A LEAGUE OF OUR OWN

March 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

Play ball! Yes, the baseball season is upon us once more. The Lone Star grudge match between Dallas and Houston was always a good one, and when the Fort Worth Cats took on the Dallas Eagles, after seven or so innings and as many beers, there were fist fights in the stands. For you youngsters and newcomers, Texas baseball in air-conditioned stadiums with huge scoreboards and suites with bars and toilets are a relative new way of seeing and playing America’s game. I am talking about the Texas League which, along with Southwest Conference football games, united and divided the state like nothing since the Civil War (or the War for Southern Independence as my grandmother called the Late Unpleasantness).

But whatever happened to the old Texas League? Actually, it is still going strong, packing in fans. Since its founding in 1888 as the Texas State Baseball League, this organization has become one of the most colorful and historic minor leagues in America. And the bat goes on. Today on summer evenings in their field of dreams, young men on their way up to the Bigs, play ball.

The players compete in 140 games, about 20 shy of what the major league teams play. Each Texas League team is affiliated with a major league team which pays the players’ salaries, about $1,800 a month during the season, along with the salaries of the coaches, managers and trainers, plus some costs for the equipment. In turn, the teams send part of their gate receipts to Major League Baseball. This financial arrangement allows for one of the great bargains in professional sports. Ticket prices in most of the league’s stadiums go for about $10 to $20 with general admission as low as $2, and parking is usually free.

The Texas League is Class AA, a level that many in player development consider the make or break level of the minor leagues. If a player performs well in the Texas League, he has a fair chance to play, some day, in the major leagues. Then there are the stadiums. Build it and they will score runs. In Class AA, there must be at least 6,000 seats in each stadium. (Corpus Christi’s Whataburger Field was named by USA Today among the top 10 minor league parks in the nation.) Many of the league’s parks also feature grassy knolls beyond the outfield where families can spread out a blanket and lie down to watch the games.

Over its 129 years, the host towns have changed with just the San Antonio Missions hanging in there from the beginning. Today the league is divided into North and South. The northern bunch is made up of the Springfield, Missouri, Cardinals, Northwest Arkansas Naturals (I guess they liked the movie), Arkansas Travelers and Tulsa Drillers. The south consists of the Corpus Christi Hooks, San Antonio Missions, Midland RockHounds and Frisco RoughRiders. (Last season the RoughRiders adopted a Teddy Roosevelt-style uniform – bully for them.) Through the first century of the circuit’s operation, 38 cities in eight states hosted Texas League teams. And including other leagues, in Texas alone, 101 cities — more than in any other state — have supported minor league franchises. (Incidentally, the Sugar Land Skeeters are in the independent Atlantic League. Those teams are concentrated on the East Coast, except for Sugar Land.) Towns and cities that have fielded Texas League teams range alphabetically from Albuquerque to Wichita Falls, geographically from Kansas to the Rio Grande Valley, but they have always kept the same league name, maybe because it is one of the oldest minor leagues in the nation. By 1994 only three Texas cities, San Antonio, El Paso, and Midland, were part of the eight-team league, and there have been only 15 years in which the Texas League has had an exclusively Texan makeup throughout the season.

I love some of their names: the Ardmore Territorians (this was in 1904 — Oklahoma didn’t become a state until 1907), Dallas Hams, Houston Babies. Longview Cannibals, Paris Parisians, Sherman Orphans, Temple Boll Weevils and Texarkana Casket Makers. A side note about a former member of the Texas League which moved up to AAA, the Round Rock Express. Nolan Ryan was pitching for the Houston Astros, and sport writers, always looking for a stale nickname (Little Miss Baby Cakes, Pinstripes, Hammer of Thor) fiddled with the name “Ryan.” Ryan’s Daughter didn’t work, but Houston novelist David Westheimer had written a thriller book, “Von Ryan’s Express,” so Nolan (Lynn) Ryan became Ryan’s Express or just the Express. When he got involved, businesswise, with the Round Rock minor league team, the name followed. Good thing Westheimer didn’t write “Ryan’s Casket Makers.”

In 1930 Katy Park in Waco became one of the first stadiums in organized baseball to install lights for night games. When Fort Worth’s LaGrave Field was rebuilt in 1950 following a fire, it was the first new baseball park to include a television booth. Over the years, fans witnessed players such as Tris Speaker, Hank Greenberg, “Dizzy” Dean, Duke Snider, Frank Robinson and Brooks Robinson. One player, Homer Rainey, became president of The University of Texas. John Alton “Al” Benton, later, in the majors, gave up home runs to both Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle. Johnny Berardino, San Antonio’s second-baseman in 1938, later starred as Dr. Hardy on General Hospital. Earlier, as a child actor, he appeared in several episodes of Our Gang. More recently there were stars like Fernando Valenzuela, Orel Hershiser, Joe Morgan and Darryl Strawberry. The Astros’ dugout was a Texas League reunion with Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt and Brad Lidge.

Finally, a hit ball that drops safely between the infield and the outfield for a single is called a “Texas Leaguer,” or used to be. We don’t hear that term much anymore. But maybe we will if Field of Dreams ever comes to town and the Cats and the Eagles go at it again.

