Waiting for end to this trial

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I try not to let my fear consume me, but I do have a particular fear about how this trial under way in Minneapolis might play out.

A former police officer, Derek Chauvin, is on trial in the death of George Floyd, whose life was snuffed out when Chauvin pressed his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes.

The prosecution is about to wrap up its case against Chauvin, who is charged with second-degree manslaughter and third-degree murder.

My fear? It’s that the defense is going to persuade one juror that there is “reasonable doubt” that Chauvin’s actions resulted in Floyd’s death.

I haven’t heard every single word of the testimony so far, but I remain convinced that Chauvin’s brutal restraint tactic resulted in the death of a man as he was being arrested — for passing a counterfeit $20 bill. Talk about the punishment not fitting the crime.

I am sitting far away from the trial. I fear what the reaction might be if jurors cannot reach a unanimous verdict that Chauvin is guilty of murdering George Floyd.

ERCOT deserves to be sued

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Here is an item that frustrates and angers me at the same time.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas is going to argue, according to the Texas Tribune, that it is immune from lawsuits filed by Texans over ERCOT’s handling of the Texas ice and snow storm this past February.

I am frustrated because a Dallas appeals court has ruled that ERCOT, despite being a private non-profit organization, might be protected because it operates as an arm of state government.

I am angry because ERCOT deserves to be sued over the power outages across the state that forced millions of Texans to endure the bitter cold without electricity.

The Tribune reported: “ERCOT has and will continue to assert that it is entitled to sovereign immunity due to its organization and function as an arm of State government,” the organization wrote in a Wednesday court filing requesting to consolidate several of the lawsuits it’s battling.

ERCOT to argue it is immune from winter storm lawsuits | The Texas Tribune

My wife and I were two of those Texans who struggled without power for a couple of days while the outdoor temperature plunged to zero. To make matters worse, the Princeton municipal water supply went kaput for a day because the electricity to its treatment plant also failed.

ERCOT mismanaged the electrical grid, which it operates throughout the state.

Board members resigned. Other board members fired its CEO. The Public Utility Commission resigned en masse. Gov. Greg Abbott has called for a legislative investigation into ERCOT. The Legislature is meeting right now to craft some needed reforms of the state electrical grid.

And ERCOT is going to declare some sort of sovereign immunity?

Amazing.

Politics: the ‘other contagion’

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

This must be said: The killer coronavirus isn’t the only disease that needs Americans’ attention.

We need to focus to a certain extent on what I consider to be the “other contagion” sweeping through the nation. That is the political battle that just won’t subside over the preventative measures we must take.

This needless and frankly stupid fight had its beginning during the final full year of Donald Trump’s term as president. It arose when Trump downplayed the severity of the illness that had sickened us. He hurled racial epithets at the disease, making reference to its alleged origin in China. He told us the virus would disappear when the temperatures rose in the spring and summer of 2020.

Trump poked fun at political foes, such as Joe Biden, who chose to wear a mask. He didn’t speak to us in terms that defined the COVID-19 virus what it turned out to be: a relentless and highly efficient killer.

Those Trumpkins followed their band director’s lead. We have become infected as well by the politics of what for the life of me I cannot grasp should never have devolved to that level.

Trump said he would adopt a “wartime” footing, only to denigrate the scientists who advised him of the dangers that lurked out there. And again, those followers took him seriously.

They, too, have become part of the problem and not the solution.

The political infection of what should be a united national fight is a disgraceful example of pettiness and petulance. It should have no place in a fight that should transcend partisanship.

President Biden calls mask wearing, social distancing and frequent hand washing the “patriotic” thing to do. If we are going to whip this common enemy, we need to push aside the politics that infects us.

One contagion is enough.

Arguing over ‘infrastructure’

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

So, now President Biden and his Republican “friends” in Congress are arguing over how to define “infrastructure.”

Their disagreement means that GOP members of Congress will oppose what Biden wants to do with $2.25 trillion he is proposing as an “infrastructure” package he wants approved by the Fourth of July.

The GOP defines the terms in the traditional manner: roads, bridges, rail lines, airports, seaports. President Biden considers job creation and the care and well being of Americans as part of an infrastructure plan.

Hmm. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Who wins the day?

I am going to go with President Biden’s world view.

He wants to pull back some of the corporate tax reduction Congress enacted in 2017. That tax would help pay for the proposal. Republicans don’t want to betray those corporations by forcing them to pay part of the freight.

We are at a stalemate.

Republicans also contend that too little of what Biden wants is going toward those traditional infrastructure needs. They want it scaled back in a big way. President Biden isn’t having any of that.

The package does contain hundreds of billions of dollars for highways, bridges, airport and seaport renovation. It also enhances Internet broadband capability. It also invests in green energy development. Along the way, it intends to put millions of Americans to work.

Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. It’s a good thing that needs to become law. First, though, we need to get past this disagreement over what constitutes “infrastructure.”

Can we repair this damage?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

One of the unfortunate consequences of Donald Trump’s term as president has been the damage inflicted among loved ones.

Family members have become split between the pro-Trump and the anti-Trump wings. Not only that, but the anger generated on both sides of the divide has done great harm to relationships that are supposed to be immune from mere political differences.

My family has been spared much of that long term damage. I am an avid anti-Trumper. I have family members who are just as avid pro-Trumpers. They live far away. Therefore, we don’t see them regularly enough or even communicate with sufficient frequency to get wound up too tightly in political discussions.

I have heard plenty of anecdotes about family members clawing at each other — proverbially, of course — over these political differences.

We have crossed an important threshold, though. President Biden vowed to “unify” the country. He is having trouble unifying Democrats and Republicans in Congress, getting them to line up toward a single political goal. Perhaps the president can focus his unification effort on trying to mend fences between factions out here. It well might be that Joe Biden will be less toxic, less divisive, less vitriolic than the guy he defeated this past November.

Therefore, we might see some unity redevelop in households across the land. Or between extended family members who formerly hated each just because they supported Trump … or opposed Trump.

It would be my fervent hope that President Biden’s quest for unity can extend beyond the halls of power and into our living rooms and dining rooms.

Is that too much to ask? I think not.

Mitch gets roughed up by his guy … Donald

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

How much more verbal abuse can Mitch McConnell take from Donald Trump?

That’s my question of the moment after hearing what Trump said about the U.S. Senate Republican leader at that GOP donors dinner in Florida this weekend.

Trump called McConnell a “dumb son of a bi***” and a “stone-cold loser.” Oh, and Trump also lambasted other Republicans in the House and Senate who said some mean things about him, not to mention the insults he hurled at Democrats. Let’s not forget that Trump also trashed former Vice President Mike Pence because Pence didn’t do Trump’s bidding, which would have required him to violate the U.S. Constitution.

I ask this about Mitch because of something McConnell said about Trump shortly after The Donald left the presidency. He said — and this is astonishing — that he would “absolutely” support Trump were he to become the GOP’s 2024 presidential nominee.

He threw his support behind Trump after declaring that ex-POTUS was responsible for the Jan. 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill, that he “provoked” the mob of terrorists to storm the Capitol Building and prevent the counting of Electoral College votes certifying the election of Joe Biden as the next president.

So, McConnell endorses a possible — but in my view highly unlikely — Trump presidential candidacy. What does he get in return? Yet another verbal slap in the puss from the former Imbecile in Chief.

No, Matt Gaetz, they’re coming for ‘you’

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

What in the world of blustery bloviating is Matt Gaetz suggesting?

The embattled Republican congressman from Florida is trying to suggest that investigations into whether he engaged in sex with an underage girl and got involved with a sex trafficking ring is an attack on his supporters.

The loudmouth Donald Trump acolyte tore a page out of the ex-POTUS’s playbook and said over the weekend that the probe into his alleged activity is aimed at others.

“They’re aren’t coming after me,” he bellowed to a crowd. “They’re coming after you.”

No, Matt. The feds are coming after you, as in they want to know what Matt Gaetz is doing when no one is looking.

This investigation might not be turning in Gaetz’s favor. A guy with whom he is friends, Joel Greenberg, is thought to be preparing to cop some sort of plea deal with the feds on a sex-trafficking rap. If he pleads, works out a lesser-sentence agreement and then rats out his buddy, Matt Gaetz … hmm. What happens then?

Meanwhile, Gaetz continues to bluster, bellow, blather his way deeper into the crapper.

I probably should just give way to the “presumption of innocence” principle to which all Americans are entitled. I am sorry to acknowledge that I just cannot go there. Not with this clown.

Happy Trails, Part 191: Easy transition

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

One of the many pleasant surprises I have found on my retirement journey has been the ease of adapting to this new way of living and thinking.

It’s been a few years now since I decided to quit working full time. I turned 66 years old and then filed for Social Security benefits. I had been collecting a small newspaper pension for about a year, along with a 10 percent Veterans Administration disability benefit, which I started collecting in 1970, the year I separated from the Army.

One of the truisms I have been telling retirees who have taken the leap is that “separation anxiety from work is vastly overrated.” I learned that right away.

After spending nearly four decades battling deadlines, writing breaking news stories, editorials and persona columns for newspapers in two states, I thought there might be some anxiety associated with no longer having to fight those battles. Oh, brother, was that ever a misfire.

I have found much to my liking that I prefer at this stage of my life the joy of rolling out of the rack when I damn well feel like it. I enjoy being able to go where my wife and I choose to go in the middle of the week. I get a kick out of those who wish us a “good weekend,” knowing in my heart that every day is a weekend.

