Tag Archives: Texas Panhandle

Doc issues phony diagnoses

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

I want to make one more — but certainly not my final — observation about the idiot who represents the Texas Panhandle in the U.S. Congress. Ready? Here goes …

Republican Ronny Jackson is a trained medical doctor who once served as physician to three U.S. presidents: George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

As a physician, he should know the limits of his knowledge and whether he is capable of diagnosing individuals from the cheap seats. Thus, he is in no position or has any medical or ethical authority to suggest that President Biden needs a “cognitive exam” or that he is “unfit” to serve in office because he lacks the medical snap required.

Jackson has not examined the president. He has not seen Joe Biden’s medical charts. I feel confident in proclaiming that he has no fu**ing clue about the president’s mental acuity.

Therefore, Ronny Jackson — not Joe Biden — is the one who is unfit for the office he occupies representing the 13th Congressional District of Texas. I say that because he has violated — in my view — a basic tenet of medicine, which is that he is speaking way out of turn on something of which he has no direct knowledge.


This news hurts … a lot

We all have people who come into our lives and never really leave us, even if we no longer see them regularly. They are work colleagues, or those with whom we establish a sort of sibling-like relationship.

Ben Hansen filled both roles in my life. I got some heart-shattering news this morning, that Ben had died peacefully during the night.

I am trying to collect my thoughts and reel in my emotions as I bang out this post. Suffice to say, Ben Hansen — who was a physically imposing man — cast a large shadow over my life and over the communities he served as a newspaper editor in four states over many decades.

Our paths crossed the first time in early1977. Hansen was editor of a suburban daily newspaper in Oregon City, Ore. He had a position to fill on his staff; it was a temporary slot as a sportswriter. The sports editor of the newspaper had taken maternity leave, so Ben needed someone to pinch hit while she was away. I got the job, knowing it could end several weeks later.

Well, it didn’t. Another opening came up. Hansen hired me on a permanent basis. He helped launch my career then. He would leave the paper to take another editor’s job in Utah. After that, he gravitated to Beaumont, Texas.

That’s where our relationship took off. He called me one day to ask if I would like to interview for a job as an editorial writer for the Beaumont Enterprise. I flew to Texas for that interview; he hired me again. Ben told me that the Golden Triangle was a hotbed of news. He was so right.

Ben promoted me to editor of the opinion page. We raised a hackle or two on the editorial page of the Enterprise over the years. I was proud to be part of that effort. I reported to Hansen for nearly 11 years in Beaumont before I departed for the Texas Panhandle.

Ben and I stayed in touch, even after he left Beaumont for another editor’s gig in Prescott, Ariz., where he eventually retired.

I learned much about my craft from Ben. He was a stickler for “active-voice” writing. He despised text that contained “passive-voice” narrative; you know, the kind of the thing that would tell you that “mistakes were made.” He insisted that an active voice required you to say that “so-and-so made mistakes.” Even to this day I am keenly aware of that and seek to avoid lapsing into passive voice when I write this blog.

Ben Hansen was a good and decent man who saw himself as a crusader. He was quick with a quip and could knock out a nearly spot-on impersonation of John Wayne with barely a provocation.

I will hold him in my eternal gratitude for taking a chance on a young man seeking to start a career in print journalism. It worked out well for me and I owe much of what I was able to achieve to the patience he showed me decades ago.

I will miss my friend.


Media landscape is rattling and shaking

If you had asked me to project when I became a newspaper reporter in the mid-1970s what the media landscape would look like, say, in the third decade of the 21st century, there would be no way on God’s good Earth I could predict what would transpire.

The landscape I once knew bears no resemblance to what is taking shape before our eyes right now.

I just heard that the Amarillo Globe-News — the final stop on my 37-year career — is going to suspend publication of its Saturday edition. The G-N is joining other newspapers owned by the media conglomerate in reducing its publication schedule.

Newspapers that are doing this are pledging to (a) commit to a digital delivery of news and (b) maintain its commitment to “local news.” Both pledges bode ill for the industry I once knew and loved — and which gave me untold pleasure in the pursuit of my craft. This looks to me like the next step before the newspapers reduce their delivery even more en route to ending their existence altogether.

