Small, but weighty difference

I want to mention a small but significant point I have sought to make since the moment I learned that Joe Biden had been elected president of the United States.

Given the context of the mood set by his immediate predecessor, I believe it’s important.

President Biden this past week issued a disaster declaration for the residents of Kentucky who’ve been ravaged by rampaging floodwaters. The deluge has killed at least 26 Kentuckians. The president was quick to unleash federal assistance to help the beleaguered state cope with mounting misery.

In 2019, wildfires torched many thousands of acres of timberland in California. What was Donald Trump’s response in the moment? It was to scold California forestry officials for “poor management policies” relating to the forests.

Biden offered the disaster declaration for a state he lost big-time to Trump in the 2020 election. Trump decided to single out California, which he lost in 2016 to Hillary Clinton, for alleged mismanagement.

Do you get the picture?

Joe Biden understands that when disaster strikes the nation should rally behind its citizens. Donald Trump sought in the moment to use a similar opportunity to stick his finger in the eye of his political foes.

Therein lies one of the many reasons I am glad that Joe Biden is the president of the United States.

Panhandle spoiled us!

My wife and I started a new life with our sons when we moved from the Pacific Northwest to the Golden Triangle region of Texas in the spring of 1984.

It was there that we got acquainted with the legendary Texas heat and humidity. We got acclimated — eventually! — and lived in Beaumont for nearly 11 years before my wife and I (the boys had since gone off to college) relocated again, this time settling in the faraway High Plains of the Panhandle.

It was the Panhandle where we discovered something else about this wonderful place we now call home. It is that the Caprock of West Texas has four distinct seasons … and that the summer, which can get brutally hot, does bring relief on occasion, even during the hottest period of the year.

It spoiled us. We grew accustomed to the lack of humidity in Amarillo, with its 3,676-foot elevation above sea level and its proximity to the Rocky Mountains.

We stayed in Amarillo for 23 years, which is the longest stint we ever have completed during our nearly 51 years of marriage.

Then we moved to the Metroplex in late 2018. We settled in Princeton, which is about 30 miles northeast of Dallas and, more importantly, is about nine miles NE of our granddaughter, who lives in Allen with her Mommy, Daddy and her two brothers.

It has been in Princeton where we’ve been reacquainted with the Texas humidity that accompanies the heat.

It’s been hot, man! We’ve had more than 30 days this summer of 100-degree-plus days. It’s not the hottest on record. For us, though, it’s been too hot, given that we are still feeling spoiled by all those years up yonder on the Caprock.

This is my way of reminding my bride and me that we’ll just need to suck it up and settle in every year for the Dog Days of summer … and remember what it was like when we first arrived in Texas those many years ago.

Trumpkins may save Democrats

I will get right to the point. Senate Democratic candidates might have an easier time winning their midterm election contests than originally thought.

Their secret weapon? It well might be the quality of their Republican Party opponents.

Democrat Tim Ryan is facing off against a GOP foe endorsed by Donald Trump. J.D. Vance is digging himself into a deeper hole almost daily with his goofy pronouncements; the men are competing for an Ohio U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Rob Portman.

John Fetterman is running against Mehmet Oz for the U.S. Senate seat that Pennsylvania GOP Sen. Pat Toomey is leaving behind. Oz is another Trumpkin. Fetterman is making a whole lot of hay over the fact that Oz doesn’t live in Pennsylvania. He is making wise use of social media to whittle away at Oz.

Sen. Raphael Warnock is a Democrat seeking re-election to his office. His GOP challenger, another Trumpkin, is Herschel Walker, whom I have dubbed the No. 1 dumbass of the 2022 midterm election.

These are three notable examples. It might be — and I won’t predict it — that Democrats can perhaps gain a bit of an advantage over the GOP in the Senate races this year.

The goofballs anointed by Donald J. Trump give me reason to smile.

Term limits for SCOTUS justices? Oh, c’mon!

