All posts by kanelis2012

Well now … that was some KAG rally in Big D

To my friends and assorted loved ones who expressed concern that I was plunging into the belly of the beast by attending a Donald Trump re-election rally, I have good news.

I survived. Intact. No one laid a hand on me. No one got angry. I stayed for as long as I wanted to stay and left on my terms.

There. Now that we’ve cleared that up, I want to offer a word or two about what I saw at the American Airlines Center in downtown Dallas this afternoon and evening.

I saw a huge crowd Trump fanatics — the vast majority of whom (close to 90 percent, I am guessing) — wearing Donald Trump gear. MAGA hats. Shirts with assorted sayings and slogans; some of them were profane and expressed a good bit of anger.

I met a very nice couple from Rockwall, who drove all the way into Dallas to see their man, the president. I confided in them while we waited outside that “I am not a Trump supporter. I am here as an observer.” OK, I didn’t tell them the whole truth, that I was there as a fervent anti-Trump voter and that I intend to keep skewering Trump whenever possible. They promised to read my blog on the subject and I hope they don’t hate me too much.

There were t-shirts with the message: Trump Supporter, I Won’t Apologize For It.” When have you seen a political supporter offer up that qualifier? Anyone? Oh, and there was this gem: “Fu** Your Feelings.” I didn’t have the courage to ask if those wearing that article of clothing were among Trump’s evangelical base of supporters.

The crowd outside was remarkable in its ethnic/racial makeup. It was not as lily white as I expected. I saw several African-American men wearing “Blacks for Trump” attire.

Then there was the shirt that said “Jesus Is My Savior, Trump Is My President.” Actually, that one made me want to hurl, given that the shirt contained the name of Jesus Christ and arguably the most anti-Christian man ever elected to the presidency. Enough of that.

I stood in a line that stretched more than a mile and a half. We snaked our way around several barriers outside the AAC, then walked up the steps and into the building. The U.S. Secret Service did a remarkably thorough but quick inspection of everyone entering the arena.

I found a seat way up high.

Then out came the president of the United States, applauding along with the cheering crowd. I never can tell why he claps so much when he enters a room. Is he cheering those who are clapping for him … or is he just so damn proud of himself that he cannot resist giving himself an ovation?

Whatever.

He launched into the same tired tirade I’ve been hearing since he took office. Democrats are the enemy. So are the media. Everyone opposed to Trump and the Republican Party want “open borders,” they want to “take away your rights,” they favor “socialism” over capitalism, they hate the United States, and on and on.

Admission time: I didn’t stay for Trump’s entire tirade. I heard all I could stand and left.

My final takeaway from this Trump “Keep America Great” rally is this: The enthusiasm of the 16,000 or so in the arena and in line waiting to get into the AAC is as fervent as anything I have ever seen at events such as this. I will give Trump credit for that much; his base of support is seemingly unshakable.

Which makes me wonder yet again: Are these Trump loyalists so blinded by their fealty to this man that they can overlook the crimes he has committed? Or are they — and there’s no pleasant way to say this — just plain ignorant?

Hit the road, Mr. Speaker

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen should be toast.

The Angleton Republican, who took possession of the speaker’s gavel at the start of the 2019 Texas Legislature, has managed to accomplish a rare feat: He has destroyed the trust he built among his fellow Republicans by climbing into the proverbial sack with a right-wing zealot with whom he reportedly had serious differences of opinion. In the process, he has given up the names of at least 10 GOP legislators whom the zealot could target in the next election.

Hit the road, Mr. Speaker, before your colleagues boot you out at the start of the next Legislature.

The issue is a meeting among Bonnen, former Texas House GOP chair Dustin Burrows of Lubbock and aforementioned right-wing fanatic Michael Quinn Sullivan, who leads Empower Texans, a political action committee. Sullivan had said he recorded the meeting and this week he produced the goods.

It ain’t looking good for Speaker Bonnen.

One of the lawmakers he targeted, Phil Stephenson of Wharton, said it is “time to cut the head off the snake.” Stephenson also said he believes 35 to 40 fellow Republicans are going to demand that Bonnen quit the speakership.

