Fasten the mizzen mast! Splike the nimrods and be quick about it, mates. Why this nautical mood? Because Sept. 17 is (or was, depending when you are reading this) Texian Navy Day! What’s that? Pilgrim, back in Newark you knew Texas had an army – the Alamo, San Jacinto and Salvation — but the Republic of Texas also had a navy. In fact, we had two and it’s a reason we don’t celebrate Diaz y Seis. Well, some don’t. To re-tell the tale: The Republic of Texas created a navy which fought the Mexican Navy up and down the Gulf. President Sam Houston, being an army man, hated the navy and refused to pay its costs. He once declared the entire Texas Navy to be pirates and called on other nations to arrest the lot. By the time Houston left the presidency for the first time, in 1838, the Texas Navy was down to one unsailable ship, two lieutenants, two midshipmen, a doctor, two pursers, two seamen who were both deserters from the U.S. Navy, and the ranking lieutenant was cashiered “in consequence of a repeated inebriety.” Texas’ next president, Mirabeau Lamar, liked the navy and restored funds to build a fleet.
This brings us to the night of Feb.11, 1842, on the Mississippi River off New Orleans aboard the Texas Navy Schooner (TNS) San Antonio. The ship had rescued the crew and passengers from a sinking American ship, touched in at Galveston briefly and was ordered to go to New Orleans to let off the shipwreck survivors and pick up supplies. So it did. Ah, New Orleans, every sailor’s heart beat faster at the prospect of a night on Bourbon Street. The ship pulled in, and began loading supplies. Beef (a dime a pound), bread (a nickel a loaf) and potatoes (a dollar a bushel). That’s all. The diet on Texas ships was inexpensive to the taxpayers, but not too varied for the crew. It is now night, when the ranking officers set off for the bright lights of the big city, leaving the crew aboard for the very good reason that, once ashore, most would never come back. A man can stomach only so much beef, bread and potatoes.
Some passing boatmen slip aboard a few bottles of booze for the crew. Down in the hold the sailors imbibe and start griping. Topside, Marine Sgt. Seymour Oswald accosts Lt. M. B. Dearborn and demands shore leave for himself and some friends. No soap, or gruel, Sergeant. They get into an argument and Marine Lt. Charles Fuller, the ranking officer still on board, pops up on deck to see what’s happening. Things are getting touchy, so Fuller resorts to the usual solution to shipboard problems: he calls out the Marine guard, Sgt. Oswald, commanding. It usually works, putting the cause of the problem in charge of the solution. Only somebody forgot to tell Sgt. Oswald. He begins passing out weapons, not only to the Marine guard, but to his fellow sailor mutineers. He keeps a Colt pistol and a tomahawk (the Texas Navy was uniquely prepared for Indian attacks). Under the guise of reporting that the guard is ready, Sgt. Oswald approaches Fuller. Oswald cracks the officer smartly on the head with a tomahawk. Fuller grabs his own pistol, Oswald fires his. The Marines rush topside. So do the mutineers. Bang. Stab. Shoot. Fuller falls dead and the crew attacks his body with cutlasses and muskets. Two midshipmen, Alden and Odell, rush to protect Fuller and are promptly wounded. Lt. Dearborn is “knocked down the cabin hatch and the companion drawn over him.”
Oswald and his cronies lower a couple of boats and head for the fun, but the battle has attracted the notice of sailors aboard a nearby U.S revenue cutter, the Jackson. The U.S. sailors investigate and find poor Lt. Dearborn down below, yelling for help. The U.S. sailors and the New Orleans police quickly round up the Texas mutineers and toss them in jail. When the San Antonio finally leaves port, it only has two of the mutineers aboard, International extradition snags between the U.S. and the Republic keep the others in jail. The captain decides not to hold the court martial immediately since the sight of crewmen dangling from the yardarm might put a damper on his recruiting in New Orleans (the ship had some unexpected vacancies). Fuller is also left behind — buried in the Girod Street Cemetery.
President Sam Houston is upset when he receives the news. (“This subject is the first in my recollection which has occurred in any port of a foreign nation.”) and finally gets most of the other mutineers back to Texas, although the ringleader, Sgt. Oswald, has escaped and is never heard from again. The head of the Texas Navy, Commodore Edwin W. Moore, gathers all concerned and puts them aboard the good ship TNS Austin, and heads for the high seas. The state’s case is hampered by the fact that the San Antonio and its entire crew disappeared in the Gulf. In any event, Moore convenes the case. Frederick Shepherd, after some questioning, turns state’s evidence. He gets off but is killed three weeks later in a battle. Benjamin Pornpilly, who died in prison, had already confessed his part in the mutiny. F. Williams is let off with 50 lashes while William Barrington and Edward Kenan get 100 each. But Pvt. Antonio Landois and Cpl. William Simpson of the Marines and Seamen James Hudgins and Isaac Allen are sentenced to the yardarm. On April 26, 1843, at high noon, they were strung up. Prayers were said over each of the departed, who were then buried at sea. As for Lt. Fuller, his body stayed in New Orleans until 1936 when he was brought to the Official State Cemetery in east Austin. New Orleans needed the Girod Street Cemetery. They had to widen Girod Street.
Ashby mutinies at firstname.lastname@example.org
This multi-million dollar glass and steel beauty in the heart of Washington’s prime real estate used to be my office building. But you wonder how a greedy, opportunistic dirt bag like me could hit it big? It’s a long story (maybe 5 years with good behavior) and began when my newest get-rich-quick scheme failed after Ted Cruz admitted that, way down deep, he’s shallow. His presidential campaign collapsed and I was left with an empty victory banquet hall, an unpaid band and gallons of liquor I called Cruz Booze. My next endeavor was to sell franchises to the Roger Ailes Feminine Empowerment School. That bombed, but it left me with 1,000 copies of “Fox News for Dummies.” I was told that’s redundant. My student loan program didn’t work out after I discovered students didn’t have any money to loan me.
That’s when I sought out my financial adviser. It was a Sunday afternoon, so visiting hours were in play. “I’ve lost everything,” I sobbed. “Even my Dippity-Doo dippity didn’t.” He picked up the phone and tapped on the glass. “I’ve got a bunch of 3-D glasses you can have.” I shook my head. “You’re right. 4-D is the hottest thing. You could sell flood insurance in Baton Rouge, or is it too late? OK, I’ve got it. Pollsters say they have never seen anything like this: Voters don’t like, don’t trust and may not even vote for either Hillary or Trump. You could make a fortune by betting on George H.W. Bush. Everybody loves Poppy. No, wait. He tried being president once. It didn’t pan out. Here’s my best shot. Think tanks. Every trade group, lobbyist and anyone who wants to get their snout in the U.S. Treasury has a think tank in Washington to put academic authenticity on bribes. Give your group some meaningless but patriotic title like Americans for a Better America or Prosperity for All. Who can oppose God & Goodness Associates?”
I moved to Washington and quickly discovered competition was going to be tough. There are dozens, no scores or hundreds of think tanks, and they must be doing well, regardless of their predispositions. The left-leaning Brookings Institution’s annual budget has doubled in the last decade to $100 million. (One of its “scholars” received $353,145 in wages and other compensation in 2014.) The right-leaning American Enterprise Institute is spending at least $80 million on a new headquarters here, not far from where the Center for Strategic and International Studies built a $100 million office tower. While everyone knows there is a huge amount of cash flowing around Washington these days for lobbyists (mostly defeated Congressmen), there is also big money for think tanks which are Ivy Towered sleaze. Much of this cash comes indirectly from the American taxpayers. It goes like this: I daily get emails from what I call the Old Boy Network, made up of retired military. The site simply passes on articles, speeches, etc., and lately many of them have warned darkly of China’s growing sea power. The U.S. is falling behind, and what we need is another aircraft carrier. It is never pointed out that we already have 10 of them, and no other country has any, except for France, which has one.
Now we find that a company with a military-industrial complex, let’s call it Huntington Ingalls Industries, hired a think tank, we’ll call it the Hudson Institute, which launched a major offensive with learned reports by experts, testimony before Congress and op/ed pieces written by “Admiral J.J. Flotsam, (ret.) member of the Group of Experts,” with little if any way to trace the money back to Huntington. Nor is it noted that nuclear-powered aircraft carriers cost about $11 billion each, and – you’ll never believe this — the one and only builder of aircraft carriers is Huntington.
My next move was clear: I got a well-heeled client, Pioneer Transportation, created America’s Traditional Defense Associates and started hiring obscure professors to write learned papers filled with military jargon (USPAC, sub-automatic counter-puffs and Magnetic Tipped Thermoquads). The reports, op/ed articles and released testimony before the House Subcommittee on Spending Taxpayers’ Money, noted at the bottom of the page that the professor was a tenured member of the U.S. Council of Intellectual People and past-president of the JJGP. Unfortunately, Congress was not interested in allocating funds for pack mules. I had no better luck peddling government subsidies for AstroTurf fertilizer or for a submarine base in Salt Lake City.
Then things turned around. There was no shortage of experts who would turn out either supporting or oppositional studies, research papers or charts for anything. For testimony before Congress, I found a bevy of “outside consultants” — honor graduates from Trump University. I called their testimony “pay-for-say.” Depending on the client, my think tanks were called Lawyers for Perjury, Consultants for UNFESCO (no one asked), Friends of Smog and Anarchists United. Incidentally, it is not only Congress that receives a deluge of one-sided information from ersatz scholars. Regulatory agencies like the FCC, CDC and FDA are targets, too. Press reports show that currently millions and millions of dollars are being spent in Washington by cable companies (net neutral) and Big Pharma (obscene drug prices). Their hired guns are registered lobbyists and their hidden evil twins, think thanks. How pervasive are they? We know that when Congress was debating drug prices a few years ago there were six lobbyists on Capitol Hill for each member, each lobbyist armed with think tank studies.
You, as a thoughtful citizen, are wondering how you can peel back these deliberate layers of obfuscation, meaningless titles and mysterious motivations. It’s easy. The next story you read on a newspaper’s op/ed page (that’s opposite the opinion or editorial page), written by an unknown expert pushing something, treat it as an advertisement, because that opinion was bought and paid for. You are also wondering what obfuscation means. Finally, you’ve been wondering about my ankle monitoring bracelet.
