Lunch lady shows the spirit of season, and gets fired!


Darlene Bowden has suddenly become the most well-known school lunch lady in America.

For what? All she did was give a middle-schooler a free lunch — only to get fired by her Idaho school district employers for “theft” of public property. That would be the food for which she didn’t require payment from a student who couldn’t afford to pay for it.

The Pocatello/Chubbock school district has offered Bowden her job back. I haven’t yet heard whether she’ll go back to work there.

If she refuses, I couldn’t blame her in the least.

Bowden demonstrated the Christmas spirit by giving the youngster a lunch. The student apparently didn’t have the money to pay, so she fed the student … who, I’m guessing, was hungry.

I believe I’m going to take Bowden’s side in this dispute.

It’s Christmas, after all.

Whether she returns to work┬áor goes on her way toward another job, that’s Bowden’s call. I won’t encourage her to take either course.

My hunch, though, is that she’ll have no trouble finding a job, given the notoriety she’s earned simply offering up an act of generosity in this season of giving.


Partisan preacher quits his party

(RNS1-MAY02) Evangelist Franklin Graham preaches during a recent crusade in Mobile, Ala. See RNS-GRAHAM-QANDA, transmitted May 2, 2006. Religion News Service photo by John David Mercer/The Press-Register in Mobile, Ala.

The Rev. Franklin Graham has given up on the Republican Party.

He quit, citing Congress’s refusal to stop federal funding for Planned Parenthood. So, Graham — son of the legendary preacher the Rev. Billy Graham — has had enough of the GOP.

I thought immediately of a bumper sticker I once saw on a car here in Amarillo. I am paraphrasing, but it said, “God is bigger than a bumper sticker.”

Indeed …

Graham isn’t the first high-profile preacher┬áto become involved in partisan politics. Another Republican, Mike Huckabee, is a former Baptist preacher seeking the Republican presidential nomination; Democrats Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton,┬áboth of whom are┬áordained Christian clergymen, also have run for the highest office in the land.

Still, I find it intriguing to hear that Franklin Graham is quitting the Republican Party because of an intensely emotional issue. That would be abortion.

Perhaps, though, he ought to know that the Hyde Amendment — named after┬áthe late Republican U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde — prohibits the federal government from dedicating public money for abortion and that Planned Parenthood’s mission goes far beyond providing abortion referrals for women seeking to terminate their pregnancy.

And, yes, God truly is far bigger than a bumper sticker.

Or a political party.

Nation founded and built by refugees wants what?


I feel like the Linda Blair head-spinning character in “The Exorcist” while I listen to some of these arguments that we need to ban refugees from entering the United States of America.


Well, consider that our very founding occurred because Europeans sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to flee religious persecution. They came here, set up villages and encampments and eventually founded a secular government that expressly forbids the creation of a state-sponsored religion.

Our nation then grew. We received a statue in the late 1880s, erected it in New York harbor and welcomed more refugees to our land.

Throughout the centuries, refugees and other immigrants helped build the greatest country in world history. My four grandparents were among those who came here, not as refugees, but as immigrants looking to create better lives for themselves.

Now the discussion has devolved into whether we should accept refugees who are fleeing civil war in the Middle East. Many of us fear that those refugees will include terrorists burning with the desire to harm Americans.

I share the concern. Really, I do. However, I refuse to believe we should act fearfully. Yes, we need to be vigilant to protect our nation against those who seek to do harm. Then again, we’ve always had that concern. The United States — or any nation with an open-door policy toward immigrants — always has been vulnerable to attack from those posing as mere opportunity-seekers.

But are we a nation founded and built by immigrants that is now going to slam the door shut on those who still believe this is the Land of Opportunity?

I hope this is not what we’re becoming.


Sen. Graham shows what’s wrong with GOP


Don’t get me wrong.

Sen. Lindsey Graham — himself — is not what is wrong with today’s Republican Party. The South Carolinian’s departure this week from the 2016 presidential race illustrates what’s so troubling about others within the GOP.

Graham represents what — for the time being — appears to be a dying breed of Republican. He’s one of those individuals who works with Democrats, not against ’em.

His reputation, thus, has become of one what hardcore Republicans call RINO, a Republican In Name Only.

Graham isn’t a RINO. The label is undeserved, except for the fact that he has many friends on the other side of the Senate chamber, which I guess has become something of a kiss of death these days among the Republican Party “base.”

He became quite critical during his presidential campaign of much of the rhetoric coming from his fellow candidates. Remember when he called Donald Trump a “jackass”? He became one of the first targets that Trump singled out, reciting Graham’s cell phone number aloud at a public event.

