Tag Archives: Texas Tribune

Pandemic forces State Fair cancellation

BLOGGER’S NOTE: A version of this post was published initially on KETR-FM’s website.

If this was the year you would try out some fried beer at Fair Park in Dallas … you’ll just have to wait until 2021.

The Texas State Fair isn’t going to occur this year. Fair organizers have canceled the annual event for the first time since the end of World War II; back then we were too busy celebrating the end of the bloodiest conflict in world history. This year’s cancellation comes – as if you need reminding – because we are in the midst of another struggle against the coronavirus pandemic.

This is absolutely, unequivocally and without question the correct call.

The State Fair is a gigantic public event, drawing millions of visitors to Dallas every year. They’re crammed along the fair midway, sampling this and that fare that passes for “food.”

The fair board said the 2021 event will occur Sept. 21 through Oct. 17. The Texas Tribune reports that 2.5 million spectators attended the 2019 fair. Given the social distancing rules governing outdoor venues this year, well, let’s just say the attendance would be significantly less than in recent previous years.

We shouldn’t complain about this cancellation. I am fully supportive of the decision.

According to the Texas Tribune: “One of the greatest aspects of the Fair is welcoming each and every person who passes through our gates with smiles and open arms,” said Gina Norris, board chair for the State Fair of Texas, in a written statement. “In the current climate of COVID-19, there is no feasible way for the Fair to put proper precautions in place while maintaining the Fair environment you know and love.”

More from the Tribune: Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said in a statement that he was saddened by the closure, but that the organization made the right decision.

“COVID-19’s spread is rampant in our community, and public health must come first,” he said. “We all have to do what it takes to slow this virus so we can save lives and livelihoods and get back to doing what we enjoy.”

I now will await the griping from those who contend the state’s “heavy hand” is denying Texans their God-given right to expose themselves and others to the deadly virus. Let ’em gripe.

What is not entirely clear, at least to me, is the status of the annual Texas-Oklahoma college football game, which occurs at the Cotton Bowl smack in the middle of Fair Park and during the State Fair. My hunch is that the game will proceed, although there might have to be some serious restrictions placed on the number of fans who will be able to watch the game. Big 12 officials say they intend to play football this season. Whether they do so in stadiums filled with fans remains a seriously open question.

Texas happens to be in dire straits at the moment as it fights the COVID-19 pandemic. We need to take great care as we move ahead with staging these athletic events.

As for the State Fair, well, let’s wait a year before we scarf down that fried beer.

Don’t wait too long to shut it down, governor

(Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

“To state the obvious, COVID-19 is now spreading at an unacceptable rate in Texas, and it must be corralled,” (Gov.. Greg) Abbott said during a news conference at the Texas Capitol in Austin.

There you have it. The Texas governor is beginning to sound alarmed — although it’s of the “somewhat alarmed” variety about the pandemic that is showing new signs of life … and is bringing more death to human beings in Texas and around the country.

“Corralling” the virus needs to occur, to state the other obvious element of this story.

Abbott has been blaming young people for being cavalier about the threat the virus is bringing. He said they aren’t observing “social distancing” guidelines.

For the life of me I do not understand why the governor doesn’t issue an order requiring businesses to mandate face masks among everyone who enters their establishments. Nor do I get why he resists local governments from mandating social distancing, restricting occupancy, demanding that Texans behave in a manner that limits the spread of the killer viral infection.

He’s not doing that. Abbott today said that Texans should take voluntary measures to avoid becoming infected. Voluntary? How is that going to work, governor. The state opened up its beaches and Texans rushed to Gulf Coast by the thousands, ignoring social distancing recommendations.

The Texas Tribune reports: Texas has broken its record for the number of people hospitalized with the virus for 11 consecutive days. On Monday, that number was 3,711. Saturday saw the highest number of new daily reported cases yet — 4,430. The positivity rate, presented by the state as a seven-day average, has increased to 8.8%, on par with where it was in late April.

