All posts by kanelis2012

Trumps set a record for event no-shows

Donald and Melania Trump are going to stand alone.

They will become the first-ever consecutive-year no-shows at the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony that recognizes the cultural contributions of noted artists.

The first couple stayed away a year ago after it was revealed that some of the 2017 honorees wouldn’t attend if the Trumps were present. They oppose the president’s policies deeply.

This year? It appears to be the same issue that has arisen. One of the honorees, Cher, is a vocal critic of the president.

This kerfuffle is yet another example of the intensity of the polarization that the president brings even to ceremonial events that usually involve the leader of the nation. The Trumps now become the first ever two-years-in-a-row absentees in the 41-year history of the event.

The Trumps issued a statement that said they would stay away to “allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction.” That’s a euphemism for the blunt truth, which is that the level of criticism of Trump by many in the entertainment industry would drown out any celebration offered at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

This is a rather troubling development, if you want my view on it. I wish it were different. I wish the president and first lady could feel comfortable attending this event. It’s not to be.

What’s more, my sense is that the Trumps won’t attend any of them for as long as they live in the White House.

Sad.

Texas remains a red state, just not as red

I was hoping the 2018 midterm election would turn Texas from blood red to purple; turning the state blue was out of the question.

The results are in and from my perch it appears the state is still red, as in Republican-leaning. Texas, though, is not as red as it was prior to the balloting this past week.

Yes, “red” means Republican, “blue” means Democrat and “purple” is a combination of the two primary colors, meaning that “purple” states are those “swing” territories, battlegrounds if you will.

Texas’s roster of statewide offices remains occupied by an all-GOP lineup. The state’s featured race, between U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic challenger, finished with Cruz being re-elected by less than 3 percentage points. The closeness of that contest gives Texas Democrats some hope they might break the GOP’s death grip on statewide offices as soon as the 2020 election.

The Texas Legislature saw Democrats gain 12 seats in the 150-member House; Democrats gained two seats in the 31-member Senate. The House GOP majority remains substantial, but the Republican hold on the Senate is bordering on tenuous, although it’s not there yet.

Democrats did manage to flip some U.S. House seats. The one that interested me was the seat held by GOP Rep. Pete Sessions, who got beat by Democratic upstart Colin Allred in North Texas.

What does all this portend for the state as we head into the 2020 presidential election year? It might be that Texas becomes more of a battleground than it has been since, oh, 1980. In every election year since the Ronald Reagan landslide the state has been cast aside by both parties: Democrats have given up on the state; Republicans take us for granted.

That has-been role might change come 2020.

I am highly reluctant, though, to suggest that Texas is anything other than Republican red. It’s just that the state’s reddish hue isn’t nearly as vivid as it has been for so very long.

The next election cycle, therefore, might be a lot more interesting than anything we’ve seen here in some time.

Did Cruz and O’Rourke bury the hatchet?

This story makes me smile and gives me hope about the future of political debate and discourse in the United States of America.

Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Democratic U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke — who have just completed a fiery-hot campaign for Cruz’s Senate seat — bumped into each other at George Bush Houston Intercontinental Airport. O’Rourke, who lost narrowly to Cruz, initiated the contact between them. They spoke cordially for some time, talking about how they can “move forward” from the election that just ended.

According to Click2HoustonTexas A&M student Tiffany Easter witnessed the moment and posted a recap on her Facebook and Twitter pages Tuesday.

In her Facebook post, Easter said she was waiting to board a flight to Washington when she noticed that both O’Rourke and Cruz were about to board the same flight.

“Beto noticed Ted sitting down and walked over to congratulate him on his re-election campaign,” Easter wrote. “It was the first time they had seen each other since the election, and the entire conversation was both of them talking about how they could move forward together.”

This makes me smile because the campaign the men waged was among the more aggressive in the country. It drew national attention, given the closeness of the contest.

I suppose one could have expected the men to maybe shake hands, nod at each other and then part company. They didn’t.

Their cordial encounter gives me a glimmer of hope that even the most intense political opponents can realize that politics is just part of who they are and what they do.

Graham: New AG ‘comfortable’ with Russia probe

Lindsey “The Lap Dog” Graham, a South Carolina Republican U.S. senator who once dared to challenge Donald Trump’s competence and moral standing, now says the president’s new attorney general is comfortable with an investigation under way into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian operatives in 2016.

OK, then. How in the world are we supposed to believe that.

Acting AG Matthew Whitaker is on record calling special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt” and a “fraud.” Trump appointed him as acting attorney general after firing Jeff Sessions solely because Sessions recused himself from the Russia matter.

Now the senator wants us to believe (a) that Whitaker is OK with Mueller’s probe and (b) the president won’t order Whitaker to give Mueller the axe.

