Tag Archives: Texas Tribune

Paying folks to protect themselves? Really?

It has come down to this? Holy cow, man!

Texas’s most populous county has been paying residents $100 if they line up to get a shot to protect themselves — and their loved ones — against the COVID-19 virus. Yep, that’s how it’s going down yonder in Harris County.

Never would I have imagined a worldwide health pandemic would devolve into a payment plan to entice those who were reluctant to get vaccinated against a disease that could kill them.

Here is what the Texas Tribune is reporting:

COVID-19 vaccines increase in Harris County following cash incentive | The Texas Tribune

Wow. You know, this is a consequence of the politicization of a vaccination campaign that never — not ever! — should have devolved into this partisan political game of gotcha!

It’s good, I reckon, that Harris County has enough money to throw around at those willing to receive a life-saving vaccine. I’ll give County Judge Hidalgo credit for taking the lead on this effort.

What’s more, it has produced results, as the Tribune reported, with vaccinations skyrocketing.

It’s just part of what I hope is a trend we will see accelerate as more people realize that the vaccines are effective and, of course, safe. The Food and Drug Administration this week approved the Pfizer vaccine, giving its unqualified go-ahead to anyone who had been  reluctant to get the shot to proceed to their nearest pharmacy or doctor’s office to be inoculated.

President Biden went on TV to declare that era of excuses is over. “Get vaccinated today,” he implored us. Hey, you’re preaching to choir in our house, Mr. President; my bride and I got our shots in February … both of ’em!

Still, I am astounded that some officials are doling out money to lure reluctant folks to do what is right — and what is sane!

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

AG hopeful stung by this reality

(AP Photo/LM Otero)

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

This clearly won’t help George P. Bush push his candidacy to become the next Texas attorney general.

It turns out, according to the Texas Tribune, that the state’s veterans homes — which are administered by the office Bush runs — have been dying of COVID pandemic complications at a rate greater than the state and national averages.

Bush serves as Texas land commissioner. The General Land Office runs programs aimed at helping Texas veterans. Bush now wants to be the next Texas attorney general. He is running in the 2022 Republican primary against incumbent Ken Paxton; former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman also is running for the AG’s post in the GOP primary.

But wait! Now we hear that Texas veterans who live in GLO-administered veterans homes have fared poorly as the state has battled the COVID virus.

That’s on George P. Bush.

As the Texas Tribune reports: Nursing homes, which care for people who are already medically vulnerable, were ravaged by the pandemic. But Texas’ state-run veterans homes were often the deadliest places to be.

Texas veterans homes were deadly during the COVID-19 pandemic | The Texas Tribune

Also from the Texas Tribune: Three of the state’s nine veterans homes — including Ambrosio Guillen in El Paso — had the highest death rate among all nursing homes in their county. Seven had a fatality rate of 25% or more, far higher than the statewide average of 11% across Texas nursing homes.

Bush wants to restore integrity in the attorney general’s office. Indeed, Paxton’s tenure since his taking office in 2015 has been fraught with scandal and suspicion of malfeasance and outright corruption.

Texas veterans and their family members need and deserve answers as to why state-run nursing homes have become synonymous with the term “death sentence.”

Get vaccinated, Texans!

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

This isn’t good news, folks.

Texans like to boast about how our state is No. 1. Well, we are far from No. 1 in the rate of inoculation against that killer virus, the COVID-19 pandemic that’s still killing too many of us.

The Texas Tribune reports that the state has inoculated about 43 percent of its population fully against the virus.

I was struck by the results coming from Amarillo and from Beaumont, two communities where I used to live. Amarillo had been vaccinating at double the state rate. Then the good folks of the Panhandle decided to stop exceeding the state standard. Amarillo’s fully vaccinated rate stands at 30 percent, a good bit below the state inoculation rate.

The Beaumont-Port Arthur metro area fares even worse, with just 28 percent of its residents claiming to be fully vaccinated.

I don’t know about you, but I believe that is disconcerting news to say the least. At worst it is frightening, given the spike in that the “delta variant” now accounts for about 25 percent of the new infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

https://www.texastribune.org/2021/07/06/coronavirus-texas-vaccination-amarillo/

President Biden keeps telling us that it is the “patriotic” thing to do to get vaccinated. The first time I heard him say it, I though the then-new president was overstating the importance. No more, man! I now am on board fully with Joe Biden’s summoning our patriotic spirit in fighting the virus.

