Texas To The World Dispatch #6

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“What you northerners never appreciate…is that Texas is so big that you can live your life within its limits and never give a damn about what anyone in Boston or San Francisco thinks.”
– James Michener, author
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Mysteries of the Ignoplex
Deep in the piney woods of East Texas, something has gone horribly wrong. Almost like a bad (redundant) M. Night Shyamalan movie, people continue to act against what must be their personal will. Instead of diving to their deaths off buildings, though, they continue to vote in Louie Gohmert for congress. Gohmert has levels of dumbass that can’t even be measured with a Geiger counter, but there is enough oxygen in his brain to avoid town halls with his angry constituents.
He seems surprised that people in his district want to keep their Obamacare and he has decided they are outside agitators. From the safety of his computer, Goober Gohmert sent out an email answering requests for a town hall to discuss Obamacare by saying he was worried about people showing “more violent strains of the leftist ideology, some even being paid, who are preying on public town halls to wreak havoc and threaten public safety.”
Louie is as big a weinie as Republican Jason Chaffetz of Utah, who said voters were “bullying him.” He was one of the leaders of the house investigation into Hillary Clinton and BENGHAZI!!! After questioning the former Secretary of State for nine hours about nothing, he has some experience with bullying. But he still doesn’t have the stones to meet with his constituents. (Also, he’s still investigating Hillary’s email servers because, well, there is no because.)
Gohmert even sullied the name of Gabby Giffords by using it in his email or letting it slip from his mouth. He cited the shooting incident that severely injured the Democratic congresswoman from Arizona, and killed six others in 2011, as evidence he needed to be careful and not have town hall meetings. Ms. Giffords urged Gohmert to have some courage.
No courage. No brain. And no Dorothy in sight to show him the yellow brick road.
Gossip at the Sad Café
Unsurprisingly, Governor Goddamn keeps talking to glistening-lipped blondes and male bimbobs on FOX-TV in his ongoing attempts to sound like a tough guy on sanctuary cities. He is trying to inspire law enforcement officials to be more dedicated by threatening them with jail if they disobey a new law he’s attempting to pass. Greg Abbott says he will prosecute police chiefs and sheriffs for any refusal to cooperate with ICE by holding undocumented immigrants in jail, regardless for how long or how minor the crime, as they wait for immigration officers to come question the detainees. (Gets very expensive, and erodes community trust officers need to solve crimes).
He doesn’t have the authority to do that, of course, and even if the legislature passed his law, it’s just not likely to stick. Governor Goddamn ought to spend less time ranting on TV and a bit more reading the state’s constitution, and the U.S. version. Trial by jury is kind of a thing in the text.
Maybe the wall is not needed. One constable (just one) patrolling a normally busy crossing point near Mission in the Rio Grande Valley says illegal entry has slowed down. Word has clearly spread through the Americas that Trump is destroying the United States and we could achieve Third World status in his first term. So, why bother with the long trip and struggle with assimilation? Is it possible Honduran drug gangs are a better option than Trumplandia?
We might end up needing a wall to keep people in. Canada is experiencing a surge in frostbacks sneaking over the border from the U.S. These are mostly families and individuals that are in America from the Muslim countries Trump has banned with his immigration order. And their increasing figures do not indicate this is an anomalous event. Royal Canadian Mounted Police say the number of people being detained is “very, very surprising.”
Not to anyone who’s been paying attention to the news out of Washington, it isn’t.
“I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy. We need the media to hold people like me to account. I mean, power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive and it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power, whether it be here or elsewhere.”
George W. Bush, former president
Eagles Don’t Flock
But they do gather during mostly winter months in Texas to wait out the snow and cold in northern climes. By the end of March, many of the American Bald Eagles have taken wing and turned northward. If you have an interest in seeing them in the wild, Canyon of Eagles on Lake Buchanan is one of the most majestic locales where they nest in high aeries and circle the sky looking for prey. Buchanan is no minor body of water, either. Once the dam was built across the Colorado, the water rose behind it to create a lake the size of the Sea of Galilee.
And since the eagles are wildlife, and in Texas, they are doomed to sometimes be shot at by idjits with guns. Someone described as a “hunter” shot a nesting female American Bald Eagle near Houston. Even more unfortunately, the mother was raising a chick. Compound that grief with the fact that it takes both parents to see the offspring through to flight. (Humans, take note). One parent may hunt food while the other protects the nest and the chick from prey. The orphaned baby eagle is being raised for return to the wild in San Antonio by the Bird of Prey Conservancy.
