Texas To The World Dispatch #20

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“There is a growing feeling that perhaps Texas is really another country, a place where the skies, the disasters, the diamonds, the politicians, the women, the fortunes, the football players and the murders are all bigger than anywhere else.”
– Texas Guinan, Waco born Broadway/Hollywood starlet and famous speakeasy owner of the 1920’s.
[Editor’s note: Hey, this sharing thing is picking up. We are adding new readers all over the globe. Should I be worried that we have decent numbers in Russia and China? But also France, Bulgaria, the UK, South Africa, Canada, Panama, Mexico, and the beat goes on. Tell your momma. Tell your daddy, too. They’ve got nothin’ better to do. Read us and share us. With the whole danged world.]
She’s from Texas
Geographically, just because of our damned size, the odds are always good we are going to get some unique characters on Texas soil. Many of them are memorable in all the wrong ways. But there’s no need to be surprised by the fact that the first leaker to get caught during the Trump administration is a young woman named Reality Winner from Kingsville, Texas.
The 25-year-old has been arrested for allegedly leaking NSA classified documents to the news outlet The Intercept. She had been working for a defense contractor and had access to classified material, which the warrants claim she printed and mailed to The Intercept. The information appears to show that Russia was hacking into U.S. electoral systems just days before the 2016 election.
Regardless of Ms. Winner’s sins at the time she was arrested at her home in Augusta, Georgia, the people at The Intercept are mostly responsible for her ruined life. Winner printed out the NSA document and then mailed it anonymously to the news agency. Editors there decided they would show the document to federal government officials to attempt to confirm its veracity and get a comment, which was never likely to happen. The feds noted the document had been folded and that meant it had been printed. They needed only to find people who had access to the data and then who might have printed it out. There were only six people at the defense contractor’s office who had printed the document and only one of those, Winner, Winner, had been in email contact with The Intercept. It did not take a great deal of sleuthing to find her, the responsibility for which falls mainly on the shoulders of the outlet’s editors. They blew their source’s cover, and we can all expect it to have a chilling effect on information coming out of the corrupt Trump government.
Meanwhile, back in Kingsville, not even the superintendent of Reality Winner’s high school will confirm her year of graduation or even that she attended H.M. King High School, a fact commemorated in a series of photos with her classmates in the local paper back in 2010. Did her actions really jeopardize national security? Didn’t we already know that Russia had been hacking? The truth always carries associated risks and people have always suffered to tell it.
Donald Trump may get all the attention for his ignorance and desires for vengeance on the national and global stages but Texas boasts a leader who is equally vile. Goddamn Greg Abbott, who never even considered apologizing for making a joke about shooting reporters, refused to answer questions from journalists when he announced he was calling a special session of the legislature. He larded his agenda with twenty items to pretend like there were numerous important matters left pending but Abbott was really cornered into calling the session by the Lt. Governor, Damn Patrick. The sportscaster cum politician would have beaten Abbott about the head with any failure to pass out a bathroom bill. The Tea Partiers and right wing flakes could have turned away from Abbott and helped Patrick launch a campaign for governor. Patrick forced the July 18th session by refusing to pass a required sunset law that would have protected the state’s medical licensing board from expiration. Abbott’s legislative call mandates that the sunset bill pass first before Patrick’s pet bills get consideration, but that also means that if the other 19 items on the agenda don’t make it to the governor’s desk, Abbott gets tabbed as a failure because he now owns them by naming them as important.
Wonder what Damn Patrick will do? Maybe go hari-kari on his own laws to hurt the gov and then run against him? Not that far-fetched in Texas.
These announcements of Abbott’s are acts of legerdemain with language. They need a translator next to the governor offering interpretations for the politically impaired. When Tiny-T says he wants a “single statewide rule protecting the privacy of women and children,” and “especially our children at public schools,” what your Texas governor is actually saying is that he wants to control where transgender kids pee and reduce the ability of women to end problem pregnancies with abortions. One of the measures he is pushing will require women to pay an extra premium on their insurance to cover elective abortions.
And Abbott cares about children so much that he led the legislature’s effort to cut $350 million from the Medicaid budget to provide therapy and training services for special needs kids with all types of developmental disabilities.