I have been using High Plains Blogger to extol the message. And I will continue to speak out on this forum. It’s the best avenue at my disposal to say what I believe needs to be said.

I am able to speak with a clear conscience about vaccination. I am fully vaccinated, as is virtually my entire immediate family. We stand proudly as those who heeded the call to get the vaccine. To be sure, we have paid a hefty price from the pandemic. Two of our immediate family members were hospitalized with symptoms; one of those family members became, in the words of the medical staff tending to her, “seriously ill” from the virus, which means we could have lost her. I thank God Almighty each day that we didn’t.

This is all my way of urging everyone who is eligible to receive the vaccine to get the medication shot into your body. The CDC, the Food and Drug Administration and practically every medical expert on Earth say the vaccines are safe; they are effective; they will protect you and those with whom you come in contact.

As for my former neighbors in far-reaching regions of this vast state who continue to resist the vaccine, they are playing a dangerous game.

Note: A version of this blog was published initially on KETR.org.

Abortion headed for scrap heap?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I am profoundly offended by the notion of politicians dictating to women how they can deal with emotional trauma that virtually no one else can comprehend.

Yet that is what is likely to happen if — or likely when — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signs an anti-abortion bill into law.

The Legislature has enacted a bill that would make abortion illegal six weeks after conception, which is before many women even know they are pregnant.

Texas Senate advances bill to outlaw abortions if Roe. v. Wade overturned | The Texas Tribune

What’s more, these politicians — dominated in Texas by Republicans, of course — are poised to make all abortions illegal if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion in this country.

As the Texas Tribune reported:

I am shaking my head in disgust and dismay at what these pols think they are doing.

As I have noted already on this blog, my distress at this draconian measure does not make me “pro-abortion.” I never could recommend an abortion for a woman who sought my counsel. I simply would stand back and tell that woman to do what her heart tells her to do.

If only our state’s smug political class — comprising a solid majority of men — would comprehend the notion that they are venturing into territory where they should never tread.

Legislature set to ‘eat its young’

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Show me a legislator from any state in the Union who enjoys a particular task that awaits them and I will show you a certifiable masochist.

That task has to do with redrawing the boundaries of the congressional districts that lie within that state as well as the state senate and house seats.

Such a task lurks just around the corner for the Texas Legislature, which is mandated by the U.S. Constitution to redraw those boundaries. It is, to put the kindest face on it, arguably the most arduous task that legislators have to perform. Here, though, is the good news: They only have to do it once every 10 years, when the Census Bureau counts every resident of every state in the nation.

Texas’ count of residents has produced two additional congressional seats for the Lone Star State, giving the state 38 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. The House delegation count plus the two U.S. Senate seats gives Texas 40 electoral votes for the next presidential election.

I want to accentuate a term: that would be “resident.” The Constitution stipulates in clear and concise language that the census must count every person who lives within our borders. It doesn’t limit that count to just U.S. citizens, card-carrying Americans.

But what lies ahead for the Legislature? I once knew a Texas state senator, the late Teel Bivins of Amarillo, who told me that redrawing these congressional and legislative boundaries, hands down, was his least favorite legislative duty. He hated doing it. Bivins, though, resisted any change to the way it is done, preferring to keep it in the hands of legislators. Bivins said that redistricting gave Republicans the chance to “eat their young.”

I asked Sen. Bob Hall of Rockwall, a fellow Republican, what Bivins might have meant by that. Hall said that the GOP primary usually is much bloodier than the general election, given that “Texas is such a Republican state.”

The 2021 Legislature will be charged with doing what the U.S. Constitution requires of it. Reapportionment won’t be any prettier than it has been in years past. Which brings me to this: What do legislators expect from a process that is supposed to produce two additional U.S. House seats, bringing the state’s electoral vote count to 40, second only to California, which is going to lose one House seat.

None of the Northeast Texas legislative delegation was on duty during the most recent redistricting effort, done after the 2010 census. The delegation, though, does have legislative experience, which I trust will stand the region in good stead as the process goes forward.

