Texas To The World Dispatch #14

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“A politician is a fellow who will lay down your life for his country”.
– Texas Guinan, Waco born Broadway/Hollywood starlet and famous speakeasy owner of the 1920’s.
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The Legend of Gilberto Luna
Allow me to start this week with Texana; mostly because I have long been fascinated by a man I’ve never met. The first time I passed his house on a dusty road in a national park, I found myself incredulous and more skeptical than I ever was listening to a politician tell me my taxes would not be raised. Gilberto Luna was believed to have been born in 1840 in Durango, Mexico, and in 1900, he crossed the big river and moved to a low, hot spot in the Chihuahuan Desert that was to later become a part of Big Bend National Park.
Luna built a jacal, a low structure made of mud and stone and ocotillo cactus, butted up against a mountain, and began trying to figure out how to grow food and raise his family. Nobody knows for certain what the facts are about Mr. Luna and his life but the locals down by the river said that he raised more than 60 children in his low-slung hut, most were his own, along with a few step-children. The number of times he was married is also a subject of some discussion but Gilberto is believed to have had a dozen wives. Must have been a hell of a man to get that many women to endure that locale without a window, much less a window box unit.
Legend has it that he built his jacal near Alamo Creek during the time when the Comanche were passing through consistently on their “War Trail.” The indigenous tribe apparently did not visit depredations upon familia Luna and their time passed with quietude. But how did he scratch out an existence with all those children? How many rattlesnake cakes can kids eat before they want a pop tart?
If you are ever in Big Bend, take the Old Maverick Road toward the mouth of Santa Elena Canyon. It is dirt, and washboarded and just past the Study Butte entrance, but about seven miles down you will see Gilberto’s house on your left and you will wonder how in the hell he did it. The jacal was added to the National Register of Historic Places, which it deserves, after Mr. Luna transcended his desert existence and passed away in 1947 or ’48 at the age of 109.
Not to turn everything political, but Mr. Trump ought to take from this that border folk are not to be trifled with.
The Brawl at the Wall
There is not going to be a Trumpistan type of a wall on the U.S. – Mexico border. The president and his pals can talk about it all they want but he will be unelected and back to his gilded tower before all the eminent domain lawsuits are settled. They might make a few improvements, add sensors and cameras, extend the current louvered metal structure in a few locations, and then they will call it a game and argue they have kept their promise.
But no wall will ever happen.
Trump had threatened to shut down the government if he didn’t get funding for the wall in the new budget bill. But the loud mouth got quiet when the Democrats said, “Go ahead, dood.” And there is no wall money in the compromise budget bill likely to come out by the end of the week.
Piss Poor Politics
Like all things Trump, the politics on the wall have been as mishandled as the food at Trump Tower. Not a single member of the U.S. House or Senate, who represents regions where the wall would be built, have expressed support for the monstrosity. Hell, not even Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who usually backs ideas just because they are bad and irritate rational people, can get his emotional pecker up for the wall. Eight senators and nine house members from border states have declined to put their modest reputations behind the idea.
Hardly helps matters when the U.S. Attorney General shows up on the border and describes one of the safest cities in America as “ground zero” and a “beach head” in a war that is based in Mexico. Jeff Sessions made his comments in El Paso, during a brief stop in which he failed to visit the business community, but was in town just long enough to insult those of us who know and love the city. And if you doubt the safety and security of El Paso, check out the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Statistics reports, or just read this article.
Or listen to Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump, which will surely make hair grow on your brain.
The Loss Column
Trump keeps racking up losses like an MLB expansion team with no farm system. Yet another insightful judge and intelligent court has ruled against his executive authority. After telling sanctuary cities the federal government was going to cut off their grants from Washington, lawsuits came flying, and a court said no to the Trumpians. The executive order was signed in late January because the fear-mongers wanted to force local jurisdictions to comply with ICE’s request that immigrants without papers, and arrested for minor crimes, be held until they can be interrogated. Houston and Austin and other places with sane law enforcement have told the administration to shut the hell up.
And they’ve won.
The Texas legislature and Governor Goddamn Greg Abbott might be able to get their narrow-minded sanctuary city law passed to punish cities relying on state grants, but the penurious Texas government doesn’t hand out a lot of meaningful cash, in any case, and losses can probably be covered by well-meaning citizens.
“In Texas, a political speech is sometimes referred to as a longhorn: one that makes two good points, but they are a long way apart and have a lot of bull in between.”
Observation recorded by Herring and Richter, Don’t Throw Feathers at Chickens.