Feral Politicians
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Simple Sid Miller appears to have been left in the wild a bit too long. Or maybe his “Jesus Shot” has short-circuited his massive intellect. (Use “shot” in its verb form and “Jesus shot” is right up there with “Jesus wept” as the best, two-word sentence ever composed). Miller used a fake story about cartel members shooting up a hunting camp in Big Bend to explain why we needed a border wall, and he kept telling the story even after it was proved the two men pointed guns at each other. Then he took off for Laredo to meet with the governor of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, don a traditional, handmade Mexican jacket known as a cuera tamaulipeca, and say we need to do a lot more talkin’ before we do any wall buildin’.
He said maybe, and that’s final.
Miller has also approved the use of a rodent poison called warfarin to begin a new attempt to reduce the feral hog population in Texas. The deadly toxin supposedly kills wild hogs but is safe for consumption by humans, which is a hard sell to hunters and anyone with basic intelligence. Hunters are worried the poison will enter the food supply and that they may kill hogs that have been poisoned and eat the tainted flesh.
“One person would have to eat 2.2 lbs. of hog liver–where the warfarin is most concentrated in the body–to achieve the same exposure as a human would receive in one therapeutic dose of warfarin,” according to a statement from Miller.
And hey, if you can’t trust a guy who got a Jesus shot, who’s left with credibility?
Also, he had another idea that was supposed to get rid of feral hogs that didn’t work out. Miller passed a law legalizing helicopter hunting of the beasts.
But maybe there just aren’t that many Texans with spare money to charter helicopters and fly around with guns for the sheer joy of shooting wild animals.
Drunk on Dinosaur Wine
Writer Dan Jenkins’ term for oil has never been more apt given our endless drunkenness on fossil fuels. How’d it happen in Texas? In the last great age of the Paleozoic Era, the Permian Basin took form during the time of Pangea. When ascendant dinosaurs died off through the collision of a meteor with the Gulf of Mexico, they fell by unknown numbers into the geologic sea basin that comprises much of West Texas. Eons later, their biological remains had been compressed by time and crustal plates into oil.
And then drilling rigs were invented.
There has been a lot of dinosaur wine come out of the Permian Basin. In 1926, the first well drilled on the Parker Ranch near Iraan gave us 72,869 barrels of oil every day, and a year later there were 100 more flowing on that same lease with at least two producing a greater output than the original site. But apparently there is still more. A lot more. On the western edge of the Permian, just north of the Davis Mountains, Apache Oil has discovered a field it calls Alpine High. There are said to be billions of barrels and almost inestimable millions of cubic feet of natural gas, if the geological assessments are correct.
We’ll find out, though, because the rigs will start spinning in the 350,000 acre spread of the Chihuahuan Desert. Natural gas flare offs from wellheads risk light pollution causing problems at the nearby McDonald Observatory, which was located in the Davis Mountains because of the absolute darkness available in West Texas. The fracking needed to recover the resource also runs the risk of damaging ground water supplies in the arid region, and that creates environmental danger for the crystalline, spring-fed pool at Balmorhea State Park, a spectacular oasis.
Not to worry, though, about a year and a half back Governor Goddamn appointed just the person to protect our state parks like Balmorhea from the dangers of profiteers. He gave a seat on the Parks and Wildlife board to Kelcy Warren of Dallas, the billionaire CEO of Energy Transfer Partners. You remember them? They are building the Dakota Access Pipeline through Standing Rock (Rick Perry used to be on their board) and they have the Trans Pecos Pipeline about to start running gas through the Big Bend region, and the Comanche Trail route, carrying natural gas from Midland to El Paso. So, don’t y’all go worrying about Balmorhea’s pool.
Good conservative policies will protect everything we hold dear.
Lawyers in Lust
That political party always complaining about judicial activism (GOP, for the uninitiated) has managed to get the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court to change its 8-1 mind against hearing a case attempting to stop the city of Houston from providing benefits to same sex couples. The court agreed without voting or making public comment. Seventy Republican politicians, church pastors, conservative leaders, the Lt. Gov., attorney general, and Governor Goddamn all filed briefs urging the court to “reject federal tyranny” brought about by the U.S. Supreme Court’s approval of same sex marriage rights. Political pressure on the adjudication of law? Of course, we’re Texas.
The cowardly state high court has a hearing scheduled for the day this missive is dispatched. If they rule in favor of the angry old white men, expect the state to waste millions more tax dollars defending its position because of a U.S. Constitutional challenge to the nation’s highest court.
Meanwhile, please try to deal with the horror of same sex couples working for the city of Houston being able to get health care benefits.