Sen. Hall, serving his second term in the Texas Senate, and who represents Senate District 2, said he has not been assigned to any relevant committee that will work on redistricting, but added that he would “serve on any committee the lieutenant governor wanted me to serve on.” He will get to vote on whatever the Legislature decides when it meets, as expected, in special session once the regular legislative session concludes at the end of the month.

Hall does not yet know what will occur when the Legislature reconvenes, but he believes the Senate district he serves well might expand a bit to the west into Collin and Dallas counties to make up for an expected population loss of around 3 percent. “The best I can tell is that we’re going to change our physical size,” he said. The eastern and western parts of the state are likely to expand geographically, Hall said, while the urban centers will shrink. Why is that? “That’s where the growth is occurring, along the I-35 corridor in the middle of the state,” he said.

This redistricting effort figures to be as cumbersome and potentially controversial as previous efforts, Hall acknowledged. “I cannot imagine how it won’t be,” he said. Hall noted that the Legislature must meet many requirements to assure that minorities get proper representation. “We need to present something that is fair and reasonable for everyone,” he said.

I would say that the upcoming effort at redistricting is “why we pay ‘em the big money,” except that Texas legislators – along with the lieutenant governor – get paid very little for doing the people’s work. I will hope they find the fortitude their predecessors always seem to have summoned to get this tedious and clumsy work done.

For now, all 31 state senators and 150 House members need to hold on with both hands.

NOTE: This blog item was published initially on KETR.org.

Anti-abortion bill nears reality

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

If I were to declare my opposition to a strict anti-abortion bill headed for approval in the Texas Legislature, would you consider me to be “pro-abortion”?

If you say “yes,” you would be wrong.

Still, I do oppose legislators’ effort to enact a strict law that makes it illegal for a woman to terminate a pregnancy just six weeks after conception.

Does that mean I favor abortion? That I would counsel a woman to get an abortion if she asked for my opinion on this intensely personal matter? That I oppose the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent rulings that have declared abortion to be perfectly legal in this country?

No on all three counts.

What troubles me about the Texas legislation is the idea that a woman cannot make this decision for herself. That she cannot consult with her spiritual counselor, her partner, other members of her family, that she cannot pray to God for strength and guidance as she ponders what to do.

No, that a group of equally fallible human beings are going to declare that any effort to end a pregnancy after six weeks — when, as I have understood, women often don’t even know they are pregnant — is just plain wrong.

Human beings should not be left to pass judgment on other humans’ most wrenching decision. To my way of thinking, a woman who chooses to end a pregnancy stands alone. There can be no other decision that comes to my mind that is more wrenching than that.

The Texas Tribune reports: Abortion rights advocates say the legislation is among the most “extreme” measures nationwide and does not exempt people pregnant because of rape or incest. Beyond the limitations on abortion access, the bill would let nearly anyone — including people with no connection to the doctor or the woman — sue abortion providers, and those who help others get an abortion in violation of the proposed law. People who support abortion funds and clinics could also be hit with lawsuits, and lawyers warn those sued would not be able to recover some of the money they spent on their legal defense.

Texas House passes fetal “heartbeat” bill banning abortion at six weeks | The Texas Tribune

If only government officials could adopt a concept uttered by President Bill Clinton who once declared his intention to make abortion “rare … but still legal.”

Ham-handedness rules

(Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

There is something that borders on ham-handed governance that troubles me about the Texas Legislature’s apparent desire to punish cities that take money away from police departments in response to the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality.

Why is that? It’s because the Legislature is trying to tell communities — the folks who govern their own affairs — how their elected officials should do their jobs.

According to the Texas Tribune: The Texas House on Friday passed a bill to financially penalize the state’s largest cities if they cut their police budgets. The measure was sent to the Senate after two days of heated debate and emotional speeches, with the bill authors calling to “back the blue” and the opposition decrying the bill as political propaganda.

Texas cities that cut police funding could face financial penalties | The Texas Tribune

Let’s call it what it appears to be: a political payback ploy launched by Republicans who control the Legislature against cities run by politicians who lean Democratic.

I want to stipulate in the clearest terms possible that I oppose efforts to “defund the police” in response to what has happened in communities across Texas and the nation. I believe there is ample room for reform and I want the cops to keep the money.

