Happy Trails, Part Five

It’s done!

I finished my work shift today at Street Toyota, said goodbye to a few of my colleagues and friends and then came home.

But first I had to pick up a couple of things.

I had mentioned to a few folks there that I never got a cake when I left the Amarillo Globe-News in August 2012. That’s all I wanted: a sheet cake with a “Good Luck” message … and a corner piece with a healthy layer of frosting.

Today I got six cupcakes from Belmar Bakery, which I took home to enjoy with my wife.

Then I received another very cool gift.

It’s a sketch portrait from Benny Hill, one of my friends at Street and a fellow with whom I worked at the Globe-News.

It’s a very good likeness. It has several good wishes written by friends throughout the dealership.

So, there you have it.

That’s all she wrote, man. I wept when I left my job at the Oregon City (Ore.) Enterprise-Courier; I did so again when I left the Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise; and, yes, I wept when I departed the Globe-News.

No tears this time. It is a happy day.

Now the open road awaits my wife and me … and Toby the Puppy.

Trump wants more coal jobs … but at what cost?

The president of the United States must be unable to contain himself.

That’s what I believe is happening as Donald J. Trump seeks to undo some valuable environmental regulations designed to do those silly things … such as provide for cleaner air to breathe.

Trump continues to p*** me off. And a lot of other Americans, too.

As Reuters reported: “Flanked by coal miners, Trump enacted his ‘Energy Independence’ executive order at the Environmental Protection Agency. A coalition of 23 states and local governments vowed to fight the order in court.”

What does this mean? Here’s what I believe it does: It rolls back many of the regulations enacted during the Obama administration that are aimed to promote alternative energy production.

You know … things like wind, solar, hydropower. The clean stuff. The sources that regenerate immediately and are far more environmentally responsible than digging and drilling for fossil fuels such as oil and coal.

Trump will have none of that, by golly. He said he’s keeping a campaign promise to bring jobs back to the coal industry. He also pledged to make America totally “energy independent.”

Interesting. The United States already has become the world’s largest producer of fossil-fuel energy. Are we still importing some of the crude? Yes, but our imported-oil-to-domestic-production ratio has been declining steadily over the past decade or so.

I recall during the 2016 presidential campaign how Republicans and other foes of Hillary Rodham Clinton skewered her over remarks she made about supposedly “putting the coal industry out of business.” They never mentioned, of course, the rest of Clinton’s statements in that regard, which dealt with job-retraining for those former coal-mine workers.

Trump seized on Clinton’s statements and beat her senseless with the half-truths about what she had said.

Now he’s signed an executive order to bring all those coal jobs back. At what cost? Are we going to pollute our air with carbon emissions? Are we going to keep contributing — as scientists around the world have affirmed is occurring — to the gradual warming of Planet Earth?

Yes, human activity is contributing to that potential worldwide disaster.

One more point needs to be made.

We have done much to clean our air and water while at the same time producing more energy from more alternative sources than ever before.

The president is just flat wrong on this one.

At least O’Reilly apologized

Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly made a crass joke about U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters’ appearance, referring to her hair style and comparing it to a “James Brown wig.”

He thought he was being funny. He wasn’t.

The blowback was immediate and harsh, as it should have been.

O’Reilly then apologized.

His apology sounds sincere. Indeed, I’ll give him credit for refraining from one of those lame “If I offended anyone … ” non-apologies one hears from people in public life.

The incident reminds me a bit of the way a former colleague of mine used to refer to Rep. Waters. He was prone at times to ridicule her appearance as well.

To my knowledge, he’s never said he was sorry for being so crude and crass.

Hmmm. I’m tempted to write him and demand an apology. Then again, maybe he’ll see this blog and take the initiative.

As for O’Reilly, how about showing some manners?

Las Vegas Raiders? Oh, puh-leeeeze!

Media coverage of major professional sports these days seems to focus on salary caps, contract disputes, major stars’ holding out … and the relocation of franchises.

It’s the last item that troubles me today.

