Texas To The World Dispatch #4

“I swear there’s music in the dirt down there.”
– Pat Green, Songs About Texas
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Of Thee I Scream
The rounding up of humans has begun in America.
The Texas and federal government is also threatening to take away money from cities that provide sanctuary to immigrants without documentation, and plans to criminalize the politics of resistance. ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) started “hunting” and arresting people in Austin. Per the Texas Observer, five were arrested at the end of last week. ICE claims, however, the surge has nothing to do with Trump’s immigration orders and policies, even though he campaigned on a promise to deport eleven million people. Trump doesn’t have a lot of credibility but numerous raids were conducted around the country over the past week with 160 people taken into custody in Los Angeles.
Texas, as always, remains out front in efforts to drive the nation backwards. The state senate has passed a bill to outlaw sanctuary cities and criminalize elected officials that refuse to cooperate with ICE agents. Governor Grief has already cancelled $1.5 million in grant money to Travis County because Sheriff Sally Hernandez refuses to hold immigrants arrested on minor crimes while waiting for ICE to come question them as suspects. Abbott, who behaves a bit like “The Man in the High Castle,” has promised to “hammer” local elected officials if they don’t do as he (and his law) says. Police chiefs and sheriffs insist the sanctuary city legislation will have a diminishing force on public safety because people will stop talking to investigators or giving witness to even the most mundane of crimes.
Bound for Glory? Or Oblivion?
Here we go again. Or don’t go again.
Texas Central Partners, a group that wants to build a 240-mile long bullet train from Houston to Dallas, is running into the usual obstacles. The main one is landowners. They don’t want fancy technology zooming through their pastures. And Texas Central didn’t win any public relations strategy contests by deciding to file eminent domain claims and then sue 30 of the property rights holders. The company said it has dropped the suits and wants to take the “heat out of the process.”
Too late; the burners are on. We aren’t a progressive state or country on this matter of high-speed rail. Personal property tends to be more important than the common good, especially in Texas. Even though Texas Central says it plans to build the route with a few billion dollars of only private capital, nobody in the state house believes that notion. Major infrastructure projects like trains and airports and roads always require an infusion of tax money. Not sure if there are any privately financed mass transit systems running anywhere in North America.
We’ve been down this track before in Texas. A consortium of construction and train companies wanted to build a Texas Triangle bullet train to connect our big cities, and said it could all be done with private money. Nobody believed it then, either, and Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines sent a battery of lobbyists and lawyers down to Austin to defeat the idea, which they did, rather handily. Southwest was a commuter air carrier during those days and was likely to lose a lot of revenue in Texas if such a train ever started rolling. This was the triangle that was sketched on a napkin when Kelleher and his colleagues decided to start their airline.
Herb was having none of it in Florida, either. I went to work not too many years later helping a project down there called the Florida Overland Express, which was to be the French TGV train running from south of Miami to the Cape, over to Orlando and Disney World, and into Tampa at 260 mph. We got legislative approval until Herb unleashed his lobby team. SW had recently begun flying Tampa to Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando and the train would’ve cut the traffic out of those routes. A new governor named Bush something or other vetoed funding for the train his first day in office.
Now, let’s all go get in our pickups.
Another Lousy Listicle
How many Austinites does it take to change a light bulb? The answer is 100. That includes only one to put in the new bulb but 99 to talk about how great the old bulb was and how nicely it illuminated the room.
That is the kind of social pecking order that emerges after living in Austin for many years. Residents want to let newcomers and others know they were so cool they were in Austin before it was nationally cool.
“Oh man, I went to this great new place called [insert name here] last night.”
“Yeah, I used to go there back when it was [insert name here]. You should’ve seen it then.”
“Ha, I remember hanging out there even before that, when it was [insert name].”
“We’ve really got to do something about this uncontrolled growth,” added the guy who just moved to town.
U.S. News and World Report just named Austin the top place to live in the country. Researchers apparently never sat for hours on Mopac or I-35 trying to make it a mile down the road, or went shopping for a condo anywhere near downtown and confronted $400-600 per square foot housing costs.
