Texas To The World Dispatch #8

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“How can you look at the Texas legislature and still believe in intelligent design?”
– Kinky Friedman, Musician, author
[Editor’s note:You are going to want to be the first kid on your block to get one of our stylin’ Texas To The World tee shirts. First shipments have gone out with our logo of Texas covering the earth, which we all know it does. Go To the TTTW website and click the tee shirt link to order yours. Children will squeal with delight when you wear it. Men will cower. Ladies will faint. And great institutions will tremble and fall. Kinda.
Boxing Their Goofies
It never made warts grow on your hands like they threatened, but now masturbation has the potential to do something worse: send a man into financial ruin. Houston State Representative Jessica Farrar has filed history’s cleverest legislative send up by mocking bills aimed at reducing women’s access to health care and information. The “Man’s Right to Know Act” will penalize male members of our faltering species for ejaculating outside of a vagina. One hundred dollars per transgression.
Farrar also wants men to undergo a digital, anal exam prior to vasectomies, colonoscopies, or if they want to be prescribed Viagra and similar erectile dysfunction medications. (Of course, the thought of dropping a C-note every time a man drop’s his pants alone is likely to create a surge in ED, but still won’t change male habits). Farrar wants supervision of masturbation to happen in local hospitals or clinics (Who is going to certify Official Texas Masturbatoriums?) so that emissions might be captured and saved for future pregnancies?
If there were a way to enforce such a law, all the state’s budget woes would be resolved on one, lonely Friday night.
Requestors Request
Your tax money creates the data. But you have a decreasing right to its access. When a government entity denies a freedom of information request, it generally must send that denial to the state attorney general for a legal ruling. In the past fifteen years, the number of those denials has risen from 5,000 annually to 27,000. What does that mean? In the case of the city of McAllen, it means they don’t have to tell taxpayers how much of their tax money they used to pay singer Julio Iglesias to perform at their Christmas parade. (Hint: must be a lot). Houston city hall types refused to release information on how many permits it had issued to Uber. Why? Worried about taxi lobby backlash?
The Dallas Morning News even asked the attorney general’s open records office if the surge in request denials was creating a burden on the 59 staffers in that office. (You see this coming, don’t you?) They were told to file an open records request to get that information.
Which, we assume, will be denied.
Worst Little State House in Texas
There is a descriptive of Texas congressional district lines that suggested one candidate could drive her car down the road with the doors open and hit voters in two districts on either side of the car that could not cast ballots for her. (Go ahead, take your time). The redrawing of congressional districts, which occurs every decade after census, is a disgusting racket that always tends to the political aspirations of the party in power. Lines are gerrymandered to protect officeholders of that party. Take a look at the old CBS Reports piece, “Best Little Statehouse in Texas,” with the late Texas writer Larry L. King, who was granted access to back office redistricting negotiations in 1981.
Nothing has changed; except minorities are getting screwed over in an exponentially greater fashion. The signal difference, however, is that a few courts are recognizing the injustices of voter ID laws. A federal court in San Antonio threw out three congressional districts because, it ruled, they were drawn in a “rushed and secretive process.” (Isn’t that language in the Texas Constitution?) Austin, one of the state’s few Democratic strongholds, was divided into five congressional districts, and four of them became Republican.
The court has ordered the district lines redrawn to more fairly represent Hispanic voters and other minorities. But the GOP controls the legislature, and any new squiggly lines will accomplish the same discrimination as the ones just invalidated. The court will have to do the art work, which the legislature will undo and appeal, and legal challenges will mount. The feds could also require the state to get approval any time in the future it wants to make changes to congressional districts.
All my life’s a circle.
“Texas is as odd as it is vast.”
Henry Rollins
Pity the Poor Patrick
Lieutenant Governor Damn Patrick appears to be swinging a pocket knife in the school vouchers gun fight. He wants the state to write blank checks to private schools because that leads to a better, more competitive education. Sure, it’s a fail-safe plan for success. Ask Deion Sanders’ Prime Prep Academy. The former Dallas Cowboys’ player started his charter school by pumping it up on his cable TV show and using his Hall of Fame reputation to attract parents and investors. And then he ended up with lawsuits, a criminal investigation, angry parents and regulators, and not enough money to deliver back pay to educators. Oh, did we fail to mention the federal lawsuit that accuses Neon Deion and his associates of wrongdoing “in acquiring the school’s charter and in how they operated a federally funded food program.”
Just because you can catch a pass and run fast doesn’t mean you can run a school. Which may be why the conservative Dallas Morning News seems increasingly against the notion of school vouchers. In an op-ed written by former Dallas ISD Board President Ken Zornes, the paper calls out the marketing of the tax scam by pointing out the misleading language that refers to the proposed law as education savings accounts, which were formerly known as tax credits, taxpayers savings accounts, and freedom scholarships. Regardless of the name, vouchers have always failed in the state house. The latest law makes no distinction between secular and religious charters, which means your tax dollars will go to teach another citizen’s child about their god, humans putting saddles on dinosaurs, and how happy slaves were on plantations. Maybe later class, we’ll get to phonetics and Dick and Jane readers. (No clue, huh?)