Ashby thinks at email@example.com
Dear Mom and Dad, Camp Wanakawa is really great. So is the food. I like my counselors and I’ve met a lot of neat guys. My two favorite classes are canoeing and starting a fire Indian-style with just flint, straw and napalm. Camp rules forbid having electronic gadgets such as smart phones, iPads, even stereos and satellite TVs. Luckily, our mattresses are lumpy. I seem to have left a few items at home, so could you please mail me shoes, socks, 2 sheets and Spot. I really miss him. Your son, Motley
PS: Please send a few dollars for the camp store.
Dear Mom and Dad, Camp is still great. The food is not so terrific, but I sort of like my counselors. Maybe the reason I haven’t been getting your letters is because Camp Wanakawa’s name has been changed. My counselors say this is necessary since the U.S. Dept. of Victimization has ruled “Wanakawa” is a Comanche word for “white babies’ scalps” and thus is insulting to the Comanches. The new name is Camp Empathy.
Dear Motley, we just received a letter from your counselor. He reports you are doing well in your various activities, although we didn’t know Camp Empathy taught tattooing. We are sure you will get the hang of bear wrestling soon. We have called FedEx to mail the items you requested, plus some you didn’t request like toothpaste and soap. Back at home, we miss you very much, but the family of gypsies that rented your room say you apparently never swept under the bed or emptied your fly traps, and are moving out.
Dear Mom and Dad. Yesterday we visited Camp Koo-Che-Koo-Me right across the river and took them on in softball, tennis, swimming and arm wrestling. We lost in every event. Our counselors called us “a bunch of wimps” and “total losers,” which made a lot of us cry and ask for our mommy and bankie. The food is not so great but just OK. However, gruel three times a day is getting monotonous. Our horseback riding classes have been suspended after PETA sued, accusing us of “unethical abuse of God’s creatures.” I didn’t know God owned our horses. Did I mention that Camp Koo-Che-Koo-Me is a girls’ camp? Exciting news! Sheriff’s deputies came to camp and arrested a counselor. What’s a pedophile? Your son, Motley
PS: Please send a few dollars to cover expenses at the camp store. Thanks.
Dear Mom and Dad. Camp is getting worse. The chef changed the menu after the food riot. I’m getting used to oatmeal for dinner. Today we went for a hike and almost everyone returned. My cabin mates have a new nickname for me, Drippy. You’d think they’d never seen a bed-wetter before. A letter from the U.S. Dept. of Victimization says we must start using the term “Native Americans” or “Those Defending Their Homelands” and stop using the word “Indians” as it violates the U.S. Code of Politically Correct Titles. My bunkmate, Ralph Little Eagle, says the U.S. government bureau dealing with Indian affairs is officially named the Bureau of Indian Affairs, (headquartered in the same city as the Washington Redskins), so he asks: what’s the problem? The food is much better now that we use John-Bob’s smart phone to order from Domino’s. Your son, Motley
Dear Motley, glad you are having fun at camp. We just received a letter from your counselor. He says you are an “exceptional” camper for the most part. He apologized for your stay at the camp infirmary but explained they have “a first-rate snakebite clinic.” He wrote you are getting along fine with your fellow campers outside of the occasional tar and feathering. He also wrote that he can’t understand why you would need money since items purchased at the camp store are paid by the parents at the end of camp. Sorry we could not send you Spot. He was run over by a FedEx truck. Love, Mom and Dad.
Dear Mom and Dad. The movie last night was “A Few Good Men,” which explains why I was given a Code Red treatment by my cabin mates. When I complained to the counselors they just laughed and said it was “a camp initiation rite.” PETA has allowed our horseback riding classes to resume, but now the horses ride us. In our Native American lore class we were told that Sen. Elizabeth Warren is not really Pocahontas. I have had to change classes just because I showed my ability to start a fire Indian-style with flint, straw and napalm. My bunkmate, Ralph Little Eagle, said that most Indians don’t start a fire while still in the canoe. When is camp over? Your son, Motley
Dear Motley’s parents. Enclosed is a bill for $1,200 for one canoe.
Dear Mom and Dad. They closed the camp mess hall due to health department violations. We were told that real campers could live off the land. I’ve lost 10 pounds. We went on an overnight hike to Lake Rancid where we put up tents, slept on the ground (fortunately, I brought my lumpy mattress so we could watch “The Bachelorette,”) and sat around the campfire telling stories, some about our parents. I wrote them down, and you won’t have to send me any more money. Oh, I forgot to tell you, Camp Empathy is being sued by the Wanakawa tribe, which claims it sold naming rights to the camp in exchange for 40 guns, a keg of firewater and a subscription to Netflix “to last as long as the rivers flow, the buffalo roam and the Great Spirit personally advises Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.”
Dear Motley’s parents. Please come get your kid. We’ll refund the fee.
Dear Mom and Dad. Camp has been over for a week. Isn’t it time you picked me up? My last letters have been returned, stamped: “Addressee Unknown — No forwarding Address.”
Ashby camps at firstname.lastname@example.org
HUNT – This part of Texas along the banks of the Guadalupe River is one of the most beautiful in the state. Summer camps, homes with yards sloping down to the riverbanks, Indian raids. Yes, you and I are off on another historical mystery. (Did you ever notice that no one ever saw Edgar Allan Poe and John Wilkes Booth at the same time?) Now we are re-investigating what may have been the last Indian raid in Texas, or were they really Indians?
Let me set the stage: On Oct. 1, 1878, Jim and Susan Dowdy moved here from Goliad, arriving with some sheep and horses and eight children. At the time Houston had public schools, Dallas had a baseball team and Texas had A&M, but the Hill Country was still the frontier. On the morning of the fourth day after their arrival, four of the children were sent to a bluff a half-mile away to watch over a flock of sheep. There was a son, James, 11, with brown hair, large ears and a slightly sad expression; Martha, 16; Susan, 17, and Alice, 18 – girls with long, dark hair and pretty faces. A grown son, Richard, remained at the house so that he and a young friend, who was engaged to one of the girls, could eat an early lunch and then relieve the children so they could go back and eat.
The two men finished lunch about 11 a.m. and went out to find the children, but discovered them missing and sheep scattered. They raced back to the house to report. Their mother, Susan, hurried to the hills and there found the bodies of her four children. Two of girls’ bodies were lying together. The third was 200 yards away and James was some distance from her. All the bodies had been horribly mutilated with bullet, tomahawk and arrow wounds, but they were not scalped. A wagon took the bodies to the house of a neighbor, Mrs. “Wash” Floyd, who helped prepare the bodies. Her daughter recalled much later, “I remember Mama telling me Mrs. Dowdy said to her, ‘I can’t bear to see you pull out those arrows because I know it will hurt.’ The children were buried with the arrows still in their bodies.” Many other arrows were found along a hillside as though the children had been running along there, dodging a hail of arrows. The Indians had with them a herd of horses and had made their escape. A posse was formed, but that took a day or so to form, and no Indians were spotted.
End of a sad story. Almost. Yes, the first suspects were Indians. October was the time of the year when the dreaded Comanches came up from Mexico and from the Indian territories to the north. But they generally raided only during the light of the full Comanche Moon. There were arrows at the scene and tomahawk marks. But nothing was taken. One family member told me there were some horses stolen. And you can’t very well rustle a flock of sheep and make any kind of getaway. There were no reports that the girls had been raped. What was the reason for the raid?
Word began surfacing that the raid was not the work of Indians at all, but of U.S. renegades or Mexican bandits. “They just used those arrows and tomahawks to make the posse go looking for Indians,” an old timer told me. But now we have a new development, a newspaper clipping, misspellings and all: “Dallas Weekly Herald, 19 May 1881 – dateline San Antonio May 13. A letter from Kerville says last Sunday, as Deputy Sherriff Clemens, of Kervill County was returning from San Antonio with two prisoners, John Potter and William Dunman, he was waylaid by a party of unknown men near Kerville and both prisoners taken from him. The men stopped in the middle of the road with drawn revolvers. The deputy could do nothing but comply. Shortly afterwards Potter was shot down in the road. The deputy reported facts in town and an inquest was held on the body of Potter. Nothing is known as to who the parties were on the object of the killing. Potter had been arrested and was on his way to be tried for horse stealing.”
What’s the connection and who cares? The above mentioned Dunman was related to the Dowdy family. Potter supposedly boasted of his part in the massacre to Dunman while they were in jail in San Antonio, not knowing of the relationship. Dunman got word to the Dowdy family as to when Potter was to be taken by stage to Junction for trial. But we also have this version: When the stage got past Mountain Home, to the north, and reached the top of a hill, Dick Dowdy and another brother, Tom, stopped the stage, took Potter to a nearby tree and hanged him. Potter was buried there, but his body was later moved to make way for a highway, and today no one knows where it is. “He didn’t have anything to do with it,” a Dowdy once told me. “He was just bragging.”
In any event, Tom and Dick were tried for murder but were acquitted. An entire generation of Dowdys would not speak publicly of the tragedy. “That was so bad, so very, very bad, you can see why,” a resident finally told me. “One sister lived here the rest of her life, too frightened to leave her home. She became a total recluse. Even when the river would rise, neighbors would have trouble getting her to leave. And during the Comanche Moon….” At Mountain Home there is Sunset Cemetery, with small shell-covered graves for Susan, Allice (the gravestone seems to have two ls) James and Martha. All four have the same date of death, Oct. 5, 1878. Beneath each name is the word, “Murdered.” But who did it, and why?
Ashby is mystified at email@example.com
THE OFFICE – It’s here somewhere, maybe under this pile of magazines which is under a pile of books. No, so I’ll look on this chair which holds some catalogues, more newspapers and printouts of articles I read online and want to keep. This time I am looking for “The Wit and Wisdom of Calvin Coolidge.” Is this your problem, too? I am on the receiving end of TMI. In the past TMI has stood for Three Mile Island, Texas Military Institute and, of course, Transmarginal Inhibition, but for me TMI stands for Too Much Information, which is also a song recorded by The Police and Duran Duran.
