Teachers are heroes

I want to say a good word or three about those who practice a profession I took a swing at not long after my journalism career came to an end.

That would be teachers. They are heroes in my book. I would bet they are heroes in your book, too. The good teachers, those who are committed to educating our young people deserve all the money we taxpayers can afford to pay them.

My full-time newspaper career ended unceremoniously in August 2012. To earn a little income after I resigned from the Amarillo Globe-News, I decided to try substitute teaching with the Amarillo Independent School District.

I learned something profound about myself during my brief stint as a “sub.” It was that I am not wired to teach young boys and girls. It takes a special breed of human being to commit themselves to the well-being of someone else’s children.

Before long, I threw in the towel and decided that substitute teaching wasn’t in the cards for me. I have gone on to do other things in my retired — or semi-retired — life.

However, my brief exposure to public education classroom work revealed to me the goodness that is required of good teachers and the sacrifices they make each day to prepare our young people for the life that awaits after their school days have passed.

We hear often about teachers who reach out to help struggling children. How they comfort them, encourage them, promote them. They scold the children in their charge when they mess up but do so with love in their voice.

These are special folks who embody the best in the rest of us.

I just feel compelled with this brief post to tell them all how much I appreciate what they do for us and for our children.

And, if you’ll pardon what has become a bit of a cliche, to thank them for their service.



Why fight this pick?

My idea of political perfection might lie in the way the president of the U.S. and the U.S. Senate conduct themselves as we seek to find a justice to the nation’s highest court.

Justice Stephen Breyer has announced his intention to retire from the Supreme Court at the end of the current court term. President Biden then will get to select a nominee to succeed Breyer.

Biden’s pick won’t swing the ideological balance of the court; it will remain a 6-3 conservative panel.

That all said, it makes sense — to me, at least — that all Biden has to do is find a qualified jurist to take the seat once the Senate confirms her. Oh, yeah; I need to mention that the president has pledged to select an African American woman to succeed Breyer.

It should be a slam dunk, right? A 100-0 vote to confirm, presuming the justice-designate is qualified and has earned the necessary chops to take a seat on the highest court in America.

It ain’t likely to work that way. We hear now from Sen. Lindsey Graham, the Republican from South Carolina who doubles as Donald Trump’s suck-up boy in the Senate, saying Biden can get a nominee approved “without Republican support.” Does that mean the GOP caucus is going sit on its hands while fabricating reasons to oppose whomever Biden selects? Sounds like it to me.



A new fight in store for SCOTUS seat?

Here we go again, maybe, perhaps … but I surely hope not.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announced today his intention to retire from the court at the end of the court’s term. He is paving the way for President Biden to nominate a successor.

Is this a big deal? You bet it is! Presidents have a chance to make a lasting impact on our judicial system that will remain far longer than their terms in office. However, let’s consider some key elements.

Breyer is one of three “liberal” justices serving on the court. A Biden appointment isn’t going to change the nine-member court’s ideological balance. Donald Trump nominated three justices during his term on the court, the last one of whom delivered the strong conservative majority that now sits on the nation’s highest court.

Progressives have been hollering for Breyer to step down for a long time. They want a woman to join the court, along with Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Amy Coney Barrett. President Biden already has pledged to nominate a woman, and she likely will be a Black woman. As NBC News reports: Biden has pledged to make just such an appointment. Among likely contenders are federal Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, former Breyer law clerk, and Leondra Kruger, a justice on California’s Supreme Court.

Is all of this a done deal? Well, consider that recent judicial appointments have been subjected to harsh partisan disagreements between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, which has confirmation authority.

President Biden is going to move rapidly to nominate someone. Indeed, time is not his friend. The midterm election is coming up this fall, the court’s new term begins in early October and the president will need to get someone seated with whom he feels comfortable.

It’ll be a fight but let us hope is not the kind of bloodbath to which we have grown accustomed.


We’re in good hands

An interview I had with a young man reminded me of what I have known intellectually for a very long time, but at times gets lost in the melee of the moment.

I have known in my heart and my head that the next generation that will succeed us as we pass from the scene will do a stellar job of taking care of the world we leave behind. Indeed, it likely will make it better.

The young man is a Farmersville High School senior. He is a straight-A student. I asked him whether his good grades put him in the running for valedictorian or salutatorian. He scoffed at the suggestion. “Oh no,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of kids who are doing better than I am.”

This young man, Matthew Day, built a trailer from scratch as part of a Future Farmers of America project. It is magnificent vehicle he will use to haul equipment.