We relocated about three years to Collin County, Texas, to sink our roots deeply into turf near our granddaughter, who lives about 20 minutes away. We found a home that is perfect for just my bride and me. I am not what you could call “fully retired” at this moment. I sought a chance to work on a freelance basis for a husband and wife who own a group of community weekly newspapers. They hired me with the understanding that we would load up our fifth wheel and take off to explore this marvelous continent. “No problem,” they said.

The daily grind? It’s a thing of the increasingly distant past.

Moreover, I do not miss a single, solitary moment of it.

Presidency is so … normal

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Joe Biden’s initial period as president of the United States has lacked the flash and panache of the guy who preceded him immediately in the office.

You know what? I am totally fine with that.

Whereas the 45th president of the United States sought actively to get on people’s nerves, the 46th president goes about his daily business the way most of the 44 men before them both did.

Donald Trump is wired to shower himself with publicity. That’s his brand. He spent his entire professional life — every single minute of it — with one aim: self-enrichment, self-aggrandizement and self-promotion. Then he ran for POTUS in 2016 and, lo and behold, he actually won!

Trump’s term as president was fraught with much of the same kind of silliness, except that its consequences were far from “silly.” They were dire, grave and full of peril.

Now he’s out of there. President Biden has conducted himself with dignity, sorrow when the moment presents itself and yes, even a bit of joy when that moment arrives, too.

Biden has endured sorrowful moments, with shootings continuing to take innocent lives. Yes, there’s also the pandemic that continues to kill Americans.

However, he has enjoyed one major legislative triumph, the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill he signed into law. He didn’t spike the proverbial football. Biden didn’t prance and preen and declare that only he could have gotten it done.

President Biden is not making policy pronouncements, surprising Cabinet officials or the brass who serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff via Twitter. That, too, was part of Donald Trump’s modus operandi. 

Trump said he preferred to be “unpredictable.” It had appeal among a core of voters. It also had a seriously destabilizing effect on the government professionals who worked in the executive branch, not to mention our allies around the world.

Biden is wired differently, being a creature of government, someone who had dedicated his adult life to public service. President Biden is acutely aware of the consequences of his actions and prefers to operate within the norms established by many decades of tradition, custom and, oh yes … the law!

Even when he missteps, Joe Biden looks to me to be a lead-pipe cinch to avoid the chaos and confusion that marked the term of the guy he replaced. I am all in.

This House seat has been hijacked

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Admittedly, my view of my former haunts up yonder on the West Texas Caprock is a bit jaded.

I arrived in Amarillo in January 1995 to begin a stint as editorial page editor of the Globe-News. The congressman for the region was taking his oath of office that same week. Mac Thornberry rode the Republican wave in the Contract With America election in 1994. He settled in quickly and became a quiet back-bench member of the new congressional majority comprising Republicans.

Thornberry is out of office now. He called it quits at the end of 2020 after a quarter century in Congress. His successor, Ronny Jackson, has assumed quite a different posture than the man he succeeded; I won’t say “replaced” because Jackson’s behavior so far doesn’t warrant that kind of accolade.

What I think we are witnessing in the 13th Congressional District of Texas is a boiled-down version of what has happened to the Republican Party. It has become the Party of Donald Trump. Jackson’s behavior, which includes multiple Twitter sniper shots daily, is indicative of that change.

Whereas the former congressman, Thornberry, would exercise some discretion, would be circumspect, wouldn’t seek to bloody the water, Jackson is an entirely different swamp creature.

It’s kinda like the way Trump acted during the time he served as president. You know?

Jackson has been ranting and railing against the border crisis, which he blames on President Biden’s alleged “open border” policy. He also has been bloviating and blustering about the Second Amendment to the Constitution, blaming Democrats of trying to “take your guns away” while they seek a legislative remedy to the spasm of gun violence that Biden has called — correctly! — an “international embarrassment.”

I sought out one of Thornberry’s closest aides this week, asking this staffer what Thornberry thinks of Jackson’s behavior. This aide responded, “Honestly, he doesn’t betray how he feels,” adding in a personal aside to me that “you know him” Well, I was not surprised to get the answer to that question. Still, I thought it was worth asking.

I am troubled by the representation my former neighbors in the Panhandle are getting from their member of Congress. I wonder if Rep. Jackson is going to settle down long enough to actually craft legislation that deals specifically with issues important to the constituents he now represents.

Oh, let me add that Rep. Jackson only moved into the district in time to run for the seat that Thornberry vacated. The congressman needs to bone up on the issues that matter.

He ought to take a break from his bluster to give thought to how he intends to represent the sprawling Texas congressional district.

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