Category Archives: political news

Is this massacre spawning a political movement?

Are my ears deceiving me or am I hearing the rumblings of an extraordinary political movement born of yet another national tragedy?

A gunman opened fire this past week in Parkland, Fla., killing 17 people. It was yet another in a lengthy — and likely growing — list of public school massacres.

In previous such tragedies — such as Columbine and Sandy Hook, to cite just two — politicians called for action to curb gun violence. Then, to the never-ending shame of those in power, nothing got done. The gun lobby — led by the National Rifle Association — bullied Congress, threatening to beat politicians at the next election if they tinkered with any notion of legislating possible remedies to the epidemic of gun violence.

This time, in the wake of the Parkland massacre, we’re hearing something quite different. High school students, some of whom already are of voting age, are speaking with remarkable eloquence about their belief in the need for legislative remedies.

They speak of their own tragic loss, the deaths of their dearest friends, of the “heroes” who died while trying to save the lives of others. They are warning politicians — Democrats and Republicans — that if they don’t act now, that these young people will take political matters in their own hands.

They are speaking about their electoral power, how they, too, can threaten politicians who don’t stand up to the gun lobby. The picture attached to this post is of high schooler Emma Gonzalez, who called out Donald Trump on the issue of gun control.

It’s still quite early in the aftermath of this latest monstrous act. Still, I cannot get past the gnawing in my gut that we might be witnessing the birth of a political movement conceived by the next — and perhaps greatest — generation of Americans.

Empower Texans, or empower the powerful?

Mailboxes all across the Texas Panhandle are filling up with campaign flyers.

They promote candidates endorsed by some outfit out of Austin called Empower Texans. This PAC represents the far right wing of the Republican Party and it might not surprise anyone reading this blog that it is unloading its heavy fire on three Panhandle legislative incumbents who — and this is so very rich — aren’t conservative enough to suit Empower Texas.

My buddy Jon Mark Beilue has written a fabulous essay for the Amarillo Globe-News that peels the hide off of Empower Texas.

Read it here.

This group baffles me. It has targeted state Sen. Kel Seliger, the Amarillo Republican who’s been in the Senate since 2004. Why try to take down the former Amarillo mayor? He isn’t fond of Michael Quinn Sullivan, the brains and the bankroll behind Empower Texans. He also is a strong proponent of local control which, according to Beilue, runs counter to Empower Texans’ desire to draw power to Austin.

Seliger also isn’t nuts about Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, even though he supports much of Patrick’s legislative agenda.

Empower Texans has endorsed former Midland Mayor Mike Canon, the TEA Party golden boy who speaks in right wing talking points and cliches. Much of the PAC’s money comes from Midland-area oil and natural gas interests.

This group also dislikes state Rep. Four Price, another Amarillo Republican. By almost anyone’s estimation — whether they’re Republican and Democrat — Price has emerged as one of the House’s rising stars. He might become the next speaker of the House when the 2019 Legislature convenes. Empower Texans has tagged Price as a legislator who allegedly “favors” late-term abortions — despite his rock-solid pro-life voting position.

Empower Texans has endorsed Fritch City Manager Drew Brassfield over Price. Here’s a tip for Empower Texans to ponder: Take a look at the Texas Constitution and find the passage that prohibits officials from holding two public offices at the same time. Then it ought to ask Brassfield if he intends to keep his job at Fritch City Hall in the longest-shot chance he gets elected to the House. Brassfield is playing coy on that matter, declining to say whether he’ll quit his day job to go to the Legislature next January.

The Panhandle is being invaded by interests with no particular interest in this region’s representation. Empower Texans seeks to call the legislative shots from somewhere else and is looking for stooges to do its bidding.

Panhandle Republican primary voters need to take heed if they intend to vote for their interests or the interests of a PAC whose leadership doesn’t give a rat’s rear end about this part of Texas.

Beilue quotes someone with extensive knowledge of Panhandle politics:

“It’s intellectually dishonest,” said Sylvia Nugent, a veteran Republican campaign manager and strategist. “I don’t mind a bloody race when you stick to the issues, but they throw a lot of money into intimidating and discrediting a person. They don’t want independent effective members of the legislature. They want sheep.