The San Diego Chargers are moving up the highway to Los Angeles; the St. Louis Rams already have returned to LA, from where they departed for St. Louis all those years ago. In fact, now that I think about it, the Chargers joined the old American Football League as the LA Chargers.

Oh, I know. There have been others: The Arizona Cardinals once played in Chicago, then St. Louis, now in suburban Phoenix; the Kansas City Chiefs once were known as the Dallas Texans; the Tennessee Titans moved from Houston, where they were the Oilers.

Now it’s the Oakland Raiders moving — of all places — to Las Vegas.

The Raiders’ move hurts a little more than the others.

As a teenager, I was a huge Raiders fan. My interest in the team goes back to the era of Daryle “The Mad Bomber” Lamonica and moved forward to the time of Kenny “The Snake” Stabler, Warren Wells, Fred Biletnikoff, Jim Otto (yes, I cheered the center, too), Ben Davidson … and a bunch of other guys.

Now the Raiders are moving to Sin City. Might they return — eventually — to the east side of San Francisco Bay? They did it once before; they moved to LA, played there for a time — won a Super Bowl while playing as the LA Raiders — and then returned to Oakland.

Ugh! I hate the idea of them moving yet again. They are stiffing their loyal fans, much in the manner that the old Cleveland Browns did when they moved to Baltimore, or when the Baltimore Colts moved to Indianapolis (in the middle of the night, I should add).

Pro sports doesn’t reward loyalty. It rises and falls on money.

I’m an angry Oakland Raiders fan today. I just cannot wrap my arms around the idea of the Las Vegas Raiders — or whatever they’re going to call the team.

Happy Trails, Part Four

Now that full-time retirement has arrived, I plan to engage in the one activity I pursue with unbridled vigor.

I love to write. I take great pleasure in sharing thoughts — the wisdom and quality of which I’ll let others decide — with others. I do so through this forum.

After I left full-time print journalism in August 2012, I continued to write on this blog and then started writing for a couple of other media outlets: KFDA-TV NewsChannel 10 and Panhandle PBS.

My wife joked with me constantly about how cool it was to get paid for “having fun.” It truly was a labor of joy; I refer to it as such because calling it a “labor of love” would imply I did it for free. That, obviously, wasn’t the case. But that work did allow to continue pursuing something I have loved doing since I decided in late 1970 — as I prepared to re-enroll in college after my two-year U.S. Army stint — to pursue a career in journalism.

That love hasn’t abated one bit in the 47 years that have come and gone.

My focus now — besides travel and preparing to relocate somewhere much nearer to our precious granddaughter, Emma — will be this blog.

It’s going to focus primarily on politics and public policy. I’ll make no apologies for the criticism I intend to launch toward the current president of the United States. I do hope to be able to praise him when the opportunity presents itself; indeed, I did so recently when he signed that big NASA appropriations bill that lays out a lot of money for Mars exploration.

The blog also will continue to include what I like to call “life experience” commentary. You know about Toby the Puppy and the joy he has brought to my wife and me. There’ll be more of those musings as time marches on.

And, of course, I intend to share the expected enjoyment of retired life and the travel across North America that it will bring to us.

With that …

We’re off like a dirty shirt to see what lies ahead.

Zero confidence that Trump will ‘succeed’

I accept the obvious fact that I live in heart of Trump Country.

The Texas Panhandle voted 80 percent for Donald J. Trump in the 2016 presidential election. My wife and I reside in Randall County, which is as Republican a county as any in this deeply red GOP-leaning state.

Thus, I refrain from talking politics with my neighbors. I know where they likely stand. Perhaps they suspect where I stand, too.

Then today I ran into a neighbor who lives three doors down the street. He’s a nice man and we’ve had many pleasant conversations over the years we’ve lived on the same street.

He asked me whether I was “still writing.” I told him I’m only writing for my blog.

We chatted about the Amarillo Globe-News, which he said is “so anti-Trump. Those editorial cartoons … ” I reminded him that the paper endorsed Trump’s election and every Trump-related editorial I’ve read in the paper has been decidedly pro-Trump.

