Dr. Fauci: free at last!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Dr. Anthony Fauci made a declaration of sorts this week when he conducted a briefing to the world about the progress of the federal government’s war against the killer pandemic.

He declared his “liberation” from a presidential administration that didn’t allow him to speak the unvarnished truth about the crisis we are facing. He now answers to the Joe Biden administration, which has declared loudly and forthrightly that it intends to rely on the science to determine its course of action in fighting the disease.

Its point man is actually going to be able to take the point. President Biden asked Fauci to serve as the administration’s senior medical adviser. Fauci accepted the request “on the spot,” according to the president.

This week he offered the latest data on the effects of the virus. He did so knowing that he won’t be challenged or criticized or ridiculed by the president … who now happens to be a private citizen. The new president, Joe Biden, is listening and heeding the advice of the world’s premier infectious disease expert.

Free at last! yes, Dr. Fauci? Millions of us across the land welcome your newfound liberation.

An actual loop coming?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

AMARILLO, Texas — We returned to a city we once called home and made a wonderful discovery.

As we hauled our fifth wheel toward the RV park where we usually stay when we visit, we came across a massive right of way under construction west of Soncy Road. It goes north-south parallel to Soncy.

I knew it was coming. I knew about plans to build this roadway. I still was struck by the scope of the construction work.

The Texas Department of Transportation is extending what is known around here as Loop 335. It’s a loop in name only. It is no such thing as a loop the way other cities have built them. The intent of highway loops is to allow traffic to speed around cities, allowing motorists to avoid congestion.

That isn’t the case with Loop 335’s western-most portion, the part that runs from Interstate 40 south to Hollywood Road. The commercial develop along the existing leg of the loop has turned Soncy into just another uber-busy street.  I drove it hundreds of times while we lived in Amarillo. I got stuck in traffic countless times over the years.

I want the loop extension to succeed. I am proud of many aspects of Amarillo, its economic development and its infrastructure. What has always puzzled me is why TxDOT built Loop 335 and then allowed it become just another busy street along its western-most corridor.

It’s not a loop now. It will become one eventually when they finish the work and then connect the western corridor with the newly finished and improved southern corridor.

Delay Senate trial? Sure … why not?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell wants to delay the trial of the disgraced former president until February.

To which I am inclined to say: Sure … whatever.

The former president is out of office. A conviction won’t kick him out. He’s in Florida luxuriating at his posh resort/residence and playing lots of golf.

All he did to merit the second House impeachment was incite an insurrection on Capitol Hill. It happened on the Sixth of January. He egged on a mob, told ’em to walk to Capitol Hill and “take back the government.” That’s what happened and for that the House impeached the Insurrectionist in Chief.

If he’s convicted, and a delay might allow prosecutors to muster up even more evidence than what we all saw happen in real time, the Senate then can cast a simple majority vote to bar him from seeking public office ever again. That is the goal! It’s a noble one.

That is what makes McConnell’s request doable, even for those who want to rush to judgment against the former president.

I am not one of those. I am in no particular hurry to see him convicted. I just want House impeachment trial managers to collect all they evidence they need to get the job done.

Take politics out of mask-wearing

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Who in the name of medical emergencies would have thought that wearing a mask to prevent the spread of a killer virus would become a political issue?

It did during the current monstrous pandemic.

President Biden signed a slew of executive orders upon taking office. One of them calls for mandatory mask wearing on all federal property. He has asked all Americans to wear a mask for at least the first 100 days of his administration.

Hey, we’re all in at our house.

The mask-wearing protects not just those who wear them but also those who are in contact with the masked individual. He calls mask wearing an act of patriotism. He said Wednesday after taking his oath of office to wear a mask “for God’s sake … do it for the country.”

Too damn many right wingers have seen mask wearing as some sort of panic-button act, that they don’t want the government to dictate how they should behave. What a crock!

The disease has killed more than 400,000 Americans! More of us are going to die. The pandemic is out of control, despite claims to the contrary by President Biden’s predecessor, who on his way out of Dodge referred to the pandemic in the past tense, as if it’s gone. Ridiculous!

Wearing a mask to protect ourselves and others is not the kind of thing to be kicked around like a proverbial political football. If it helps save lives, count me in!

Wishing to put distance between now and the immediate past

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

It might be just me, but I am sensing a serious desire among many millions of Americans who yearn to welcome a new presidential administration with an extra sense of zeal.