Abbott is not a leader and is piling on issues for a legislative body that didn’t get its job done the first time, which is also proof that he is touchy about a New York Times article that portrayed him as fracturing the GOP with his laissez-faire style. Combine that with his fear that Patrick is coming for him and you get a pathetic little man who is willing to force women into dangerous health risks, hurt children, and solve a problem that doesn’t exist with the Lt. Gov’s potty policies.
Sad Songs Play So Long
The proof that conservative GOP policies are harming people is manifest from the beaches of the Coastal Bend to the Franklin Mountains in El Paso. What, precisely, would cause Texas to have the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world? Of course, no one wants to blame the fact that women’s clinics are being forced to shut by laws that restrict access to abortion, or that the state is simply not willing to subsidize health care for anyone, regardless of their financial situations. There is racism in this, too, of course, since African-American women make up only 11 percent of the state’s female population while comprising 28 percent of maternal deaths.
A number of bills were drawn up to address these problems but they were not even voted on in the just concluded legislative session. The state failed to extend the Maternal Mortality Task Force during the regular legislature, but the item is on the agenda for the special session. Of course, it has less of a chance of passage than a law Goddamn Abbott wants that “prohibits the use of taxpayer funding to subsidize health providers that also perform abortions,” and another that “increases existing reporting requirements when complications arise during abortions,” and the previously mentioned regulation that “requires women to get separate insurance policies to cover non-emergency abortions.” Tiny-T also just signed a law that bans “dilation and evacuation” procedures for abortions, which conservatives like him call “dismemberment abortions,” and it also requires women to pay for burials or cremations of their aborted fetuses.
We don’t really need the task force to figure out what is causing high maternal mortality rates. We know.
Oily Boys
You will be shocked and amazed, (or as Matthew McConaghey once said, “totally stoked and awed”), to learn that the Republican senators who back Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement on climate are all dancing with the ones that brung ‘em, the oil industry. Texans John Cornyn and Ted Cruz might not even be in office if they hadn’t sold their souls (Objection, your honor. Statement presumes evidence in admission that such souls exist) to the energy industry. Cornyn has fellated the oil and gas industry boys enough that they gave him $1,101,456 but he’s not quite as good on his knees as the Mad Cubano Cruz who pocketed (after he mouthed) $2,465,910.
Meanwhile, the humor in Trump’s withdrawal from Paris comes from his absurd demands to renegotiate. There is, frankly, nothing to renegotiate. Each member nation offered up practices and measures they might execute to reduce emissions, and the U.S.’ were accepted as part of the agreement, just as they were from other nations. If Trump didn’t like what America was doing, he could have just changed the parameters of our participation. Getting all those nations back to the table to negotiate something that took years is not going to happen.
Only two countries failed to sign the Paris Agreement: Nicaragua and Syria. The Syrians probably couldn’t find a pen in the rubble and Nicaragua said the agreement wasn’t “tough enough” and that the voluntary terms were a “path to failure.”
Actually, the trailhead of the path to failure was at the American ballot box in November of 2016.
“The mediocre golfer generally is one who is too lazy to play better. It’s not just enough to swing at the ball. You’ve got to loosen your girdle and really let the ball have it.”
Babe Didrikson Zaharias, famed Texas golfing legend on how she hit a golf ball 250 yards
Cowardice Cannot be Cured
Maybe they are afraid of their oily senators creating political pressure to cut their funding, but not one Texas university leader signed onto a national letter from private colleges and universities pledging continued support of the Paris Agreement on climate. This is a bit funny, if not tragic, since the University of Texas’ Environmental Science Institute conducts interdisciplinary research on climate science, and the University of Houston, which may someday be under water, studies the composition of the atmosphere and even climate change litigation, Texas A&M’s atmospheric sciences faculty have warned that rising temperatures will affect ecosystems and societies, and the president of Rice University, who frequently talks about the social issues surrounding climate change; all remained silent.
Can all this really be happening because the American president was angry about how the French president shook his hand?
California Life Alone is Just Too Hard to Fill
A recent report indicated that California’s population is shrinking about 250,000 people annually, and more than 100,000 of them are moving to Texas. Most of those are low income wage earners struggling to make finances work in California where an average home in San Francisco now costs more than $1 million dollars, which is what gave Paul Chabot an idea after he came to Texas from the land of the golden bear. He opened a real estate office in McKinney, outside of Dallas, urging conservatives to move to Texas, as if they needed to be prompted. Chabot says he’s already got about 500 prospects looking to sell their properties in California and buy in Texas.
Abandon all hope, Democrats.
