Irony in all these lawsuits


There’s a certain sort of irony one can find in this story from the Texas Tribune.

Texas’s Republican political leaders have made it a point of pride that they have sued the federal government 40 times since 2009, the year President Barack Obama took office.

The state’s two most recent attorneys general — Greg Abbott and Ken Paxton — have had mixed results from all those suits.

Hey, man, they’re still glad to sue the daylights out of the president and the government over which he presides.

Their cause? The government is overreaching, seeking to usurp authority set aside for the states — allegedly.

The irony? Well, I recall many Republican candidates for public office contending that they wanted to stem the flood of lawsuits. They would argue that many of them are frivolous and that the courts couldn’t afford the escalating costs of litigation. I won’t argue that the suits are “frivolous,” as I am not a legal scholar.

The link attached to this post itemizes the costs of the suits. Add  them up. They have cost the state — that’s you and me, folks — a good chunk of money over the past eight years.

This is a point of pride with these fellows?

Obama might be HRC’s secret weapon


There’s a hilarious moment during the 2008 presidential campaign featuring U.S. Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee for president.

Sen. McCain joined then-Sen. Barack Obama at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner in New York City. McCain had joked about a “pet name” he had used to describe Obama; it was the moment during a televised debate when he referred to the Democratic presidential nominee as “that one.”

“He even has a pet name for me,” McCain said. “George Bush.”

He brought down the  house with that crack. It also illustrated how the Obama team used President Bush’s low standing in the polls at the time to tar McCain’s chances at becoming elected president that year.

Don’t expect Republicans to employ that tactic against Hillary Rodham Clinton this year … if recent presidential approval ratings are an indicator.

President Obama’s standing has been climbing steadily for the past year. He’s now at roughly 50 percent approval among Americans. It’s not great — but it’s a heck of a lot better than it was shortly after he won re-election in 2012.

The “conventional wisdom” has been that if the president’s approval rating stands at 50 percent or greater, it helps the nominee of his party’s chance at the next election. I put the term “conventional wisdom” in quotes because this year’s campaign has relegated almost all such wisdom to be moot.

Witness the rise of Donald J. Trump as the GOP’s next presumptive nominee for president.

He has tossed decorum out the window; criticism doesn’t seem to stick to him; the absence of any public service record has given him license to say whatever the hell pops into his head … and his supporters don’t care that he either lies or doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Go figure.

However, with Obama scoring relatively well in public opinion surveys, it figures that Hillary Clinton is going to rely on him more as the campaign progresses.

Who could’ve seen that coming?


Yes, Donald, there’s a drought in California


Donald J. Trump has declared there to be no drought in California.

It doesn’t exist, he said. There’s so much water way out west, he said, they’re sending it into the sea.

Let’s see.

That part of the country has seen record low snowpack. The rain has tailed off dramatically in many parts of the state. Residential, commercial and industrial development has continued at a frantic pace, forcing the consumption of water.

No drought?

Trump is mistaken. Again!

Trump’s reference to sending water into the ocean appears to deal with a dispute inside the state. According to the Associated Press:

“Trump appeared to be referring to disputes over water that runs from the Sacramento River to the San Francisco Bay and then to the ocean. Some farmers want more of that flow captured and diverted to them.

“Politically influential rural water districts and well-off corporate farmers in and around California’s Central Valley have been pushing back against longstanding federal laws protecting endangered fish and other species, saying federal efforts to make sure endangered native fish have enough water is short-changing farmers of the water they want and need for crops.”

Sure, there’s always longstanding disputes in California between environmentalists and agricultural producers. That appears to be the norm there. I won’t argue the point.

However, there really and truly is a drought occurring in California. It’s just not that difficult to realize that diminishing moisture and continued consumption of water puts strains on that priceless resource.

Yes, we have a drought in California.

Trump’s new ‘friends’ signal hateful campaign


No doubt about it: This year’s presidential campaign will be decided on negativity with extreme prejudice.

Consider what’s going on here with the Republican Party’s coalescing behind presumptive nominee Donald J. Trump, the guy the party establishment once loathed to the point of wanting to dump him at the GOP convention this summer.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie calls Trump “unfit” to be president; then he endorses him. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry describes Trump as a “cancer on conservatism”; then he endorses him. House Speaker Paul Ryan calls Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims as “not a conservative value” and “un-American”; now he’s considering an endorsement. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio labels Trump a “con man”; now he’s about to lend his endorsement to the guy who dubbed him Little Marco.

What do all these pols have in common? A loathing of Hillary Clinton, the Democrats’ probable nominee.

Make no mistake on this: Clinton is going pretty damn negative on Trump already.

The GOP establishment, though, now appears set to back the guy they once detested because they it cannot stomach the idea of another Clinton taking office in the White House.

What does that portend for the quality of this campaign?

I’d wager some serious dough it’s going to be the Mother, Father, Aunt, Uncle and Second Cousin of Negative Campaigns.

Yeah, some of you are going to argue, “Hey, man, it’s just politics.”