Then he said, “I’m a Trump guy and I sure want him to succeed.”

I answered that I am not a Trump guy, but that I want him to succeed, too. Where we differ is that my friend has confidence in Trump and his ideas; I have no confidence … in either.

My confidence in the president has been shattered by the debacle that just transpired over his bungling of the Affordable Care Act repeal/replace effort.

But it goes back to the campaign. I never had confidence that this showman had any idea about the job he was seeking. Or about the government he sought to run. Or about the complexity of geopolitical affairs and the U.S. role in it.

I feel compelled to reiterate something I’ve said already, which is that I truly do want Trump to succeed. The consequences of failure have nothing to do with the president; they have everything to do with what will happen to the country if he fails.

Moreover, my desire for the president to succeed has nothing to do, either, with the president. He will crow and boast and bellow at the top of his lungs about his brilliance when — of if — he scores a victory of any kind. That kind of narcissistic response takes the luster out of such a triumph.

When the president succeeds, then the country succeeds.

Back to the point of my conversation with my neighbor …

I have no confidence — none whatsoever — in Donald Trump’s ability to craft a successful presidency. My worst fears about this clown are being borne out almost daily.

My neighbor and I shook hands, wished each other a “good day.” We’re still friends.

The buck still stops in the Oval Office … doesn’t it?

There once was a time when presidents of the United States took the heat when things went badly.

President Harry Truman had that sign on his Oval Office desk that declared “The Buck Stops Here.” He knew, for example, that his firing of Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur from his command post in Korea would be political dynamite at home. But he did so anyway as a statement of support of civilian authority over the military.

President John F. Kennedy fell on his grenade in 1961 when the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba — which sought to overthrow Fidel Castro  — went badly. He told us that “Victory has a thousand fathers while defeat is an orphan.” He took responsibility for the failure of the mission.

Other presidents have assumed responsibility for missteps, mishaps and outright tragedy.

The current president is not wired that way. Donald John Trump’s first and last instinct is to blame others.

The commando raid in Yemen in which a brave Navy SEAL died was the fault of the “generals” who put the mission together, Trump said.

Then came the failed effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Trump is not taking a lick of responsibility for the failure to cobble together a political alliance that would institute something called the American Health Care Act.

Oh, no! He said first it was the fault of Democrats who didn’t sign on at all with the AHCA. Then it became the fault of the conservative Freedom Caucus of the House GOP. After that, the president tossed a barb at Republican moderates who hated the AHCA as well.

Where, oh where is the president’s responsibility?

Leaders step up when matters go awry, just as they bask in the reflected glory when matters go well. They take the bad along with the good.

If only the current president could actually lead. He simply cannot fulfill a basic tenet of the office he occupies.

Presidents Truman and Kennedy are spinning in their graves.

Health care overhaul? Kaput! Tax reform? That’s next!

Let’s see if we can figure this one out together.

Donald J. Trump and congressional Republicans botched a plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, a law that took about a year of tough negotiation and dickering to enact in the first place.

Trump and his pals in Congress tried to do it in the span of 17 days. They failed to muster enough support from, oh, just about any faction within the GOP. TEA Party, Freedom Caucus, party moderates all hated the American Health Care Act, which the Republican congressional leadership pulled out of its backside in the dead of night.

ACA repeal and replace? Gone. Finished. As House Speaker Paul Ryan said, “(The Affordable Care Act) is the law of the land for the foreseeable future.”

What, then, do Trump and the Trumpkins — the gang that cannot legislate its way out of a wet paper bag — want to do now?

Tax reform. Tax reform!

ACA repeal and replacement was complicated enough. Indeed, the president admitted he didn’t realize it could be so complicated. No kidding, Mr. President.

I’ve got your “complicated” right here, though. If you’re going to take on the big stuff, you’ve decided to go after the biggest of them all: reforming the federal tax code.

Presidents of both parties have been saying for decades that the tax system is too complicated, too cumbersome, too this and too that. What have any of them accomplished? Damn little!

