Gut punches keep coming

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

My gut has been getting punched repeatedly with news reports that just sicken it … and me!

It’s not enough that we had an insurrection against the federal government six days into the new year. Nor is it enough that we impeached a president for the second time as a result and then endured another acquittal of the guy who should have been convicted and tossed out of office the first time.

We keep hearing about and watching news reports of police officers shooting African-American men in incidents that make me wonder: Would this happen if the individual being rousted were a white guy? Protests are mounting. They have turned into riots.

It’s giving me tremendous anxiety as I watch this from my quiet neighborhood. All this unrest, this anger, this anxiety looks to me as if it has the potential of exploding into a hideous national crisis.

A former Minneapolis cop is on trial for murder in an incident that killed a black man; a young African-American was shot to death by a Minnesota cop, who then quit along with her boss, the chief of police; a black Army officer was pepper-sprayed in December by a white officer in Virginia.

The victim in Minneapolis was killed after he sought to pass a counterfeit bill; the young man died in nearby Brooklyn Heights after he was stopped because he hung an air freshener from his rearview mirror; the Army officer was pepper sprayed because he didn’t have a license plate on the rear of his motor vehicle, which he had just purchased. 

These are just the most recent instances of violence being committed against black Americans by police officers who, um, are not black.

Man, this is disheartening and frightening. I am weary of all these gut punches.

You have perfection … and then this

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Hope Trautwein hails from Pflugerville, Texas and attends the University of North Texas in Denton.

Sounds pretty, um, normal. Yes? Well, this young woman has done something that’s never been done in the history of NCAA Division I athletics.

She threw seven innings of perfect softball against the the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff. When I say “perfect,” she struck out every one of the batters she faced. That’s 21 whiffs. No one hit a ball into a UNT player’s glove. No one walked. No one reached base on an error in the field. They strode to the plate, took three strikes and went back to their dugout.

Pitcher Hope Trautwein Throws A Perfect Game Of All Strikeouts | 88.9 KETR

Trautwein told National Public Radio’s Morning Edition: “I guess it’s never been done before so it doesn’t have a name.”

Here’s a name: Fantastic!

That’s how a POTUS should act

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway.

The nation today saw a display of how our president fulfills an unwritten — but still highly critical — aspect of his job. President Biden stepped up and did his duty as our consoler in chief.

The remains of Capitol Police Officer William “Billy” Evans were brought to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda, not far from where he died when a lunatic sought to plow through a security barricade Evans was manning.

Joe Biden stood up and spoke directly to Evans’ mother, the officer’s two children and to the children’s mother. He told us how he feels their hurt, their heartache. How does he know? Because he has buried two of his own children and his wife. He spoke to them — and to the nation in human terms.

Two senior political leaders who also spoke today in the Rotunda — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer — spoke directly to the Jan. 6 insurrection and the heartache being felt by the Capitol Police Department.

President Biden did not speak to that terrible day. He had no need to mention. Instead, he spoke directly to the children of the hero they were honoring and to the nation that continues to grieve over this senselessness.

That is what presidents do.

Cop, chief both quit

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Kim Potter and Tim Gannon have just joined the ranks of former police officers caught up in a hideous law enforcement incident.

Potter quit the Brooklyn Center, Minn., Police Department after shooting a young motorist after allegedly thinking she was going to fire her taser at him. Gannon, the police chief of the small department, quit as well. Both of them are white. The victim of the shooting, Daunte Wright, was black.

CBS News reports: Without explicitly referencing the shooting, Potter wrote in her resignation letter: “I believe it is in the best interest of the community, the department, and my fellow officers if I resign immediately.”

Live Updates: Officer who killed Daunte Wright and Brooklyn Center police chief resign (cbsnews.com)

The uproar has been tremendous. Brooklyn Center sits a chip shot distance away from Minneapolis, where former cop Derek Chauvin is on trial for murdering George Floyd in another police incident involving a white officer and a black victim. The trial has been covered worldwide.

Is there another more ghastly juxtaposition than that?

