No need to prosecute parents


Harambe’s death in the Cincinnati Zoo has sparked outrage around the world.

Yes, it’s tragic. It shouldn’t have happened. It took no time at all for recriminations to start flying over the death of the rare gorilla that well could have killed a little boy who had fallen into the beast’s enclosure.

Zoo officials did what they had to do. They shot Harambe to death to save the boy from potentially serious injury or death.

Who’s to blame? Who’s at fault? Who should pay for this?

I will say here that the parents shouldn’t have to face criminal charges, nor civil penalty.

Yes, they erred in taking their eyes of the tot long enough for him to climb through the barrier and fall into Harambe’s enclosure. Let’s not “go after” them for a mistake.

Zoo officials say this is the first time in the venue’s history that this kind of event has occurred. It likely will be the last time — for a very long while.

Does the Cincy Zoo need to do a better job of securing these enclosures from incursions made by curious children? Obviously, the answer is a resounding “yes!”

Harambe was a 400-pound beast capable of doing horrific harm to the little intruder. Frankly, I’m amazed that the boy wasn’t hurt, given the way Harambe was tossing him around and dragging him through the water.

Let us stop the recriminations and look now for solutions to prevent this from happening ever again.


MPEV uses cover a multitude of events


Center City of Amarillo sent out an e-mail overnight reminding residents of what’s about to transpire downtown.

The first of a series of community events will commence around noon today at the Potter County Courthouse grounds. They call it High Noon on the Square.

I’ve been to a few of them over the years. They play music, serve catered lunches. It’s a good way to catch up with folks and enjoy the great out of doors.

Then it dawned on me — again! We’ve got this multipurpose event venue looming down the road. You’ve heard about it. It’s morphed into “the ballpark” that eventually — officials hope — will become the home field for an affiliated minor-league baseball team; the current favorite to take up residents in the ballpark is the San Antonio Missions, which will vacate the Alamo City eventually as the another team moves in.

The MPEV, though, isn’t to be considered the exclusive domain of the baseball team.

High Noon on the Square could occur there. Center City no doubt will consider changing the name of the noontime event, given that it wouldn’t take place on “the square” if it moves to the MPEV.

Indeed, by definition the “MPEV” should be home to, um, “multiple events,” correct?

Those who have backed the concept have listed a variety of such events for the MPEV: concerts, church events, car shows, flea markets … all manner of events.

I surely get that not everyone is on board. I’m expecting to get my share of retorts from cynics/skeptics who think the MPEV is a waste of time and money. That’s their view … not mine.

There appears to be some progress being made. The Local Government Corporation has been given its mandate to come up with design plans for the project; the LGC is negotiating with that baseball club to get an agreement to move here.

Much work lies ahead.

I am still committed to supporting the MPEV concept and the possibilities for the myriad activities that can occur there.

Let’s get busy.


Another head rolls at Baylor


Another head has been lopped off — proverbially, of course — at Baylor University.

This time it belongs to the athletic director, Ian McCaw, who quit in the wake of the sex scandal that already has cost the school its president and its head football coach.

McCaw clearly had to go. He had been put on probation just as Baylor president Ken Starr was getting demoted and head coach Art Briles was put on “suspension” prior to being fired.

Why the shakeup? Oh, just that scandal involving Baylor’s mishandling of the sexual assault charges — and conviction — of football stars. The scandal has roiled the Waco campus and has caused — one should hope — a tremendous re-examination of the way the school handles such cases. In the cases involved in this scandal, the school seemingly sought to sweep them away, hoping no one would notice.

Baylor’s regents issued the usual statement of regret in announcing McCaw’s resignation: “We understand and accept this difficult decision by Ian McCaw to resign as Athletic Director and are grateful for his service to Baylor University. We also appreciate Ian’s commitment and involvement in bringing a person of integrity such as Jim Grobe to the University before making this decision.” Grobe has been named interim head football coach.

Whatever, the regents are seeking to cushion McCaw’s fall.

I don’t wish ill on the former AD, but this fellow ran an athletic department that includes the conduct of its premier revenue-producing sports activity.

As the saying goes, “The fish rots from the head down.”

Baylor University needs to take care of its business.

‘Militia’ goons complain about … what? … no Internet


Ammon and Ryan Bundy are unhappy with their living conditions in jail.

You might remember these guys. They took over a national wildlife refuge headquarters for several weeks as part of an ongoing dispute with the federal government over some property issues.

They surrendered after a siege in Burns, Ore. They’re now awaiting trial. They want to prepare for their date in federal court and say they need Internet access in their jail cell. They don’t have it.

Cry … me … a … river — fellas.

They’re being held in Multnomah County, where Portland is located.

Jail officials say they can have IPads, but only if their lawyers preload information they can use.

There’s something strangely weird about these two clowns griping about lack of Internet access.

I surely don’t know this as fact, but something tells me that the Bundys — part of an extreme right-wing political movement — quite likely over the years have complained about prison becoming too much of a “country club” for bad guys. Don’t you think that sometime in their lives they griped about how “good” the criminals have it behind bars?

