The world is one’s oyster

Readers of this blog occasionally offer an interesting observation about its content.

“Aren’t you glad you get to offer your perspective in a community that disagrees with what you think?” That comment comes from those who generally agree with I write. Those who disagree aren’t likely to express such a thing so politely; they’ll just take me down.

Why is that so, um, interesting? It’s because my “community” now involves regions far from the Texas Panhandle, where I worked in daily print journalism for nearly 18 years.

You see, the world is now the stage — and Planet Earth is the audience for the spewage that flows from this venue. An analytic graphic on Word Press tells me I have been read by folks in nearly 90 countries in 2016; we start over in just a few hours.

Sure, the Panhandle comprises residents who abide by a different set of values espoused by yours truly. It’s not that they’re wrong and I am right … necessarily! It’s that we — most of the rest of the Panhandle and I — have different world views.

I tend to favor Democrats seeking public office; most of my neighbors and friends here favor Republicans. To each their own, yes? Of course!

So, as I’ve become a full-time blogger — one who is able to speak freely now rather than writing for The Man — I have learned how to accept the reality that the audience for this blog extends far beyond confines of this part of the world.

It took me a little while to achieve that acceptance.

But I have. It’s a big world out there and I am so glad to be able to share my views with it.

Note to AG pick: expect a rough ride before Senate inquisitors

Donald J. Trump perhaps selected Jeff Sessions to be the next U.S. attorney general expecting him to get a smooth ride through the Senate Judiciary Committee.

I believe he would be mistaken if that is the case.

Sessions has served in the Senate as a Republican from Alabama. However, he brings some heavy baggage along as he preps for what I think will be a rough confirmation hearing.

You see, he once was rebuffed by the Senate when President Reagan nominated him for a federal judgeship. Why? It seems the then-U.S. attorney had said some highly insensitive things about African-Americans — and about an infamous organization known to hate black people.

Sessions once said he believed the Ku Klux Klan was OK until he learned that one of its leaders “had smoked pot.” Sessions said he was joking. Damn, I haven’t stopped laughing at that one!

The Senate couldn’t abide by what Sessions said so it rejected his nomination to the federal bench.

Voters back home, though, apparently didn’t hold that rejection against Sessions when they elected him to the same Senate that had turned him away from his cherished judgeship.

As the Washington Post has reported, Sessions’s views are at odds with a lot of mainstream political thought across the nation. For example, according to the Post: “At a 2006 congressional hearing, Sessions said that an entire group of people wouldn‚Äôt thrive in America. ‘Fundamentally, almost no one coming from the Dominican Republic to the United States is coming because they have a skill that would benefit us and would indicate their likely success in our society,’ he said.

“In 2009, he voted against a hate crimes bill named after Matthew Shepard, the gay Wyoming student murdered in 1998, that extended federal hate crime protections to people victimized because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“As state attorney general in 1995, he argued against a decision by the Alabama Circuit Court to order the state to remedy funding inequities between the poorest school districts, which were heavily black, and their wealthiest, which were predominantly white. He did so on the grounds that taxing and spending power lay with the legislature, not the courts.”

The president-elect could do a lot better than Jeff Sessions in seeking an attorney general. I don’t expect the Senate to reject Sessions.

I do, though, expect senators to demand that the AG-designate answer some direct and probing questions about his views relating to equal treatment for all Americans.

Unity, Mr. President-elect, bring us unity

Donald J. Trump is having the time of his life as he taunts those who oppose his election as president of the United States.

He went on yet another Twitter rant with a message that belies his pledge to be the president “of all Americans.” Imagine that.

He wrote: “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!”¬†

There you go. Such grace. Such class. Such a striving to make good on his promise to “unify” a divided nation.

I guess this latest example strikes right at the heart — in my view — of this guy’s temperamental unfitness for the job to which he has been elected.

He blasts out these tweets, using the social medium to inject himself into the middle of foreign policy discussions being conducted by the individual who still is serving as president and commander in chief.

This latest lack of decorum only serves  to inflame the anger of those who need little reason to be angry that this guy won the election.

The unity you profess to seek, Mr. President-elect, cannot be found in these childish messages.

Another year down the tubes … Happy New Year!

Those of us who remember the days when we had telephones with coiled cords and TVs that took forever to turn on have learned to live in whole new world.