Potter was a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center PD. She stopped Wright supposedly because Wright was driving with an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror; something about “sight obstruction” was the cause of the traffic stop. It escalated badly.

Potter yelled “taser!” at Wright, then shot him with her service pistol. Gannon called the incident an “accidental discharge” of a weapon.

Oh, my goodness. So many questions that need answering. The one that jumps out to me is this: How does a veteran police officer mistake a fully armed service pistol for a much lighter taser device? While we’re at it, how does an officer who is trained to carry her firearm on her “strong” side while carrying the taser on her “weak” side, meaning that a right-handed officer — such as Kim Potter — is instructed to carry the weapon on his or her right hip.

These resignations must not signal the end of the police investigation into this terrible incident.

It looks for all the world to me as if we are just beginning an arduous journey toward the truth of what happened to Daunte Wright.

Glad he spoke out, however …

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

As glad as I am to hear former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner speak out against what he calls “political terrorism” within the Republican Party, I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize an obvious element of history.

While the ex-speaker decries the harsh partisanship that has infected the current political climate, he needs to own his particular contribution to that infection.

He called the Affordable Care Act the greatest sin ever perpetrated on Americans. Boehner filed lawsuits to stop the implementation of President Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement. He did plenty of blustering and bellowing from the House floor about the evils of his Democratic colleagues’ intent.

Has the former speaker had an epiphany? Has he realized what he did contributed to today’s toxicity? I hope that is the case.

Still, to hear him refer to Sen. Ted Cruz as “Lucifer in the flesh,” and to express his profound revulsion over the insurrection that occurred on Jan. 6 remains music to my admittedly partisan ears.

No excuse for looting

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

This should go without ever saying it, but I feel a need to state the obvious.

A young man is dead tonight from a gunshot fired by a Brooklyn Center, Minn., police officer who thought she was pointing a taser at the young man. Instead, she fired her service pistol at his chest. He drove his car away, crashed it and then died on the scene of the wreck.

The response in nearly Minneapolis and in other communities has resulted in looting, vandalism and violence. It has been launched against people who have not a single thing on Earth to do with what happened to the young man, Daunte Wright.

President Biden issued a statement, declaring there to be “no justification” for violence. He acknowledges the right of those who want to protest peacefully. The president’s message likely will be ignored by the looters.

Two things about this case are astonishing in the extreme. Daunte Wright was a young black man; the officer who shot him is white. Moreover, the incident occurred about 10 miles from where a highly publicized trial — with former officer Derek Chauvin being charged with murder in the death of George Floyd — is under way. Floyd was black; Chauvin is white. You know the story about what happened to Floyd.

As USA Today reports: Biden stressed there is “absolutely no justification” for looting and violence.

“Peaceful protest is understandable,” he said. “And the fact is that we do know that the anger, pain and trauma that exists in Black community in that environment is real – it’s serious, and it’s consequential. But that does not justify violence.”

He added: “We should listen to Dante’s mom who is calling for peace and calm.”

Biden calls for ‘peace and calm’ after Daunte Wright shooting sparks protests in Minnesota (yahoo.com)

Is it me or do we seem to be entering a whole new phase of civil unrest, the likes of which many of us never have experienced?

What I want to know is this: How in the name of serving and protecting the public does a trained police officer mistake a taser for a fully armed service pistol?

How does a police officer do this?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

With much of the nation riveted on the trial of a former cop who suffocated a man by pressing his knee on the back of his neck, I am utterly astonished at the conduct of another police officer who decided to roust a uniformed Army lieutenant.

Derek Chauvin, a white former Minneapolis police officer, is on trial for killing George Floyd, a black man arrested for passing a fake piece of currency.

Now we have former white cop Joe Gutierrez pepper-spraying 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario after stopping him because Nazario, who also is black, didn’t have a license plate displayed on his brand new vehicle.