We’ve been through a tumultuous past four years. It started with a president declaring an end to what he called “this American carnage.” The presidential term ended with another rash of carnage spilling on the steps of our nation’s Capitol Building, inside the structure, threatening the very democratic process that makes us proud to be Americans.

We somehow got through the horrible event of the Sixth of January. The House the following week then impeached the president for inciting the riot that erupted on Capitol Hill. A week after that we welcomed President Biden and Vice President Harris to the pinnacle of power.

The former president jetted off to Florida. Vice President Pence managed to shake the hands of the new president and vice president.

I cannot possibly know what is in the hearts of all Americans. My own heart is quite full tonight after watching one of the strangest inaugurals I ever have witnessed.

There were no large crowds. No grand parade. The former president and the new president did not share a limo ride from the White House to the Capitol.

Throughout the day, my sense has been a feeling of relief that the past is behind us along with a strong desire to put it farther behind us … in rapid fashion!

Yes, many crises confront the new president and vice president. The pandemic needs focused attention from the center of our federal government. Our worldwide allies need assurance that our nation has returned to its rightful place on center stage. Our climate is changing. Our nation is torn by racial strife.

I get a sense that we now have considerable faith in President Biden and Vice President Harris are up to the task of moving us forward.

POTUS-press relationship restored

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Those of us who have toiled, or are still toiling, in the business of providing information through media outlets to the public took serious objection to a president of the United States labeling the media as “the enemy of the people.” 

I am part of the former group. I am now retired from daily journalism. Still, I am heartened to see that the White House press briefing room might be allowed to return to its original mission: to allow the media to question the White House press spokespeople on issues of the day.

Press secretary Jen Psaki, on the first day of the Biden administration, delivered her first press briefing to the media assembled in front of her. It was wonderful to see a return to the way these events are designed to go. Reporters ask questions of her about presidential policy; she answers the questions directly.

Psaki reminded reporters that there likely will be differences between President Biden and the media that cover him.

Biden’s presidential predecessor didn’t like the way covered him. He bristled at tough questions. He would label stern questioners as peddlers of “fake news,” which was the height of irony, given his own fomenting of lies and mistruths.

Earlier presidents got hectored as well from the press that sought to get to the truth behind issues of the day. They didn’t like the treatment any more than Biden’s immediate predecessor. They realized that a free and aggressive press is essential to holding government officials accountable for their actions, their statements and their policies that affect all of us.

I am looking forward to seeing how the POTUS/media relationship develops in the Joe Biden Era. It won’t always be warm and fuzzy. I want it to be constructive even in the face of criticism that comes with the territory.

DACA gets new life

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

President Biden got right to work today.

He pulled out his pen and began signing executive orders that sought to reverse some of the policies enacted by his predecessor. So it begins.

I want to talk briefly about one of the issues that Biden deems critical to the nation: immigration.

He has breathed new life into the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program nixed by the 45th president. The axing of DACA didn’t quite take hold, as the courts have intervened to keep it alive, albeit on life support. President Biden signed it back into the real world today while sitting in the Oval Office.

DACA, of course, is the program initiated by President Obama that granted a form of temporary amnesty to those U.S. residents who came to this country illegally as children. Their parents brought them here to seek a better life; they did break the law by sneaking into the country illegally, but the children who came with them didn’t deserve to be deported because of something their parents did.

Obama sought to grant them a reprieve from deportation. His successor nixed that notion. Now comes President Biden to revive DACA once again. Moreover, he is planning to introduce a comprehensive immigration reform package that seeks to fast-track citizenship applications for millions of immigrants who want to become U.S. citizens.

We are a nation of immigrants, for criminy sakes! Our founders all came here from across The Pond. The rest is history. We have welcomed immigrants through the many decades since. Then came a president who immediately characterized those seeking to come here from Latin America as “murderers, rapists and drug dealers.”

Do I want to enforce immigration laws? Of course I do! Those who sneak into this country to do harm should be arrested, prosecuted and kicked out. However, those who come here because they happen to be children of those who came here illegally deserve some compassion and understanding.

The U.S. of A. is the only nation they know. DACA seeks to give them a chance to seek permanent legal resident status or citizenship.

President Biden seeks to give them that chance.

So many takeaways from historic event

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

We have been watching a historic event today in our North Texas home.

