Fly ‘that flag’ proudly … on your own property

battle flag

An interesting question came to me the other day on my first day back at work after taking a two-week trek through Texas.

“Did you see many Confederate flags on your travels through the state?” my friend asked.

Well, not “many,” but certainly more than a tiny smattering.

Which brings me to the point. I do not object to the sight of the Confederate flag on people’s personal property: their motor vehicles or on their RVs when they’re parked.

It’s the public-property display of the flag that irks me — and no doubt others.

We pulled our fifth wheel through North Texas, down through the Piney Woods of East Texas (which is about as “Dixie” as it can get in Texas), along the Gulf Coast, back to the Hill Country … and then finally home.

We stayed at state parks and at private RV campsites along the way. And while we were on the move along the highways and back roads, we saw our share of battle flags flapping from the back of pickups and even a few of ’em flying in the breeze at RV sites where we were staying.

Do I assume that anyone who flies the flag is a flaming racist intent on restoring slave ownership, which was one of the reasons the South went to war with the United States of America from 1861 to 1865? Not for one moment.

The whole Confederate kerfuffle was based on displaying the flag on public, taxpayer-supported property … such as at the South Carolina statehouse grounds in Columbia. The South Carolina Legislature voted earlier this year to take the flag down after a gunman killed nine African-Americans at the Charleston church; a young suspect in the shooting then was revealed to be a staunch supporter of the Confederacy and the issues for which it stood.

Flying the Confederate battle flag on the back of a truck? Or in someone’s front yard? Or from their RV? Not a problem, or at least not enough of a problem to raise a ruckus.

I was gratified, though, that we didn’t see too many of them on our journey through Texas.



Downtown hotel gets green light

amarillo hotel

They’re busting up some pavement in downtown Amarillo.

Construction has begun on Xcel Energy’s new office complex. They’ve vacated the Coca-Cola distribution center across the street from City Hall.

And tonight, the Amarillo City Council gave its approval — with¬†a little tinkering with some of the terms — to the construction of a downtown convention hotel.

Is it possible that downtown’s redevelopment inertia is too strong to resist?

I do hope so.

Embassy Suites hopes to open for business in 2017. Building planners are going to break ground in a couple of weeks downtown on a $45 million hotel complex. A local bank is providing financing for about $28 million of it. Hotel developer Chuck Patel has discussed getting other investors to cover the rest of it.

Oh, and that parking garage is going to be built as well.

Are the flowers blooming all over the downtown revival project? Not just yet. We still have this election coming up Nov. 3 that will decide the fate of the multipurpose event venue.

Some folks dislike the idea of a ballpark being included in this package. Others have argued that the ballpark will be more than just a place where a team will play baseball. Opponents say there isn’t enough of a market to make suitable use of a $32 million outdoor venue. Proponents argue that creative marketing and promotion can attract more than enough activity to the site.

I happen to be on board with what has been proposed. I plan to vote for the MPEV on Election Day.

However, I am heartened to see the progress that is continuing to push this downtown effort forward.

The Amarillo City Council tonight made the correct decision.

‘In God We Trust’ should offend no one


Controversies crop up out of nowhere on occasion, making one wonder: Why are we even arguing over this one?

A mini-tempest over a phrase being stenciled on area police cars qualifies as one of those non-issues.

Some Panhandle law enforcement agencies are putting “In God We Trust” on their patrol cars. At least one group — the Freedom from Religion Foundation — has objected.

A non-controvery erupts

My question: Why?

FFRF says the slogan forces religion on those who object to it.

Seriously. They believe that.

The phrase is on our currency. Courtrooms all across the nation have it tacked to walls behind judges’ benches. The phrase “In God We Trust” has been affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court as an appropriate expression in government venues.

But, by golly, some Americans object to it. My guess is that they’d object to just about anything.

OK, then. If the phrase is so objectionable to FFRF members — or anyone for that matter — then they’d better find a way to pay for items they purchase that do not involve the exchange of real American money.


Conspiracy comes back


Conspiracies never die. They’re immortal. They have more lives than thousands of cats.

Who killed JFK? What did FDR know about Pearl Harbor? Was 9/11 an inside job?

These things make me crazy.