I mentioned this young man’s accomplishment to someone, who said, “It gives me hope.” Me, too.

I am reminded of the temptation we all have to denigrate the younger generation. I hear it all the time from those who say, “Kids today … ” don’t do this or that. Or that “kids today” are — pick the epithet you want — spoiled, entitled, lazy, shiftless.


The younger generation is just like all those who preceded them throughout all of human history. They will rise to meet whatever challenge rises up to confront them.

I reminded my friend, the one who said she has “hope” that the future is in good hands, of something that Plato said about four centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ. Plato lamented that young people possessed bad manners, that they lacked respect for their elders and worried that the world was heading straight for hell. The Greek philosopher was a smart man, to be sure, but he missed the boat on that one.

I met a wonderful young man the other day and I remain as committed as ever to the notion that he merely symbolizes the best of his generation … and that our world will be just fine once we old folks check out.


GOP = insanity

The Republican Party has gone insane. It should be declared incompetent to stand up to public scrutiny. It needs to be stripped down, dismantled, reassembled and reintroduced to the American political mainstream.

I say this as a good-government progressive who tilts toward the Democratic Party. I want the Republican Party to become the Grand Old Party, the Party of Lincoln and the party of inclusion and the so-called “big tent.”

Goodness, the party’s big tent now has become a haven for fruitcakes, insurrectionists, dangerous demagogues and, yes, those with treasonous instincts.

To think that the Republican Party would continue to align itself with a twice-impeached POTUS who continues to foment The Big Lie about alleged voter fraud is to consign the once-great political party to the scrap heap of history. I hope that is where the former POTUS is headed as well. Time will determine his Earthly fate.

The reason for my wanting a strong Republican Party is simple. I want the party to exist as a legitimate, viable political institution to challenge Democrats intelligently and with sane reason. What we have now is a party wedded to the fallacy that an insurrection that occurred in January 2021 was nothing more than a protest that got out of control. Oh, no. It was much worse than that. Republican congressional leaders keep denying what the entire world witnessed on 1/6.

This is the stuff of insanity. It must be excised from the Republican Party. If it takes a total dismembering of the party, then so be it.


Puppy Tales, Part 93: He dresses himself

It’s been far too long since I have bragged about Toby the Puppy.

So … here comes another tidbit about our smart puppy. He has learned to virtually dress himself. Yep, that’s right. Here’s what I mean.

We like putting shirts and/or sweaters on him during these cold snaps. His fur is light and he is a bit prone to the shivers when the temperature drops too significantly.

What do we do? We fetch his sweater, slip it over his head and one front leg at a time, he lifts the leg so we can slip it through the opening in his garment; we do the same thing with the other front leg.

There you go.

It wasn’t all that long ago that we had to struggle to get Toby to cooperate with us as we sought to keep him warm from the cold weather. Those of us who have raised children know what I’m talking about. If a kid doesn’t want to wear something, it’s a serious chore getting him or her to comply. Same can be said about puppies.

Toby the Puppy was one of those problem “children.” Until now.


Biden down, far from out

Listen up, Joe Biden haters. The president is down, to be sure. Do not, though, start ringing the death knell over the presidency of the man who fought for more than 30 years to attain the highest office in the land.

I acknowledge fully that President Biden has endured a rough first year. Let me remind everyone of a couple of recent historical events.

Ronald Reagan took office in 1981 and also had a bad first year. Yes, he was shot and nearly killed three months into the presidency. Then the Republican Party got drubbed in the 1982 midterm election. President Reagan, though, got re-elected in 1984 in a smashing 49-state landslide. That’s one.

Bill Clinton became president in 1993. He, too, suffered a rough first year. Republicans seized control of Congress in 1994. Ah, but then President Clinton cruised to re-election in 1996. That’s two.

Barack Obama assumed office in 2009. He set out to pass the Affordable Care Act; Congress obliged. Then Democrats got what Obama described as a “shellacking” in the 2010 midterm election. President Obama then went on to win re-election in 2012.

I know we have had plenty of one-term presidents who never got it together. George H.W. Bush fell from a 90% approval rating to losing his re-election effort in 1992; Jimmy Carter endured inflation and a general feeling of disgust and lost in a landslide to Ronald Reagan in 1980; Donald Trump … well, you know what happened there.

President Biden is only in the “first quarter” of a long game, writes Paul Brandus in USA Today. There’s a way out of the morass, Brandus writes: The president’s biggest mistake has surprised me. He hasn’t spent enough time talking up last year’s economic achievements. “America’s economy improved more in Joe Biden’s first 12 months than any president during the past 50 years,” Bloomberg reported last month, “notwithstanding the contrary media narrative contributing to dour public opinion.”

