Texas To The World Dispatch #19

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“I have yet to be wronged or deceived by an Indian. Every wound I have known was the work of those of my own blood.”
– Sam Houston, President, Republic of Texas
[Editor’s note: TTTW appears to have gotten the attention of the opinion editors at CNN. They asked us to write a piece on Texas politics in the aftermath of the strange new laws passed and pending by the state legislature. Happy to do that, of course, and the it’s one of the leads on their opinion pages, entitled, “America, Don’t Be Like Texas.”
Thank God for Mississippi
That could be the Texas state motto.
A Mississippi legislator recently said that Louisiana officials “ought to be lynched” for taking down statues of Confederate heroes. He later apologized, surely under duress, but, hey, he made certain that Texas was viewed as less reprehensible when a state lawmaker in Austin called Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on protestors who looked Hispanic. (At least he didn’t demand they be lynched, though that could end up being a rider on a school finance bill someday, ya never know in this state).
Republican Matt Rinaldi also threatened to “put a bullet in one of his colleagues’ heads” after he was challenged for his comments about the Hispanic protestors. He was quoted as saying, “Fuck them.” The GOP rep from the Dallas area was accused of what amounts to mass racial profiling for assuming everyone in the house gallery, who looked Latino, was illegal. Rinaldi said his life was also threatened but no one on the floor verified that claim.
The idea that Governor Goddamn Abbott’s pet project will make Texas safer is fatuous nonsense. Police officers are already reporting that immigrants are no longer willing to talk to them or act as witnesses to convict criminals. They live now in fear of Donald Trump’s ICE arrest crackdowns and the anti-sanctuary city fervor of a few small men.
And then there is the money that will disappear faster than an undocumented witness. A similar measure is estimated to have resulted in $4 billion in economic loss to North Carolina. Just the rumors of the restroom silliness have already cost Texas more than $200 million in business, and San Antonio might lose an upcoming Final Four or the NFL could choose to not locate another Super Bowl here.
Of course, nobody’s afraid of the guys who lost Tom Brady’s jersey.
But they ought to worry about people like Jeff Wilke, Tim Cook, Mark Rohr, Chuck Robbins, Mark Zuckerberg, and all the other corporate CEOs and founders of technology giants and other businesses that wrote a letter to the Texas governor and legislature. The signatories were from businesses like Salesforce, Facebook, Amazon, Cisco, Apple, Silicon Labs, Google, IBM, Microsoft, and others that see the bathroom bill and the religious adoption refusal measure (allows state-funded adoption agencies to say no to non-Christian and LGBT adopters) as discriminatory, and bad for business.
Which is true, and that won’t change, no matter what the Texas legislature says; a body that is, ultimately, comprised of dinosaurs too blind and dumb to find a tar pit to stumble into and die.
God-Less-Zilla Versus Ding Dong
The lawsuits are already flying over the many and manifest accomplishments of the Texas legislature. El Paso County’s Sheriff quickly teed up a 29-page constitutional challenge to the sanctuary cities law, and there will be numerous others related to the bathroom bill and the undying conservative assault on a woman’s right to choose. Texas has decided that all fetal remains must now be buried or cremated and not disposed of as medical waste, regardless of whether they are from abortion, miscarriage, or still birth. (Because mostly white men apparently believe there is not sufficient emotional trauma already for women going through that process). A new law also puts an end to the most commonly used technique for second trimester abortions, which are referred to by doctors as “evacuation and dilation.”
If you are even an average constitutional lawyer, you should hang a shingle out in Texas. You will never run out of business.
Plus, you can watch the silly posturing between our governor and lieutenant governor. Damn Patrick has Goddamn Abbott bent over a porcelain throne on this matter of where people pee in Texas. The Lt. Gov. did not get the bill he wanted out of the House of Representatives so he has cornered Abbot into calling a special session.
There’s no indication that Abbott gives a jolly good goddamn about the bathroom brouhaha but the base that sent him and Patrick to Austin, also known as the Tea Party and/or right wing extremists, do care about it and if Abbott doesn’t get with the plan he could suffer and Patrick might run against him. The lieutenant governor has said he has no plans to challenge Abbott but he said the same thing before he defeated David Dewhurst and Patrick’s word is about as true and real as his hair color.
But it is fun watching Abbott squirming around trying to figure out what to do next.
