By Lynn Ashby 16 Jan. 2017
THE DEN – Hello, 911? Need to report a burglary. Boxes opened and left around, scattered papers and ribbons. No, it’s only the leftovers from Christmas. Yes, that celebration was weeks ago, and by nowmost families have long since cleaned up remnants of their on-line orgy, but it is taking me a little longer. Actually, each year seems to take longer than the year before. I blame the liberal media. You know the annual drill. Right after Labor Day merchants begin to deck the malls with boughs of holy – holy elves, holy tool kits, holy 50 percent off! Holiday catalogues – which began arriving in September – stack up in your front hall. Then you get on your computer and order all your gifts on-line.
Slowly, however, Christmas has been changing. Greetings, for example. Despite Bill O’Reilly’s forgettable “war on Christmas” crusade, which he seems to have abandoned, we no longer hear simply “Merry Christmas,” but also “Happy holidays,” “Season’s greetings” and “Hand over your purse.” (No matter whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or Solstice of the Druids, for simplicity sake we shall just use Christmas.) Another change: I am receiving fewer Christmas cards. Maybe it’s because I stopped sending them out when postage went up to a nickel. Those cards I do receive sport photographs of children or grandchildren, but not just standing in a snow drift. Cards now have to show the exotic places they have been in the last year while I sat on the couch watching re-runs of “My Mother the Car.” Or I get a letter saying how they spent the last year. If the message doesn’t contain some really juicy stuff (“After the SWAT raid, Junior had to junk his meth lab.”) I don’t care.
Have you noticed what you did not see prior to this Dec. 25th? Cars with Christmas trees tied to the top. Is the live-tree fad over after 200 years? People seem to be going to plastic trees or metal or maybe they just store a tree in the attic and bring it down each year. My own tree looks nice, once I put little balls, icicles and lights over the coat hangers. Do you still wrap your presents? That means getting out the rolls of paper, ribbons and bows, Scotch tape and scissors. Today I use paper bags with tissue paper stuffed in the top so others can’t see what’s inside. You can buy fancy Christmas bags which can cost more than the gift itself, or do as I do and grab a few extras at the grocery store checkout counter.
Each year music producers try to come out with a new and catchy Christmas song. But not since “Silent Night’ (1818) has any new carol really caught on. The best of late (1962) are the songs from “Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol,” with lyrics like “We’re rep-re-HEN-sible. We’ll steal your pen and PEN-sible.” For years I couldn’t fill stockings without the Pope on TV chanting in 34 different languages. Gifts have changed over the years. As a child, I would receive presents from my parents such as metal toys that would come apart so as to stick in my throat. Or wooden blocks covered in lead paint. Those killjoys at the EPA and CDC have taken all the excitement out of a trip to the emergency room, but if the new administration cuts back on senseless regulations, we may return to those glory days.
Santa still rules in the malls. One year my editor instructed me to play Santa at a department store for a few hours. That was one of the toughest jobs I ever had as a reporter, aside from acting as a food taster for Dick Cheney. I had to lift up most of the kids onto my lap, and hear their requests for guns and dogs and to get rid of their little sister. Those too big to sit on my lap just whispered into my ear requests that I couldn’t repeat to their parents. Speaking of presents, this past Christmas there probably wasn’t a tree in America that didn’t have some kind of electronic gadget under it. Prior to Christmas, parents would have to stock up on batteries of all sizes, shapes and wattage. Now everything seems to plug into a charger. Good.
Have you noticed that outdoor Christmas decorations have gone from a wreath on the front door to a simple string of lights to the Las Vegas Strip? I have houses in my neighborhood that suck up more electricity than a small city. They have strings of lights marking every peak and drainpipe, with eight tiny reindeer in the front yard, Santa on the rooftop and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing in the background. I wouldn’t mind it so much if the reindeer wouldn’t use my front yard for their Port-O-John. Where do they put all this paraphernalia during the off-season? This brings us to today, after the party is over. Where do you store your Christmas gear? By now your tree is so dry and brittle that the pine will burst like a napalm bomb over Khe San if it comes near a flame. Garbage collectors might take it. There was some movement to put all those trees out in the Gulf as a reef. That makes no sense. The unused wrappings and ribbons can be stuffed under a bed, and those bags I mentioned can be used again and again if you remember to rip off the “to” and “from” tags. As for your strings of lights, there is an elf that comes by your house during the summer and thoroughly knots up your strings. On the other hand, it’s only a few months till the next Christmas, and I could just leave the decorations in place. It was Joan Rivers who said, “I don’t know why people do house cleaning. Six months later you have to do it all over again.”
Ashby procrastinates at email@example.com
OUR WELL-RED LEADER
THE TUNNEL — It began a year or so ago when an obscure New York City developer named Donald Trump, who apparently hosted a TV show that appealed to those with double digit IQs, announced he was running for president. That made a good joke all around and everyone said he would lose. Trump predicted the reason for outcome: “This election is rigged!” He would make this accusation in every speech. He didn’t go into details. Then an odd thing happened in the campaign. Hacked emails from the Democratic campaign began appearing on WikiLeaks. Confidential memos about how to defeat the Bernie Sanders campaign, and Leon Panetta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, was caught calling Chelsea “a spoiled brat.” On and on the secret and damaging memos came to light. Oddly enough, nothing from the Republican campaigns. Not a word, not a secret plan, nary what Trump thought about his GOP opponents. Of course, he made it clear all along what he thought of them – “idiots,” “no energy,” “not presidential looking” and more.
I had to look into this. My first stop was at the Democratic National Committee Ode-kay Oom-ray. I knocked on the door. “What’s the secret password?” a voice from inside asked. “I don’t know,” I replied. The door opened. “That’s it. We can’t be too careful. Someone has been hacking our emails. That seems strange after we hired a security firm, KGB, Inc. They came highly recommended by Stasi & Sons,” This may be the problem, but I needed more information. Then, just a week or so before Election Day, FBI Director James Comey released a confidential memo only to members of Congress saying that the FBI was re-investigating Hillary’s emails. A few days after that, Comey sent Congress a second secret memo wondering how the first message got out to the public, and adding that the FBI really didn’t find anything new in the second batch of emails. But the damage was done – the American people discovered that Congress can’t keep a secret.
In my investigation, I went to the GOP headquarters. It wasn’t easy getting past the armed guards, land mines and searchlights. Did I mention the dogs? “What’s the password?” a voice behind the steel door asked. “Actually, we need to know how you feel about his Imperial Majesty’s life, campaign, appointees and other details. You have to know the real Donald J. Trump before you can come in. We understand there’s been some leaking of information going on in this election campaigns.” I had to think. “He promised to pay for his own campaign, and didn’t. He said we have the worst murder rate in 45 years, which is false. He said time and again that he would never settle the many suits against him and his Trump University, and settled for $25 million. He dodged the military draft because he said he had a bone spur on one foot, but can’t remember which foot or the name of the doctor who wrote Trump’s get out of the draft free letter. He said he’d release his federal income taxes after the election. He hasn’t and probably won’t. Am I getting warm? He said he’d drain the swamp of Washington insiders and bring in fresh faces. So far he’s appointed three retired generals, most of Goldman Sachs executives and thus far they have a combined wealth of fourteen billion – billion – dollars. And he keeps saying how he won ‘by a landslide.’ He did get more votes in the Electoral College, but he lost to Hillary Clinton by more than three point eight million votes, the most ever for a losing candidate. Landslide? He got stomped.”
There was a pause behind the door. “What’s your point?” I never got in, so I sought advice from my paranoid mentor, Deep Threat. “It’s easy to see what happened in the campaign. First, the Democrats couldn’t have picked a worst candidate, except there weren’t any others. Poor Bernie was just .too radical for most voters. Hillary had that nomination locked up since she lost to Obama. But she was carrying more baggage than a Wells Fargo stage. Oops, bad analogy. Millions s of American don’t just dislike the Clintons’ politics, they personally hate them. Why not? With their awful deeds, like running a tunnel from a New York City pizza parlor to run children into their sex ring. No wonder that patriot from North Carolina took a gun into the shop and fired off a round or two. You heard that Hillary had a sex-change operation, and eats live mice. It must be true, I got it from social media. I mean, Facebook never lies.”
I got up to leave. “This is ridiculous. Next you’ll be telling me that Hillary won the election.”
“That’s supposed to be top secret.”
My last stop was in a tunnel running from a New York pizza parlor to the DMC, where I met the Russian’ best agent, the Kremlin Gremlin. “I’m not here. I never told you anything and when you finish this conversation, burn the words. It is true that Putin and Trump exchange messages, emails and the occasional Valentine. And, yes, U.S. techies traced the rumors about Hillary’s health issues to Moscow. . But wen had nothing to do with leaking the emails from Hillary — numbers 23 through 34,998 — or those embarrassing the Democratic Party — series 1 through776 – and we didn’t plant a listening device under the Democrats’ meeting table, It’s a mere a coincidence that the bug’s letters were in Cyrillic. We I didn’t to rig the election.”
I noticed that, as he talked, his nose was growing longer. “The Russians simply took advantage of — how do Americans say? — gullibility and stupidity,” I then asked, “So Trump was the Manchurian candidate?” He laughed. “More like the Gregorian candidate.”
“But the presidential election was not rigged? I asked.
“Nyet, Trump was right. The election was rigged. He just didn’t say how.”
Ashby is rigged at firstname.lastname@example.org .
By Lynn Ashby 26 Dec. 2016
THE TV – “Down, set, Omaha eight. Black bear forty-seven. Tight right court jester!” And the play begins. Are you ready for some football? If not, switch to the Trump Channels, aka CNN and Fox News, because all that the networks will be showing are football games, mostly of the bowl variety. Which contests have you marked on your calendar? Maybe the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl or the Nova Home Loans Bowl.
As we can see, higher academics joined with TV networks and good ol’ American greed to make another buck by selling naming rights to post-season college football games. Thus the Cotton Bowl is now the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, the Sugar Bowl is the Allstate Sugar Bowl (played at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome),? How many wingbacks are there in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl? How long will you remember the Valero Alamo Bowl? Can you be in the Red Zone in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl? It’s only a matter of time until we have the Scrubbing Bubbles Toilet Bowl.
. Can you be in the Red Zone in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, The ancient Rose Bowl has maintained a fig leaf over its privates with the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual, Incidentally, we all know that the Rose Bowl is the first, and granddaddy, of all the post-season bowl games, but what’s the second oldest? El Paso’s Sun bowl, 1935. The Sugar and Orange Bowls claim they ae the second oldest, but their cases are weak.
A quick story about the Sun Bowl, as told by Burt Reynolds on the “Johnny Carson Show.” Reynolds was the third-string halfback on the Florida State team that was playing in the Sun Bowl. Knowing that he wouldn’t be playing in that game – he had sat out most of the season – he and some teammates went to Juarez the night before the game, where Reynolds got totally plastered. At game time he was sitting at the end of the bench, paying no attention to the game. The starter at his position got hurt, then his backup went down. From far away, he heard a voice yelling: “Reynolds, get your helmet and get on the field!” There was just one problem, as Reynolds told it: All game long he had been throwing up in his helmet.
Years ago there were only a few major bowl games pitting the winners of the various conferences. We had the Cotton Bowl in Dallas featuring the champions of the old Southwest Conference, the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, with the SEC champs, both on TV at the same time, then the Rose Bowl with the Pac 10 champ on Pacific Coast, time, and finally the Orange Bowl at night preceded by one of the strangest parades of the year. Over time, games have come and gone.
