Category Archives: State news

Why the ham-handedness?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Greg Abbott didn’t strike me as a politician who would rule with an iron hand, a clenched fist when he ran for Texas governor and then got elected in 2014.

I knew him as a Texas Supreme Court justice and then as Texas attorney general. He always seemed like a reasonable, thoughtful conservative Republican.

Now he’s governor and now he is acting like — oh, I don’t know — The Great Dictator. The latest example comes in the form of his refusal to let cities, counties and “independent” school districts decide on whether to require masks for their constituents.

Abbott insists that his statewide ban on mask-mandating stands. He won’t allow a county judge, a mayor, a school superintendent or school board president to decide whether the Delta variant of the COVID virus in their communities requires them to re-impose mask mandates.

Abbott seems to be saying, “There’s nothing to see here.”

Except that there is plenty to see. Texas and Florida account for the largest share of the Delta variant COVID infections. Memo to Greg: We ain’t doing too well, governor, in vaccinating Texans. Our dismal vaccination rates account for the spike in new infections in Texas. What that tells me is that the Texas governor should reel in his dictatorial tendencies, given that they aren’t working well enough to stem the infection that has gripped the state a second time.

What’s more, I always have understood one key element of Republican political orthodoxy to mean that “local control is best,” that local governments need not be dictated to by those in state capitols, let alone those in Washington, D.C. I guess I was mistaken.

Gov. Abbott is pushing back on President Biden’s insistence that the surge in infections is a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” Greg Abbott is seriously mistaken if he believes he knows better than communities spread across this vast state how to cope with a potentially unfolding tragedy.

AG hopeful stung by this reality

(AP Photo/LM Otero)

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

This clearly won’t help George P. Bush push his candidacy to become the next Texas attorney general.

It turns out, according to the Texas Tribune, that the state’s veterans homes — which are administered by the office Bush runs — have been dying of COVID pandemic complications at a rate greater than the state and national averages.

Bush serves as Texas land commissioner. The General Land Office runs programs aimed at helping Texas veterans. Bush now wants to be the next Texas attorney general. He is running in the 2022 Republican primary against incumbent Ken Paxton; former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman also is running for the AG’s post in the GOP primary.

But wait! Now we hear that Texas veterans who live in GLO-administered veterans homes have fared poorly as the state has battled the COVID virus.

That’s on George P. Bush.

As the Texas Tribune reports: Nursing homes, which care for people who are already medically vulnerable, were ravaged by the pandemic. But Texas’ state-run veterans homes were often the deadliest places to be.

Texas veterans homes were deadly during the COVID-19 pandemic | The Texas Tribune

Also from the Texas Tribune: Three of the state’s nine veterans homes — including Ambrosio Guillen in El Paso — had the highest death rate among all nursing homes in their county. Seven had a fatality rate of 25% or more, far higher than the statewide average of 11% across Texas nursing homes.

Bush wants to restore integrity in the attorney general’s office. Indeed, Paxton’s tenure since his taking office in 2015 has been fraught with scandal and suspicion of malfeasance and outright corruption.

Texas veterans and their family members need and deserve answers as to why state-run nursing homes have become synonymous with the term “death sentence.”

Well, Ted … your take on Dems’ bolting the state?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Texas Republican politicians are having a high time criticizing their Democratic legislative colleagues for leaving Texas intent on preventing a Republican-led effort to suppress Texas voters’ access to polling booths.

But … where is U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz? Is the Cruz Missile going to weigh in? Oh, wait! He has his own bail-on-Texas cross the bear.

This is the nitwit who sought to high-tail it to Cancun, Mexico in February while the rest of us were freezing — many of us to death — in that monster winter storm. He came back home when the fecal matter hit the fan, then tried to explain his way out of the jam into which he had inserted himself.

So, go ahead, Sen. Ted Cruz. Tell us all why you think Texas Democrats are shirking their duty.

Texas AG faces tough electoral challenge

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has endured, shall we say, a rocky tenure as the state’s chief legal eagle.

The former Collin County state legislator has been indicted for securities fraud and is awaiting state court trial; he has been accused of wrong doing by seven top assistants in the Texas AG’s office of doing illegal business; he has sought to overturn free and fair results in the 2020 presidential election only to have the U.S. Supreme Court toss his lawsuits out with nary so much as a hearing.

Can it be any wonder that the Republican attorney general has been challenged in the 2022 GOP primary by two big hitters and also now might face a high-powered Democrat … if he survives the Republican primary challenge?

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush announced his intention to run for AG. Bush’s legal credentials don’t stand up to his political standing. Indeed, the land commissioner is the grandson and nephew of two prominent Texans: the late former President George H.W. Bush and former POTUS George W. Bush, respectively; oh, and he’s the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

He has said, basically, “enough is enough, Ken” as he seeks to restore honesty and credibility to the Texas attorney general’s office.

Now we have former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman, whose legal credentials are stellar in the extreme. Guzman might lack George P. Bush’s political standing, but her knowledge of Texas law as well as her reputation are beyond reproach.

Guzman resigned from the state’s highest civil appellate court and then jumped right back into the fray.

Then there’s noted civil rights lawyer Lee Merritt, who just the other day announced his intention to run in the Democratic Party primary next year. Merritt has been involved in many high-profile cases involving police-related deaths of black residents. He presents a formidable challenge all by himself.

I’ll re-state my bias right here: Ken Paxton is a chump. I want him removed from office. My preference would be for him to be convicted of securities fraud by a jury, which would result in his immediate removal. My second choice would be for him to lose his primary bid either to Bush or Guzman, which — the more I think about it — looms as a distinct possibility.

Choice No. 3 — which appears to be the least likely — would be for Paxton to lose to a Democrat in the fall of 2022. My strongest hope is that the AG doesn’t get that far into this upcoming election cycle.

Where’s the fraud … Dan?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

So help me, I cannot get my noggin past that idiotic offer Texas Lt. Gov.  Dan Patrick made some months ago to his fellow Texans.

He offered to pay anyone a million bucks if they produced evidence of widespread vote fraud in Texas during the 2020 presidential election. The offer has become part of the Republican legislative mantra as legislators seek to make it more difficult for Texans to vote.

The link between the offer and the GOP legislative effort is clear: Republicans insist there was fraud; no one has produced a shred of proof of fraud in Texas or anywhere else for that matter.

Patrick — who came into this world with the name of Dannie Scott Goeb (and I don’t know why I mentioned that, other than perhaps to illustrate this clown’s phoniness) — has made vote fraud an issue as he pushes the Texas Senate over which he presides to enact these restrictions.

Why, though, hasn’t Patrick produced proof? Why is he relying on some unknown Texan to provide the Legislature with proof — where none exists — of vote fraud?

The reason the lieutenant governor hasn’t delivered the goods is because there are no goods to deliver. It’s also why he hasn’t been forced to shell out the dough to anyone else who has proof of vote fraud.

It is another version of The Big Lie.

Lt. Gov. Patrick’s offer remains on the table. I do not expect anyone to come forward with proof of vote fraud. Which begs the question: Has the Texas lieutenant governor committed an act of treason — along with the former Nitwit in Chief — by challenging a free and fair election?

Hang tough, Texas Dems

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Here we go … again.

Texas Democratic legislators are fleeing the state to deny a quorum from being present to enact a law they find onerous … so much so that they are willing to watch state government grind to a halt.

To which I say: More power to em!

Gov. Greg Abbott called a special session to deal with some unresolved issues left by the regular legislative session. One of them is this goofy notion of protecting the Texas electoral system against a phantom known as “widespread voter fraud.”

Read my lips: There is no such fraud in Texas!

Texas Democrats attempt to block voting bill by fleeing state | The Texas Tribune

Yet the Texas Republican legislative caucus insists on throwing up barriers to voter access to prevent the kind of fraud some of them suggest occurred during the 2020 election that President Biden won bigly over the Republican incumbent who masqueraded as POTUS for four years.