The more we lead these lists the less likely we are to stay on top of these lists.
Here in the Third World
An eye calibrated to discern fine ironies is usually not required when observing Texas; especially the state’s politics. The snakes just jump out of the toilet and bite you.
The courageous governor and attorney general of Texas have finally stomped out illegal voting. The state just prosecuted Rose Ortega and is taking away eight years of her life with a prison term for twice voting illegally. (She is in the country legally). And, of course, she voted Republican, including casting her ballot for Ken Paxton, the attorney general who just prosecuted her, and is sending her to prison. She liked Mitt Romney over Barack Obama, too. (Aren’t her political choices prosecutable crimes, too?)
Governor Greg Abbott lies about voter fraud almost as bigly as President Trump, as though armies of the night sneak across the border to vote. If so, how the hell did he get elected? And on that irony thing? Abbott and Paxton are using a woman who voted for them to raise up fears of voter fraud?
Poor Ms. Ortega with her sixth-grade education and lack of citizenship did not have enough sense to make a significant campaign contribution to the governor.
“Van Horn, Texas is so healthy we had to shoot a man to start a cemetery.”
Bill Goynes, whose saying was used for the town slogan of Van Horn, and was then killed in a gunfight that led to him becoming the first man buried in the Van Horn Cemetery in 1892.
The Brady Boy Mysteries
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo (late of Austin) let it be known he hasn’t exactly launched a task force to find Tom Brady’s missing Super Bowl Jersey. The chief pointed out that serious sleuthing skills aren’t needed since there was a limited number of individuals with access to the locker room, and the NFL oversaw its own security.
Shouldn’t Acevedo at least name Roger Goodell a person of interest, though?
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has different feelings about Brady’s jersey. But let’s remember he used to wear big, blue foam hats on TV and cheer for the Houston Oilers as a sports guy of some sort. Patrick dispatched the Texas Rangers to find the memorabilia. Patrick might also want to consider sending a few investigators to Waco to check out what’s been happening on Baylor’s campus. A new lawsuit suggests there have been 52 rapes of co-eds by football players in the past four years.
But first, let’s find that jersey, fellas.
Oh, and not only are we not going to investigate what happened at Baylor, the president of the university at that time appears as though he will be named to a new ambassador-at-large position for the Trump administration. (It is still so hard to type those last two words). Starr, who wasted millions of your tax dollars trying to determine if Bill Clinton really, really liked Monica, will run the Office of Religious Freedom, which means, most likely, he’ll be in charge of keeping Christians safe around the world.
They should be worried given the pissant job he did protecting women at Baylor.
Men Versus Manhood
The possibility of having another Super Bowl in Texas is being crapped on by Patrick’s bathroom bill. The NFL said locating a future version of their spectacles in Texas will diminish greatly if the Lt. Gov’s pet law is passed, which requires urination and defecation in a bathroom that matches the sex on your birth certificate. There’s almost no measuring the ongoing financial and reputational harm done to North Carolina by a similar idiotic measure.
But Patrick’s not worried. And neither is our petty, little governor, Greg Abbott, who sounds like he wants a Super Governor trophy from Roger Goodell. Abbott’s tweet stream is a case study in the amount of energy it takes to be hateful to anyone who doesn’t think exactly like him, and the Tea Party.
@GregAbbott_TX “NFL decision makers also benched Tom Brady last season. It ended with NFL handing the Super Bowl trophy to Brady.”
The lingering memories of Super Bowl LI (just add the letter “e” and you have an appropriately named event for the beginning of the Trump era) may be more about Trump than the Patriots. The jersey is not the only item disappearing. A lot of the team expects to be AWOL when the time comes to visit the White House. The new president isn’t exactly known for his efforts at civil rights and pro football is a sport dominated by African-Americans.
“Everybody go deep. The president will throw it high!”