 

Ashby plays ball at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TEXAS, THE RANKEST STATE

March 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby                                                           13 March 2017

TEXAS, THE RANKEST STATE

 

Texas, our Texas, all hail the not-so-mighty state that, compared to the other 49 dwarfs, is strictly mediocre to awful. We rank 30th in health care, near the bottom in opportunity. Who says so? US News & World Reports or USNWR, that’s who. It’s the magazine which annually rates universities. The winners say they deserve it. Those schools down the list say the rankings are meaningless. So let’s say these new state rankings – the first such comparisons by the magazine — are meaningless. How did USNWR come to these silly conclusions? It evaluated all 50 states across a range of criteria, from education to infrastructure and economy, then drew on thousands of data points to capture how states best serve their citizens. So this is not a survey of us, the citizens, but of how our state government serves us. And to think, our Legislature is currently all knotted up over transgenders in school bathrooms.

Which state ranks which No. 1 overall in the Best States rankings and who is No. 50? Well, Texans used to say, “Thank God for Mississippi,” because, otherwise, we would occupy the basement in any favorable comparisons. Now it’s Louisiana, which is 45 or 46 in almost all categories. But let’s get to us. Texas is 41in education. I lay the blame on several factors: We don’t spend enough on our schools, students and teachers. Indeed, the Legislature even now is figuring out how to reduce our education budget. Meanwhile, we spend tens of millions of dollars on football stadiums. Texas is attempting to educate up to 86,000 Dreamers from south of the border, most of whom don’t speak English. They will drag down any SAT scores. The State Board of Education is a miserable example of inmates running the asylum. No, global warming is not a hoax. Houston was not originally named Hughes Town in honor of native son Howard. And let’s stop debating whether Jesus was a Christian.

Next comes health care. We get a 30. Why so low? Because our state officials knowingly and willingly turn their collective backs on Medicare programs, thus sending billions of our tax dollars to other states to treat their citizens. Does this make sense? No wonder Texas has the highest number of unvaccinated children in America and is last in children with health insurance, and no wonder Houston has the largest medical center on Earth. We have the most sick people.

Crime and corrections. Texas has long had a lock ‘em up philosophy on crime, which accounts for the 172,000 Texans we hold behind bars, by far the most of any state. And in most years we lead the nation in executions. So in the crime and corrections category we rank 31 among the states. Not much more to say about this comparison. Moving on, we come to infrastructure. A miserable Number 40. To be sure, we have more roads, more railroad miles and quite probably more potholes and rickety bridges than any other state. But the state also has more newcomers than the other 49, who use a growing amount of our infrastructure. We can’t keep up, and we obviously don’t plan to. Opportunity: New Mexico calls itself “the land of opportunity,” but ranks 46 in this study. New Hampshire is first. Thank God for Mississippi, which is last. Texas is a lowly 45 in opportunity. That surprises me because hordes of people come here from both south and north seeking jobs, better pay and far better Tex-Mex than their homelands offer.

This also surprising because of our next category: Economy. We are up there in the No. 6 slot. (Colorado is first.) Former governor and current Energy Secretary Rick Perry ran for President twice on his “Texas miracle” platform, touting our booming economy and, piggybacking it on our great opportunities. It would seem that these last two categories, opportunities and the economy, would be about the same. Now we get down to the nitty-gritty: the category that is responsible for most of the other rankings: state government. According this first-ever survey by USNWR, the state with the best government is – roll of drums – Indiana! Huh? Yes, they have the Indianapolis 500 (I think they’re all guilty) and former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is now the vice-president, president of the Senate and world-wide Explainer & Apologizer in Chief. But Indiana? Last, with the worst government, is New Jersey. Texas comes in at No. 11. Really, considering how low we are in everything from health care to cons to infrastructure, we should be lower.

Which is the best all-around state? The envelope, please. The winner is “La La Land.” No, actually it’s Massachusetts. The Bay State finished first in education (Yeah, but can Harvard play decent football?), second in health care and never placed lower than 16 in any category. Texas, our beloved Texas, all hail the 38th best state. We know we’re No. 1, but when we rank lower than Georgia, South Dakota and Idaho, it’s time to re-evaluate our state’s government. We could be defensive and note that U.S. News was the lowest-ranking news magazine in the U.S., after Time and Newsweek before it went defunct. Now it is only on-line and publishes special issues like its rankings. But being defensive would overlook the fact that Texas is poorly governed. As you read these very words, our legislators are meeting in Austin deciding who to tax, how much, and where to spend it. They are empowered to support good and forward-looking projects. But led by the Official State Demagogue, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, our lawmakers are debating school bathrooms. Good ol’ Patrick. Hours after 49 people were massacred and 53 wounded in a gay bar in Orlando, Patrick tweeted a Bible verse: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” And he asked parents if they wanted their 10th grader showering with students of the opposite sex. We’re lucky we rank at all.