Leave Sam Houston the Hell Out of It
The great purging of monuments to supporters of slavery from our historical plazas is of merit. But maybe we are going a bit far with talk about taking down a statue of Sam Houston. The only man in history to be elected governor of two states, Houston led the Texas Revolution and defeated Mexico in an 18-minute battle to win independence and become president of the new republic. Yes, he was a bit of a contradiction. He owned slaves but he refused to become a part of the Confederacy or lead troops against the Union, and he was patently against the spread of slavery to new states.
Let’s make no apologies for slaveholders or anyone who wanted to perpetuate the institution. But Houston was not an inveterate racist, regardless of his “ownership” of his fellow humans. He had, in fact, been an Indian agent and represented the Cherokees so well in Washington they had made him an honorary member of their tribe. Was that financial expediency? Just a good job or a matter of principle?
Hard to know reading back through the literature of the years. But a nascent campaign to take down Houston’s statue in the city that bears his name seems to go a bit beyond right and wrong. Instead, it forces us to consider how much of our history do we edit from daily lives. We surely do not want to honor those who fought to preserve slavery, and even in the context of his era, there is no excuse for slavery, but we can’t hardly cast aside the accomplishments of men like Sam Houston because he accepted, to some degree, the conventions of his time and place. History has nuance.
And we neither learn nor change without considered remembrance.
“Son, if you can’t take their money, drink their whiskey, screw their women, and then vote against ‘em, you don’t deserve to be here.”
Texan Sam Rayburn, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
Cruz Control
Teeny Tiny Teddy from Texas helped give Donald Trump the moral support he needed to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement on climate. As is his fashion, Cubano-Canadian-American Cruz saw a conspiracy behind the contract and believes that it is really about giving government the control over the economy. Tiny Ted urged the temporary president to join ranks with Syria and Nicaragua in rejecting the global agreement designed to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere and make an attempt to turn around the Anthropocene, which, you know, could be the end of us. We march now, triumphantly, with Syria and Nicaragua, waiting for the world to follow.
Cruz was also convinced that the U.N.’s Agenda 21 was a scheme to rid the world of golf courses, so Texans decided he’d make a good senator. Teddy was joined by Senator Constantly Concerned John Cornyn, and at least eleven others in a Confederacy of Dunces that convinced Trump to pull out of a plan that might help save the world.
Cry, the beloved country.
Also, a quick reminder that Mr. Moral Middle Class cheated his way into office. The Federal Election Commission recently voted unanimously, which is rare, to cite Cruz for failing to report to the federal government $1.1 million dollars in campaign loans. He got the dough from Goldman Sachs, those Wall Street guys he said were the enemy of the people. His wife, who worked for GS, hooked him up with a sweet deal. Teddy said it was just an oversight that he forgot to report.
Aren’t you always forgetting about a million bucks in your accounts?
While My Guitar Gently Leaks
Dallasite and Texas Parks and Wildlife board member Kelcy Warren, who is the billionaire chairman and CEO of Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), doesn’t seem to know how to run an honest company. ETP has been lying about a major spill in the wetlands of Ohio, which came from a new $4.2 billion dollar Rover Pipeline the company is building through delicate wetlands. Initial reports were that the line leaked just over 2 million gallons of drilling fluids into a wetlands region, an accident that environmentalists have termed “a tragedy” because the ecosystem will take decades to recover. If only that were the worst of it. Turns out ETP was not telling the truth and the spill was more like 5 million gallons, and there have been at least dozen leaks on the line before it is even fully operational.
ETP, of course, is the Texas outfit that told us the Dakota Access Pipeline through the Standing Rock Reservation was going to be safe, too, and it has already leaked three times in advance of operations. (Don’t worry, please; pre-leaking is similar to pre-boarding). Tolerance for this crap surely has nothing to do with the fact that Donald Trump is an investor in ETP and that the Energy Secretary, Rick Perry, recently served on its board. Governor Goddamn Abbott thought Warren’s such a fine businessman that he ought to serve on the Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Let us all now be thankful we have Warren to protect our Texas wildlands.
Also, why are you so cynical?
Oh wait, I know. Because while petro-pricks like Warren run chemically rampant across this sacred land, journalists face charges, trials, and potential imprisonment for recording their activities. Aaron Turgeon was arrested and charged with “reckless endangerment” for using a drone to film the protests at Standing Rock. He captured video of police shooting the Sioux and their supporters with water cannons. Morton County coppers said using the drone was “an act of violence,” which, of course, is nonsense.