Stadiums have changed, too. Mostly the games go indoors for winter comfort. As a tad, my brother and I would sell programs at Cotton Bowl games on an icy Dallas New Year’s Day. It was so cold (how cold was it”) I actually had people approach me, not to buy a program, but to buy my woolen cap and scarf. Looking back, why was I selling those stupid programs when I could have made a tidy fortune setting up a booth selling jackets, scarves, woolen caps and gloves? The Cotton bowl is now played in the comfort of Cowboy Stadium, or AT&T MegaBox. The 1942 Rose Bowl was originally scheduled to be played in the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, Calif. But it was moved to Durham, North Carolina, due to fears about an attack by the Japanese on the West Coast following the attack on Pearl Harbor three weeks earlier.
Incidentally, during all college football games, including the bowls, the halftime is filled with commercials. OK, they pay the freight. But then they show four aging jocks sitting behind a desk telling us that Amherst is taking a licking from Williams (before 600 rabid spectators), and that Ramblin’ Rick Raspberry may break the passing record in the Upper Michigan & Lower Manitoba Conference. Couldn’t we see the bands, instead? Those students work very hard, practicing new formations and tunes weekly, and some shows are really impressive. Show the bands!
Major bowls don’t have any trouble filling the stadiums and getting top TV money, but others have had problems. Baylor once played in the late Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston, and, last I heard, never did get paid. To host a bowl game, usually the idea begins with a group of city leaders forming a committee, which rounds up a sponsor (the Belk Company) to underwrite some of the costs. The committee then taps volunteers to put up signs, host pre-game banquets and buy a bunch of tickets which they hand out to employees, big customers and anyone else who promises to show up in 30 degree weather to see East West Virginia State play Oregon A&M. For the schools, it’s a big deal to be “bowl eligible” and then selected. Indeed, have you ever heard of a school declining a bowl invitation? The school selected has to pay the coach and his assistants a bonus because they must work a few weeks after the regular season is over, while their colleagues coaching non-playing teams are sitting on the couch watching bowl games on TV or, more likely, sending out resumes because they got canned. Schools promise to send the team, band, cheerleaders and mascot, and buy a certain number of tickets.
When all the bowl games are over, the top two teams left standing play for the championship, but the contest doesn’t seem to have a commercial sponsor – yet. But stand by for lots of car ads. It’s being played in Toyota Stadium, Anyway, it’s time for me to settle down on my couch, which is now my legal voting address, and watch some team I never heard of play another team which remains anonymous. “Down, set, bird dog right, alto solo!”
Ashby watches at email@example.com
By Lynn Ashby 19 Dec. 2016
SHED A TEAR FOR THE YEAR
Looking back at the year of 2016 in your rearview mirror is probably the best way to view it, for it was the Leap Year that gave us more 19th Century pronouncements from Texas leadership, the Olympics but also more frustration for local sports fans and — ta-da! – President Donald J. Trump. Please hold your applause.
So let’s consider 2016, a year that will live in infamy.
Dancing With the Lone Stars: Former Gov. Rick Perry bombed on the show, almost as badly as that other Texas two-step, Tom DeLay. The Houston school board, although chronically short of funds, agreed to pay $1.2 million – as a start — to rename eight schools named after Confederate loyalists. In almost four years in office. Friendswood Congressman Randy Weber hasn’t introduced a single bill that became law. During the 2016 Moldovian presidential election, Weber introduced a resolution critical of pro-Western, anti-Russian candidate Andrian Candu. A former spokesman to four U.S. ambassadors said, “Randy Weber does not know what he is doing.”
In its wisdom, the Texas Legislature allowed students at public universities to pack heat in the classroom and elsewhere. Brining forth this quote from Lisa Moore, a UT-Austin English professor: “The Second Amendment allows for a well-regulated militia. What we have is not a well-regulated militia. It’s a 21-year-old with a backpack.” Elsewhere in higher education, it’s been a tough year for the UH Cougers. The Big XII will remain with 10 members and Coach Tom Harman was hired away by UT, making him the third head football coach at UH to jump to that conference.
Finally, the school wanted to renovate its basketball arena with $40 million gained by selling naming rights.There was a slight problem: The structure was called Hofheinz Pavilion because Judge Roy Hofheinz bad given the school a bunch of money. The family hired an attorney to preserve the honor for the late judge, but UH head regent Tilman Fertitta said he would donate several millions if the gym were named for him. It was. The judge gets a plaza named for him and a statue. But good news; The UH Law Center forced the former South Texas College of Law not to change its name to something like the Houston Law School. Finally at UH: We’re Number One! UH Chancellor Renu Khator, who is also president of the main campus, was the top-paid public university leader in the country in 2015, earning $1.3 million.
Friday Night Frights (Katy Bar the Vault Dept.): Three years ago, voters in the Katy Independent School District rejected a bond package that included a $69 million second football stadium. The following year, voters approved a revised bond that included a scaled-back $58 million stadium. This fall, the price rose about $4.5 million more. It now stands at $62,5 million. The additional cost makes it the most expensive high school stadium in Texas, topping Allen ISD’s $60 million stadium, which opened in 2012. Why the additional costs? For more roads. It seems Katy’s new stadium is conveniently located right next to the current stadium, so there may be some parking problems on fall Friday nights.
Hours after the slaughter of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Texas Lt. Gov. Day Patrick issued a Biblical twitter: “Do not be deceived. God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sews.” After a firestorm of complaints, the quote was taken down and Patrick’s office said it was “a coincidence.”
Mayor Sylvester “Pothole” Turner claims he solved the city’s pension problems, although experts say that isn’t the case at all. Besides, the plans will still have to be approved by our Texas Legislature, which is debating the dangers of the wheel. Moving on, what didn’t happen? No Gulf hurricanes. Wish You Were Still Here: Dr. Denton Cooley and sportscaster Bob Allen.
Sportsmanlike Conduct: J.J. Watt gave $10,000 to aid in the treatment of Grant Milton, senior linebacker for The Woodlands High School football team. Milton was critically injured during a playoff game. Quote of the Year: “Ain’t nobody got time for this.” – What Houston 911 operator Crenshanda Williams reportedly told thousands of panicked callers.
At last, The New York Times gave us some respect: “It’s easy enough to argue that Texas’ food scene hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves on the national stage, or at least that’s the way it used to be. Now, it appears as if Houston is rapidly becoming Texas’ – and perhaps the country’s – best dining destination.”
On April 2 the Houston Chronicle ran a long and flattering piece on Boss Ladies of Houston, including Pat Mickelis of the famed Cleburne Cafeteria. Unfortunately, Page 1 of that very edition reported the place had burned down. Also on media matters, Texas Monthly, owned for the last 18 years by a company in Indianapolis, has been bought by Genesis Park, a Houston company that includes a scion of the Hobby family.
The Houston Rockets lost to the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs, again.
Sen. Ted Cruz on Carly Fiorina: “Born in Texas, The very first thing I liked about her.”
Lisa Alamia went in for jaw surgery talking like the native Texan she is, but came out with a British accent. Doctors finally diagnosed her with one of medicine’s rarest maladies, foreign accent syndrome, a condition that inexplicably causes patients to suddenly begin speaking with a new, distinct accent.
A federal judge sentenced the former scouting director of the St. Louis Cardinals to nearly four years in prison for hacking the Houston Astros’ player personnel database and email system, Christopher Correa was fired and faced 46 months behind bars and a court order to pay $279,038 in restitution. Meanwhile, the Astros finished with an 84-78 record, worse than the previous season, 11 games out of first place in their division. Giving us this humbling headline from The New York Times: “Who Would Want to Hack the Houston Astros?”
Ashby is hacked at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Lynn Ashby 12 Dec. 2016
ALL JOKING ASIDE
THE LAFF GASP — Thank ya, thank ya, ladies and gentlemen. What a great crowd, not like last night’s bunch. They would have brought matches to a Joan of Arc concert. Got a lot of husbands here tonight? My wife keeps complaining that I never listen to her, or something like that. I know one husband who kicks open a bottle, and a genie comes out, and says, “Master, I will give you any favor you wish. But whatever I give you, your wife will get more.” The husband says he wants a Cadillac. His wife gets a Rolls Royce. The husband says he wants one million dollars. His wife gets two million. Finally the husband says, “I’d like a mild heart attack.”
Any lawyers here? I have a crack lawyer, Vincent Elkins, and one day I had this personal legal problem – the DNA test results came back – so i asked him, “Vincent, what would you charge to answer three legal questions?” He said, “That would be $500.” I said, “$500? Isn’t that a lot of money?” And he said, “No, now what’s your third question?” This reminds of the fact that 99 percent of lawyers give all the rest a bad name.
You know that there is a big flap up in North Dakota where an oil company wants to build a pipeline through an Indian reservation. TV reporters were there, government officials and, of course, lawyers. One day a brave ran to the chief’s lodge and said, “Chief, I’ve got some good new and some bad news.” The chief said, “Give me the bad news first.” The brave said, “There are 4,000 lawyers running all over the reservation.” The chief said, “That is bad news. So what’s the good news?” and the brave said, “They taste like buffalo.”
We just had an election and chose the evil of the two lessers. Taxation WITH representation isn’t so hot, either. On one hand we had Hillary Clinton, who is a bit on the dull side. When reporters asked to see her health report it turned out to be an autopsy. What do you get when you cross a crooked politician with a crooked lawyer? Chelsea. Bill Clinton is from Arkansas, where people show up at a family reunion looking for a date. At the University of Arkansas they had to cancel parents’ day due to an 80 percent chance of error. At the Governor’s mansion, in Little Rock, they put in wall to wall carpet in the bathroom. They liked it so much they ran the carpet all the way up to the house.
Thank ya, thank ya. Great crowd. Now, when George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump all died, they went to heaven to meet St. Peter. Bush was first, and he was told by St Peter, “This woman will be your companion for the rest of eternity.” And they brought out the ugliest woman you’ve ever seen in your life. Bush said, “Wait! I thought heaven was supposed to be a place of eternal joy.” St. Peter listened, then checked his ledger, and said, “Don’t complain, George. You barely got into heaven.” Next it was Bill Clinton’s time. St. Peter told him the same thing and brought out the twin sister of Bush’s companion. Clinton said, “This is ridiculous.” St. Peter replied: “Don’t gripe, Bill. With your record, you barely got into heaven.” Suddenly Trump came by with Taylor Swift. Bush and Clinton yelled, “How can you do this to us?” St. Peter replied, “Remember that Taylor Swift barely got into heaven.”
Incidentally, one day Jesus came back and went to Moscow, where he came upon Vladimir Putin who asked Jesus, “When will Russia be prosperous?” Jesus said, “In 400 years.” Putin started crying, and Jesus asked, “Why are you crying? I thought this would be good news.” Putin said, “I won’t live long enough to see it.” So Jesus went to London, and met with Queen Elizabeth. And she asked, ‘’Jesus, tell me, when will the royal family get out of its royal scandals?” And Jesus said, “In about a century.” The queen started crying, and Jesus asked, “Why are you crying?” The queen said, “I won’t live long enough to see it.” So Jesus came to Houston, and ran into Mayor Sylvester Turner, who asked, “Jesus, when will the Houston Texans win the Super Bowl?” And Jesus started crying. Thank ya, thank ya. And how about these kids today?
Ashby laffs at email@example.com
By Lynn Ashby 5 Dec. 2016
THE PC — Did you know that the Pope indorsed Donald Trump for the U.S. presidency? It must true. I read it on my social media. So did one hundred million others. Some observers say it changed the outcome of the election. And did you hear about all those paid protesters bused into Austin to break up a Trump rally? The story went (excuse the cliché) viral. Then there was the story about the ACLU suing to prevent Marines from praying.