I want to acknowledge that my wife and I are continuing to observe a “shelter in place” policy in our home. We aren’t staying home 24/7. We are taking our recreational vehicle out on occasion, but limiting our visits to state parks; we camp in our fifth wheel and stay far, far away from other RV campers. That all said, we have no intention of entering a restaurant, a bowling alley, a movie theater for any form of recreational activity. Our visits to retail establishments will include face masks, sanitizing liquid and sanitary wipes.

I don’t mention this to suggest that we are paragons of virtue in this crisis. I mention it only to suggest that others could observe the need to take greater care to avoid exposing themselves or others to a virus that could kill them.

If they don’t, then our government leaders need to frighten the bejeebers out of them.

No need to ‘erase history’

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican and the senior senator from this state, is now “open” to the possibility of changing the names of U.S. military posts that contain the names of Confederate traitors against the nation.

He formerly opposed it. Now he’s willing to study it along with members of both parties in the Senate.

“I realize these are contentious issues,” he continued. “What I don’t want us to do is to try to erase our history because, frankly, if you forget your history, you’re condemned to relive it.”

Look, there is no need to “erase our history” by removing the names. Just put those names in the proper museums, allowing our children to study them and to understand what they did to have their names eliminated from those military installations.

For the record, what they did was declare war against the United States, fight for the Confederate States of America, inflict hundreds of thousands of casualties on American warriors. And for what purpose? To allow states to keep human beings in bondage as slaves.

Lesson over. Take the names down.

I hope Sen. Cornyn’s views on the subject continue to evolve in the right direction.

Restrictions fall away, infections keep climbing

The trend is troublesome … in my humble view, but that isn’t stopping Texas Gov. Greg Abbott from proceeding quickly to reopen the state, which has been crippled by the coronavirus pandemic.

Abbott has announced the next phase of the state’s reopening, all the while Texas is recording an increase in infections from the killer virus. The Texas Tribune reports some troubling numbers, all of which tell my wife and me to keep doing what we’re doing, which is to stay home and venture out only when we absolutely must.

As the Tribune reports: Throughout the state, the number of new cases reported each day has grown from an average of about 1,081 during the week ending May 24 to about 1,527 in the past week. (Public health data varies day to day, so officials use a seven-day rolling average to better capture trends over time.)

The 14-day trend line shows new infections in Texas have risen about 71% in the past two weeks. Although confirmed infections have increased across the state, hot spots like state prisons and meatpacking plants, which have recently been the sites of mass or targeted testing, are responsible for a portion of the increase, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Yikes, man!

I want to stipulate that I am among those who wants the state to reopen, but only as soon as it is prudent and healthy. I do not want to become a casualty in this fight; of course, that’s no flash as no one wants to become sick from COVID-19. I am just troubled by the steepening infection rate in our state, indeed in Collin County.

Meanwhile, we keep getting pressure from on high — namely the White House — to speed up the resumption of “normal” business and recreational activity. Donald Trump is shopping around for a site to stage the Republican Party’s presidential nominating convention. He wants that big crowd to cheer his nomination, exposing every one of the participants in whatever arena opens up to being infected by the virus. Baloney!

This kind of foolishness is playing out in our public parks, in our eating establishments as Texans are increasingly tossing caution aside just because the governor says it’s OK to do so.

It’s ridiculous. And frightening.

She’s no hero; she is a lawbreaker

Shelley Luther is being hailed as a heroic figure, someone who is standing up to what many contend is a form of governmental tyranny.

I consider her to be a lawbreaker, someone who flouted a legally mandated directive to keep her business closed to save lives against a killer virus that has swept across the world in the coronavirus pandemic.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered salons closed. Luther’s business, Salon La Mode in Dallas, remained opened. She was doing customers’ nails and performing other cosmetic procedures even though she was putting herself and, more importantly, her customers at risk of catching COVID-19.

As the Texas Tribune reported: Luther knew she was operating in blatant defiance of emergency orders from the state and county. She had already torn up a cease-and-desist letter from local authorities, winning loud cheers onstage at an Open Texas rally in Frisco.

