Tag Archives: University of Texas

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.

Texas might be tossed onto the political battlefield

I have some good news — depending on your point of view — about Texas’s short- and immediate-term political future.

The state might become a “battleground state” in the 2020 presidential election. Do you know what that means? It means the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees and their running mates are going to spend lots of time here campaigning for votes.

Why is that a big deal? It’s big because I happen to be one voter who prefers to hear candidates up close.

Texas hasn’t been a battleground state for several presidential election cycles. Republicans have owned the results since 1976, when the last Democrat — Jimmy Carter — won the state’s electoral votes.

A new poll by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune says about 50 percent of Texans want someone other than Donald Trump to win the election next year. Of the Democrats running for the White House, former VP Joe Biden is leading; former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke also is polling well.

Here is an important caveat: These polls are practically useless this far from an election. People’s minds change. Candidates have ways of appealing/pandering to those on the fence.

But I’m going to hang on to the hope that Texas becomes a battleground state in 2020. Republicans have taken the state for granted; Democrats who have toiled in the wilderness haven’t bothered with Texas.

Is this the election cycle it changes? Oh, I hope so.

‘Giant of a man’ passes from the scene

I just got word that Amarillo, Texas, has lost one of its truly great men, a powerful — but humble — man who stood far taller than his relatively diminutive stature.

Wales Madden Jr. was 91 years of age.

Wow, this news saddens me to my core.

It is impossible to overstate the influence and impact that Wales had on the community he loved. Indeed, his legacy will be felt across the vast state.

I don’t know if the University of Texas has a “Texas Exes” godfather, but it should have been Wales Madden Jr. This man loved UT. He loved them Longhorns. He served on the University of Texas System Board of Regents. Wales remained a giant presence around the system long after he left that public office.

That’s not nearly the entirety of Wales Madden’s legacy.

He was among the pioneers of the Texas water management strategy. He served with the Texas Water Conservation Board and helped shape Texas water policy for decades.

He rubbed shoulders with politicians, but mainly with Republicans. He was a dedicated member of the Grand Old Party. In the picture I have posted with this blog entry you can see Wales in the company of Ronald W. Reagan.

However, he also teamed with individuals associated with the other political party. I remember a particular friendship he had with the late Jerome Johnson, another lawyer of significant renown in Amarillo. Madden and Johnson worked together to lobby the Department of Energy to install an office in Amarillo that sought to research effective disposal of plutonium, a byproduct of the massive Pantex nuclear weapons storage and assembly plant northeast of Amarillo. Both men used to joke about how a dedicated Democrat could work with an equally dedicated Republican for a common purpose.

His friendships covered the huge spectrum of political and socio-economic interests. His kindness was legendary and I was a recipient over many years of this gentle man’s good cheer.

In early 1995 I made the move from Beaumont to Amarillo to become the editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News. A dear friend of mine who grew up in Amarillo, but who had moved on to a lengthy career in journalism, offered this piece of advice: Get close to Wales Madden, he said. My friend described Wales as a “gray eminence” who was one of the community’s wisest men.

I did what my friend suggested. Wales and I became friends. I grew to respect this man greatly.

Amarillo is full of fine men and women who contribute mightily to the community’s well-being. Few of them have quite the impact that Wales Madden Jr. delivered through his many years of dedication to the community he loved with all of his gigantic heart.

Missing this holiday tradition

If only Texas A&M University hadn’t decided to play football in the Southeastern Conference. If only the Aggies had stayed put in the Big 12. If only . . .

I’d be watching a Texas tradition today while consuming some turkey and all the other stuff.

Thanksgiving Day meant some good ol’ college tackle football between the University of Texas and them Aggies of A&M.

I wasn’t born in Texas. I didn’t attend either school. I’ve lived in Texas long enough — 34 years now — to appreciate the thrill, the pageantry and the excitement associated with this holiday tradition.

If only the Aggies hadn’t bolted to the SEC.

I have made the acquaintances of many Texas Exes and dedicated Aggies over the years. I have no particular loyalty to either school. Neither of my UT or A&M friends are “better” friends than the others. I do like to watch tackle football played at the college level.

My wife and I have attended one A&M football game. It was years ago in Lubbock, when the Aggies played Texas Tech’s Red Raiders in a windswept event at Jones Stadium. The Red Raiders won that game in a thriller.

Do you know what thrilled the daylights out of me, though? It was the sight — and the sound! — of the Aggie marching band walking onto the field. Talk about spit-and-polish precision!

Well, we won’t see any of that today. Nor will we get to see Bevo the steer roaming the sideline in front of the Longhorn faithful while his UT gridders play some block-and-tackle with their Aggie rivals.

Dang it, anyhow!

