Tag Archives: Dallas Morning News

One huge surprise!

You’ve heard it said that “life is full of surprises,” or at least it ought to contain a surprise or two as we move on through our time on this good Earth.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, the retirement journey my wife and I began some years ago has taken a most astounding turn. Where it goes … let me explain.

We were camping in our RV the other day when I received an e-mail from the acting editorial page editor of the Dallas Morning News. He said he wanted to discuss something with me. I read the message and told my wife what it said. I thought, “What in the world … ?”

I called him. Rudy Bush, the acting EPE at the Morning News, informed me he had been reading my blog and had seen some of the work I had done for KETR-FM radio at Texas A&:M-Commerce. He then told me he needed help at the DMN, that he was working with a short-handed staff; that his staff is burning out and that he wanted little ol’ me to lend a hand writing editorials for the newspaper.

Now, you have to understand something about yours truly. When I got into journalism in the 1970s, I had aspired to write for a major metro newspaper. I sought many times over the course of my career to achieve that goal. I ended up writing during the bulk of my career for two mid-sized dailies. I had a nice career. I believe I did my job well.

What happened at the RV park in Northeast Texas, though, caught me by complete surprise.

The result is that at the age of nearly 72, I am going to see my dream come true … if only for a limited period of time. I phone him back the next morning to tell him “yes,” that I would like to help him out. It will be, as they called it in the Army, a TDY assignment … temporary duty.

I will continue to cover city council, school district issues and write occasional features for the Farmersville Times; I also will continue to cover water resource development in Fannin County for KETR-FM radio. On top of that I will write editorials for the Dallas Morning News.

And just to be crystal clear, my bride and I will continue to haul our RV around behind our pickup for a little R&R.

I found myself grappling with competing thoughts in my noggin. One thought was, “Why don’t you just toss it all aside, sit back, relax and enjoy the fruits of your retirement?” The other thought was, “Why would you want to pass up this opportunity, which you strived to find, and accept the challenge that awaits you?”

I decided to heed the latter thought.

So … off we go, racing toward a new challenge.


Gerrymandering to commence

A now-deceased Republican state senator from Amarillo, Teel Bivins, once told me why he allegedly hated the once-every-decade chore that fell to the Legislature: redistricting.

He said it provided “Republicans the chance to eat their young.”

I am not not at all sure what Bivins by that quip. I wish now I had asked him in the moment to explain himself. But … whatever.

The next redistricting effort is about to commence in Austin. Texas is going to get two more U.S. House seats, thanks to rapid population growth, particularly among those of Hispanic descent.

What happens over the course of the next 30 days or so is anyone’s guess. Texas Republicans run the Legislature. They’re going to draw those districts in a way that enables them to keep a firm grip on power. Hey, it’s part of the process. Democrats did the same thing when they ran the Legislature.

The GOP lawmakers are going to gerrymander the living daylights out of these districts. They’ll bob and weave along streets in order to keep as many GOP-leaning voters as possible within certain legislative or congressional jurisdictions.

Bivins once talked about the need to seek “community of interest” districts. He once told me of his disliking the gerrymander process. He didn’t do anything to stop it, as near as I can recall.

You may count me as one American patriot who thinks that gerrymandering stinks to high heaven. I also believe the Legislature ought to give this task up to an independent, non-political body. That’s just me talking.

As lawmakers said in a lengthy article in the Sunday Dallas Morning News, this process is as “bare-knuckled as it gets” in Austin.

The Dallas Morning News (dallasnews.com)

Bring plenty of bandages, legislators.


Gov. Abbott’s wall gets little endorsement

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Today’s edition of the Dallas Morning News offered an interesting snapshot of public opinion on a plan that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is trying to foist on the state he leads.

I refer to the border wall Abbott wants to build along our state’s border with Mexico.

The Morning News today published 13 letters to the editor on its opinion page commenting on Abbott’s idea. Eleven of them came from writers who oppose the wall construction outright; one letter seemed somewhat neutral, proposing the state build a ravine along the border; one letter applauded Abbott’s leadership as governor.

Hmmm. It got me thinking. If the Dallas Morning News — which publishes a moderate/conservative editorial page — cannot find more support for Abbott’s wall than it did in today’s letters package, then what is the point of the governor’s wall-building initiative?

