Earth Day is Sunday and, with warming spring temperatures, it’s a good time to get outside and contemplate how we can be good stewards of the planet. While we should all care about the environment — everyone wants clean air and clean water — we should also be aware that not every piece of advice on how to help the planet is a seed worth planting. Some tips belong in a landfill.

The country received a generous holiday bonus with the passage of federal tax reform, which the Council of Economic Advisers estimated will boost household incomes by an average of $4,000 per year. Higher wages and renewed job growth are already benefiting millions across Texas, including Hispanic families and small businesses that struggled under the sluggish growth of the Obama years.

Sigh. James Comey is starting to remind me of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. And I don’t mean that as a compliment, even though I served as a foreign policy adviser to Rubio’s presidential campaign.

In 2013, after Syrian dictator Bashar Assad crossed President Obama’s red line and used chemical weapons on innocent civilians, a U.S. official told the Los Angeles Times that Obama’s retaliatory strike would likely be “just muscular enough not to get mocked” but not so devastating that it would elicit a response from Iran and Russia. In the end, Obama backed away from even such a small, feckless strike.

Not that I’d mind a world where facts sometimes slip free, so long as the stories we share have lasting value. Fighting back the fake news is one thing. We also must take the offensive, telling stories that bring us back to life. The story of the mothers and fathers who gave birth to the MLK generation is worth telling every spring.

“Almost everyone has the justified sense that America is coming apart at the seams.” “Public discourse has become hollow and shrill.” This country is now “hopelessly splintered.” Such lamentations are widely and loudly heard on every hand. I, along with many, am disheartened: so much emoting, so little reasoning; so much yelling, so little discussing.

Climate science has clearly determined that to maintain a livable planet the mean global temperature increase above pre-industrial levels must be limited to 2 degrees Celsius through rapid reduction of worldwide greenhouse-gas emissions. In the United States, the largest sources of emissions are electricity generation and transportation. In a previous Trib column I reviewed hybrid and battery electric cars. In this column I will discuss rooftop solar, using photovoltaic or PV cells, in Central Texas, incorporating my personal experience of 27 months.

President Donald Trump may have some firing to do. But he shouldn’t fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions, special counsel Robert Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. No, the president should fire or at least sharply curtail the role of Ty Cobb and all of the lawyers in and out of the White House who are working on Trump’s behalf regarding the Mueller investigation. It’s not that they have done a bad job; it’s just time for the president to cease any and all forms of voluntary cooperation with the investigation.

It’s possible the words “He cared deeply and passionately about the federal budget” have never before been strung together in the English language. But if they had been written somewhere, it would have been about House Speaker Paul Ryan. The Wisconsin Republican cared about the federal budget the way teenage girls care about movie stars, the way Angelina Jolie cares about refugees, the way a dog cares about a bone.

President Eisenhower once remarked: “The urgent things in life are seldom important and the important things in life are seldom urgent.” We’re all busy, but tonight many of us will set aside urgent tasks to attend a Holocaust Remembrance Service at Temple Rodef Sholom, 1717 N. New Road, beginning at 7. Deuteronomy 4:9 is the theme this year: “Take heed lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen and teach them to your children and your children’s children.”

Nostra culpa. We’ve given sparse support to the Trump administration since Donald captured the White House. His policies: incoherent. His character: fundamentally flawed. His leadership: divisive and corrosive. His appointees: corrupt and inept. Each tweet brings us a chirp closer to complete and utter catastrophe. It’s like a real-life episode of “24,” a race against the clock between nuclear war, economic meltdown and criminal indictments.

Should schools be focused on providing children with a good education in a safe environment or should they be laboratories of partisan political agitation? The answer, of course, should be obvious. The National School Boards Association states that “education is not a line item in your school board’s budget, it’s the only item.” The principles of “governance and leadership,” such as those articulated by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, make no allowance for focusing on anything other than educating children. Most schools adopt policies protecting students from any attempts by faculty or staff to indoctrinate them toward any partisan or ideological positions.

