All posts by kanelis2012

Missing the ‘Praise and Damnation’ of old

I dug up an old blog post that I thought I’d share once again.

It speaks to some of the give and take I used to engage in while working as editor of editorial pages in three locations: one in Oregon and two in Texas.

I carried a file around with me for more than three decades. I called it my “Praise and Damnation” file. It contained feedback from readers who either agreed or disagreed with what I wrote, either under my own name or on behalf of the editorial board of which I was a member.

This particular blog post from the past highlights a response to an editorial I wrote about Haiti, a country that’s been in news of late, courtesy of the president’s description of the island nation as a “sh**hole country.”

Damnation to the max

I discarded the file not too many years ago. I don’t regret doing so. The file took up space in my filing cabinet at home and, quite frankly, it reminded me of the unpleasantness associated with the end of my print journalism career.

This blog post from 2010, though, does remind me of how readers managed to keep me humble. I rarely took personal offense at those who disagreed with whatever I wrote. Yes, there were exceptions. Occasionally someone would question my patriotism, my parentage or even my religious faith. As a God-fearing U.S. Army veteran born to parents who were married legally to each other, well, I kind of took offense to some people’s more personal attacks.

But what the heck. It all went with the territory.

I am still able to maintain a sense of humility through this blog. I get my share of criticism to go along with the affirmation.

Believe it or not, I do appreciate thoughtful critics nearly as much as I appreciate those who cheer me on.

GOP turns wacky, man!

Just how crazy has the modern Republican Party become?

Get a load of this …

According to an essay in RealClearPolitics, Mitt Romney — the 2012 GOP nominee for president of the United States — is considered an “outlier” should he win election to the U.S. Senate later this year.

You might ask: Why is that?

The Republican Party has become the party of a man who not long ago wasn’t even considered a Republican. I refer to Donald J. Trump, the current president and a man who Mitt Romney has criticized with extreme prejudice.

Romney is considered the odds-on favorite to win the open U.S. Senate in Utah; Orrin Hatch, the longest-serving Republican in Senate history, is bowing out at the end of the year. Romney hasn’t yet announced his candidacy, but virtually everyone thinks he will.

He also was considered to be the epitome of establishment GOP principle. Romney was considered a fiscal and social conservative, a pro-business sort of fellow. He campaigned for president in 2012 calling himself a “severe conservative.”

That might have been enough for doctrinaire Republicans to embrace him.

However, he has taken Donald Trump to task with, um, severe vigor.

In 2016, he called Trump a “phony” and a “fraud.” He delivered his anti-Trump mantra in a 17-minute speech that raised plenty of hackles among the Republican “base” that had endorsed Trump’s presidential candidacy.

And just recently, Romney labeled the president’s description of African nations, Haiti and El Salvador as “sh**hole countries” as “antithetical to American values.” The RealClearPolitics essay found that fascinating because “most of Trump’s Republican denouncers are either comfortably outside of Congress or on their way out.”

Romney, meanwhile, is likely on his way in, heading for a sure-fire electoral victory in the U.S. Senate contest in Utah.

All of this to my mind paints a picture of a major political party in a state of serious disarray. It has attached itself to an individual, rather than a set of principles.

Thus, I welcome Mitt Romney’s return to public life. My hope is that he continues to remind us that the president really and truly is a “phony” and a “fraud.”

Tech chancellor pushes another ‘big idea’

Bob Duncan is on a mission. It’s simple and complicated at the same time.

The Texas Tech University System chancellor believes Texas is too big a state to have just a single college of veterinary medicine. He wants to establish a second vet school and he wants it to be in Amarillo.

So, here’s the simplicity and complexity of the notion he is proposing.

The Texas Panhandle is at the epicenter of large animal care, given the region’s plethora of livestock in the form of cattle and horses. “The feedlots and dairies are clustered in West Texas, not on the Brazos (River),” he said, alluding to Texas A&M University’s dominance of veterinary medicine education. A&M has the sole such college in Texas, and Duncan wants to rid the Aggies of their vet school monopoly.

In a presentation today to the Rotary Club of Amarillo, Duncan made several key points. He pointed out that Texas Tech was created in 1923 as the result of a “big idea.” He believes the school of veterinary medicine is the university’s next major step forward.

Duncan said Texas has a shortage of veterinarians, 40 percent of whom are educated out of state.

