Texas To The World Dispatch #9

Just remember, for twenty-five bucks you can have somebody killed here in the Rio Grande Valley. And for fifty bucks, nobody will ever find the body.”
– Charlie Trub, KRIO-AM, General Manager, Nov. 1975
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Snakes on the Plain
The wind turbines are rising almost daily on the South Plains around Sweetwater and there are a few more jobs. But there’s still plenty of good money to be made on rattlesnakes. And wild-assed pictures, too. Sweetwater just held its 59th annual Rattlesnake Roundup, which gathers up 5000 pounds of rattlers and brings them to the public for enjoyment, slaughter, and frying for taste treats. (Hey, what else you gonna do in Sweetwater? Go watch the wind turbines spin?) For twenty bucks, you can kill and skin a snake, cut off its rattles, and leave an imprint of your bloodied hands on a wall. At prices like that, you can’t afford not to kill rattlers.
The gory gala all began when about fifty people were being treated for snakebites annually in Sweetwater, arguably located in the midst of Diamondback Rattler country, and cattle were dying from the venom. The local Jaycees decided it was time for a roundup. The event now grosses about $2 million for the civic group and brings $8 million into the economy.
But snake wrangling isn’t a completely joyous family event, which is probably hard to believe, I know. Wildlife activists (yes, Texas, they exist) are upset that the reptile roundup uses copper tubing to inject gas fumes into snake dens and force them out for capture, which sounds inhumane. But hey, they’re just snakes, right, and there are too damned many rattlers rattling around the west. National Geographic, though, has argued against the roundup with the words of Melissa Amarello, who founded Advocates for Snake Preservation. She’s studied rattlers, and discovered, “They’re shy, gentle creatures with rich family lives. They can have friends. They take care of their kids.”
Which makes them better than a lot of humans.
Rattlers also boost the economy in Sweetwater, once a year. But look at those photos. Your average West Texas youngster gets to cut out the live, beating heart of a snake and place it in a pile of other hearts, the whole gooey mass still quivering and beating until the organ finally dies.
Now that’s just wholesome family fun.
Any Baby Can’t
The Texas legislature, always assuming women are not sufficiently repressed, passed another law to protect fetuses more than the person carrying the child to term. Senate Bill 25 moved over to the house for approval after the thoughtful and caring men of the upper chamber decided it was okay for doctors to lie to their pregnant patients. In fact, it pre-clears a physician who might fail or even refuse to perform pre-natal testing to see if there are deformities or other issues with the unborn child, which means your doctor might learn your 6-week fetus has Down Syndrome but he doesn’t want you to know because you might consider an abortion and his political beliefs are more important than your rights as woman, and if the child is born with a disability, you can’t sue the doctor for not providing that information.
Of course, if you are poor and you need to seek assistance and services from the state for your child, tough luck. Texas has recently made dramatic cuts to Medicaid services for children needing therapy.
Lawbreakin’ Lawman Wants to Lay Down the Law
Lawbreakin’ Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who faces up to 99 years in prison for securities fraud, is concerned about Muslim school students getting a room in which to pray. Paxton says he wrote a letter to Frisco public schools to ask questions about why Muslim students were offered a prayer room and that his inquiries remain unresolved. The school principal has no memory of any such missive, and wonders why Paxton is suddenly fretting over a prayer room that has been in use by Muslim students for seven years.
Here’s a clue: Paxton is a religious Christian bigot, angry that he got caught fleecing investors in a Dallas company by not telling them he was getting commissions on the money they put into a startup firm. The Securities and Exchange Commission filed fraud charges against the Texas A.G. as did a Collin County Grand Jury. Paxton’s appeals for dismissal have all been overruled and he will go on trial in May. But right now he’s https://www.texastribune.org/2017/02/15/paxton-weathers-politically-legal-woes-persist/ worried about bigger issues like why did Frisco provide a prayer room to Muslim kids? Maybe because they also facilitate a time of prayer for Christian students, too, under the law?
Well, that’s okay, of course, cause baby Jesus wants that.
