Makeout Man going to run after all

Hey, wait a minute. Didn’t Vance McAllister say he would forgo another run for Congress after getting caught making out with his married staffer?

Now he says what? He’s going to run after all?

This is awesome news! I cannot wait to learn whether his constituents want to have this guy representing them in Congress.

http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/210949-reversing-decision-mcallister-to-run-for-reelection

McAllister, a north Louisiana Republican, got caught in a most, um, embarrassing moment planting a lengthy wet kiss on his female staffer. McAllister had won the seat just a little more than a year ago, proclaiming himself to be madly in love with his wife and devoted to his children. He’s a family man and that was reason enough to vote for him, his campaign ads suggested. His ads featured his family prominently.

Then he got caught committing this indiscreet act with a married staffer who — last I heard — had her marriage fall apart.

McAllister said this about his reversal: “I wanted to make sure everything was good with our family. Our family is stronger than ever, so I think the people should decide whether or not I continue to represent them.”

More power to him. I’m waiting to see, however, if he portrays himself in quite the same family-man context that he did during his first campaign for the office.

I’ll bet he’s going to reframe his public profile.

States’ rights or federal authority over marriage?

The debate over same-sex marriage keeps roiling.

I continue to straddle the fence on whether to endorse the notion of full “marriage” for same-sex couples, even though my view of it is “evolving” toward favoring it. I do understand the reason that federal courts are tossing out states’ prohibitions against same-sex couples tying the knot, as in getting married.

The argument against the courts getting involved usually centers on states’ rights. Foes of same-sex marriage — or “marriage equality,” as proponents call it — keep harping on a misconstrued notion that since sexual orientation isn’t mentioned specifically in the U.S. Constitution that judges have no jurisdiction or legal standing to comment on these issues.

The latest such contention came from an editorial published Sunday in my local newspaper, the Amarillo Globe-News. “The 14th Amendment (read it) does not specifically mention marriage — gay or straight,” the editorial notes. OK, I then read the amendment, for the umpteenth time. Here’s part of what it says: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States …” It goes on at the end of that section to say states cannot “deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

No, the amendment doesn’t mention gay marriage. I’d bet some serious dough, however, that the founders deliberately intended to include all citizens regardless of any orientation — sexual or religious, to name just two — under the equal protection clause. Gay couples are seeking to be recognized as being equally entitled to all the rights guaranteed straight couples. That’s a fairly uncomplicated proposal. I’m quite certain the U.S. Constitution covers it nicely in that pesky 14th Amendment.

Texas’s state constitutional amendment “abridges” those rights, a federal court judge has ruled. The ruling is under appeal. Gay marriage isn’t legal in Texas, at least not yet.

This curious argument by foes of “marriage equality” that states’ rights trump the U.S. Constitution on issues not delineated by the founders doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.

I’m guessing the surest way for those who oppose same-sex marriage to have the practice banned entirely in this country is to campaign for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that supersedes the 14th Amendment.

Good luck with that. A majority of Americans now favors same-sex marriage.

Me? I’m still grappling with it.

More than a filibuster, Sen. Davis?

One filibuster does not a governor make.

Pay attention, Wendy Davis. You’re trying to ride a single political event into the most visible — if not the most powerful — office in Texas.

It likely won’t work.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/29/us/for-davis-filibuster-goes-only-so-far-in-race-to-be-governor-of-texas.html?_r=1

Davis, the state senator from Fort Worth, is running for governor as a the Democratic Party nominee. The latest polling on the race shows her Republican opponent, Attorney General Greg Abbott, with a 12-point lead. That’s a good bit of ground to make up for Davis, who burst onto the national scene by filibustering an anti-abortion bill nearly to death in 2013. It came back to life in a special legislative session and became law shortly thereafter.

Davis’s filibuster, which occurred a year ago this week, made her a celebrity with the reproductive-rights activists.

She should be able to mount a stout challenge to Abbott. However, as the summer progresses and the autumn campaign season approaches, it’s beginning to look as though Davis hasn’t yet found her voice.

My sincerest hope is that Texas can become a place where Republicans and Democrats can battle each other on a level playing field. It hasn’t been that way in Texas for more than two decades. Ann Richards was the most recent Democrat to become governor, and that was in 1990. John Sharp was re-elected comptroller in 1994 and he was the most recent Democrat to be elected to any statewide office.