Now comes the “vast right-wing conspiracy” put forwarded by Bill and Hillary Clinton. It’s back.

Bill Clinton to join the fight

The former president says all this talk about e-mails and whether his wife, the former secretary of state and current Democratic presidential candidate, is part of the “right-wing conspiracy” cooked up by his foes as he was considering a run for the presidency way back in 1991.

I wish he and his wife, Hillary Clinton, would leave that argument alone.

President Clinton told CNN about a menacing phone call he got from the White House as he was preparing to challenge President George H.W. Bush. The caller allegedly told the then-Arkansas governor he’d better not run, or else his foes would dig up tons of dirt on him.

Media officials — such as Washington Post assistant managing editor Bob Woodward, no slouch as a journalist — said the call never occurred. Others have said the same thing.

Hillary Clinton coined the term “vast right-wing conspiracy” early in her husband’s presidency. She said conservatives conspired to cook up lies about the president¬†in an effort to destroy him.

There’s little doubt that some of the allegations of wrongdoing were bogus. Was it all part of a concerted conspiracy? No one has yet come close to proving that to be the case.

The conspiracy theory, though, is back.

Oh, brother.


Sen. Cruz draws outrage … from the GOP!


Ted Cruz has had this problem almost from the day he joined the U.S. Senate in January 2013.

He thinks much too highly of himself and too little of his colleagues, many of whom have much more time in the senatorial saddle than the junior Republican from Texas.

The Senate leadership, led by Cruz’s fellow Republicans, has shot him down yet again.

And to think the leadership did so after Cruz called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar on the Senate floor earlier this year. Shocking, I tell ya! Shocking!

Cruz in trouble in Senate

He wants to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood funding. He’s griped about GOP senators being too willing to work those dreaded Democrats. He once accused former GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel of consorting with communist North Korea while Hagel was seeking to become defense secretary in the Obama administration. He once said John Kerry — a decorated Vietnam War veteran — lacked sufficient appreciation of the military; Cruz, by the way, never wore his country’s uniform.

Now the Cruz Missile is running for president of the United States and he’s running into trouble among his colleagues.

They keep pushing back on this young man’s efforts to obstruct whenever and wherever he gets the chance.

Cruz has his fans on the right and the far right. They’re with him in his efforts to shut down the government. They like his fiery rhetoric. They believe he’s capable of fixing whatever ails the nation.

A legislator, though, has to cooperate — even with those in the other party. If he fails to learn that fundamental truth about legislating — which is the making of laws — well, nothing’s going to get done.

Ted Cruz then will have nothing to show for his bombast.


Listen to the pope on climate change


Pope Francis’s critics are fond of dismissing his concern about climate change because, they contend, he “is not a scientist.”

Well, actually, he does have some background in science.

But the point here really is the utter lack of self-awareness from politicians who deny climate change largely on the basis that those who have concern about lack a background in the science that researches such issues.

The deniers would do well to ask themselves: Is our denial of climate change on any stronger scientific footing than those with whom we disagree on this issue?

Pope has science background

The debate over climate change veers into these distractions from time to time. The pope comes to America and delivers a wide-ranging message that covers a lot of topics. Climate change is one of them.

Pope Francis is an intelligent man who, I reckon, has done his share of reading on the important issues of the day. His critics have done their reading as well; of that I have zero doubt.

Let us not dismiss someone’s view of a critical issue that could have worldwide repercussions simply because — in the words of Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush — he’s just a “religious leader.”

Pope Francis called on Congress to be courageous and aggressive in working with the rest of the world on climate change. Yes, the cause of that change remains a source of intense debate: is it manmade or part of Earth’s cycle? The consensus, though, seems to be growing that humankind has played a large role in the gradual warming of the planet’s temperatures over many decades.

The Holy Father — a former chemist — is one of those who believes humans need to step up to¬†clean up¬†the mess we have made of the only planet we have.


Pope steps into U.S. political struggle


Pope Francis got a lot of love from Americans during his whirlwind trip to the United States.

Much of it is deserved. I join many others in applauding the Holy Father’s humanity and humility.

Then he said something today that I find, well, not quite so praiseworthy. He said upon returning to the Vatican that U.S. elected officials have the right to object to performing their duties on matters of conscience.