“Now, in Russia, they got it mapped out so that everyone pulls for everyone else… that’s the theory, anyway. But what I know about is Texas, an’ down here… you’re on your own.”
Detective Visser, opening Monologue, “Blood Simple”
Go Ahead and Tread On Me
Here’s how government works in Texas: Voters believe the BS they hear from candidates about not raising their taxes. They elect them, and then are astonished to find there are no state services worth a damn because there is no money. And every opportunity office holders get; they avoid taking responsibility for funding state government and force it off to local taxing authorities.
Which is why your property taxes are ridiculous. The state keeps reducing the amount of money it sends to public schools, and local boards must raise tax rates or valuations to make up the deficit. But your Austin legislators don’t even like that and they’ve passed a law that constrains local tax hikes. If a fast-growing school district needs to increase taxation to build new schools or pay teachers, they will now be forced to hold an election when that increase reaches five percent. This is another bit of legislative genius to come out of the state senate and brought to you by Lt. Gov. Damn Patrick and his merry band of midget minds.
Of course, in Texas, it can always get worse, and likely will because there is a fight in the capitol over whether the state can give your money, without accountability, to private schools in the form of vouchers or “education investment credits” or whatever silly-assed branding they are using this session. The state spends about $5000 per student on your child’s education, and that’s what it would give to a private school to admit your child. However, most of them have an average annual tuition of $12,000. So, who do you think is going to send their kids to charter schools? Single moms? Truck drivin’ dads? Parents of a special needs child or from a non-Christian family?
‘Zackly. Now pick up the phone and go blow up this nonsense with a message to your state representative in the house where the idea has a good chance of dying right alongside Damn Patrick’s political aspirations.
The Old Fart Jubilee
There is a touch fashionableness to talking smack about the annual rite of spring in Austin known as South by Southwest. People like to bitch about the crowds and traffic becoming even worse but they tend to acknowledge the event has done great things for the city of the violet crown. When thousands of techies and musicians and filmmakers invade your city and then leave to talk about its greatness and all they learned here, well, that’s called brand building. But still, don’t we have a right to wail and rend our garments just a touch?
We do, even when SXSW isn’t in town. That’s how NPR found four Austinites sitting around the Star Bar semi-whining about something in which they were not partaking. The quartet was all progressive liberals trying to play cranky and old but it was a near miss because they had a hard time ignoring the greatness of SXSW. There was some cranky in there, and a touch of age, but not enough bile to stain a pink shirt.
The man at the heart of South By, and a long time personal pal, Hugh Forrest, is sounding a terrifying alarm about the event’s future if the absurd “bathroom bill” makes it all the way to the desk of Governor Goddamn. Forrest, who co-founded SXSW and has built it into one of the great business and entertainment gatherings of any municipality in the world, suggested in his recent blog that it is “very likely” South By would relocate to another city if the bathroom bill becomes Texas law. Bye-bye $325 million dollar economic impact.
The blame would land in the lap of a lieutenant governor who can’t find more important things for the state to worry about than where people empty their bladders and bowels. Instead, legislators ought to be fretting about the $5 million in taxpayer dollars that were used to buy the vote of the lone Democrat who voted to support the bill. Glenn Smith, one of Texas’ more astute political observers, and a regular attendee of the Old Fart Jubilee, pointed out that Sen. Eddie Lucio, who changed his vote to back the horrid measure, also ended up with a $5 million-dollar state project in his hometown, an “Urban Ecology District”, which is just the kind of project Republicans usually whine about. Instead, they passed millions to a politician selling out to the highest bidders, but whom, we suspect, could’ve been bought for a hell of a lot less.
Which means we may lose SXSW because of one greedy, dumbass Democrat.
Let us hope, however, the Old Fart Jubilee will continue, unfaltering, for generations.
A Better Place to Pee
Who wins awards for their bathrooms? A lot of Texans know the answer to that question. Buc-ee’s are the giant travel centers with glistening rest rooms, more gas pumps than soldiers at the Alamo, and absurd prices for popcorn. And now they are in a legal fight with Bucky’s, a Midwestern company offering the same services. Buc-ee’s sued Bucky’s this week over trademark infringement when the damned Yankees announced they were going to open six stores in the Houston area. The lawsuit says the Bucky’s of St. Louis, Omaha, and Chicago was likely “to gain acceptance for its products based not on its own merits” but through an association with Buc-ee’s.
