Category Archives: State news

Paxton seeks way out from under cloud

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Whenever I see and hear about Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton launching a legal pursuit my mind drifts automatically to the troubles he continues to face.

Paxton is suing the Biden administration over its decision to suspend deportation of immigrants. He says President Biden’s order is in direct violation of an agreement that Biden’s predecessor signed before he left office.

OK, whatever.

I cannot help but wonder about Paxton’s motives, even as he acts in conjunction with his Texas constitutional responsibility.

I don’t trust Ken Paxton’s judgment in the least.

He is awaiting a trial in state court over an allegation that he defrauded investors in a securities fraud matter. A Collin County grand jury indicted him in 2015; his case has dragged on for more than five years.

Plus, we now know that the FBI is looking into allegations by his top legal assistants that he is abusing the power of his office as AG. The feds are looking into it to determine whether there is enough to pursue criminal action.

Don’t you feel well represented by this mediocre lawyer? I damn sure don’t. I want him to resign his office. He embarrassed Texas by filing a ridiculous lawsuit with the Supreme Court that sought to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in several states that voted for President Biden; he wanted the court to overturn those results on phony constitutional grounds. SCOTUS tossed his lawsuit aside, with all three of Donald Trump’s appointees voting with the majority opinion.

Texas AG Ken Paxton needs to quit his office. He needs to return to private life. Every public decision he makes is shrouded by suspicion in many Texans’ eyes — including mine — that we are being represented by a crook.

Yes, governor, vet our Guard, too!

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has put his righteous indignation on full display and for the life of me I don’t get why he’s so angry about this effort to make us more secure.

Abbott is angry because the Department of Homeland Security is vetting Texas National Guard troops who are being deployed to assist in securing the nation’s capital in advance of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

He calls the vetting to protect against an inside conspiracy an “insult” to Texas Guard personnel. Abbott swears by the Guard’s love of country and just does not accept that someone within our state’s military ranks could be considered a threat to our government.

Really, governor? Are our men and women more patriotic than military personnel from other states? What in the world would Gov. Abbott think if someone from the Texas National Guard garrison was found to be a member of, say, the Proud Boys or is a QAnon supporter? Is that really and truly so out of the question that DHS and other national security team members shouldn’t check … just to be sure?

Settle down, Gov. Abbott. I share your respect for the men and women who sign up for duty to protect us. However, I also believe that given the attack we experienced on the Sixth of January, we cannot possibly be too careful in guarding against further outbursts of senseless violence.

A ‘new America’ awaits?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Take a long look at the picture contained in this brief blog post and I fear you are going to presume that this is the look of the new America.

It came to my Facebook page via Nancy Seliger, whose husband — Kel Seliger — reported for duty the other day as a state senator serving in the Texas Legislature.

The heavily armed individuals you see are on guard against potential violence at the Texas Capitol Building in Austin, where 181 members of our Legislature are meeting for the next 140 days to enact laws that govern us.

The riot that erupted Jan. 6 in D.C.? The one that killed five people and damaged the nation’s Capitol Building? The attack on our democratic system of government?

The terrorists who conducted that calamitous attack are vowing more of the same at capitols across the nation. That includes ours in Austin, ladies and gents. Thus, we have heavily armed security personnel on guard.

This is disgusting, reprehensible and is a vile statement of the nature of our political discourse in the Age of Donald Trump. Thankfully and not a moment too soon, that age is about to end. Trump will be gone from the White House.

I am saddened to presume that the anger he stoked for four years isn’t likely to subside just because Trump is no longer in power. Oh, how I hope to be wrong on this matter, but my fears continue to be fueled by FBI reports of alarm bells sounding. They could be hailing further spasms of uncontrolled violence.

Just as 9/11 spawned a new era of travel in this country and around the world, I fear that the Jan. 6 attack on our democratic system has produced a new era that requires such deterrence against those who would take political protest to these deadly extremes.

Let us pray for a return to sanity.