 

Ashby ranks at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

LOST AND FUND

February 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

 

THE OFFICE – It’s not here, nor there, either. My long-lost Magna Carta has to be here somewhere. Maybe this drawer, no. This one? Odd, the bottom left drawer of my desk is stuck. I’ll just tug. Tug-tug. It won’t move. Why am I bothering you with this? Because I might make you money, big money. Let me refresh your memory, and this time take notes. Michael Sparks was a music equipment technician in Nashville, Tenn. In 2007, Sparks bought a yellowed, shellacked, rolled-up document in a thrift store for $2.48. It turned out to be a rare 1823 copy of the Declaration of Independence, which Sparks later sold at auction for $477,650. In 1989, Donald Scheer of Atlanta bought a painting at a Philadelphia flea market because he liked the frame. When taking it apart, out fell an original copy (about 500 were printed) of the Declaration of Independence. Scheer sold it for $2.42 million, but he got taken. In 2000, that same piece of paper was sold for $8.14 million.

People are always discovering items which were unrecognized or were hidden. Some discoveries we can’t call long lost because no one knew they were there in the first place. Folks make a hobby, or profession, out of checking flea markets, auction houses and their grandmother’s attic for possible treasures. Goodwill even keeps tabs of such finds. Sean and Rikki McEvoy of Knoxville, Tenn., bought a sweater for 58 cents at a Goodwill store in June 2014 in Asheville, North Carolina. It had “West Point” on the front and the word “Lombardi” written in black ink on a cotton swatch sewn inside. It turned out to be owned and worn by Vince Lombardi when he coached there from 1949 to 1953. The jersey was sold in an auction in New York City for $43,020. An Englishman roaming the British version of a flea market paid the equivalent of $38 in U.S. currency to purchase a Breitling wrist watch worn by James Bond in the movie “Thunderball.” At a Christie’s auction in 2013, the watch sold for $160,175. As an interesting side note, and possibly the reason for the high selling price, the watch was the first one modified by the famous Q Branch to include a Geiger counter to help Bond detect nuclear radiation.

Here’s one of the biggest finds of all. A scrap metal dealer paid $14,000 for a Faberge Egg at a flea market. He knew it was gold, and he was going to melt it down for scrap. Turns out the find was estimated at a value of over $30 million at an auction. According to Faberge, of the 50 Fabergé Imperial Eggs known to have existed, only 43 are currently accounted for. The finder was never identified, and it could be just an urban legend, like Texas Democrats.

There may be undiscovered treasurers closer to home. Let me remind you of my story. This is a white plate with lots of blue designs – drums, flags, in the center are two mid-19th century artillerymen — given to me by my mother. Later a friend showed me an auction house catalogue with an article reading: “Texas Campaigne China” A dish just like mine, pictured in the catalogue, was stored in a glass-faced box in a vault in New York City. The going price: $12,000! Why so much? The price and value of Texanna is skyrocketing. British rock star Phil Collins will pay any price for any item even remotely connected to the Alamo. His own collection has been sent to the state and will be housed in a new facility on the Alamo grounds.

Texas is loaded with old stuff that’s better than can be found on PBS-TV’s “Antiques Roadshow.” I have a cannonball from the San Jacinto battleground that was dug up miles away and years later. It’s a long story. You may be familiar with the de la Pena diary. It was allegedly written by Lt. José Enrique de la Peña, an officer in Santa Anna’s army when it invaded Texas in 1836. The diary was supposedly discovered by an art dealer, Jesus Sanchez Garza, in a Mexico City market in 1955. Garza paid a few pesos. It was auctioned in 1998 for $387,500 and now resides at UT-Austin. But you don’t have to be a Crockett scientist to see a lot of old stuff ain’t really old. For example, the de la Pena diary itself is suspect.

The Alamo flag – the defenders’ only banner — wasn’t found until 1934 in a drawer in Chapultepec Palace. One of Santa Anna’s artificial legs was discovered on display in the office of the Illinois adjutant general. The Twin Sisters, the two cannon the Texas Army had at San Jacinto, have been missing for 154 years. In 2007, Gov. Rick Perry proudly announced that Texas was paying $550,000 for a letter penned by Crockett from East Texas on Jan. 9, 1836, to his son and daughter back in Tennessee. Experts questioned the letter’s authenticity, and the deal was quietly cancelled. And don’t buy any Republic of Texas stamps. Texas never issued stamps.

I am still trying to pry open this drawer. It is part of my huge oaken roll-top desk used by my father, a pediatrician. As a tad I would go to his office and sit at this desk, filling out prescriptions on a pad. Wonder if Dad ever got raided by the DEA? He gave me this desk when I was about 12 or so, and I’ve had it ever since. Ah, the drawer is opening. Bottles of pills? Old prescription pads? Gold bars which I should really tell my siblings about? No, finders’ keepers. Tom Brady’s jersey? Gad, only old scripts for books and movies that I never got around to finishing. Well, it could have been a Fabergé Imperial Egg. The yolk’s on me, but to paraphrase Capitol One, what’s in your attic?