I don’t believe the first thing. The second matter, whether Trump will commit a supremely foolish act, is anyone’s guess. No one can predict what the president will do, not even Sen. Graham.

Whitaker’s appointment to lead the Justice Department fills me with dread. I fear the president will move to coerce Whitaker into forcing Mueller out. I also fear that Whitaker will do the president’s bidding. The result of all this will produce the mother of constitutional crises; believe me when I say that I do not want that to happen.

Moreover, given Sen. Graham’s dramatic change of heart regarding the president, I am disinclined to believe anything he says as well. Back when he was running against Trump for the GOP presidential nomination, he spoke candidly about Trump’s credentials for the nation’s top job — or, more to the point, the absence of credentials.

Then Trump vanquished him. He got elected president. Now the senator has been slobbering all over Trump’s shoes, seeking to please him, possibly because he wants to become attorney general.

Is the senator to be believed now? I don’t think so.

Meanwhile, the Russia drama continues to play out.

I’ll just implore the powers that be — one more time! — to let Robert Mueller do his job. Let him finish his work.

Lock ‘n load, the ‘invaders’ have arrived!

I hear the first of that massive force of foreign “invaders” is beginning to arrive at our nation’s southern border.

Perhaps you have heard about ’em. They consist of families fleeing oppression and repression places like Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala; they’re also escaping from drug cultures that infect Belize.

But according to Donald John Trump, these “invaders” also comprise killers, rapists, sex traffickers, drug dealers along with “Middle Eastern” terrorists intent on spreading havoc, mayhem and misery across the United States.

That’s why the commander in chief dispatched thousands of military personnel to our border. He wants the troops to stem the tide of the “invaders.”

Is this where I say that the massive invasion force has trickled to virtually nothing as it has arrived along our border? Well, I just did.

The president sought to parlay some misplaced fear of these hordes into votes for his fellow Republican politicians seeking election and re-election to the U.S. House and Senate in the midterm election. As the results continue to come in post-election, it appears that the message was lost on voters who flipped the House from GOP to Democratic control.

Since the midterm election, I should add, the president has clammed up on the “caravan” of “invaders.” He has turned his rhetorical fire and fury on bogus — and evidence-free — charges of voter fraud and electoral theft in Georgia and Florida.

Meanwhile, the horde of criminals and terrorists has … um … been relegated to last week’s news.

Except that the government is spending a couple hundred million dollars to shore up our southern border against an “invasion” of families looking to escape horror in their homeland.

I can think of any number of ways to spend that money better. How about, for instance, rushing aid to the victims of the California fires?

Bizarre.

Heroes never seek recognition

I love writing about heroes. Indeed, I believe heroes and the deeds the perform are my favorite topics in writing this blog.

Frankly, I don’t know why that’s the case. It might be a product of my boyhood fascination with them. Perhaps that fascination never has left me.

I just posted a blog item a few minutes ago about the firefighters doing battle with the flames in California. They are heroes of the highest order. So are police officers. So are the medical personnel who respond first when disaster strikes.

Yes, I count the military men and women who answer the call to defend the nation as heroes.

Heroes all have a few things in common.

First and foremost is that they don’t consider themselves to be heroes. To a person, they shy away from the title of “hero.” They’re just doing their job. They’re in the “wrong place at the right time,” or maybe it’s the “right place at the wrong time.”

They don’t boast about their exploits, any more than rich people brag about their wealth, or smart people boast about their intelligence. Hmm … am I sticking my finger in anyone’s eye here? I suppose so . . . but I digress.

Heroes don’t look for opportunities to display their heroic tendencies. These opportunities are thrust upon them. A warrior who walks among his or her comrades on patrol becomes a hero when enemy soldiers open fire on them and that warrior responds to the horror that erupts all over them.

The firefighter who hears the bell at the fire house heads toward an unknown “enemy.” A police officer pulls over a traffic violator never knowing with any degree of certainty how that traffic stop will conclude, which is why I never use the term “routine traffic stop” when discussing these incidents. I did one time early in my career as a reporter and a local sheriff schooled me about a fundamental truth known to cops everywhere: “There’s no such thing as a ‘routine traffic stop.'”

Cops are heroes. So are firefighters. Same with paramedics. So are the military personnel who defend us against those who seek to harm us.

I love writing about them all. Doing so fills me with pride that I can honor them in this small way.

This is what heroes look like

Take a good look at this picture, which appeared on social media this afternoon.

It is a picture of firemen trying to grab a couple of winks. They’re dog tired. Exhausted. Whipped. They are covered in dirt and soot.

These are just a few of the heroes fighting those fires in California. They are among the men and women who get paid to do things some of us might have fantasized about when we were kids, but who found other ways to earn a living when we grew up.