Joe Biden has had a rocky year in office. But, folks, this is only the first quarter. (yahoo.com)

And so it might go moving ahead into the next year and the year after that. We still have that pandemic. It still is making people sick. We keep hearing that the end is in sight. Maybe. We hope.

I am going to stand with the president as he keeps fighting for the country.


Impeach the justice!

Here’s a thought for you to ponder. It doesn’t come from me exclusively, but I read about it and have embraced it as a potential game-changer for the American judicial system.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas could be impeached by Congress because of his wife’s right-wing activism and the justice’s refusal to recuse himself from cases in which she is involved directly.

Ginni Thomas is a right-wing zealot. She has written scathing essays excoriating the 1/6 House committee examining the insurrection that sought to block the certification of the 2020 presidential election.

She and her hubby talk openly with each other about their jobs and their duties. So, how in the world does Justice Thomas vote on matters involving Ginni Thomas’s political activism?

Case in point: The court voted recently 8-1 to require Donald Trump to turn over documents to the House select committee looking into Trump’s role in inciting the riot. The lone dissent? It came from Clarence Thomas.

Good grief, man. Justice Thomas has no business sitting in on arguments involving anything regarding this issue. His wife has disqualified him in the eyes of many millions of Americans, including mine.


Michael Tomasky, editor of The New Republic, makes the case that Clarence Thomas is ripe for an impeachment action. What’s more, there needs to be ethical rules set up to govern the Supreme Court, the only court in America that doesn’t have any such regulatory authority watching over its conduct.

I happen to agree with him, that Clarence Thomas has disgraced himself and the nation’s highest court.


DA gets new grand jury … yes!

Fani Willis is emerging as potentially my newest political hero. She is the Fulton County (Ga.) district attorney who sought — and then received — permission to seat a special grand jury that is going to examine whether Donald J. Trump interfered with the 2020 presidential election.

Hmm. Let’s see. What do we have here?

We have a recorded conversation featuring Trump telling Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger to “find” 11,780 votes that can be credited to the ex-POTUS and possibly keep him in power. Oh, Joe Biden won Georgia’s electoral votes, but Trump harangued the chief elections officer in Georgia to find enough votes to swing it to Trump’s list of winning states.

Where I come from, that sounds for all the world like intimidation. You see, Trump told Raffensberger — a Republican who voted for Trump — to break the law. To his great credit, Raffensberger said no can do, Mr. President. Trump then threatened Raffensberger with prosecution if he didn’t comply with the Insurrectionist in Chief’s demand.

It’s all recorded, man. Raffensberger had the good sense to memorialize it for posterity. Is it legal for Trump to badger a state elections official in that manner? Is it moral? Does it make sense for Trump to, in effect, hand a prosecuting attorney — in this case, DA Willis — the proverbial smoking gun in a criminal investigation?

Willis sought the special grand jury that is going to look exclusively at the allegation of election interference. It didn’t take the state court system long to decide that a special panel is necessary to get to the truth behind Donald Trump’s effort to rig an election he said is … um, rigged.

I believe the prosecutor is onto something huge.


Will Super Bowl match these games?

Whichever teams emerge next weekend from the NFL’s conference championship games will have a mighty steep hill to climb to match the excitement the football-watching public enjoyed this past weekend in the divisional playoff games.

This is my way of saying the Super Bowl, to be played two weeks later in Los Angeles, will have to go some to give us the same level of thrill.

Think of this: The Cincinnati Bengals beat the top seed in the AFC, the Tennessee Titans with a game-winning field goal; the San Francisco 49ers went to Green Bay to defeat the favored Packers after trailing the entire game — until the end; the LA Rams went to Tampa Bay and knocked the defending Super Bowl champs, the Buccaneers, with a game-ending field goal; then came the capper, with the Kansas City Chiefs defeating the Buffalo Bills in overtime with a touchdown pass in what many call the “greatest game in NFL history.” 

The conference championships will have plenty of drama. My favorite story line belongs to the Bengals. They hadn’t won a road playoff game in the franchise’s history, yet they beat the Titans in Nashville. They haven’t played in a Super Bowl since 1989, when they lost a thriller to the 49ers.

Whether it’s the Rams vs. the Bengals, or the 49ers vs. the Bengals, or the Rams vs. the Chiefs or the 49ers vs. the Chiefs in the Big Game, know this: The players will take the field knowing they are capable of delivering a Super Bowl for the ages.

Here’s hoping they don’t disappoint.


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