To hear these guys gripe about lack of Internet access in their jail cell just rings more than a tad bit hollow in my ears.

A lot of lockups these days have extensive libraries — with books in them — for inmates to use.  My strong preference would be for these two clowns to quit griping about Internet access and start cracking open some law texts.

Cincy zoo officials acted properly to save boy


I have been trying to process the tragedy surrounding the death of a 17-year-old mountain gorilla.

Cincinnati Zoo officials shot Harambe to death after a 4-year-old boy fell into the beast’s enclosure. The video we’ve all watched is horrifying in the extreme as Harambe pulls and throws the tot around the pool.

I haven’t seen any video of Harambe being shot to death. To be honest, I don’t care to see it.

I do believe, though, that zoo officials followed the only reasonable course to achieve what it had to achieve — which was to save the boy’s life.

Animal-rights activists — quite predictably — are saying the zoo should have spared Harambe’s life. But at what cost, for crying out loud?

The youngster was in imminent peril of losing his life in a most horrific manner. Other animal behaviorists have noted that Harambe well could have become agitated if he had been shot with a tranquilizer dart; it takes a while for the drug to take effect, these folks warn us, and the time until Harambe would be sedated could have placed the boy into even greater danger.

The strength of these beasts is not to be trifled with.

If there’s a scapegoat — I won’t use the term “villain” — here, it’s the boy’s parents who apparently turned their backs on the youngster long enough for him to fall into Harambe’s enclosure.

Zoo officials aren’t releasing the family’s name. That’s just as well. They know what happened and they have to live with the consequences of what became of a majestic beast.

Yes, it’s a tragedy that Harambe’s life had to be taken.

Imagine the outrage, though, had the zoo taken another course and the youngster’s life had been lost.


War Memorial plans need a push


Bruce and Rosie Das are Gold Star parents with a singular mission.

They want to raise money to build a center that honors their son and others who have died in service to their country.

Bruce and Rosie have joined some other Amarillo-area residents on the mission. They seek to raise about $12 million to build an education center at the Texas Panhandle War Memorial, on South Georgia Street next to the Randall County Courthouse Annex.

Is there a more noble mission than to honor those who’ve paid the ultimate price for the freedom we all enjoy?

U.S. Air Force Capt. Eric Das was at the controls of an F-15 fighter jet in Iraq when he was shot down in the early weeks of the Iraq War in 2003. His parents and sister have carried on in the years since, relying heavily on their faith that has given them the strength to share openly their grief.

Now, though, they have joined with others in seeking to expand the memorial’s presentation to include an education center. It will be an interactive place, where children can learn more about the cost of freedom. It’s paid in the lives lost on battlefields around the world as the United States — the world’s most indispensable nation — has answered the call to fight tyranny and oppression.

They’re having a ceremony today at the Panhandle War Memorial.

Amarillo Mayor Paul Harpole, himself a Vietnam War combat veteran, will deliver remarks honoring the men whose names are inscribed on the stone tablets that ring the War Memorial.

I ran into Bruce Das a while back. We chatted a bit about the fundraising effort that’s ongoing to build the education center. He said “It’s progressing,” which is kind of a vague response. I trust and certainly hope — he’ll be able eventually to declare the event to be fully funded.

Today is the day we set aside to honor those who died for the rest of us. Let’s also honor the need to ensure that we never forget the sacrifice of those who died in service to the country — and the loved ones who will grieve forever.


Let’s make it a three-way race for POTUS


It’s official.

Americans are going to have three — count ’em, three — legitimate candidates for president and vice president of the United States to consider.

You may now count me as among the millions of Americans who are going to ponder the third path to the White House.

The Libertarian Party has nominated two accomplished former governors as its ticket to ride: Republicans Gary Johnson of New Mexico for president and William Weld of Massachusetts for vice president.

Here’s my dilemma.

I’ve told you already that I’ve voted exclusively for Democrats for president/VP since I started voting back in 1972. I’ve split my down-ballot ticket, though, over the years; I’ve voted for many Republicans for U.S. Senate and House, and for state and local offices in the two states where I’ve lived.

I do not yet know how I’m going to vote this year for president and vice president.

Under no circumstances would I vote for the likely GOP nominee Donald J. Trump and whoever he picks as his running mate. That’s a given.

The likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Rodham Clinton, is presenting some potentially serious concerns for me. They center on that “trust” thing that’s dogging her. Am I ready to forsake her? No, but I am ready now to look carefully at what the third-party ticket of Johnson-Weld has to offer.

Both of these gentlemen were moderate Republicans when they governed their respective states. Today’s version of hard-core Republicanism would call them RINOs, Republicans In Name Only. Johnson is most well-known for advocating the legalization of marijuana. He also did a creditable job running New Mexico. I know a whole lot less about Weld.

Both are men of substantial financial means … although I don’t hear either of them brag about it the way Trump boasts of his y-u-u-u-g-e fortune.

Given that I understand that voting preference is a private matter, I’m not likely to reveal who will get my vote. That might become evident as I continue to comment on matters as the campaign progresses.

OK, you already know who won’t get it.

I suppose, then, that my choices now are just two — which is what they’ve always been in the past.