The chancellor said Texas Tech has been consulting with veterinary medicine programs at Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Colorado State and University of California-Davis. He also noted that Amarillo is closer to the vet school campuses in Kansas, Oklahoma and Colorado than it is to College Station, home of Texas A&M University’s flagship campus.

But it gets complicated.

Duncan and his Tech team have been getting serious resistance from A&M, which is led by Chancellor John Sharp, who Duncan describes as a “fine chancellor” who’s also a friend. “We just disagree on this issue,” Duncan said of Sharp.

Sharp has been resisting Tech’s push for a school of veterinary medicine because he apparently believes there’s no need for a second such school in Texas, a state comprising 268,000 square miles and 28 million inhabitants. Indeed, Texas is the second-largest state geographically and second-most populous state in the nation. And we have just a single school of veterinary medicine?

I believe Chancellor Sharp has been bitten by the protectionist bug.

Duncan said he has no desire or intention to denigrate Texas A&M or its school of veterinary medicine. “A&M is considered one of the top 10 vet schools in the nation,” Duncan said, “but A&M cannot accept all the qualified applicants who want to be veterinarians.” He noted that most of the qualified Texas vet school applicants have to go out of state to obtain their doctorate in veterinary medicine.

Texas Tech has received $4.1 million from the Texas Legislature to develop a plan for a vet school in Amarillo, Duncan said, adding that Tech plans to present that plan to the 2019 Legislature, which convenes next January.

Tech plans to locate the campus next to it existing Texas Tech Health Sciences Center and School of Pharmacy campuses in west Amarillo.

But there’s a lot more money to raise, Duncan said, citing a $90 million goal from private, public and foundation sources. He said the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation has set aside $15 million in grant funds to assist in that fundraising effort.

“It’s a natural fit,” Duncan said of the vet school plan for the Texas Panhandle.

How confident is the chancellor of success? He didn’t specify.

I’ll just add that Duncan moved into the chancellor’s chair after a highly successful career in the Texas Senate. Many of his former Senate colleagues are still serving there, along with a smattering of those with whom he served in the Texas House. Moreover, Duncan also believes the Panhandle delegation — Sen. Kel Seliger, and Reps. John Smithee, Four Price and Ken King — all are lending their considerable influence to push the vet school over the finish line.

Duncan developed a high degree of respect as a legislator. I believe that respect transfers to the Texas Tech chancellor as he seeks legislative support for what he calls Tech’s next “big idea.”

This is not how to govern, Congress

What a way to govern … not!

Congress is fighting over how to pay for immigration measures. It cannot settle a dispute over whether to pay for construction of a wall along our nation’s southern border or whether to extend protection for those U.S. residents who were brought here when they were children as their parents sneaked into the country illegally.

The consequence of this dispute?

The government might shut down — if only partially — in the next 24 hours.

Republicans who run both congressional chambers are scrambling to find yet another stop-gap solution that will delay the next shutdown threat for a couple of weeks.

Oh, and then we have the president of the United States. Donald J. Trump reportedly is a non-player in the negotiation over how to find a longer-term solution to this problem. Media reports say that Trump is making zero phone calls to congressional leaders, suggesting he’s leaving it exclusively up to lawmakers to find an answer.

Even congressional Republicans are complaining about the lack of a “reliable partner” in the White House.

Trump torpedoes GOP strategy

I’m trying to imagine Lyndon Johnson leaving a matter such as this to Capitol Hill. The late former president came to the presidency after a distinguished career in the U.S. Senate. President Kennedy plucked him from his Senate majority leader post to run with him as vice president in 1960. LBJ never lost his congressional connections.

Trump, though, has none of that kind of history. Zero, man!

Effective governance is supposed to comprise a partnership between the legislative and executive branches of government. It’s not happening these days.

Republicans are barely talking to Democrats in Congress, and vice versa. The president, meanwhile, is maintaining a position that I suppose he might say is “above the fray.”

As a result, Congress might stumble and bumble its way to another short-term Band-Aid repair, only to wait for the next deadline to approach before we face yet another government shutdown threat.

How about trying this: Work together for a change in the hunt for common ground. Fund the government, repair the problem — and stop threatening to shut down a government that is supposed to serve all Americans all the time.


