Obstruction of justice remains an open question

I get that special counsel Robert Mueller III has declined to declare that Donald Trump obstructed justice in the search for what happened when Russian attacked our electoral system in 2016.

I have pledged to accept the special counsel’s findings. And I do!

But . . . Americans need to see what made him make that determination. We need to be able to assess for ourselves why Mueller, a good man and a meticulous prosecutor, concluded that there was insufficient evidence to make a formal complaint that he obstructed justice.

Let’s look at what we know so far.

  • The president sought a statement of loyalty from former FBI director James Comey; he didn’t get it. He suggested that Comey should let go of his investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn; Comey didn’t swallow that bait, either. He then fired Comey.
  • Trump told NBC-TV’s Lester Holt that he fired Comey because of “the Russia thing.”
  • POTUS welcomed Russian diplomatic officials into the White House and told them in the Oval Office that firing Comey had removed the Russia matter from the table; he hurled assorted epithets at Comey.

I don’t know how one defines “obstruction of justice.” I certainly don’t know how Robert Mueller defines it, either.

We do know that Mueller — according to Attorney General William Barr — has not “exonerated” Trump from any obstruction of justice accusation. He didn’t have enough evidence, again according to the AG, to accuse him formally, either.

We need to see the special counsel’s findings for ourselves.

What have a record already of Trump saying things that suggest obstruction of justice. It well might fall on Congress ultimately to decide whether he intended to do that very thing when he canned the FBI director.

Show us the report, Mr. Attorney General.

AISD faces potential landmine

Amarillo Independent School District board members and senior administrators face a possible landmine or two unless they deal forthrightly with what I believe is a potentially serious ethics issue.

This will be the last comment I’ll make on this matter until — or unless — something significant occurs within the school district.

The Texas Education Agency has been made aware of a complaint filed by an Amarillo ISD constituent concerning the alleged conduct of a school board trustee and the role she might have played in the resignation of a popular high school girls volleyball coach.

The issue isn’t going away. TEA kicked the issue back to the district. It might consider possible action later, but the school district has to go through its normal personnel-related procedures.

At issue is the resignation of Kori Clements from her job as Amarillo High School Sandies girls volleyball coach. Clements said she didn’t get the support she deserved from the school board or the administration after a parent supposedly hassled her over playing time for the parent’s daughter. To worsen matters — as if it could get worse, given the anger that has roiled the community — AISD resident Marc Henson identified the parent as a school trustee, Renee McCown, who has remained quiet through all of this turmoil.

The board has some decisions to make. Does it remain quiet? Does it tell the offending parent — regardless of who it is — to no longer hassle an educator who is trying to do the best at his or her job? If the offending parent is a member of the board, how does the rest of the governing body deal with that?

I do not intend to sound any alarms here, but I do feel the need to remind AISD officials that they might be facing some serious blowback from TEA if they don’t solve what might be a serious dilemma. TEA has shown it is capable of inflicting serious punishment on public school systems.

I once worked in Beaumont. I left that community in early 1995, but not long after I departed the Golden Triangle, TEA took over a floundering school district; it dismissed the school board and the superintendent and installed caretakers who managed the school system until it righted itself. The issues there dealt with serious fiscal malfeasance.

I don’t detect such misbehavior with the Amarillo situation. I do sense there might be an issue regarding ethical conduct that needs the district’s attention.

A citizens group has formed to seek an outside investigation into what might have occurred to force a high school coach to resign, causing considerable community anxiety and downright anger.

TEA officials must be concerned, given that they already are aware of one complaint.

Amarillo school officials must respond in some meaningful manner to the concerns that have arisen. They surely won’t like the possible “or else” that could come later.

With that . . . I am out.

We humans are such pipsqueaks

The story that is playing out in the Midwest is one that we see and hear about constantly.

Human beings seek to employ all their technological skill, know-how and expertise to corral Mother Nature.

So, what happens when levees burst? What happens when Mother Nature tells us in a voice so powerful that we cannot comprehend it? We experience tragedy, misery, mayhem. Many of us scratch our heads and wonder: How did this happen and what can we do to prevent it?

Look, I have no answer to any of that. I don’t farm the land. I don’t raise livestock. I do not seek ways to keep my land dry or to avoid the kind of flooding pictured in the photo attached to this blog post.

I simply am left to marvel at humankind’s continued effort to subdue forces that we cannot control, no matter how smart or knowledgeable we think we are.

Sure, we can count some successes in that effort. They built a seawall along Galveston Island in response to a 1900 hurricane that destroyed the growing town along the Gulf Coast of Texas. The seawall has essentially done its job.

Yet we hear about other attempts that fail. In recent years we have watched the Missouri River spill over levees in the Dakotas, destroying thousands of acres of agricultural production land. Then as now, it was the result of our meager effort to control the flow of a mighty river.

The lesson here? The river is going to go where the Almighty intended for it to go, no matter what we do to prevent it.

It’s just good to keep our human power in its proper perspective.

Hodgetown: a fitting name

I have been known to speak disparagingly about naming structures after living humans, fearing that the person being honored might do something down the road that would embarrass himself or herself — and the community that honored them.