I certainly realize that a single day’s newspaper collection of letters to the editor does not constitute a scientific survey of public opinion. Still, it seems instructive to me that so many North Texas residents seem opposed to the idea. It’s not as if this part of the state is a haven for left-wing progressive thinkers … you know?

It brings me to the point of Abbott’s decision. Abbott says he is acting because of what he determines is the federal government’s failure to secure our border. He has bought into the clap-trap offered by the previous president that the “horde” of undocumented immigrants is full of criminals intent on harming Americans.

So Abbott wants to build a wall. He calls it a “down payment” on securing our state. Except that he is now treading on federal authority, which is charged with securing the nation. Abbott isn’t having any of that. If the feds won’t act, he said, then Texas will take matters into its own hands.

I happen to agree with most of my fellow North Texans who expressed displeasure with Abbott’s initiative. A wall is too costly and will ultimately prove to be ineffective. It also illustrates how a one-time reasonable Republican politician has morphed into a cult follower who has bought into the crazy notion that we are being overrun by criminals.

Congressmen stay away from Paxton lunacy

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I want to declare that the young man who represents me in the U.S. House of Representatives and the fellow who was my congressman until my wife and I moved to Collin County have reneged on joining the Ken Paxton loony bin parade.

U.S. Reps. Van Taylor of Plano and Mac Thornberry of Clarendon have declined to add their names to the seditious letter signed by 105 House Republicans in support of the lawsuit filed in the U.S. Supreme Court by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

I am heartened to report that sanity has taken hold in at least two House GOP members’ noggins.

Paxton has sued four states, seeking to overturn their voters’ results after they supported President-elect Joe Biden’s successful presidential campaign. Paxton’s lawsuit has zero chance of being approved by the SCOTUS. Indeed, some GOP senators — such as John Cornyn of Texas — have expressed serious doubt about the merits of the argument Paxton is presenting.

Taylor was just re-elected to the House from the Third Congressional District. Thornberry is stepping down after serving since 1995 in the 13th District. Indeed, Thornberry has accepted publicly and openly that Joe Biden is the next president, unlike too damn many of his GOP colleagues in Congress.

The Dallas Morning News has reported on Thornberry’s statements:

Asked what signal it sends to foreign governments that so many of his GOP colleagues refuse to accept Biden as the winner, he said that “other countries, as well as most Americans, understand and probably support President Trump making full use of all of the legal avenues … to contest mistakes or whatever he can find — flaws in the voting process. But I also am mindful that, whether it’s the attorney general or a host of others, nobody’s said they have seen any evidence of enough flaws to change the result.”

“Nearly everybody says that transition needs to move on. And we’re down to just a few days now before the Electoral College votes. We’re proceeding step by step through the normal constitutional process. And certainly, Dec. 14 when the electors vote — that’s how a president is chosen. So, things need to move ahead,” he said.

I take that to mean that Paxton’s moronic lawsuit will go nowhere. Count me as a Texas resident who is glad to know the two men who have most recently represented my interests in Congress have demonstrated that they have retained their sanity.

School board betrays its constituents

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

A North Texas public school board of trustees that is charged with setting policy for educating public school students has just failed an exam that truly doesn’t pass the so-called “smell test.”

The Lancaster Independent School District board is offering an abject lesson on how not to conduct public business. Other local governing boards need to listen up and pay close attention.

The Lancaster ISD board offered Superintendent Elijah Granger a new five-year contract worth $1.6 million and then bought him out five days later. That’s not the worst of it.

Oh, no. The worst is that the board, which bought him out with a 4-3 vote, isn’t disclosing the details of the maneuver. The three trustees don’t know the details. Nor does the public. No one knows how much money the public school district is shelling out to buy Granger’s contract.

I emphasize the word “public” because the public deserves to know the details, not to mention the three board members who dissented from the buyout vote.

As the Dallas Morning News said in an editorial published Wednesday, “There is no other way to look at this than a betrayal of parents, taxpayers and the trustees who were shut out from access to relevant information.”

One of the dissenting trustees, Marion Hamilton, sought to see the separation agreement, but was denied. That is outrageous!