We recall waiting with bated breath for the 21st century. My dad was one of them. He¬†looked forward to seeing¬†the year 2000. He didn’t make it, but we had many conversations about that momentous event.

Here¬†we are. Another year is passing into history. And we’re another year close to the end of the second decade of the 21st century.

Yes, it’s true that time accelerates the older you get.

So we’re about to enter 2017. Just three¬†more years an we enter the third decade of this¬†once-new era.

And this conjures up a memory of when we got ready for we called¬†“Y2K.” You remember it, yes?

It seems all so quaint now.

As 1999 drew to a close, I was working for the Amarillo Globe-News. We¬†prepped for the big change in a most fascinating way.¬†The newspaper’s publisher¬†took all those fears about the world coming to an end as we entered the 21st century quite seriously. Perhaps too seriously, as it turned out.

On Dec.¬†31, 1999, he issued a directive that all our electronics systems were¬†to be shut down by some ridiculous time — hours before we¬†were to go to¬†press. He spoke to us about the potential consequences of failing to¬†be prepared for when the clock struck midnight and we entered a new year beginning with the number “2.”

I’d heard the fears: Nuclear missiles would launch; satellites orbiting the planet would crash to Earth; computer systems would catch fire and/or explode; motor vehicles would¬†stop functioning.¬†All of it.

My boss was so concerned he ordered us to shut down our newsgathering and printing operations … which meant that the Jan. 1, 2000 edition of the Amarillo Globe-News had next to zero breaking news in it. We had a lot of feature material, though.

That was then.

We’ve gotten a good bit more sophisticated about these computer issues.

Time and technology have moved us forward.

I’ll spare you my thoughts about the year that’s about to pass into history’s dust bin. It kinda sucked and I’ve spoken my piece already about that.

But oh, my, has time flown by since our knuckles locked up while we waited for Y2K.

One thing doesn’t change for me, though, even with technology advancing as rapidly as it has done. I always await the new year with a sense of optimism, that the new year will be better than the immediate past year.

So it is that we welcome 2017. We’ve got nowhere to go but up, correct?

Trump sides with the bad guy?

How is this supposed to go?

President Barack Obama retaliated against Russian over reports that Russian spooks hacked into the U.S. electoral system.

He kicked out about 30 Russian intelligence operatives and set in motion some economic sanctions to punish the Russians.

What is Donald J. Trump’s response as he prepares to become the next president of the United States? He lavishes praise on Russian strongman Vladimir Putin for his decision to withhold any reaction to the president’s punishment.

Trump called Putin a “smart” man.

No expression of support for our own president’s decision to punish the Russians for something a number of key intelligence agencies have concluded: that their hackers sought to meddle in the U.S. presidential election.

Where in the world are the new president’s loyalties?



Vick has paid his debt to society — in full!

It’s interesting to me how some people’s transgressions never get forgiven, the transgressor never repays his debt to society in the eyes of those he has angered.

Stand up, Michael Vick. I’m talking about you.

The Atlanta Falcons pro football franchise wants to honor several of its former stars during the Falcons’ final regular-season game this weekend. More than a few fans, though, don’t think Vick — once a standout quarterback for the team — should be among the honorees.

My own view? The guy has paid his debt. Let him take his bow.

Vick pleaded guilty to animal abuse when he was involved in a dog-fighting ring. He served nearly two years in a federal prison, got out and tried to resume his playing career.

Last I heard, Vick had cleaned up his act, changed his lifestyle and has apologized profusely for what he did to the animals he abused.

Shouldn’t there be at least some redemption in all of that? Shouldn’t the fans accept Vick’s apology and acknowledge that he paid his debt through that prison term?

Vick wants to retire from the NFL as a member of the¬†Atlanta Falcons. He said this, according to the Sporting News: “With the city, the respect and the love was all there. It was genuine. When I think about my career and what I‚Äôm identified with, it is the Atlanta Falcons,” he said. “Maybe there are some conversations that need to be had. I look forward to it because that‚Äôs what‚Äôs dear in my heart. I‚Äôm just being honest and candid.”

I believe some of those “conversations” need to take place among the unforgiving fans.

What does Don King bring to the discussion?

I will concede that even presidents-elect are entitled to take some time off from preparing for office.