It’s been Republican-only ever since.

The preferred outcome is for both parties to be strong so they can keep the other party bosses honest, keep them alert and keep the crazies from infiltrating them. The Texas Republican Party has been hijacked by its very own tea party wing. Formerly mainstream Republicans — such as Abbott — now are tacking far to the right, apparently in keeping with the prevailing mood of Texas voters.

Democrats? They’ve been languishing in the political wilderness.

Many Democrats saw a superstar in the making when Davis burst onto the scene. Her campaign has been floundered. Her campaign manager quit, so she’s starting from scratch.

Yes, Davis has banked a lot of campaign money. Her task will be to spend it wisely and effectively.

Relying on the feelings of those who thought her filibuster against the abortion restrictions was an act of heroism isn’t going to get the job done.

“Anybody that thinks that this campaign is over, or somehow she’s irrelevant, isn’t thinking,” said Garry Mauro, a former Texas Democratic land commissioner. Then he added, “Nobody with $20 million is irrelevant.”

Money talks. What’s it going to say about Wendy Davis?

Time to pony up on border emergency

Republicans in Congress have been griping about Barack Obama’s so-called imperial presidency.

They want the president to consult more with them before acting.

OK, then. The president — and Congress — have a serious border emergency on their hands right here in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. It involves the mass migration of thousands of children and adults from Central America.

To help fight the problem believed to part of an international human trafficking ring, the president has asked Congress for more than $2 billion in emergency money to beef up detention facilities along the border and to bolster border security.

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2014/06/29/obama-to-request-billions-to-deal-with-border-crisis/?hpt=hp_t1

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, has asked the president to do more. So has Texas Gov. Rick Perry, another Republican.

The question of the day: Will GOP lawmakers consent to the request or will they continue to dig in their heels, contending that the United States can’t afford the money and, thus, keep sniping away at the administration for its “failure” to protect the border against illegal immigration?

CNN.com reports it this way: “A White House official told CNN the money will go to securing appropriate space for the detention of children but also stemming the tide of immigrants. The government hopes to increase its ability to investigate and dismantle smuggling organizations as well as quickly return children and adults to their home countries if they do not qualify for asylum.”

For his part, Obama is sending stern messages to governments south of Mexico. “Do not send your children to the borders. If they do make it, they’ll get sent back. More importantly, they may not make it,” Obama said to ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos.

Can he do more? Sure. First, though, he needs the resources, meaning the money, to pay for the stepped-up efforts to stop the illegal immigrant flow. The funds can come from Congress.

Will the legislative branch put it up?

This death is chilling

Mark Mayfield’s death in Mississippi has caused more than your run-of-the-mill grief among his family and closest friends.

It makes others of us far from the Magnolia State sad in ways we likely cannot explain.

http://news.yahoo.com/miss-tea-party-leader-mark-mayfields-death-sign-195718564.html

Mayfield was a high-powered lawyer and political operative in Mississippi who was implicated in one of the more bizarre political scandals of recent times. He was one of several men accused of conspiring to break into a nursing home to take pictures of the stricken, bed-ridden wife of U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran in the middle of Cochran’s primary campaign against state Sen. Chris McDaniel.

Why take pictures of Mrs. Cochran? She suffers from dementia and the McDaniel allies allegedly were making a campaign video to smear Sen. Cochran because he’s been seen in the company of another woman while traveling here and there.

Mayfield, a local tea party big-wig, was found dead in his home of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

This is a tragic outcome to a bizarre political story.

Cochran won the Mississippi Republican Party runoff this past Tuesday against McDaniel, despite all the polls that showed McDaniel to be leading by a significant margin. The senator now likely is going to be re-elected to his seventh term.

I don’t know much about Mayfield, other than his close tea party ties and his many political connections in Mississippi. Police have ruled his death a suicide, so it’s reasonable to presume he was feeling shame over whatever role he played in trying to defeat Sen. Cochran.

How does one honor such a man? He doesn’t deserve high praise because he took his life over guilt.

This whole sordid episode seems to portend just how personal some campaigns are liable to get, not to mention the response to some of the tactics that occur.

Yahoo.com report: “An aide to McDaniel accused mainstream Republicans of politicizing the nursing home scandal to build sympathy for Cochran, at Mayfield’s expense.

“’The politicization of the incident was beyond the pale,’ McDaniel aide Keith Plunkett tells Politico.”