Graham, though, had the bad form — in the eyes of his GOP base — to work with Democrats on such issues as climate change, immigration reform and tax reform. It didn’t matter that the former Air Force lawyer has been a staunch advocate for a strong defense and that he has been at the forefront of calling for more — and pardon my use of the euphemism that I detest — “boots on the ground” in the fight against Islamic terrorists.

Perhaps it was Graham’s vote against articles of impeachment against President Clinton in 1998 — as a member of the House Judiciary Committee — that sealed the deal for the GOP base.

Whatever, this faithful Republican is now out of the presidential race because he isn’t hardcore enough to suit the red-meat Republicans who still see Democrats as “enemies” and not more “opponents.”

That’s too bad.

For Graham and for his Republican Party.




Alzheimer’s gets attention in this campaign


Campaign pledges too often get made — only to become ignored by the candidate who makes them.

I believe I will keep one candidate’s feet very close to the fire should the campaign turn out in this individual’s favor next year.

Hillary Rodham Clinton pledges devote $2 billion annually to fund research into finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

Big deal, yes? Well, it is, even if it comes in the form of a campaign promise.

“For me, the bottom line is if we’re the kind of nation that cares for citizens and supports families,” Clinton said, “then we’ve got work to do and we need to do it better when it comes to diseases like Alzheimer’s.”

I happen to have intimate knowledge of this dreaded, miserable and merciless affliction. My mother died from it in 1984. She was 61 years of age. It robbed her of her wit, her intelligence, all of her cognitive skill, eventually her ability to speak and her ability to recognize those who loved her.

Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in this country and it brings great grief and pain to an increasing number of Americans.

Clinton isn’t the first politician┬áto make this pledge. However, I do not remember the last time a politician running for president of the United States of America has made one like this.

Today’s post, though, isn’t about Clinton’s campaign promise. It’s about the disease.

I have made a vow myself to bring attention to Alzheimer’s disease whenever possible using this forum.

Another beloved member of my family also is suffering from its early onset. I pray for him daily. Also pray for his children, grandchildren and his wife, all of whom must care for him.

They aren’t alone. As Clinton found out while attending a campaign event in Iowa when she asked who in her audience had a connection with Alzheimer’s disease, it’s affecting more and more of us daily. Our population is aging and yet a cure for the disease remains elusive.

Therapies have advanced tremendously. Some of them reportedly are slowing the progress of the disease. They don’t stop it.

Clinton’s pledge has drawn the support of at least one leading Republican, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. I would hope other politicians from both parties would endorse her promise by making similar pledges of their own.

“I’m running for president to deal with the big problems but also with these problems that keep families up at night, and this is one that really fits into the category,” Clinton said.

You got that right, Mme. Secretary.


Texas faces new oil bust, but might fare better this time


Texas is heading for a bad-news, good-news economic cycle.

The bad? The price of oil is going to continue falling, making it difficult for producers to keep drilling for the crude.

The good? Texas is better positioned this time to handle this bust compared to its history with these crazy economic cycles. reports: “In some ways, the Texas oil industry today is a victim of its own success. After a steady output decline in the 1980s and ’90s, U.S. oil producers staged a remarkable and widely unexpected revival over the past decade by deploying new seismic and drilling technologies. By coaxing drill bits to move horizontally, and breaking up ‘tight’ oil formations with fracking, millions of barrels of oil have been produced from decades-old fields once left for dead.”

So, the world now has a glut of oil, thanks to tremendous increases in production here at home.

Texas is going bust, sort of.

I arrived in Texas in the spring of 1984 to begin work at a newspaper in the Golden Triangle, one of the world’s premier petrochemical producing regions. Life was good in Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange.

Then the bottom fell out. Two years later, the price of oil had collapsed. Refineries and petrochemical plants laid off thousands of employees. Some operations shut down. The jobless rate zoomed to nearly 20 percent in that part of the state.

Life, quite suddenly, became not so good.

The mantra then became “economic diversification.” Texas had to branch out, seek other economic revenue streams to take the pressure off the oil and petrochemical industry.

So, the state did that. It invested in high-tech, medical research, automobile manufacturing and a lot of other smaller initiatives.

That 1980s oil bust hammered the Texas Panhandle, too, where I would move in early 1995.

And, yes, in this part of the state we’re faring relatively well. We, too, have diversified. We aren’t nearly as dependent on oil and natural gas as we’d been since, oh, the Spindletop gusher came in at the turn of the 20th century.

Has the state been hit hard by the steep drop in oil prices? Yes. CNBC reports that the gross state product has been reduced to near zero as the year draws to a close. State government is looking at a serious revenue shortfall that the Legislature will have to deal with when it convenes in January 2017.

There isn’t the sense of panic, though, that we felt in the 1980s.