If the Princeton City Council — in a highly unlikely event — were to “defund” the cops, I would be among the loudest protesters calling for the ouster of every one of them. That, however, would be their call, which thus would give voters like me a chance to respond accordingly.

The Legislature has no business dictating to cities how they should spend taxpayer funds dedicated to certain municipal services, such as police protection.

Texans don’t want the state to adopt this kind of ham-handed policy … do they?

Listen to us, legislators!

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

What gives with our elected representation in Austin?

They are charting legislative courses that, according to public opinion surveys, go directly against the wishes of the people for whom they work. That us, folks! You and me! And perhaps even our neighbors and family members.

Here’s a case in point.

The Texas Legislature is moving toward enacting a law that allows Texans to pack heat on their hips — a pistol in the open — without having to undergo a simple course and exam to prove they know how to handle the shootin’ iron.

Legislators, led by the Republican majority, call it “constitutional carry.” So, what do rank-and-file Texans think of it? They are opposed to letting our neighbors pack heat into the grocery store, or to park, or the gasoline service station.

The latest poll from the Texas Tribune/University of Texas says that 59 percent of Texans oppose “constitutional carry” of firearms. According to the Tribune: A solid majority of Texas voters don’t think adults should be allowed to carry handguns in public places without permits or licenses, though the idea is popular with a 56% majority of Republicans. Overall, 59% oppose unlicensed carry — a number driven up by the 85% of Democrats who oppose it. On the Republican side, the gun questions revealed a gender gap. Among Republican men, 70% said they support unlicensed carry; 49% of Republican women oppose that position.

So, my question is this: Who in the hell are the 181 state senators and House members, plus Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — who runs the Senate — listening to?

Texas voters on “constitutional carry,” abortion bans and more in UT/TT Poll | The Texas Tribune

If we are to believe the Tribune/UT poll, they ain’t listening to their bosses, those of us who have to live with the laws they approve.

Shameful. Just shameful.

Legislator earns high praise

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Dan Huberty should take a bow and accept this small expression of support for a courageous act he took today on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives.

The Houston Republican acknowledged to his colleagues that he is an alcoholic.

“My name is Dan and I am an alcoholic,” he told fellow legislators in an emotional speech in Austin.

Texas state Rep. Dan Huberty apologizes to House after DWI arrest | The Texas Tribune

Huberty was charged with drunken driving on April 23 after he crashed his car into a minivan and failed a sobriety test. The incident occurred just outside of Austin. He told his colleagues today he has been struggling with alcoholism his entire adult life.

He apologized to them and to his family and acknowledged that he has completed three of the Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12-step program toward sobriety.

Huberty’s colleagues responded with a standing ovation.

It was richly deserved.

“Alcoholism is a serious disease,” Huberty said. “One that is becoming a pandemic in itself.” Yes. It most certainly has become a pandemic.

It’s not often that we see politicians lay open their emotional wounds in such a candid manner. Rep. Huberty isn’t my representative, but I want to applaud him for showing the courage it takes to find his way out of the darkness.

Nut jobs winning the gun debate

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Well, I’ll be deep fried and dipped in corn meal.

The nut job cabal within the Texas Legislature appears to be winning the debate over whether to allow Texans to pack heat without requiring a state-issued permit to do so.

What in the world is happening to us? Do we really believe — as most Republicans in the Legislature believe — that more guns on the streets make us safer? Eek, man!

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who once expressed concern about such a notion, now appears set to push it through. He needs 18 state senators to get it to the floor for consideration and, presumably, enactment. Eighteen Republicans are serving in the Texas Senate. One of them, Kel Seliger of Amarillo, had balked at endorsing the permit-less carry bill. Not to worry, though, Democratic Sen. Eddie Lucio might be the 18th senator to sign on to the bill and send it to the floor.

So help me, this notion gives me the heebie-jeebies. I was not a fan of concealed carry legislation when it was enacted in the 1990s. I have grown to accept it as sufficient.

Constitutional carry bill advancing in Texas Senate, Dan Patrick says | The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune reports on potential changes to the bill that make it palatable to law enforcement, which so far has stood against its enactment:

Count me as one Texan who remains unconvinced this is a good idea.