Actually, it need not be “just politics.” This ought to be a campaign of ideas, pitting one candidate’s philosophy, ideology and grand world view against the other one.

There’s only element missing: All of the above as they pertain to Donald Trump.

These guys know how to handle the stick


CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. — Indulge me for a moment or two.

I’m such a sap.

I’ve traveled to 20-some countries around the world; I’ve visited 47 of the 50 states; I’ve shaken hands with some of the most interesting and famous people of our time; I’ve flown over the top of an erupting volcano; I’ve endured a tailhook landing and a catapult takeoff from an aircraft carrier.

My life has been an adventure.

Still, today I welled up as I saluted the six young pilots who taxied past us as they prepared to take off on a demonstration of aerial acrobatics the likes of which I’d never seen.

My wife, her brother and I went to see the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds today. The event took my breath away as we watched them do what they do with astonishing precision. Cannon AFB had its annual air show today, the highlight of which was the Thunderbirds exhibition.

For nearly an hour they flew past us, making incredibly steep climbs, rolling their aircraft as they zoomed past us at about 600 mph.

Up and down they flew — from every direction and occasionally at once.

I took a couple of thoughts away from this experience today … other than the obvious one about how proud I am of these young aviators and the amazing teams that work with them. As one with a smattering of aviation experience myself — owing to my service in the Army many decades ago — I appreciate and understand the work that the maintenance crews and the assorted ground-based staffers must do to make all this work.

How do these aviators practice to do what they do? I understand fully that these individuals don’t strap themselves into the cockpit of these F-16 Fighting Falcons without first training many thousands of hours. I’m still struck, though, by the idea of practicing for these close-order fly-bys.

How do these pilots maintain such laser focus?  On occasion I wonder about the psychological profile of those who are trained to fly high-performance aircraft. Just maintaining one’s focus in combat conditions would be daunting enough. These pilots all have combat experience, according to the public address announcer. Their focus must be intensified by some staggering multiplier in order to fly these birds with such precision — and so damn close to each other!

The flight line today was full of spectators just like us, marveling at what they saw.

Some hours later, after a 90-minute drive home from Clovis, N.M., my head is still spinning at what we just witnessed.

These young individuals should make us all proud.

Now I’m wondering … how can we get to watch the Navy’s Blue Angels? I understand they’re pretty good, too.

Gohmert enters strange new world


Louie Gohmert must have a lot of friends in his East Texas congressional district, which might explain how he keeps getting re-elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Gohmert, a six-term Republican from Tyler, took to the House floor this week to say that gay people would be unlikely to save humanity if they were to settle in space camps out there … somewhere in outer space.

I saw that earlier today and wondered, yet again, who in the world are we sending to write the laws that affect 300-plus million Americans?

The video of Gohmert’s speech is on the link attached.

Gohmert has a history of making bizarre statements.

One of the more ridiculous assertions he made occurred when he speculated that terrorists were infiltrating the United States using pregnant women who would come here, give birth to their children and raise them to become terrorists.

This guy is in his sixth term as a member of Congress. He votes on laws that affect all of us. Therefore, the strange rantings of one member of Congress becomes every American’s concern.

Before you get too worked up  here and accuse me of bashing only Republicans, I am happy to acknowledge that Democrats have their share of congresspeople capable making loony statements. Alan Grayson of Florida comes to mind immediately.

This grandstander said he’d file a lawsuit if Ted Cruz were nominated for president by the Republicans; his basis was that Cruz isn’t constitutionally eligible to serve as president, as he was born in Canada. Never mind that he acquired U.S. citizenship at birth because Mama Cruz is an American.

So, life goes on inside the walls of the Capitol Building.

With serious issues to ponder — such as funding the government — a member of Congress now is wondering aloud about whether same-sex couples are capable of saving humanity.

As Ricky Ricardo once told Lucy: “I can answer that in five words: Aye, aye, aye … aye, aye!”


Severance pay for state employees?


No doubt you’ve heard it said that “we ought to run government like a business.”

Most of the time, that’s merely a cliché that doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously.

Then again, you get an exception to the rule. Take the case of state agencies paying what amounts to “severance pay” to public employees who resign their public jobs.

As the Texas Tribune reports, the practice in Texas is likely to vanish during the next legislative session … as it should.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office has paid such severance to several former staffers. Paxton doesn’t call it “severance.” He calls it “emergency leave” pay.

What the bleep is the difference?

This is outrageous. It ought to stop. It’s a waste of valuable public money that the state keeps harping about that it doesn’t have.

I happen to know a bit about how private business handles these issues. It’s a whole lot less generous — in a case with which I am intimately familiar — than it is in the public sector.

In August 2012 I received some shattering news from a hired gun brought in to manage the “reorganization” of the newspaper where I was working at the time. We were told we could apply for any job we wanted. I chose to apply for the job I’d been doing at the Amarillo Globe-News for nearly 18 years; I thought I was doing a pretty good job.