School board members have declined to discuss the details of the buyout. There hasn’t been an explanation of why they voted essentially to fire the superintendent … not to mention explain why it would buy him out so soon after agreeing to the expensive contract. What in the world did he do from the contract signing and the separation? The public needs to know the details.

There’s a serious lesson to be learned here. I would hope all school districts, city councils or other governing bodies entrusted with the power to hire and fire government administrators would take notice of the clusterfu** being played out in Lancaster, Texas.

This ain’t good, folks. You have failed a key test of leadership … and to think you still set policy that establishes the education of public school students.


Time to quit, Mr. Texas AG

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

It is highly doubtful a major Texas newspaper read my blog from this past month before declaring it is time for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to resign from public office.

Here is what I wrote on Oct. 7:

Should AG Paxton quit?

Now the Dallas Morning News has weighed in with a strong and meticulously reported editorial that says it’s time for Paxton to go.

The Sunday DMN laid out in detail the transgressions that Paxton has allegedly committed. Now, I won’t take credit for influencing the Morning News’s editorial position. Oh, what the heck … I’ll take all the credit I deserve.

Still, for the major newspaper which happens to be Paxton’s hometown newspaper — as he represented Collin County in the Legislature before being elected AG in 2014 — to call for his immediate resignation is a big deal, man.

Read the Morning News editorial here.

It wasn’t enough that a Collin County grand jury indicted Paxton on securities fraud. He still is awaiting trial five years after the indictment. Oh, no. Seven top AG’s office legal eagles blew the whistle on allegations of criminal activity within the office. They have called for a federal investigation of the myriad allegations they have leveled.

Paxton has managed to fire most of them; others have quit.

The AG’s credibility is blown to smithereens.

Hit the road, AG Paxton.

Who has ‘moral authority’?

Moral authority isn’t written in the presidential oath of office specifically. However, it’s implied throughout the oath. Thus, when a president places his hand on a Bible to swear “so help me God” that he will perform the duties of his office faithfully, well, there’s a moral equivalence to be found.

The Dallas Morning News today published a lengthy editorial, part of a series of issues discussions preceding the presidential election. The DMN chose this way of examining the contest rather than endorsing one candidate over the other.

That leaves outside observers to draw their own conclusions about the issues at play. The topic of today’s piece is “moral authority” and how a president should use the authority given to him.

Hmm. Wow. That’s pretty heavy stuff to ponder.

I will state categorically one more time — and surely not the last time — that Donald J. Trump lacks moral authority at every possible level. The Morning News reminds us that moral authority helps guide the president to a “greater purpose.” How in the world does this president find that purpose? How does he dispense his moral authority? How can he even pretend to possess any semblance of moral authority to do anything?

Joe Biden, the Democratic challenger, seeks to expose the president’s lack of such authority while campaigning to restore “the nation’s soul.”

It seems that we learn more about Trump’s lack of moral fitness daily. We can start with his well-chronicled marital infidelity; then we can look at the way he conducted his business and how he treated those who got in his way; we can examine how he handles government appointments and the manner in which he disposes of individuals; we can look at the absence of any public service on his record prior to running for president; let’s examine this individual’s faith and its authenticity.

I hope you get my point here.

The DMN won’t offer a specific recommendation for the upcoming election: Donald Trump or Joe Biden. Instead, it is examining in detail the issues it believes should drive this election. Read the editorial here.

The DMN opines: So what’s at stake in our presidential elections is more than who will hold the office. What’s at stake is whether the person who wins in November can marshal the moral authority necessary to unite the country, prioritize national problems, and rally our political system to carry us through perilous moments ahead.

“Marshal the moral authority necessary to unite the county.” Imagine that. Have we seen any semblance of unity coming from this president? No. We haven’t.

That, right there, serves as all the evidence I need as an American voter to cast the incumbent aside.

Abbott threatens overreach

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is angry with the Austin City Council.

He is so angry that he is threatening to meddle into a level of government that is none of the governor’s business. He said the city’s decision to “defund” its police department might result in the state imposing a property tax freeze, which would deprive the city of any sort of budgeting flexibility, which is essential to the governing body.