Donald J. Trump, though, isn’t your normal commander in chief-in-waiting. The guy knows nothing about government; damn little about policy; I truly¬†wonder if he has¬†laid eyes on the U.S. Constitution.

He ought to be spending, therefore, all his waking hours talking to serious experts about the task he is about to assume. He’s going to become president of the United States of America.

Who, then, is he palling around with in Florida? Don King, boxing promoter, convicted criminal, a flim-flam artist extraordinaire.

I cannot help but wonder: What in the name of all that is holy does Don King bring to the president-elect’s stable of experts?

Nothing, man!

Trump’s got just a few more days before he stands on the stage in front of the U.S. Capitol Building and takes a solemn oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.

Get busy, Mr. President-elect, and learn about the job of governing the greatest nation the world has ever seen.

And yes, sir, we’re still the greatest nation on Earth.

PID now on Amarillo’s tourism revenue table

I’m going to keep an open mind on this one.

Amarillo has surrendered hotel occupancy revenue while it has delivered tax breaks to businesses seeking space in the city’s downtown business/entertainment district.

As a result, hoteliers across the city might start charging guests a 2 percent surcharge to make up for the revenue shortfall.

It’s a bit of a complication in the city’s effort to revive its downtown district. One option might be to form a public improvement district (PID) that sets aside revenue for, well, improvements to certain areas or neighborhoods.

Some hotel owners are miffed that the city is considering adding the surcharge to their guests’ hotel bills. One of them asked: ‚ÄúWhy is it always my guests that you are going after?‚ÄĚ

This is a curious development. On the one hand, the city appears to have deprived itself of a revenue stream that it might have been able to project it needed down the road. If the city didn’t foresee the shortfall, why did it proceed with offering arguably too-generous tax incentives to businesses coming into the downtown district?

The Amarillo Globe-News reported: “Bobby Lee, who co-owns The Big Texan Steak Ranch and serves on the CVC board, said that while it‚Äôs a shame the tax revenue is being eaten up by downtown projects the typical tourist will never use, it‚Äôs important for hoteliers to look at and consider alternative ways to rebuild that revenue stream.

‚Äú’I don‚Äôt know where it went crooked, I really don‚Äôt,’ he said.”

Ouch! I kind of wish he hadn’t used such, um, descriptive language when talking about this matter.

Dan Quandt, vice president of the Amarillo Convention and Visitors Council, said the CVC plans to conduct some informational meetings in January to educate residents. He said the city is full of too much misinformation about the proposed PID.

OK, then. Let’s explain it, Dan. Be thorough. Keep it simple.

Those of us who are undecided cannot straddle the fence forever.

U.S. hits back at Russia; hands off decision, Mr. President-elect

President Barack Obama has done what he promised to do: strike back at Russia over reports that the Russians hacked into our nation’s presidential election system.

Obama kicked out dozens of Russian intelligence operatives. The official reason for their expulsion was because of harassment of U.S. officials in Russia.

Yeah, sure it is.

The individuals expelled are believed to have been involved in cyberactivity relating to the election.

Obama also leveled economic sanctions against two Russian intelligence organizations.

What effect will this have? How does it prevent future hacking? How much will it deter other nations from trying what U.S. officials believe the Russians did — whatever it was?

I’m not qualified to answer any of that.

However, I will insist — as will others — that the new president keep his hands off the sanctions that the current president has instituted against Russia.

Donald J. Trump, to his discredit, has dismissed the intelligence analysts’ professional opinion that the Russians meddled in the U.S. election process. To whatever extent the interference determined the election outcome remains to be discovered.

Given Trump’s cavalier dismissal of the CIA and other intelligence organizations’ conclusions about Russian involvement, my strongest hope is that he follows through with what his immediate predecessor has done.

Failure to do so could send a disturbing message about the where new president’s loyalties might lie.

And they talked about Barack Obama’s ‘pals’

What in the world was Don King doing at Donald J. Trump’s posh Florida resort/home?

Don’t you recall how Republicans vilified candidate Barack Obama in 2008 for the “rough crowd” he “palled around with”?

Don King? Let me think: He served prison time for killing someone; he was accused of bilking professional boxers out of millions of dollars in prize money while promoting their fights.

Is that right?

What in the world is the president-elect — who’s supposed to be spending his waking hours boning up on the myriad intricacies of governing the world’s greatest nation — doing in the presence of a clown such as Don King?

Just askin’, man.