Not long after being interviewed twice by the management team at the newspaper, the hired gun called me into his office and said:  “There’s no easy way to say this, but we’ve decided to give your job to someone else.” The “someone else” also had applied for the same position, so my employer went with him. I was out.

I chose to resign on the spot rather than apply for another position and face the remote possibility of getting hired for that. I was qualified to do one thing at the newspaper, but I didn’t do it well enough to suit my employer.

During what amounted to an exit interview the next morning with my soon-to-be former boss, I asked about a severance. He all but laughed in my face.

I walked out.

That’s how it’s done in private business. You resign, you don’t get a severance, man. Ross Ramsey, writing for the Texas Tribune, says private businesses do offer such severance deals, but they come with a price. Ramsey writes:

“In the business world, departing employees are sometimes given a golden parachute in exchange for their silence — a ‘thanks for all you’ve done’ along with a ‘keep your trap shut about what happened here.’” I didn’t get that, so I’m free to blab.

But, when someone leaves a government job in Texas, they qualify for “severance” or “emergency leave.”

Give me a break.

End the practice … as soon as possible.

‘Fired’ or ‘suspended’ at Baylor?


I’m still scratching my noggin over this one.

Baylor University head football coach Art Briles has been “suspended” by the university’s board of regents, which eventually will get around to firing him.

Why wait? What’s the holdup?

Briles allegedly looked the other way while players on his team were sexually assaulting women. He did far too little to stop what was happening on the campus.

He’s going to be a “former coach” in due course, I reckon.

I always considered a firing for cause to have an immediate impact. If an employee does something wrong — or fails to do something right — then the employer has the right, if not an obligation, to get rid of the offending employee post haste.

What am I missing here?


How do you campaign against a moving target?


So much about this presidential campaign is a puzzle and I’m having trouble finding the pieces to complete it.

I’ll start and finish with Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee.

He has tossed every single bit of conventional wisdom into the Dumpster. Trump has no public service experience; he has demonstrated zero understanding of how government works; he has blustered, bullied and bloviated his way to this point in the campaign; his insults and innuendo should have doomed his candidacy months ago; his personal history is, well, checkered.

To my way of thinking, the most confusing element of this campaign is the absence of any philosophical grounding for this individual.

In normal election years, Democrats nominate a candidate who stands for a set of principles; Republicans do the same.

Hillary Clinton is about to become the Democratic nominee. She, too, has switched positions on occasion as she battles Sen. Bernie Sanders for her party’s nomination.

But one gets a general idea of Clinton’s world view: It seems to tilt left, with a more hawkish view of the use of military power than her more progressive political brethren.

Trump? Where does this guy stand? On anything?

He changes his positions almost hourly. Women should face punishment if they obtain an abortion; on second thought, he didn’t mean that. He would ban Muslims from entering the United States; oh, wait, that’s just a “suggestion.” He once was pro-choice on abortion; now he’s pro-life. He once called Hillary Clinton “great”; now he calls her “Crooked Hillary.” He said Mexico is sending drug dealers, rapists and killers into this country: but he says “I love Hispanics.” He has boasted about his philandering; now he seeks to woo the evangelical voters who comprise much of the GOP “base.”

How is Clinton going to campaign against any of that? How is she going to pit her ideas against his ideas, when he doesn’t seem to stand on a single principle — other than furthering his own ambition?

The late Gertrude Stein once said of Oakland, Calif., that “there is no ‘there’ there.”

I’m sensing that Trump lacks a “there.”

Did we make a ‘mistake’ in Hiroshima?


I am drawn by a particular passage from remarks President Obama made while visiting Hiroshima.

“We’re not bound by genetic codes to repeat the mistakes of the past. We can learn. We can choose. We can tell our children a different story,” Obama said in remarks at the memorial that commemorates the dropping of the atomic bomb on the Japanese city on Aug. 6, 1945.

To be sure, the president did not deliver an apology for the decision one of his predecessors, Harry Truman, made in seeking an end to the bloodiest war in human history.

Nor should he.

But the statement seems to imply that the decision was a “mistake.”

I beg to differ, Mr. President. I think many of your fellow Americans beg to differ as well, particularly those of us who are descended from those who were participating in that theater of operations at the end of the war.

The president’s speech was far-reaching and it spoke to a “moral awakening” that the event brought to the world. Indeed, it did, and for that awakening we should be grateful. The world saw first hand in 1945 just destructive these weapons can be.

President Truman, who took office upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, felt at that moment he had to make a decision that would (a) end the war quickly and (b) change the world forever.

It did both. President Truman said late in his life that he never regretted the decision to drop the bomb on Hiroshima and, three days later, on Nagasaki.

For me personally, he might have saved my own father’s life. Dad was in the Philippines serving in the Navy and well could have taken part in the campaign against the Japanese homeland. The bombs prevented that campaign from occurring.

Those of us who have this connection with what happened that at the end of World War II perhaps see the event with a different form of clarity than others.

I’m glad President Obama has spoken out about the need to remain alert to the tragedy of these terrible weapons.

Was its use in Japan a “mistake”?

No. It was not.