Texas To The World Dispatch #21

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“Texas is like Australia with the handbrake off.”
– Tim Blair, Australian Diary
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Good Will or Bad PR?
When Hernan Cortes marched across Mexico in 1519 to conquer the Aztecs in the name of the Spanish crown, and bring down Montezuma, he often placated the resistance of indigenous peoples along his route with strings of shiny, glassine blue beads. And Peter Minuit, a representative of the Dutch East India Company, is said to have bought Manhattan from Native Americans for $24 and some beads, though that’s mythology. The deal was consummated for 60 guilders, which is about $1000 in 2015 currency. Minuit, we should point out, didn’t wait around for skyscrapers to rise and bugged out immediately to settle the colony of Delaware in the early 1600s.
Although nothing seems to be for sale out in West Texas, (unless maybe it’s a bit of dignity?), Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the builders of America’s leakiest pipelines, are spreading around a bit of largesse across the Trans Pecos. Surely, they are anticipating the need of good will in the event their natural gas pipeline explodes someday, which they are wont to do. If that’s the case, then what happened early this week was the purchase of an insurance policy by billionaire Kelcy Warren and the board of ETP. Almost as if on cue, a flurry of news releases flew out of West Texas municipalities about the receipt or commitment of big checks from the energy company. (Well, probably was on cue).
Mr. Warren’s generosity involved large gifts to Presidio County, the city of Presidio, Brewster County, the city of Alpine and its library, and Jeff Davis County. Alpine plans to improve its library, build a walking trail on the creek, and acquire better fire-fighting equipment. The $500,000 check to Presidio County is the largest in that county’s 142-year history, according to County Judge Cinderela (Yes, that’s her name, and it’s only spelled with one “l”), Guevara. She said there are plans to retire taxpayer debt for a jail and improve emergency preparedness. (This might be wise with a gas pipeline running across your county).
The city of Presidio got the biggest bonus with the receipt of just over one million dollars in cash, which is being used to build a playground and sports park. Presidio’s business community has welcomed ETP and has viewed the pipeline to Mexico as a potential economic engine, though there are few full-time jobs associated with its operation. The natural gas is making possible a new commercial greenhouse operation and ETP is helping to defer the cost of an ancillary line that will run into Presidio’s industrial park, and that may spur growth.
“We are so excited to offer our residents these new facilities,” said John Ferguson, Mayor of Presidio, regarding the sports complex. “The completion of the recreational park and sports complex will go a long way in improving the lives of the children in Presidio, promoting a healthier lifestyle and affording them the opportunity to just have some fun.”
All of this seems good, for all hands, because these counties do not have rich tax bases. But it’s also a bit politically expedient for ETP, which faced great resistance and lawsuits attempting to stop the line, though not in Presidio. The Trans Pecos Pipeline delivers natural gas for commercial sale to Mexico. That may help reduce air pollution as Mexico switches away from coal, but it may also increase risk of a pipeline disaster. ETP’s Rover Line in Ohio has already leaked so badly several ecologists say it has destroyed a large and delicate wetland ecosystem, and there have been a couple of leaks out of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) even before it begins moving crude. And nobody has dumped any checks on those locations.
The money is not insignificant, and it is long past time for someone to pay attention to Presidio, but Mr. Warren undoubtedly spends considerably more on the annual maintenance and operation of his fleet of jets. Regardless, local elected types are delighted by the manna from the man, and his company. Let’s hope there is a long and profitable and safe relationship between these communities and the people who operate the Trans Pecos Pipeline. But history indicates the odds of that are not good based upon ETP’s operational record.
As for the analogy regarding handing out beads, the dollar amount is not too far off. The $500,000 to Presidio County amounts to a little over $83 for every man, woman, and child living in the county. This is very affordable good will, and maybe the price of a steak dinner at one of Marfa Fe’s stylish new restaurants. Wonder if they take blue beads as currency.
Also, don’t forget to keep those improved community emergency services and the equipment up to date with the money from ETP.
Radical Christianity
Possibly some of the least informed and most hateful people afoot in America during the era of Trump are the anti-Sharia law protestors and the group ACT for America. There were about two dozen cities that were the sites of “March Against Sharia” protests over the past weekend, which is an effort to stop something that isn’t a threat: the institution of Muslim Sharia Law into the U.S. Like Texas Lt. Gov. Damn Patrick’s transgender bathroom bill, the anti-Sharia movement is a solution to a crisis that doesn’t exist. The group ACT for America was started by a Christian immigrant from Lebanon who has said that “every practicing Muslim is a radical Muslim” and that they are all “a threat to the civilized world.” The Southern Poverty Law Center calls her organization a hate group, which gets a big “Duh” from us.
The protest didn’t work out all that well for a few dozen anti-Sharia marchers outside of the Texas capitol. First, they forgot to get permits to march, so they didn’t go anywhere, and they were wildly outnumbered by anti-fascist protestors. The two groups were separated by a cordon of Austin cops with shields and batons, and the four-hour standoff turned into an unproductive shouting match. Austin Mayor Steve Adler stood nearby with a sign letting Muslims know they were welcome in our city. Of course, Muslims are a tiny part of the U.S. population and have been honoring the Constitution like all other citizens, (with the exception of Trump) and, as Americans, they have no interest in Sharia.