Good luck, Speaker Phelan

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The Dade Phelan Era has commenced in the Texas House of Representatives and — wouldn’t you know it — he already is taking some incoming fire from those on the far right wing of his Republican Party.

Phelan is the newly elected speaker of the House. He is a Beaumont Republican who had the temerity to suggest he wants to work well with Democrats who comprise a substantial minority of the 150-member legislative body.

One of the two House members who voted against Phelan happens to be freshman GOP Rep. Bryan Slaton of Royse City, who said in a statement that he voted against Phelan because the new speaker is someone “who has refused to articulate to Republicans whether or not he believes we should have a true conservative session.”

Dade Phelan elected speaker of the Texas House | The Texas Tribune

What the hell does that mean? Is Slaton suggesting that Phelan’s more bipartisan approach will result in more dreaded “liberal policies” that Slaton and other right wingers cannot support? Slaton is parroting the language used by Texas GOP chairman Allen West, the transplanted Florida fire breather who moved to Texas and got elected party chairman this past year. West doesn’t much like Phelan’s approach, either.

I want to remind everyone here that bipartisanship has worked well for previous speakers of the Texas House. My favorite example of the success of that approach involves former Speaker Pete Laney, the Hale Center Democrat who hardly  legislated as a flaming liberal when he served as the Man of the House. He reached across the aisle frequently and governed on the policy of letting “the will of the House” do its job.

“We must all do our part — not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Texans and Americans,” Phelan said. “Let us unite in one common purpose to do what is right for the people of Texas.”

Wow. That’s hardly lifted from the Communist Manifesto.

I want to wish the new speaker well as he takes the gavel. It likely will be a difficult session that will demand that everyone search fervently for “one common purpose.”

Trump soon to be gone; others, such as Sen. Cruz, will remain

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The tragedy of the riot that overwhelmed Capitol Hill this week will remain seared into our national soul for a long time.

What’s more is that even though the Perpetrator in Chief, Donald Trump, will be gone in (no more than) 12 days, many of his minions — those in power — will be on the job, manning their posts and perhaps trying to become the next spokesman for whatever cause Trump supposedly sought to move forward.

Truth be told at this juncture, I hope Trump is gone before President Biden’s inaugural on Jan. 20. He is a menace to the nation as he demonstrated by inciting the riot that stormed the seat of our government.

He’ll be gone. Soon!

Who will remain? The likes of Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texan who was among the ringleaders to challenge the Electoral College result that elected Joe Biden as president and Kamala Harris as vice president.

To hear Cruz say that “Democrats are playing politics” makes me want to scream at the top of my lungs. What in the name of bald-faced hypocrisy is he suggesting? That Republicans are pure and clean and filled only with righteousness? If there ever was a more political animal prowling through the halls of Congress, he or she would have to go a great distance to outdo the Cruz Missile.

I am ashamed to be represented in Congress by this individual. He has sickened me since the day he emerged out of nowhere to defeat Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the 2012 Republican primary and then went on to be elected U.S. senator from Texas. It didn’t take much clairvoyance to determine immediately that Cruz had the White House on his mind when he entered the Senate. Sure enough, he sought the Big Prize in 2016, only to lose to Trump.

What slays me is how Cruz once referred to his GOP primary foe Trump as a “sniveling coward,” only to become that very thing as he lined up behind a president he once called a “pathological liar.”

Ted Cruz will be there after Trump exits. He will be joined by other sycophants. Make no mistake that I will think only of that riot and Cruz’s attempt to subvert the will of an electorate every single time I see his puss on TV or hear his voice.

Texas AG sues city and county for toughening rules? Weird!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Surely I am not the only Texas resident who finds this legal squabble disturbing.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has sued Austin and Travis County for — and this is pretty strange — invoking get-tough rules designed to protect residents from getting a killer virus.

Paxton says Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Andy Brown lack the authority to go beyond the order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott.

But … wait! Adler and Brown are concerned about the pandemic outbreak that is occurring in their community, so they are taking measures to fight it. Isn’t that a good thing? Isn’t that what local officials are charged to do?