What we have here is the newest wrinkle in social media: fake news. It’s driving legitimate news organizations nuts, not to mention the targets of such drivel. Fake news has always been around. The birthers got into it big time. I had an acquaintance from high school who would weekly send me emails showing Barack Obama was actually born in Kenya. Once he even sent me a “birth certificate” from the Royal Medical Hospital of Nairobi proving that Obama was born there. The certificate made the rounds like wildfire until it was discovered that the Royal Medical Hospital of Nairobi hadn’t opened until years later and the doctor’s signature was from someone who had died long ago. Incidentally, Donald Trump was a major force behind the birther movement, but today he just shrugs it off – like so many things, tax returns, foundation funds going to pay off lawsuits and, well, I’ve run out of space.
Fake news took on Mach speed during the last presidential election due to social media, and the lies received top priority with the truth never catching up. Mark Twain supposedly said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on.” He was right. At this point we must ask ourselves: who has this much extra time to write all this stuff? Don’t they have anything better to do, like Adopt a Highway? Experts say some do it just to have fun and make fools of other self-important dummies. Others do it for political reasons – backing their candidate by smearing the opponent, like the Trump and Hillary rumormongers. Some do it for money, thinking they can sell ads beside their story on Martians eating Hollywood. Two teenagers in Croatia, of all places, thought they could strike it rich by selling ads to go along with their false stories. Like any good intelligence agency, they begin with something believable, possible or true. “This coded message from Agent X says the Third Division will move at dawn. We already know this from Agents Y and Z. Agent X reports the commander is General J, good work, we thought so. Finally, he writes they will attack at Sector H. Move troops to Sector H.” And the attack hits 20 miles away at Sector F.
We now go to the next point: Who believes these fake news reports, even enough to send them on to others? A lot of otherwise very smart people. The reports are inevitably either anti-Hillary or pro-Tromp (the papal endorsement). One young man in Vancouver started sending out messages praising Hillary and beating up on Trump, and got nowhere. So he did a 180 and sent out fake pro-Trump and vicious anti-Hillary bulletins. His business leaped forward.
So we know something about the writers, but why do so many otherwise intelligent folks bite the bait? Because they want to hear all the news — that fits their preconceived notions. People believe what they want to believe. Works every time. You heard about paid protestors bused into Austin to break up a Trump rally? Trump did and used the report in speeches. But what happened, as discovered by The New York Times, is that Eric Tucker, co-founder of a marketing company, took photos of a large group of buses he saw near downtown Austin because he thought it was unusual. Then he saw reports of protests against Trump in the city and decided the two were connected. He posted three of the images with the declaration: “Anti-Trump protestors in Austin today are not as organic as they seem. Here are the busses they came in.” The busses were, in fact, hired by a company called Tableau Software, which was holding a conference that drew more than 13,000 people. Tucker’s post was shared at least 16,000 times on Twitter and more than 350,000 times on Facebook. And it was totally false. Gotcha!
Now we have this revelation: Remember all of those stories about Hillary’s health problems? Karl Rove reported that Hillary had hit her head and was out of commission for three months. That was easily checked out. A lie based on a fact. It was three days. Then there were the “rigged elections” stories. Others grabbed on to these fabrications, which Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Fox News repeated. The Washington Post interviewed government sources and found that the whole health situation came from – one guess – the Russians. They have 200 phony websites viewed by at least 15 million Americans. Add Facebook and the total reached 213 million of us – not me, you. The Russians had planted the stories, bit by bit, and gullible Americans bit.
An easy way to check out these items is to run them by Snopes. It’s an on-line operation that backtracks real and fake news items and seems to get the same inquiries all the time as the phony bulletins make their way around the globe. Oh, about the Marines being sued by the ACLU to prevent prayers, even accompanied by a photo of a company of Leathernecks looking down as in prayer. The ACLU said they never filed any kind of suit and had no official spokesman by the name given. The Marines said they never received any such suit, and had no spokesperson by the name given, either. I suspect the Marines in the photo looking down were searching for the Drill Instructor’s contact lens.
This just in: Donald Trump has endorsed the Pope.
Ashby fakes it at firstname.lastname@example.org
THE MEETING HALL – As usual, our chairman, Bottom Line, called the group to order as quick as a New York minute. “Fellow members, welcome to another meeting of Club Cliché, where the thread-bare gather to trot out all those shop-worn shibboleths, overused words and terms that were once fresh and cute but today are over-the-hill, dead as a doornail and their shelf life has expired. I see some old friends out there like Occupy Wall Street and your cousin, Wall Street to Main Street. Hi, to you, Man Up and Shovel Ready. Same for Sit Around Singing Kumbaya. I guess you are still is use, like Gravitas, Low Hanging Fruit and On the Wrong Side of History. I see Spot On and Shelf Life are still around. To all of you, I have a real surprise this time, which I shall save for later.”
Boots on the Ground spoke up. “Some of my war-time buddies are here which I’d like to introduce. There is R&R and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder better known as PTSD, which took over from Battle Fatigue and Shell Shocked. We have WMDs, which don’t exist, also Radicalized and Embolden Our Enemies.” Bottom Line nodded in approval. “I think they have more than earned their membership. Yes, you there. You have a question?”
Millennial asked: “What’s a shibboleth?”
Bottom Line answered: “You are. The word has gone through many changes over the years, but today it means jargon, inside baseball or well-worn passwords. Millennial I think qualifies. Moving on, Give a Shout Out wants to gives a shout out. To whom?
Shout Out stood up and shouted out: “WHERE’S YOU GO, GIRL?”
“Alas, You Go Girl is no longer with us, which brings us to that sad part of the meeting:
Those who have been dropped from our membership due to lack of overuse. Sorry, Boooring, you were so overused, but not anymore. Same for Wazzup? During the ebola scare, every TV news story had to get in Protocol, but ebola is not hot anymore and neither is Protocol.
“It’s not fair to kick out terms that have been beaten to death on TV,” said Breaking News. “That’s especially true for our sportscasters. Take, for example, pro hoops, the ‘Boys and ‘Stros. Not to mention the Pinstripes, frozen rope, walk-off and pick six. Don’t forget FloMoJo and basketball shots from Downtown. Our jock-talkers wouldn’t have a show without boring and repetitious clichés. We can’t even call the Super Bowl that anymore. The NFL copyrighted the name and sues anyone who uses it. Now it’s The Big Game.”
Bad Boy, Selfie and You Need a Bigger Boat applauded.
“I’ve been wondering,” asked Metrics, “what, exactly does cliché mean?”
Bottom Line explained: “It’s from the French ‘clic-chez,’ pronounced klee-SHAY, meaning ‘expressions used by the rhetorically challenged.’ Now I see Dumb Down wishes to speak.”
Dumb Down stood up. “No one uses clichés more than our politicians. I’m going to miss John Boehner, he used them constantly, like Whack-a-Mole, Adult Conversation and Nuclear Option. But we still have Gridlock and Skin in the Game. Politicians used to receive opposition, but now it’s Pushback.” Bricks & Mortar raised its hand. “I still miss Come Out of the Shadows and Corporations Are People, Too.”
Get a Life and its cousin, Get a Room, waved for attention. “That brings us to our current political deadly tattered phrases, like Make America Great Again, Nasty Women, Income Gap and Fly-Over America, which make us grit our teeth every time we hear them.” Bottom Line took over again. “This campaign has also given new life to the hated press. Drive-by Media is back. So is Liberal Press and Newt Gingrich’s favorite term, the Elite Media, which he manages to work into every sentence. Then we have the Lame Stream Media. It always gets a laugh. As for the surprise I mentioned, a big cliché welcome to Post-truth, which has been named Oxford Dictionaries’ 2016 international word of the year, wining out over a field that included Adulting, Alt-right and Brixiteer. It also beat out Coulrophobia which is an extreme or irrational fear of clowns. That term surged after that rash of reports of scary clowns.”
Multitask had a question. “Wonder whatever happened to that scary clown fad? I guess they all piled into a VW Beatle and drove off.”
Bottom Line continued. “The use of Post-truth is defined as – hang on — ‘relating to things in which objective facts mean less than appeals to emotion and personal belief.’ In other words, don’t let the truth or the facts get in the way of what you want to believe. Oxford found a 2,000 percent growth of Post-truth over last year, and – to no one’s surprise — much of this usage can be traced directly to Donald Trump supporters. They simply ignore his statements, such as he knows more about ISIS than the generals, or that unemployment is up – it’s down considerably from when Obama took office – or that he can’t release his taxes until his audit is complete – the IRS said he could release them anytime. He also said, ‘I will never settle the Trump University suit out of court.’ He did, and paid $25 million. There are more of Trump’s Post-truths, but you get the idea.”
“What’s the difference between a Post-truth and Truthiness?” asked Mojo.
“A good question,” said our leader. “Truthiness was coined by Stephen Colbert 10 years ago, and was so popular that Merriam-Webster and the American Dialect Society each chose Truthiness as its word of the year. Truthiness is a humorous way of discussing a truth or fact that is not exactly a lie, just borderline or slightly slanted. But Post-truth goes a step further, and turns outright lies into believable thoughts. Hey, some 61 million voters suspended their brains and bought Trump’s Post-truths.”
“What’s the takeaway from this?” asked Takeaway.
“The same as always,” said Bottom Line. “Avoid clichés like the plague.”
Ashby is a cliche at email@example.com
Did you win or lose in the recent democracy inaction? Probably both. Texas scored big, at least some did, a few bombed. The Democratic Party showed once again its ineptitude, and the much-vaunted Latino vote never manifested. Texas’s winners were the early Trump supporters including Gov. Greg Abbott, Lite Gov. Dan Patrick and Atty. General Ken Paxton. How so? President-elect Donald Trump will nominate a like-minded justice to keep the U.S. Supreme Court arch-conservative. It will overturn all those bothersome interferences from Washington dealing with Texas’ laws on abortion, voter ID, pollution, gerrymandering and the Emancipation Proclamation. Texas taxpayers will benefit by not having to continue paying multi-million dollar legal bills the state has been racking up defending our right to discriminate against those lesser mortals.
Our state legislature remains firmly in the hands of hard-line (some would say cro-Magnon) lawmakers who maintain their power to draw up new legislative and Congressional lines after the next U.S. Census when Texas will get two or more U.S. representatives. One guess as to which party will get them. Another big Texas loser is Sen. Ted Cruz, although he was mentioned as attorney general. He now will have to dismantle all those “Cruz in ‘20” banners. So will Sen. Marco Rubio who vowed not to run for the Senate again then did, and won. Let’s see, there was that other Bush, Jeb! and Rick Santorum plus a herd of hopefuls. Now their chances are gone. Winners are those who land federal positions, starting with his cabinet. Newt Gingrich was being touted as Secretary of State. Within a week we shall be at war with Finland. Jesse Sessions our next Attorney General? Hey, Hillary, you’ll look great in an orange pants suit. Among the other losers are the thousands of Obama appointees who are working on their resumes – judges, department heads, Smokey the Bear. The U.S. is the only country that replaces its ambassadors with every change in administration. Why do we do that? Campaign contributors. FBI Director James Comey was a loser no matter who won. He had the uncanny ability to chap both candidates and both sides. He’s three years into a 10-year term and can’t be fired, but Trump can confiscate Comey’s truncheon.
