Paranoia? Don’t think so!

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Paranoia is not part of my emotional composition.

However, while walking through the neighborhood with Toby the Puppy on leash, a horrifying thought raced through my mind as we walked along a busy boulevard bordering our ‘hood.

I must preface my thought by noting the rash of gun violence we have experienced in this country for, oh, the past 20 years or so.

The thought? What in the world would I do were I to hear gunshots dangerously close by? What’s worse, the thought crossed my mind about what I would do were I actually hit by a stray bullet.

Has such a thought ever crossed your mind? Don’t answer that. I am speaking only for myself.

The truth is I don’t scare easily. I am not particularly “scared” right now. My noodle occasionally dances around with some strange thoughts. It did so this afternoon while I was walking our precious puppy through our wonderful, quiet neighborhood. I do not expect anything of the kind of violence we have witnessed in far-off places to erupt near us.

It’s just that the spate of gun violence, particularly in the past few days and weeks, has injected my brain with thoughts that give me some concern.

I don’t intend to act on it, tempting as it might seem to be.

We live in crazy, chaotic and kooky times. They are giving me thoughts I never imagined thinking when I was a boy or even as a much younger adult, other than when I drove through Da Nang, South Vietnam after the sun went down back in the old days. Hey, that was war, man. I certainly hope we aren’t heading in that direction here at home.

Masks still ‘required’

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

We ran some errands today, driving from our home in Princeton into McKinney and then to Fairview, Texas looking for some items to purchase.

We strolled into three major department stores: Kohl’s, JC Penney and Macy’s.

What do you suppose we saw plastered on the doors of all three establishments? Signs that told us that “masks are required” for entry.

We also walked into a craft shop, where we were told that because of COVID precautions, we also had to wash our hands before touching any of the merchandise.

Hmm. I was impressed. We had our masks. We were wearing them, which we do as a matter of routine these days.

What impressed me is that many business owners are ignoring the lifting of the mask mandate declared by Gov. Greg Abbott. Hey, I mean no disrespect to Gov. Abbott, even though I believe he was premature in lifting the mandate.

I do mean to say something good about business establishments that continue to insist we mask up and stay the heck away from each other while the nation battles through this pandemic.

U.N. envoy tells the hard, depressing truth

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

United Nations Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield had the temerity to tell a truth that few of us want to hear, but which we all need to hear.

CBS News put this out on Twitter: Amb. Thomas-Greenfield said this week “the original sin of slavery weaved white supremacy into our founding documents.” She tells @margbrennan “Our country is not perfect, but we continue to perfect it. Those imperfections are part of our history, we have to talk about them.”

Let’s understand a couple of things.

Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield is an African-American with extensive diplomatic experience. She’s not flaming fanatic, a novice.

The second point is this: The founders did not get rid of slavery. Many of them were slave owners themselves. They kept black Americans as property. The Constitution did not even recognize specifically that black Americans were entitled to the full rights of citizenship, even though they wrote that “all men are created equal.”

Dichotomy, anyone?

By almost any objective analysis you can use, you can determine that the founders implied that white men — the only Americans who could vote at the founding of the republic — were, uh, superior to anyone else.

Yet the U.N. envoy is getting plenty of blowback. I ask … why? She spoke — to borrow a phrase — an “inconvenient truth.”

What horror awaits?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

One day soon we are going to return to the city of my birth, where I came of age, where I met the girl of my dreams and where we brought our sons into this world.

I wonder what I am going to see on the streets of downtown Portland, Ore.

Media keep telling us of the riots that break out seemingly every night there. Police brutality is the subject of people’s anger. They are lighting fires, throwing rocks at cops, venting their rage over events that occur not just on their streets, but on streets in other communities.

I also hear the push back from those who say that downtown Portland remains as lovely a place as ever … for the most part! There are only “pockets” of damage brought by rioters.

The never-ending story: Rioting and arson in Portland – HotAir

When I tell people these days where I’m from, I occasionally get one of those side glances that suggests, “Oh, you’re from there? From that place? Where all the rioting is occurring?”

I once sought to go to Vietnam during the war because I had heard all kinds of conflicting tales of what it “was like” from returning veterans. The Army granted my wish. I found out for myself.

I am filled with the same sense of curiosity now about my hometown. I want to see it for myself and draw my own conclusions and I will pray that I won’t be horrified at what I see.