I have lost count of the number of times people have told me how they “enjoy the feel of the newspaper in my hands.” Hah! If that were really true, the industry wouldn’t be sucking wind the way it is at this moment.

The Internet is destroying an industry that once employed thousands of people who were committed to “making a difference” in this world. Many of those folks now are pursuing “other interests.”

My wife reminds me of a fundamental truth that I accepted long ago. My career came to an abrupt end in August 2012. I was 63 years of age when the publisher told me that someone else would be doing the job I had done at the G-N for nearly 18 years. What is the truth that my wife reminds me? “I am just grateful that this happened at the end of your career, and not while you were in the middle of it.” 

And so, the landscape is shifting, rattling, rockin’ and rollin’ before us. People who formerly depended on newspapers to tell them the news of their community and the world now look elsewhere.

What lies in store for the future of print journalism in the Texas Panhandle … and in other communities across the land? More retreat as they surrender what they once saw as their exclusive territory to other media.

Therefore, I consider myself to be a media dinosaur. However, it’s good to be comfortable in my own skin.


What will happen to this site?

I lived in Amarillo, Texas, for 23 years and worked each day for nearly 18 of those years at the Globe-News, a once-good newspaper.

My daily journalism career came to an end in August 2012. The newspaper remains, but at this point it is a newspaper in name only. Yes, the paper still publishes seven days a week. It no longer publishes at the building where it operated for many decades. The printing press is in Lubbock and I don’t know how they handle business affairs, or circulation matters.

The newsroom? A formerly vibrant working environment has been all but eliminated; they’re down to maybe two or three reporters and some stringers (I guess).

The building is vacant. It is in a state of architectural decomposition. The corporate moguls vacated the building and moved what is left of the staff to an office in a downtown bank tower.

The once-proud structure is “tagged” with graffiti. They put out a fire inside the structure a few weeks ago.

The company that used to own the newspaper is still trying to sell the building, from what I hear. I do not know the state of that effort, such as whether it is being marketed aggressively. I don’t get back often to Amarillo, but my hunch is that it is just going to rot some more.

I want to lament the demise of that structure one more time.

The Globe-News used to aspire to becoming a great newspaper. It didn’t quite get there. We did a good job of reporting the news during my time there. I tried to lend some leadership via the opinion pages during my tenure as editor of those pages.

That was then. The here and now suggests to me that the newspaper itself is fading into the community’s past. It saddens me greatly.


No surprise, but this news still hurts

A decent night’s sleep helped clear my head today as I ponder the loss of one my world’s most iconic figures.

Jeane Bartlett fit the role of icon perfectly. It’s not that she sought the role. It just graced her perfectly. She was the human resources director of the Amarillo Globe-News, where I worked for nearly 18 years. She died Monday at the age of 95.

OK, let’s stipulate that no one lives forever. Bartlett forged a long and memorable life in the Texas Panhandle. She was born in Clarendon and in a sense never ventured far from where she entered this world.

She married her beloved husband Harry and together they assumed leadership roles at the newspaper. Harry was production director while Jeane kept everyone in line as HR director. Harry retired not long before I arrived there in early 1995. Jeane stayed until 2001 after working at the Globe-News for 55 years.

I have heard our mutual friends and colleagues refer to Jeane Bartlett as an iconic figure in the Panhandle. She was diminutive, but her stature towered far above her physical frame.

Jeane Bartlett became as well-known to the community as many of our newspaper’s star reporters and editors. Publishers came and went during her time at the G-N, but they all had one thing in common: They depended on Jeane Bartlett for her wisdom and counsel.

I had an issue with an employee who worked in my department. I, too, depended on her wise counsel as we pondered together how to resolve the issue. She was patient with me and was always ready to answer any questions I had as we sought a resolution.

I just recently reached out to Jeane; I sent her a letter. She read it and responded with a hand-written note of her own. She expressed loneliness, given that her husband had died this past March of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. The note saddened me, but it also cheered me up as I examined her penmanship, which still resembled the notes she would leave for employees at the newspaper during all those years.

No one gets out of this world alive. The news that Jeane Bartlett had passed didn’t surprise me. It still hurts … deeply.


Blog alive and well

It’s been a good while since I’ve waxed rhapsodic about my blog and the joy I receive writing it.

So, I’ll offer a few words to remind you of the only “full-time job” I have. It is High Plains Blogger.

First, a couple of acknowledgements are in order.

One is that my blog traffic has slipped a bit from the high-water mark I experienced in 2019. I don’t know why that’s the case. It might have something to do with the topics I choose for commentary. Maybe readers of this blog are getting bored with me. I regret that terribly if that is so. I will work diligently moving ahead to make the blog more interesting.

I named this blog to remind readers from where I wrote it. We were living on the High Plains of Texas when I started this blog back in 2009. And, yes, it’s a bit of a tribute to one of my favorite film artists, Clint Eastwood, who starred in those “spaghetti westerns,” one of which was called “High Plains Drifter.” I decided to keep the title after we moved from the High Plains to the Metroplex. Why? Because the blog had developed a “brand” that is recognizable. Why trifle with what folks know, right?

Another aspect I need to acknowledge is that I am not contributing the volume of work to the blog as I did before. I have been kinda busy, working as a freelance reporter for the Farmersville Times, a weekly in Collin County, and for KETR-FM, the public radio station associated with Texas A&M University-Commerce. My third gig just dropped out of the sky only recently; I am working a temporary job as an editorial writer for the Dallas Morning News. All of this takes time away from writing for the blog.

I have enjoyed my post-full-time journalism journey immensely. I no longer am fully retired. I cannot declare myself to be “retired.” I pretty much come and go as I please … most of the time. It surely beats working full time for a living.

I will continue with the blog for as long as I am able. To those who enjoy the blog and support its political leanings, I trust that is good news. To those who grind their teeth when they read my musings, well … too bad. Live with it.

Let’s enjoy the ride.


World is my stage

This question comes to me from those who are aware of my left-leaning politics: How can you write this stuff on your blog, given where you live? 

My answer is simple. I write this stuff because the nature of this platform — my blog — allows me to reach far beyond the earthly boundaries of where my wife and I reside, which now is Collin County, Texas.

This is one of the many reasons why I love pursuing this version of my craft. I am able to speak my mind without reservation.

There once was a time when I had to be mindful of what I said and of the audience that was reading my thoughts. I worked for publications in the Texas Panhandle and in the Golden Triangle region of Texas that contained many readers who disagreed with my world view.

It’s not that it necessarily stopped me from speaking my mind. I just had to be a bit circumspect in the language I used. There would be no way I could refer to the 45th president of the United States as the Insurrectionist in Chief in, say, Amarillo, where he enjoyed tremendous political support during the most recent presidential elections.

Now that I am no longer employed by the newspaper that adhered to a pretty rigid conservative editorial policy, I am free to speak more freely. Which I do with gusto.

One of the struggles I fought during my nearly 18 years working in Amarillo and my nearly 11 years in Beaumont was trying to persuade readers that my signed columns were my opinion only and that they rarely reflected the editorial policy of the newspaper. I would write editorials on behalf of our editorial board that said one thing; I might be inclined to express a different view on a column that ran with my mug in a logo accompanying the text.

I no longer wage that struggle these days. The blog is mine. I own it. I also own the views I express on it.

Moreover, I am not constrained by my place of residence. The blog goes all around the world. How I do know that? Because I am able to track the sources of the hits I get on my blog. Over the span of a year, it covers our good Earth.


Why fret over this clown?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Some readers of this blog might be wondering why I spend any time  criticizing a member of Congress who represents a district where I no longer reside.

I will answer that query, presuming some of you are wondering.

I have spoken out about the Twitter rants of a Republican serving the 13th Congressional District of Texas. Ronny Jackson lives in Amarillo. He is a disgrace. I have said so, admittedly with extreme prejudice.

I care about that fellow’s rants for two reasons.