Ridiculous.

Here’s my favorite part. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Houston decided to get his hair cut at Luther’s salon … in Dallas. The Cruz Missile, who backs Donald Trump’s rush to return reopen the economy that has collapsed in the wake of the pandemic, thought he’d score some cheap political points by standing with Shelley Luther.

Cruz should be ashamed of himself, except that he isn’t.

As for Luther, she had been sent to jail for violating the stay-closed order. Top Texas Republicans sought to work for her release. So she got sprung from the hoosegow. She came out to a hero’s welcome.

Now this business owner is being hailed as a sort of cultural icon because she’s standing her ground against what she believes is government overreach.

She is standing instead for the fruitcakes who have stormed the Michigan state capitol building brandishing assault rifles and waving swastikas and Confederate battle flags; she is standing for other protesters around the nation who flock to beaches and ignore social distancing recommendations.

It’s people like Shelley Luther who make enforcing mandates aimed at protecting our health — and even our lives — more difficult than they need be.

Partisan bickering could cost more lives

Oh, my goodness. The partisan bickering is filtering from Austin to county courthouses throughout Texas.

Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is issuing warnings to Democratic mayors and county judges to back off their local coronavirus pandemic mandates because, Paxton says, they do not conform with what Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has declared.

This is rich, man.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, one of those Democrats, has emerged as a champion in my eyes as he seeks to battle the viral infection outbreak in North Texas. Oh, I need to mention that my wife, one of our sons and his family and I reside in next-door Collin County.

Jenkins has ordered that everyone “shall” wear masks when they do business; Abbott’s order doesn’t require the wearing of masks. Thus, Paxton said that Jenkins and other get-tough local officials are overstepping their authority.

C’mon, Mr. AG. The judge is seeking to save Texans’ lives!

It’s all part of what looks like a deepening and widening of the partisan divide in Washington as Democrats and Republicans squabble over how to fight this pandemic. This won’t surprise you, but I do believe Democrats are on the correct side in that D.C. fight, with Donald Trump continuing to muddle his messages and continuing to pick fights with Democratic governors needlessly.

It’s now happening in Austin, where Republican state officials are haggling with Democratic local officials over which of them is taking the correct course. GOP officials want to reopen the economy more rapidly than their Democratic colleagues. Why are Democrats dragging their feet? Let’s see. Oh, they fear that a too-rapid reopening puts Texans’ lives in danger!

Hey, that concern is good enough for me.

So, with that, allow me this rejoinder: Mr. Texas Attorney General … back off!

Wishing re-opening of Texas can work … but doubts remain

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

I want to wish Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has done his due diligence in determining the time is right to restart the state’s economic machinery.

Oh, man, the doubt persists.

Abbott said he is going to grant permission for restaurants, malls and movie theaters to welcome guests beginning Friday. Yes, it’s a cautious approach, but I remain deeply concerned about whether even this timid approach will cause another spike in the infection rate caused by the COVID-19 virus that has killed more than 700 Texans.

I just don’t know how this is going to work.

My wife and I plan to stay at home. We aren’t going to frequent restaurants; we will stay out of movie theaters; we aren’t going to the mall to mingle with others; we will continue to wear cloth masks when we go to the grocery store or put fuel in our truck. We will maintain social distance.

Abbott said he would rely on the doctors and data to determine his decision. I will take him at his word that he has done as he pledged to do. I just wonder if the time is yet right to start that return to what we used to call “normal” in Texas.

As Ross Ramsey writes in the Texas Tribune:

The protesters and holdouts are interesting, but to see how this is going, watch the people in the middle — the actual mainstream Texans. That big group wants to get things running but also thinks social distancing is a pretty good idea right now.

Their actions will speak louder than anyone’s — even Greg Abbott’s. And they seem to be the group he’s watching, too, as he anxiously opens the door.

I will act as if we’re still under restriction.

Undocumented immigrants getting unfair punishment

Oh, if we only could muster up a bit of compassion in this country for U.S. residents who lack proper immigration documents, but who perform “essential” work, pay their taxes and behave themselves.