Seems like a reasonable appeal, but not capitalism.
Buc-ee’s defies all kinds of logic, though. When the company opened its 25th store in Texas, near Fort Worth, there were dozens of people lined up outside for when the doors open at 6:00 a.m. Clean bathrooms and expensive popcorn appear to be in short supply in Tarrant County.
The Way the West Was Lost
Because you can never have enough guns, Texas lawmakers decided to reduce licensing fees for first time gun buyers. Senator Robert Nichols, a Republican, duh, wanted to eliminate the entire $140-dollar charge and the $70-dollar renewal fee. Kind of like Volkswagen’s annual “Sign and Drive” sale, you could just sign and shoot; hopefully, not at someone, but that seems to happen a lot. Not the gun’s fault, of course; their accessibility is never why tragedies occur. Removing the fees wasn’t possible, even for the earnest gun-lovin’ senator from the piney woods because the state didn’t want to deal with the loss of $55 million in revenue. But he did get first time licensing fees and renewals (after five years) lowered to a measly $40 dollars.
Just makes a man want to take dead aim and shoot something.
Your Week in Wall
Everybody’s least favorite president is having a bit of a struggle coming up with money to build his Great Wall of Whiner on the Texas Mexico border. He and his counselors have, undoubtedly, underestimated construction costs, and the will of the American people. Land acquisition, lawsuits over eminent domain, and real estate prices way above anticipated are certain to slow down construction and drive up expenses.
The Dear Russian is planning to build first on government-owned, federal land, which means parks like Big Bend. Because 1200 foot canyons and alpine mountain ranges, cacti, rattlesnakes, black bear, mountain lion, and one hundred degree temperatures don’t do a sufficient job of discouraging illegal entry? My sense has always been that if someone wants to be in America so badly they will risk their lives crossing such a treacherous landscape to get a minimum wage job, they might just be an ambitious enough sort that we’d want them around to help us grow the economy.
Go see Big Bend before it becomes an historic site of a new civil war battle.
There are many broken pieces to Trump’s ideas related to a wall and deportation of undocumented immigrants. While he intends to pump more tax money into border patrol agents and border surveillance, which will lead to an increase in captured crossers, there isn’t much he can do about returning them to their countries of origin. El Presidente de Russia signed an executive order that expands the powers of border agents to detain and hold immigrants until they can go before a court. Unfortunately, they are backlogged with 542,411 cases awaiting hearings because there are not enough courts or judges. The time estimate for clearing just those cases is about two and a half years, and the jam up is only going to get worse as Trump Troopers scour the border looking for desperate people to arrest and toss behind bars. Taxpayers will be stuck with another ridiculous tab for housing and feeding immigrants for years, and, just think, they could be working for you instead. Many can be expected to demand political asylum, which will make their cases longer and more complicated, and the request is legal even though it might be completely without validity.
A lot of us consider it the saddest story ever told. Last week was the 80th anniversary of the New London School Disaster, a gas explosion at a public school in East Texas that claimed the lives of 294 children, teachers, and visitors. The high school was being supplied gas off a nearby mainline and it had begun to leak into the building. No one knew this, though, because most natural gas is odorless, and when a shop class teacher plugged in a sander to test its repair, the school and an entire town came undone with a massive explosion. The horror has never really abated.
A similar disaster today is mostly impossible. After the New London tragedy, the government (meddlers that they are) introduced a new law requiring that malodorants be introduced into all natural gas lines and supplies. Government does things like that. Makes relatively certain that drugs are safe. Airplanes are fit to fly. Food is okay to eat. Bridges are built properly.
And government can keep schools from exploding.
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“He stood at the window of the empty cafe and watched the activities in the square and he said that it was good that God kept the truths of life from the young as they were starting out or else they’d have no heart to start at all.”
Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses