Keeping record intact

My presidential voting record would look to the casual observer as a study in partisanship.

It dates back to 1972, the year I cast my first vote for president. I had been home from the Vietnam War for just a brief period. I was newly married and my first son was about to arrive in January of the following year.

I cast my first ballot for Democratic Party presidential nominee Sen. George McGovern. I was one of the “few and the proud” to do so, as McGovern got trampled by President Nixon that year, losing 49 states to the man who himself would resign from office in disgrace.

That all said, I want to stipulate two key points: I have voted Democratic every four years since; I intend to do so in 2024. But I do not judge candidates solely on the basis of their party affiliation. I consider myself a policy guy.

I have held my breath a time or two while casting votes for POTUS. I did so in 1976, considering whether to return President Ford to office for a full term after Nixon quit; I opted instead for that upstart former Georgia governor, Jimmy Carter. I admit to breathing deeply in 1992 before voting for Bill Clinton. I truly admired President George H.W. Bush, as I consider him to be the most qualified man ever to hold the office.

However, it is true that even though the policies espoused by Democrats are more in line with my own “good government progressive” view of the world, I remain an American patriot with an open mind. Indeed, the older I get the more open my mind becomes.

The qualities of the current crop of Republicans seeking their party’s nomination this time, though, all but eliminate damn near all of them. There are too many conspiracy theorists among them. I hate conspiracies and despise those who foment them. The state of the nation, moreover, is far better than the GOP would have us believe.

Who’s been in charge of our national well-being? The Democratic incumbent, Joe Biden.

It’s about policy, man. Therefore, barring some cataclysm between now and Election Day, President Biden is my man.

Are we clear? Good!

Up, down … then up

My emotions are playing tricks on my heart, as they keep spiraling high before they head in the other direction.

This latest journey to mend my heart has taken me nearly to the Atlantic Coast. I have shed a few tears talking about my bride, Kathy Anne … whose story you know by now.

At this very moment, though, I am feeling far better than I was the other day. Indeed, I seem to be turning some sort of emotional corner. The heart-mending will be a forever project, of that I am certain. I am understanding better the need to give myself more time.

It’s only been not quite six months since I experienced the worst day of my life. It seems like about, oh, an hour ago when I got the call from the hospital that I had lost my bride to cancer. The emotions still run raw on occasion.

But the upward swings are lasting longer than the downward spirals.

Thus, I am looking forward to more of the same.

Is this the worst week?

It is fair to wonder whether this week will be the latest “worst week” in Donald J. Trump’s life, given the myriad setbacks and stumbles he has suffered since leaving the only public office he ever has held.

He has been indicted on more charges related to the classified documents caper. There could be even more indictments coming from the 1/6 assault on our federal government. And, yes, we have a Fulton County, Ga., district attorney preparing to issue even more indictments on Trump’s alleged effort to rig the 2020 election.

It could happen this week, too!

Meanwhile, the dumb and dumber among the GOP primary electorate continues to glom onto this individual’s political fortunes, seeming to ignore the facts that (a) he’s been indicted already, (b) has been convicted of sexual abuse and (c) he’s been impeached twice by Congress for misconduct during his term as POTUS.

Trump continues to whip the MAGA morons into a frenzy, holding onto sizable leads in primary states.

It’s unbelievable.

Well, the good news — as I see it — is that if Republicans somehow manage to nominate this clown, he won’t win a 2024 general election. That base of MAGA cretins remains substantial, but it is shrinking.

I am waiting with bated breath for the next wave of “worst-week” developments to roll over this idiot.

Individual representation … anyone?

CHARLESTON, W. Va. — My friend who I’ve been visiting here told me something I found almost impossible to believe, but it’s true: this city of about 48,800 residents is represented by (gulp!) a 26-member city council.

Twenty of them are elected from specific districts, or wards; six of them are elected at-large, along with the mayor.

Oh, and get this: They run for office on partisan ballots, as Democrats, Republicans and whatever other party they choose.


I do not know what to make of this form of government. They call it a “strong mayor” government, meaning the people invest tremendous power and authority in its elected mayor.

What astounds me is the number of wards from which the council is elected and which they represent. I figure each council member is elected by a tiny fraction of the electorate, given the number of districts vs. the entire population of the city.

Moreover, the partisan nature of the governing council appears to be a bit out of the ordinary. I never have considered pothole repair, sewer service, police and fire protection and garbage pickup to be determined on a partisan basis.

My friend tells me, too, that many council members also miss many meetings. No kiddin’, man! With that many council members with places at the table, who would miss you if you decide you didn’t want to attend?

And how in the world do they ever reach a consensus on a major municipal issue?

Well, this trip has been an eye-opener for sure.

Keeping the streak alive

CHARLESTON, W. Va. — This trek I am taking with Toby the Puppy is taxing me just a bit in this regard: I am having to look for opportunities to post items on High Plains Blogger to keep alive what I believe is an impressive streak.

I am at 672 consecutive days posting items on this blog. I am closing in on two straight years posting comments about this and that.

I do have 24 hours during a specific calendar day to get items posted on the blog, but I have been busy laughing hysterically in Charleston with my friend and former Amarillo Globe-News colleague Lee. We have been sharing remembrances of our exploits back in the day when daily journalism was fun; it’s no longer fun, near as either of us can tell.

I do have this blog. It began around 2009. I have gone through two lengthy streaks. The current one is the longest, by far! I have spent a good deal of time veering away from politics and reminiscing about my dear bride Kathy Anne and explaining to readers about the emotional struggle I continue to fight since losing her to cancer in early February.

My intention is to keep plugging away daily. Bear with me. Oh … and thanks in advance for continuing to read my musings.

Tolls … and more tolls

CHARLESTON. W. Va. — My journey eastward from Texas has introduced me to a new way of paying tolls on highways.

You have to possess plenty of cash as you make your way through the gorgeous state of West Virginia.

The toll road along Interstate 77/64 requires motorists to shell out $4.25 at each station. That’s cash money, man! They advise you that credit cards or debit cards won’t work.

Good thing I had some extra scratch in my pockets when I drove toward this lovely city. I did ask one toll-booth attendant: What happens if I don’t have any cash? He said the state mails a bill to my house. I presume Big Brother will have photographed my license plate and matched it with the address in the massive data base.

Fine. I preferred to just present the cash, even though it’s a bit of a hassle, given that they don’t tell you how far ahead the next toll station might be. Digging for cash in the front seat of my pickup isn’t exactly a convenient endeavor.

I have been spoiled by the North Texas Tollway Authority system. You buy a Toll Tag, which then bills a credit card account you put on file. You run out of money in the account, NTTA puts another $20 in the account from which it draws funds whenever you use one of the many toll roads that crisscross the D/FW area.

But, hey … every trip away from home is a learning experience.

Imagine being ‘sold’

POPLAR FOREST, Va. — The thought came to me as I was touring Thomas Jefferson’s “getaway house” in rural Virginia that made me ponder the debate among Republicans over whether “slavery had its benefits.”

Of course it didn’t! The third U.S. president owned slaves. They were property, just like the farm implements he kept in his storage places, or the horses he let roam in his corrals.

Yet we’re hearing from a Republican candidate for president, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who suggests that students need to be taught about the “benefits of slavery.”

I was struck when I read about how President Jefferson needed cash to pay off a big debt. What did he do? He decided to sell the human beings he owned as slaves to help retire the debt.

Imagine for just a moment being sold. Imagine that you might no longer be the property of one man and would become the property of another, a stranger.

I cannot for the ever-lovin’ life of me wrap my head around such a thing. Nor can I see any benefit at any level the idea of being owned by someone who thinks of me as three-fifths of a human being.

My brief visit to this relatively unknown exhibit near Lynchburg opened my eyes even wider to the utter stupidity of such a pronouncement coming from an individual who wants to settle into the Oval Office and lead a nation that comprises descendants of slaves.

We venerate Thomas Jefferson to this day as one of our nation’s founders, but oh brother … he had his serious flaws. Owning human beings was one of them.

Clock ticks on Trump

The clock continues to tick on Donald J. Trump, giving me some reason to hope that justice is finally — finally! — going to catch up with this twice-impeached, twice-indicted politician.

Special counsel Jack Smith reportedly has advised Trump’s legal eagles that yet another set of indictments is coming. These will deal with the insurrection that I believe the ex-POTUS incited on 1/6.

Then a trial will commence. My hope is that the D.C. federal judge who will preside over this trial won’t waste time, will set a relatively prompt trial date and that a jury will convict Trump of doing what I believe we all witnessed on that horrible day.

Just as a reminder: The Constitution stipulates in clear and precise language that anyone who commits an insurrection shall not be eligible to seek public office.

My plea, therefore, to the special counsel? Time’s a wastin’, Jack Smith. Let’s get busy.

Some benefit for Toby

LYNCHBURG, Va. — We came to visit Thomas Jefferson’s “getaway” house, but found a remarkable benefit for Toby the Puppy, the kind of thing I never had seen … until today.

The exhibit is called Poplar Forest, which are the grounds containing home built in 1806 by the nation’s third president. Jefferson used the place as a haven for him to collect his thoughts and to regenerate while tending to matters of statecraft while trying to improve on the still-young nation he helped create.

My friends and I pulled into the parking area, then glanced a large kennel-like structure with a doggie profile and a doggie bone on its side. We wondered, “Is that a place where we could take Toby while we walked through the Poplar Forest exhibit?”

We went to the office/gift shop and, sure enough, that is precisely what it is. The young women said we could put Toby the Puppy in there at no charge; he would have water collected in a rain barrel next to the kennel. He could relax in the shade while Daddy and his friends traipsed through the exhibit.

I know this isn’t a big deal for many folks. Except that it was 90-plus degrees, and we didn’t want to leave Toby the Puppy in a hot car, given that pets are not allowed in the buildings.

It’s the little things, the unexpected perks one sees and receives, that make certain historical exhibits even more enjoyable.

Oh, the no-news joy!

One of the joys of traveling as Toby the Puppy and I have been doing is weaning myself of the need to stay on top of the news of the day.

Yes, I have gone three days in a row without watching the news on TV or reading about it in local newspapers. Granted, I do have these news apps on my phone and my laptop, but I am tapping into those resources less and less all the time.

I am unsure where this quest for non-news consumption came from. Perhaps it’s because it bores me with its repetition. The cable news outlets I watch repeat themselves and each other to the point where I learn nothing new.

I arrived in Roanoke early this afternoon. About the only thing I learned today was that the singer Sinead O’Connor had died at age 56. Oh, well. So sorry to hear the news. That’s it.

I believe I am going to wait to return home before I re-engage fully in the consumption of news. We’re a few days away from that.

Until then, I will continue to enjoy the company of friends, some of whom I have known well for decades, others not so long and I am going to meet a relative of a good friend with whom I used to work in Amarillo.

My journey westward — once I start the return trip to my house in Princeton — will include a stop at the Muhammad Ali museum in Louisville, Ky., where I will pay my respects to The Greatest; and a tour of the Louisville Slugger baseball bat factory, where I just might purchase a brand spanking new baseball bat. I don’t intend to hit any baseballs with it.

There ain’t any news to report in either of those places.

Vacations ought to give us a respite from the things that occupy our minds normally. This one clearly is doing its job.