Bonnen and Sullivan talked about the speaker granting Empower Texans House floor access, an unusual arrangement under normal circumstances. Bonnen also reportedly delivered the names of 10 GOP legislators who, according to the recording, were a bit troublesome for the speaker. I guess they were, um, too moderate to suit his taste and certainly the taste of Sullivan, who demands that all legislators adhere to Empower Texans’ rigid right-wing ideology.

This ain’t good governance. Not even close.

You see, the speaker of the House isn’t just the leader of the party to which he or she belongs. The speaker should have cordial — if not warm — political relationships across the broad spectrum represented in the legislative chamber.

Bonnen has squandered all of that through his initial dissembling and then through the revelation that Sullivan was essentially correct, that the speaker betrayed his legislative colleagues.

It turns out that speaker isn’t the top-drawer statesman he portrayed himself as being. He’s a right-wing shill.

Adios, sayonara … b’bye, Mr. Speaker.

MAGA becomes KAG?

It’s time to say farewell to the acronym Donald Trump made famous.

He said he would “Make America Great Again.” It transformed into MAGA. It offended me greatly, given that I long have known that America has always been “great” and that it didn’t need a carnival barker/con man/reality TV host/real estate mogul to make the country great.

So, Trump is running for re-election in 2020 on another mantra. It is to “Keep America Great.” I doubt that slogan will be morphed into an acronym the way MAGA emerged from the 2016 campaign slogan.

Frankly, I find the Keep America Great much less offensive than the first one. Except that Trump is going to take credit he doesn’t deserve for making America great in the first place.

You see, the U.S. military has remained the strongest in world history. Trump inherited an economy that had recovered significantly from the Great Recession that crippled it in 2008. Our international alliances were strong when Trump took office; indeed, his “America first” policy has weakened those alliances in the 1,000 days of his presidency.

None of that will be on display when Donald Trump takes the podium Thursday night in Dallas for his next KAG Rally. He’ll stand among the faithful inside the American Airlines Center and spout lie after lie. He’ll hurl insults and innuendo at Democrats and the media. Yes, I’ll be there listening to this blather. I’ll just take it quietly. Then I’ll leave.

The president didn’t “Make America Great Again.” Moreover, the best way to “Keep America Great” is to kick this guy’s sorry backside out of the White House.

Good riddance, MAGA. As for KAG, well … I can’t go there, either.

They’re ‘welcoming’ me to the Trump ‘KAGA’ rally … cool!

I received an email message today that shouldn’t surprise me, but then again, it does fill me with an added desire to attend an event I never thought I would want to attend.

Donald J. Trump is coming to the Metroplex on Thursday. He will stage one of those Keep America Great rallies at the American Airlines Center in downtown Dallas. I will be among those in the crowd.

The president’s re-election campaign today sent me a welcome message, expressing appreciation for my willingness to attend this event.

OK, so my sincere and ardent opposition to Trump’s re-election hasn’t exactly registered with the rank-and-file staffers at the president’s campaign. I get it. I’m just a chump blogger who lives out here in the heart of Trump Country.

The Trump-Pence campaign said it is “excited for you to join us at our Keep America Great Rally with President Trump.” I applied for a ticket online, printed it out and will present it when I walk into the arena.

The Secret Service will be checking everyone who walks into the AAC. Hey, I totally get that. The campaign advised me of the care the Secret Service is taking to ensure everyone’s safety. I’ll be glad to submit to whatever inspection they intend to conduct.

The campaign is advising everyone to get there early. No sweat. I will be there in plenty of time.

I am not going to delude myself into believing that anyone at Trump’s campaign HQ gives a damn what I have to say about the president. I am not employed by a major media outlet. I just write this blog for myself; sure, it gets distributed along some social media platforms.

My intent here is to attend the rally at the AAC. I won’t make a spectacle of myself. I’ll be discreet.

I do intend to report on what I see and hear at the rally. Donald Trump supporters likely won’t like what I expect to say about occurs inside the American Airlines Center.

But, what the heck. I do appreciate the email.

Happy Trails, Part 172: The road takes another surprise turn

The reporter’s notebook you see here is meant to illustrate the surprise turn my retirement journey has taken.

I happened to be in the right place at the right time this week. I now shall explain.

