Upsetting news on many levels

The news that a building where I once worked was damaged by fire upset me in more ways than I could have calculated.

Fire has damaged the Amarillo Globe-News building on the outskirts of downtown Amarillo, Texas. It is now vacant, a rotting hulk of a structure that contains a legendary inscription penned by a legendary journalist.

Gene Howe, the former publisher of the newspaper, once wrote: A newspaper may be forgiven for lack of wisdom but never for lack of courage.

The inscription is still there. The building’s inhabitants have vacated the place, having moved to an office suite in a 31-story bank tower around the corner and down the street.

That the building no longer serves as a beacon for good — if not great — journalism in the community is bad enough.

These days I am feeling more like a show-and-tell relic. A former colleague and a still-dear friend and I exchange messages earlier today. I informed her that my granddaughter might one day want me to stand before her classmates so she could tell them what her grandpa used to do for a living.

That likely won’t ever happen. First of all, I don’t even know if they have show and tell these days. Second of all, she might not yet fully comprehend the importance we used to attach to the craft we pursued, often with great joy and equal amounts of diligence and integrity.

Newspapers are becoming a relic of the past, as are those of us who used to fill those pages with words that sought to lend leadership and provide guidance to the communities we served.

The fire at the Globe-News building only reminds me of what used to be in that place. It saddens me at a level I am at this very moment still having trouble understanding.

‘Truth Social’? Seriously?

If there is a more egregiously misnamed outfit than the one Donald J. Trump seeks to create, then someone will have to find it for me. I am at a total loss.

The 45th POTUS is going to launch a social media network he is calling “Truth Social.” Truth Social? Is this guy kidding?

The former Liar in Chief couldn’t tell the truth, or recognize the truth, if it slapped him in the face.

Donald Trump’s Truth Social is headed for ’embarrassing’ failures, Daily Beast report says (

He lied some on the order of 30,000 times during his term as POTUS, according to a survey done by the Washington Post. He lied when he never needed to lie. His lies were incessant and gratuitous.

Now he wants to create a new social media network, given that Twitter and Facebook have banned him for, um, lying.

I won’t bother to dial into whatever lies POTUS 45 wants to spin.

Combest cast his loyalty in proper direction

All this talk we hear these days about “loyalty” to an individual rather than to the Constitution or to constituents who politicians represent brings to mind a story I related this evening to a friend of mine as we left a college football game in Commerce, Texas.

It involves a former congressman I got to know well while I worked as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News. His name is Larry Combest, a Republican from Lubbock who for years represented the 19th Congressional District, which for a time included the southern half of Amarillo.

Combest was, in the term of art applied these days, a “traditional Republican conservative.” He also was unafraid to buck the dictates of his political leadership.

In 1994, when the GOP took control of the House of Representatives and installed Newt Gingrich as speaker of the House, the Republican majority decided to reconfigure federal farm policy. The GOP-led House produced something called Freedom to Farm. Combest, whose congressional district included vast stretches of cultivated farm land and ranch land, didn’t like what the legislation contained. He said it treated the cattle ranchers and farmers who helped elect him badly. He refused to sign on to the legislation.

Combest’s refusal to buy into Freedom to Farm incurred Gingrich’s anger. He scolded Combest privately, or so I was led at the time to believe. Combest didn’t budge. He told Gingrich — and I heard this through back channels — that he didn’t work for the speaker. He worked for the people of West Texas, who told him they didn’t like the direction that the new federal farm policy was heading. Combest wasn’t going to give in to the dictates of the House political leadership.

Combest held his ground, even though it cost him — in the immediate term — an appointment as House Agriculture Committee chairman; he would become chairman, if memory serves, sometime after Gingrich left the House amid a personal scandal and when the GOP lost ground in subsequent midterm elections.

The point of this little essay is to illustrate that politicians should put the needs of their constituents above the needs of political leaders who harbor delusions of grandeur and godhood. Larry Combest knew who sent him to Congress and he honored his commitment to them rather than to a bomb-throwing ideologue.

We need a lot more of that kind of loyalty rather than what we are seeing being playing out these days in Washington.

‘Principle’ has been perverted

(MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The perversion of a concept long thought to be sacrosanct is disturbing to me in the extreme.