Pipelines Leak
The universe can have a cruel sense of humor. A company that owns an equity interest in the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) had its second leak occur in a little over a year on the Seaway Pipeline near Blue Ridge, Texas. Six hundred thousand gallons have spewed out, the crude from Alberta, Canada’s tar sands, and it happened just one week before Trump gave approval to Dallas’ Energy Transfer Partners to complete the DAPL beneath the sacred waters of the Oglala Aquifer at Standing Rock and the Missouri River. Millions of people rely on the underground ocean that is the Oglala Aquifer. Adding oil to it will not be a good thing.
U.S. military vets are “bowing up” again to help the indigenous people fighting the pipeline. Veterans Stand is raising more money to support the water protectors and promoting the idea that peaceful protest can stop the construction. That’s not exactly what history has taught us, though, when it comes to conflict between native Americans and economic expansion.
Bury my heart at Standing Rock?
Oh, and never forget, pipelines leak; every damned one of them.
Everyone Knows We’re Windy
Texas keeps turning into the wind for energy. Forty-six of the state’s 254 counties are generating electricity from wind. Texas has more wind-powered generation capacity than any state, which is 17,713 megawatts from 40 turbine farms. We produce more wind generated electricity than any other state.
Cuz we’re Texas, damnit!
But let’s also whisper we are still burning filthy lignite coal for about 40 percent of our electricity. We also ought to admit that the giant blades and turbines are ugly and they are ruining the view across the mesas of the American West; especially in Texas. They also kill birds, huge, uncountable numbers because of lights and the currents that migrating birds ride are where the towers were built to capture wind.
Worse is the fact that every time you see one of those massive turbine blades being hauled down a highway you ought to think about your tax dollars being loaded onto that truck. Wind energy gets huge tax subsidies. Austin’s Robert Bryce, an energy expert at the Manhattan Institute, recently wrote about $360 million in tax subsidies for wind farms in New York. When combined with federal tax credits, Bryce calculates that a megawatt hour of wind will cost New Yorkers four times greater than the energy equivalent in natural gas.
Is New York doing a better job at screwing taxpayers than Texas? This will not stand!
This Week in Cornyn
America’s least courageous U.S. Senator sees a conspiracy in our democracy. His phone lines were overloaded with calls from constituents demanding he vote against Amway’s Betsy Devos for Education Secretary. Instead of viewing the communications as taxpayers expressing their opinions, Johnny Be Bad said it was a conspiracy of “the establishment.”
Yeah, clean up that snot on your keyboard from laughing.
A man who has been a district judge, a state supreme court justice, Texas attorney general, and a U.S. senator, who, in fact, has spent his entire professional life on the government payroll, is worried about the “establishment.” Well, as usual, he has “concerns.”
Hey, senator, you are the f**king establishment!
Mucho Mas Musica!!!
Texas country music purists aren’t big fans of Pat Green. They think he has put too much pop into places where it won’t fit. But the San Antonio boy, who started out singing in beer joints in Lubbock while attending Texas Tech, has shown determination and business savvy, along with some very capable writing. He probably does the best cover ever of Townes Van Zandt’s “Snowin’ On Raton,” and his original, “Songs About Texas,” will make you wish you were born over the sacred soil.
Tex-Pats
Ray Charping has left us. And, apparently, that’s not a bad thing, according to his obituary writers, which were his family.
Texana
Make a point to visit Hueco Tanks to prove you are a Texan. The rock formations east of El Paso have about 3000 pictographs and petroglyphs (look up the difference, lazy), created by ancient peoples known as the Jornada Mogollon.
The site is a state park but was also once a stop on the old Butterfield Stage route from San Antonio to El Paso. Every year in February there is a Rock Rodeo at Hueco Tanks and some of the world’s top professional climbers compete. But mostly it is a mystical place that can connect you to things you cannot understand.
Even without peyote.
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“You’ll never be as good as you could be because you already think you’re better than you actually are.”
Legendary KPRC-TV, Houston anchorman Ron Stone to ambitious young correspondent named Moore