolated 3l illustration

The wall that Donald Trump keeps yapping about might get a bit longer.

The Republican presidential primary front runner wants to build a “beautiful” wall along our southern border. He says he can do it because he’s “good at building things.” It’ll run 1,900 or so miles.

Now comes Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, one of the thundering herd of challengers seeking to catch Trump. He wants to out-Trump The Donald. How? He says he’s “open to the idea” of building a wall across our northern border, the one that separates the United States from Canada. It’s been the longest unsecured border in the world since, oh I guess maybe forever.

He said this on “Meet the Press”: “Some people have asked us about that in New Hampshire. They raised some very legitimate concerns, including some law enforcement folks that brought that up to me at one of our town hall meetings about a week and a half ago … I think we need to secure borders in general.”

Here’s more from Walker

While we’re at it, let’s build underwater obstructions along the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf coasts. You know, the kind of things the Nazis erected along Normandy as they sought to fight off the D-Day invaders in June 1944?

We’d need to keep shipping lanes open, of course. But if we’re going to “secure our borders in general,” as Walker suggested, then by golly, let’s go all in.

The last thing we ought to do is sand blast that inscription from the base of the Statue of Liberty, which says to other nations they are welcome to “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free … ”


Why not debate … in Amarillo?


I’ve noted before in previous election cycles that the major political parties need to think beyond the norm when planning for debates between their presidential nominees.

The norm in the past has been to select cities with large media markets. Sometimes the parties put these debates in cities and states where the race is competitive.

Here’s a revolutionary thought: Why not stage one of these events right here, in little ol’ Amarillo, Texas?

Hey, I know it’s a long shot. A pipe dream. I know it won’t happen. Then again, in this strange, goofy, unpredictable, topsy-turvy primary campaign — which on the Republican side is being driven by Donald J. Trump — well, anything seems possible.

Look at it this way, Amarillo is a significant city in a significant state. One of Amarillo’s state lawmakers, Republican Four Price, said the other day that Texas’s economy all by itself is the 12th largest in the world. That by itself makes us a player.

What might be the theme of a debate held in Amarillo? Energy policy ought to be front and center. I doubt, of course, that debate planners would build a two-hour televised event around energy policy by itself.

But it does tie into the nation’s economy. How about foreign policy, given that we’re weaning ourselves of foreign oil? We’re becoming something of a trend-setter in the development of wind energy, one of those alternatives that gets some of the credit for the plunging oil prices around the world.

We’ve got venues for such an event. The Civic Center is one. The performing arts center across the street is another. Why not look at the West Texas A&M University event center in Canyon?

Is such a thing possible?

Consider this: No one ever thought that Donald Trump would be setting the pace in the race for the Republican Party presidential nomination.

I’m just saying that this election is wild and crazy enough for Amarillo to get a serious look if the political parties here want to put together a formal request.



Now it’s on to the ‘perv’ and ‘sleazebag’


You must hand it to Donald Trump.

He hits every hot button there is to hit. And he doesn’t miss very often.

His latest target if Huma Abedin, aka Mrs. Anthony Weiner.

Abedin is a close adviser and confidante to Hillary Rodham Clinton, who’s being rocked by these e-mail revelations relating to the time she served as secretary of state.

But it wasn’t so much Abedin who took the brunt of Trump’s latest trash-talking tirade, delivered Friday in Massachusetts. It was Abedin’s husband.

Former U.S. Rep. “Carlos Danger” Weiner, you’ll recall, was outed for sending pictures of his manhood through the Internet to women who aren’t his wife. He quit his congressional seat. He then ran for New York City mayor and lost badly.

He’s out of the public eye. Or at least he was out of it … until now, thanks to Donald Trump. “So now — think of it — Huma is getting classified secrets. She is married to Anthony Weiner, who is a perv,” Trump said. “Now these are confidential documents and guess what happens to Anthony Weiner. A month ago he went to work for a public relations firm. ”

Weiner returns to public spotlight.

Actually, Trump is overstating Weiner’s place in recent political history. He called the ex-lawmaker “one of the great sleazebags of our time.”

I don’t think so. He’s a chump who got his thrills sending dirty pictures to women.

Do not fret, though. Trump has energized a segment of the Republican Party that eats this stuff up.

I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around the words “President Trump.”