I now declare myself ready and willing to examine a ticket other than one from either of the two major political parties.

That’s a big step. At least it is for me.


So much to challenge in Trump’s message


Whatever rhetorical concoction Donald J. Trump is peddling to those who’ve swilled it has been lost on me.

I’m trying to sort through the myriad reasons I detest the Republicans’ presumptive presidential nominee.

I’ve come up with a clear “winner.” It’s that ball cap he wears that bears the message “Make America Great Again.”

You’ve heard the mantra. The United States of America is a loser. Other countries are beating us up on trade. The people who run our government are incompetent. The nation is no longer great. Foreign leaders laugh at us. Our enemies no longer fear us.

Let’s process that for a moment.

Of all the interest groups that Trump has offended with his insults — Hispanics, African-Americans, women, veterans, disabled people — can there be a larger group than, say, the entire nation of 300-plus million citizens?

Just think about this. What the Republicans’ next presidential nominee is saying is that we no longer are a great nation. Haven’t the president’s foes — chiefly Republicans — chided him because he allegedly believes we aren’t an “exceptional nation”? Now their next nominee for president is saying essentially that that — and more. He’s proclaiming that we no longer are a great nation.

My wife, brother-in-law and I attended an air show this weekend at Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis, N.M. I realize a single public address announcer doesn’t speak for a nation, but the young man trumpeting the Air Force Thunderbirds aerial team kept referring to the Air Force as the world’s world greatest military force … and that it is part of a larger establishment that contributes to our national greatness.

At every level I can imagine, I consider the United States to be a great nation. As a patriot and a loyal American, I consider my country to be the greatest nation on Earth.

Trump’s ball cap says precisely the opposite.

Tell me again: Why isn’t every American offended by the message this guy is peddling?


Gratified at honor being paid


I am gratified at the nation’s coming of age as it relates to our veterans.

We thank them constantly. We offer thanks for their service to the country when we people who know to be vets. We shake the hands of our military personnel when we see them in uniform.

Memorial Day is about to dawn over the nation and once again we’re going to honor those who paid the ultimate price for the freedom we enjoy.

Communities from coast to coast to coast will honor those who paid that price. Amarillo will do just that Monday morning when the city’s mayor, Paul Harpole, a Vietnam War combat veteran, will deliver remarks at the Texas Panhandle War Memorial.

OK, I told you of my gratification at the nation’s coming of age in this regard.

It wasn’t like this just a few decades ago. I had the honor of wearing my country’s uniform for a couple of years from 1968 to 1970. The Army snatched me up and sent me to Vietnam. I came home, resumed my life, got married and have lived a good life with my family.

There was little of the community love being tossed at us when we returned home. No, I didn’t get spit on, or cursed at. But those who died on those distant battlefields weren’t honored the way they are today.

Do not misconstrue these thoughts. I mention them not to express any bitterness. I have none. I mention it to remind us all that sometimes a nation doesn’t always do the right thing by those who serve it.

It’s all changed. For the better. We’ve learned our lesson as a nation. It warms my heart.

The change occurred at the end of the Persian Gulf War in early 1991. You’ll remember it, right? Communities had parades for the returning warriors. We cheered them. We honored those who died.

What’s not always recognized about that resurgence of respect and pride in our military is that those who led those cheers were Vietnam War veterans who had felt a nation’s scorn simply because they did what their country ordered them to do.

I feel only gratitude today when I see the love poured out to those who return and I am moved often to near tears when I see honors given in memory of those who gave their last full measure of devotion in defense of our great nation.

Let’s enjoy the time with our friends and family. While we’re doing so, let’s also honor the memory of those who gave all they had so we could celebrate today.


Really … a Sanders-Trump debate a bad idea


I feel compelled to make an admission.

I was kidding when I sent out tweets that cheered the thought of a potential debate between Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and presumptive Republican nominee Donald J. Trump.

Yeah, I know. I shouldn’t kid about such serious matters.

One of these guys will be nominated by his party to run for president. It won’t be Sen. Sanders. It’s going to be the showman/carnival barker/rumor monger Trump.

The very idea of one guy who won’t be nominated debating the other guy who will is frankly preposterous — were you to ask me for my opinion.

Trump backed out, if you believe one version of how it came unraveled. He supposedly wanted Sanders to pay several million bucks up front. I’m not sure who would have gotten the dough.

But these debates ought to be reserved now — at this point in the campaign — for the individuals who’ll be nominated by the major parties. And, yes, if a third-party candidate gets enough public support, then invite that individual to take part, too.

So many conventional rules have been broken during this primary campaign. They start with the fact that Trump has survived this far into the GOP primary, given his unending string of insults, innuendo, lies and hourly flip-flops on controversial public policy statements.

The Republican and Democratic debates have been watched by the public not so much for the information one can glean from them, but for the entertainment value they bring to the serious process of nominating a presidential candidate.

Trump now has enough delegates in his pocket to be nominated in Cleveland. Clinton will have enough in her pocket very soon to get her party’s nomination in Philly.

Let’s focus now on how these two individuals are going to prep for what promises to be a series of barn burner debates.