Don’t you love it when some paranoid friend says, “But the media won’t tell us.” Huh? We have more newspapers, magazines and online publications than we can handle. What do you read? I get my daily local newspaper, plus The New York Times and a neighborhood weekly freebee that tells me how much my school taxes will be increased. I used to get the Wall Street Journal, but it had too many jokes and cartoons. However, I do miss those “Donald Trump Is Almost Normal” editorials. Magazines? Four weekly or monthly, I think, although Texas Monthly seems to come daily, and it’s about 99 percent ads. They all pile up in my den, office, in my weekender in Varicose Valley. The fire marshals are worried. Unread books? I have them stacked around, and keep thinking if I just put some by my elbow I can absorb them through osmosis. Do you do this? Rip out a page from some publication with the idea that you don’t need to keep the entire paper, and you’ll read this article tomorrow, or at least next week. When the paper turns yellow, it’s time to read it.
Go to any Barnes & Noble and check out the magazine section. You will see dozens, scores, maybe a couple of hundred publications: Guns & Guts, Guts & Guns, Muggers Monthly, Fifth Wedding Gazette, DWI Digest. Something for everyone. If you don’t want to know the news from the country music scene, restaurants, taxidermy and home breweries, you may not have this problem. Maybe you don’t have cable or satellite TV, although almost 80 percent of American homes do. I get about 250 channels and watch 10 or 12 max. Bundling is the key. Congress (after a nice fund-raiser) decreed we really do need to take 250 channels, including the Esperanto Channel, Quilting Corner and Faux News. I tape programs to be seen later. Spoiler alert: Don’t tell me how World War II ends. We also have the Internet. Want to check on events in India? The New Delhi Times tells us: “Praveen Rana to replace Narsingh Yadav.” Now you know. The Chinese Reporter from Hong Kong on the PLA, or Peoples Liberation Army of China: “PLA begins live-fire drill near border with Myanmar.” And you thought the term “Chinese fire drill” was just an insult.
Americans may be a first: the first overly informed society in history. Or we could be, if only we kept up. According to a new CNN/ORC poll, 29 percent of Americans say they think that Obama is a Muslim, including 43 percent of Republicans. (I happen to know he’s a card-carrying Democrat.)
A poll commissioned by the American Bar Association found that only one-third of adult Americans can correctly identify the Bill of Rights, and less than 1 in 10 know it was adopted to protect them against abuses by the Federal Government, and – get this — it was a multi-choice question. Some 28 percent said the Bill of Rights was a preamble to the Constitution; 22 percent said it is any rights bill passed by Congress; 7 percent chose “a message of rebellion from the Founding Fathers to the British monarchy.” Ten percent said they didn’t know. Maybe TMI stands for Too Many Idiots.
So while we have access to an overabundance of knowledge, we don’t bother. Why? I think it’s because we have no curiosity or interest, in this case it’s the same thing. I once had an editor named Henry Hoffman who came to my desk one afternoon, handed me some papers, and said: “Put this together and do a story.” I shuffled through the pile and said, “I’m not interested in this.” He replied, “You should be interested in everything.” He didn’t add, “as a journalist,” but I got his drift. Millions of intelligent people over the centuries have loved opera and golf. I tried both and can pass, even if Tiger Woods is the lead baritone. I’ve never been much interested in poetry except for dirty limericks. Do you care about kale? It’s hot these days; celebrity chefs put kale in everything. I just used a semicolon, which is an unnecessary punctuation so I don’t care about it or them.
Maybe I’m just interested in the wrong things, like bagpipe music, the old Southwest Conference and of course, Transmarginal Inhibition. I spend too much time reading the fine print on aerosol cans, but do you know that Scrubbing Bubbles contains both corn starch and dimethyl oxazolidine? So I keep these founts of knowledge until I’ve read or seen them because they may contain interesting information. However, others may not share our need for absorption. We are called “pig pens,” “trashy” and “low down slobs who give pack rats a bad name.” (By the same token, be suspicious of people with clean desks and full wastebaskets. They are probably uninteresting themselves.) So I think we can all agree that there is a direct link between curiosity/interest and piles of untouched stuff. Call them “collectibles.” Keep that in mind when the fire marshal comes calling. But now it is time for me to start digging into my stuff. Here’s a newspaper. What’s this? Custer’s dead? Next thing I know a woman will be running for president.
Ashby is uninterested at firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Congress is in recess. Again. They have more recesses than a kindergarten class and do less. At such times it might be a good idea to take a look at how we have done things here in Texas from the git-go. In a rented shack in Washington-on-the-Brazos Texans met in March of 1836 to set up a Texas that pretty well resembles the way our state government works today, except for part about barring preachers from holding public office, dividing up the booty from captured ships and being drafted for road work. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s set the scene and, no, this isn’t a history lesson, Pilgrim, it’s why you are no longer in Ohio and why today’s Congress members should take notes.
Texas leaders had been considering independence, without Santa Anna’s blessing, you understand, for some time. Finally word went out over social media – smoke signals, tom-toms and what somebody said at the tavern – for elected delegates to gather at a mud village along the Brazos River. On the first day of March, Texans – eventually numbering 59 — assembled in a convention. Twelve were natives of Virginia, ten of North Carolina, nine of Tennessee, six of Kentucky, four of Georgia, three of South Carolina, three of Pennsylvania, three of Mexico (including two born in Texas), two of New York, and one each of Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, England, Ireland, Scotland, and Canada. Two, including Sam Houston, had served in the U.S. Congress. They met in freezing weather in an uncompleted building (no windows) rented for use of the convention by a group of Washington business men who, incidentally, never got around to paying the rent.
The convention declared all able-bodied men ages 17 to 59 liable for military duty and offered land bounties of 320 to 1,280 acres for service from three months to one year. Those men who left Texas to avoid military service, refused to participate, or gave aid to the enemy would forfeit their rights of citizenship and the lands they held in the republic. It authorized its agents in the United States to seek a $1 million loan and pledge land for its redemption.
In a matter of days, Texas’ forefathers wrote the Texas Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the Republic of Texas, organized the ad interim government, and named Sam Houston commander in chief of the military forces of the republic. Why so fast? Two reasons: Much of the wordage in both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution was directly lifted from the U.S. documents. (See; Trump: Melania) The other reason was during the proceedings the Battle of the Alamo was raging and soon word reached the delegates that the Mexican Army was headed their way, nooses and rifles in hand. For these reasons, and probably the lack of windows, the Constitution was brief (less than 6,500 words).
So what did these men agree on? The usual stuff when creating a brand-new nation: two houses of Congress — Senate and House — a president and judges. Ministers and priests were ineligible to hold public office. Because the delegates didn’t like bankers, debt collectors and IOUs, imprisonment for debt was abolished, and monopolies and primogeniture were prohibited. The document specified that the president would serve three years and could not succeed himself in office. So Houston served as the republic’s president until 1838, sat out a term, then served again from 1841 to 1844, all perfectly legal. That’s no doubt where Vladimir Putin got the idea to do the same thing. The president would be the commander in chief of the army, navy, and militia, but could not “command in person” without the permission of Congress. No doubt they put that in with Houston in mind. Members of Congress would serve one-year terms. Senators were to serve three-year overlapping terms, with one-third elected each year.
The constitution legalized slavery but prohibited foreign slave trade. Immigrants from the United States could bring slaves with them. Free blacks could not live in Texas without the consent of Congress. Citizenship was granted to all, with “Africans, the descendants of Africans, and Indians excepted.” The amending process was so complex that none was ever adopted. Incidentally, Article Fourteen of the Declaration of Rights reads, “Every citizen shall have the right to bear arms in defense of himself and the republic.” None of this “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state” foggy interpretation. Texans could pack heat. Period. A citizen who had not received his land grant was guaranteed “one league and one labor of land” if the head of a family; single men over 17 were assured of “the third part of one league of land.”
These guys weren’t through. (This stolen from Compano Bay Press): Later in 1836, from October through December, 44 men (no women present) convened in a drafty clapboard house in the town of Columbia. Many were the very men who had met back in March. It was the first session of the first Congress of the Republic of Texas, and the gang drafted some interesting articles. Again, no minister or priest could hold office in the national government. They granted Deaf Smith, Sam Houston’s trusted scout and spy, any house in San Antonio that was to his liking, so long as the government could find a legal reason to confiscate it. (Smith replied, “Eh? Eh? I don’t want a mouse.) Officers and men of the Texas Navy could divide booty amongst themselves after capturing an enemy vessel. They set the northern border of the Republic at the 42nd parallel, just south of present-day Wheatland, Wyoming, and “All free males, Indians excepted, between the age of 17 and 45 years” could be conscripted to work on the public roads.
And that’s how they did it. Quick and simple. Wonder what would happen if we told today’s Congress that the Mexican Army was on the way?
Ashby amends at email@example.com
British Prime Minister David Cameron resigned this past July 11. Two days later, the Brits had a new prime minister, Theresa May. Across the pond, excuse the cliché, we Americans began this presidential campaign at the end of the last campaign in 2012, and already Sen. Ted Cruz in lining up his forces for 2020. (Incidentally, how many times in that campaign will we hear “20-20 hindsight” and “Cruz control” — a million? Currently we are suffering through an avalanche of campaigning until the first Tuesday in November. To get through the muck and mire, here are a few suggestions:
Muck & Myer is not a law firm but the way we run presidential campaigns ever since Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich crawled out of the swamp, but both political parties have “oppositional research departments,” which means these bottom-feeders delve back to the other candidate’s life and family tree seeking to discover any rotten apples or low-hanging ancestors who should have been hanged. Donald Trump made nicknames a part of his attack speeches: Crooked Hillary, Lying Ted, Little Marco and Energy Challenged Jeb. (Rick Perry didn’t last long enough to earn an insulting moniker.) No one on the Dem side has come up with one for The Donald. The Dems have no imagination. Anyway, be ready for ads and speeches without programs, policies or specifics, but filled with angry insults about the opposition. Lots of heat, no light, but that’s the way a candidate whoops up a crowd: using sure-fire applause lines. No sweaty mob at the Nebraska State Fair wants to hear a new plan for the national debt, global warming or immigration quotas.
Be prepared to hear of Benghazi constantly. (“Dad, what’s Ben Gazzi running for? I hear about him all the time.”) Also: “This is the most important election in our nation’s history!” That is self-important twaddle, making us feel our vote will decide the nation’s fate for the next century. We either get four more years of Obama or four years of Trump jokes. Anyone who has taken History for Dummies knows the outcome of 1860 was the most important. The election of Lincoln started the Civil War, which really did decide the nation’s fate, and for more than a century.