They Take Paradise
And put up the rigs, a lot. (Sorry).
But it is difficult to get over the imagery of as many as 3000 oil wells near beautiful Balhmorhea and San Solomon Springs. The state park out in the Chihuahuan Desert has a freshwater pool that is more impressive than Austin’s crown jewel Barton Springs. The oasis has a magical out of time and out of place feel with the desert unrolling to the north and palm trees standing against the Davis Mountains rising to the south. If you have never spent an afternoon swimming at Balmorhea or simply lazing along the pool side, you probably are not fully credentialed as a Texan, nor do you truly understand what it means to de-stress.
I consider the spot almost sacred.
And it is also on the edge of what Apache Oil of Houston says is maybe three billion gallons of recoverable oil, and untold amounts of natural gas. Therefore, we must drill. The field, named Alpine High, spreads across 350,000 acres, and the risks of drilling and fracking and using salt water and San Solomon Springs water are almost too obvious to need stating. Every one of Apache’s estimated 3000 wells will need to 2 to 5 million gallons of water, which is about 15 billion gallons over the course of the field’s extensible life. Underground aquifers recharge very slowly, even in rainy climates, but in a desert, it will take decades, if not centuries, if the springs are drained to frack wells. Apache says it has found an underground source of salt water that should eliminate the need to pull up the fresh water but then there are the attendant risks of brine moving into the San Solomon supplies, or the reused water passing through a rock fissure into the source of the springs.
There is also the not so minor matter of light pollution. Just over the front range of the Davis Mountains sits the McDonald Observatory, one of the world’s great astronomical research facilities, which was built in the remote reaches of Texas because it has the least amount of light exposure of any location in North America. Drilling rigs and wells need night time lights, and much natural gas is likely to be flared off wells with flames rather than recovered. The question arises as to what this will mean to the unfettered observations of night skies.
Texas Parks and Wildlife has a group of good people presently studying these issues as the first rigs begin their turning, but given the state’s environmental record when it comes to the oil and gas industry, it seems unlikely anything will stop or even slightly impede what is beginning to happen out west of Fort Stockton. Let’s not forget that a key member of the Parks and Wildlife board is Kelcy Warren, the billionaire owner of Energy Transfer Partners, who built the Dakota Access Pipeline through Standing Rock Reservation and the Rover line in Ohio. Both began leaking prior to operation and the Rover appears to have destroyed a wetlands eco-system with a leak one biologist has called tragic.
So, feel better now?
When the present Texas capitol was built after the fire of 1881, the state was a bit short of cash, but it owned a spot of land up in the Panhandle north of what is presently Lubbock. Three million acres had been set aside by the Constitutional Convention in 1875, and they were sold to pay construction costs of the new capitol building. The buyers, the Farwell Brothers of Chicago, paid a measly dollar per acre for the property, which ran in a stretch about 30 miles wide all the way to the Oklahoma border. It became known as the XIT Ranch, which was, for many years, the largest ever laid to fence in the history of the world, regardless of the legend of the King Ranch in South Texas or the vast cattle stations of Australia. There were once as many as 150,000 head of longhorns on the XIT, and they were managed out of ranch headquarters at a place called Buffalo Springs. The foreman’s house, corrals, and bunkhouse, which were built in 1885 about 30 miles north of Dalhart, are still standing and remain the oldest structures in Dallam County. Visit the online museum here.
Texas Heat?
The best parking place is determined by shade instead of distance
You realize that asphalt has a liquid state
Cows are giving evaporated milk
You learn that a seat belt makes a pretty good branding iron
Hot water now comes out of both taps
Texana II
Ernie Banks (born in Dallas, Texas):
“It’s a great day for a ball game; let’s play two!”
“The only way to prove that you’re a good sport is to lose.”
“Awards mean a lot, but they don’t say it all. The people in baseball mean more to me than statistics.”
“Did you hear that? I didn’t hear anything. Put that question another way.”
We love Texas. And love sharing it. The Texas to the World Newsletter is an experiment. If we get subscribers, and sustained interest, we’ll hang around. But we aren’t the types to howl alone at the sky. Please subscribe and share with your friends. We’ll come your way once a week, and will increase frequency based on interest.
“God grant me the courage to not give up what I think is right even though I think it is hopeless.”
Chester Nimitz, Fredericksburg, Texas Admiral and commander of the Pacific Fleet, World War II.