Why? Much of the state has heeded the diversification warnings our leaders sounded the last time the bottom fell out.


Governor allows clerks to hide their names


Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin took office and immediately issued a series of executive orders. Let’s look at one of them.

It no longer requires county clerks to put their names on marriage licenses. Can we hear an “amen!” from Kim Davis, the Rowan County clerk who refused to do her job as required by law, and her oath, on the grounds that issuing such licenses to gay couples violated her religious beliefs?

Bevin’s order intends to protect the religious rights of county clerks who object to issuing the licenses on religious grounds.

I believe the main issue here is whether county clerks — who take an oath to protect and defend their state and federal constitutions — are obligated to marry anyone who seeks a license. The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that all citizens are guaranteed equal rights and protection under the law and it makes no stipulations about their sexual orientation.

If Gov. Bevin’s order now guarantees that all Kentucky residents can now seek and receive legal marriage licenses, without regard to whom they are marrying, then he’s done the right thing.


Here’s how you shop for Christmas gifts


I am considering writing a shoppers’ manual.

It’ll be from a guy’s perspective. I believe I have mastered the technique for Christmas shopping. Today, I took it to a new level of brutal efficiency.

Here’s how it went … and please forgive me if I sound a bit boastful.

  • I left the house this morning at 8:30. I headed for a major department store. I had one thing in mind to purchase for my wife at this store. I found it, took it off the rack and then sauntered toward another part of the store. I found another item and took that off the rack.
  • I then┬áhot-footed it┬áto another pre-planned location within the store. Grabbed the item. Then I paid for all of it. I left the store.
  • I drove across the street to the regional mall: Westgate Mall.
  • I marched through the mall entrance and then went to a store specializing in West Texas apparel. I then found another pre-determined item. I bought it.
  • Then I wandered into a health store and found some cool things to put in her stocking. I bought them, too.

There you have it, fellas. I was done in less than two hours.

Start to finish. Could we ever persuade our wives and/or girlfriends to do it this way? You may stop laughing now.

What’s my secret?

Write a list. Stick to it. Head to the retail outlets early in the day before most of your community has had its final cup of coffee in the morning.

Be disciplined while you’re looking. Stay focused. Consider it to be akin to a surgical strike.

Does it sound like a tried-and-true men’s shopping formula for success during this wonderful holiday season? I think so.

Hey, I got all this done with four whole days to go before Santa arrives.


Hey, Colombia, the man made a mistake!


They take their beauty pageants seriously in Colombia.

It’s a cultural thing, I guess, so I won’t pretend to understand it. I’ll just have to accept it for what it is.

Colombians were gathered around the TV sets Sunday night and then cheered hysterically when emcee Steve Harvey announced that their contestant had been named Miss Universe.

To borrow a phrase — oops! — not so fast. Harvey, a well-known comedian and game-show host, came back to apologize. The real Miss Universe is the young woman from The Philippines, he said as a chorus of boos rang out from the crowd.

Colombians, from the president on down, are demanding answers. How could they do this to our contestant? What shame! What an embarrassment to her and to us!

There’s a saying┬áthat I’m sure has a Spanish equivalent, so the Colombians will understand.

Nobody’s perfect.

Put another way: S*** happens, man!

Harvey has apologized, repeatedly, profusely, sincerely. He’s got plenty of explaining to do right here at home, where this event happened. He had the names written correctly on the card he held on his hand.

As for Miss Colombia, Ariadna Gutierrez Arevalo, she’s going to have enough endorsement deals to last her several lifetimes. She hasn’t a worry in the world.

Take this to the bank: The shortest Miss Universe reign in history is going to become one of the most lucrative in history.


Throw the book at cockfighting nimrods


I have no idea if pitting animals against each other in fights to the death is at epidemic levels in Amarillo, but whenever I see reports of it, I go into fits of serious anger.

Amarillo police officers over the weekend raided a barn in the southeast part of the city. A group of hooligans ran from the site; the cops rounded up about 20 of them and booked a dozen of them into the Randall County jail on a misdemeanor charge of being spectators at this hideous event.

The police rounded up the birds and took them to the city’s Animal Management and Welfare office. Who knows now what’ll happen to the birds? If they’re euthanized, I’m quite sure they’ll leave this world in a far gentler fashion than what the idiots who pitted them against each other had in mind.

As the police said in a statement, “There is some indication that participants were charged to watch the fights.”

So, idiots charge others to watch this activity and even bigger idiots actually pay to see it happen. I guess, too, that they place wagers on which bird will still be strutting at the end of the fight.

You know, we think we live in a clean community. Most of it is. However, we do have this seedy side of life that exists out there. I’ve never been na├»ve to believe we don’t have such activity happening right under our gaze.

Still, hearing about it makes my blood boil.