We took out a subscription this past week to the Princeton Herald, a weekly newspaper that covers the community where my wife, myself and Toby the Puppy live. I asked the circulation clerk for the editor’s name. She gave it to me and transferred me to her desk; the voice mail machine picked up the call and I left a message.

I inquired as to whether the newspaper needed any freelance help from a retired journalist who has moved into this community, and made a few contacts here and there.

It turns out the Princeton Herald has such a need.

So, I am now working very part time for a newspaper … again! The editor, who runs the Herald and several other publications in this part of the Metroplex with her husband, is giving me considerable latitude. I will be able to sniff out my own stories whenever I feel like it. I might get be handed an assignment to cover a city council or another governmental entity. No sweat, right?

Of course, all of this hinges on availability, given that as retired folks, my wife and I might be unavailable, as we would be on the road to hither and yon pulling our RV across the continent.

But … that’s OK with my new boss.

Meanwhile, this retirement journey goes on. Life is so very good.

Invasion, incursion: Where’s the difference?

I am going to start referring to Turkey’s assault on neighboring Syria in more realistic terms.

It is an “invasion,” not a mere “incursion.”

Donald Trump pulled U.S. forces out of Syria, effectively abandoning our Kurdish allies who have joined us in the fight against the Islamic State.

Turkey responded by launching an assault in Syria, aiming specifically at the Kurds, whom the Turks hate with a passion. America media have been referring to the assault as an “incursion.” I looked the word up in the dictionary. It calls “incursion” a raid, like an “invasion.” I then looked up “invasion” in my tattered American Heritage Dictionary. It refers to an “invasion” as an “entry by force” of one nation into another.

So, have the Turks used “force” to enter Syrian territory? Yep. They have done precisely that very thing.

By my way of thinking, it’s no “incursion.” It’s a full blown “invasion.”

A notable misuse of the definition of such a military action occurred in 1970, when U.S. forces conducted an “incursion” into Cambodia during the Vietnam War. It was supposed to be hush-hush. It wasn’t anything of the sort. Our fighting men invaded Cambodia to root out Viet Cong fighters.

The invasion didn’t turn out so well. Students protested that action in the United States and at Kent State University in Ohio, four students died when National Guard troops opened fire on them while they were demonstrating against the war.

So, you are welcome to call it an incursion if you wish. Me? I’ll refer to the Turks’ action what I believe it is: an invasion, which fits that description far more than what Donald Trump has called the flow of refugees from Latin America into the United States.

An invasion by any other name doesn’t make it any more justifiable. Thus, what the Turks are doing to our allies in the fight against ISIS is as shameful as any invasion by one nation against another.

Discovering a curious city council policy

I have just attended my first City Council meeting in Princeton, Texas, where I noticed a curious quirk in the council’s makeup and voting policy.

The Princeton City Council comprises five council members and the mayor. That means there are six individuals on the governing board.

However, as the council was marching through its agenda, Mayor John-Mark Caldwell would call for a vote, asking council members to raise their hands if they approved a measure. Five hands went up; the mayor didn’t vote.

Hmm. I believe that is the first such governing body I’ve seen up close that (a) comprises an even number of officials and (b) doesn’t require the presiding officer, the mayor, to cast a vote.

Governing bodies usually are made up of odd-numbered officials, whether it’s five, seven or nine. The Amarillo City Council comprises five members, including the mayor. The Collin County Commissioners Court comprises an odd number of county commissioners. Why is the odd number the norm? Simple: it prevents tie votes when all members are present.

I used to cover a county commission in Oregon that was made up of just three commissioners. The Clackamas County Board of Commissioners functioned pretty well — most of the time — with just the bare minimum of commissioners needed to enact county policy.

In Princeton, where the mayor doesn’t vote on matters, policy decisions are made by an odd number of council members. The mayor is the ringmaster, who isn’t required to enter his vote into the public record.

I’m going to talk to city officials in the morning about an issue the council considered this evening. I need to find out more about this curious policy.

I’ll let you know what I learn.

Why not have a vote on impeachment?

I believe House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is making a mistake by holding off on a preliminary vote among House members over proceeding on an impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump’s conduct as president of the United States.