 

Ashby is hunting at ashby2@comcast.net

 

TEXAS ON THE FAST TRACK

February 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

By Lynn Ashby                                                                    20 Feb. 2017

THE OFFICE – A fast train running between Houston and Dallas is such a good idea that rumors say President Donald Trump is considering adding high-speed rail in Texas to his priority list of national infrastructure projects. What an original idea. My grandfather would endorse the program. Actually he did, about 120 years ago. This is his conductor’s hat, black, round, with a bill and gold trim. “T&NO CONDUCTOR,” it reads. (That was the Texas & New Orleans.) My grandfather, for whom I am named and knew quite well – he and my grandmother lived next door – started out at 19 as a conductor on the Houston to Dallas route. Back then there were several trains running each way each day, as fast as speed allowed at the time (1900 to the 1950s).

Today’s high-speed trains are faster, and have run for years in France and Japan. Indeed, it is a Japanese company which plans to build a bullet train for us. But there are massive problems, so don’t pack your bags just yet. Remember then-Gov. Rick Perry’s Texas Triangle? It would connect the Metroplex to Houston, San Antonio and several towns in between. The roadway would carry cars, trains, utility wires and probably ox carts. Never got off the ground. The cost was astronomical (one strike), to be built by a Spanish company (strike two) and would take over strips of land across Texas as wide as 2,500 feet (yer out!).

This new plan, pushed by Texas Central Partners, Texas Central Railway or TCR, is meeting the same problems. Foreign company, farmers and ranchers don’t want a huge chunk of their land taken over, while county commissioners and lawmakers fear hundreds if not thousands of acres would be stripped from the tax rolls. TCR says no tax dollars would be used to build it, which still leaves the tax-roll situation. Backers are having other problems, too, like getting land routes into the downtowns, money and how to get their hands on rural land. TCR’s claimed “eminent domain” power as a railroad is very much in question, and is now being contested in state court, with trial set for July. However, “The Texas Bullet Train Project” as it is sometimes called, is receiving some high praise from supporters in Dallas — by both residents and elected officials. In a report by a Dallas TV station, supporters said they are getting excited about its economic impact to Dallas.

A few years ago, there were plans for a far more modest project than the bullet train: to run a train from Houston to Galveston. As I wrote at the time, the line was first estimated in 2005 to cost $350 million; then the projected cost nearly doubled to $650 million. In 2007 Galveston spent $350,000 for a study to see if the idea was feasible. The study said yes. In 2008, the city spent $850,000 in mostly federal money for an analysis to determine whether Congress would fund the project. Huh? This is no way to run a railroad. A project that was supposed to be completed by 2013 never even began.

And to think that railroads help make Texas what it is, from the beginning. Back on Dec. 16, 1836, the First Congress of the Republic of Texas chartered the Texas Rail Road, Navigation, and Banking Company to construct railroads “from and to any such points…as selected.” That’s my kind of governmental oversight. Nothing came of the iron horse until the 1850s when rail companies rose and fell with each economic boom and bust. The first lines went out from Houston, which made Swamp City very proud. If you look at an early map of Houston you will see rail lines branching out from downtown like spokes on a wheel. Even today, the official seal of the City of Houston sports an ancient locomotive and, with a nod to the future, ugly, black smoke billowing from its smokestack. The city’s motto was, “Where 22 railroads meet the sea.” That must have been one big splash.

With the line heading west, to cross the Brazos the railroad first used a ferry and inclined planes on each side of the river. This system was replaced in October 1858 by a low-water crossing. The Little Engine That Could had to chug mightily to gain the momentum necessary to climb up the steep grade on the opposite side. Soon rail lines crossed the state. The Houston and Texas Central was able to reach Corsicana in 1871, Dallas in 1872. So we had trains running back and forth between Houston and Dallas 145 years ago. But not now.

To handle this growing industry, the Railroad Commission, created in 1891, became one of the most powerful regulatory bodies in the state, but corruption was a constant problem as influential railway companies worked behind the scenes to control lawmakers and the government. Corruption, in the Texas Legislature? Get serious. Today substitute “railroads” for “oil, insurance and out-of-state casinos.” The Railroad Commission no longer has anything to do with railroads, and Texas has only two passenger lines running through it: The Texas Eagle from Chicago to San Antonio and the Sunset Limited from New Orleans to Los Angeles. Now Houston’s one station is a small but adequate facility, while the other one has been turned into a baseball stadium. Still, Texas continues to have more railroad mileage than any other state and the largest number of railroad employees. I didn’t know that, did you?

When was the last time you took a train (as opposed to being railroaded)? I have always loved trains, took Amtrak a few weeks, no bag search, metal detectors or seat belts. And if you have flown from Hobby to Love, or the other way, how long was it from your home to your hotel, or office to office? Maybe taking a train from Houston to Dallas would be a good idea. What do you think, Grandpa?

 

Ashby conducts at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 FRIDAY NIGHT FLIGHTS

February 13, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

 

 

TULLY STADIUM – This is where my son and his son played football and where my daughter led cheers for the Fightin’ Wildcats. The whole complex would make many a college envious, for it is a vast and expensive facility with double-decked press boxes, big scoreboard, and artificial turf. My tax dollars at work. Ah, but this stadium pales in comparison to what the Katy ISD, right down the road, is building: a $62.5 million facility (but the cost keeps rising) which makes it the most expensive high school football stadium in Texas, beating out the Allen ISD, up near Dallas, which spent $60 million to build its stadium. However, another $10 million is needed to repair “significant structural defects.”