The concept is “principle.” The perversion occurs politically, when politicians say one thing and then act in a fashion that bears no resemblance to the principle they purport to follow.

We are watching this play out on Capitol Hill. Republicans in both the Senate and the House say they stand on certain principles. They in fact stand on a cultish loyalty to one of their own, the former president of the United States. It sickens me greatly.

Two examples come to mind; they relate to 1/6.

Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell told the world that Donald Trump “provoked” the riot that damn near overran Capitol Hill as terrorists sought to disrupt the certification of the Electoral College tally that resulted in the election of President Biden. He spoke angrily of the former president’s role in that provocation. He laid it all on the former POTUS’s lap. He was responsible solely for the riot.

Ditto for House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, who reportedly implored the then-POTUS to stop the riot. He told POTUS 45 that people’s lives were endangered. He pleaded with him to call a halt to it. POTUS’s response: “I guess they care more about the election results than you do, Kevin.”

But what in the name of sanity happened after that? The principles on which these two men stood crumbled under their feet.

They both voted against impeaching the president and then against convicting him in the Senate trial that followed the second impeachment of his term in office. How in the world does a politician excoriate another pol for an obvious breach of faith and then stand behind that individual as if nothing ever happened in the first place to draw his ire?

Where I come from, I would define that as hypocrisy in the extreme.

And yet it infects the political process to a degree that I fear the poison will become endemic to our system of government.

It needs to be purged.

Legislature showed a bit of courage

Texas legislators surely did not distinguish themselves during their three special sessions. The abortion ban, the voter suppression bill and redistricting are among the low points legislators played out.

It wasn’t all bad, though. I want to offer this example of a bit of political courage.

The Texas Legislature did not act on Gov. Greg Abbott’s demand that it approve a bill that would have given Abbott authority to tell businesses they cannot issue vaccine mandates for employees.

The Legislature dug in on that one. To which I offer a hand-clap, albeit it’s a bit muted … more like a golf clap.

Abbott is supposed to be a pro-business Republican. His effort to ban business owners from issuing vaccine mandates is about as anti-business as it gets. The vaccines are aimed at preventing human beings from being struck down by the COVID-19 coronavirus, which has killed more than 700,000 Americans.

Happily, the rate of infection and death are decreasing. Abbott is likely now to join his pal in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis, in taking a victory lap for the result.

I am just glad to see the Legislature exhibit a touch of courage in standing up to Abbott’s goofy notion that government can tell private business owners how to run their businesses … and protect the people who work for them.

So long, Rep. Kinzinger

Donald J. Trump’s purging of the “disloyal” elements of otherwise outstanding Republican members of Congress is continuing.

U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois has announced his decision to forgo another try at re-election in 2022. The GOP congressman is one of 10 members of his party to vote to impeach the 45th POTUS in 2020, an act that the former Insurrectionist in Chief has seen as an act of disloyalty to him.

The ex-Crook in Chief reportedly declared today that with Kinzinger’s planned retirement, that leaves just “eight more to go,” meaning eight more Republicans who voted to impeach him need to be purged from the ranks of Congress.

Kinzinger currently serves as one of two Republicans on the House select committee examining the events that led to the riot on 1/6; the other is Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who also faces a primary challenge in her state next year.

The actual culprit in Kinzinger’s departure is the Democratically controlled Illinois legislature that redrew the state’s congressional districts to make it harder for Kinzinger to win again. Still, the fact that the former POTUS is applauding his departure is a signal that No. 45’s desire is being met.

It makes me sick to my stomach to believe that a twice-impeached POTUS whose company has been indicted for tax fraud can have the kind of sway over a once-great political party. It is the reality of the current climate.


POTUS to Pope: God love ya

Leave it to President Biden to, um, offer an everyman’s salutation to one of the world’s most beloved religious leaders.

Biden has flown to Rome to meet with our economic allies as part of the G20 summit. He paid a call on Pope Francis I in the Vatican.

At the end of the meeting, the president of the United States — the second Catholic ever elected to our nation’s highest political office — told the Holy Father, “God love ya.”