Coaching pays well, even when you’re no longer coaching

I am all too willing to acknowledge that there’s a lot about many things I don’t understand.

College football coaching contracts is one example.

Kevin Sumlin got canned this week as head grid coach at Texas A&M University. Why did the athletic director fire him? Well, I get this: He didn’t win enough football games for the Aggies.

Now … in my world, that constitutes non-performance. It means to me that Coach Sumlin didn’t fulfill the terms of his agreement with the Texas A&M University System.

Here is where confusion sets in: Sumlin is going to receive millions more dollars even though he’s no longer a public education employee.

How do you justify this?

Sumlin received $5 million annually to coach the Aggies. Five million bucks, man! That’s a good gig, right? Sure it is. But you have to do the job your bosses demand of you.

University of Texas athletics officials faced a similar quandary when head football coach Charley Strong was fired. UT had to pay him lots of cash even though he didn’t measure up, either. The payout was reduced a bit when Coach Strong landed a coaching job at the University of South Florida.

But the Sumlin payout apparently is a bit of an issue in Aggieland. According to the Texas Tribune: Big payouts for fired college coaches are hardly rare, but Sumlin’s payout is relatively large and has been a source of frustration for some fans. Sumlin’s pay was bumped to $5 million per year after his first season — one of A&M’s most successful seasons in the modern college football era. At the time, he was rumored to be a candidate for jobs at other universities or in the National Football League.

These coaches operate in a parallel universe. If they don’t measure up to the terms of their contract, do they really deserve to get the kind of dough they’re getting when they are given the boot?

I need an explanation.

What’s missing? Oh, wait! Longhorns vs. Aggies

I was 34 years of age when my family and I moved to Texas. That was in 1984.

At the time I was a fairly avid collegiate football fan. I grew quickly to appreciate one of the country’s more intense gridiron rivalries not long after arriving in the Golden Triangle.

I refer to the University of Texas-Texas A&M rivalry. They used to play that game on Thanksgiving Day. My wife and I became friends in Beaumont with diehard Aggie alumni. They were four brothers, all of whom graduated from A&M; their children went there, too; and so did their grandchildren. They bled Aggie Maroon. I was schooled immediately — and often — about how much Aggie football meant to Texas Aggie families.

I even learned to refer to the University of Texas as “texas university.”

Then the Aggies decided they wanted to bolt to the Southeastern Conference. They wanted to play tackle football against Arkansas, Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee … and some other schools.

Then the rivalry was dissolved.

I am still somewhat saddened that we can’t see the Longhorns play the Aggies on Turkey Day.

I have no particular allegiance to either school. I didn’t attend either of them; neither did our sons. I wrote a year ago about missing a Thanksgiving tradition. I still miss it.

Missing a Thanksgiving tradition

Can’t there be a way for the athletic directors at these schools to work out a non-conference game that pits these football teams against each other … on Thanksgiving Day?

C’mon! You can do this!

Missing a Thanksgiving tradition


So help me, I don’t know why I am thinking of this.

But I just am.

It occurred to me today that I am missing an annual Thanksgiving event. It’s a sporting spectacle: the University of Texas-Texas A&M University football game.

The Aggies tossed the intense rivalry into the crapper when they bolted from the Big 12 and joined the Southeastern Conference a few years back. I heard something about UT’s football network driving the Aggies toward the SEC. I’m not very savvy about the business of college football, so I won’t comment on that.

But we’ve lived in Texas now for nearly 33 years. I’ve grown accustomed to many of this state’s traditions. The annual UT-A&M game on Thanksgiving Day was one of them.

It’s no longer part of the state’s celebration of this uniquely American holiday.

I don’t have any particular loyalties here. Our sons didn’t attend either school. I know plenty of Texas Exes and Aggies.

I’ve learned, for instance, that there’s no such thing as a “former Aggie.” I also learned long ago that Aggies refer to their longtime rival as “texas university.”

I guess one might say — and I don’t mention this with any antipathy — that Aggies are a touch more obnoxious about the rivalry than their Longhorn friends.

However, it’s all grown a bit muted since the two schools no longer face off on Thanksgiving either in Austin or College Station.

Yeah, I miss it. I only can imagine how I would feel if I actually felt an allegiance to either school.

Clinton within shouting distance of Trump in Texas


Take heart, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

A University of Texas poll says you’re trailing Donald J. Trump. But, hey, it’s only by 8 points. The previous Democratic presidential candidate — Barack Obama — lost the Texas vote to John McCain and Mitt Romney by double digits in 2008 and 2012, respectively.

A part of me, though, is a bit surprised that Trump has even an 8-point lead over Clinton in Texas.

I don’t know who University of Texas/Texas Political Projects Poll surveyed to come up with an 8-point gap. I wonder if it included the requisite number of Latino voters who comprise such a significant minority of Texans.