According to the Texas Tribune:

Paxton filed a petition for temporary injunction and a temporary restraining order in Travis County District Court targeting orders made by Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Andy Brown. Citing an increase in COVID-19 cases, they announced that dine-in food and beverage service must be restricted indoors and outdoors from 10:30 p.m. to 6 a.m., starting Thursday and ending at 6 a.m. Sunday. The measure did allow drive-thru, curbside pick-up, take out, or delivery services.

“Mayor Adler and Judge Brown do not have the authority to flout Gov. [Greg] Abbott’s executive orders by shutting down businesses in Travis County and our state’s capital city,” said Paxton in a statement. “The fact that these two local leaders released their orders at night and on the eve of a major holiday shows how much contempt they have for Texans and local businesses.”

Huh? Eh? What the … ?

Is this another one of those Republican vs. Democrat disputes where one side places greater emphasis on safety measures than the other side? If that is the case, then we are in a hell of a pickle as we try to fight this damn disease.

Paxton: the real Bum Steer of the Year

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

My favorite issue each year of Texas Monthly arrived in the mail today and I saw something on the cover that made me wince in disappointment.

TM named the Texas Democratic Party as its Bum Steer of the Year in its annual Bum Steer edition that comes out at the end of every calendar year. The magazine has hit many home runs with its Bum Steer “honor,” and it also has whiffed. I fear that the magazine’s publishing deadline created a missed opportunity.

Yes, the Democratic Party missed its “blue wave” prediction, claiming it would sweep into elective power in the Nov. 3 election. It sure missed … by a Texas mile.

Something happened, though, between the magazine’s deadline and its production that to my mind provided an even more egregious Bum Steer for the magazine to consider.

That would be Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s moronic lawsuit that sought the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the election results in four states that voted for Joe Biden over Donald Trump. SCOTUS tossed the lawsuit in a fit of judicial wisdom many of us didn’t quite expect from a court that comprises three justices nominated by Donald Trump. Sanity prevailed.

However, Paxton’s lawsuit brought a significant level of scorn to Texas. The AG couldn’t dictate how other states conduct their electoral affairs, the court ruled. Indeed, many critics have wondered whether Paxton — a dedicated Republican — has a screw loose.

He did all that while the FBI is investigating whether he committed crimes while serving as AG, which brings many of us to wonder whether Paxton is angling for a presidential pardon for any crimes that the FBI might uncover. A pardon from Trump, I hasten to add, wouldn’t involve the state trial that awaits Paxton on allegations of securities fraud. The guy’s a serious peach, you know?

I am well aware that Paxton dodged a bit of a freight train simply by virtue of the deadline that TM faced when it was assembling its Bum Steer issue. I also know that he likely won’t get the magazine’s Bum Steer of the Year “honor” at the end of 2021. Too bad.

Still, I want to bestow my own version of a venerable award to a politician who — with his idiotic effort to subvert the democratic process — has brought shame and ridicule to our great state.

Thanks for not a damn thing, Mr. AG.

Might there be a new Texas legislative feud?

(AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Texas state Rep. Dade Phelan of Beaumont appears to be the next speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.

If he wins the vote among his colleagues, he’ll get to cross swords — maybe, possibly — with the guy who runs the other legislative body, the Senate down the hall. That would be Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Patrick has a habit of picking fights on occasion with legislators. He got mad at my pal, state GOP Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo, during the 2019 Legislature and stripped Seliger of his committee leadership posts. Why? Because Seliger spoke unkindly about a key Patrick aide.

Keep fighting the fight, Sen. Seliger | High Plains Blogger

During the 2017 session, Patrick wanted the Legislature to enact the infamous Bathroom Bill, the legislation that would have made it a requirement that folks use public restrooms in accordance with their “birth gender”; the bill was a clear act of discrimination against transgender individuals. The House speaker at the time, fellow Republican Joe Straus of San Antonio, would have none of that. He made sure the bill died during a special legislative session. My sense is that Patrick is still steaming over it.