That’s a lot of money, but it’s all a matter of priorities. As CBS newsman Bob Schieffer (TCU) said, “In Texas, the week begins on Friday nights.” This creates a problem, and as usual, I have the solution. The problem: Many of our best football talent – the blue chippers — are going to out-of-state schools, there to raise millions for LSU, Florida, USC on an on. A recent survey by the Houston Chronicle determined that four of the 32 five-star recruits in the nation are from Texas, and none are staying here. A composite survey found that nine of the state’s top 15 recruits are leaving Texas. What we have here is a brain concussion drain. There are several reasons for the days when all our best players were staying in state. One reason: At the end of the last season, no Texas university ranked in any Top 25 poll. If you’re a winner in high school, why would you want to play for a loser? Then there is the constantly changing coaching situation. A head football coach at UH went to Baylor, then his replacement at UH went to Texas A&M. The last UH coach fled to UT, which had fired its coach, Charlie Strong, after only three years. We all know the chaos at Baylor, which now has had three coaches in two years. Texas A&M may be looking for a new coach. Same for Texas Tech since Kliff Kingsbury is only coaching .500. Every time a head coach leaves, some of the young men he recruited leave with him or just leave.

SMU is a special case. The Mustangs were once a football power with a Heisman Trophy winner. In 1987 SMU received the Death Penalty for a host of continued violations, the only time the NCAA has ever done that. SMU never recovered, and to this day is landing mostly the B and C list. Technology has played a role. It used to be that Texas recruiters could tell a young halfback, “Stay in the state and your folks can go see you play.” Cable TV lets the parents watch junior play for almost any school with a major program. And social media allows college coaches anywhere, if the tape is available, to view Number 34 running for yet another TD.

We’ve seen the problem, and why it is a problem, but what is it about our high school players that anyone else would care? Simply put, Texas has the oldest, largest and best high school football operator in the nation: the University Interscholastic League, or UIL. The old line goes: “There are better football programs, but they play on Sunday afternoons.” (As an aside, note the name contains “Scholastic” but not “Athletics,” because the UIL was established as an academic operation and still runs programs and contests for accounting, stage design, poetry interpretation and much more. But we’re talking football here, which most Texans prefer.) This past season, more than 150,000 students from 1,000 schools played UIL football. On any Friday night in the fall, some 600 games were played before 1-million people. Texas is the only state in the country that plays high school football using NCAA football rules, as opposed to the National Federation of State High School Associations. This provides for an easier move to the college level. Each December the top teams compete for the coveted state championship. This past year, 245,913 spectators watched the finals at AT&T Stadium (formerly Dallas Cowboys Stadium) and we must suspect 90 percent of them were college scouts. Over the years, the results have been impressive. Only 76 individuals can say they are Heis­man trophy winners, and nine of them are products of Texas high school foot­ball. Meantime, 24 former UIL players have been inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.

As for my solution to our blue-chippers heading out of state, we pay for these kids to begin playing at the age of 8 or 9, then support them when they move on to junior and finally high school. Texas taxpayers provide them with coaches, equipment, fields and bleachers not to mention cheerleaders, flag girls, bands with expensive uniforms and lots of adulation you can’t buy. Then, when they reach the top of their early game, they go to play for the Crimson Tide. (The starting quarterback for Alabama, the perennial Number 1 team in the nation, is Jalen Hurts from Channelview, Texas. How much money did Hurts generate for ‘Bama?) We have a coveted commodity here, and we are giving it away. Texas does not give away its oil, cattle or sleazy politicians. So we charge or trade. “Florida, you want Bubba Musclebound? That’ll be 100k and an orange grove to be named later.” “Okies, since most of your team is made up of turncoat Texans, spot UT three touchdowns in the Red River Shootout.”

This story has been told before, but is worth re-telling about an alleged confrontation some years ago at a coaches’ convention when Michigan State head football coach Duffy Daugherty ran into UCLA head coach Tommy Prothro. Daugherty thoroughly upbraided his colleague for “recruiting in my backyard.” Prothro replied that he hadn’t even been in Michigan lately, much less recruited there. “Not Michigan,” Daugherty fairly yelled. “Texas!”

 

Ashby is recruited at ashby2@comcast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YANKEE, COME HOME

February 6, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

 

HOVERING OVER HOUSTON — Fasten your seatbelts, trays up, wheels down. I am flying into Hobby from a trip to Las Vegas. (Hint: hotel rooms there don’t have coffee pots. They want you to use room service for coffee and muffins each morning: $37, $74 and $59. Nevada has no state income tax, but I was hit with a daily room tax, room fee and resort fee tax totaling $85.46.) Looking out the widow I see rows and rows of homes down below, in lines or semi-circles, facing cul-de-sacs, backed up to bayous. Those houses weren’t there 10 years ago, and, after Hurricane Bubba comes in August, may not be there next year. All of which leads us to – one guess — President Donald John Trump. It goes like this: one reason Trump won the election is that Russian President Vladimir Putin rigged it. Another reason is that Hillary Clinton was the worst presidential candidate since Aaron Burr. A third reason is that blue-collar workers in the Rust Belt believed Trump when he said he would stop the exodus of plants to Mexico and China. He would get American workers jobs again, he would bring back prosperity, heal the lame, walk on water, etc. etc. In a term, he would scratch their itch.

OK, these poor souls have been waiting for years for someone else to come to their aid, and we can’t help but feel sorry for them. But, not to sound too hard-hearted, there is a certain amount of self-pity there. How long are they going to sit in Cleveland waiting for the cavalry to arrive? Detroit, a lot of cities have financial problems, but you managed to go flat bankrupt, and others (us) had to bail you out. What measures did you take on your own? It’s like the Texas governor said in “The Best Little …:” “Somebody do something.” Your “do something’ was to vote into office a slightly crazed snake oil salesman who will make everything right, like tomorrow. But that tomorrow may be a long way off, so I have a solution. It’s called GTT, Gone To Texas. Those were the initials chalked, carved or burned into front doors of log cabins, houses and hovels across eastern America in the 1800s, and everyone who was left behind knew exactly what it meant. Davy Crocket put it more bluntly to his former constituents, after being defeated for reelection to Congress: “You all may go to hell. And I will go Texas!” (Some might say it was a short trip.)

In recent years, many have taken that advice. Texas’ population is growing twice as fast as the rest of the nation. Three reasons: foreign immigration — check the kitchen after your next restaurant meal. Natural birth rates — Texans are sex addicts. And national immigration – other Americans coming here. Do you ever get the idea that the Border Patrol is watching the wrong river? Texas’ population surged by 1.8 million people from 2010 to 2014 – Houston is catching up with Chicago — and the U.S. Census Bureau projects the state’s population will double by 2050.

Before you spray paint GTT on your ice-covered condo door, let’s make sure we’re a match. We like guns. Do you like guns? If you’re from Chicago, next question. We pronounce the word ROW-dee-oh, not row-DAY-oh. This isn’t Beverly Hills, as you will soon realize. Don’t shout: “Hook ‘Em Horns” in College Station. It’s a long story. Avoid saying things like, “That’s not the way we did it in Philadelphia,” or, “Shouldn’t Texas have an income tax like we did in Michigan?” We don’t need any more missionaries to the savages. At sporting events, wave banners of the home team, and that’s here. No more cheering when the Packers, Dodgers or Celtics score. Also, there is a vast difference in how Texans feel about George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. Speaking of politics, the good old boys who controlled Texas for more than a century through the Democratic Party were white, male, conservative and often racist. They feared that the huge influx of northerners would bring with them East Coast liberalism, big government, high taxes and integration. These newcomers must have been converted because Texas now has the most right-wing state government in the nation.

We like sports such as gerrymandering, freeway demolition derbies and, above all, high school football. It was former Houston Post sports columnist Mickey Herskowitz who wrote: “There must really be something to religion. People keep comparing it to Texas high school football.” The slogan, “Don’t mess with Texas” originally dealt with litter. Now it’s a battle cry. “Remember the Alamo” was once a battle cry. Now it’s an order. Global warming is a hoax, but professional wrestling is real. Never squat while wearing spurs.

Some old timers (those who got here before 2007) say: “I’m aboard, so pull up the gangplank.” That’s a bit much, but we need to cherry-pick those who join us. Can your kid dribble, punt or bat .333? Do you plan to invest a couple of million in a new company here which will hire 300 workers? Are you an honest politician who doesn’t dwell in meaningless demagoguery like school restrooms? We have a few positions in Austin which desperately need replacing. There was an expression years ago about the GTT crowd and others who moved west: “The cowards never started, and the weak died along the way.” Actually, if you’re just gonna sit there collecting food stamps and welfare checks while waiting for someone else – like President Trump — to solve your problems, you wouldn’t cut it in Texas, anyway.

Right now, looking down at those new homes spread out across the salt grass prairie, I suspect few of those inhabitants are from Houston, or even from Texas. As the West Berliners who fled communism, used to say, “We voted with our feet.” You’ve already voted for Trump, now vote with your feet.

 

Ashby moved to ashby2@comcast.net

 

THE EYES HAVE IT

January 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

 

 

By Lynn Ashby                                                                 30 January 2017

 

THE EYES HAVE IT

 

THE KITCHEN — Elderly Chinese gentleman: “I am going to have an eye operation.”                                  Questioner: “Do you have a cataract?” ECG: “No, I have an Oldsmobile.” (Bob Hope, circa 1955) You can’t tell ethnic jokes like that anymore, but in fact, I did have a cataract, and it is no laughing matter. My story began when I noticed my eyesight was getting fuzzy, so, obviously, I went to see my doctor. He happens to be an endocrinologist, but that’s close enough for medical work, and maybe he could prescribe something. He prescribed another doctor, an ophthalmologist, actually several. They seem to specialize: retina, pupil, eye lid, eye lash, left eye, right eye, bull’s eye.