We all know how Trump — the presumptive Republican nominee for president — has gone out of his way to offend Latinos. He started with his plan to “build a beautiful wall” along our southern border; then he intimated that all Mexican illegal immigrants were “rapists, drug dealers and murderers”; then came the assertion that  an Indiana-born federal judge was biased against him because the judge’s parents were Mexican immigrants.


I’m well aware that public opinion surveys only serve as “snapshots.” They don’t predict the future.

However, some political thinkers believe Clinton has a legitimate chance of winning Texas this fall. Others, though, believe the state is too deeply Republican to change now and that Clinton isn’t the type of Democrat who can repaint the reliably red state into a blue one.

If the Democratic nominee is to have a chance of capturing Texas’s huge trove of electoral votes, she’ll need to get Latinos to the polls. History is not on her side.

Then again, we’ve all talked about how “conventional wisdom” has been tossed aside during this election season.

Scalia recuse himself from race cases? Not a chance


U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is angry at Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

She’s mad at remarks that Scalia made during oral arguments involving an affirmative case involving the University of Texas. Scalia contended that African-American students might not do as well academically at UT as they would in “slower-track schools.” The statement has drawn much criticism against the outspoken justice.

Pelosi thinks Scalia now must recuse himself from future discrimination cases because of his bias.

Let’s hold on, Mme. Minority Leader.

Don’t misunderstand me. I dislike Scalia’s world view as much as the next progressive. But calling for him to recuse himself from these cases goes way too far. According to Politico: “It’s so disappointing to hear that statement coming from a justice of the Supreme Court. It clearly shows a bias,” Pelosi said. “I think that the justice should recuse himself from any case that relates to discrimination in education, in voting, and I’m sorry that he made that comment.”

Consider something from our recent past.

The highest court in the land once included two justices who were philosophically opposed to capital punishment. The late Justices Thurgood Marshall and William Brennan voted automatically in favor of capital defendants’ death sentence appeals. If a death row inmate’s case made it to the Supreme Court, he or she could depend on at least two votes in favor of the appeal.

In fact, Justice Marshall was particularly blunt about it. He said repeatedly that he opposed capital punishment, yet he took part in those appeals.

Did he ever recuse himself? Did pro-death penalty forces make the case that he should? No to the first; and unlikely to the second.

Federal judges — and includes the nine individuals who sit on the highest court — all have lifetime jobs. That’s how the Constitution set it up. Presidents appoint then; the Senate confirms them and then they are free to vote their conscience.

Scalia need not recuse himself. He is free — as he has been since President Reagan appointed him to the court in 1986 — to speak his mind. He has done so with remarkable candor — and even occasionally with some callousness — ever since.


‘Texas’ equals ‘crazy’ … in Norway

crazy texas

Am I the only Texas resident who’s a bit concerned that the word “Texas” has become a metaphor for “crazy,” “nuts” and otherwise “bizarre”?

Social media have gone aflutter with some stuff out of Norway, where publications have let it be known that “Texas” is now being used as a pejorative term in Norwegian.

Some of my Texas friends, notably native Texans, have blown it off. No big deal, they say. One of my friends takes it as a sort of backhanded compliment, meaning that them damn Euros are going to wish they were more like Texas when they get overrun by all the immigrants fleeing violence in the Middle East.

Well, let me state that as someone who chose to move to Texas in 1984 and whose life is now firmly ensconced in the Lone Star State, I find the description more than mildly worrisome.

Norwegians have hung a label on Texas that shouldn’t make us proud.

As Erica Greider notes in her Texas Monthly blog, Norwegian print media have been using the term “Texas” by lower-casing the “t” in the word. The only folks I’m aware of who can get away with that would be Texas A&M University Aggies, who occasionally refer to their archrivals in Austin as being from “texas university.”

As Greider reports: “Here is an article from Aviso Nordland from March 2014 about reckless international truck drivers traveling through the northern part of the country. Norwegian police chief Knut Danielsen, when describing the situation, tells the paper that ‘it is absolutely texas.’”

Did you get that?

A dear friend of mine told me that many Americans outside of Texas view our state in the same way as Norwegians. She gave me a pass, though, saying I “didn’t count” because I happen to be a native of Oregon. Bless you, my dear.

Still, I came here on purpose many years ago. My wife, sons and I like living here. One of my sons married a native Texan and they have produced a little girl — our precious granddaughter — who’s a native Texan.

I don’t want any of them, especially little Emma, to be stigmatized in this manner.

Yes, many of our state’s politicians have brought this ridicule on themselves — and our state.

The natives might not think much of it. Perhaps the rest of us think differently. Hey, those Norwegians are poking fun at the choices we made moving here in the first place.