Immigrants make us great

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The most infuriating clause in the proposed America First caucus platform is the one that talks about what its adherents call “mass immigration.”

The so-called congressional caucus — pitched by far right wing conspiracy theorists and assorted loons in Congress — seeks to promote what they refer to as an “Anglo-Saxon culture.” Included in that is this despicable clause denigrating “mass immigration” from places I presume they mean do not fit the Anglo-Saxon stereotype.

I am a product of immigrants from southern Europe. All four of my grandparents chose to spend their lives in United States after moving here from Greece and Turkey. They were patriots. They worked hard. They played by the rules. They brought 10 children into this world among them. One of those children — my father — enlisted in the U.S. Navy on the very day that Japan attacked us at Pearl Harbor and dragged this country into World War II.

The America First caucus does not understand or appreciate the tenet to which all patriotic Americans should subscribe, that the very essence of American greatness and its “unique” culture rests in the hearts of those who choose to come here. I mean no disrespect for native-born Americans; hell, I was born here, too.

I just take profound offense at those in Congress who suggest that immigration — and immigrants — are somehow bad for the country. They all seek to “make America great again” by closing our doors, erecting walls across our southern border and issuing some sort of merit-based standard for those seeking to build new lives in the Land of Opportunity.

Had there been such a standard in force at the turn of the 20th century, I doubt any of my grandparents would have been allowed to come here, allowed to marry and allowed to build their own families.

Am I offended by this America First caucus? You’re damn right I am.

Assault weapons have their place, but …

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

This picture showed up overnight on my Facebook news feed and by golly it pretty much sums up what I believe about assault weapons.

They have their place. They belong in the hands of fighting men and women who are in battle against enemies of the state. They are built to kill lots of people in rapid fashion. Should our military personnel carry them? Abso(freakin’)lutely, man!

What role does a weapon that packs dozens of rounds of ammo have in civilized civilian society? None. Zero. They are used too often by lunatics to kill innocent human beings in fits of rage.

So it is that this debate has been joined once again in the wake of the Indianapolis massacre at the FedEx facility. Eight people died in that mayhem before the lunatic shooter killed himself with the weapon he used against his victims.

Gun-rights enthusiasts/fanatics continue to harp on the notion that the Second Amendment guarantees their right to own whatever weapon they want to own. Even those that carry high-capacity magazines that the weapon can empty in seconds. For what purpose?

As the sign I posted with this blog item declares, it ain’t to kill lots of critters in the forest. Their intent is to kill human beings in short order.

I’ll be clear on this point: We shouldn’t hold our breath waiting for Congress to exhibit any semblance of sanity by banning these weapons. Nor should we expect any sign of courage among those who are willing to stand strongly against the gun lobby that keeps lying about what the Second Amendment allows.

U.S. still stands in dubious infamy

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The worldwide death count from the COVID-19 virus has surpassed 3 million human beings.

Of that total, more than 560,000 deaths have been among Americans.

OK, so what? Here’s what.

The United States comprises less than 5 percent of the world population of 7 billion people. However, our COVID-19 death count totals more than 20 percent of the worldwide total.

Five percent vs. 20 percent.

Hmm. What do we make of that? I’ll offer this brief bit of spewage/wisdom. The United States failed to respond in a timely manner during the pandemic’s early stages. Our president at the time, Donald Trump, did not sound the alarm. He lied to us about the severity of the pandemic and he withheld what he knew about what would happen, that the virus would spread and would become a worldwide threat to human health and well-being.

Trump got beat in the 2020 election. President Joe Biden is calling for a ramped-up effort to fight the disease. Vaccines have been approved and humans are being vaccinated at an accelerating pace.

However, dammit to hell anyway! We never should have been subjected to this level of misery and pain. If only we had been quicker on the trigger in this fight against a killer.

Not ‘too soon’ to debate gun violence

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Eight more Americans died this week in a shooting that erupted in Indianapolis, Ind., and once again we’re sending our “thoughts and prayers” to the victims’ loved ones.

A solution to the gun violence remains a mystery. President Biden, though, is trying to appeal to our sense of national shame. He said, according to RealClearPolitics.com:

“This has to end. It is a national embarrassment … Every single day, there’s a mass shooting in the United States,” President Biden continued. “Who in God’s name needs a weapon that can hold 40 rounds?”

Biden said: “Congress has to step up to act and pass bills on gun reform. We need to ban assault weapons. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t also be working on COVID and the economy.”