I’d argue, though, that what was really beyond the pale was the break-in at the nursing home.

WMD crisis averted

The world can focus only on one crisis at a time, or so it seems.

The Syria crisis gave way to the Ukraine crisis, which then gave way to the Nigeria girl-kidnap crisis, which then made way for the Iraq crisis.

Back to Syria. Remember the “red line” President Obama drew and then said the United States would strike militarily at Syria if it used chemical weapons against its people? The Syrians did. The president blustered, threatened to hit them hard, then asked Congress for permission.

Then came the Russians, who then brokered a deal that persuaded the Syrians to get rid of the gas they used on their citizens.

You know what? It now appears the last of the weapons are gone. Destroyed. We never fired a shot at them.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/29/opinion/sunday/the-fate-of-syrias-chemical-weapons.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=c-column-top-span-region&region=c-column-top-span-region&WT.nav=c-column-top-span-region&_r=0

It’s not entirely clear that all the weapons are gone, as the New York Times editorial notes with caution. The “known weapons” have been removed and destroyed. It remains to be seen whether the entire cache of WMD is gone.

Still, it is worth noting that Obama’s critics had it wrong when they blasted him for failing to act on the “red line” threat, even though Republicans kept insisting the president seek congressional approval before he did anything. The president did that — but it wasn’t good enough to suit the critics.

Barack Obama took office in January 2009 vowing to bring diplomacy back as a tool to help stem international crises. He’s sought to do that, all the while deploying military might when needed. Drone strikes have been effective at killing terrorists. Let us not forget what happened in early May 2011 when the SEALs killed Osama bin Laden in that daring raid to wipe out Terrorist No. 1.

The Syrian crisis is far from over. People are still dying in a civil war. Bashar al-Assad’s forces have taken back the momentum in the struggle.

One key element of that crisis — those dreaded WMD — has been removed. As the New York Times editorial notes: “President Obama’s critics excoriated the deal, but they have been proved wrong. The chemical weapons are now out of the hands of a brutal dictator — and all without firing a shot.”

Cloud forms over downtown

It’s always imperative to give defendants — be they criminal or civil — the presumption of innocence.

I’ll do so off the top in discussing briefly a lawsuit that’s been filed against a firm joined at the hip with downtown Amarillo’s effort to revive itself.

Still, the nature of the suit and its complexity is troubling in the extreme.

A lawsuit has been filed in Harris County that alleges that a financial services group funneled millions of dollars into a Ponzi scheme known as the Business Radio Network. Included in that group is a company named Wallace Bajjali — which happens to be the lead developer in a $113 million project to pump new life into Amarillo’s downtown business district.

Wallace Bajjali denies any wrongdoing. You’d expect that. The company based out of Sugarland, near Houston, has done plenty of due diligence in informing local government officials in Amarillo about the lawsuit, keeping everyone involved here abreast of matters.

I haven’t a clue as to whether the company has done anything wrong. All I know is what I’ve read in the past few hours about it.

However, this lawsuit just might have a negative impact on the city’s move forward in its effort to start construction on key projects downtown.

The entire project depends on private investment money, which Wallace Bajjali and city leader said made the project so appealing. No public money will be spent to build an athletic venue, a parking garage and a convention hotel.

Might there be some reluctance, given this lawsuit, among investors to move forward if they fear that Wallace Bajjali could actually lose this case?

The suit alleges that Wallace Bajjali got involved in BizRadio, which came under a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation. The investors have alleged all kinds of misdeeds, such as common law fraud and violations of the Texas Securities Act.

It’s a serious mess that might take some time — as in a lot of time — to get cleared up. Suppose it goes to trial and the court proceedings drag on and on.

Downtown got a break the other day when Potter County commissioners approved a tax abatement that clears the way for Coca-Cola to vacate its downtown distribution center to make room for the athletic venue.

Now this? I don’t feel good about what might lie ahead.

Full-time work wears me out

This is another in an occasional series of blog posts commenting on impending retirement.

Epiphanies arrive at the strangest times.

Such as when one is in the middle of a part-time job and the realization hits: I no longer have the energy to work full time.

That one hit me at some point this afternoon. Thus, I figure I’ve taken another important step toward retirement.

I no longer want a full-time job. I busted my backside for 40-plus years, most of that time toiling in daily print journalism.