Better the protestors focus their efforts on the radical Christianity unfolding in the pink granite building on Congress Avenue. Texas politicians, infused with the righteousness of their lord, are loading up on abortion restrictions that will increase the maternal mortality rate in the state, they are allowing Christian adoption agencies to get support from taxpayers even as they refuse to place children with gay or non-Christian couples, trying to pass laws that send your hard-earned tax dollars to Christian charter schools while prohibiting local governments from helping to fund abortion providers for women with problem pregnancies, require women to pay for the burial of a fetus from their abortions, and making women pay an extra premium for abortion coverage under their health care plans.
That’s some radical religious crap worthy of a protest.
Rolling Thunder
The governor of Texas continues to crash his radical ideology into much of what is good and beautiful about this state. A speech he gave to the Bell County Republican Party earlier this week vilified Austin, the fastest-growing and most economically vibrant city in America.
“As I was coming up here from Austin, Texas, tonight, I got to tell you, it’s great to be out of the People’s Republic of Austin. As you leave Austin and start heading north, you start feeling different. Once you cross the Travis County line, it starts smelling different. And you know what that fragrance is? Freedom. It’s the smell of freedom that does not exist in Austin, Texas.”
The other thing it could be is the smell of his bullshit stuck to his chair wheels. Has to be hard to keep that cleaned off. Austin’s Democratic State Senator Kirk Watson offered a nice rejoinder to Abbott on his Watson Wire and urged the angry little man to take a whiff of all that is great about the city, including the fact that it is a national center of the knowledge economy. (On this side of the escarpment, we keep wondering if Watson will ever exhibit broader political ambitions). Mayor Adler was also dumbfounded by the governor’s comments. Abbott seems to be focusing almost entirely on offending and alienating people who don’t see the world through his fractured lenses.
Piss on It
The bathroom bill that is headlining Abbott’s special session agenda in mid-July has already cost the state millions before it has even been passed. The latest threat comes from the NFL, which has already said future Super Bowls in the state will be jeopardized by such legislation. The Dallas Cowboys might also get screwed out of hosting the 2018 NFL draft, if Abbott and Lt. Gov. Patrick force their peckerwood protocols onto the Texas landscape. The league is not expected to make a decision on the Cowboy’s pitch for hosting the draft until October, which will provide a lot of time to scrutinize the governor’s politics of anger and fear.
Texas crazy is afoot in the land. If you have any doubt, listen to the rantings of James Dobson, the Christian Radical who founded Focus on the Family. In one of his recent diatribes he appeared to recommend that transgender people using restrooms associated with their identity rather than their biology ought to be shot. What would Jesus do? I can’t remember.
“The western world, it is explodin’.”
“Other states are trying to abolish the death penalty. Mine’s putting in an express lane.”
Texas comedian Ron White
Asshat Abbott
Governor Goddamn is a rollin’ contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction, to bastardize the lyrics of Kristofferson. He wails about federal intervention in states’ rights while doing everything in his political power to mess with the rights of cities and local governments in Texas. Anything Austinites might do, Abbott instinctively despises. He refers to Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez as “Sanctuary Sally” because she refuses to hold for long periods of time the undocumented offenders of minor crimes. Abbott wants everyone detained until ICE can show up and interrogate, but they are often months behind schedule and the bill to taxpayers for feeding and housing minor miscreants is absurd.
He also decided to override Austin’s decision to demand ride hailing companies Uber and Lyft conduct background checks before hiring drivers. Both companies retained lobbyists who pushed a statewide law to lift the background checks, which made Asshat Abbott happy when it was approved. But hell, it’s not just Austin. Down on the border, McAllen Mayor Jim Darling calls the governor’s Special Session agenda an “assault on cities.”
Maybe our insecure gov needs one of those “dear leader” sessions like Trump’s cabinet provided for him. We could get lobbyists and sycophant Republicans to sit around a table and praise him for his leadership and genius, even as the city skyline burns out the window. Perhaps that would mitigate his politics of anger.
What Kind of a Twee Would You Be?
I’d prefer not to be a pecan tree growing on Greg Abbott’s property. The oddest of agenda items the governor has asked to take up in the special session is a measure that would toss out restrictions passed by cities to protect trees. Huh? This is a problem? Our trees have too much protection?
Everyone wondered why Rolling Thunder was bringing us such an obscure topic but the Texas Observer’s Naveena Sadasivam got to the heart of the matter when she discovered that Abbott had killed off a pecan tree protected by city of Austin rules. Our freedom fighter governor wanted a bigger house with a sprawlin’ ol’ swimmin’ pool and trees were in the way. Abbott said it was “socialistic” that Austin could control the fate of his trees, which had to go if he were to build a house even larger than the 4540-square foot residence in which he was struggling to abide.