My wife and I both have so many thoughts and emotions stemming from the inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris. I want to share some of my own.

— I think I am going to follow the president’s lead regarding his predecessor on one point, at least for the short, maybe medium term. Biden did not refer to his predecessor by name during his inaugural speech. I will use the same restraint while commenting on the administration that has faded away. I am tired of writing the name of the 45th president. I am even more weary of his antics, his disrespecting of the office. I want him out of my life.

— President Biden’s everyman approach to life was put on full display. He walked for a brief period from his heavily armored limo to the White House, and true to form, jogged to a rope line to fist-bump a spectator two. Then to see the first lady lay her head on his shoulder as they stood on the front porch of the building where they will live for the next four years was truly touching in a way I haven’t seen since, oh, maybe ever in a first couple.

— News commentators talked openly and repeatedly throughout the day about how the White House staff needed to perform “deep cleaning” of the White House in advance of the Bidens moving. Hmm. I had a serious double entendre  thought when I heard it. Yes, they are deep-cleaning the building because of COVID concerns. However, I cannot stop thinking about the desire to cleanse the place of any evidence of the individual who occupied the Oval Office for the past four years. You know what I mean? Yeah … you do.

— President Biden spoke of democracy’s fragility. It is fragile. It also is durable, sturdy and stronger than any human effort to destroy it. We saw that attempt at destruction two weeks ago.

It’s been a great day to be sure. However, now the hard work begins.

Mr. President and Mme. Vice President, let’s get busy.

 

Unity is elusive, but not impossible

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

President Biden laid down a critical marker that in any other time would sound like just another platitude.

This isn’t just any other time. Joe Biden has become president of a nation still reeling from the tumult, turmoil and terror of recent weeks. He stood on the steps of a Capitol Building that just two weeks ago bore witness to a violet insurrection of terrorists hell bent on inflicting grievous damage to our democratic process.

Biden’s inaugural speech spoke of unity, of healing, of reconciliation. He wants us to be able to disagree politically but not do so out of anger.

Yes, the president has set the correct tone as he now moves forward along with the history-making vice president, Kamala Harris, who becomes the first woman, the first African-American, the first woman of Asian descent to become VP.

It has been quite a day. A moment for the ages.

Can the president achieve the unity he seeks? Sure he can. It will be tough climb. He inherits the highest office in a deeply divided land.

Let’s not be coy about the barriers standing before him. President Biden succeeds a man — who he never mentioned by name in his inaugural speech — who sought to sow division and who governed with no sense of the diversity our nation’s citizenry.

Moreover, Biden offered a moment of silent prayer for the 400,000 Americans who have died from the pandemic. When did his predecessor ever do that?

President Biden’s immediate predecessor is now gone, but the cult that formed upon his election four years ago remains. Yet, Biden spoke to them today, vowing to work just as hard for those who opposed his election as he will for those who endorsed it.

Whether the opponents hear and heed that message remains to be seen and heard. Oh, man … I hope he can deliver the goods.

All in all? This has been a good day for the United States.

I want to make one final point: President Biden spoke of the fragility of our democracy. I concur to a point. Fragility, though, does not mean it breaks easily.

Thus, our democracy remains as strong as tempered steel. We saw that strength today.

Riot likely kills Trump’s political future

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Whether the Senate convicts Donald Trump of incitement of insurrection quite likely is a moot point at this juncture.

Trump will no longer be president when the Senate convenes his second impeachment trial. The House impeached him on a single charge, of inciting the terrorist attack on Capitol Hill on The Sixth of January.

Democrats need 17 Republicans to join them in convicting Trump. It’s still a long shot for conviction, but it is not as long of a shot as it was, say, two weeks ago. If the Senate convicts Trump, then it needs a simple majority to ban him from ever seeking public office.

To be honest, it looks for all the world to me that Trump’s political future vanished the day he exhorted the mob to attack the Capitol Building and interfere with Congress doing its duty to ratify Joe Biden’s victory.

If what is left of the Republican Party has half a brain left, it will shun Trump. It will deny him any leverage at all. It will seek others to carry the party banner in 2024, which Trump reportedly is interested in doing.

I get that Trumpism will survive long after Trump’s term as president expires — which it will do in just a few hours from now.

I will hold out hope that Donald Trump inflicted a mortal wound on the movement that carries his name on the Sixth of January when he whipped up the terrorists to attack the Capitol Building … and assault our system of government.