This is a unique election, since polls show many would-be voters prefer none of the above. Pollsters say a record majority of voters surveyed say they find both Hillary and Trump untrustworthy, loose with the truth, don’t have the temperament to be president and don’t even know all the words to “Hail to the Chief.” Of course, we all realize that, come Election Day, GOPers will grudgingly vote for Trump and Dems will stay home. There are 313 million Americans. Take away those who are ineligible to be president: under 35 years old, not natural born, have not lived in the United States for at least 14 years or have already served two terms (Bill and George W.). Subtract11-million illegal immigrants and that still leaves at least 100-to-200 million. Why did we get down to these two? Another point: How many times will we hear: “I give you the next president of the United States, (Trump or Hillary)”? Remember, that’s the way they introduced Henry Clay. William Jennings Bryan, Adlai Stevenson (twice) and John Kerry.
What we will not see or hear this election campaign: For the elephant, no mention of George W. His dad, yes. His mom, yes, but W. will be MIA. No mention of Richard Nixon, Dick Cheney, the Iraq War (but the VA will get crucified), former Speaker Dennis Hastert, Ted Cruz. Mitt Romney and Mike Pence. Incidentally, I wish Trump would have picked Newt Gingrich for veep. That way, between them and their six wives they could have resurrected Family Values, but I thought Romney was the Mormon. In the donkey’s corner, don’t plan on hearing anything about Benghazi, the VA, Monica Lewinsky, LBJ, emails or Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Fox News will not bring up its former chief, Roger Ailes.
Presidential campaigns supposedly don’t really begin until Labor Day. During the summer, people are on vacation, checking out June’s back-to-school sales or getting inoculated against the Zika virus. Wrong. The campaigns are already shopworn, yet the candidates are on the trail non-stop. This brings us to the next point: money. Jesse Unruh, also known as Big Daddy, a California politician, said, “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” Big Daddy vastly underestimated the power of mother’s milk. Now, about the down-ballot candidates who desperately want to move up ballot. Congress has one of the lowest opinion ratings since pollsters started surveying us. Our lawmakers are never in session. (Currently the members are on yet another vacation which will last till September) and don’t do anything while they are in session.
Actually, most are very busy – raising money for their re-election campaigns despite a $174,000 annual salary. Studies show that in a typical 10-hour day, they might dedicate three hours to seeking cash. In election cycles, like right now, it might escalate to more than half of their time. That’s why it’s not only presidential candidates we are hearing from, but the lower hanging pols. About 80 percent of all donations goes to TV ads, then to the pockets of Disney, Viacom, Comcast and other mom-and-pop operations. Think of your political contribution as an “economic trickle up” operation.
Texas is such a red state that neither candidate will spend much time campaigning here, but that doesn’t mean they won’t visit. They come for the money. Texas is called the GOP’s ATM. The Dems would like to come here with a collection plate, but Texas doesn’t have many voters of the donkey persuasion, and most of them don’t have any money. So the nice part about this mind-numbing sport is that Texas will be a mere spectator – except for mother’s milk. Maybe David Cameron is available.
Ashby will write-in at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Lynn Ashby 25 July 2016
THE TV – “It will hit a hundred and ten degrees, maybe a hundred and twenty, while in Dallas, well, two hundred even.” What? You mean this global warming farce is not a farce? But Marco Rubio and Rush Limbaugh assured me global warming is a hoax perpetrated by those clueless Nobel laureates. Wait. I peer at the TV screen. There, in little-bitty type, are the words “feels like.” Yes, it’s the old feels like ploy, which goes up there alongside the Easter Bunny, liberal Republicans and efficient Democrats. Feels like has been around for years, but now more and more of our TV weather wizards are using these scare tactics to get our attention. Then there are the meaningless dew point and wind chill factor, which we shall get to in a minute.
Pilgrim, this is summer in Texas. It is hot. If it were not hot – say in the low 90s — we would be comfortable but rather concerned about global freezing. So, in our simmering afternoons the temperatures rise to 90, then 95, then 100 or more. Big deal. Our local TV newscasters warn us about leaving children, pets and Godiva candy in cars with the windows rolled up. Reporters dutifully fry eggs on car hoods. They interview some guy in heavy clothes who works in a warehouse freezer and show shots of polar bears at the zoo frolicking in a pool. That’s standard. But when it comes to the true temperature, good luck. The meteorologist – well, actually they are rarely real meteorologists, but are sports jocks who need the job – stands in front of a big weather map and points breathlessly to the names of towns with horrifying figures beside them. “It will hit 120 in Waco and 130 in San Angelo, maybe twice that in Laredo.” Look for the small “feels like” in the corner.
How do they come up with these faux figures? The difference in the actual temperature and the feels like figure (also called the heat index) is determined by a complicated formula that includes the temperature, obviously, plus the humidity, cloud cover, wind speed, sun intensity and angle of the sun. A major component is the humidity. In Houston, where you can tie a knot in a Frito, we would normally be dry except there are nine large humidifiers placed around town to keep the air moist because dermatologists say moisture is good for the skin.
A day that is very humid may feel hotter than it really is outside because your body sweat does not evaporate and cool the body like nature intended. This last element is what we climatic scientists call the “deodorant factor.” But it is all a fake. The real formula for determining the feels like number is simple: the TV weather person takes the actual temperature and adds 20 degrees, and no one questions the higher figure. But when it’s 100 degrees it’s 100 degrees. On the other hand, my mother was born and grew up in Dallas, and when she would come visit us in Houston she would subtly mention the Houston humidity, remarking that Dallas wasn’t like that. “Mom,” I would say, “I grew up in Dallas, too, and those summers were blisteringly hot.” She would reply: “But it’s a dry heat.” I’d try again: “When it was 105 degrees it was 105 degrees, and that’s hot!” Never argue with your mother.
Let’s put our problems in perspective. On Aug. 5, 2015, the southeastern Iraqi city of Samawah reported a temperature of 119.5 degrees Fahrenheit and a dew point of 85.1 with a feels-like temperature of 159 degrees. In the southern Iraqi city of Basrah earlier that month the city’s high exceeded 120 degrees for eight straight days before falling to a cool 119.3. To the north, that same week Baghdad logged four consecutive days in the 120s. A question: Who wants Iraq anyway?
We just mentioned the dew point, another totally meaningless term unless you like to point to dews and need a stick. In simple terms, the dew point is the temperature at which water vapor in the air will form dew. More specifically, dew point measures moisture in the air. (Just how this differs from the humidity percentage is known only to meteorologists and my mother.) Let’s try again: It is the temperature to which air must be cooled at constant pressure and water content to reach saturation. A higher dew point indicates more moisture in the air; a dew point greater than 68 degrees is uncomfortable. Have you ever left an air conditioned building to enter the Texas summer and commented: “I’ll bet we broke a dew point record today.”? Of course not, it’s like using the metric system: “I’ll bet it’s 59 degrees Celsius today.”
One final unnecessary figure is the wind chill factor. It is the frozen equivalent of the heat index. On cold winter days, TV weathercasters play the same games as they did with the feels like fantasy. “In Amarillo it’s minus 40 while in Denver it’s minus any known reading.” Those are wind chill numbers. Hold the figures over a low flame to bring out the actual temperature. The wind chill factor measures the effect of wind speed cooling of the human body below 50 degrees. As airflow increases over the skin, more heat will be removed. This brings us to the question of what kind of dummy goes out in a blizzard with unprotected skin? OK, Green Bay Packer fans and Greenland flashers. Why are there a feels like figure, a heat index and a wind chill factor, and why do we care? It is simple self-importance and self-pity. We like to think we are suffering more than we really are. “Man, no wonder we’re miserable. It’ feels like it’s a hundred and twelve.” Or: “I heard on TV the wind chill factor is zero minus zero.” If you don’t understand these readings, go ask your mother.
Ashby’s cold at Ashby2@comcast.net
By Lynn Ashby 18 July 2016
WASP Without a Sting
How are you doing with your guilt trip? Have you even packed yet, because you’re carrying a lot of baggage? I must confess that I am having trouble with this voyage, and I feel terribly guilty about it. My problem afflicts millions of Americans: I am an Anglo-Saxon Protestant male, a WASP, and thus am responsible for most of my nation’s ills, if not those of the entire planet. And I am a bumbling idiot. I will give you a quick example: TV. The butt of jokes, situations, plots, is the white male. If it’s a family sit-com, Dad is the fall guy, whose job it is to look both chagrined and silly while the sound engineer turns up the laugh track. Wife: “Honey, did you go to the grocery store and bring home celery?” Dad: “Is that what you said? No, I went to the bank and brought home my salary.” (This is followed by the father’s hangdog look and the booming laugh track.)
In films, the best example are the National Lampoon movies, where Chevy Chase and then Ed Helms are the most helpless, hapless dummies on the screen. The women are the steady, sane characters. In drama and action films, how often do you see a minority as the villain? The safe path is the WASP. Count the good white folks in “Roots” and “Glory.” Very few. In the past we could tell jokes based on another race, religion or looks. Al Jolson built his career on black-faced songs, jokes and routines.
Particularly in today’s tense times, we can’t publicly make jokes about minorities, and how many politicians (George Allen), movie stars (Mel Gibson) and sports personalities (Jimmy the Greek) have gotten into trouble or ruined their careers by saying or even emailing a politically incorrect statement? The only safe target is the white male. (For purposes of feeling victimized, I’ll expand this category to all white males, not just WASPs.) You want to commit social suicide, propose White History Month. Of course, such a move would be greeted with: Every other month is White History Month.
In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt panicked after Pearl Harbor and sent between 110,000 and 120,000 Japanese-Americans to internment camps, and we are reminded of it to this day 75 years later. Then I came upon this: “When we moved out on the march, again some of us just couldn’t make it. They lay on their sides shaking with chills or burning with fever….” Others tried to help, but the guards clubbed them away. “Two or three guards were left behind. They soon came trotting up, wiping their bayonets with rags.” – Texan and UT grad Vince Taylor, survivor of the Bataan Death March. Japan has yet to apologize, and some still honor their executed war criminals. What’s the connection? None. But I feel guilty about those internment camps. I never owned a slave, never shot an Indian and never blew up a mosque, but it’s still my fault. I never tried to keep Tejanos from voting, never insulted gays, never teased a Yankee about his accent. OK, two out of three ain’t bad. As a journalist, I never plagiarized, during the best of times and the worst of times, not even four score and seven years ago, but ask not what your country can do for you. Who signed this treasonous document? “We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor.” A bunch of slave-owning, wig-wearing pols. We must hope none of them got their pictures on our currency.