However, I also have been known to make exceptions, holding to the belief that the individuals honored would never do such a thing.

The picture attached to this blog post illustrates one of the exceptions I have made.

Hodgetown is where the Amarillo Sod Poodles are going to begin playing AA minor-league baseball in a few days. It also is going to be a venue for other community events in downtown Amarillo.

Its name honors a former city mayor and a business tycoon who has devoted much of his adult life to improving the community he has called home. Jerry Hodge is the honoree. I should note that he is so willing to share the spotlight with his wife, Margaret, who also is a force of nature in her own right.

I’ve known Jerry and Margaret Hodge for many years; I know Jerry Hodge better than I know Margaret. I’ve known Jerry Hodge as a hard-driving pharmaceutical company mogul who built Maxor into a worldwide concern. He had left the mayor’s office by the time I had taken up my post in early 1995 as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News, but he never really has stepped completely out of public view.

He has been an outspoken advocate for the city and for the Panhandle. He and Margaret used their influence and their financial resources to lure the Amarillo Sod Poodles from their former home in San Antonio to the High Plains. They also have been big hitters in bringing the Texas Tech Pharmacy School to Amarillo — which, given the Hodges’ ties to Maxor was a no-brainer. Most recently they donated $10 million to Tech toward its planned construction of the school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo.

So, you see, my aversion to naming structures after living human beings isn’t ironclad and all-inclusive. The Hodges have given much back to the community that has enriched them. It is only fitting that the ballpark formerly known only as the “multipurpose event venue” would carry their name over the main entrance.

I am proud to know them.

How ’bout them Red Raiders?

I did not attend Texas Tech University. I have no particular allegiance to the Lubbock-based school.

I lived in West Texas for 23 years. I worked as a journalist at the Amarillo Globe-News for nearly 18 of those years. I got to know three Texas Tech University chancellors along the way — David Smith, Kent Hance and Bob Duncan. I watched the growth of the university’s School of Pharmacy in Amarillo and I’ve been cheering on Tech’s effort to build a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo as well.

And I damn sure made plenty of acquaintances with Tech alumni. Some of them are good friends.

So I want to share in their joy today as the Red Raiders celebrate their appearance in the Final Four of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. They will be one of four teams to get through a tournament that began with 64 teams. Tech knocked off one of the tournament’s four No. 1 seeds, Gonzaga, to get to the finals.

I won’t suggest that just “being in the Final Four” is enough. I want the Red Raiders to bring the glory home to Lubbock. I am sure my friends from Texas Tech — those who still wear the red and black with great pride — will feel the love that is coming to them from throughout the vast state of Texas.

I hope this non-Tech grad is allowed to say it, but . . .

Guns up!


I want to share this ditty from my friend Jon Mark Beilue, a dedicated Tech grad. He posted this today on Facebook:

It’s time for this Red Raider alum to break out the good stuff — $7.99 per bottle on the clearance rack at Market Street — after this one. Going back to my college days in the late 1970s/early 1980s, I watched some bad basketball, good basketball and a whole lot in between. But nothing like this. I was breathing through a paper bag. This is an out-of-body experience. Surreal.

Do ya think?

Russia probe was a ‘disgrace’? What about the Russian attack?

Donald Trump has been mounting a full-throated, frontal assault on the investigation into The Russia Thing by special counsel Robert Mueller III.

Yes, the president is attacking the probe as a “witch hunt,” and a “disgrace to our country.” Mueller reportedly concluded that the Trump presidential campaign did not “collude” with Russian goons who attacked our electoral system. It’s an open question on the issue of obstruction of justice.

But Trump keeps declaring he received “total exoneration” while piling on and on and on over Mueller’s exhaustive investigation.

I am left to wonder: Why doesn’t the president declare the Russian interference in our electoral process to be a “disgrace” to the nation? Where is the president’s alarm that the Russians were able and willing — according to Mueller — hack into our election data bases and seek to distribute false information about Hillary Clinton? Isn’t that what one would call “fake news”?

Oh, and then the Russians actually did launch their attack on the same day that candidate Donald Trump invited them to look for those missing e-mails that the Clinton team reportedly trashed. Isn’t that at least as much of a national “disgrace” as the Russian attack in the first place?

Trump’s disgraceful misrepresentation of “disgraceful” conduct continues to demonstrate fully to me that the man is unfit for public office of any sort, let alone as the president of the United States.

He impugns the integrity of Mueller, a former FBI director, a decorated Vietnam War combat veteran and a man known for meticulous preparation in the performance of his legal duties.

The “national disgrace” occurred not with the probe. It occurred when the Russians interfered in our cherished electoral system.

Where is the condemnation of that, Mr. President?

Now it’s Joe Biden who’s under the gun

Here we go. Again.

A woman has come forth to accuse a powerful male politician of “inappropriate touching” and of planting an “unwanted kiss” on her.

The pol in question is former Vice President Joe Biden. The accuser is a former Democratic office seeker, Lucy Flores, who ran for lieutenant governor in Nevada.

Biden, of course, is considering whether to run for president of the United States in 2020. He reportedly has decided to enter the fray. He says his family is all in, according to media reports.