The tax system is a monstrous entity that requires careful study, analysis, expertise and patience to repair. Does anyone really think that the president of the United States — based on what we’ve just witnessed — is capable of learning the nuts and bolts of tax policy? Does he really and truly even give a crap about it?

And what about the speaker of the House, who presides over the congressional chamber where all tax policy must originate. How well do you think Paul Ryan did in engineering the House’s role in the cluster fudge that resulted in the ACA replacement meltdown late this past week?

Good luck, gentlemen. You will need all of it you can find if you have any chance of succeeding in this monumental effort.

What gives with Chairman Nunes?

What is it with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes?

He is up to his armpits with information pertaining to Donald Trump’s possible involvement with Russian hackers and their effort to swing the election in his favor. Nunes also is privy to the circumstances surrounding the president’s phony allegation that Barack Obama “ordered” a wiretap of Trump’s offices in New York City.

He then meets with the president — in the White House! — to tell him about “incidental” intelligence that might have been gathered.

Now we hear that he had a meeting prior to going to the White House with someone, supposedly the source of that “incidental” intelligence.

According to NBC News: “‘Chairman Nunes met with his source at the White House grounds in order to have proximity to a secure location where he could view the information provided by the source,’ said his spokesman, Jack Langer.”

What did they discuss?

Hmmm. I presume you’ll recall the time former President Clinton boarded an airplane in Phoenix to talk to then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch, whose department was investigating Hillary Clinton’s e-mail matter. Republicans raised all kinds of hell about the appearance of impropriety. They just didn’t know for certain what the ex-president and the AG discussed and they all but accused President Clinton of trying to get Lynch to back off her department’s probe.

Lynch and Clinton said they talked about all manner of things — except that issue.

So, I believe it’s reasonable to ask: What did Chairman Nunes discuss at the White House — and with whom did he discuss it?

I am now believing that Devin Nunes should not be chairing the House committee that’s assigned to investigate these increasingly frightening matters involving the president of the United States.

This is how Trump defines the word ‘best’

Donald John Trump loves the word “best.”

The president plans to negotiate the best trade deals, create the best job growth programs, surround himself with the best people.

It’s the “best people” boast that caught my attention when I saw this column from my home boy Nicholas Kristof in the Sunday New York Times. (By the way, Kristof grew up in the Willamette Valley, just south of my hometown of Portland, Ore.)

Kristof’s column talks about the president’s “triumph of incompetence” in the wake of the Affordable Health Care  repeal/replace debacle.

The columnist noted: “… Trump’s record of appointments over all suggests a lack of interest in expertise. I’m not sure that this is ‘the worst cabinet in American history,’ as a Washington Post opinion writer put it, but it might be a contender. The last two energy secretaries were renowned scientists, one with a Nobel prize, while Trump appointed (former Texas Gov.) Rick Perry — who once couldn’t remember the department’s name.

“Trump appointed his bankruptcy lawyer, David Friedman, to be ambassador to Israel. He chose Jason Greenblatt, another of his lawyers, to negotiate Mideast peace. He picked Omarosa Manigault, who starred with him on ‘The Apprentice’ and has a record of inflating her rĂ©sumĂ©, to be assistant to the president.

“The director of Oval Office operations is Keith Schiller, a former Trump bodyguard best known for whacking a protester. And the Trump team installed as a minder in the Labor Department a former campaign worker who graduated from high school in 2015, according to ProPublica.”

Here’s the rest of Kristof’s column

This is how Trump defines “the best people”?

Kristof does note that some of the president’s appointments have been top-shelf picks: James Mattis at Defense, Steve Mnuchin at Treasury and Neil Gorsuch for the U.S. Supreme Court, for example.

But he has populated many of his key staff posts with rubes and rascals. Oh, yes, and the “populist” champion who said he would fight for the little guy has surrounded himself with billionaires and multimillionaires associated with Goldman Sachs, the outfit he demonized throughout his presidential campaign.

I don’t mean to sound too familiar with someone I do not know, but … you go, Nick!