Austin considered the trees on Abbott’s West Austin property to be “heritage” because they were pecans with trunks that were more than 24 inches in diameter. He was told they had to be protected but less than a year later in 2012 he had asked permission to remove at least one because its root zone had been harmed by construction crews. These were called “unpermitted impacts,” which, Abbott probably orchestrated. According to Sadasivam’s reporting, the governor is as anti-tree as he is anti-Austin. He has since gotten permission to remove a 29-inch heritage pecan, a 23-inch red oak, and a 19-inch magnolia.
Hey, Saint Reagan probably convinced Abbott that trees cause pollution.
Beauty and the Beast
NBC sent Megyn Kelly down to Austin to interview the only person in town more vile than our state’s governor: Alex Jones. Her pretense for the interview has been that the conspiracy theorist nutjob has the ear of the president, who is, in his own right, a kindred nutjob. Kelly and her new network also seem interested in the fact that Jones’ empire of nonsense, known as Infowars, has been granted White House press credentials. This is related to the previous sentence about the kindred nature of nutjobs and, in no way, can it justify giving a national platform to a man who thinks the mass shooting of children at an elementary school in Sandy Hook was a hoax and involved actors. Everything, in fact, is a conspiracy to Jones, including the fact that rivers run to the sea instead of the reverse, and that the sun would rise in the west were it not for the meddlesome interference of the Bilderberg group.
Sandy Hook parents are, of course, outraged at NBC and advertisers, under pressure, are pulling their commercials from Kelly’s new show on the network, and she has been disinvited from hosting a fund-raising gala for Sandy Hook Promise, an organization dedicated to preventing gun violence against children. Regardless of Kelly’s and her employer’s rationalization, putting Jones on TV legitimizes his idiocy, and offends the families who have lost their children to gun violence. The Fathers’ Day broadcast is liable to be particularly painful to dads missing their children after Sandy Hook, a tragedy Jones called, “synthetic, produced with actors.”
Poor Jonathan Tilove of the American Statesman admitted to running around to steakhouses the night Kelly was in town in the off chance that he might come across the pair and get something to write about that could be of interest. Or not. Jones charmed the lady by taking her to Rudy’s franchise barbecue and later calling his day with her a “soul sucking experience,” no doubt trying to create an excuse for why his soul is missing. Ultimately, Kelly and Jones are completely similar characters, though.
They are both clowns looking for higher ratings.
I used to rise at 3:30 a.m. in the little house beneath the radio tower and get on my yellow Honda 750cc café racer to ride to work. At the right time of the year, I smelled orange blossoms from the groves on either side of the road or honeysuckle and saw the Gulf winds shoving around the fronds at the top of the Washington palms. The radio station had to be on the air by 5:00 a.m. so I usually had just enough time to turn onto Business 83 in McAllen and stop at the non-descript storefront where a middle-aged woman was cooking in obscurity at a place without tables.
I still don’t think I’ve ever smelled anything so wonderful as fresh flour tortillas coming off her grill and the barbacoa de cabeza rolled up into it with hot sauce and salt. She grew to expect me about the same time every morning but never had my three tacos to go wrapped or ready because I think she wanted to make sure they were fresh when I took them on the motorcycle. We didn’t communicate much because she was always busy and I gathered there was a bit of a language barrier. Eventually, I think there was a sign on the door that said, “El Pato.” I know I kept coming by until I left the Rio Grande Valley and I was pleased many years later upon returning to discover the restaurants had grown from that one tiny shop on the edge of the highway to a chain spread across the Rio Grande delta country. They are still very good, but not quite as tasty as the breakfast tacos of my memory.
The closest I’ve ever come to repeating that youthful breakfast taco experience has been at Maria’s Taco Xpress on South Lamar in Austin. The tortillas are warm the barbacoa is delicious, as is every other filling Maria’s cooks. Her restaurant had long served as a sort cultural center for old South Austin, where the Bubbas used to roam. But Maria’s property taxes went up to the point where she had decided to sell and get out of the business because the work and money stress didn’t offset the great food. Maria Corbalan told Austin360 that her property value had risen from $760k in 2012 to more than $3 million this year and she will have to pay $70k in taxes. She may have to take on an investor to stay in business. She has decided to remain open for now.
But we may all soon be forced to settle for tourist tacos.
Texas Wisdom
Never slap a man who’s chewin’ tobacco
Never kick a cow chip on a hot day
Don’t squat with your spurs on
Always drink upstream from the herd
Never miss a good chance to shut up
Texana II
“Let me explain something you already know. I’m from Texas and we understand the nature of a border. From what I’ve seen, vigilant Texans are being ordered to stand down and allow criminals to pass. Mr. President, prepare to see Texans ignoring those orders.”
Tommy Lee Jones can speak Spanish fluently.
His father worked in the oilfield and his mother was a teacher and police offer. His first cousin is famous country singer, Boxcar Willie.
He owns a 3,000 acre cattle ranch where he loves to spend a lot of time on.
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“He’s a perfectionist. If he were married to Racquel Welch, he’d expect her to cook.”
Dandy Don Meredith, Dallas Cowboys quarterback sizing up his coach Tom Landry