C’mon, governor! What happened to your belief in local control?

The judgment on whether the city council acted wisely in defunding the police department and reallocating funds to human service programs is up to the voters of the city. It is not the governor’s call!

The council voted to cut $150 million from the police department’s $434 million annual budget. Is that the right call? It’s not for me to decide, or for the governor, either. The decision should come from the city’s voting public.

This is a reactionary decision on the part of the governor. The Dallas Morning News published an editorial that takes appropriate note of the governor’s decision to deploy Department of Public Safety troopers to cities to help fight spikes in crime, which he did this past year in Dallas. That’s all fine and is in keeping with the governor’s commitment to protecting the safety of Texans.

The DMN editorial also points out that budget matters belong solely to the city. The governor should butt out! Read the editorial here.

The governor should concentrate on issues that are relevant to the constitutional authority invested in his office, not seek to meddle in matters that belong exclusively to our cities.

Pandemic coverage = failed prevention policy

Something occurred to me this week when I began reading the Dallas Morning News that my carrier tossed onto my driveway.

The newspaper’s front page story count was devoted totally to the coronavirus pandemic. Then I looked at some of the inside pages. Multiple pages contained full coverage of the pandemic. The editorial page also had many letters to the editor and opinion columns devoted to the pandemic.

Then the light bulb flashed on: When have we ever witnessed such wall-to-wall, 24/7, nonstop, relentless coverage of a single issue? I guess the last issue that did that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001. That’s how big this pandemic has become.

Why mention this? Well, I also remember earlier this year when Donald Trump was downplaying the onset of the virus that he was highly critical of previous administrations’ efforts at handling earlier health crises. He mentioned the Ebola virus and the H1N1 outbreaks that dogged the Obama administration. He exerted a bit of effort to tell us that in his view President Obama did a lousy job of corralling those crises.

OK, but … did those crises dominate the media coverage — not to mention the top of everyone’s awareness — the way this pandemic has done? No. They didn’t.

What does that tell me? It tells me that those crises either weren’t as widespread as the coronavirus pandemic has become and that the Obama administration did a good job of stemming their impact on the population.

It also symbolizes and illustrates one of the fundamental points that Trump critics — such as yours truly — have made all along, which is that Donald Trump has fumbled bigly in organizing his administration’s response to the crisis.

I have to circle back to something Dr. Anthony Fauci said, which was that had there been a concerted early effort to “mitigate” the effects of the disease that we wouldn’t be in the pickle we’re in at this moment.

So, here we are … with a disease overwhelming the media’s daily coverage of the news of the day. That, I submit, is a consequence of an inept governmental response.

Get over yourselves, Judge Jenkins and Gov. Abbott!

I want to make a request on this blog of two leading politicians who appear to be locking horns over the use of a “pop up hospital” erected to handle an expected surge in coronavirus cases in Dallas County.

It is this: Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott need to set their past disputes aside and work together on behalf of stricken and anxious North Texans.

Jenkins is a Democrat, while Abbott is a Republican. That difference right there seems to suggest a starting point in the two men’s apparent tension. The major parties don’t work well at times in Texas.

They have erected a temporary hospital at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. Jenkins, according to the Dallas Morning News, has been a bit reluctant to open the center for patients. Abbott wants Jenkins to move more quickly. Their staffs aren’t working too well together at the moment.

The Morning News article I’ve attached to this blog post suggests a lengthy history of tension between the men. Jenkins is a supporter of the Affordable Care Act; Abbott is not and they have clashed over whether the state should expand benefits for those enrolled in the ACA. Jenkins doesn’t like the state’s usurping of local control over certain matters; Abbott has gone along with the Legislature’s moves to consolidate power in Austin.

Meanwhile, thousands of Dallas County residents have been stricken by the COVID-19 strain of coronavirus. My wife and I, along with one of our sons and his family, live in next-door Collin County. I happen, therefore, to detest politicians who let personal history get in the way of their need to work together to deal with a crisis.

Earth to Jenkins and Abbott: We’ve got a beaut of a crisis right now!

Get over yourselves, gentlemen! For the sake of those of us who might depend on that temporary hospital, not to mention the services provided by our state and local counties!