At issue: gay marriage.

Your Holiness, I believe you are mistaken.

Francis gets it wrong

There, I said it. I hope I’m not struck down for criticizing the pope.

“Conscientious objection must enter into every judicial structure, because it is a right,‚ÄĚ he told reporters while flying to Rome.

Fans and allies of embattled Rowan (Ky.) County Clerk Kim Davis are no doubt cheering the pontiff. She has refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples on the basis of her religious faith, which she said opposes gay marriage.

The pope agrees with her, which is his right.

Back to his point about “conscientious objection.” Americans who get elected to public office take a secular oath, even though many of the oaths instruct them to say “so help me God.” Still, the standard oath doesn’t give officeholders the option to object to doing certain duties because their conscience won’t allow it.

It’s a secular oath that binds the officeholder to upholding the laws of the land.

The Supreme Court upheld a challenge to a law — in Kentucky — that banned gay marriage. A gay couple sued and the high court ruled earlier this year that the Constitution’s 14th Amendment guarantees equal protection under the law for gay couples who want to marry.

So, the county clerk must follow the law.

She is free to quit her public job. She also is free to campaign as a private citizen to make gay marriage illegal. Contrary to what the Holy Father believes, though, Davis or any other public official isn’t free to invoke his or her personal belief in the performance of their public duty — when it discriminates against Americans.

Surely His Holiness knows this.

Hey, I still love the guy.



Is Trump … a socialist?

income tax

Let’s see how this goes.

Donald Trump wants to eliminate the tax burden for individuals who earn $25,000 or less annually, and for families that earn $50,000 a year. He would allow them to pay no federal income tax — none, zero.

He wants to reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 to 15 percent; wealthy Americans would get a reduction in their income tax from 39.6 percent to 25 percent.

But … he vows to eliminate hundreds of loopholes that he says in effect will generate more revenue for the government and grow the economy. Trump said his plan is going to “cost me a fortune.”

Is the leading Republican presidential candidate a socialist in the mold of, say, Barack H. Obama, who also has argued for reducing the tax burden low-income Americans?

My strong hunch is that the GOP faithful are going love this plan, as it’s coming from a Republican. When something like this comes from a Democrat, well, he’s just another wealth-distributing socialist who’s intent on “destroying the American dream.”

Uh, Mr. Trump? What about that national debt?

Trump tax plan

Boehner is burning key congressional bridge


John Boehner is showing some spunk now that he’s a declared short-timer in the halls of Congress.

The speaker of the House of Representatives announced his planned resignation from Congress, effective Oct. 30. He’s weary of the constant fighting with TEA Party members of his GOP caucus.

Then there’s word he might become a lobbyist after waiting a year, per House rules for former lawmakers.

So, what does he do? He starts torching the “false prophets” who gave him so much hell as he tried to manage the House’s legislative agenda.

Those “false prophets” well could become potential sources for the clients he would represent lobbying for their interests in the halls of Congress.

What’s up, then, with the speaker burning that key bridge?

It might be that Boehner could spend the next year campaigning for more moderate and, dare I say, reasonable Republicans. Those individuals, then, could be his target audience as he starts lobbying them for legislation favorable to whomever he hopes to represent.

Speaker Boehner has liberated himself from the shackles of trying to please the multi-faceted elements within his own political party, let alone trying to find common ground with congressional Democrats, who are angry with him for kowtowing to the TEA Party in the first place.

You go, Mr. Speaker!


Well … so much for the ‘end times’

blood moon

Hey, what happened?

We watched the blood moon last night as Earth passed between the moon and the sun. The moon turned red, just as astronomers said it would. Then we turned in.

We woke up¬†this morning. The sun rose in the eastern sky — per usual — and we’re going to start our first day back from our two-week trek across Texas.

But … weren’t we told that the blood moon signaled the “end times”? That the world was coming to an end and that Jesus was returning to make all things good again?

I happen to be glad to have gotten up this morning to a bright new day. I’ll leave the end time hocus-pocus to others.

When my “end time” comes, it’ll sneak up on me sight unseen. I won’t see or hear it coming. That’s the way I believe it’s supposed to happen.

As for the blood moon, it sure was a pretty sight.