Perhaps there will be sufficient cash for field trips to the Creation Museum where displays show dinosaurs with saddles and humans controlling them shortly after the world was created six thousand years ago.
Whose Land Is This, You Think You Know
The wall won’t fall. Yet.
Landowners along the border are getting notices from the federal government that their property will be needed for the construction of Trump’s folly. Down near Los Ebanos, where a hand-drawn ferry gets three cars at a time across the Rio Grande, the Texas Observer reports that one family got a 21-page “declaration of taking” from the federal government even before Trump had taken his oath of office and begun his process of destroying America. Maria Flores and her siblings were offered a total of $2900 for just over an acre of their property, which could be condemned by eminent domain should they refuse. Several property owners fought Washington over land values during the Bush Administration and ended up with considerably more cash. But most people don’t want the money or the wall; they want their land.
Anything for a Buck
There must be some kind of human survival impulse that makes people want to pull the ladder up behind them. Or it’s just greed. But there are an estimated sixty Hispanic-owned businesses that are bidding to build the border wall, a project that will deprive certain types of immigrants the same kinds of opportunities that the wall-building immigrants have managed to acquire in America. “Work is work,” one of the bidders said.
Here’s a better one I heard from a Texas Ranger during a murder trial out in the Davis Mountains: “Right is still right, even if nobody’s doing it. Wrong is still wrong, even if everybody’s doing it.”
This Week in Cornyn
The Democrats in congress wrote and passed the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) with not one vote in the house or senate from a Republican colleague. The GOP lawmakers then voted 60 times to repeal the law, and failed every time they brought it up for a vote. And Republicans lacking even the slightest degree of self-awareness, which increasingly looks like all of them, are asking what the Democrats are offering to solve the political collapse of Trump Care.
Texas U.S. Senator John Cornyn, whose body and brain seem to have been snatched by aliens during his youth, asked, “If you don’t like this proposal, then what’s your suggestion? What’s your suggestion?”
Their suggestion became law during the last presidency, senator. And it is insuring millions of people. You voted against it, and now you’re trying to blow it up with something worse, and blame the Democrats for not dancing with your devils.
Grow up, pal.
South By Way West
While Austin celebrates itself with South by Southwest Interactive, Music, and Film festivals, there is an interesting little development in El Paso. Too often ignored by Texans, the “borderplex” has compelling history, culture, and geography; the border city has become the location for musicians and other artists to gather themselves, perform, and talk about their work in a facility called “The Outpost.” They will be able to network, talk business, get free food, and share their creativity.
This is a great concept, especially given the fact that many bands on the run pass through the city of the pass, (before they get harassed at the Border Patrol checkpoint east of El Paso near Sierra Blanca).
The Outpost will sit hard by I-10 inside the city limits, and is probably worth stopping off to hear music and support people who elevate our lives with their art.
Bound to Cross the Line
Ya have to pay for a wall, if you wanna build a wall. How are we going to do that? A border tax, estimated to be 20 percent on all imported goods. The simple math on that means that about a trillion dollars (how many zeroes is that?) will be transferred from corporations producing south of the border and send that money to Washington and older legacy manufacturers in the Rust Belt. The tax concept from the president who said he was going to reduce taxes will do its most harm to a state called Texas. The state’s largest trading partner is Mexico, and that annual monetary relationship has grown substantially with the maturity of the North American Free Trade Act.
The state was also poised to grow its economy even further with the Trans Pacific Partnership (both NAFTA and TPP efforts were led by Texan and former President George H.W. Bush) but Trump has blown up TPP and the tax will render NAFTA worthless. The trillion-dollar border tax will lead to the largest transfer of wealth in American history over the course of the next decade. Now you will pay considerably more for your Levis and flat screens so Trump can build a wall and send your tax dollars to Rust Belt manufacturers to subsidize their pricing and production in a doomed effort to help them compete outside of U.S. borders.
The cost of “Make America Great Again” caps, imported from China, will go through the roof. Sad!
Tesla Owns Texas
Elon Musk was born without a quit gene.
The mighty Texas Auto Dealers’ Association, which lobbies for car dealerships, has fought Tesla over his plans to sell his electric cars directly to the public, which is how Michael Dell launched his computer company. But the dealers want Tesla to have the same overhead as their shops and think, erroneously, that he should be required to sell out of store front dealerships. This, of course, is regulated competition in a state where politicians yammer about capitalism and free markets. Musk is spending a few million dollars on lobbyists at the capitol to try to change the law, and he’s likely to win, even though Governor Goddamn Abbott, who has the financial backing of car dealers, thinks the current system is working just fine.
These conservative hypocrisies are never more rampant than when providing tax breaks. Several bills have been filed to end tax subsidies for film production in Texas, and one measure even wants to get rid of the entire Film Commission. This will only serve to send more movie producers to New Mexico, which has a great film support system and tends to look a lot like Texas. When it comes to the arts, Texas pols consider tax breaks a waste, but if you want to drill a well, or put up a wind turbine, or move your boiler room call center here, have we got some sweetheart paperwork for you to fill out.