Wrong About Rights
The Supremes in Washington may have some more room on their docket since the Trump administration is dropping the federal government’s challenge to Texas’ horrible voter ID laws. The high court had ruled just before the 2016 election that the Texas regulations were adopted with “discriminatory intent.” The new attorney general, Jeff Sessions, however, who has long expressed doubts about the need for the federal Voting Rights Act, says his Department of Justice will offer no further legal challenge to Texas.
Danielle Lang of the Campaign Legal Center’s reaction? “We have already had a nine-day trial and presented thousands of pages of documents demonstrating that the picking and choosing of what IDs count was entirely discriminatory and would fall more harshly on minority voters. So, for the [Justice Department] to come in and drop those claims just because of a change of administration is outrageous.”
We still have a few checks. The balances, alas, are gone.
This Week in Cornyn
Senator Constantly Concerned was down on the border with a congressional delegation. John Cornyn took a few pals on a boat and air tour near Laredo to help them understand the complexities of border issues. Hopefully, they were astute enough to explain things to their host. Texans will be comforted by the fact that he is “keeping a close eye” on border tax proposals and said he wants to “let the economy grow.” Whoa, what’s with all this radical thinking, senator? Cornyn wants Washington to consider a “layered approach” to border security (One brick on top of another?) and to come up with a better idea than the “border adjustment tax.”
Of course, he’s not proposing any legislation or policy solutions. But he is very, very concerned.
Who’s Gonna Build Your Wall, Boys?
And your high rises, and houses, and government buildings, and manufacturing facilities? Or pick your crops, or cook your food, and sit for your children, or wash your dishes? Or pick your Pecos cantaloupes? How’d we get here? As the great bard of the border Tom Russell sings, “As I travel around this great big world, there’s one thing I most fear, it’s a white man in a golf shirt, with a cell phone in his ear.”
In the construction industry alone, there are about 400,000 illegal workers doing jobs in Texas. And part of the reason you can afford your mortgage payment is because their labor is cheap. Builders, who have historically voted Republican, make their margins off that inexpensive labor and many of them never ask job applicants for their papers. They just need dependable, hard-working employees to finish tasks.
The traditional hypocrisy of being against illegal immigration but relying on cheap labor has been one of the hallmarks of the Texas GOP. And now it is starting to bite their businesses in the arse. President Trump’s angry wall and deportation rhetoric along with Governor Goddamn’s anti-sanctuary city threats have made a lot of workers afraid to show up on the job.
But if the border wall ever gets built, you may be certain construction companies will bring armies of undocumented workers to the task. Of course, the hypocrisy will pass without note because there is good money to be made.
Paint Won’t Cover It Up
Certain types of guilt are not easily assuaged. Yes, it is easy to think George W. Bush is a sensitive and caring man because he is painting portraits of veterans who served in his war. But there is careless historical revisionism in accepting the current version of the former president. There would be no wounded veterans to paint if Bush had not been so eager to send them off to be maimed and die in his war of choice. People are giving W. a free pass by blaming the intelligence community for sending him bad information. But his defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and his vice president, Dick Cheney, were chosen by Bush. and they were responsible for “stovepiping” the cooked intel. And there were endless voices demanding better proof, but they went ignored, or were even publicly chastised.
So, paint your portraits, Mr. President. But while you do, remember the dead who perished for no reason. Who will paint them? Or the estimated 1.5 million Iraqis who lost their lives? You’re guilty, sir, of a horrendous sin, in the eyes of your god and history.
Tonight, We Ride!
Just down the road to the west from Terlingua is Black Jack’s Crossing, a low spot in the Rio Grande near Lajitas. General John Joseph Pershing had been dispatched to the border to put an end to the depredations of Pancho Villa, the Mexican revolutionary who had been raiding on the American side of the border. Black Jack took about 10,000 men on his Mexican Punitive Expedition and they routed Villa’s revolutionaries, but they never caught Villa, or even caught sight of him. Sounds like the stuff of story and song, eh? Tom Russell thinks so, too.
Had a chance to ride the big motorbike across the Trans Pecos a few days previous and rolled into Terlingua past the ruins and up to the general store. Noticeably missing, though, were some of the adobes. Vandals had pushed over the old mud walls, just to watch them tumble. A reward has been offered for information but even if the bad actors are arrested the damage cannot be undone. The old ghost town of the Chisos Mining Company is the home of the original world chili cook off, and was the source of quicksilver, yeah, mercury, from cinnabar that was found in local mines dating back to 1890.
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“In some parts of Texas the wind blows quite a bit, often kicking up a lot of dust. Why, once out in Lubbock the dust was blowing so hard I actually saw a rabbit digging a hole, and he was six feet off the ground at the time.”
Wallace O. Chariton