Pelosi said today she won’t hold that vote. She said there is no requirement to do such a thing. Although she is correct, that doesn’t make it any less important. The speaker did say that she is open to possibly reassessing that decision if circumstances warrant it.

Why is such a vote needed? It would put members of the House — on both sides of this debate — on the record: do they support the inquiry or not?

I see nothing wrong with establishing for the record who wants to proceed and who doesn’t.

I happen to support the impeachment of Donald Trump. He has committed impeachable offenses by seeking foreign government help in his re-election effort. He has endorsed the idea of foreign interference in our elections. That is a fundamental betrayal of the oath of office he took the moment he became president and he deserves only to be booted out of office.

I want to know who among our members of Congress — all of whom work for us — endorses the notion of impeaching Donald Trump or at the very least of proceeding toward that end through a comprehensive inquiry into all the offenses the president has committed.

Expect the Sod Poodles’ fan base to hold up during off season

Teams that take cities by storm, which is what happened with the Amarillo Sod Poodles’ minor-league baseball franchise, can be expected to develop a loyal fan base during the season of play.

Now the season is over. The Sod Poodles won the Texas League pennant with a thrilling come-from-behind victory over the league’s defending champs. The team dispersed; the players, manager, coaches and team staffers all went home.

The fans who flocked to Hodgetown by the thousands for every home game have remained in Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle. My hunch is that they’re still feeling all warm and fuzzy over the championship their team won in their first season in existence.

I get the sense, seeing some of the fans’ social media posts, that they’re going to remain ardent supporters of the team as they await the start of the 2020 Texas League season.

They’re talking about meeting on occasion at a local eatery in southwest Amarillo. The Home Plate Diner — where I had a meal or three during my years in Amarillo — serves meals in an establishment with a baseball theme. There happens to be a fantastic portrait of Mickey Mantle on the wall … but I digress. The restaurant management plans to cater to the Sod Poodles fans who gather to talk about this or that about the season just passed and the future seasons that await them.

I am thrilled at the response the community delivered to the Sod Poodles. I am impressed with the venue built on Buchanan Street in downtown Amarillo. I am delighted at the new life being breathed into the city’s downtown district largely as a result of the enthusiasm generated by the baseball team.

Season No. 1 has come to a highly successful conclusion. We cannot know what Season No. 2 will bring, whether there’s a repeat in store or whether the team will rebuild as the Soddies’ parent club, the National League San Diego Padres, looks to place AA athletes with AAA ballclubs … or even with the major league club.

I get the sense the offseason enthusiasm will hold up. I mean, social media do have a way of helping keep the embers hot. The Sod Poodles’ fans are using social to something that looks to be close to maximum advantage.

Right-wing zealot was right about what happened with Speaker Bonnen

I detest the politics of Michael Quinn Sullivan, the head of Empower Texans, the right-wing political action committee that seeks to yank the Texas political structure even farther to the right … if that is even possible.

Still, we now know that what Sullivan said about Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen — that the speaker was willing to give up 10 House Republicans while granting a political favor for Empower Texans — was correct.

Sullivan released the full text of a recorded conversation he and Bonnen had earlier this year. Bonnen had denied the contents of what Sullivan had alleged; then he kinda/sorta backed off and apologized to House members he insulted.

As the Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey reported in his analysis, Bonnen now becomes a potentially vulnerable House speaker: “But that political discussion, as Bonnen calls it, was fraught with underhanded scheming, given Bonnen’s constituents — the other 149 members of the Texas House — everything they need to replace, if that’s what they’d like to do.”

This revelation disappoints me. I had hoped that Bonnen might continue the tradition of moderate leadership set by his immediate predecessor, former GOP state Rep. Joe Straus. Silly me. It now turns out he can be had, as Sullivan’s recording has revealed.

He agreed to give Sullivan the names of 10 Republican lawmakers who Sullivan’s group could target in next year’s election. Empower Texans also would be granted media credentials, giving the PAC access to legislators on the House floor.

If I were a Republican lawmaker — even if my name wasn’t one of those given to Sullivan — I would be, shall we say, really pi**ed off!

Speaker Bonnen appears to have squandered the trust he sought from his GOP caucus in the House.

I won’t predict this will happen, but count me as one Texas resident who wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the Texas House finds a new speaker in January 2021.