Progress Texas?
There is always reason to be skeptical when Texas institutions begin to act rationally but we have come across an almost inspiring moment. Anyone remember the Scopes Monkey Trial? (Well, if you were taught history in a Texas public school, probably not). But this was a national legal case in 1925 that brought a teacher to court for educating students about evolution.
In our fair state, we could have a Snopes Trial. Children in our classrooms might be forgiven for going to the Internet and constantly checking what’s true on Snopes instead of relying on their textbooks, which have been infused with the religion of the right. However, (blow the bugle, please), the State Board of Education recently adopted a new regulation that frees textbook publishers and educators from any obligation of having to teach creationism in science classes.
Thank God.
Kathy Miller and the Texas Freedom Network who have fought valiantly for science over religion, get to take a bow.
“The politicians on the state board have finally listened to scientists and classroom professionals who know what students need to get a 21st-century education. This is an important victory for science, for science education, and most importantly, for Texas students. The culture wars have no place in our classroom, and today’s decision is one important step toward this board recognizing that.”
Praise Perry
We can always count on our former governor to drag us back into the caves of the Pleistocene, however. Rick Perry said this past week that he wants to see a federal study to determine how much solar energy is “destabilizing” our energy grid. Pay no attention to little backward countries like Germany or even Denmark, which have some of the most reliable and stable energy supplies on the planet. Perry’s memo tips his hand when he asks for information about the “premature” closing of coal plants. Nothing premature about it, Mr. Dancing with the Stars Secretary: They’ve been shutting for a decade as natural gas makes more sense and is more affordable and less environmentally toxic.
You need to stop worrying about saving those coal jobs, guv’nuh. You know that was another campaign prevarication by your boss. They ain’t comin’ back, and, as Bob Dole used to say, “You know it. I know it. And the American people know it.”
Maybe like our brilliant Congressman Joe Barton, who worried that wind is a finite resource, Perry is planning for a billion years or two down the road when the sun burns out. Or, those wind turbines have him concerned that great chunks of the air are being chopped by spinning blades and are left useless on the ground.
Roll Along, Black River
Perry’s pals, most notably Kelcy Warren, at Energy Transfer Partners out of Dallas, continue to wreak environmental havoc across this mighty land. Sometimes, they don’t even get their pipelines built before they leak and do harm. The 713-mile Rover line being laid out in Ohio was under construction but ETP couldn’t wait till it was finished to get their first leak out of the way. Two million gallons of drilling fluids spilled into a wetland along the Tuscarawas River and then another fifty fracking thousand leaked the next day. The company’s response was to have their spokesbot assure the public that there was no need to worry and the pipeline would be completed on time and that there would be no delay in the delivery of oil.
Tone deaf much?
What’s the over-under on when the Dakota Access Pipeline leaks near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation?
Jonesing for Justice
Sometimes karma is a delicate bird on your shoulder and other times it’s a freakin’ bus in your lane and heading straight at you. Consider the case of one Alex Jones, the psychological apocalypse wrongfully presented with a microphone, and who has been defiling journalism and factuality and the truth for a career. The rise of the morning sun appears to Mr. Jones as a government conspiracy.
“Would come up in the west were it not for Washington’s complicity with the Bilderberg’s and the Illuminati and their plan for global dominion.”
The proprietor of the Dis-info Wars site and business (and probably a line of lingerie) is engaged in a three-year custody battle with his estranged wife over their children, which, one might imagine, gathers press interest since the current, temporary president has taken this Jones boy under his wing as a counselor. But Alex doesn’t like media scrutiny. He just likes to give it out, unfair and irrational. Still, ya gotta give the guy credit for having the stones to issue this statement regarding his legal hearing.
“I urge the press to be respectful and responsible and to show due deference to the process of the law and respect the boundaries defined for this case so that a fair result can be found.”
Head case, heal thyself.
The Law is for Protection of the People
Except, it is rarely applied equally. In North Carolina, they found a voter who cast her ballot twice for Donald Trump. Her touching story was that her mother, who was a staunch supporter of the man who has failed more as a president in 100 days than he has as a businessman in 40 years, wanted her to vote in her stead for Trump if she died before the election, which she up and did.
Awww…that fraud thing is okay as long as it’s for the right candidate. The North Carolina woman was not charged because they have conservative forgiveness in their hearts.