He was found innocent of all charges. And he wasn’t even body slammed.
Demographics Ain’t Destiny
Texas Democrats spend a bit of time dreaming their party will be saved by a sea of Latino voters, and there is no question their numbers are increasing and old white male conservatives are dying off and that may one day have an impact on the state’s political future. But the present sure doesn’t look very hopeful for progressives, regardless of their optimistic spin.
Who are their candidates? Where are their leaders? The circumspect Castro brothers of San Antonio are, in the parlance of old cowboys, “still out there ridin’ fences.” Their public service is not widely known beyond their hometown of San Antonio and both appear disinclined to put their present professional and political comforts on the line by running for a statewide office.
Which leaves U.S. Congressman Beto O’Rourke of El Paso, an Irishman whose nickname suggests a Latino lineage that doesn’t exist in his family. O’Rourke, however, has the courage of his convictions and has launched a campaign to take on Ted Cruz for the U.S. Senate while the Castro brothers continue their contemplation, and the Texas Democratic Party ponders its future.
Which still doesn’t appear to hold much promise.
After the names Castro and O’Rourke, the brow furrows for Democrats. In fact, the extremely conservative Empower Texans group has provided Texas Dems with a report on their efforts to raise a new generation of candidates and leaders, (isn’t that nice of them?) and, even though it comes through a conservative publication, the facts are a bit unsettling, if you are a D, and, as President John Adams once said, “Facts are stubborn things.”
Texas Dems created something called LIFT, which stands for Local Investment in the Future of Texas, designed to prepare candidates to win local elections and get the experience needed to run at the statewide level. There were 34 Democratic candidates on local ballots that were endorsed by LIFT in May elections and 24 of them lost. Of the six that won, there was an 18-year-old high school senior running for a school board seat and an unopposed city council member in Pasadena. The other four of the six are in runoffs after finishing second in three-way elections.
If you had a political consultant on your staff they might tell you to not read too much into those results. But you should fire that consultant. There’s nothing to read other than the big block emboldened letters that indicate Texas is a long haul away from turning blue, or even purple.
And Donald Trump isn’t much of a thing to hang your hopes on.
Texas politicians may not be living up to the legacies of their predecessors. Sure, we’ve had a couple of attorneys general indicted, a house speaker investigated by the FBI for taking bribes, a lieutenant governor and governor investigated and politically ruined for stock fraud during the Sharpstown Scandal, and we even endured a state rep who had himself shot to generate sympathy to use as an advantage in a run for the state senate. (He was later arrested when police found him hiding in his mommy’s closet in East Texas).
But we’ll probably never again see the likes of Robert Potter. He came to Texas from North Carolina and became an activist for the state’s independence as a country. Potter, who became the Secretary of the Texas Navy, was among the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence. But he had already earned Lone Star bonafides back in his home state when he pulled a knife and castrated two men he was convinced were having adulterous affairs with his wife. He had been kicked out of North Carolina’s House of Commons for “cheating at cards” and “for brandishing a gun and knife during a fight over a card game.”
So, he figured he’d fit in if he could get to Texas. Potter settled in East Texas after the Texas Revolution and got caught up in the strange Regulator-Moderator War, which was a conflict caused by a dispute over economic control in a strip of isolated land between Texas and Louisiana. Spain and the U.S. did not want to go to war over what was known as the Sabine Free State or the Neutral Ground, and lawlessness ensued.
Potter was at his home on Caddo Lake when it was surrounded by Regulators who shot him before he could run away and jump into the water. His body sank before being recovered. Potter was later buried on his property but was eventually reinterred at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. (A thug with a knife in North Carolina, a man of honor on Texas soil?) He had a raucous 42 years, and the state’s Potter County bears his name.
“I must say as to what I have seen of Texas it is the garden spot of the world. The best land and the best prospects for health I ever saw, and I do believe it is a fortune to any man to come here. There is a world of country here to settle.”
Davy Crockett, 1836.
Texana II
Selena aka “”Queen of Tejano Music”
> Born in Lake Jackson, Texas
> Tejano Music Awards: 1987 “Best Female Vocalist of the Year”; “Performer of the Year.”
> 1990 Album, Ven Conmigo, was the first Tejano record to achieve gold record status
> 1993: Grammy Award (best Mexican-American album)for her album Live
> Watch Selena’s Hit Bidi Bidi Bom Bom
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“Many people have believed they were chosen, but none more baldly than Texans.”
Edward Hoagland