One is that my wife and I lived there for 23 years, longer than anywhere we have resided in our nearly 50 years of marriage. One of our sons still lives there. We have many friends there, too. I care about them. They should be represented by someone who (a) isn’t a carpetbagger and (b) isn’t prone to making defamatory remarks about the commander in chief, which Jackson does regularly about President Biden.

The second reason is that Ronny Jackson votes on legislation that affects every American. It’s the same reason I care about the goings-on involving other congressional fruitcakes and loons; Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Kevin McCarthy and Sen. Mitch McConnell come immediately to mind. When they vote on federal legislation, they put their imprimatur on laws that have a direct impact on every single American.

Congressman: detestable! | High Plains Blogger

I won’t apologize for harboring these feelings about members of Congress, any more than I feel the need to justify why I support other members of the legislative branch of government. Or, for that matter, why I continue to support President Biden … even as he struggles with crises, as he is doing at this moment.

We have plenty of fruitcakes in North Texas, where we now live. I’ll be getting to them in due course. I just felt the urge to explain a thing or two about why I still look back fondly at our time on what I call the Texas Tundra and why I want the best for the good folks who still call it home.

Lightning, thunder = excitement

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Bear with me as I write briefly about the weather.

My wife and I long have had a fascination with explosive weather. We got a first-hand look at just how explosive it can get when in 1984 we moved from the Pacific Northwest to the Texas Gulf Coast.

Beaumont proved to be a place where the lightning was extremely bright, was spectacular in its displays. The thunder it produced was noisy beyond belief.

And, oh yes, the rain comes in torrents, unlike in Oregon where it rains for three days before you even notice it.

Then we moved in 1995 to the Panhandle of Texas, the Caprock, along the Llano Estacado. They boast there about the lightning and thunder. To be honest, in our experience it didn’t measure up to what we saw and heard on the Gulf Coast.

We did experience a couple of baseball-size hail events that wrecked the roof of the house we built in Amarillo in late 1996. So, yes, we had our share of excitement.

Now we have settled in what they call North Texas, in Collin County, just NE of Dallas. It is storming as I write these few words. The intensity of the lighting and the accompanying thunder is beginning to remind us of our time in Beaumont.

It gives me a strangely pleasant diversion from the other things that usually occupy my time at the keyboard writing on this blog.

So my attention has been yanked away from the weirdness of the national and international news. I am fixated at the moment on Mother Nature’s sound and fury.

It will pass. Then I can think about the other matters that occupy my mind these days. Until then, I am going to stand in awe at the limitless power of our planet.

Trumpism boiled down

By John Kanelis / johnkanelils_92@hotmail.com

It occurs to me as I read my Twitter feed that the voters in the congressional district where I once lived are being exposed to a boiled-down version of Trumpism from their elected House of Representatives member.

Rep. Ronny Jackson is a Republican — duh!— who now lives in Amarillo. He didn’t live anywhere near the Texas Panhandle before deciding to run for the 13th Congressional District seat being vacated by fellow Republican Mac Thornberry. He moved to the region. He got elected in November.

Ever since taking office, Rep. Jackson has been doing something that Thornberry rarely did. He fires off Twitter taunts constantly.

He has suggested that President Biden is destroying the country. That Biden is leading us toward a “communist” state. That the border crisis is all on Biden. That Democrats are trying to take away people’s right to own firearms.

Do you get where I am going with this? Republican congressmen and women all across the land who adhere to Donald J. Trump’s view of how the world should be have taken to this social medium.

That’s Jackson. All the way, man.

He isn’t sending Twitter messages out about how to improve farm policy. Or about how to protect Lake Meredith National Recreation Area. Or how to preserve Alibates Flint Quarry National Monument — the only national monument in Texas! Hell, he isn’t even tweeting about whether Interstates 40 and 27 should be shored up in a national infrastructure bill.

Oh, no. This clown has hopped onto the Donald Trump clown car parade and is spewing the same brand of demagogic nonsense that flows from Trump’s pie hole.

I am going to presume that most of his constituents are OK with it. They just adore Donald Trump and might want him to run again for POTUS. Their congressman is parroting his hero, too.

You want to know what has happened to the Republican Party? Look no further than the 13th Congressional District of Texas.

It is so very disgusting.