Perhaps you have seen the video of Gutierrez ordering Nazario to get out of his car. Nazario was trying to talk the officer down. Gutierrez responds by spraying Nazario in the face while he was sitting behind the steering wheel of his car! The more recent incident occurred in Windsor, Va.; the city manager has fired Gutierrez.

Yes, the incident involving Lt. Nazario occurred in December, prior to the start of the Chauvin trial. Still, intense public scrutiny of George Floyd’s death garnered tremendous attention. It called attention to police conduct throughout the nation.

Yet we now have video showing an officer overreacting in the extreme on a traffic stop that never, ever should have escalated to the level that it did.

It is fair to ask: Did the ex-officer choose to drop the hammer on the young Army officer only because he is a black man?

Joe Gutierrez: Windsor, Virginia police officer who pepper-sprayed an Army officer during a traffic stop, has been fired (msn.com)

This national conversation must continue. There must be some resolution to what is becoming what looks to be an all-too-frequent occurrence.

I have long stated my belief and support of police officers. I recognize the life-threatening danger to which they expose themselves every day they report for work. I have known many fine officers over my years covering their activities while working in the media; I live next door to a fine young man who patrols our highways for the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Still, what we now have seen unfold in Windsor, Va., simply boggles my noggin.

Boehner comes out swinging

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

There he is, suddenly becoming a major newsmaker.

John Boehner had been in relative seclusion since walking away from political life six years ago. Make no mistake that he wasn’t my favorite pol when he served as speaker of the House, given his penchant for trying to block meaningful legislation pitched by President Obama.

Now, though, Boehner is back in the news. Suddenly he has become one of my favorites. How’d that happen? Because he is hanging “political terrorist” labels on some seriously bad dudes in public life today. They are, for example, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and, oh yeah, Donald J. Trump of Mar-a-Lago.

Boehner has decided to reveal his deepest feelings about the insurrection of Jan. 6, about Trump’s conduct prior to and after the 2020 election, about what an a**hole Ted Cruz has been while serving in the Senate and Jim Jordan’s conduct as one of Trump’s suck-ups in the House.

In interviews, the former speaker has declared his disgust and revulsion at what has become of the Republican Party to which he has belonged for decades. The emotional politician shed a couple of tears on TV this past weekend talking to CBS News about his feelings watching the terrorists storm the Capitol Building at Trump’s urging.

Boehner is now a civilian. He won’t be back in the saddle. The former speaker of the House, however, remains a potent political antidote to the toxic mix that comprises today’s Republican Party.

Thus, I welcome his return to the limelight.

In defense of newspapers

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Every so often I find myself answering the same question and I have refined my answer to a level I can explain with relative ease.

It came to me again this morning right here in Princeton, Texas. A young dental hygienist asked me what I did for a living. I told her I am retired but was a journalist for nearly four decades. I reported for newspapers, I told her, and then gravitated to opinion writing and editing.

She gave me the obligatory “I like holding a newspaper in my hands” while reading it and then asked: Do you think the reporting is unbiased?

Hmm. It is, I told her. I mentioned that many newspapers around the world — large, small and all sizes in between — continue to do first-rate reporting. They get to the facts, report them fairly and accurately.

What has changed, I told my new friend, is the audience. Consumers of news now seem to want more opinion, I said. I encourage her to look carefully at how large newspapers are covering events of the day.

I didn’t get a sense of her bias, although I reminded her that in my years working as a journalist I learned that “bias inherently is in the eyes of the consumer.” People ascribe bias to solid news reporting when it doesn’t comport with their own world view. Thus, the audience has changed its outlook.

Newspapers continue to do good work. The big folks — Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, you name ’em — keep churning out good work for readers to consume. Some newspaper publishers do look for ways to cover stories intending to embarrass certain people in high places. I have learned to look the other way when I see the names of certain news organizations plastered on stories that have that ring of sensationalism.

I admit freely — and I have done so repeatedly over the years — that I do not disguise my own bias. I have it. You have it. We all have our bias. However, I am able to disseminate hard, cold facts from what I call “advocacy journalism.”

Believe me, there remains plenty of great reporting of just the facts out there.

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.