Now for a moment of defense, or a sop to mine enemies. All you Irish and Mexicans can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo. Poles, Germans, Greeks, Serbs and Chinese, live it up on your selected holiday, or any other day, for that matter. America is not so much a melting pot as a cafeteria line. Incidentally, Texans are safe targets, too. But if you want to see an excellent display of Texas’ diversity, next time you are in San Antonio find that big Hemisphere needle. Near the base is the Institute of Texan Cultures, featuring where we all came from. It’s enough to give multiculturalism a good name. Again, these are tense times and not the best days to bring up the matter. On the other hand, when is a good time? Probably never. However, it is socially acceptable for one group to joke about that same group. Some of the funniest Aggie jokes were told to me by Aggies. Remember that line in “From Here to Eternity” when Angelo Maggio (Frank Sinatra) says: “Only my friends can call me a little wop!” So it’s probably a good idea for us gringos and honkies to keep our ethic and religious jokes to jokes about gringos and honkies, for we are the only safe target left.
Protestant make up 46.5 percent of America’s population, but there is not a single one on the U.S. Supreme Court, and none is on the way. Speaking of Washington, the D.C. area is festooned with markers and monuments to renowned leaders, men on horseback and people you never heard of. There is the National Fire Dog Monument complete with life-size fireman (no equally big firewoman) and dog. Plus plaque. There are 49 monuments to women in the Washington area including Seated Yucatan Woman, the Spirit of Haida Gwaii, Crown Princess Martha of Norway and Olive Risley Seward, the foster daughter of William H. Seward, Lincoln’s secretary of state. I am sure they are all most deserving, but couldn’t there be a plaque or concrete celebration, not even on the Washington Mall, crowing about the sacrifices, achievements, glorious remembrances of our small and ever-shrinking sect? If only there was some kind of reminder of the average Joe who served his country, paid his taxes, obeyed the law. Oh, yes, there is one. It’s called Arlington National Cemetery.
Ashby whines at email@example.com
The candidate does not have the temperament to be president. Do you want that finger on the nuclear button? And just look at the record, one of deceit, possible criminal activity, and I won’t even get into the private list of adultery and money shenanigans.
These are my one-size-fits-all talking points for our two major presidential campaigns. The accusations work perfectly to describe either Hillary or Trump. (Those are good shorthand names not to confuse.) Get out the mud, crank up the outrage and throw those epithets. But for all the billions spent, the bromides unleased in speeches, and the circus of the conventions, let us be perfectly honest: you have already made up your mind. If you’re a Texan you probably will make lots of noise, mostly about how bad the opposition candidate is, and you probably won’t vote. All hate and no cattle.
Here’s the problem: you really can’t stand either candidate, but one is your party’s nominee, and you’ve got to go through mental gymnastics to sooth your soul. How to rationalize, how to spin, your selection, so that you won’t feel like you sold out? An example: you really liked Ted Cruz, and really hate Donald Trump. You thought evil thoughts about that bragging, arrogant clown, but now Trump is your party’s nominee. Yes, that successful business tycoon whose few bankruptcies are easily outweighed by his shrewd negotiations, the many jobs he’s created, including that of food taster. Besides, anyone but Hillary. Or, you backed Bernie Sanders, and can’t stand Hillary, that scheming, overachieving witch, who lied, cheated and collected blood money from Arab dictators to get to the top. But Bernie is history, and you are left with your party’s only nominee, Hillary, that crafty, brilliant and experienced diplomat who will be our first female president, and about time.
Either way with either candidate, don’t feel special that you have betrayed your principles in the name of winning. It’s done all the time. Let’s take Ted Cruz, so unpopular with his fellow senators who don’t miss him (he was gone from February to June) that even his best friends don’t like him. Cruz has ripped Trump as narcissist and a bully. “This man is a pathological liar, he doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies … in a pattern that is straight out of a psychology text book, he accuses everyone of lying . . . Whatever lie he’s telling, at that minute he believes it … the man is utterly amoral.”
As for Trump vs. Cruz, the Donald referenced a report from that bastion of responsible journalism, the National Enquirer, (“Martians Eat the Washington Monument!”) which had identified Rafael Cruz, Ted’s father, in a photo with Lee Harvey Oswald months prior to the JFK assassination. It’s going to take some making up for Cruz to support Trump, but what you bet that happens? Same for Carly Fiorina, who said about Trump: “He does not represent me, he does not represent our party, and I do not think he can be our nominee.” Ah, but Trump about Fiorina: “She had the one good debate, she went up and then she dropped like a rock, and she never resonated with the people. So I mean, Carly’s not going to do the trick.” Another time he said, while watching her on TV: “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president? I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”
In March, Marco Rubio dismissed Trump as a “con artist” and “the most vulgar person ever to aspire to the presidency.” Rubio also criticized Trump’s physical features: “You know what they say about men with small hands … You can’t trust them.” In turn, Trump mocked the Florida senator as “Little Marco” and poked fun at his tendency to sweat on the debate stage and drink lots of water. Yet 180 degrees later, the Florida senator said he’ll not only vote for Trump, he’d be willing to speak on his behalf at the GOP National Convention this summer. And he didn’t rule out the possibility of serving in a Trump administration.
Some high-profile party members have said they will pass up the convention entirely. Then there is our former governor, Rick (Oops) Perry. He was the first prominent GOPer to publicly criticize Trump and question his conservative credentials, calling his candidacy a “cancer on conservatism.” How things have changed. This from Perry: “He is not a perfect man. But what I do believe is that he loves this country and he will surround himself with capable, experienced people, and he will listen to them. He is one of the most talented people who has ever run for the president I have ever seen.” There are more prominent Republicans who have changed their tune, going from “You Ain’t Nothing But a Hound Dog” to “Stand By Your Man.” Their about-faces are “for the good of the party,” or, “I will support my party’s nominee.” John F. Kennedy once said, “Sometimes party loyalty asks too much.” Not for these chameleons.
Democrats have it much easier, since the only opposition was from supporters of Bernie Sanders, and they’re on summer vacation from high school. But for Americans who find themselves deciding between being hanged or shot, rationalization is hard. So Trump supporters, try these out in the mirror with a straight face: Good walls make good neighbors. Would you want YOUR taxes made public? His former wives say he was the best ex they ever had. For reluctant supporters of Hillary, drop these bon mots in conversation or use them as bumper stickers: Females for Emails. Take the T out of Trump. I’d rather be baking cookies.
Simply think of one reason to justify the spin in your spine. Your children will be proud.
Ashby spins at firstname.lastname@example.org
THE BLIGHT BULLETIN — Published by and for the residents of Running Rats Acres.
It’s about those campaign signs, but first, fellow citizens, once again your Board of Directors of RRA wishes to bring you up to speed on our neighborhood events, concerns and lawsuits. Actually, we are not really up to speed on some projects. Our Christmas lights are still up since Homer Lugnut moved and took his ladder with him. (The warden confiscated it.) We feel the lights are so much trouble to take down we might as well leave them up till next Christmas. The neighborhood swimming pool is still under quarantine by the Health Dept. even though most, but not all, of the toxic chemicals have been removed, as have the family of alligators. There is no news about the sink hole, the carbon test on the Widow Malcontent or Constable Tom “Smack” Truncheon’s brutality and Breathalyzer appeal.
Currently our biggest problem involves front yards signs. Up till now we have ignored the rules against billboards, feeling that they not only bring color to the neighborhood but are informative, telling us where the nearest tattoo parlor can be found, ditto with the bail bondsmen. But in this super-charged election year, some order and couth must be observed. For instance, the “McCain & Palin – Hero & Zero” signs are getting a bit weather-beaten, not to mention the “I Like Ike” and “Tippycanoe and Tyler, Too” posters. In more recent campaigns, “JEB! The Smart Bush” and “Rick Perry — Nobody’s Perfect” signs should be removed, along with the Mucklucks’ banner: “Cruz in 2020-24-28 ad infinitum.”
Although we believe in the First Amendment at times, and the Second Amendment first, some taste limitations must be imposed. Signs questioning the true birthplace and citizenship of, say, a communist Kenyan, are acceptable, along with those demanding the truth about Benghazi, but we must draw the line on signs reading: “The Establishment Is Insane,” “ISIS Lives at 123 Deadend Drive” and “Free the Waco 100 — Viva Bandidos!” While we admire the poster reading: “Mr. Trump — Build Up That Wall!” the Ronald Reagan estate is suing for plagiarism. Yard signs dealing with treason, sexual preferences and accusations of arson will not be tolerated in front yards. What you put up in your backyards, horse stalls and RVs on blocks is your business. While on the subject of offensive words and slogans, some of you have applied bumper stickers such as: “Ask Me About Voter Fraud,” also: “My Child Is A Honor Dropout” and “It’s Not the Ovary Office.” Placing such stickers on your own pickup or tractor is fine, but stop sticking them on other people’s vehicles as that could lead to violence. (We’ll have an update on Oscar Ocelot’s condition next week.)
In answer to several residents’ inquiries, the Electoral College has nothing to do with electricity or universities. Voting this year will be at the Aaron Burr Elementary School (formerly the Alexander Hamilton Elementary School, but the name was changed when civic activists pointed out that Hamilton was only a war hero and established the nation’s financial system, but knew some slave owners, while Burr was a great shot). On another matter, our Congressman replied to our petition to bring plumbing to the neighborhood with a personal email from a staff member: “Dear Occupant, your plea is very important to us, but currently all the Congressman’s aides are busy with other whining constituents who only pester us with their complaints when they want something, but we never hear from them during campaign fund-raising drives. Your snivel will be taken in the order it was received. Current waiting time is (pause) late next month. The Congressman would love to answer each letter, email and scrawlings on paper napkins, but he is currently on a month-long fact-finding trip to Cozumel and Monaco.”