Texas Democrats managed to stymie this rush toward voter suppression at the end of the Legislature’s regular session in late May. Republicans made a few changes to the proposed legislation in an effort to make it more palatable to Democrats when they convened for their special session.

A lot of clunkers remain in the amended version embraced by the Texas GOP. They still want to ban 24-hour mail-in voting; they still insist on having partisan poll watchers on duty while Texans cast their ballots.

The essence of a thriving democratic system of government is to encourage more people — not fewer of them — to vote in our elections. Texas was among many states across the nation that enjoyed record voter turnout in the 2020 presidential election. The 45th POTUS carried the state’s vote by about 6 percentage points, yet the Republican Party of Texas has concocted this notion that Texas was infected by rampant voter fraud.

Indeed, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick offered any Texan a million bucks if he or she could produce fraud on a scale that GOP honchos insist occurred in 2020. So far no one has come forth. Imagine that, eh?

And so, Texas Democrats are playing hardball with their GOP colleagues, who in my view are using legislative procedure to make it more difficult for Texans to cast their ballots.

Shameful.

Solution needs a problem

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

It is troubling to me in the extreme that Texas legislative Republicans keep yapping about their efforts to make elections “more secure.”

I keep asking: More secure against what? Precisely?

They are pondering how to limit people’s access to voting. They want to reduce voters’ ability to vote because, according to GOP legislators, they want to guard against vote fraud.

Good grief, man! There is hardly anything of the sort occurring in Texas. Or anywhere, for that matter!

What we have here is a solution in search of a problem. Texas GOP legislators are concocting a pretext to stymie voters along the way. They profess to be fearful of vote fraud. Some of the loonier among them suggest the 2020 presidential election was fraught with fraud.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who runs the state Senate, offered to pay someone $1 million if they could produce any evidence of widespread voter fraud in Texas. To date, he hasn’t had to pay. Why? Because there isn’t any such fraud!

The Legislature is meeting in special session to enact a number of laws left undone during the regular session that concluded at the end of May. The so-called voter “reform” is little more than an effort to keep GOP politicians in power.

Legislative Republicans have sought to soften some of the harder edges on their overhaul plans. Yet they remain committed to certain provisions that appear to target minority communities and actually suppress voter turnout in upcoming elections.

Read the story here: Texas Republicans Have A New Voting Bill. Here’s What’s In It | 88.9 KETR

Texas legislative Democrats might try to bolt the state during the special session to prevent a quorum and, thus, stymie efforts to enact the legislation. I am one Texan who wants Democrats to do precisely that to end this blatant power grab.

Republicans who suggest they seek to end vote fraud are simply lying to those of us they serve.

Irony in special session

(Cooper Neill/The Dallas Morning News) 

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Surely I am not the only Texas observer who sees a certain irony in Gov. Greg Abbott summoning legislators back to Austin for a special session … given his veto of money to pay for legislative staffers’ salaries.

Think of this for just a moment.

Abbott became angry with Texas House Democrats because they walked off the House floor to prevent a voter suppression bill to become law during the regular legislative session. He vetoed legislators’ staff money to pay them back for failing to “do their job.”

Then he called them back from their home districts to do some more work. I don’t get it.

Abbott was prohibited from vetoing legislators’ salaries, as it is guaranteed by the Texas Constitution. Indeed, we don’t pay lawmakers very much money: $600 per month plus an expense stipend when they’re in session. Legislators will continue to get their measly amount despite the governor’s veto.

The House Appropriations Committee on Friday voted 21-0 to reinstate the money that Gov. Abbott vetoed.

As the Texas Tribune reported: The veto applies to the thousands of staffers who work directly for lawmakers and several state agencies. Those agencies include the Legislative Reference Library, which conducts research for the Legislature; the Legislative Budget Board, which develops policy and budget recommendations and provides fiscal analyses for legislation; the Legislative Council, which helps draft and analyze potential legislation; the State Auditor’s Office, which reviews the state’s finances; and the Sunset Advisory Commission, which reviews the efficiency of state agencies.