You are entitled officially now to consider your friendly blogger to be a constitutional originalist, meaning that the founders got it right when they established lifetime appointments for members of the federal judiciary.

Oh, but let’s hold on.

Some congressional Democrats want to rewrite the Constitution by establishing that Supreme Court justices are limited to serving just 18 years on the nation’s highest court. They don’t like the makeup of the current court and they want to shake things up in a way that, to my way of thinking, well could bring the framers jumping out of their graves.

This is a preposterous solution to an issue that is the result of the electoral process.

This term-limit idea comes from Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga. His bill also would require presidents to nominate two justices to the court during his or her term in office.

Oh, sigh.

In a statement accompanying the legislation, Johnson attacked the current makeup of the Supreme Court, saying that the Court is “facing a legitimacy crisis” because of its conservative majority, and because five of six conservatives were appointed by Presidents who did not win a majority of the popular vote.”

“This Supreme Court is increasingly facing a legitimacy crisis,” Johnson said. “Five of the six conservative justices on the bench were appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote, and they are now racing to impose their out-of-touch agenda on the American people, who do not want it.  Term limits are a necessary step toward restoring balance to this radical, unrestrained majority on the court.”

Democrat Bill Would Impose Term Limits On SCOTUS Justices, Mandatory Replacements Every Two Years | The Daily Wire

Let me make this point one more time. Donald Trump did not win the popular vote in 2016. President George W. Bush, though, did win the popular vote in 2004 prior to nominating Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito to the court. However, that misses a fundamental point: Both Trump and Bush won election to the presidency because they garnered more Electoral College votes than their opponents. Their elections were legal, yes, even though many of us detested the result.

The founders sought to de-politicize the federal judiciary by granting judges lifetime appointments. I will acknowledge freely that the courts have become political, however. As for the argument that Rep. Johnson and other Democrats have said about the court lacking “legitimacy,” that argument falls most directly on the head of conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, who should recuse himself from any decision involving Trump’s Big Lie.

Again, is that a sufficient reason to rewrite the Constitution? No. It isn’t.

The best way to bring needed reform in the selection of our federal judiciary is to elect presidents and members of Congress who will nominate and then approve federal judges more to their liking.

The system never has been perfect. Then again, the framers only vowed to create a “more perfect Union.

No church-state separation? Ridiculous!

For the life of me I cannot understand how anyone with half a noodle in their noggin and with a poker face can question what the nation’s founders intended when they separated “the church” from “the state.”

The argument rages on and on. To my way of thinking, there is no argument to be made against the idea that the First Amendment separates the two.

I once had a colleague at the Amarillo Globe-News who would declare — stupidly, I should add — that the Constitution doesn’t declare in so many words that there is a “church-state separation.” Well, no, it doesn’t. Nor does it declare straight out that we shouldn’t murder other human beings.

The founders created a secular government run by a document that expressly forbids any mention of any specific religion. There’s no mention of Christianity, or of Judaism, or Islam, or Shinto,, or Buddha. Nothing, man!

All it says rests in the First Amendment, where it stipulates in plain English that “Congress shall make no law” that establishes a state religion.

Period. Full stop.

Now we have individuals, such as the distinguished Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, referring to the “so-called separation of … church and state.” There are members of Congress, the law-writing body, saying that church-state separation is a “myth.” It’s a “hoax.” That this is a Christian nation.

These nimrods make me want to scream from the depth of my lungs.

It is true that the founders argued among themselves over whether there should be a religious clause written into the Constitution. Ultimately, though, they decided against it. They believed that government must not be hidebound to theology in writing and enforcing the laws of the land.

And yet we have rubbish being spewed by the likes of Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., who said, “I’m tired of the separation of church and state junk that’s not in the Constitution. It was in a stinking letter, and it means nothing like what they say it does.”

Actually, young lady, you are wrong on this, as you are wrong on most things. Read my lips: Church-state separation most certainly is in the Constitution.