This brings us to the Clintons. The Oval Office’s glass ceiling remains shatter-proof. Gone are the glory days of raking in millions on the speaking tours, and the Clinton Foundation has a cracked slab. Then there is her autobiography, which is probably on hold until a publisher can be found; maybe she’ll distribute it by email. Actually, Hillary’s last book didn’t do too well, but they still have their fortune, plus all they’ll make on the Clinton Presidential Library with its admission fees, T-shirts (“It takes more than a village to support us”) and the Monica Lewinski Weight Watchers Diet Manual. Russian President Vladimir Putin won’t say he’s a winner, but has booked the Lincoln Bedroom for inauguration day. Incidentally, Trump’s speech writers have changed the presidential oath to “so help me– me.” The media are big-time losers. Trump, who calls the press “scum,” has said he wants looser libel laws so that he can sue any publication that says catty things about him. Expect the First Amendment to be put on an ice floe and pushed into an ocean that used to be the Arctic. (Global warming is a myth.) The winner is Fox News, which even now is planning a sit-com, “Good Fences.”
Big winners are late night TV comedians. No Drama Obama was eight long years of drought for comic writers. Hillary is dull, so punch lines would have been scarce. But Trump? “He learned about foreign affairs by having several of them, plus what he picked up at the International House of Pancakes. Trump thinks Siani is the plural of sinus. The West Wing will now be known as the Right Wing. But seriously, folks….” Military contractors are lining up K Street lobbyists to get some of those billions that Trump promised to spend on defense. He will pay for it by cutting out all federal funds for Planned Parenthood and public broadcasting. How many times did The Donald say, to cheering crowds, that he will build a wall along our southern border, and Mexico will pay for it? Who wants to bet it will actually be done, and if it isn’t, it’s not his fault?
Pre-voting news stories noted the heavy turnout at the polls. More early voting, long lines, etc. In fact, fewer voters cast their ballots this time than last. So much for the heavy voting hoopla. Ditto for the “sleeping giant” that was supposed to be the Latino vote. Jorge Ramos, who got in a shouting match on TV at a Trump news conference, kept boasting about how the Latino vote would decide the outcome. No way, Jorge. They voted heavily for Hillary. She lost.
Certainly big losers were the pollsters. I can’t find anyone who predicted that Trump would win so easily. The explanation is simple: voters were asked who they would vote for. Most people answered, Clinton, and they did. Hillary beat Trump in the popular votes by 1 to 2 million. But, like Al Gore, she was defeated by the Electoral College, aka, Trump University: 306 for Trump, 232 for Hillary. How can pollsters ask: Which way are your state’s Electoral College votes going to be cast? Until they figure that out, these polls are useless. The millions of Americans who voted for Trump said they want lower taxes, smaller government and fewer regulations; they are sick of being ignored by Washington, and what have you done for me lately? These are the same people who want Medicare, Social Security checks, a cop on every street corner (to regulate?) and subsidies for their biofuels. Oh, and free college education. Which is it? Some might call that blatant hypocrisy, others call it a winning formula.
Ashby wins at firstname.lastname@example.org
THE OFFICE – I am looking at my choice, but first let’s talk about yours. You wake up in the middle of the night to discover that your house (or apartment, tent, hovel) is on fire. You move your family, pets and pot plants safely to the front yard, where all your neighbors can see what you look like in jockey shorts and a bathrobe. You hear the sirens, help is on the way, but there is still time to run in the house and retrieve a single item. What would it be? Your grandfather’s portrait, the stamp collection, the Glock Long Slide requested by your student kid who is mad at her chemistry prof?
It’s all a matter of what you value in descending order, a matter of priorities. Right now our priorities are being skewered. We start with the state (lower case) of Texas. My first priority would be to create a monarchy with me as king, complete with a throne. This is not a power grab but a return to normalcy. Do you really think Gov. Greg Abbott and Lite Gov. Dan Patrick feel as we do about what’s important to us? How about education? Texas is now ranked 43rd in the nation, falling from 39th last year, in the annual “Quality Counts” report from a national education publication, Education Week. Another new national study says Texas has the lowest education standards in the nation — giving the state a D+. Maybe this explains former Texas Gov. George W. Bush’s famous observation: “Rarely is the question been asked: Is our children learning?” Yet our state leaders spend more time dealing with school restrooms than with school academics.
Texas’ leaders demand that Washington stay out of our business, especially when it comes to voter ID (the most restrictive in the nation), pollution and abortions (the most restrictive in the nation). At the same time Patrick sees no hypocrisy in meddling in others’ business. He told the Fort Worth ISD to fire its superintendent for obeying a federal decree on transgender bathrooms. He stepped into Houston’s referendum on an equal rights referendum. He’s always writing hot letters, given speeches and putting his nose in local affairs while he is the Number 2 official in a state that ranks 34th among the 50 in health care, 21st in public school systems, we are 36th in “Best States” and 30th in “Bike Friendly States.”
The Houston School Board presides over a district that includes Kashmere High. The Texas Education Commission has had to take control of Kashmere after it failed to meet the state’s academic standards for seven straight years. The HISD board is constantly claiming it needs more funds. But the board says it is spending $1.2 million (we may never know the final amount) to change the names of eight schools named for Confederate leaders, or even privates. The changes include (after 90 years!) that of Sidney Lanier, a poet, author, composer and, oddly enough, a school teacher. Fourteen schools, a college, other structures and two lakes are named for him. Lanier’s crime is that, as a young man during the Civil War, he served aboard a British blockade runner and was captured by a Union warship, thrown in prison where he contacted tuberculosis, and never recovered.
There goes “Tom Sawyer,” because Mark Twain served in the Marion Rangers, Confederate Army, for two weeks. We have an entire Texas university named after Confederate Gen. Sul Ross. UT-Austin was all upset because some Rebs’ statues are on campus. George Littlefield, the largest single donor to UT, (Littlefield this and Littlefield that) was an officer in the CSA. How much time and energy have been spent on allowing guns in university classrooms, dorms and frat beer parties? Triggeronometry 101. But does anyone care that U.S. News just ranked Longhorn U. as Number 56 (down from 52) among the best 240 U.S. colleges?
As attorney general, Gov. Abbott and his successor, Ken Paxton (himself facing both civil and criminal charges), continue to fight abortion rights and spend millions of our tax dollars in doing so. These publicity stunts generated this article in a recent New York Times: “Something terrible has happened to pregnant women in Texas: their mortality rate has doubled in recent years, and is now comparable to rates in places like Russia or Ukraine. Although researchers into this disaster are careful to say that it can’t be attributed to any one cause, the death surge does coincide with the state’s defunding of Planned Parenthood, which led to the closing of many clinics.”
Then there are redistricting and voter fraud. Abbott and now Paxton have been spending millions in an unsuccessful attempt to uphold our voter ID laws. Why? Says Abbott: “The fact is voter fraud is rampant.” Not quite. In 10 years’ worth of elections in Texas at all levels from school board to governor there have been fewer than two fraud convictions a year. We execute more than that. Couldn’t our money be better spent on, for instance, Texas women’s health? There’s more: From 2000 to 2014, per the Texas Secretary of State’s online record, about 72 million ballots were cast in Texas, and that’s not even counting municipal and other local-only elections. An analysis made by a Rutgers University political science professor, Lorraine Minnite, found during that time, there were three – yes, THREE! — credible allegations of fraud in Texas elections.
Actually, our problem may not be too many but too few voters. In the last midterm elections, voter turnout in Texas was just 28.5 percent of those eligible to vote, the lowest percentage in the country. In last spring’s party primaries, Texas had the second lowest voting-age participation rate, behind Louisiana. It would seem we only want to keep out certain voters, if you get my drift.
Now help me get my Number 1 priority out of my house before it burns. Thrones are heavy.
Ashby’s priorities are email@example.com
By Lynn Ashby 7 Nov. 2016
THE VOTING BOOTH — The fat lady has sung. OK, she’s not really fat, but Donald Trump gave Hillary a minus 10. Yes, the 2016 presidential campaign season is over. Finally. We’re all glad that bruising gutter fight is completed, we were so sick of… oh, stop the hypocrisy. We loved every minute of it, watching two con artists slug it out. Eighty-four million people viewed that first debate in one of the most vicious presidential campaigns since James Monroe vs. Rufus King in 1816. Interest was so fervent that I have stood in line for 20 minutes in early voting. I used to just walk in, write in my vote (me) and leave.
But what did we learn from this long, mean-spirited campaign, and where do we go from here? Well, we learned that Hillary and Bill Clinton have both a foundation and side jobs as speaker that bring in millions, and sometimes they mix the two. Chelsea is a “spoiled brat” and Hillary, under oath, sometimes can’t remember her name. We learned that nobody ever voted for Ted Cruz, at least I can’t find anyone who did, not for senator, not for president. Yet we also know we shall get another chance, maybe several. Cruz has already begun his 2020 campaign for the White House, so the closest he has come to appearing in the Capitol is that his face is on milk cartons in the Senate dining room. After being called every dirty name in the book by Trump, and vice versa, Cruz announced that he wouldn’t vote for Trump, then announced he would. That’s what we like in our leadership, non-leadership. Texas’ other U.S. senator, John Cornyn, is busy climbing up the GOP ladder, so Texas is virtually unrepresented in the U.S. Senate. That’s why none of those old NASA spaceships wound up in Space City. Houston got a fiberglass mockup.
We learned that Trump is an egomaniac, a narcissist who tends to stretch the truth. We also know that he has millions of supporters who would vote for him even if, in The Donald’s words, he shot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue. We have learned more about his business practices than we really want to know. One fact we shall probably never learn is what the Trumpster paid in federal income taxes, although every presidential candidate since James Monroe and Rufus King, including Hillary Clinton, released theirs. This doesn’t seem to bother a lot of his supporters, who are upset that Hillary’s tax forms show she made millions capitalizing on her fame and potential power. To no one’s surprise, we learned again “Fox News” is an oxymoron, and that it will ignore Trump’s insults and snarling put-downs of Fox and its anchors to shamelessly suck up to him. Wonder what changes will be made at Fox after the elections, if Megyn Kelly and Bill O’Reilly jump ship, and Sean Hannity becomes a game show host on “You Bet Your Soul.” As for the rest of the media, they can’t be trusted to tell us the correct time.
We learned that both parties’ establishments vastly underestimated the fear millions of Americans have about the huge flow of immigrants pouring in. Washington just didn’t get it. This fear breaks down into two parts: the flow of undocumented Hispanics coming across the Rio taking Americans’ jobs, and Syrians hiding bombs under their thobes. Trump spotted that fear and exploited it. Worked like a charm. Another facet of his campaign was trade deals which, he said, were so one-sided that, again, they took away U.S. jobs. Most voters haven’t a clue what’s in those trade agreements, who they help and who they hurt, but we learned that this fear is real and can also be easily exploited. We found out that the Banana Republic is not only a chain of clothing stores, but a new political strategy: If you win a presidential election, you can throw your losing opponent in jail. Trump and his campaign were so odious that even the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson couldn’t stomach him or it, and gave their money to other Republican candidates. However, the only newspaper of any size to endorse Trump was the Las Vegas Review-Journal which is, coincidentally, owned by Sheldon Adelson.
Whatever happened to the tea party? It was a noisy minority in previous elections (see: Cruz, Ted, above) with their Uncle Sam and Revolutionary War-era costumes, but we didn’t hear much about them this time around. I guess they became Trump supporters and were drowned out by The Donald’s fans. We were told time and again that “this is the most important election in American history!” We shall hear that again in 2020 and every presidential election forever, which brings us to: Where do we go from here? Based on what we have learned in this election cycle, we can safely assume that both parties will avoid using emails. (As an aside, and maybe as a result, one of Germany’s intelligence agencies is using a state-of-the-art technical marvel for its sensitive communications: typewriters, ink ribbons and paper. Honest.) Julian Assange will be made the official Republican Party’s mascot, if he can get out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, building on his Children’s Crusade in 2016, will run again. So will Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush (this time with energy), Mike Pence, all the usual suspects and possibly Donald Trump. Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry will toss their frayed hats in the ring. Russian hackers will be busy. Rigged election results will be a hot topic again, particularly among the losers. After the election, pundits will explain to us how the winners won – something they neatly avoided saying prior to the election. And you and I can hardly wait till it all begins again. Hey, it’s my turn to vote. Wonder if I can write in Rufus King?
Ashby votes at Ashby2@comcast.net
We are constantly being told to vote in this Presidential election. Do we have to? We already know the outcome because the vote is rigged. Donald Trump said so. But there are several interesting down-ballot elections that might change the future — just ask Henry Shoemaker — which means taking a fresh look at an old story, because it affects the way we live in Texas today, pilgrim.
Shoemaker was a simple farmhand from Smithfield Township, DeKalb County, Indiana. On the first Monday of August, 1842, elections were held for local offices. In addition, reapportionment had given DeKalb and an adjoining county, Steuben, a single representative to the Indiana House. The two candidates were Enos Beall, a Whig, and Madison Marsh, a Democrat. On Election Day Shoemaker remembered that he had met Marsh during the campaign and had promised to vote for him, so Shoemaker saddled up a horse and rode 12 miles into Kendallville, arriving at the polling place late in the afternoon.
“When he applied to vote,” the Indiana Committee on Elections later reported, “the inspector handed him a sheet of tickets, but as all of them contained the names of Enos Beall for Representative, he enquired (sic) for ‘another kind,’ and the inspector handed him a sheet of tickets with the name of Madison Marsh for Representative, that he then enquired of the same inspector if he ‘had scissors or a knife to cut them with,’ and the latter handed him a penknife.” Not wishing to vote the straight ticket of either party, Shoemaker proceeded, quite literally, to split his ballots. As the voting officials looked on, Shoemaker cut out the name of Marsh from one ballot along with the others he wanted, then cut other names from the second sheet.
He handed the clippings to the inspector — four separate pieces of paper, three small sheets inside a larger one. The inspector accepted the papers without a word, and put them in the ballot box. Shoemaker hung around the voting site for an hour or more, but no one said anything about his unusual ballot. Later, however, when the tabulation began, the voting officials threw out Shoemaker’s ballot. On the next Sunday the sheriffs of the two counties met at the Steuben County courthouse to compare the certificates for the election for state representative. The final results were 360 votes for Marsh and 360 votes for Beall. The sheriffs “by casting lots” chose Beall as the winner. Marsh immediately appealed to the Committee on Elections, which held extensive hearings on the matter. (It is from the Indiana Commission on Public Records and the Library of Congress that I dug out this story.)
The committee found that in Smithfield township only 16 votes were cast for representative, all of them for either Marsh or Beall; that there was only one person named Henry Shoemaker in the township, he was a qualified voter; and he had voted “openly with no appearance of concealment or subterfuge” and had not tried to vote more than once, that the inspector had accepted Shoemaker’s ballot had put it in the box himself; and “we have the uncontradicted oath of Henry Shoemaker, that he did intend to vote for Madison Marsh for the office of Representative.” Also, the committee noted that it was the inspector’s own knife which was used in the surgery.
“In summing up the whole matter, your committee find (sic) that Madison Marsh has received a majority of the legal votes, if they had all been counted, and the voice of the ballot box had been properly regarded, and that he is therefore entitled to the contested seat.” The Indiana House agreed, and Marsh — a Democrat — took his seat in the Legislature by a single vote.
Prior to the 17th Amendment, U.S. senators were chosen by state legislatures. In 1842, the main candidates for the U.S. Senate from Indiana were Oliver H. Smith, the Whig senator who was up for re-election, and the Democratic candidate, Gen. Tilghman A. Howard. Another candidate, Edward A. Hannegan, was a dark horse. The Indiana Senate joined the House and on the first ballot, to everyone’s surprise, neither candidate got a majority. On the sixth ballot Smith got 69 votes. Howard got one vote and Hannegan, the dark horse, got the magic 76, making him the new senator from Indiana. Hannegan’s winning vote was supplied by Madison “Landslide” Marsh.
Four years later, in 1846, the U.S. Senate was bitterly divided over whether to declare war on Mexico. A caucus of the Democratic senators, which comprised the majority, was called to determine which way they would vote, but the vote in the caucus was a tie. Then it was determined that one senator was not present: Edward Hannegan of Indiana. He was sent for and promptly voted “Aye” for war. It broke the tie, fixed the Democrats’ decision, and war was declared – by one vote.
That is how Shoemaker is best remembered in Indiana, yet there is one more point to be made. The war in Mexico was touched off by the U.S. annexation of Texas one year earlier. John Tyler was president, having taken office upon the death of William Henry Harrison. That left the vice presidency empty. The move to annex Texas had failed as a treaty, which needed a two-thirds vote in the Senate, so Tyler tried again — this time as a simple resolution, which needed only a majority, not two-thirds. It passed, 27 to 25. If any senator supporting annexation had changed his mind, there would have been a 26-26 tie. There being no vice president to break the deadlock, annexation would have failed and Texas would have remained an independent republic. For the record, Sen. Hannegan voted for it. Thus we see how that one vote put Texas in the Union and put us under Washington, which is why to this day, Texans shout as one: “Curse you, Henry Shoemaker!”
Ashby votes at firstname.lastname@example.org
THE RESTAURANT – Food was good, service, too. Price was right. Quiet, no kids running berserk. What a rotten meal. Why? Because I was freezing the entire time. I had asked the waiter to turn up the temp. He nodded and did nothing. Then I asked the manager if the fan above me could be turned off. No, the fans are controlled by NASA computers at the Johnson Space Center. Maybe a good, hot potato soup served in a cauldron large enough for both feet. Restaurants in Houston must have a Celebrity Chefs Contest to see which restaurant dining room can be the coldest. There is no other explanation for my potato soup becoming vichyssoise. I didn’t order ice tea, it just froze before my eyes. (Incidentally, in Texas it’s called and spelled ice tea, not iced tea, and I don’t care what you called it back in Ohio.)
Eateries across Texas could save a bundle on their electric bill if they just set the thermostat a few degrees higher, but they won’t. And it’s this way year ‘round. Indeed, the coldest times in a Houston restaurant are June through August. Of course, our diners are not the only culprits. Ever go to a movie theater in July? Bring along a sweater, gloves and maybe a ski mask. Check into a hotel room during a Texas summer and note the bar’s ice bucket doesn’t need any ice. My neighborhood grocery store varies in temperatures from zero to 30, but the wind chill factor in the bread and buns aisle makes it worse. Warning: don’t lick the cover of the fish case. Actually, I refer to the entire store as the frozen food section. Customers must have complained at one of those boutique (read: overpriced) grocery stores because there is a big sign hanging from the ceiling explaining the snowdrifts and ski lifts are necessary to keep the produce fresh. OK, keep the kale crisp, and there is even an explanation that restaurants could double as a set for “Ice Station Zebra.” The thermostat on the wall is controlled by the bus boys and waiters who are either running around bringing out food or taking away the dirty dishes, or is controlled by the cooks back in the kitchen slaving over a hot stove. They are perspiring, as would we all, but we are paying them, not the other way around. Just don’t drip sweat into my jelled consomme.
Many northern cities have giant underground tunnel systems in their downtown for the convenience of shoppers and office workers to stay out of the cold, ice and slush. Houston has a cobweb of tunnels downtown, but it’s so that pedestrians don’t have to go out in heat and humidity. For some office workers, getting out into the August heat feels great, because, just like restaurants, the offices are kept so cold that employees are numb. Look at any secretary’s post after work and you will probably spot two items: a small heater under the desk and a sweater hung on the back of the chair. Even our huge malls and stadiums are fast frozen. It is for these reasons that I always keep a sweater in the trunk of my car, year round, and take it with me whenever I enter certain stores, eateries and theaters. Years ago the GOP held its national presidential convention in Houston, and beforehand l warned my visiting colleagues when they came to town in August, dress warm. Those who ignored my advice were shipped home, no embalming needed.
But now we must do a 180 and recognize that obviously no one can live in Texas during the summer without air conditioning. As bad as over-cooling can be, a life without air conditioning is no life at all. Look at those old photos of Texans standing on the Galveston beaches in July, the men in their suits, ties and hats; the women are cloaked from high collars to skirts touching the ground. How did they survive? Houston was laid out by the Borden brothers, Gail and Thomas, with the streets running northeast to southwest so that the houses, built perpendicular to the streets, would catch the Gulf breeze. It didn’t work. Some say oil was the juice that made the bayous bloom. Others credit another factor. The Harris County Historical Society’s Guidebook opens with, “Our story begins in 1922 when the city’s first air conditioning was installed in the Rice Hotel cafeteria. Before that, Houston was totally unlivable.”
Today, Houston is called the most air conditioned city on Earth, but just how anyone can figure that out is unknown. In any event, we do love our a/c. (Under “air conditioning,” the Houston Yellow Pages has 1,006 listings.) When outsiders ask, “How do you stand living in Houston in all that heat and humidity?” I reply: “I don’t. I go from my air conditioned home to my air conditioned car to my air conditioned bar. Besides, you don’t have to shovel heat.” Judge Roy Hofheinz secured a major league baseball franchise for Houston only with the promise to Major League Baseball that the game would be played in an air-conditioned, covered ball park. The Houston Texans will play an entire season without ever opening the roof at NRG Stadium. (We must suspect that it is no accident the stadium’s naming rights went to an electric company.) It was long a rumor that the British consulate in Houston was considered a hardship post as its climate was similar to that of Bombay (now Mumbai), India, and Accra, Ghana. So I asked the then-consul about it. He replied, “It was a rule that three years in Houston counted as four years in diplomatic service towards retirement. I wrote the Foreign Office, ‘My God, haven’t you people ever heard of air conditioning?’” The rule was changed.
The next time I go to a restaurant. I’m going to shovel in some heat.
Ashby chills out at email@example.com
Dear Patriotic American,
We at the Republican National Committee (RNC) are writing you as a leader in your community, to plan for the Trump administration. Please fill out the accompanying form and mail it to us so we can include your brilliant ideas. Also, because we need money, specifically for the Donald Trump Presidential Campaign & Hair Salon franchises. Yes, we know that he said many times that he would finance his own campaign, just like he said a lot of things that turned out not to be true, oh, that silly, silly Donald. Besides, you know how tapes can be edited.
Because you are so important to this campaign, here are some talking points plus some snappy retorts when those Godless Democrats insult the Trumpet: Refugees are ruining our country and must be stopped, except for the Bernie Sanders supporters seeking safety with another candidate. Trump will put our entire military on the border, although he adds that he has nothing against the Canadians personally. Health care is important to many poor Americans who are suffering in pain because they can’t afford medical help. Our candidate will make aspirin free to everyone, or at least until supplies run out at the local CVS. Trade agreements are another major plank in our campaign. Trump is against all foreign trade agreements except for the Chinese-made steel he used to build his casinos. Incidentally, don’t bring up casinos. It’s a sore subject, especially among the vendors he stiffed.
On foreign matters, Vladimir Putin and Trump are simply old frat brothers at Trump University. “Once a Delta Grabba Thi, always a Delta Grabba Thi.” And Miss Venezuela really is fat. Now as for Trump’s feelings towards women. (Caution: Do not talk to any reporter on a bus while he is holding a tape recorder.) Trump loves women and often gives them extreme attention. You may wish to purchase this bumper sticker (only $50): “Locker room? No, locker up!” With Donald, it’s not so much the GOP as the GROPE. Arnold Schwarzenegger suggested the slogan. Score points among your right-wing friends by blasting the press, especially The New York Times, but don’t mention it was the Times that exposed Hillary’s private emails. That undercuts your argument. Only watch Fox News and listen to like-minded radio talk show hosts, like Sean Hannity, but hurry. Hannity has become such an embarrassing shill for Trump that, after the election, Rupert Murdoch’s two sane sons may fire Hannity.
About Benghazi: although 10 different Congressional committees have held 33 investigations and hearings on the matter, questioning 252 witnesses over 62 hours, costing the American taxpayers $7 million, and have turned up nothing linking Crooked Hillary to the terrorists’ raid, keep bringing it up. If someone mentions The Don’s finances, reply: “He’s solvent, and you can take that to the bankruptcy.” Oops, bank. As for his tax returns, fire back: “What about Monica Lewinski?” When some commie says the GOP has a quorum when Trump, Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich get together with their total of nine wives, reply: “Emails for Hillary. Females for Trump.” Trump’s strongest supporters are white males with only a high school education who drag their knuckles. Reply: “What about Benghazi?” Even more incriminating emails shall be made available as soon as they are translated from the Russian. Bring up a possibility: When Hillary discovers she doesn’t get paid $250,000 for her inauguration speech, maybe she’ll drop out.
Polls show most voters don’t like either candidate, but we’re stuck with The Donald, and have to swallow our pride and back him. We are still working on excuses to give our children the rest of our lives. When some Hillary zealot says you’re “a basket of deplorables,” retort that you’d rather be in a basket of deplorables than in a casket of explodables. (The RNC has generously sent gifts to Hillary’s campaign plane: Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones.) If you’re handing out political material, ask if they are going to vote. If the answer is, “Si,” or: “Yes, at my mosque,” move on.
This the most important election in American history, maybe in all the world. OK, we say every four years and we’ll say it again four years from now, but it makes you feel important. Please fill out the enclosed survey, because we want your advice – and money. Finally, when going to the voting booth, try not to drag your knuckles
Ashby writes-in at firstname.lastname@example.org
CHAMBERS COUNTY – “Good morning, America. How are ya? I’m the train they call the City of New Orleans,” as Willie almost sang. Actually, this is the train they call the Sunset Limited, but it’s going to New Orleans, and that’s close enough. We’re headed to the slot machines and roulette tables, but let me explain: Most of the customers at the Lake Charles-area casinos come from near-by Texas, specifically, the Houston region, which is why the casinos were put there in the first place. But I-10 East between Houston and Lake Charles is a death trap, with huge 18-wheelers, loaded with pipe for offshore rigs and containers from the Port of Houston, careening down the road at Mach 2.
To avoid being a bug on a Peterbilt’s windshield, you can fly to Lake Charles on Good Luck Airlines or rent a shrimp boat or take the train. Yes, the train. Amtrak’s aforementioned Sunset Limited goes from Los Angeles to New Orleans and the other way every other day. So you board at the station on the edge of downtown Houston, stop briefly at Beaumont and get off at Lake Charles, time 3 hours and 15 minutes, about 15 minutes longer than driving. A waiting cab spirits you to the casino and, fresh from a relaxing trip, you are yelling for seven to come eleven.
For details, as usual, I have done the heavy lifting, so clip this column and stick it on your refrigerator door next to those last 67 losing Lotto tickets. First, get some cash, then go on line to email@example.com. There, negotiate through a maze, drawn up by a drunken mountain man, to buy a ticket from here to there and back, and put it on your credit card. Cost for a round trip ticket: $44. Go coach unless you are on your honeymoon and need a private room. Trains depart Houston eastward every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday at 12:10 p.m. To get to the station you can be dropped off, take a cab, my wife and I took Uber, or just leave your car there. It’s free parking. The station is basic government issue: clean, slightly worn, 1950ish, but – and I like this – long wooden pews from the distant past.
Hooray, here comes the train, silver and shiny. It stops, passengers get off but no one is allowed to board because the crew has to back track the forward coupler to the thru-bolt carrier, or something like that. Since you are traveling light, you don’t check your bag, although coming home you may need an extra sack for all that money. We board, no metal detector, go to our reserved seats which, compared to the airliners, are spacious, the chairs lean back and a foot rest pops up. Two electric outlets on the wall. We automatically try to fasten our seat belts and realize there aren’t any. Precisely at 12:40, the 12:10 moves out. Don’t take this train to look at the scenery. It’s not the Canadian Rockies Route. Trains always go through the ugliest parts of any city, so you get a great view of shotgun shacks, piles of broken concrete and lots of oil field pipe via I-10. Once into the outback, it’s a long, green tunnel, at least before winter. On each side are jungles, until Chambers and Jefferson counties, which also have swamps that are actually kind of pretty. The entire train is double-decked, with some seats downstairs along with the toilets and baggage racks. Upstairs is better. The train is half empty. We stop at Beaumont long enough to toss out a few passengers and board a few more. We’re running late, the ride is very smooth, but no clickety-clack.
Now about the food. We had taken the Amtrak from Montreal to NYC. It was an 11-hour trip. There was no dining car and the snack bar had the worst food I have ever tasted – microwaved pizza and hot dogs for a captive audience. On this trip, to be safe we brought along some sandwiches and such, planning to buy drinks on board. There is a café downstairs selling drinks and snacks, but: “It doesn’t open till later. Just before Houston, she said she was going to take a break.” That was two hours ago. We go to the neat observation car (the bar there is closed, too), and spend the rest of the trip munching sandwiches and sipping water from little paper cups. Later I take a look at the dining car and it seems pretty neat with white table clothes. The menu is short but certainly adequate – breakfast, lunch and dinner. The PA system announces that dinner reservations will be taken, seating every half hour from 5:30 to 7:30, with sleeping car passengers getting first shot. I suppose if they fill up the diner, coach class passengers go hungry. Promptly at 4:30 we arrive at Lake Charles, only one hour late. Before you leave Houston, reserve a ride -– cab or rental. Along the route we called ahead to say we were late, and the car and driver were waiting for us.
After dropping enough money in Louisiana to pave most of its roads and give every school teacher a raise ($2.50) – Texas is SO behind the curve on casinos – we call 1-800 USA RAIL to check on the westbound train coming from New Orleans to see if it is on time. To the minute. We wait in the small but adequate train station for the train, which arrives 20 minutes late. Two get off and eight get on. Amtrak needs to advertise more. The home-bound train is less than half full, and the trip is uneventful except for an extremely rude conductor. We arrive on schedule. So the next time you want to head east to the casinos or even unto Bourbon Street, think trains – no cancelled flights, no trucks, bring food. But I still miss that clickety-clack.
Ashby rides the rails at asnby2@comcast/net
By Lynn Ashby 10 Oct. 2016
THE CEMETERY – This is a family reunion, although I shall do all the talking to save your family a lot of trouble and money. My families’ plots hold both my mother’s family next to my father’s. I was just a tad when many of them were laid to rest, so all I remember is the vast amounts of food spread out back at the house. Here is my mother’s father, Walter Lynn Cox. He came to Texas when he was 9 months old in a covered wagon. His wife, Lillian, told me how she used to gather with her little friends on a street corner in East Texas and throw rocks at the “blue bellies” as they rode by on their horses – the Union cavalry. But her tombstone says she was born in 1879, long after Reconstruction was over. Maybe she just bore a grudge.
Have you ever visited your family plot and learned things about your forbearers that you never knew? I knew that my uncle, Walter Lynn Cox, Jr., served in the Marines in WW II, but his tombstone says he also served during the Korean War. I didn’t know that. The wife of a cousin seems to have had a baby who died at birth. My mother was a Daughter of the Republic of Texas, but I see that she was also a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. That explains the gold teeth, watches and wigs. All told, I count 16 grave sites. There is still room for more. Like me.
Now start taking notes to make things easier: Does anyone know which bank holds your safety deposit box, and where the key is? How are they going to get their hands on all those silver bars Uncle Cosmo liberated from a Nazi coal mine? Avoid the $250 charge for blowing open the box, and there are complicated laws about opening a safety deposit box after the owner has departed. You don’t have a will? The State of Texas has one for you, but the lawyers will end up with most of your estate. Make sure your will specifies exactly who gets what. “I leave to my worthless daughter and her deadbeat fifth husband my razor and toothpaste.” That will save everyone trouble, and it means your spouse doesn’t have to get rid of your razor and toothpaste. Again, be specific. My son the lawyer says the most vicious, blood sports he handles are family fights over an estate.
Money. How many checkbooks, savings accounts and hidden cash in shoeboxes do you have? Does the IRS know about your accounts in the Cayman Islands? No? Keep it that way. Leave a list of where you hid your fortune, with passwords. If you are like most of us, you have 450 passwords on your computer. Make a list of them, too, and tell everyone exactly where you hid it. “Go to the bathroom and look under the razor and toothpaste.” You have a burglar alarm? Does your next-of-kin know how to turn it on and off? (The last burglar to hit my house looked around and left a small donation.) You probably have a private stock of wine at your club, all locked up. How can your children get to those boxes with their little plastic spigots? Put the code on your list.
Let’s back up and consider that you’re not dead yet, only going. Studies show that relatives spend a vast amount on keeping Grand Pa alive as long as possible, so terminally ill patients are a cash cow for hospitals. I have instructed my family that, when I am too far gone to light a cigar, just pull the plug. You want an obit? That’s journalese for an obituary in the newspaper. Don’t leave it to your hysterical spouse (“He kept talking about the Cayman Islands.”) to figure out just when you won the Nobel Peace Prize. (It’s OK to jazz up your life story, who can correct it?) My own obit is modest, limiting my honorary degrees to 43 and explaining that I donated millions to colleges and hospitals under the pseudonym of “Anonymous.” In my obit, I “died.” Others prefer “Gone to her reward,” “Hit his last tee shot,” and “Entered the Pearly Gates to greet the people she never liked.” Honest, I once read: “In lieu of flowers, please vote for George W. Bush.”
Now we must consider your funeral. Your family is so distraught that they can’t think straight, and will spend too much because funeral homes have their business down to a science. When you walk into the display of caskets, most people automatically turn to the right. That’s the most expensive model. In gradual order, as you walk in a semi-circle to the left, they get cheaper and less ornate. Once you have picked a casket – I have chosen a very nice one stenciled “Kenmore Cold King – this end up” — the costs keep rising with flowers, a huge portrait of the late lamented, music and an emcee. Don’t hire pallbearers, rent a forklift. Some prefer cremation, but I think that might hurt.
Specify that after the funeral, you are throwing a party at the local VFW hall with lots of food and liquor. That assures a good attendance. Where to buy a plot? Avoid any place being touted as “with a great view.” Write your own epitaph and, like the obit, keep it mildly truthful. Thomas Jefferson wrote his own and specified that not one word be changed. It does not mention that he was President, but you may. There was a story that a tombstone in Aberdeen, Scotland, read: “Here lies the body of Mary McQueen. She was a virgin at seventeen. A remarkable thing in Aberdeen.” While doing some stories there, I went hunting for that epitaph. The cemetery’s caretaker said it was all a tall tale, but added a lot of people went there looking for it.
Ashby defies death at firstname.lastname@example.org
THE SCHOOL GYM — “Billy Ralph. Good to see you. How’s MinnieMay?”
“She ran off with a shepherd, and left me with our 12 kids.”
“Hi there. Your nametag says Sally Joan Mugwump, but you look, uh nothing like I remember.”
“I’m now George Joe Mugwump. I guess the beard fooled you. Which reminds me, thanks to Governor Abbott, it’s murder trying to use a bathroom in this school.” This is my class reunion. Highland Park High School class of ’56. The January class. The State of Texas did away with midterm classes that started and graduated in January. So our class was only about 90 kids, compared to the June class of 22,000 or so. Most of us began in the first grade in four elementary schools, meshed in junior high, now called middle school for the same unknown reason there are no longer midterm classes, and spent the next six years together. (Actually, I didn’t graduate until June. Something about biology – my fetal pig survived.) So here we are, gathered for our every-five-year get-together, which is more often than most classes hold reunions, but we like to meet. Actually, some even married classmates.