The entire neighborhood suffered greatly in the Tax Day floods (that’s April 15 since most residents don’t pay taxes) and asked FEMA for help. Fortunately, FEMA had declared RRA a disaster area even before the floods. As one government official put it: “Running Rats Acres not only set a record, but one more time and you retire the trophy.” In news of our neighbors, we congratulate Bennie Bob Squat, Jr. on his election as president of his fifth grade class. This is the third year Bennie Bob has been elected president of the fifth grade. Mary-Sue Alice-Mary Gumwad announced she is marrying Jon Jim Gumwad. “We like to keep our genes in the family,” she explained through her keeper. The posters you see nailed to poles and piles of tires reading: “Lost – Freddy – reward” should have noted that Freddy is not the Corncobs’ dog. Frederick, but their 30-year-old son who escaped when the postman accidentally left the drawbridge down. Speaking of our postman, Mr. Malcomb Missent, would like all residents to know he is beginning his literacy lessons next month, so postal service should improve. And a warning: the block wardens in charge of rabid dog alerts, using more than one leaf blower at 3 a.m. and garbage rules (the city is supposed to pick up, not deposit), do not like being called “block heads.”
Getting back to yard signs, “Cruz Control” and “Lose With Cruz” have been so overused, redundant and repetitive that the RRA board has put a limit of 20 such signs for each yard. Please leave up those Christi, Santorun and Huckabee signs since we all like a good laugh. On the other hand, Trump posters, placards and bumper stickers are not only welcomed but encouraged. You can pick up more of them at Elmo Crabgrasses’ place. They are in the garage which he has converted into a man cave. Look under the bar, and late at night, look under Elmo. Finally, some anonymous residents have asked what happened to their Clinton and Sanders yard signs. Remember the neighborhood Memorial Day picnic and bonfire?
Ashby is neighborly at email@example.com
GALVESTON – This is the Rosenberg Library Museum (“The oldest free public library in Texas”) which is showing a collection of Republic of Texas currency, along with other paychecks from the King of Spain, the governments of Mexico, the Confederacy, plus assorted letters and documents. And you don’t have to be a Crockett scientist to see if we can turn a big buck on the deal. I enter the building and go to the lady at the front desk. I say, “I’d like to see the exhibition of Texas currency.” I get a blank look. “There may be something on the fourth floor,” she says.
I go to the fourth floor and find a librarian. She points me to a small room across from the big room. I ask: “Do you have any pamphlets or leaflets about the exhibit?” No. (I had read that there is a self-guided audio tour, but I forgot to ask and no one volunteered.) I enter a dimly lit room with 11 glass cases, each showing some artifacts that are, well, museum quality – documents, letters, coins, dollar bills. The cases sport various titles: “Revolution,” “Republic,” Nine New Capitals Without Capital,” (I like that one), “Drowning in Public Debit’ and so on. This collection, which runs through Sept 30, is the work of Jim Bevill, a Houston financial adviser and collector, who has also barrowed some items from fellow collectors. .
The room is vacant except for me. All I need to expand my own small collection of Texana is a big brick and a bag. This brings us to our latest get-rich-quick scheme. You see, for years, if not generations, Texas stuff sat around gathering dust. I have a Republic of Texas two dollar bill I bought for five dollars. I see one is now on sale for $500, but here’s the hang-up. During the Republic’s 10-year life minus three days, the struggling little country put out bills with different names, signed by various officials, printed in different hues. Their worth today varies greatly. Some were printed in Houston, some in Austin. My bill was printed by Xerox,
They came in odd denominations, and, yes, Texas did have a lot of three dollar bills. The government found that it could pay its employees and debts by simply printing more money which, in turn, created monumental inflation. When introduced, the so-called red backs had a value of 37 and a half cents to the U.S. dollar. Eventually, the value went to two cents. By 1842, the government of the Republic of Texas would not accept the bills for payment of its own taxes. Incidentally, many of the notes, especially the red backs, appear as orange-colored because of the quality of the ink. It has been suggested that the “burnt orange” color of The University of Texas came from this coloring. What if the notes had a maroon hue?
Here are a few items of interest I picked up: The star notes, which had a Lone Star in the upper middle, were not money, per se, but rather interest-bearing notes (similar to a treasury bill) that circulated by being endorsed over to the next payee. The red backs were redeemed by the government and then cut-cancelled, that is, they were sliced several times in the center to keep them from being redeemed again and again. These notes are very valuable to collectors. A few notes, never redeemed or cut-cancelled and escaped the knife, are valued even more. So if you have a bill that is cut up, it’s not damaged. It’s still worth money – to you.
Interesting facts: Only two Texans’ pictures are found on red backs. Deaf Smith is found on the $5 bill while Stephen F. Austin is on the $50 note. Both died before the notes were issued. Another warning: Not all red backs are authentic. The original notes were hand-signed in brown ink while the reproductions all are in black ink. Texas pushed along with its various currencies until it joined the United States, and a main reason for joining was money, or the lack thereof. In 1850 Texas was given $10 million for all the land it had claimed outside its present state boundary. With this money, Texas paid off all its debts, including the redemption of all red backs. It’s a shame we had to sell, because today we could vacation in Santa Fe and ski in Aspen without ever leaving Texas.
Now, about getting rich. For years I used a white plate with lots of blue designs – drums, flags, in the center are two mid-19th century artillerymen next to a huge cannon, and an officer on horseback. All are dressed in fancy, Napoleonic uniforms. Vintage Texas tacky. This flowery plate was given to me by my mother who explained that the fad in the past was to make dinner plates to celebrate historic events. This one noted the Mexican-American War, but the European artists, not knowing how U.S. soldiers, especially Texans, dressed, drew them in European-style uniforms, Hence the Mounted Texas Rangers look like the Grand Duke’s Wachovian Grenadiers.
A friend gives me a page out of an auction house catalogue. The top reads: “Texas Campaigne China.” Below is a photo of my plate, same drums and flags around the edge, except that in the center is a general on horseback. The info says this ho-hum kitchenware was marked on the back “Texian Campaigne” and was produced in England between 1846 and 1852. The plate pictured in the catalogue is stored in a glass-faced box in a vault in New York City. Mine is not of that rare sort, because on the back on my blue plate special it reads – let me find it — “Texian Campaigne.” Huh? But the authentic plates were marked with the initials J.B. My plate is only marked by — ”J.B.” And here’s the going price for my blue ashtray: TWELVE THOUSAND DOLLARS! To paraphrase Capitol One, what’s in your attic?
Ashby’s currency is firstname.lastname@example.org
THE DEN – Stay down! Don’t go near the windows! I need a periscope to see what’s going on. You may ask why I am hiding under the couch. It’s because the entire neighborhood is under a Take Shelter Alert. It seems a gunman is stalking Running Rats Acres, shooting at people. Cops are swarming the area. The SWAT team is here with its tanks, artillery and submarines. (Like many an American town, mine has received vast amounts of weapons from the Pentagon to fight terrorism, and this time they really need them.)
To begin at the beginning, a few hours ago on this pleasant spring Sunday morning, I was watching the talking heads on TV pontificate about Trump and Hillary, Hillary and Trump, Bernie and Hillary and Trump. Since I can multitask, I am also reading the Sunday papers all about Trump and Hillary, etc. Then the phone rings, which is unusual at such times since most people I know are sleeping off Saturday night’s Christening. Maybe it’s my wife, who has gone to church. No, it’s our daughter. “Dad, there’s a shoot-out in your neighborhood. Everyone is supposed to stay inside.” Huh? These things happen in other towns or even in mine, but always in other areas, not here. Oh, sure, we’ve had Bowie knife tournaments, bikers’ disputes, even a riot or two over Girl Scout cookies, but a cops-and-robbers shoot-out? Besides, we have a neighborhood alert system, so if anything untoward happens, such as a lost dog or pillow fight, a recording immediately goes out over phone, email and tom-toms telling us what the emergency is and what action to take: “This is your emergency alert system. Some rain or maybe a heavy dew is expected over night. Swim for your lives!”
I hear a thump-thump sound — helicopters. No, I am not paranoid, and those aren’t black coppers sent by Ross Perot to take me out — and not to the ballpark. Somebody is over reacting. True story: A few years ago a community around Sugar Land called 911 when their cable went out. This must be a similar case. Then my talking heads on TV seem to have a yellow banner running at the bottom of the screen. “Police action near the intersection of Fat Cat Circle and Blue Blood Blvd.” That’s right across the tracks in Nouveau Riche Estates, but still too close. Bit by bit the story trickles out. About 10:30 this morning, some guy wearing black shorts and no shirt, started shooting randomly at people. A constable showed up and his patrol car was shreded by gunfire. He decided help might be needed, and soon support poured in. Why not? It’s a slow Sunday morning and not much else is going on. The fuzz combs the neighborhood while more shots are fired. It turns out the gunman is armed with a pistol and an AR-15. We all-weather night fighters will explain that the AR-15 is a semi-automatic gas-operated rifle first developed for the U.S. military. Eventually civilians could purchase them and, as the NRA will tell you, every family should have at least three or four AR-15s in case some guy wearing black shorts and no shirt, starts shooting at you.
The phone rings again. It’s my friend and neighbor, Calpakis the Wily Greek. He says the cops are now backed by sheriff’s deputies, constables and the 82nd Airborne Division. “Do you have a gun?” he asks. “No, but I still have my bayonet from my days as a Marine infantryman. Do you have a gun?” “No, but something better. Landmines.” There is no traffic on the streets. I see the TV now shows live shots, so to speak, from the battle, and viewers are informed everyone should stay off the streets and away from windows. Ring-ring. My wife says, “I can’t get to church and the police won’t let me go home. Maybe I can get around a back way.” Hope she took her passport. Again I ponder this unreal situation. I live in a leafy, comfortable area which, real estate agents tell prospective buyers, is generally free of Viking raids, Comanche uprisings and outbreaks of ebola. This shoot-out may happen elsewhere, but it can’t happen here, as Nagasaki told Hiroshima. I crawl to the refrigerator to see if we can eat lunch here instead of following our original plans and picking up something. Not much luck. I crawl back to the den. The TV is showing more cops, and announces that a police helicopter has been hit by bullets five times. Bandits at ll o’clock high! A gas pump at a filling station across the street is hit by a bullet and goes up in smoke and fire. My wife arrives at home safely, her passport stamped.
We must now ponder just what is happening to our happy society when a calm, even dull, urban neighborhood can be turned into Baghdad-on-the-Bayou. A few years ago a local TV station — it was the Fox station, obviously — ran news programs showing almost nothing but crime news, entitled “City Under Siege.” Even today our local TV stations run news programs almost exclusively showing shootings, apartment house fires and high-speed car chases. Recently one station hit pay dirt: a reporter was covering an apartment house fire when a shooting occurred there. If a car came racing by, pursued by a fleet of patrol cars with red lights and screaming sirens, it would have been a television trifecta. But in this case, I like to know just how close the bullets are coming.