Fritch’s top cop: an inspiration

I’ve commented already on this blog about the dangers inherent in domestic disputes, how much police officers dread responding to what’s known in copspeak as a “family beef.”

Houston Gass knows about that. He was shot in the face on Jan. 6, 2015 while working as an officer with the Pampa (Texas) Police Department. He was responding to a family beef when he suffered the grievous injury.

Gass recovered from his wound. He has since become police chief in neighboring Fritch, Texas — and he’s also been honored by Law Enforcement Today as its Citizen of the Year.

He didn’t wallow in pity over the injury he suffered. Instead, Gass used his misfortune to inspire others, to offer a glimmer of hope to those who are suffering.

KFDA NewsChannel 10 reported that Law Enforcement Today considers Gass to be a “true American patriot.”

As NewsChannel 10 noted: “A willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty and do the right thing every single time, even when it hurts,” said Kyle Reyes, the national spokesperson for Law Enforcement Today. “Houston almost lost his life and has focused on nothing more than giving back.”

That’s what heroes do. They return more than they receive.

For that, Chief Houston Gass has been honored by his peers. He honors their service while upholding his oath to serve and protect those within his community.

Thank you for your heroic service, Chief Gass, and for your inspiration to others who answer your noble calling.

Trump is overweight … enough said

I am not going to get involved in a discussion about whether Donald John Trump is merely overweight, obese, or whether the doctor who examined him is telling us the whole truth about his patient’s medical condition.

I make this declaration as someone who could stand lose a few pounds as well. So I won’t be overly judgmental, except to say that I do wonder if the president actually weighs a “mere” 239 pounds.

Dr. Ronny Jackson, the rear admiral who examined Trump, said the president is in “excellent health.” He attributes “good genes” to a diagnosis offered on someone — the president — who eats fast food, guzzles Diet Cokes and gets no exercise.

Fine, doc.

I’ll just offer this long-distance observation.

The president is overweight. He needs to lose a good bit of weight. I’ve seen the pictures of him in his golf attire. The man has a pot belly and an overly ample caboose.

He’s not an Adonis … even though he might think of himself as one.

I am in no position to determine whether he has heart disease, as CNN’s resident medical expert, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, has asserted. I’ll leave that analysis to the medical community. Nor will I determine whether he has lost his marbles. If Dr. Jackson says he retains his full mental acuity, I’ll accept that, too.

However, there is zero doubt in my own mind that the president needs to take better care of himself.

I say this as one of the president’s 300 million-plus employers. He works for us.

Lose some weight, Mr. President. Do as you’re told.

DACA recipients being chewed up, spit out

I am angry on behalf of millions of U.S. residents who do not deserve the fate that might await them.

They are individuals who came to this country because their parents sneaked across our border illegally. Mom and Dad Illegal Immigrant brought their children with them because, being good parents, they didn’t want to leave them in the country they were fleeing.

They are being kicked around by congressional Republicans who want to send them back because they don’t want to extend protection offered them during the Obama administration. It’s called the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals order, or DACA.

Republicans want Congress to approve money to start building that “big, beautiful wall” across our southern border. Democrats don’t want the wall and instead are pushing for an extension of the DACA protection that Donald J. Trump wants to eliminate.

But what about those U.S. residents who know only life in the United States and do not want to return to a country they don’t know? Do they deserve to be kicked out of here because their parents sneaked them in? I do not believe they deserve that fate.

DACA recipients might fall victim in this game of political chicken that could result in a partial shutdown of the federal government. If the money runs out Friday, the feds close the door on government agencies.

DACA recipients are being held hostage.

President Obama extended the DACA protection as a form of temporary amnesty for those facing deportation. Its intent is to give these folks a way to obtain citizenship or legal immigrant status. Trump sees it differently. He doesn’t want to extend the protection because — as I understand it — his Republican base wants to toss all illegal immigrants out of the country.

Even those who came of age here, who have virtually — or absolutely — zero memory of the country from where they came. Many of these young people have gotten their education in the United States, they have worked hard and paid their taxes. They have become part of our national fabric — even without the necessary papers to prove they are here legally.

This drama is going to play out in due course.

If only the politicians in Washington would understand the consequences of their actions on all those who live in this country.

Do they really intend to round these folks up and send them to a strange land?

Sen. Flake launches well-aimed barrage against …

He didn’t mention his target by name or even by title, but everyone who heard U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake’s speech today know of whom he spoke.