What has been the benefit to the state of tax breaks for film and game producers? $168.4 million spent in incentives “to the creation of nearly 20,000 full-time jobs and $1.14 billion in spending.”
Increasingly, this is no country for young men (or women).
That Boy’s Just a Talk Away Joe
The left-wing conspiracy to jam town halls of Republican members of congress appears to be the first conspiracy left wingers have ever been able to pull off with any degree of success. The latest testy exchange comes from Frost, Texas and a public get together with Congressman Joe Barton, who was asked about voting down a law relating to violence against women. He said that issue belonged to the states, and the audience said B.S. When one of his constituents got vocal Barton told the man to “shut up.”
Doesn’t require an experienced political consultant to conclude this behavior seems like a less than effective approach to winning re-election.
Context is King
When children began crossing the Mexican border to the U.S. in the Rio Grande Valley, this country began screaming about an immigration crisis. I was retained as a consultant to assist several businesses and government institutions on the border in dealing with the negative media and immediately realized the situation was a humanitarian crisis. We saw babies as young as seventeen months that had traveled from Honduras and Guatemala to cross Mexico and reach America, and they had often ridden on the back of a great, rumbling freight train known as the beast. Most of them had left without their parents, but had been urged to make the trip by their mothers and fathers.
But why?
Americans tend to pay little heed to international events that lead problems to their doorstep, and often these are geo-political hijinks executed by our government. The children at our border from Central America have been sent there by desperate families that want them to avoid drug gangs and have a chance at jobs and educations and decent lives. There is little hope in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala because for decades those countries have existed as little more than fruit plantations for U.S. companies. Chiquita Brands and Dole Food Co. supposedly got angry when the democratically-elected Manuel Zelaya began talking about an increase of sixty percent in the minimum wage in 2009, and there is broad suspicion in the country the military coup that overthrew him was engineered by the CIA. The Guardian reported that the top coup advisors had strong ties to the Bush administration and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Nothing is new about these tactics, of course. The CIA destroyed democratic governments in Chile, Guatemala, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and much of our trouble in the Mideast is rooted in the plot we executed to topple Iran’s elected president in 1952. We put the Shah in power, who gave us cheap oil from the Parabas Field in Southern Iran, bought our jets and bombs, and tortured and killed his political opposition until a revolution overthrew him in 1979.
What we’ve been part of causing in Central America is near anarchy. People who cannot earn a living turn to drugs and gangs rule the streets. Children are told they must work for the gangs and not go to school or they will be killed. Parents find a way to get them out of the country. But your fruit and textiles in America remain very affordable because they are produced with near slave labor wages by the Central American poor.
So, when they stand across the river and look at Texas with hope and tears in their eyes, don’t call them criminals. They are victims. And we who try to turn them away are not without the guilt of our government.
The first real cowboy in Texas was probably Milton Faver, a man who ran away as a teenager from his home in West Virginia, and then got in a fight in Missouri while waiting to join a wagon train on the Santa Fe Trail. Faver didn’t know if he killed a man in a gun battle over a woman so he lit out for the territories alone, and, eventually, ended up in Mexico, which led to him fighting with U.S. troops in the Mexican-American War in 1846. Faver had no interest in returning to America when hostilities ended and he began pushing a hand cart to sell goods in the village of Meoqui, near Chihuahua City.
Faver got larger carts and healthy horses and started moving a lot of produce and dry goods along the border near present-day Ojinaga and Presidio. Ultimately, he opened a store in the area that was known as La Junta de los Rios, believed to be the oldest continually occupied settlement in North America. Faver then went about gathering cattle, building herds, and a personal fort with walls several feet thick to protect his family from the Comanche raiders. He was pushing cattle on long drives from Presidio to Fort Davis to feed U.S. soldiers, and he then trailed them to El Paso and Santa Fe, a few decades before men returning home from the Civil War started the great, historic cattle drives from Texas to the railheads in Kansas.
Faver’s fort was built near a creek named Cibolo, and the fresh water allowed him to plant peach trees and become famous for his peach brandy. The Cibolo Creek Fort is today an upscale resort in the American outback north of Presidio and south of Marfa. And Faver has largely disappeared from history. TV historians will remember, however, that Clint Eastwood’s boss on the trail in the black and white series “Rawhide” was named Mr. Faber, which most believe was a cultural nod in the direction of the historic Texas character. You may recall the theme song. Men of a certain age can sing it:
“Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’, keep them dawgies rollin’, rawhide. Through hail wind and weather, we’ll follow Mr. Faber, we’ll follow the old gray trail.”
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“I felt like the luckiest kid in the world because God had put me on the ground in Texas. I actually felt sorry for those poor little kids that had to be born in Oklahoma or England or some place. I knew I was living in the best place in the world.”
Tommy Lee Jones, San Saba, Texas rancher, also actor with an Oscar