After I visited most members of the AMA, the docs decided I had a nuclear reincarnation or maybe it was a miscalculated degeneration in my left eye. (Hey, I flunked out of pre-med. If I hadn’t, you wouldn’t be reading these magnificent words.) And I had cataracts in both eyes. So the cataract doc decided to operate on the right eye and then the left. I was prepared for a small inconvenience. “It’s a nothing operation,” a friend said. “I drove myself to the doctor the next day for a post-op checkup.” Said another: “I had both eyes done one afternoon. Went to work the next morning.” I returned to the clinic a week later and visited several eye machines I got to know from previous visits. “Put your chin here, close your left eye, now close your right eye. What do you see?” I replied, “Nothing.” I may have been a medical first.

After seven nurses — or maybe it was 72 virgins, I couldn’t see that well — prepared me, the Chief Doctor came in, he looked about 18, and went to work digging into my eyeball. One thing I noticed is that today’s drill presses are really very quiet. He was good, quick, steady and didn’t make jokes about “by your pupils you will be taught.” (“The King and I”) In a minute or so he told me he had deropped the right melgin and transmuted my optic-fiffel. “Your vision will be a little foggy for a while,” he warned.

That turned out to be like saying, “You might miss your left leg at first.” The week went by and I was not doing so well. Actually I was walking around with a white cane and a tin cup. The second week I was in the kitchen saying, “It’s around here somewhere. Third drawer from the stove. Just open it and get out my beer opener and…OUCH! It seems I have cut off my finger.” It’s easy to mistake a knife for a beer opener. On my next visit to the eye doctor, he said I was coming along nicely. “I guess I am getting better,” I agreed. “Excuse me,” he replied, “but I’m over here.” Incidentally, I am detailing my experiences to save you a lot of time and money on yourself or on your family so they will know what to expect after a cataract operation. For example, don’t ask me to drive a car. “But Officer, I know I was on my side of the road.” “Does your side include the curb, median and toll booth?” Avoid using terms such as: “Now see here,” “It’s as plain as day” and, “Would you close the blinds?”

As a good investigative journalist, I looked into what causes cataracts so as to avoid them                      in the future. According to the Mayo Clinic, a lot of things. “Most cataracts develop when aging or injury changes the tissue that makes up your eye’s lens.” Other causes include genetic disorders, i.e., you inherited bad vision which I didn’t, “other eye conditions,” diabetes and long-term use of steroids. Thanks a lot, Mayo. You’ve been a great deal of help. On my next visit to the eye doctor, he suggested he not operate on my left eye until the right eye was clear. I figured that would be in time for the next Olympics – summer, not winter. Receiving such bad advice from friends earlier that I would be seeing clearly within a day or two, I asked how long my fuzzy eyesight should last. The doc zeroed in: “That depends.” My mother always said I was her slow one, but I didn’t know that included recovery from dueling with a drill press.

A major problem with the inability to see clearly has nothing to do with needle-point sewing or repairing watches. It’s about reading. Yes, I could watch TV although I kept mistaking the Rockets for the Cowboys. Is it Rachel Maddow or Chuck Todd with the beard? Listening to music was a (excuse the cliché) no brainer. I read everything: books, magazines, newspapers, billboards, the ingredients in Ritz crackers (“Protein less than 1g”) and my neighbors’ mail when it’s misdirected. But I can’t read newspapers’ fine print, just the headlines. “Group Slates Meeting.” “Man Bites Dog.” “Trump Demands Recount of Recount.” The sports section is no help: “Cats Bag La-La Land With Walk-Off.” Huh? Then there are those news headlines which raise more questions than they answer: “Texas Legislature Bans Women’s Health” and: “White House Annexed by Trump Tower.”

Suspicions develop. I am not absolutely certain, but I think my children are re-writing my will including something about “an ice floe.” A TV bulletin across the bottom of the screen called for my ouster from America and banishment to Waco. They say (“they” being either Google or Facebook) that when you lose one sense, the rest become even stronger. That’s true, because I can hear people talking about me. I am not paranoid, but I distinctly heard my family say, “Hit and run,” “I know the combination” and “ice floe.” This is now week six and I can see much better. Even my driving has improved, although it is still hard to spot an Oldsmobile.

 

Ashby leads the blind at ashby2@comcast.net

YULE GET AROUND TO IT

January 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

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 ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A RARE MEDIUM, WELL DONE

January 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

 

 

 

By Lynn Ashby                                               16 Jan. 2017

 

A RARE MEDIUM, WELL DONE

 

THE CLASSROOM — Welcome, class, to Journalism 101, in which you will learn the basics of journalism such as how to change facts to suit your own political positions, slant stories, stick in biases without leaving fingerprints and destroy America as we know it today. First, here are a few random notes: Never write a headline that ends with a question mark. Your newspaper is supposed to know the answer, that’s why readers turn to it. Never print a letter to the editor that begins with: “Now let me get this straight.” If the writer doesn’t know how to solve the problem, get it straight before bothering the rest of us. We’re busy. Do not write headlines about missing pets with, “Dog Gone,” or run a story about unexpected reptiles with the headline, “Snakes Alive!” They were shopworn before Johannes Gutenberg was setting type.

