Texas To The World Dispatch #17

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“Usually things happen in the world and you go to work and you have your family and your friends and you do what you do. To this day, I feel like there’s a cloud, a pall over the whole country in a paranoid, surreal sort of way. It’s got nothing to do with the Democrats losing the election, it has to do with the way one individual conducts himself, and that’s embarrassing. It’s dangerous to our institutions and what we all stand for and what we expect the country to be. For this individual, he’s in a game show. Everything that happens begins and ends with him, not our people or our country. Every time he talks about those things, it’s a ruse. Disingenuous, cynical.”
– Famed political analyst and basketball coach Greg Popovitch
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Leaks That Don’t Matter
This land ain’t your land. And this land ain’t my land. It belongs, apparently to Energy Transfer Partners (ETF), the Dallas company run by supporters of Dancing with the Stars Guy Rick Perry and Governor Goddamn Greg Abbott. They build pipelines to leak. It seems like it’s a covenant in their contracts. “Must leak at some point during usage.” Hell, they’ve even created a new form of leaking that should be called “pre-leaking,” which may be like pre-boarding a plane. How do you board before you board?
The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in one of those Dakotas up there isn’t even in operation yet and it’s leaked!! Isn’t that humorous? Or sad? “Uh, let’s go ahead and check this line and make sure it leaks to prove all of those worries were…..oh, wait.” Of course, it was just a tiny leak, only 84 gallons of crude oil from a pump station, nothing to worry about, amigos. Completely contained. Stop yer frettin. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe issued a statement warning again that the drinking water supplies of 17 million people are at risk but nobody listened. You know how gripey those indigenous peoples are.
But if you are up Ohio way everybody is whining about those Dallas boys from ETF. Since they started construction of their new Rover Pipeline (how do pipelines rove is a salient question). They’ve managed a violation a week since construction began and the latest was called a “massive spill” into the wetlands. Does this company just hire people to screw stuff up? The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is trying to chasten ETF and Rover folks but, listen, Trump is a shareholder in the company and the current Energy Secretary Rick Perry was once on the board and likely still has a pocket full of shares. Ohio has its own EPA and when they went to bitch at the Rover people they pushed back and said only FERC has jurisdiction over the project. We read nothing about expressions of sadness for killing a delicate ecosystem.
But no regrets. Just more violations.
“The worst violation was on April 13 and involved the release of “several million gallons” of what’s called “bentonite slurry”—thick mud laced with chemicals used to help drill underground to create space for laying down pipe—into some of the state’s highest quality wetlands. The mud coated the wetlands, smothering vegetation and aquatic life in an ecosystem that helps filter water between farmland and nearby waterways.”
It Requires a Big Detour to Get Around
But the ACLU has issued a travel advisory to people telling them they should “anticipate a violation of their constitutional rights.” Well, yeah, we call that Tuesday, I think. But it happens all the time. The warning came after our state’s angry little governor signed what is known nationally as a “show me your papers” law, which allows police officers to ask the immigration status of anyone they detain. It doesn’t require them to do that but it “allows” them to do it, and that granular point may be the axis around which a constitutional challenge will pivot.
This Abbott-assed measure does, however, require local law enforcement officers and jurisdictions to detain undocumented immigrants until the feds can show up to question or deport them. And if they don’t, your sheriff or police chief could end up in jail, a felon who refused an idiotic law. Does anyone think that when good police chiefs start disobeying the law there might be something wrong with the law?
You want to know what’s going to happen in Texas, and already is? Nobody will talk to the police about anything. Lots of crimes will go unsolved. And we will start losing tourism. After Arizona passed its show-me-your-papers law it took less than two years for the state to lose about a half billion dollars in conventions and visitor spending. Arizona’s economy dipped by about two percent in terms of annual production, which cost the state around $1 billion annually, and the labor supply is diminished, restaurants are less busy, purchases of clothing, housewares, food, and other economic drivers have all dropped off. Two hundred thousand people bugged out of the Grand Canyon State, and they weren’t all Mexicans without papers.