“Studs Studly, president of our class, all-state quarterback, elected Mister Best. How are you doing?”
“If you’ll give me your ticket, I’ll bring your car around. Tips are appreciated.” At class reunions, one must be careful what to say. Across the room I spot Marvin Munchkin. “Hey Marv. Whatever happened to that floozy you went with, Mary Lou Easy? Remember how she, uh, dated almost every guy in school, if you get my drift?”
“We’ve been married for 50 years.” Here comes Sally Shrewd. “Sally, how did life go?” “Not bad. I was no-billed by the grand jury, but the civil litigation took all the money I made from insider trading at Merrill Lynch.” Then there were the failures.
If you are planning to attend a class reunion, here are a few tips. Lose weight. Maybe 20 to 30 pounds. Get a tan, even if it means visiting a tanning lounge that gives you skin cancer in only 10 easy sessions, then explain it by casually mentioning that you just returned from your estate in Jamaica. Don’t explain that it’s Jamaica, Queens. Don’t wear you Vietnam War military decorations, especially if they are from North Vietnam. Every reunion should require nametags, so bring a pen and add: “The Honorable” in front of your name. I suggest you don’t push the matter by sticking in “Pope,” “King” or “Grand Kleagle.” Looking around the room, you will notice how everyone else in your class has aged. You’re the exception, but don’t rub it in by doing wheelies with your walker.
| These many years later, I figured out what we should have done when we graduated. We should have created a Tontine, which is named after an Italian banker named Lorenzo Tonti. In 1695 he came up with the idea of everyone putting in some money and the last person to survive would inherit it. If, say, in 1956 we had each put in $10, today that would be about a half million dollars. The money would go to whomever in this group lived the longest. The problem with that is every time we gathered we would be counting heads. Who would outlast who? We would bring along our food tasters.
Ah, yes, it’s been a while. When we graduated, Bill Clinton was 9 years old. Hillary was 45. Top TV shows included “As The World Turns” and “The Price is Right.” Mothers could buy disposable diapers and Teflon non-stick frying pans. Elvis Presley appeared on the “Ed Sullivan Show” and entered the music charts for the first time, with “Heartbreak Hotel.” Top movies were “Guys and Dolls,” “The King and I” and “Around the World in Eighty Days.” Average cost of a new house: $11,700. Average yearly wages: $4.450. A gallon of gas: 22 cents. Average cost of a new car: $2,050. The first computer hard drive was introduced, and none of us bought stock in Texas Instruments. Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier of Monaco, the Soviet Union invaded Hungary and, for the first and last time, OU beat Texas in the Cotton Bowl 45 to nothing. Here’s the kicker: People born that year have been eligible for Social Security these past two years. Back then we should have told our folks to buy some land. Austin now has more people than Houston did when we graduated. There was no place called the Metroplex, but in these 60 years Dallas population has almost tripled from about 500,000 to today’s 1.3 million. And we didn’t buy land.
Someone asked, “Whatever happened to Crazy Carl?” A good question. Every class has a Crazy Carl – someone who didn’t fit in, hadn’t a clue what was going on and, as a result, was the butt of jokes. No one knew anything about Carl. Suddenly, out front a long limo pulled up, the chauffeur ran around, opened the door, and who got out but Crazy Carl. He had a beautiful wife, he was wearing a $2,000 suit and a diamond stickpin the size of an egg.
I went up to him and said, “Crazy Carl! You’re in the big time, but back in school you couldn’t pass a blood test with a tutor. You had trouble counting past your thumb. What happened?” He said, “Oh, it’s easy. I bought something for $100 and sold it for $200. Then I bought something for $500 and sold it for $1,000. Last month I bought something for a million and sold it for five million. You know, after a while that 10 percent profit adds up.”
In five years, we shall meet again. We should bring our food tasters — and tell our grandchildren to buy land. Finally, we must remember our class motto: It is not enough that you should succeed. All your friends must fail.
Ashby reunites at email@example.com
By Lynn Ashby 26 Sept. 2016
THE TUBE – “All new! Fantastic drama! Laff riot!” The TV networks are telling me all the wonderful new shows coming this fall to replace last year’s wonderful new shows that lasted two weeks. Here are some programs to avoid, and, no. the local news shows are not re-runs, they just seem repetitive.
Channel 1 News – Every show begins with: “Breaking News, but first an even more breaking story!” Texas Board of Education prohibits Christmas carols after discovering choir books containg, ‘Don we now our gay apparel.”
What Ailes Us – Gripping drama set in the Fox Newsroom as the Boss chases anchorwomen around his desk while panting: “I can make you or break you, Honey Lips!”
PBS Nightly News – Show presents Cannibal Comedians – fact or fiction? Notes from a Peruvian pottery-maker’s funeral and: Why don’t we have more viewers?
21 Trump Street — The Donald demands to be admitted as the 51st state.
PBS Business News — Tote Bags are the new Gucci.
Comedy Central – Live broadcast of House Committee’s 47th investigation of Benghazi.
Family Feud – Jeb Bush explains why his parents asked him to change his last name.
60 Minutes — An inside look at a club sandwich, Scott Pelley interviews the widow of the Unknown Soldier, and: North Dakota – do we need it?
Nothin’ But News – Five shootings, two house fires and a high-speed police chase. Sen. Ted Cruz announces his presidential campaign for all campaigns in all nation, “Especially my homeland, Canada.”
CNN – Interview with someone who thinks coverage of the missing Malaysia Airlines plane should be limited to just 23 hours a day. Russian President Vladimir Putin announces he’s seeking U.S. citizenship so he can vote for Donald Trump
Hollywood Time – “Roots” Kunta Kinte changes his name to Barack Obama and moves to Chicago.
Network News — Clinton campaign patents “Make America Hate Again,” global warming deniers hold their convention in Port Waco. Putin and Trump announce they are opening an antique and interior decorating shop in Montrose.
Let’s Make a Deal – Hillary Clinton denies that, if elected, she’ll rent out the West Wing to the Saudi royal family.
10 Most Wanted – Astros look for a new bullpen.
Orange Is the New Black – Convicted Texas Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton is assigned a prison number, but still gets to put an R by it.
Channel 3000 News — Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick receives 2016 Texas Demagogue Award, and retires the trophy. Hackers get into Sarah Palin’s computer and find she used Windex on her Windows 10.
MSNBC – Mad Money’s Jim Cramer: How to Make a Fortune. Tonight’s guests, two drug lords, crew of a pirate ship and executives of the Clinton Foundation.
Movie: “Things That Go Trump in the Night” – The Donald explains that, building a wall along the border, will create thousands of jobs for Mexicans. (English subtitles)
Texas Tonight — Gov. Greg Abbott calls out the Texas State Guard “to defend our state from a foreign military invasion” after discovering Old Navy is opening an outlet in Marfa.
The Rachel Maddow Show – Liberal talk show host has a special about Fox News’ sexual harassment lawsuits entitled: “Hahahaha!”
America’s Got Talent – Unfortunately, not here.
The West Wing – Is rented out to the Saudi royal family.
Dancing With the Lone Stars – Rick Perry dances the Oops with two left feet
Vladimir Putin learns the Czech Republic has changed its name to Czechia, mistakes it for the breakaway province of Chechnya, and bombs the bejesus out of Prague. Trump calls it “an honest mistake — those African countries all sound the same.”
Beat the Press – Americans show their fury in news they don’t want to know.
Fast and Furious – Detective Fast and Sgt. Furious discover that Black Lives Matter is not a new element in the periodic table.
Film Night – “Back to the Future IV” Marty and Doc go back to 1900 to update Texas school books.
Dancing With the Czars – Vlad and Donald finish last and are exiled to Siberia.
Eight Is Enough – Rollicking comedy about an SUV driving north from Matamoros.
Plato Socrates, Frontier Philosopher – In this episode Doc Plato explains to Gen. George Custer why only the Washington Redskins are allowed to scalp tickets.
Movie – “Tapes of Wrath: The Hillary Clinton Story”
Presidential Debate — Cancelled for lack of interest
Ashby is remote at firstname.lastname@example.org
Fasten the mizzen mast! Splike the nimrods and be quick about it, mates. Why this nautical mood? Because Sept. 17 is (or was, depending when you are reading this) Texian Navy Day! What’s that? Pilgrim, back in Newark you knew Texas had an army – the Alamo, San Jacinto and Salvation — but the Republic of Texas also had a navy. In fact, we had two and it’s a reason we don’t celebrate Diaz y Seis. Well, some don’t. To re-tell the tale: The Republic of Texas created a navy which fought the Mexican Navy up and down the Gulf. President Sam Houston, being an army man, hated the navy and refused to pay its costs. He once declared the entire Texas Navy to be pirates and called on other nations to arrest the lot. By the time Houston left the presidency for the first time, in 1838, the Texas Navy was down to one unsailable ship, two lieutenants, two midshipmen, a doctor, two pursers, two seamen who were both deserters from the U.S. Navy, and the ranking lieutenant was cashiered “in consequence of a repeated inebriety.” Texas’ next president, Mirabeau Lamar, liked the navy and restored funds to build a fleet.
This brings us to the night of Feb.11, 1842, on the Mississippi River off New Orleans aboard the Texas Navy Schooner (TNS) San Antonio. The ship had rescued the crew and passengers from a sinking American ship, touched in at Galveston briefly and was ordered to go to New Orleans to let off the shipwreck survivors and pick up supplies. So it did. Ah, New Orleans, every sailor’s heart beat faster at the prospect of a night on Bourbon Street. The ship pulled in, and began loading supplies. Beef (a dime a pound), bread (a nickel a loaf) and potatoes (a dollar a bushel). That’s all. The diet on Texas ships was inexpensive to the taxpayers, but not too varied for the crew. It is now night, when the ranking officers set off for the bright lights of the big city, leaving the crew aboard for the very good reason that, once ashore, most would never come back. A man can stomach only so much beef, bread and potatoes.
Some passing boatmen slip aboard a few bottles of booze for the crew. Down in the hold the sailors imbibe and start griping. Topside, Marine Sgt. Seymour Oswald accosts Lt. M. B. Dearborn and demands shore leave for himself and some friends. No soap, or gruel, Sergeant. They get into an argument and Marine Lt. Charles Fuller, the ranking officer still on board, pops up on deck to see what’s happening. Things are getting touchy, so Fuller resorts to the usual solution to shipboard problems: he calls out the Marine guard, Sgt. Oswald, commanding. It usually works, putting the cause of the problem in charge of the solution. Only somebody forgot to tell Sgt. Oswald. He begins passing out weapons, not only to the Marine guard, but to his fellow sailor mutineers. He keeps a Colt pistol and a tomahawk (the Texas Navy was uniquely prepared for Indian attacks). Under the guise of reporting that the guard is ready, Sgt. Oswald approaches Fuller. Oswald cracks the officer smartly on the head with a tomahawk. Fuller grabs his own pistol, Oswald fires his. The Marines rush topside. So do the mutineers. Bang. Stab. Shoot. Fuller falls dead and the crew attacks his body with cutlasses and muskets. Two midshipmen, Alden and Odell, rush to protect Fuller and are promptly wounded. Lt. Dearborn is “knocked down the cabin hatch and the companion drawn over him.”