But what in the world do we make of this?

According to an article in New York magazine, Biden has been known to get touchy-feely with women. The media have given him a pass on it. Until now.

The #MeToo movement has changed the equation in the most dramatic fashion possible. If it turns out that Flores’ complaint is credible, that it sounds and looks legit, the former VP needs to scrap his presidential campaign plans. Immediately!

Biden has responded by saying he doesn’t “recall” the alleged incident. Doesn’t recall? What does that mean? Is it a case of, shall we say, selective amnesia?

I’ll be candid. I do no want this story to play out. However, it’s not up to me. Nor is it up to Biden’s fans and supporters who want him elected president next year.

This story needs a full airing. It needs to be examined carefully and thoroughly. If it turns out to be true — and I hate saying this — that’s it for Vice President Biden.

Good luck on opening night, Sod Poodles

I messed up.

I had thought I might be in Amarillo on April 8, when the city’s baseball team, the Sod Poodles, open their home season at Hodgetown, the shiny new ballpark in the city’s downtown district.

Oops. Not so. We’re going to be on the road that day en route to points south and east hauling our recreational vehicle.

So the Sod Poodles are going to have to win their home opener without me in the stands.


But the season will start, I presume weather permitting. The AA baseball team has sold all 7,000 seated tickets for its initial home game. The pre-game publicity seems to have worked. The city is fired up; indeed, the entire Panhandle must be ready to cheer after they toss out the first pitch.

I wish I could be there. It won’t happen. Maybe later this year we can find our way back to Amarillo while the Sod Poodles are in the middle of an extended home stand.

Please know that this former Amarillo resident remains committed to the success of the team and to the future of the city’s central business — and entertainment! — district.

Play ball!

AISD coach-resignation tempest picks up steam

Oh, brother. The Amarillo Independent School District plot is thickening.

An Amarillo High School girls volleyball coach quits, citing parental interference into the job she was doing. She chastises the school board and administrators for failing to back her up. The board accepts her resignation. A resident files a complaint with the Texas Education Agency, which kicks the issue back to AISD.

Now a group of parents has formed a coalition and is demanding and outside probe into the mess that continues to sully the AISD athletic program, the board of trustees, its senior administration and, most sadly, the children who are caught in the middle of it all.

Kori Clements quit the vaunted AHS volleyball coaching post after a single season. Marc Henson’s complaint with the TEA named AISD trustee Renee McCown as the offending parent.

Now comes a group called the Parents for Transparency Coalition. It wants an outsider to look into what happened. Did the parent named in the TEA complaint do what has been alleged? If it was the trustee, why did the board allow her to interfere in an unethical manner? Why did the administration, led by then-interim and now permanent Superintendent Doug Loomis fail to support Clements?

I believe those are fair questions. They need answers. AISD has shown a maddening reluctance to speak to these matters in any meaningful way. Its silence likely has infuriated residents who are angry over the coach’s resignation and the reasons she stated for quitting her job.

I continue to watch drama play out from afar.

What’s next? I understand that TEA might review the complaint from Henson after the issue jumps through the normal hoops at AISD; TEA said it lacked “jurisdiction” until the school district had a chance to review the issue at hand.

As for the coalition, its founders — Tom and Kathy Tortero — tell KFDA NewsChannel 10 that they intend to act professionally while they seek “every legal remedy at our disposal” to get to the bottom of why Kori Clements quit what was thought to be a dream job.

I believe this story is a long way to go before we get to the end.

Shameless POTUS continues to keep his tax returns secret

I cannot stop shaking my head.

Three Democratic candidates for president — U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee — have released their income tax return statements for public review. What’s more, they are daring the president of the United States, Donald Trump, to do the same.

Good luck, senators and Gov. Inslee. It won’t happen. He won’t be shamed into doing what he should have done when he declared his candidacy in June 2015. Why? Because this individual is utterly shameless. He is beyond redemption in the shame department.

He said after riding down the Trump Tower escalator on campaign announcement day that his tax returns were “under audit.” He then said he would release ’em when the audit was complete. He called it “routine.” So, how long does a “routine” audit take? I’m guessing it doesn’t take more than three years!

The plain truth is that Trump never has produced even a perfunctory letter from the Internal Revenue Service informing him of the audit.

Yes, I believe the president of the United States lied about the audit. My strong hunch is that he wasn’t being audited by the IRS and that he used the audit dodge as a pretext to keep his finances hidden from public view.

While I’m thinking about it, Sens. Gillibrand and Harris ought to inform their Senate colleague, Bernie Sanders — another candidate for POTUS — to do the same thing. Sanders’ excuse was equally lame when he declined to release his returns when he ran for president in 2016; he said something about how “boring” they would be. Really? Let us be the judge of that, Sen. Sanders.

We’re going to go through another election cycle with Donald Trump holding fast to his lie about an IRS audit. He won’t release his returns voluntarily. It’s quite possible Congress could force him to do what previous presidents and presidential candidates have done for decades, which is reveal to the public their income sources and how much they paid in taxes to the government they seek to oversee.

Nice try, senators and governor. If only Donald Trump had a sense of honor to do the right thing. He just doesn’t.