Flake, the lame-duck Arizona Republican, was talking about Donald John Trump Sr., president of the United States.

Flake’s scathing remarks spoke to an assault on the truth by the “most powerful person in government.” Yes, he called the president a liar.

He also scorched Trump for his ongoing assault on the media and lambasted him for undermining a valuable institution charged with holding government accountable for its actions.

Here is Flake’s speech.

Flake’s speech came just a day after his Arizona colleague, Sen. John McCain, wrote in a Washington Post commentary that Trump needs to stop his criticism of the media and stop invoking the “fake news” criticism of those media reports with which he disagrees.

The White House response was quite predictable. It spoke of the lousy poll numbers staring Flake in the face, which many have said caused him to announce his retirement from the Senate at the end of the year; he won’t stand for re-election.

Of course, the poll numbers retort dodges the point that Flake sought to make. Which is that Donald Trump has torn the truth to shreds with his constant prevarication and his frontal assault on those whose job is to report to the public about what the public’s government is doing for — or to — the people to whom those in government must answer.

Here’s a final thought …

If congressional Republicans are going to criticize how the president has conducted himself while in office, shouldn’t they mention him by name?

I mean, they chewed former President Barack Obama out for failing to mention the words “radical Islamic terrorists” as he spoke about the nation’s ongoing war against terrorism.

We all know about whom Sen. Flake was referring. He should have mentioned his name just to remove any smidgen of doubt.

I’ll close with these words from Jeff Flake himself: We are a mature democracy – it is well past time that we stop excusing or ignoring – or worse, endorsing — these attacks on the truth. For if we compromise the truth for the sake of our politics, we are lost.

Well stated, senator.

Year No. 1 is coming to an end … now for the next chapter

I am not going to spend a lot of time looking back on the first year of Donald J. Trump’s time in the White House.

High Plains Blogger has devoted a seemingly infinite amount of space to this subject all year long — and then some!

Readers of this blog know how I feel about the president. I have no need to recap it here.

I will offer this bit of advice, though, if anyone is interested in looking back. Just click on the “Search” tab on the blog’s home page and type in “Trump.” You’ll see it all.

Take a look here

There has been a bit of positive commentary on this blog about the president. I pledged to offer it when such matters presented themselves. I think I’ve been faithful to that pledge. The problem has been that Trump hasn’t done enough to merit more positive comments from this corner.


Looking ahead briefly to Year No. 2, to be candid I don’t expect much to change with regard to this blog’s posture relating to the president.

We still have that “Russia thing” to resolve. The special counsel, Robert Mueller, remains hard at work trying to determine whether the Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russian hackers who sought to influence the 2016 election outcome.

Along the way, I expect the president will keep denigrating Mueller’s integrity, even though he was universally praised when the Justice Department appointed him. And … I’ll have plenty to say about that.

I’ll also comment on the lies he’ll continue to tell and the insults he’ll keep hurling at his political foes as well as the media.

I guess my hope for the second year of Trump’s term as president is that he is able to hone the White House into the “fine-tuned machine” he called it. He isn’t there yet.

My other hope would be for the president to keep tweeting.

He gives me — and other commentators — plenty of grist when he unleashes his Twitter thumbs.

Listen to this ‘hero,’ Mr. President

John McCain quite likely is spittin’ into the wind.

But he is as correct as he can be. Donald J. Trump must stop attacking the media. Sen. McCain believes the president of the United States is giving political cover to repressive regimes abroad who seek to do the very same thing that Trump is doing — which is discrediting the media.

McCain writes in The Washington Post: “This has provided cover for repressive regimes to follow suit. The phrase ‘fake news’ — granted legitimacy by an American president — is being used by autocrats to silence reporters, undermine political opponents, stave off media scrutiny and mislead citizens.”

Of course, Trump isn’t likely to heed words of wisdom from a man he once denigrated, calling him a Vietnam War “hero” only because “he was captured” and held as a prisoner by North Vietnam for more than five years.

Does the president get this? Does he give a damn about the damage he does when he declares the media to be the “enemy of the American people”? Does the president understand the traditional role that the media play in ensuring government accountability?

I’m pretty sure it be would “no!” on all three questions.

Which makes Sen. McCain’s plea all that more poignant.

Even if it is futile.