“I think eventually people will figure them out. They want Neville Chamberlains, people who will appease them. We need to have more Winston Churchills.”

The “Winston Churchills” are in office already, standing for the Texas Panhandle.

Hoping for a ‘Sen. Romney’

I cannot believe I am about to write this blog post.

No kidding, I am excited about Mitt Romney’s candidacy for the U.S. Senate from Utah.

The 2012 Republican Party’s presidential nominee didn’t get my vote when he ran against President Barack H. Obama. That was then. Six years later, he now stands as a possible deterrent to another Republican, the current president of the United States, Donald John “Stable Genius” Trump.

Romney wants to succeed Orrin Hatch in the U.S. Senate. He has some Utah connection, although he will face the “carpetbagger” charge from those who might oppose his candidacy. Romney ran for the Senate in Massachusetts, losing in 1994 to the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. He then was elected governor of the Bay State. Mitt has lived most recently in southern California.

But in 2002, he did step in to rescue the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Plus, he has strong ties to the Mormon Church — which is headquartered in Utah — and is arguably the nation’s most well-known Mormon.

A Sen. Romney would take office as a leading lawmaker. There will be no “getting acquainted” with this guy. He’s a known quantity, a national political figure of considerable renown.

He also has had his run-ins with Donald Trump. Romney famously called Trump a “fraud” and a “phony” during the  2016 presidential campaign. Thus, Romney potentially could serve as a check on the president’s sometimes-weird instincts.

Yes, I realize he auditioned for a secretary of state appointment in the Trump administration. I also know he likely groveled a bit to get the nod. I don’t hold it against him.

To be honest, I think I would like Mitt Romney if I ever got the chance to meet him. For starters, a Republican who would challenge Trump’s legitimacy as a serious politician is OK in my book.

Mitt Romney becomes the prohibitive favorite to succeed Sen. Hatch. I now will hope he can win this seat — and turn up the heat under the president.

Senate race starting to get … nasty

Here come the grenades.

They’re being lobbed at Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, who is facing a GOP primary challenge from former Midland Mayor Mike Canon and Amarillo restaurant owner Victor Leal.

The live ammo is being tossed by Leal, who has approved a TV ad that accuses Seliger of being “liberal” and “corrupt.” Leal puts the two words together — in that order — at the end of his ad, which seems to equate liberal political views with corruption.

Seliger, meanwhile, is running hard on his own conservative credentials, proclaiming himself to be pro-local control, pro-life and pro-National Rifle Association.

As someone who plans to vote quite soon — my wife and I will be unavailable to vote on March 6, which is primary Election Day — I am taking a keener-than-usual interest in this race.

Just maybe Leal ought to take a deep breath before he airs this ad too many more times. I happen to remember the first time Leal ran for a legislative seat. It was in 2010. He wanted to succeed David Swinford, who retired from his House District 87 seat.

But here’s the deal: Leal had resided for many years in Randall County, which is not part of District 87. He then rented a house in Potter County, which falls within the legislative boundary. Questions arose about whether Leal was residing in the Potter County house.

I will not divulge whether I believe Leal actually lived in that Potter County residence. However, questions surrounding that messy residence matter can — and occasionally do — find their way back to the front burner.

Especially when politicians toss around words such as “corrupt.”

‘Comedian’ crosses a sacred line

Joy Behar calls herself a “comedian.” She also purports to be a political pundit, using her post as co-host of the TV talk show “The View” to express her views on politics and public policy.

I’ve never considered her to be either funny or insightful.

She has, however, now established herself as a boor.

This week, Behar decided to do something I find wholly repugnant. She ridiculed another person’s religious faith. The other party happens to be Vice President Mike Pence, a self-described devout Christian.

Pence supposedly said he receives guidance daily from Jesus Christ. Behar decided to ridicule Pence, saying that anyone who hears Jesus’s voice is “mentally ill.”

Oh, my.

I’ve long held true to some tenets in my own political commentary. I do not like to poke fun at people’s appearance, their name or their religious faith. Those three areas are off limits. Period.