No such sensitivity exists here in Texas. In the event you missed it, a legal resident alien from Mexico, brought to America as an infant by her parents, was given eight years in prison for voter fraud. The mother of four children has a sixth-grade education and had no idea that her green card did not entitle her to vote for president. Not a citizen of this state or this country should rest until this woman is released. She will spend all that time away from her children, just reaching their teens, and will then face deportation when she is released.
And her only real crime was that she was a registered Republican and voted for Mitt Romney and was trying to cast a ballot for Trump. That’s what happens to your thinking when you don’t finish high school, kids.
Facts Kill Politics
There is no immigration crisis. And there are no Muslim prayer rugs out in the desert. That was probably something someone laid down so they didn’t have to sleep on a cactus. The only migration occurring in meaningful numbers in the U.S. is southward and homeward away from our country. The stats all indicate that the alleged immigration crisis has been on the wane for more than a decade. The jobs aren’t as great here and people hate being treated like evil outlanders. We tend to want to kick the asses of the “huddled masses.”
In fact, the country where applications are rising dramatically for political asylum is Mexico. They are, in fact, up more than 150 percent since Trump became president. All those immigrants that used to cross the Guatemalan border and trek northward through Mexico to the U.S. are now stopping and asking Mexico for a place of refuge. Their numbers may include a future Steve Jobs (whose dad was a Syrian), or any number of other individuals with the potential to change the world and no longer see America as the place to live out such dreams.
Maybe it’s because we are becoming a Third World Country with empty malls and busy Cracker Barrel restaurants as our surviving cultural touchstones. An MIT scientist has completed a study that indicates we are acquiring an economic and political structure that is more like a developing nation. Peter Temin’s new book argues that we are now a nation with two economies and two cultures. One is the twenty percent that live and work in finance, technology, and electronics, who have good educations and jobs. The other eighty percent of America has low wages jobs, overwhelming debt, and relies on decaying infrastructure and has a decreasing chance of getting out of their situation.
I remember when, as newlyweds, we moved to the Rio Grande Valley and there was a cover story on a national news magazine (remember them?) that called the region “America’s Third World.” Highest incidence of infant mortality, lowest per capita income, most outdoor privies, least educated populace, and the list went on. I am pleased to report that the border has evolved with opportunity and rising political power.
I am sorry the rest of Texas is following its governor backwards down a dirt road into the dark woods.
Red Dirt Ranger
Life, I reckon, is a long song and no one ever hits all the right notes. But the singin’s the thing, not perfect pitch. I’ve had the chance to hear great musicians through the years, interviewed Willie and Waylon and Kris and Johnny, danced with my five-year-old daughter to Robert Earl Keen’s tremolos, and always knew when I was in the presence of greatness. Music is magic to those of us who have no such abilities. And it seems to come from the universe to us through people with special gifts.
Jimmy LaFave is one of those talents. Decades ago he started the Red Dirt Rebellion up in Oklahoma, where he was raised, which turned into a kind of outlaw movement of its own, Americana and roots artists transitioning away from Nashville’s creative constraints. LaFave came to Austin as an original Red Dirt Ranger from Stillwater and created his own place on our stages, which became a platform for his art to be experienced around the world.
If you’ve never heard him perform, and you have a chance in the next few months, you should take that opportunity because it will soon be gone. LaFave is leaving us as artfully as he found us; with thoughtfulness and thankfulness for the opportunity to have had people listen to his songs. The Tex-lahoman is dealing with what is apparently an incurable form of cancer, and while a lot of us are hoping and praying for a miracle, we ought to be grateful to have heard the sound of his voice, the turn of his phrase, and the touch of his guitar.
We Gotcher Tee’s Right Here
“’Truth” in Texas is topic sensitive. If you’re doing a business deal, a true Texan always stands by his word. There is nothing more sacred to Texans than their word, and they will do anything in their power to meet their obligations. But when it comes to tellin’ stories, the whole truth thing blurs quite a bit.”
JIM GRAMON, attributed, 1001 Greatest Things Ever Said About Texas
Texana II
Roy Orbison (born in Vernon, Texas): “There was a lot of loneliness in West Texas where I grew up. We used to say it was the center of everything, five hundred miles away from anything.”
Facts about the Texas legend
· People, even now, think Roy Orbison was blind.
· Roy Orbison did not have black hair.
· Elvis and the Beatles opened shows for Roy Orbison.
· Inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
· Member of the Traveling Wilburys with Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan.
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“His message is very much valid today. He was about standing up for what was right. He took part in peace petitions. It’s something we need to do now. A lot of what’s going on now was going on when Woody was alive.”
Jimmy LaFave, speaking about folksinger Woody Guthrie.