These days, my work consists of essentially two-part time gigs — or maybe one part-time job and another “job” that involves my favorite hobby, which is writing on politics, public policy and other current events. The actual job is at an auto dealership in Amarillo. The fun job is the blog I write for Panhandle PBS, the public TV station based at Amarillo College. (Look up “A Public View” at panhandlepbs.org and you’ll see how much fun I’m having.)

I already have chronicled — a little bit, at least — the circumstances of my departure from daily journalism. The event occurred almost two years ago. I was more than a little unhappy over the circumstance that brought it about.

The bad news is that I went into mourning for a time after I cleared out my office and drove home that day. The good news is that I got over my grief fairly quickly and have been looking forward to the future ever since.

I suppose now I ought to thank my former employer for telling me at the end of August 2012 that someone else would be doing the job I’d been doing at the Amarillo Globe-News for more than 17 years. Maybe I will do so one day. I might thank him for sparing me the chaos I understand has gripped the place as it transitions from what it was to whatever it’s going to become.

I might do that. Just not yet.

Retirement is looking better all the time, although I likely won’t ever give up the writing part of what’s left of my working life. Why would I want to stop receiving the kind of enjoyment I get from prattling on about this and that?

Try the Benghazi suspect quickly

Welcome to America, land of the infidels, the Great Satan, Ahmed Abu Khattala.

You’ll find this to be a none-too-hospitable place, given the reason you are here.

Khattala has arrived in Washington, D.C., to be arraigned for his role in the infamous terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, the one that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others on Sept. 11, 2012.

http://news.msn.com/us/libyan-militant-in-federal-law-enforcement-custody

Khattala was captured less than two years after the event that’s become a favored political football for congressional critics of the Obama administration and those who want to deny then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a chance at becoming the nation’s first female president in a little more than two years.

The Benghazi suspect — captured by U.S. Army Delta Force commandos in Libya — is going to find out that the wheels of justice tend to turn slowly in this country.

How about changing that up a bit?

I would hope the government can put together its case quickly and put this individual on trial. Prosecutors haven’t yet decided to seek the death penalty as punishment for Khattala if he’s convicted. I’d bet some real American money they’ll go all the way and seek to execute this guy.

The very term “Benghazi” has become almost a sort of political code for congressional Republicans. It’s come to mean a lot of things to those on the right who are adamant in their hunt for dirt on those from the other side of the aisle.

I believe we have learned all we’re ever going to learn about what happened that night in Benghazi, Libya. Yet, Congress has established a select House committee to look further. We’ll see what, if anything, new that comes out of the hearing.

As for Khattala, he need not fester one moment longer than necessary in an American jail cell. By that I mean I hope he goes to trial; if he’s convicted that his lawyers will appeal soon thereafter; then the courts can determine the ultimate outcome of the verdict.

After that, carry out the sentence.

Just send this guy to wherever the Justice Department decides to send him — in this world or beyond.

Take politics out of … the World Cup

It’s astounding how pervasive politics is these days.

It enters every possible discussion on every possible topic. Take soccer, or as they call it in Latin America and Spain, “futbol.”

Now it seems, according to one blogger at least, that conservatives have a problem with soccer more so than liberals or moderates. They call it boring, I guess because there’s usually so little scoring associated with it.

http://thefederalist.com/2014/06/27/romneycare-supporter-ann-coulter-is-100-wrong-about-soccer/

Radio talk-show gasbag Ann Coulter said something the other day about Americans’ infatuation with the World Cup is a sign of “moral decay.” Huh?

By my way of thinking, a surer sign of moral decay is taking seriously the idiotic pronouncements of Ann Coulter.

But I digress.

I’m not a soccer fan — as in fanatic, from which the word “fan” is derived. I’ve watched some of the matches from Brazil. I enjoyed watching the team from Greece — the home of my ancestors — beat Ivory Coast in a thriller and move to the round of 16. I’ve gotten a kick out of the fans’ reaction when Brazil scores a go–o-o-o-a-a-a-a-a-l-l-l-l-l!

And of course I’m enjoying how our American team finds ways to win while losing and advancing into that round of 16 “knockout” phase of the World Cup.

Is all of this a sign of moral decay? Does it matter what conservative talking heads think about soccer, or the World Cup? Not in the least.

When it ends, I’ll return to watching American-style college football and baseball.

That is, of course, unless the “U.S.A!” wins the World Cup.