Joe Biden on Gun Violence: Mass Shootings “Every Day” Are “A National Embarrassment” And “It Has To End” | Video | RealClearPolitics

The president is preaching to the proverbial choir here, man. But the ongoing spasm of gun violence is a “national embarrassment.” I have difficulty explaining to my overseas friends how American politicians can allow this to continue.

I do my best, though, to explain to them foreigners the nuance contained in the Second Amendment to our Constitution. It reads: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The one element of that Amendment that I cannot explain is the construction of the single sentence, which seems to contain a couple of non-sequiturs. I cannot connect the part about the “well-regulated Militia” with the “right of the people to keep and bear Arms.”

But it’s written into our nation’s founding government document. That makes it virtually impossible to trifle with.

However, I shudder at the thought of all this violence. I have trouble facing down my overseas friends who challenge the idea that our political leaders cannot find a solution that keeps faith with what our founders carved out.

OK, so here we are. Eight more victims have been slain by a madman. We need to ramp up the debate right now over how we can eliminate this “national embarrassment.”

‘Older liberal justices?’ Seriously?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

It’s rare that I would challenge the reporting of a major news outlet, but I cannot let this item go without offering a tart response.

The Business Insider reports that U.S. Rep. Mondaire Jones, a Democrat, wants Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to retire at the end of the court’s current term. He also favors expanding the ranks of justices from nine to 13, filling the four additional seats with liberal justices.

I oppose Rep. Jones’s notion of packing the court, even though he calls it a longstanding “court tradition.” Which it isn’t.

OK, then the Business Insider reports this: Many Democrats, still smarting over Donald Trump’s installation of three jurists to the Supreme Court, want to avoid the court becoming even more conservative due to older liberal justices declining to step down during Democratic presidencies, which Jones alluded to in his interview.

Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones calls on Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to retire (msn.com)

What? Three justices comprise the liberal wing of the court. Breyer is 82 years of age. He’s an “older” justice. The other two are Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan; Sotomayor was born in 1954, Kagan was born in 1960. Sotomayor is 68 years of age; Kagan is 61. I do not consider them to be “older” or “elderly.”

Justice Breyer will retire when he believes the time is right. President Biden is not about to nudge him toward the Back Forty. Neither should other Democrats in public life.

As for the Business Insider’s description of “older liberal justices,” the organization must be populated by Gen-Xers.

Time of My Life, Part 56: Traffic controller

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

A long time acquaintance and social media friend reminds me of how times seemed to have changed regarding a critical aspect of managing the opinion pages of a newspaper.

He laments the frequency of some letter writers’ appearance on the pages of the Amarillo Globe-News in Texas, where I worked for nearly 18 years until August 2012. To be honest, I don’t know what the paper’s policy is these days. I don’t read the opinion pages much, as I have to subscribe to the AGN’s digital edition to obtain access to those pages. I, uh, have no particular interest in that.

Back in the day, we had a policy that we enacted not long after I arrived in January 1995 to run the opinion pages of the Globe-News, which at the time published morning and afternoon editions each day.

When I arrived I learned that the paper allowed letter writers to submit essays at will. The paper would publish virtually all of them. What I determined then was that only a few readers were taking part in offering commentary to the newspaper. One fellow would write damn near daily, man. He was an articulate fellow, but he could be harsh on those who disagreed with him; I figure he frightened away a lot of potential contributors.

So … I decided to impose a new rule: one letter every two weeks. Then I made another decision shortly after that: one letter per writer every calendar month.

We had an administrative assistant who then was tasked with keeping tabs on our letter writers. She did so with cool efficiency.

What happened almost immediately was quite stunning. We began getting letters from readers who rarely, if ever, submitted letters for us to consider publishing. Our pool of commentators grew exponentially over time.

It’s important to stipulate that the Globe-News circulated to many times more readers than it does today. The circulation of the paper is just a fraction of it was during the late 1990s and early 2000s. We had a sort of “luxury,” therefore, by being able to limit the frequency of writers, opening the door to many more contributors who wanted to weigh in with their thoughts on the issues of the day or on what we might have said about those issues in our editorial columns.

We took great pride in the wide range of opinions we invited onto our pages. Much of the criticism was constructive; much of it was, well … something else. That’s OK. We sought to exercise some discretion, some control over the quality of those points of view. Hey, we were entitled to do so!