I don’t know how His Holiness responded to it. I trust that he took it in stride. Hey, he’s God’s vicar on Earth. I am sure he has heard just about all there is to hear from God’s other fallible human creatures.

Nice going, Mr. President.

PETA wants to do what?

Are you … kidding me?

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has weighed in with what I believe qualifies as the most preposterous request ever made … by anyone, ever, in the history of the world.

PETA wants Major League Baseball to rename the “bullpen “– the place where relief pitchers warm up before entering a game — to “arm barn.” PETA wants to be “sensitive” to, um, bulls.

USA Today reported: “Words matter, and baseball ‘bullpens’ devalue talented players and mock the misery of sensitive animals,” PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said in the release. “PETA encourages Major League Baseball coaches, announcers, players, and fans to changeup their language and embrace the ‘arm barn’ instead.”

PETA calls for the MLB to change term ‘bullpen’ to the ‘arm barn’ to be sensitive to cows (

What in the name of social activist idiocy is going on here?

It’s not like MLB pens up actual livestock in these places, for ever-lovin’ sake. Yet here we have PETA seeking to replace a commonly used place with something that is more animal friendly!

I saw the story and thought momentarily that it must be a satire published by The Onion. It isn’t. It’s for real.

It’s also just plain idiotic.

Unity? Far from it!

President Biden might have been able to declare some form of victory today had any Republicans had taken part in the negotiation that produced a $1.75 trillion spending bill that appears headed for final approval in Congress.

Sadly, he cannot. Why? Because the Grumpy Obstructionist Party won’t take part in anything pitched by a Democratic president.

This kind of obstructionism simply enrages me, a self-proclaimed “good government progressive” blogger/pundit/cheap-seat occupier.

I want the GOP to take part in this government, which does involve them as well as Democrats. Instead, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell and his House counterpart, Kevin McCarthy, have opted to dig in against the Democrats and the POTUS.

Good government is a team sport. That means, in my view, the whole team comprising members of both parties. Instead, we’re getting a government run by roughly half of the House and the Senate along with the guy who sits in the big office in the White House.

President Biden vowed, in a manner of speaking, to bridge the gap between the parties that grew to enormous size during the administration of Biden’s immediate predecessor. Indeed, the 45th POTUS had no interest or skill in bridging that gap. Biden, at least, brought considerable legislative experience to the White House.

He has yet to bridge the great divide. I hope he can get there.

Happy Oxhi Day!

OK, I’ll set you straight.

For those who don’t know what “Oxhi” means, it’s the Greek word for “no.” I have provided a rough translation from the Greek.

Oxhi Day is celebrated in Greece, the land of my ancestry, from where my grandparents emigrated near the turn of the 20th century. It’s a day that commemorates an episode in Greek history in which the country stood up to a superior military power and proceeded to kick the stuffing out of it.

On Oct. 28, 1940, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini — who was Adolf Hitler’s hapless ally in the effort to conquer the world — issued an ultimatum to the Greek prime minister, a fellow named John Metaxas. It went something like this: Allow the Italian armed forces to use Greek ports to wage war in Africa across the Mediterranean, or else we’re going to take them over by force.

Metaxas issued a stern answer: “Oxhi!” he said. Mussolini then launched an invasion of Greece from neighboring Albania, which the Italians had already conquered.

The Greek army let the Italian forces enter the country. Then they cut them off at the border and proceeded to slaughter them in the Pindus Mountains. The Greeks, led by the elite Evzone mountain fighters, then drove the Italians out of Greece and back into Albania, where the fighting stalled. Eventually, in April 1941, Hitler decided to rescue the Italians by invading Greece; he conquered the country after fierce fighting.

To Greeks, this is a big deal, as it should be. Mussolini had delusions of grandeur while he sidled up as Hitler’s key European ally. Except that the Italians couldn’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag. The Greek army was supposedly ill-equipped to handle the machinery that the Italians brought to the fight. They did, however, possess plenty of willpower in the effort to prevent Mussolini from conquering Greece.

And so it went. The Greeks had to endure three years of Nazi tyranny before driving them out of the country near the end of the fighting. The Greek resistance was among the fiercest in all of Europe.

Yes, I am a proud American of Greek descent. Happy Oxhi Day … everyone!