Straus retired from politics. The next speaker, Dennis Bonnen of Angleton, served a single term and then got caught conspiring against fellow Republican lawmakers in a conversation with a far right wing political activist, Michael Quinn Sullivan. Bonnen bailed and is gone.

Now comes Rep. Phelan … apparently. I don’t know the young man, even though I once worked and lived in  Beaumont. I wish him well. I also hope he displays the kind of stones that Straus exhibited when Patrick tried to push him around over the Bathroom Bill.

Straus vs. Patrick: main event at special session | High Plains Blogger

Truth be told, I think Dan Patrick needs to be knocked a peg or three from his faux high horse. He offered to pay a reward to anyone who produced evidence of “massive voter fraud” in Texas during the 2020 presidential election; to date, he hasn’t handed out a nickel. Why? Because there was no fraud … the dipsh**.

Whatever happens during the Legislature that convenes Jan. 12, I look forward to watching it all unfold from my perch in Collin County. I just want the new House speaker — whoever emerges — to stand his ground against the bully who masquerades as the lieutenant governor.

What if a pardon comes and he accepts it?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Let’s a play that old game of “What If … ”

What if Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is looking for a presidential pardon, which was his reason for filing a hopelessly stupid lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Paxton sought to persuade the court to require that four states that voted for Joe Biden for president toss their votes and give the majority to Donald Trump. SCOTUS said “no” to the lawsuit. The justices tossed it into the crapper. They dismissed Paxton’s complaint that alleged the states changed their election laws in violation of the Constitution.

What if a pardon comes. Trump pardons Paxton for any federal crimes he might have committed. Indeed, the FBI is examining complaints filed by whistleblowers who worked in Paxton’s office; the individuals were fired or resigned in protest.

What if Paxton accepts the pardon. Isn’t that a de fact admission of guilt? Does that mean the state’s top legal authority has committed crimes worthy of a presidential pardon?

And does that mean we have an acknowledged criminal serving as the elected attorney general, the individual who represents Texas’s legal interests?

What if he accepts the pardon. Where I come from, that means the Texas attorney general should resign from office.

Am I off base?

Some advice for next Texas House speaker …

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Admittedly, I am a long time and a long way from my days in Beaumont, Texas, covering and commenting on politics of the region.

So I am drafting this blog post with a bit of trepidation. It appears that a young man from that corner of the state is set to become the next speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.

He is state Rep. Dade Phelan, a Republican. He is the son of a prominent developer in the community, a fellow I knew only casually. Still, I feel only a couple of degrees separated from Rep. Phelan.

I wish him well if he musters the support he claims to have lined up to be elected speaker in advance of the 2021 Texas Legislature. Phelan succeeds a fellow who turned out to be an abject failure as speaker, state Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, who served a single term as speaker before deciding against running for another term in the House.

So, it’s one and done for Bonnen. The dude found himself in a meeting with a right-wing zealot who taped the event secretly. The two of them talked about Bonnen turning on 10 of his GOP colleagues, offering them as targets for Michael Quinn Sullivan, guru of Empower Texans, to defeat in the 2020 Republican Party primary.

Bonnen denied saying those things. Sullivan then produced the recordings of Bonnen deceiving his colleagues. Bonnen apologized. Then when the sh** hit the fan, he decided to retire from the Legislature. Now he’s about to be gone.

In steps Phelan, a young man who pledges to work across the aisle. He wants to curry favor with Democrats as well as Republicans … or so I have been led to believe.

That’s not a bad goal. Some previous House speakers have done well serving the entire body, not just the members of their own party. I think of Republican Joe Straus of San Antonio and Democrat Pete Laney of Hale Center; I happen to know Laney fairly well, as I covered him when I moved from Beaumont to Amarillo in early 1995. Texas House speakers can govern effectively if they adhere to the traditions of the Legislature, which include bipartisanship when it becomes necessary.

OK, so here’s the final bit of advice I for Rep. Phelan: Don’t speak privately to Michael Quinn Sullivan without frisking him to ensure he isn’t recording what you tell him.