Behar crossed that line with her hideous ridiculing of the vice president. She does not seem to understand how people of faith are able to receive guidance from holy Scripture. For her to suggest that Vice President Pence, or anyone who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ, are “mentally ill” because they receive daily guidance from the Holy Bible.

If Behar wants to criticize Pence’s policy statements or his extensive record as an elected public official, that’s fine. She is entitled to do that. She’s also entitled to utter distasteful comments about the vice president’s faith. The same Constitution that grants Behar that right also enables folks such as yours truly to call such commentary what we believe it is.

As a conservative political commentator noted in a pithy comment about Behar, had she declared that “gay people” are “mentally ill,” ABC-TV would have “fired her on the spot” and hauled her off the set on live television.

Disgraceful.

Oh, how time flies for this blogger

Nine years ago today I introduced myself to those who follow blogs.

It was Feb. 13, 2009 when I posted my first blog item. My intention was to give readers a chance to know just a little about yours truly.

The blog actually appeared on the Amarillo Globe-News’s web site at first. I transferred it to High Plains Blogger after I left the Globe-News in August 2012.

Here is what I wrote then:

Introducing me, John Kanelis

I intended the blog then to focus mostly on local matters, as I was writing for the local newspaper and the posts were pertinent to issues the paper was covering at the time.

It didn’t stay that way. I left the paper and then started commenting on a whole array of issues far beyond Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle.

I invited comment and community discussion then. I still do today.

My entry into the blogosphere produced a fairly paltry response. I am not too proud to acknowledge that the increase in page views has been slow, steady slog. It’s a lot greater today than it was in 2009. It’s not sufficient to satisfy me. For that matter, I am convinced that I’ll never be totally satisfied with the volume of page views and unique visitors this blog attracts.

Hey, I’m like the salesman who earns a living based on the sales he produces. It’s never enough, right?

I just felt compelled to look back briefly at the beginning of my blogging experience. I was doing it for my employer then. Now that I am no longer employed, my current blog posts are more pure. I am able to speak with greater clarity about my own world view.

It still is more fun than I deserve.

But, shoot, man! I won’t apologize for it.

Gen. Kelly: in over his head

It pains me to say this, but here goes.

John Kelly is in over his head as White House chief of staff. However, it’s not entirely his fault. I have concluded that Kelly should resign and try to the best of his ability to salvage his reputation.

Kelly took over as chief of staff after Reince Priebus was shoved out the door. The thought — which I shared at the time — was that the retired Marine Corps general would whip the staff into shape. He would make ’em toe the line. He would bark orders and they would follow.

Here, though, is where that theory broke down: Two issues make it impossible for that to happen. The chief of staff needs political skill; Kelly’s Marine Corps training didn’t provide it. What’s more, the president of the United States also needs political skill; Donald Trump’s history as a self-aggrandizing business mogul and reality TV celebrity damn sure didn’t give him that skill, either.

Kelly has now been caught in a vise. Rob Porter quit as staff secretary in the White House after revelations that he beat up his former wives and a former girlfriend. He didn’t have the proper security clearance because the FBI was examining complaints against him that surfaced months ago. Yet he was hired anyway. Kelly knew all that and let it ride.

Kelly reportedly kept it secret from the president. That’s another no-no.

The conventional wisdom all along has been that the 45th president presents a unique set of circumstances that no one has seen before. He possesses zero political expertise. Yes, he waged a successful presidential campaign, of which he is more than happy to keep reminding us. But campaigning and governing are entirely different disciplines. Trump was a stellar campaigner but there is no one within his inner circle who can tell this individual the hard truth about the political implications of the decisions he makes.

Thus, the president is left to function on his own in an environment with which he has no previous exposure.

Gen. Kelly was supposed to provide him some cover. He hasn’t done it. He won’t be able to do it for as long as he occupies the chief of staff’s office.

The Rob Porter mess is only getting messier. John Kelly appears incapable of cleaning it up. The White House message machine is confused and chaotic.

Moreover, the White House communications director, Hope Hicks, has become a key player in that melodrama. Hicks is dating Porter. Yet she helped draft the statement that declared how her boyfriend is such an honorable man? Who in the world allowed her to put her hands on that statement? None other than John Kelly, who should have recognized immediately the conflict of interest that Hicks presented.