To those paying attention, the recent strikes for higher teachers’ pay in West Virginia and Oklahoma are a harbinger of things to come. You can attribute the strikes to the stinginess of the states’ political leaders. After all, average annual teachers’ salaries in these states ranked respectively 49th lowest (Oklahoma at $45,276) and 48th lowest (West Virginia, $45,622) in 2016, reports the National Education Association. But that’s the superficial explanation. The deeper cause is that teachers — and schools — are competing with the elderly for scarce funds.

The latest mission of the anti-poverty nonprofit Prosper Waco, as reported in the Tribune Herald, indicates some individuals there are truly thinking outside the box. The state’s solution for a failing school is to close it and move the problem to other schools. At least those behind Prosper Waco are examining root causes and considering more pragmatic solutions. And that shows real promise.

Many of the seemingly ordinary things we use daily are in fact extraordinary inventions and breakthroughs that took years of investment, work and commitment to bring to life. Among these: the technologies that allow you to watch a movie on a streaming platform or read the new novel from your favorite author on your tablet — or the life-saving medicine that wasn’t around 10 years ago or even 10 months ago.

There’s a moment in his Broadway show when Bruce Springsteen steps away from the microphone in the middle of a song. He continues to play his guitar, continues to sing and walks to the edge of the stage. What’s he doing? It took a moment for me to realize that he was trying to create a sense of living-room community in a theater on 48th Street. He wanted his audience to hear him singing directly. With no filter. Nothing but air between his mouth and our ears.

Fifty years ago today, Martin Luther King Jr. was killed when he stepped from his second-floor room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis to speak to Southern Christian Leadership Conference colleagues in the parking lot below. An assassin’s bullet ended the life of the 39-year-old activist who helped advance the cause of African-American rights more in 14 years than it had progressed in the previous 350 years.

There’s no doubt John Bolton deserves his fair share of criticism. But Democrats and their allies in the media appear to be going off the rails. Some of their criticism of the national security adviser-designate is forced at best. Bolton is an accomplished diplomat. Despite his outwardly hawkish rhetoric, Bolton has experience that will serve this administration well. Specifically, when it comes to North Korea, perhaps Bolton is a man who has met his moment.

After the Vietnam War, the U.S. military deliberately set out to forget everything it had learned about the brutal and unpleasant business of fighting guerrillas. The generals were operating under the assumption that if they didn’t prepare for that kind of war, they wouldn’t be asked to fight it. The emphasis in the 1980s and 1990s, even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, was on fighting conventional, uniformed adversaries. That worked out well in the 1991 Gulf War but left U.S. armed forces tragically ill prepared for the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

For all the solemnity that should attend the violent deaths of 14 children in the Parkland, Florida, school shootings and any effort to thoughtfully address gun violence, silly season has clearly descended upon the national debate. Example: Last weekend former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum’s inane comment on CNN that students advocating for gun control should instead learn CPR. As one Parkland student noted, CPR won’t help much when you’ve been shot in the head.

Fifty years ago Saturday, President Lyndon Baines Johnson shocked the world by withdrawing from the 1968 presidential campaign. Johnson was an unparalleled political junkie and his persuasive manner and commitment to activist government had defined Washington for decades, ever since the gangly, ambitious Texan arrived in the nation’s capital as a congressional aide in 1931. Then, amid the stalemated war in Southeast Asia, Johnson claimed he must devote all of his time to Vietnam without sparing a moment to win re-election.

The students who survived the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, are causing all kinds of trouble, not only for politicians but now for at least one media figure as well. They’ve certainly changed the discussion around guns in a remarkably short amount of time. Is it possible they might force our entire political debate to become a little more ... adult?

Holy Week leads us to Easter, surely the most significant event in the Christian year. Many of our fellow citizens go to churches this week, some for Lenten devotions, some to rise early for a sunrise service, some to gain moral instruction for their children and even a few to show off new Easter clothes.

No time of year more than spring reveals how picky we McLennan Countians can be on what past local events rate historical and societal reflection. Many folks — especially those past a certain age — are happy to revel in a milestone anniversary of the May 11, 1953, tornado striking Waco. While the tornado left 114 dead and much of our city in ruins, the incident nearly 65 years ago is punctuated by rousing anecdotes of sacrifice, heroism and unity. Themes of rescue, renewal and rebuilding run rampant. And it’s not like anyone “caused” the killer tornado.

Flashback

What were we talking about one year ago? Take a look back.