When you told your folks you were going to major in journalism, they probably said, “But newspapers are dead.” Wrong, they are only on temporary life support. It goes this way: The first newspapers sprang up in London in the 1600s and look nothing like the papers of today, or even those of the 1700s. By the Civil War, newspapers had tiny type and no photographs, just drawings. Editors placed stories as they arrived, with the first at the top of the page, and so on. Down at the very bottom was the last story to come in: “Lincoln Shot!” Today’s papers are evolving, just as everything else is – cars, clothes and the way we get our news. Most of us, especially younger people, get their information via emails, on-lines, iPads, hashtags and tom-toms, but not newspapers.

Two points here. The newspaper industry is getting into these news media. And it’s working. Today The New York Times has more readers than it has ever had, and more than half of these readers are not holding papes. Indeed, newspapers may have to start calling themselves a “newsbox: or “newscreen.” On the other hand, you still “dial” a phone number and “roll down” your car window. The other point is that, while you may think you don’t read newspapers, you’re right. They are being read to you. Notice how often you read your local newspaper and then see that same story on the local evening TV news. Same thing for national TV newscasts. The line about “NBC has learned” is correct. They learned it from reading that morning’s Washington Post. I once heard a reporter say, “I’d feel a lot better about what they say and write if I ever covered a speech, convention or rally and saw a reporter from the Huffington Post, the Drudge Report or Brightbart. There aren’t any.” The worst in parasite journalism are the radio, TV and pundit panels whose main, if not only, feedstock are the “mainstream media” as they like to despairingly put it. Talk about biting the hand. Donald Trump, like a good vaudevillian, tried out different lines in various speeches. He removed lines that fell flat: (“I am a Humble man. And Exxon and Shell and the Koch Brothers.”) He kept the zingers: The Wall and insults to the press. Now he works them into every speech. His followers love it.

I have been a journalist for a long time. Actually, when I got my first scoop I rushed into the city room yelling, “Stop the chisels!” But never before have I witnessed the press so hated. Indeed, a story from the Huffington Post repeated (remember that earlier line about parasite journalism) cited a

Gallup poll that showed people don’t have much confidence in newspaper and TV reporters when it comes to being honest and ethical. In a survey taken of more than 1,000 adults in the U.S., only 20 percent rated TV reporters “high” or “very high” for honesty and ethical standards, putting it sixth from the bottom of Gallup’s list of professions. Only 21 percent of respondents rated newspaper reporters positively for honesty. Another poll said newspaper reporters ranked the worst of the worst jobs in Career Cast’s 2016. Broadcaster was rated the fourth-worst job, finishing behind disc jockey, military personnel and pest control worker, according to the report.
Another point to learn: You will be hated. Total strangers will walk up to you and insult your profession, employer, colleagues and your mother. Learn how to say, “Sorry. Did I spell your name wrong in the story about the brothel bust?” Or: “After reading page one, do your lips get tired?” Students, you won’t find, or need, such training in the Architecture School, Pharmacist College or the Department of Ceramic Engineering.

All of this is not new. Thomas Jefferson wrote. “The man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them, inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.” However, Tom also wrote: “And were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” Don’t complain. You know what you are getting into. If you don’t like it, there is still time to go over to the Department of Ceramic Engineering. No one ever writes hate letters to pottery makers.

A final point: You ink-stained wretches and TV good-hairs should know this pursuit can be dangerous. Before the Normandy invasion on the sixth of June, 1944, D-Day, 58 war correspondents were selected to accompany Allied troops ashore in the first wave. Before leaving, they were all ordered to write their own obituaries. Some were published. Nothing’s changed. The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that in 2016 at least 48 journalists were killed worldwide doing their jobs (Journalists Without Borders puts the deaths at 74.) while 28 deaths are still being investigated. Another 268 were jailed. Gives a whole new; meaning to the term “deadlines.” OK, students, get out there and lie.

 

Ashby slants at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OUR WELL-RED LEADER

January 2, 2017 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

 

                                                      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 ashby2@comcast.net .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOWLING OVER

December 26, 2016 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

 

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 ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

SHED A TEAR FOR THE YEAR

December 19, 2016 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

 

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 ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ALL JOKING ASIDE

December 12, 2016 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

 

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 ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GULLIBLE’S TRAVELS 

December 5, 2016 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

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 ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TERM LIMITATIONS

November 28, 2016 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

 

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 ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHEN A COLLEGE BECOMES A UNIVERSITY

November 21, 2016 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

 

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 ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

WE’RE NUMBER 1 — OR MAYBE NOT

November 19, 2016 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

 

 

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 ashby2@comcst.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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POP OPEN THE CAMPAIGN

November 7, 2016 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

 

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

 

ONE MAN, ONE VOTE, ONE STATE

October 31, 2016 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

 

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 ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE ICE OF TEXAS

October 29, 2016 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

 

 

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 ashby2@comcast.net

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