These folks are being neglected by the “economic stimulus package” that is being sent to millions of Americans. They won’t receive the help that is going to U.S. citizens.

Call me a bleeding heart if you wish. I’m OK with that as it regards this issue.

The Texas Tribune reports that roughly 8.2 percent of Texas’ workforce comprises undocumented immigrants. Yes, they are here “illegally” in the strict definition of the term. They face deportation by the Trump administration.

But they pay their taxes, giving money to the U.S. Treasury. They do not break other U.S. laws. They act as de facto law-abiding citizens. Except they are being shut out of the government’s economic stimulus initiative activated by the coronavirus pandemic.

I do not believe that is fair. It is as unfair as the effort to criminalize the Dreamers who live here “illegally” because their parents brought them to this country as children. They are recipients of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals measure enacted by President Obama, but which was revoked by Donald J. Trump. The state and nation are full of DACA recipients who have lived as model “citizens,” even as they lack the documentation that grants them citizenship, or even legal immigrant status.

And so the unfairness is now spilling onto those who deserve some economic relief in this perilous time.

Does this guy have a political future? Yeah, I think so

Crises occasionally give birth to political superstars and I am starting to see some signs of superstardom emerging among the ranks of local political figures in Texas and around the country.

The crisis of the moment is a big one: the coronavirus pandemic.

A Texas Tribune feature singles out a fellow who just might be among the superstars emerging from the wreckage that the pandemic is likely to create.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, according to the Tribune article, has been far from “timid” in his response to the pandemic. He jumped right away on calls for shelter in place, then for r. esidents of the nation’s eighth most populous county to stay at home. He has spearheaded the installation of temporary hospital rooms and issued calls to action among city officials and those who govern neighboring counties.

Jenkins even has chided other county judges — such as Chris Hill in Collin County — to step up their efforts to battle the onset of the coronavirus. The Tribune also notes that after ordering bars and restaurants closed, he egged Gov. Greg Abbott on to follow suit statewide.

So, is a star being born? Hmm. Maybe.

Jenkins is a Democrat, elected to the county judgeship in 2010. I don’t know much about Jenkins, other than what I’ve seen from my perch in Collin County, where we have lived for the past year or so.

Whether he’s able to capitalize appropriately on the leadership he is exhibiting depends on whether the judge sees a higher political office in his future. It well might be that he has advanced as far as he wants to go. Indeed, politicians often can overplay their hands if they want to take their public service venture to the next level.

Clay Jenkins has to play it carefully if he has any personal future ambition to fulfill. In the meantime, he can just keep doing what he’s doing and hope his leadership helps save lives … which by itself could write the script for this fellow’s political future.

Take it from this fellow: Texas judicial election system stinks

There can be no diplomatic, or judicious way to say this.

The system we use in Texas to elect our judges stinks to high heaven … and beyond. It is filled with the stench of rotten money.

There. Now that we’ve laid that all out, I now shall offer some evidence. It comes from a marvelous Texas Tribune article about a fellow I don’t know well, but someone about whom I have known for many years.

Salem Abraham lives in Canadian, which I call “the pretty part of the Texas Panhandle.” He earned a fortune trading on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. He knows how to play numerical probabilities.

As the Tribune reports, Abraham knows as well as anyone in Texas that the more you donate to Texas judicial candidates the better your chances of winning a judicial verdict/settlement in their court.

Texas is one of six states that elect judges on partisan ballots. The Tribune notes, too, that many judges owe their campaign donations to “the white-shoe lawyers and law firms who appear before them.”

The Tribune also reports that every living former Texas Supreme Court chief justice has called for reforming the system. To no avail. Their pleas have fallen into the abyss of indifference to — at a bare minimum — the appearance of impropriety.

Abraham notes in the article that the more money that pours in the more likely one will get a favorable ruling from the court.

Pass the collection plate?

This is no way to adjudicate fairly, impartially and without bias.