Texas lawmakers take first steps to restore Legislature’s funding after veto | The Texas Tribune

I just happen to believe the governor’s veto of this money and his quick action to summon everyone back to Austin drips with a certain irony that I cannot let go  unnoticed.

Get vaccinated, Texans!

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

This isn’t good news, folks.

Texans like to boast about how our state is No. 1. Well, we are far from No. 1 in the rate of inoculation against that killer virus, the COVID-19 pandemic that’s still killing too many of us.

The Texas Tribune reports that the state has inoculated about 43 percent of its population fully against the virus.

I was struck by the results coming from Amarillo and from Beaumont, two communities where I used to live. Amarillo had been vaccinating at double the state rate. Then the good folks of the Panhandle decided to stop exceeding the state standard. Amarillo’s fully vaccinated rate stands at 30 percent, a good bit below the state inoculation rate.

The Beaumont-Port Arthur metro area fares even worse, with just 28 percent of its residents claiming to be fully vaccinated.

I don’t know about you, but I believe that is disconcerting news to say the least. At worst it is frightening, given the spike in that the “delta variant” now accounts for about 25 percent of the new infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

https://www.texastribune.org/2021/07/06/coronavirus-texas-vaccination-amarillo/

President Biden keeps telling us that it is the “patriotic” thing to do to get vaccinated. The first time I heard him say it, I though the then-new president was overstating the importance. No more, man! I now am on board fully with Joe Biden’s summoning our patriotic spirit in fighting the virus.

I have been using High Plains Blogger to extol the message. And I will continue to speak out on this forum. It’s the best avenue at my disposal to say what I believe needs to be said.

I am able to speak with a clear conscience about vaccination. I am fully vaccinated, as is virtually my entire immediate family. We stand proudly as those who heeded the call to get the vaccine. To be sure, we have paid a hefty price from the pandemic. Two of our immediate family members were hospitalized with symptoms; one of those family members became, in the words of the medical staff tending to her, “seriously ill” from the virus, which means we could have lost her. I thank God Almighty each day that we didn’t.

This is all my way of urging everyone who is eligible to receive the vaccine to get the medication shot into your body. The CDC, the Food and Drug Administration and practically every medical expert on Earth say the vaccines are safe; they are effective; they will protect you and those with whom you come in contact.

As for my former neighbors in far-reaching regions of this vast state who continue to resist the vaccine, they are playing a dangerous game.

Note: A version of this blog was published initially on KETR.org.

Play hardball, Democrats

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

There are times when you have to go for broke if you intend to preserve what you believe are basic democratic tenets.

Texas legislative Democrats walked off the floor of the House of Representatives near the end of the Legislature’s regular session to prevent House Republicans from forcing a vote on restrictions to the state election laws.

Gov. Greg Abbott was so angry he decided to call a special legislative session that begins in a couple of days to enact those changes. The question now for Democrats is this: Do they hang tough or do they buckle? I urge them to maintain their unity in opposing these restrictions.

There needs to be a show of strength among those who say they cherish the right to grant all Americans the ability to vote. They say they favor greater, not lesser, voter participation. The 2020 presidential election produced a significant increase in voter turnout, which brought President Biden closer to carrying the state’s electoral votes than any time since the 1976 election, which Jimmy Carter carried the state en route to his presidential election victory.

GOP lawmakers want to limit early voting opportunities, they seek to ban people from delivering bottles of water to voters waiting in long lines to cast their ballots, and they want to make it easier for judges to overturn election results. And why? Because they have fallen for The Big Lie about “rampant vote fraud” where it doesn’t exist.

Texas Democrats have learned how to play the same game of hardball that Republicans have perfected over many years in Texas.

My advice to Democrats? Stay the course.