Now it’s all over. The cops start leaving, the helicopters are gone. It is safe to leave the house, so people start jogging and walking their pet pythons. Wait. The phone is ringing: “This is your neighborhood emergency alert system. There is a police action in our neighborhood. Stay indoors and etc. etc.” I keep thinking, if only Nagasaki had a few AR-15s.
Ashby is huddled at email@example.com
The U.S. Marine Corps is currently fighting two wars, and taking casualties in both. The number of active duty troops is being cut from 184,000 to 182,000. It has a budget this year of $25 billion, which is 4 percent of the Navy’s budget (on paper, the Marine Corps is part of the Dept. of the Navy — always a sticky point among Leathernecks.) Congress, the White House and top civilian Defense Dept. brass are demanding the Corps allow women into the three combat branches – infantry, artillery and armor. (More on that in a minute.) So what are the Jarheads discusssing, debating and wondering about?
The no-pockets policy. It seems there is an informal suggestion (read: YOU WILL OBEY!) that Marines in uniform should not put their hands in their pockets. It looks sloppy. Specificcally, Marine Corps Order P1020.34G, the order on Marine Corps uniform regulations, reads: “The use of chewing gum, chewing tobacco, cigarettes; hands in pockets; or the consumption of food or beverage while walking in uniform or while in formation, are examples of activities that detract from an appropriate military presence. However, good judgment will govern the application of this policy in the field environment.”
The “good judgment” part is a decided departure from most military orders, but let’s march on. A publication called “Task & Purpose,” which I had never heard of and now you and I both have, got interested in this because of a semicolon. (Hang on, we own the Marines along with the other armed forces and thus should be interested in what’s going on.) Since the words “hands in pockets” is bracketed by semicolons, “Task & Purpose” wondered, does this mean don’t put your hands in your pockets while walking or in formation? The Leathernecks fired back, so to speak. Capt. Dominic Pitrone, a Marine spokesman, replied: “If you notice, the words ‘; hands in pocket;’ are bracketed by semicolons, which make it a stand-alone statement, separate from the full sentence and the text ‘while walking.’ The grammatical (and official) interpretation of this is that you are being told that you cannot keep your hands in your pocket, period.”
OK, I agree that this is a minor matter. and certainly Capt. Pitrone has better things to do, like getting ready for his 12th combat deployment. So to save everyone time and trouble, we shall solve this problem. First, the obvious answer is to issue trousers (never pants) without pockets, or sew up the pocket openings. Maybe instead of pockets the supply sergeant issues everyone a backpack to hold stuff. Wait, they already have them. The Marines refer to the item by a military term: “backpacks.” Any of these solutions might cause problems of where to put small items such as gum, coins or hand grenades, so we follow the lead of Scottish regiments who wore kilts in combat through World War I. They still wear them in ceremonies, but traditional kilts don’t have pockets. The laddies solved that problem centuries ago with the sporran, the purse-like pouch on a belt hanging in the front of the kilt covering the crotch. In combat, insert a small skillet in the sporran and it doubles as a flak jock. (Incidentally, USMC rules also prohibit officers in uniform from using an open umbrella or pushing a baby buggy. And one of my sons, a Marine officer, had to receive permission from his superiors before getting married.)
Remember the no-pockets policy also includes other prohibitions such as chewing gum or tobacco, cigarettes or consuming food or beverage while walking in uniform or while in formation. No one wants to see the Presidential Honor Guard lined up on the White House South Lawn to greet the King of Canada or simply to welcome President Trump, back from his daily flip-flop, with a few good men chewing tobacco or nibbling a Big Mac and sipping a Coke. It not only presents an unmilitary scene but could be taken as sponsorships. Come to think of it, considering the Corps’ sequestered budget, a banner reading: “The Fourth of July parade is brought to you by Ford” could defray some costs, not to mention: “The Iraq invasion – this Bush is for you!”
Then we have the female situation. For some time the PC forces have been pushing to put women in submarines, SEAL teams and as parachute testers. The last holdout positions in the armed services were the aforementioned three combat branches – infantry, artillery and armor. The other services have gone along with the orders, but the Marines continue to resist, not overtly, you understand, but they are fighting wars, getting gunned down at Chatanooga recruting stations and serving in hot spots the rest of us don’t even know about. Putting Marine females into a foxhole south of Sinjar is not real high on the Corps’ priorities.
The USMC even ran its own tests which showed that female Marines had problems carrying a “wounded” 220-pound grunt with fully loaded gear – well, at least he was fully loaded — from the bar, past the MPs, to a waiting getaway tank. Still, the Marine Corps has long had the fewest female members of any of the military services — fewer than 8 percent of active-duty troops, compared to the Navy with 18 percent, the Army has 14 percent female and the Air Force with 19 percent. Must that 8 percent keep their hands out of their purses? What if their makeup is running and they need a Kleenex?
Well, somehow the Jarheads will figure ways. For their miniscule budget, they have always been low man on the supply pole, and have a saying: “We have had so little for so long, we can now do anything with nothing forever.” Female Marines will join the combat arms, at least those who qualify on the Mortar Catching Range. And as for the no-pockets policy, simple: just abolish semicolons. “We who have anything with nothing.”
Ashby is Semper Fi at firstname.lastname@example.org
HOUSTON – Just look around you. White people, black people, more and more yellow people, brown people, those who speak English with strange accents (Guadalajara, Brazzaville, Boston). We all seem to get along, unless it’s a discussion over which wine goes with chili. Houston has been called “the most ethnically diversified city in America.” We are also, as a group, getting younger, less religious, more prone to vote Democratic and feel differently from our elected officials about gun control, transgender bathrooms and abortion rights, to name a few.
To find out, let’s go to the source of all things Houston: Dr. Stephen L. Klineberg, Founding Director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University who has been dip-sticking Houstonians on their views for – roll of drums — 35 years. No other city that I know of has such a backlog of information on trends, loves, hates and changing thoughts. A prof at Stanford or Yale can’t go back to 1982 and start taking the pulse of Palo Alto or New Haven. So Steve – I can call him Steve because we go back to when he was using an abacus – has amassed this invaluable trove of info. Like our increasing tolerance for Muslims, our growing optimism and we don’t like flying cockroaches (Steve covers everything). We are a confident and optimistic bunch. This year 61 percent of us expressed confidence both in our own finances and the area’s economy, and believe both will continue upwards, a significant increase from previous years.
Houstonians are more and more favoring same-sex marriages and a transgender law. That ordinance was defeated almost two to one last November. A growing majority of us now favor stiffer gun-control laws but relaxing penalties on small-time druggies, and no Trumpian bar-Muslim immigration policies: “The survey respondents decisively reject the calls in the current electoral campaign to restrict immigration from Muslim countries and to turn away refugees seeking asylum.” When it comes to Houstonians’ opinion on prochoice, prolife, it’s prochoice by a growing percentage. Even as our state officials increasingly limit a woman’s access to abortions, 63 percent of the respondents in 2015 said they were opposed to “a law that would make it more difficult for a woman to obtain an abortion,” and 58 percent in 2016 agreed with the strong prochoice statement: “It should be legal for a woman to obtain an abortion if she wants to have one for any reason.” The surveys have also found that over the years this area is becoming both more secular and more aligned with the Democratic Party. The statement: “Government should see to it that everyone who wants to work can find a job.” received a record 76 percent approval.
What else Steve and the Surveyors (sounds like a 70s rock group) found out? The proportion of area residents who said they were “very worried” about crime has remained below 30 percent in the past several surveys, while concerns about air pollution in the Houston area have improved considerably: Almost half of all the participants in the 2008 survey rated the control of air pollution in the Houston area as “poor,” but now only 26 percent feel that way. Our opinion of living in the Houston area has been high in the past and continues to grow. “In sum, the survey participants generally express distinctly positive feelings about living in the Houston area, even as they complain about traffic, pollution, and crime — not to mention the summer heat, the flying cockroaches, and the no mountains!”
A word on how we were quizzed, because accurate surveys are a scientific undertaking, which is why it’s Amateur Hour before many elections when polls are, well, poles apart. Among the changes, more and more of us, particularly young people, don’t even have traditional phones anymore. (I still dial.) Interviews for this year’s survey were taken between Jan. 25 and March 3. They reached (68 percent by landline, 32 percent by cell phone) a scientifically selected representative sample of 808 residents from Harris County. As in the past two years, additional interviews were taken with representative samples of residents in Fort Bend County and in Montgomery County for a total of 1,610 systematic interviews.
Steve explains: “This was to be a one-time survey, conducted as part of a class project with advanced undergraduate sociology majors at Rice in the spring of 1982. Houston was booming: one million people had moved here since 1970, in a city well-known for having imposed the fewest controls on development of any city in the Western world.” So he and his team began measuring the way people were balancing the booming population growth with mounting concerns about traffic, pollution, and crime. Two months later, in May 1982, the oil boom collapsed and Houston lost approximately 100,000 jobs. It was a different town, and another survey was needed, and then in every year after that. (At this point, you are thinking, “Should I expand my kosher deli to include a prayer rug parlor? How do I get the inside skinny?” Visit the Kinder Institute website at: kinder.rice.edu then scroll past the tweets and click on the aerial map.)
OK, why do lawmakers keep getting elected when they don’t reflect our views? One is the gerrymandering of voting districts which often makes winning in the primaries virtually tantamount to getting elected, and primary voters are usually more extreme in their views than the entire electorate. Another reason is the “donor class,” money talks to our lawmakers. Also. our lawmakers are elected by a small minority of white, educated, middle and upper classes. The survey calls this whole situation “the disconnect between public opinion and ‘politically effective opinion.’” Simply put, “politically effective opinion” votes. Public opinion consists of the rest who gripe but don’t vote. So if you want to change the laws, clean the air and open that prayer rug parlor, become politically effective. Voting is free.
Ashby votes at email@example.com
By Lynn Ashby 9 May 2016
School is almost over for high school seniors, and they are already making plans for college next fall: backpack, shorts, cinder blocks and boards for a bookcase — no dorm room is complete without them – the latest in gizmos, laptops and whatever else Apple just trotted out that they simply can’t do without. For you boys, check out Dad’s closet where you will find absolutely nothing worth taking except maybe some ties for a frat 80s party. Girls, don’t forget birth control pills.