These individuals chose to pursue careers dedicated to public service. They are performing that service at the highest levels imaginable as I write these words.

Other firefighters from around the country are rushing to their side to give them relief, to lend their own expertise, skill and courage in helping quell the flames that have killed dozens of victims, decimated thousands of acres of land, destroyed thousands of homes, ruined countless lives.

These heroes are trying to catch their breath before heading back into the hell on Earth that awaits them.

Godspeed to them all.

Promise kept: kudos to POTUS for prison reform proposal

I told you I would offer praise to Donald John Trump when the president merited it.

He has delivered an opportunity for me to make good on my pledge.

Trump today announced a sweeping reform of federal prison sentencing, the first such overhaul in a generation. The president called it a bipartisan agreement, although, as The Associated Press reported, there were no congressional Democrats present today at the announcement.

The deal, which must be approved by Congress, gives judges more flexibility in sentencing individuals convicted of federal crimes. The change appears to have the most impact on those convicted of drug offenses, where critics of the federal sentencing guidelines say result often in overly harsh sentences for non-violent offenders.

As the AP reportedHouse Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called Trump’s announcement “an encouraging sign that we can achieve substantive reforms to our criminal justice system in this Congress.”

“Redemption is at the heart of the American Idea, and that’s what this is about,” he said.

Yes, redemption is critical in this proposal.

Prison sentencing reform has been of particular interest to one of the president’s key advisers, son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Senate leaders aren’t yet ready to climb aboard the prison reform bandwagon. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to conduct a count of votes in the Senate once he sees the entire bill.

As a matter of principle, though, this loosening of federal prison sentencing is long overdue. Judges need some flexibility when issuing these sentences. They should be able to consider varying standards for sentencing the way state judges are entitled to do.

Well done, Mr. President.

Trump goes nuts again!

I am running out of ways to express my dismay, disgust and disbelief at what I keep reading about the president’s Twitter tantrums.

Donald J. Trump launched another one, going after special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of investigators. He says they have gone “absolutely nuts.” He says Mueller, a former FBI director, is burden by a loads of conflicts of interest. He declares — falsely, if you’ll excuse me — that Mueller worked for President Obama for eight years; he worked for Obama for a couple of years after the new president asked him to stay on after President Bush (who hired him) left office in 2009.

It looks for all the world to me like classic “projection.” The president, not Mueller, has gone “absolutely nuts.”

Mueller is trying to finish his probe into “the Russia thing.” He has sent some of his lawyers home. Word is out that he and his team are drafting their final report. He has proceeded quietly, never saying a word publicly about what he knows, or where he has come up empty.

Meanwhile, the president continues to blast away with idiotic Twitter messages. He seeks to undermine an ongoing federal investigation. He disparages the Justice Department, the FBI, you name it.

Meanwhile, rather than focusing intently on preparing for the next Congress taking office in January — a body that will look quite different from the current Congress — Trump is busying himself with these goofy Twitter tirades.

The president needs to prepare a legislative agenda that should be considered by a House of Representatives controlled by Democrats. He needs to study the piles of reports his staff (presumably) has prepared for him. Oh, I forgot: He doesn’t read reports, being blessed — as he has said — with a brilliant mind.

OK. Let’s all get ready for the second half of the president’s term. If you thought the first half’s ride was bumpy, it will look like a journey across placid waters compared to what lies ahead.

Media still doing their job — even under heavy fire

Ronald Reagan knew it. So did Gerald Ford. So does George W. Bush. Same with Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George H. W. Bush.

They knew that a free press is essential to a thriving democratic system of government. They knew the press, no matter how persistent it is in the pursuit of making government accountable, was integral to the maintenance of a free society.

Why, then, is these men’s successor, Donald John Trump, at war with the media? He has yanked the press credentials of CNN’s chief White House reporter, Jim Acosta. The president is threatening to confiscate the passes of other White House scribes.

He calls the media the “enemy of the people.” He acts like an autocrat. Trump wants the media to report only what he deems to be “favorable” to his agenda. He calls all other reportage to be “fake news,” which is a monstrously unfair characterization of the reporting they do. I usually equate “fake news” with circumstances that are made up, fabricated … the kind of lies that, say, suggest that a president isn’t constitutionally qualified to hold the office to which he was elected twice because he was born in Africa.

Trump’s suggestion that “fake news” is conveyed by major news media is the most hideous of the countless lies he has told since becoming a politician in his quest for the presidency.

The president’s ongoing combat with the media is a struggle he cannot win. Nor should he.

After all, the nation’s founders had the right idea by guaranteeing a free press in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, including it in the first set of civil liberties attached to the nation’s founding government document.