Oswald and his cronies lower a couple of boats and head for the fun, but the battle has attracted the notice of sailors aboard a nearby U.S revenue cutter, the Jackson. The U.S. sailors investigate and find poor Lt. Dearborn down below, yelling for help. The U.S. sailors and the New Orleans police quickly round up the Texas mutineers and toss them in jail. When the San Antonio finally leaves port, it only has two of the mutineers aboard, International extradition snags between the U.S. and the Republic keep the others in jail. The captain decides not to hold the court martial immediately since the sight of crewmen dangling from the yardarm might put a damper on his recruiting in New Orleans (the ship had some unexpected vacancies). Fuller is also left behind — buried in the Girod Street Cemetery.
President Sam Houston is upset when he receives the news. (“This subject is the first in my recollection which has occurred in any port of a foreign nation.”) and finally gets most of the other mutineers back to Texas, although the ringleader, Sgt. Oswald, has escaped and is never heard from again. The head of the Texas Navy, Commodore Edwin W. Moore, gathers all concerned and puts them aboard the good ship TNS Austin, and heads for the high seas. The state’s case is hampered by the fact that the San Antonio and its entire crew disappeared in the Gulf. In any event, Moore convenes the case. Frederick Shepherd, after some questioning, turns state’s evidence. He gets off but is killed three weeks later in a battle. Benjamin Pornpilly, who died in prison, had already confessed his part in the mutiny. F. Williams is let off with 50 lashes while William Barrington and Edward Kenan get 100 each. But Pvt. Antonio Landois and Cpl. William Simpson of the Marines and Seamen James Hudgins and Isaac Allen are sentenced to the yardarm. On April 26, 1843, at high noon, they were strung up. Prayers were said over each of the departed, who were then buried at sea. As for Lt. Fuller, his body stayed in New Orleans until 1936 when he was brought to the Official State Cemetery in east Austin. New Orleans needed the Girod Street Cemetery. They had to widen Girod Street.
Ashby mutinies at email@example.com
This multi-million dollar glass and steel beauty in the heart of Washington’s prime real estate used to be my office building. But you wonder how a greedy, opportunistic dirt bag like me could hit it big? It’s a long story (maybe 5 years with good behavior) and began when my newest get-rich-quick scheme failed after Ted Cruz admitted that, way down deep, he’s shallow. His presidential campaign collapsed and I was left with an empty victory banquet hall, an unpaid band and gallons of liquor I called Cruz Booze. My next endeavor was to sell franchises to the Roger Ailes Feminine Empowerment School. That bombed, but it left me with 1,000 copies of “Fox News for Dummies.” I was told that’s redundant. My student loan program didn’t work out after I discovered students didn’t have any money to loan me.
That’s when I sought out my financial adviser. It was a Sunday afternoon, so visiting hours were in play. “I’ve lost everything,” I sobbed. “Even my Dippity-Doo dippity didn’t.” He picked up the phone and tapped on the glass. “I’ve got a bunch of 3-D glasses you can have.” I shook my head. “You’re right. 4-D is the hottest thing. You could sell flood insurance in Baton Rouge, or is it too late? OK, I’ve got it. Pollsters say they have never seen anything like this: Voters don’t like, don’t trust and may not even vote for either Hillary or Trump. You could make a fortune by betting on George H.W. Bush. Everybody loves Poppy. No, wait. He tried being president once. It didn’t pan out. Here’s my best shot. Think tanks. Every trade group, lobbyist and anyone who wants to get their snout in the U.S. Treasury has a think tank in Washington to put academic authenticity on bribes. Give your group some meaningless but patriotic title like Americans for a Better America or Prosperity for All. Who can oppose God & Goodness Associates?”
I moved to Washington and quickly discovered competition was going to be tough. There are dozens, no scores or hundreds of think tanks, and they must be doing well, regardless of their predispositions. The left-leaning Brookings Institution’s annual budget has doubled in the last decade to $100 million. (One of its “scholars” received $353,145 in wages and other compensation in 2014.) The right-leaning American Enterprise Institute is spending at least $80 million on a new headquarters here, not far from where the Center for Strategic and International Studies built a $100 million office tower. While everyone knows there is a huge amount of cash flowing around Washington these days for lobbyists (mostly defeated Congressmen), there is also big money for think tanks which are Ivy Towered sleaze. Much of this cash comes indirectly from the American taxpayers. It goes like this: I daily get emails from what I call the Old Boy Network, made up of retired military. The site simply passes on articles, speeches, etc., and lately many of them have warned darkly of China’s growing sea power. The U.S. is falling behind, and what we need is another aircraft carrier. It is never pointed out that we already have 10 of them, and no other country has any, except for France, which has one.
Now we find that a company with a military-industrial complex, let’s call it Huntington Ingalls Industries, hired a think tank, we’ll call it the Hudson Institute, which launched a major offensive with learned reports by experts, testimony before Congress and op/ed pieces written by “Admiral J.J. Flotsam, (ret.) member of the Group of Experts,” with little if any way to trace the money back to Huntington. Nor is it noted that nuclear-powered aircraft carriers cost about $11 billion each, and – you’ll never believe this — the one and only builder of aircraft carriers is Huntington.
My next move was clear: I got a well-heeled client, Pioneer Transportation, created America’s Traditional Defense Associates and started hiring obscure professors to write learned papers filled with military jargon (USPAC, sub-automatic counter-puffs and Magnetic Tipped Thermoquads). The reports, op/ed articles and released testimony before the House Subcommittee on Spending Taxpayers’ Money, noted at the bottom of the page that the professor was a tenured member of the U.S. Council of Intellectual People and past-president of the JJGP. Unfortunately, Congress was not interested in allocating funds for pack mules. I had no better luck peddling government subsidies for AstroTurf fertilizer or for a submarine base in Salt Lake City.
Then things turned around. There was no shortage of experts who would turn out either supporting or oppositional studies, research papers or charts for anything. For testimony before Congress, I found a bevy of “outside consultants” — honor graduates from Trump University. I called their testimony “pay-for-say.” Depending on the client, my think tanks were called Lawyers for Perjury, Consultants for UNFESCO (no one asked), Friends of Smog and Anarchists United. Incidentally, it is not only Congress that receives a deluge of one-sided information from ersatz scholars. Regulatory agencies like the FCC, CDC and FDA are targets, too. Press reports show that currently millions and millions of dollars are being spent in Washington by cable companies (net neutral) and Big Pharma (obscene drug prices). Their hired guns are registered lobbyists and their hidden evil twins, think thanks. How pervasive are they? We know that when Congress was debating drug prices a few years ago there were six lobbyists on Capitol Hill for each member, each lobbyist armed with think tank studies.
You, as a thoughtful citizen, are wondering how you can peel back these deliberate layers of obfuscation, meaningless titles and mysterious motivations. It’s easy. The next story you read on a newspaper’s op/ed page (that’s opposite the opinion or editorial page), written by an unknown expert pushing something, treat it as an advertisement, because that opinion was bought and paid for. You are also wondering what obfuscation means. Finally, you’ve been wondering about my ankle monitoring bracelet.
Ashby thinks at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Mom and Dad, Camp Wanakawa is really great. So is the food. I like my counselors and I’ve met a lot of neat guys. My two favorite classes are canoeing and starting a fire Indian-style with just flint, straw and napalm. Camp rules forbid having electronic gadgets such as smart phones, iPads, even stereos and satellite TVs. Luckily, our mattresses are lumpy. I seem to have left a few items at home, so could you please mail me shoes, socks, 2 sheets and Spot. I really miss him. Your son, Motley
PS: Please send a few dollars for the camp store.
Dear Mom and Dad, Camp is still great. The food is not so terrific, but I sort of like my counselors. Maybe the reason I haven’t been getting your letters is because Camp Wanakawa’s name has been changed. My counselors say this is necessary since the U.S. Dept. of Victimization has ruled “Wanakawa” is a Comanche word for “white babies’ scalps” and thus is insulting to the Comanches. The new name is Camp Empathy.
Dear Motley, we just received a letter from your counselor. He reports you are doing well in your various activities, although we didn’t know Camp Empathy taught tattooing. We are sure you will get the hang of bear wrestling soon. We have called FedEx to mail the items you requested, plus some you didn’t request like toothpaste and soap. Back at home, we miss you very much, but the family of gypsies that rented your room say you apparently never swept under the bed or emptied your fly traps, and are moving out.
Dear Mom and Dad. Yesterday we visited Camp Koo-Che-Koo-Me right across the river and took them on in softball, tennis, swimming and arm wrestling. We lost in every event. Our counselors called us “a bunch of wimps” and “total losers,” which made a lot of us cry and ask for our mommy and bankie. The food is not so great but just OK. However, gruel three times a day is getting monotonous. Our horseback riding classes have been suspended after PETA sued, accusing us of “unethical abuse of God’s creatures.” I didn’t know God owned our horses. Did I mention that Camp Koo-Che-Koo-Me is a girls’ camp? Exciting news! Sheriff’s deputies came to camp and arrested a counselor. What’s a pedophile? Your son, Motley
PS: Please send a few dollars to cover expenses at the camp store. Thanks.
Dear Mom and Dad. Camp is getting worse. The chef changed the menu after the food riot. I’m getting used to oatmeal for dinner. Today we went for a hike and almost everyone returned. My cabin mates have a new nickname for me, Drippy. You’d think they’d never seen a bed-wetter before. A letter from the U.S. Dept. of Victimization says we must start using the term “Native Americans” or “Those Defending Their Homelands” and stop using the word “Indians” as it violates the U.S. Code of Politically Correct Titles. My bunkmate, Ralph Little Eagle, says the U.S. government bureau dealing with Indian affairs is officially named the Bureau of Indian Affairs, (headquartered in the same city as the Washington Redskins), so he asks: what’s the problem? The food is much better now that we use John-Bob’s smart phone to order from Domino’s. Your son, Motley
Dear Motley, glad you are having fun at camp. We just received a letter from your counselor. He says you are an “exceptional” camper for the most part. He apologized for your stay at the camp infirmary but explained they have “a first-rate snakebite clinic.” He wrote you are getting along fine with your fellow campers outside of the occasional tar and feathering. He also wrote that he can’t understand why you would need money since items purchased at the camp store are paid by the parents at the end of camp. Sorry we could not send you Spot. He was run over by a FedEx truck. Love, Mom and Dad.
Dear Mom and Dad. The movie last night was “A Few Good Men,” which explains why I was given a Code Red treatment by my cabin mates. When I complained to the counselors they just laughed and said it was “a camp initiation rite.” PETA has allowed our horseback riding classes to resume, but now the horses ride us. In our Native American lore class we were told that Sen. Elizabeth Warren is not really Pocahontas. I have had to change classes just because I showed my ability to start a fire Indian-style with flint, straw and napalm. My bunkmate, Ralph Little Eagle, said that most Indians don’t start a fire while still in the canoe. When is camp over? Your son, Motley
Dear Motley’s parents. Enclosed is a bill for $1,200 for one canoe.
Dear Mom and Dad. They closed the camp mess hall due to health department violations. We were told that real campers could live off the land. I’ve lost 10 pounds. We went on an overnight hike to Lake Rancid where we put up tents, slept on the ground (fortunately, I brought my lumpy mattress so we could watch “The Bachelorette,”) and sat around the campfire telling stories, some about our parents. I wrote them down, and you won’t have to send me any more money. Oh, I forgot to tell you, Camp Empathy is being sued by the Wanakawa tribe, which claims it sold naming rights to the camp in exchange for 40 guns, a keg of firewater and a subscription to Netflix “to last as long as the rivers flow, the buffalo roam and the Great Spirit personally advises Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.”
Dear Motley’s parents. Please come get your kid. We’ll refund the fee.
Dear Mom and Dad. Camp has been over for a week. Isn’t it time you picked me up? My last letters have been returned, stamped: “Addressee Unknown — No forwarding Address.”
Ashby camps at email@example.com