Gen. Kelly has served this country with high honor and distinction — as a decorated Marine! Hardly any of that background transfers to the White House chief of staff job.

The question now becomes, in the event Gen. Kelly calls it quits: Who in the world is Donald John Trump able to find who can perform the duties required of a White House chief of staff?

For that matter, who in the world would want that job, given the idiocy that emanates from the Oval Office?

When did earmarks become fashionable?

“Earmarks” used to be a four-letter word.

Republican members of Congress rose against them. They were eliminated. Now they’re back, thanks in large part to the insistence of, um, Republican members of Congress.

Earmarks are those items that lawmakers tuck — or sneak — into budgets. Remember the “Bridge to Nowhere” that the late U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens inserted into a budget? The “bridge” money went for a structure that, well, went nowhere in Alaska.

Stevens was scorned for that little game of fiscal chicanery.

Now it appears that earmarks are being resurrected. I don’t get it.

Republicans who now control both congressional chambers — and the White House — have forgotten how they won voters’ hearts in the first place. They are supposed to be the “party of fiscal responsibility.”

Earmarks are meant to allow lawmakers to bring “pork barrel” money to their states and congressional districts. Many House members and senators have been pretty damn good at it. The late Democratic U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd fattened the budget with money he directed to West Virginia. And get this. Former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, a Texas Republican, once bragged that he brought back so much “pork” to his home state that he was afraid of “coming down with trichinosis.”

I consider myself a deficit hawk, even though I also consider myself to be a left-leaning blogger. I don’t like earmarks any more than the next guy. They constitute government waste.

They’re coming back.

What happened to “draining the swamp,” eh? Mr. President? When are you going to pull the plug?

Trump shows his dark side yet again

Donald Trump has declared that his former staff secretary has denied the accusations of two former wives and a former girlfriend that he beat them up.

The president stood behind a U.S. Senate candidate who was accused of sexual abuse by women, one of whom claimed the man abused her when she was a 14-year-old girl.

The president also has called the 16 or so women who have accused him of sexual abuse liars.

Is there a pattern here? If you’ve missed it, I’ll offer this: Women have accused men of sexual abuse and spousal battery but the president stands foursquare behind the men. What’s more, he has called the women liars.

Rob Porter’s resignation as staff secretary comes after one of his former wives provided a photograph showing here with a shiner under her right eye; she says Porter did that to her.

The many women who have accused former GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore have provided detailed allegations of what Moore supposedly did to them.

And the women who have accused Trump himself of sexual misbehavior? They tell the same story. Furthermore, Trump has actually boasted about how he has grabbed women by their genital area.

What in the name of all that is holy is it going to take for the president’s devoted Republican “base” to recognize who has been elected to the highest, most exalted office in the land?

Trump’s statement of good wishes for Rob Porter — with no mention of (a) the women who have accused him of battery or (b) the sin of spousal/domestic abuse — reveal an astonishing lack of compassion in the man entrusted to stand as the nation’s moral authority.

The president either doesn’t get it, or he gets it, but chooses to ignore it.

Waiting for the swamp to be drained

Donald Trump was elected president of the United States largely on a pledge to “drain the swamp” that muddies up Washington, D.C.

It was a solid pledge, met with considerable support.

How has he done so far? Not too well. The president still needs to find the plug, pull it from the drain and let the swamp water run out. He needs, moreover, to start within the White House.

The White House staff secretary Rob Porter has quit amid allegations that he beat up his two former wives and a former girlfriend. Spousal abuse is a serious matter, right? Of course it is!

But we’ve see too many other instances of swampy behavior within the White House already. Michael Flynn lied to the FBI and to the vice president over contacts with Russian government officials; the national security adviser was gone after 24 days. Former campaign chief Paul Manafort is under indictment for money laundering. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price quit over ethical allegations.

I want the president to make good on his pledge. D.C. is full of officials who are operating under questionable circumstances. The swamp needs draining.

Donald Trump, though, needs to focus much closer to his inner circle than he has to date.

A lot of us out here, even the president’s critics, would welcome some actual progress in the effort to drain the swamp.