One final point. The founders were so intent on keeping religion out of our government, they wrote in Article VI: ” … no religious Test ever shall be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” 

Are we clear? Good! So, let’s quit having his idiotic debate.

Mixed feelings on this exchange

Some issues of the day give me heartburn. This is one of them. It’s about whether we should send the Russians a notorious arms dealer now serving time in the slammer in exchange for the release of a noted women’s basketball star and a fellow accused of spying on the Russians.

I keep asking whether we are giving up too much for Britney Griner and Paul Whelan.

Griner was caught in an airport carrying some cannabis oil in her luggage. The Russians said it is illegal and promptly jailed her. She pleaded guilty to the charge and now is standing trial, I presume to determine the kind of sentence she will get from the Russians.

Whelan has been in prison for years. He was arrested in dubious charges that he engaged in espionage.

Brittney Griner part of potential U.S.-Russia prisoner trade, CNN reports | The Texas Tribune

President Biden has declared that both Americans are being held without good cause. He wants them released, but he is willing to give up a lot to get them back. The Biden administration dangled in front of the Russians the release of Viktor Bout, a notorious arms dealer serving a 20-year sentence. This is a bad dude.

Griner and Whelan aren’t, shall we say, anywhere close to Bout’s league of badness.

But I understand why the administration wants to bring these two Americans home. I mean, they are being held reportedly on specious grounds and that they are being denied many of the civil rights accorded to Russian citizens.

I must point out that Griner happens to be Black and is gay. The Russians aren’t keen on Blacks or gay people and have been persecuting gays since Vladimir Putin assumed power in Russia.

Oh, and we have that war in Ukraine that has thrown a terribly high obstacle between U.S. and Russian negotiators.

My bottom line is that I want Griner and Whelan returned home to their families. However, I hope that if Viktor Bout gets to go home to his family that he won’t return to the heinous activity that got him in trouble in the first place.

Is this Beto’s year?

One of my oldest and dearest friends lives a long way from Texas, but he keeps up with the political winds that are blowing here.

We spoke on the phone this week and he asked whether Beto O’Rourke has a chance of defeating Greg Abbott in the race for Texas governor.

My answer? I don’t know.

I read conflicting polling information. During the course of any given day, I might hear that O’Rourke, the former Democratic congressman from El Paso, “is closing the gap on Abbott.” That kind of reporting gets Democratic activists’ hearts to flutter. Then later on that day I could get a report that suggests that Gov. Abbott is clinging to a comfortable lead over O’Rourke.

The polls that imply a potential O’Rourke upset put the gap between the men at 4 to 6 percentage points. Those that hint at an Abbott re-election place the gap at 6 to 8 points.

Who do I believe? Again, I don’t know.

Here’s what I hope happens, though. I want O’Rourke to break the GOP stranglehold on Texas’s statewide roster of elective offices. It’s been nearly 30 years since a Democrat won election in this state to any statewide office.

I am weary of Abbott’s continually blaming others for the shortcomings in his own policy strategy. He keeps saying that the Biden administration favors an “open border” with Mexico. Open border? Is this guy serious? No. He isn’t. Abbott is a demagogue who — like most right wingers — will say anything to curry favor with the base of his supporters.

The Border Patrol and immigration officials are continuing to round undocumented immigrants every single day.

Abbott still insists on rounding up undocumented immigrants and busing them to Washington. What is happening to them is anyone’s guess. Abbott, though, wants to perform a stunt to make his case.

Meanwhile, the governor refuses to call a special legislative session to enact measures to respond to the Uvalde school massacre.

My friend asked me a question I could not answer intelligently. O’Rourke can win if he can make Abbott’s recent failures a campaign issue. He’s already campaigned statewide — as he did in 2018 against Sen. Ted Cruz — with boundless energy, visiting all 254 counties in Texas.