Idiocy has a cost. The Texas economy will pay for this anti-sanctuary city bill. We will lose tourists. Workers will stop showing up to build high rise buildings in Houston and Dallas and Austin and San Antone. And the Pecos cantaloupe won’t get picked or the Poteet strawberries and those houses being built out in the burbs won’t be ready and the people who were doing those jobs won’t buy food and clothes and pay rent and shop for groceries or used cars.
And if Damn Patrick’s bathroom bill becomes law, we’ll end up with an economy like Connecticut’s or one of the Dakotas; hopefully the best Dakota, whichever one that is.
Your Week in Cornyn
It’s been a tough patch lately for Sen. Constantly Concerned of Texas. He had a speech all planned to inspire the mostly African-American students at Texas Southern University but they didn’t want to hear it. Not sure why. A sixty-something cranky old white guy who has lived off the government tit his whole life while passing little or no legislation and always voting his party’s conservative line; shouldn’t that be inspiring to a bunch of bright young kids from an Historically Black College or University? But the student body didn’t want his body on campus.
The Change.org petition to keep Cornyn at a distance was quickly signed online by almost 900 students. Rebecca Trevino, a 26-year-old grad student from San Antonio started the peitition because she said, “This is our graduation and we want someone who represents our values.” Yeah, that ain’t Cornyn. He might have gotten the Betsy Devos treatment had he shown up, anyway. HBCU students in Florida turned their backs on the education secretary. But I’m guessing Johnny C. asked TSU’s administrators to ask him not to show up. He didn’t need the embarrassment.
Cornyn supposedly also asked that his name be removed for consideration for attorney general, even though he was reported to have been interviewed. Probably knew he wasn’t going to get it, anyway. Even Trump could see what a blunder it would be to have a do nothing like Cornyn in the job so Senator Constantly Concerned asked to have his name removed before somebody started a petition to stop that idea, too.
Bettin’ on Beto
Cornyn’s flirtatious ways with the Trump administration prompted a flurry of speculation about who might run in a special election to replace him should he get the job. The only names for Democrats were Joaquin Castro and Beto O’Rourke, both members of congress from San Antonio and El Paso, respectively. Hard not to call a decision to run in a special election rank opportunism when you choose not to run in a general election against an incumbent, which is the decision Castro had made previously to not face off against Ted Cruz, the current GOP junior senator from Texas. (How can anyone be “junior” anything to John Cornyn?)
O’Rourke jumped out of the gate first in the decision to take on Cruz, and his timing brought him a lot of attention. He has quickly hit dozens of cities and did a live-streamed road trip to DC with his Republican colleague Will Hurd, whose district encompasses hundreds of miles of U.S. – Mexico border. O’Rourke’s odds are long but his early traction at least gave Democrats a bit of hopefulness, and that may have also further discouraged Castro. Let’s not make light of a congressman’s commitments but when Castro said he decided against a senate run against Cruz, his explanation sounded a bit convenient. “Threats posed by Russia and North Korea” and “the reckless behavior” of the Trump administration were the rationale he used to stay in congress on the House Foreign Affairs and Intelligence Committees. Russia, North Korea, and the Trump admin might also be equally good reasons to try for a more influential senate seat, though.
Who knows what the Castro brothers are thinking about their futures, or their party’s. Texas Democrats still appear to lack public servants with rising profiles, who are not named Castro or O’Rourke. But success in politics is no different than in business and involves risk. Joaquin will have to put his congressional seat in risk by 2020, and his twin Julian, will also need to decide what is best for him and the Democrats.
Historically, though, waiting is not a good strategy for success.
       
“No, I don’t think about the myth of the West. It’s not the kind of thinking I do. That’s more suited to people who live in big towns on the West Coast or East Coast, people who stay under a roof, in a room, all the time.”
Tommy Lee Jones, Texas actor
Political Slop
Rancher Bruce Hunnicutt of Franklin County is your Texas Bad-ass of the Week. In a state of shock, he came to the realization that people hunting hogs on his 3000-acre ranch might be killing animals that had been poisoned with Warfarin, a chemical the state of Texas Agriculture Department wants to disperse to reduce the population of feral hogs. Hunnicutt allows his guests to take home meat from the animals they kill and when he read the toxics on the label he realized people might get sick, or even die.
He couldn’t believe it.
The labels on Warfarin require that animals that eat it be buried at least 18 inches beneath the ground to keep predators from eating and being poisoned by the flesh of the carcass. Hunnicutt got a private meeting with Simple Sid Miller, the state’s ag commissioner, to express his concerns and Miller’s answers were to say he’d just change the label, and that the requirement of burying the dead hogs was not “doable.”
Not doable? Just ignore the federal law on the poison and change the label. The Texas way. Who the hell is gonna know when your family dog eats a bit of a wild pig that died from poison in your back yard. It’s just a dog, damnit.
Miller might need to worry about someone feeding him a Warfarin pork chop.
Texana: The First Cowboy
When Ben Leaton went into his fort after sunset and closed the thick mesquite gates, he knew he was not safe. No one was ever completely secure in the Big Bend region of southwest Texas. Water and food were scarce, the sun and snakes were often fatal, and any help was invisible far beyond the horizon.
Leaton had built the structure to protect his family but not even the 20-foot walls would have prevented the Comanche and Mescalero Apache from violating the security of his home, if they ever chose to attack. The walls were almost three feet thick but similar constructions in the area had already been tunneled under and chipped through by Indigenous tribesmen determined to kill the whites, Spaniards, and Mexicans moving into their country.
A few outlanders refused to be intimidated by the Indians. Leaton, who had experienced the harsh country of the high deserts during the Mexican-American War, had decided there was likely money to be made as commerce emerged between the two countries following the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. Freight wagons were expected to eventually move between San Antonio and Chihuahua and Leaton’s personal fortress was ideally positioned as a sanctuary and retail operation along the Rio Grande. The people and the commerce of America’s westward expansion was hundreds of miles to the north and decades from creating the opportunities Leaton had already envisioned for his spot along the Rio Grande.
There must have been a livelihood that Leaton and his contemporaries foresaw but as my motorcycle topped an 8,000-foot pass, more than 160 years of history and the advance of civilization did not suggest the remotest prospect of prosperity, and certainly not any form of comfort. The only sign that humans had ever traversed the dark lava spills and giant boulders was the chip seal caliche Texas Farm to Market Road 170. When I put the kickstand down at the scenic pullout, the big river looked small and still from altitude. The watercourse cut through escarpments and along lava fields into a hazy western distance.
“I just looked on my truck and it said it’s 99 degrees.” I turned around to see a large man with a goatee and a small dog on a leash. “Good lord, it’s almost December. What the hell is it like out here in the summer?”
“Hotter,” I answered.
“Well, I damned sure wouldn’t be ridin’ out here alone. I haven’t seen another vehicle in almost an hour.”
Ben Leaton’s old fort was still an hour west along the Rio Grande and I wanted to arrive in time to get at least a docent’s historical briefing. The fact that Comanche, Apache, Kiowa, Jumano, and Europeans had moved through this landscape on horse and foot made a motorcycle run with a 1200 cc engine seem a bit timid but I rolled down the mountain gaining speed to cover a distance it had to have taken them two weeks to cover in the mid-nineteenth century. [The First Cowboy]
 
“Texas can make it without the United States, but the United States cannot make it without Texas.”
Sam Houston
 
Texana II
Earl Campbell aka “The Tyler Rose” (born in Tyler, Texas)
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“I had two things I could do: I could run over you, and I could put a good stiff arm on you. That was about it.”
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Armon M. Sweat, Jr., 1952, member of Texas legislature, expounding on whiskey:
“If you mean whiskey, the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children if you mean that evil drink that topples Christian men and women from the pinnacles of righteous and gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, shame, despair, helplessness, and hopelessness, then, my friend, I am opposed to it with every fiber of my being.
“However, if by whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the elixir of life, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes if you mean Christmas cheer, the stimulating sip that puts a little spring in the step of an elderly gentleman on a frosty morning if you mean that drink that enables man to magnify his joy, and to forget life’s great tragedies and heartbreaks and sorrow if you mean that drink the sale of which pours into Texas treasuries untold millions of dollars each year, that provides tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitifully aged and infirm, to build the finest highways, hospitals, universities, and community colleges in this nation, then my friend, I am absolutely, unequivocally in favor of it.
“This is my position, and as always, I refuse to compromise on matters of principle.”