I just want him to catch his breath, then set out to seemingly defy the laws of physics … which is to be everywhere all at once. Maybe this time it will push O’Rourke over the top.

How does this clown do it?

For the ever-lovin’ life of me I cannot understand a key element of the contemporary political landscape.

It is this: How in the world does Donald J. Trump remain a “player,” someone the media are obsessed with in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election campaign season?

There appears to be a growing probability that Justice Department sleuths are going to find enough to indict the former president on charges that could include conspiracy to commit sedition.

Indeed, it well might be that the 76-year-old huckster who masqueraded as our commander in chief is going to spend the rest of his sorry, crooked, corruption-filled life as a criminal defendant.

Let us remember something about the damning testimony we have heard in recent weeks implicating Trump as a conspirator in the 1/6 insurrection: Every witness, almost all of whom are Republicans, delivered their evidence under oath; they took an oath that states that if they were not truthful, they faced criminal prosecution on charges of perjury.

Trump is now reportedly considering a third run for the presidency. He failed to get more actual votes than either Hillary Clinton in 2016 or Joe Biden in 2020. He sneaked into the White House by a fluke victory in the Electoral College.

Then he got impeached twice. Once on a charge of soliciting a political favor from a foreign government and once on inciting the all-out attack on our government. No need to remind me that he avoided conviction on either count.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said he will pursue “anyone” who is criminally complicit in the effort to interfere with the “peaceful transition of power from one administration to the next.” Donald John Trump sought to interfere in that process. What in the name of democracy is going to prevent a felony indictment against this clown?

And yet … he remains a player in the 2024 presidential campaign. I hear serious political observers say with a straight face that this twice-impeached narcissist is the GOP favorite to be nominated in two years.

I am baffled to the point of madness.

War is shoved aside

I so hate to acknowledge the obvious, but the Ukraine War — once the talk among Americans from coast to coast — has been shoved aside, away from the top of our collective minds.

I suppose we can lay blame on an array of domestic issues: inflation, threats of an economic recession, legislative wheeling and dealing, and — oh, yeah! — the congressional probe into the insurrection of 1/6.

Meanwhile, in that faraway land, Russian tinhorn Vladimir Putin is committing war crimes daily. He is bombing civilian targets, killing women and children with impunity. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vows to not negotiate an end to the fighting by giving up territory taken by Russians.

If only we could get the International Court to actually charge Putin with war crimes against humanity. My goodness, the evidence is plastered all over our TV screens.

The one-time Soviet spymaster is as bad a dude as there is on the world stage. President Biden wants to punish Russia greatly and by many accounts, the sanctions are having the desired effect.

Our attention span, though, seems limited. Remember the kidnapping of Nigerian women and girls by Boko Haram? Wasn’t that once at the top of the world’s list of outrages? Or the Saudi human rights record in light of the hideous slaying of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi? President Biden has fist-bumped the Saudi crown price responsible for Khashoggi’s murder.

I am not willing to let Putin get away with his crimes against humanity. Neither should anyone else.

This ‘gift’ will benefit us

In case you’ve missed, they’ve been turning over some dirt along Beauchamp Blvd. We noticed the back side of the sign on the side of the street, so I looked at the other side to see the message.

It will be an 8.5-acre park, complete with a splash pad, playground equipment, walking paths and plenty of parking for those visiting the park.

The way I see it, this development — which is slated to be done by the spring of 2023 — only boosts our homes’ value. Not that it matters to my wife and me, as our home will be ours, um, forever.

Land for the park came as a gift to Princeton from the family of JJ (Book) Wilson, for whom the park will be named. Think of how cool that is, with the city receiving land as a gift, allowing the city to spend its money (our money, truth be told) on a tangible benefit for the city it serves.

Park space and green space is a marvelous use of that land.

We are thrilled in our house to see this park on its way, as it is within easy walking distance from our home.

It’s just another reason to make us glad we settled in Princeton.