By August the parents will be fretting over the kid’s departure, and the almost-empty nesters are wondering how they are going to pay for the tuition. You see, college costs in Texas are rising faster than Johnny Manziel’s rap sheet. How fast? A recent Houston Chronicle story reports that in 2003, on average, Texas college students (or their parents) paid $3,361 in tuition and fees, but in 2015 they paid $8,256, an increase of 147 percent. During that time, the median household income statewide rose by just 32 percent.
Three factors account for this monumental boost. One, the Legislature keeps reducing the state’s percentage of funding. According to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, state funding for public universities declined by 27 percent from 2003 to 2015 when adjusting for inflation. Two, the Legislators allowed each school to set its own tuition rates. Guess what happened? Three, overhead. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick claims that administrative costs at universities have risen 149 percent since 2003, while classroom costs have increased just 65 percent. Of course, Patrick also says transgenders will break into public restrooms and rape little girls, so we must take his claims with a grain of pixie dust.
There are a few more costs to consider. The DREAM Act allows illegal immigrants to stay and Texas allows them to pay in-state tuition, which is far lower that the out-of-state costs. Then there are the illegal Americans. A young lady whom I met, was visiting her father who lived on my neighborhood. Her parents divorced years ago and she lived with her mother in Indiana. But she enrolled at UT using her Texas’ father’s address. Bingo! Instead of paying $33,842, her tuition dropped to $9,798. Maybe the school is more suspicious now.
Next we have the Legislature’s Hazlewood Act, which covers college costs for Texas veterans and their children. The act, which was expanded in 2009, cost Texas public universities $169 million in tuition revenue in 2014. Come down from, say, Pennsylvania and join the Army in Dallas. When you get out, you and your children go to A&M for free. What a deal. On the other hand, each year roughly 19,000 high school graduates leave Texas for colleges in other states, where they likely pay much higher tuition bills as out-of-state students. We could use those funds right here in Texas.
This brings us to student debt. Fifty-nine percent of the graduates of a Texas public university with a bachelor’s degree have a debt, which averages $26,260, ranking him or her 27th among grads from the 50 states. Nationally, the student debt stands at $1.2 trillion, which is more than Americans owe on their credit cards, and is growing by an estimated $2,726.27 every second. Some economists fear this is influencing our overall national economy.
But there are solutions. Let’s look at the current situation. If your kid can run, dribble or tackle, there are athletic scholarships. UT has an annual athletic department budget of $167-million, largest of any school in the nation. Get your share. Schools love to talk about their diversity. Indeed, UT-Austin could be called The Diversity of Texas, but 90 percent of that student body comes from Texas, which apparently includes kids from Indiana with at least one Texan parent and any veteran from Pennsylvania who was inducted in Dallas. The entire undergraduate body is split among 226 of the state’s 254 counties and 41 states. Asians make up 3 percent of the population of Texas but account for 17.2 percent of the Longhorn student body. (No, they shouldn’t go to Rice. Hahaha.)
UT would love to increase these diversifying figures by checking off a few boxes. Sign up your child as a graduate of Bismarck, North Dakota, High School living in Loving County, Texas, (population 102, no UT students) and of Croatian-Eskimo ethnicity. No doubt she’ll get a scholarship, maybe two or three. We now know former UT President William Powers overrode the admissions office and ordered some unqualified applicants be enrolled because their parents were important, rich donors or powerful lawmakers. Give a new dorm or biology lab, or better yet, sponsor a blue chip halfback, and your kid is in. Or, if Bernie Sanders gets elected president, a free college education and thus no student debt.
But maybe your offspring has run up a debt and you don’t want to pay it. Unlike most other IOUs, bankruptcy does not shield the deadbeat from paying off a student loan. There are rare occasions when the feds will just get tired of the legal fights. Bankruptcy judges can determine whether there is a degree of “hopelessness.” However, I have been declare “hopeless” many times and still had to pay my bills.
One question: why are our universities’ tuition so high? The schools don’t pay taxes, they don’t buy raw products like steel or vegetables to churn out cars, soup or diesel fuel Most of their buildings are gifts from rich alumni who like to see their name on the front entrance. Classes at our state schools are often taught by grad students, so the tenured profs can work on their research, which is underwritten by either government or corporate grants. Here’s one possibility: The UT System will pay about $450 million for 332 acres of choice land near the Texas Medical Center. Why? I think Texas’ higher education needs a good CPA to check the finances – and count the cinder blocks
Ashby educates at firstname.lastname@example.org
THE TV – “President Obama walks into a bar and asks for a black Russian. The bartender says — oh this is great — ‘I thought you were one.’ Hilarious. No?” No. For almost eight long and dull years comedy writers have been desperately trying to come up with Obama jokes. There aren’t any. He’s not called No Drama Obama for nothing. He is leaving office in less than a year, and goes with a sigh of relief from those poor wretches who sit around a TV network office trying to come up with something funny and topical about the current administration. The only people happier to see him go are the millions of undocumented aliens because this President has deported more of them than any other President in the nation’s history.
Think of it: when was the last time you heard a funny Obama joke? For all his failures to get bills and appointees past Congress, this administration has been relatively if not completely free of scandal, although the GOP would say his entire administration is one big scandal. I miss the Bill Clinton sex jokes – his gravelly voice and Arkansas accent always brought a laugh. George W. was a master at mangling the English language: “I understand small business growth. I was one.” And: “It’s clearly a budget. It’s got a lot of numbers in it.” Those were golden days for comics.
Jimmy Carter had a wonderful Southern drawl that was easy to imitate, although he wasn’t much of a source for humor. The only laughs came at the expense of his brother, Billy, who was right out of “The Dukes of Hazard.” While today Ronald Reagan is sanctified by conservatives, Reagan’s administration had a huge number of scandals: Iran-Contra, Oliver North, etc., resulting in the investigation, indictment, or conviction of over 138 administration officials, the largest number for any U.S. president. They all made for late-night TV laughs. George H.W. Bush ran a strict Ivy League administration which generated jokes only when he vomited on the prime minister of Japan.
Our current leader is the target of mean-spirited ridicule and hate-mongering – listen to any Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh show. Those are third-graders’ insults, not humor. We are discussing the more sophisticated and intelligent putdowns and knee-slappers such as those by Mark Twain: “Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.” Will Rogers: “The trouble with practical jokes is that very often they get elected.” Bob Hope and Johnny Carson, Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert (who was much funnier in his old show – his current late night gig on CBS is so boring the network suits are bringing in a new producer).
While Obama may be a desert for laughs, Calvin Coolidge was the worst. Silent Cal once sat next to a young woman at a dinner party who confided to him she had bet she could get at least three words of conversation from him. Without looking at her, Coolidge quietly retorted, “You lose.” However, Abraham Lincoln had a dry wit. The rather craggy-looking president, noting that his political opponents called him “two faced,” said, “If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?” JFK could toss a good bon mot, noting that, “Washington is a city of northern charm and Southern efficiency.” And some of our more recent presidents have had a hidden talent for humor. Each spring, Washington holds the White House Correspondents Dinner in which the President gets to fire back (sometimes humorously) at the Fourth Estate. I have attended a few such occasions, and was surprised at the talent. OK, they all had top-flight writers, but Reagan, an actor by trade, had wonderful timing. The two best where the Bushes – George W. and Laura. Separately, at two different dinners, they were hilarious.
In America, joking about our leaders may ruin your chance for dinner at the White House, but in other countries such humor can be hazardous to your health. The latest incident concerns a German comic named Jan Boehmermann, who recited a satirical poem on television which made sexual references to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Big deal, you say. Actually Germany has an obscure law concerning insults against foreign heads of state, and Turkey wants justice.
However gloomy the humor front has been, there is hope among our presidential candidates. Hillary Clinton is already a steady diet for “Saturday Night Live,” and Bill is still low-hanging fruit for the jokers. If Bernie Sanders gets elected, he will be our first Jewish president, and he is old. As long as the jokes are about his age and are not deemed anti-Semitic, he’s fair game. Then we have Donald Trump, the answer to prayers of every joke writer in the land. Indeed, like Hillary, Trump is already steady feedstock for late night comedians. Ted Cruz would be so-so as joke material, although some of his statements and positions are in themselves quite laughable. The wordsmiths’ worst nightmare (excuse the cliches) is John Kasich, the Ohio governor who is probably the sanest of all the candidates, but is so very dull, noncontroversial and blah, that if he is elected it will be four more years of No Drama.
There is another group that is looking forward to a world without Barack: editorial cartoonists. Obama did not do anything dramatic that lends itself to caricatures and ridicule (when you can’t do much, what’s to laugh at?). Also, Obama does not sport a distinctive face, except for those ears. Newspaper editorial pages have suffered for it. Hillary is easily identifiable, but no home run. Trump, Cruz and Sanders are the best targets for a wicked pen.
Where, oh where, is George W. when we need him? “We ought to make the pie higher.” “I think we agree the past is over.” Who can forget: “Rarely is the question asked: is our children learning?”
Ashby is laughing at email@example.com
By Lynn Ashby 25 April 2016
To: All Patriotic Texans
From: Another Patriotic Texan
Subject: Voter Fraud
Fellow God-fearing, gun-toting, red, white and blue (mostly white) Texans, I call on you once again, just as you prevented a military takeover of Texas by Jade Helm 15, to fight another sneak attack on our life, liberties and pursuit of hippies. This time those um-American slime balls are trying to wrestle away our Constitutional right to elect people who tell us what we want to hear. Those varmints want to vote illegally. That’s right, they are attempting to win elections by putting into office crooks, cheaters and those state officials who are not yet under indictment.
But first let me give you some background since most of you don’t read those left-wing newspapers, or anything else, for that matter. According to the Austin American-Statesman (speaking of left-wing) our Kenyan President, Barack Ali Hussien Mohammed Obama, recently visited Austin to speak to the South by Southwest Interactive conference. There he said that the U.S. is the world’s only advanced democracy that “makes it harder for people to vote.’’
This is a veiled reference to voter registration hurdles in dozens of states, including Texas, by forcing voters to present a photo ID before casting a ballot. To add insult to inhalants, he said, “The folks who are currently governing the good state of Texas aren’t interested in having more people participate.”
Well, our great governor, Greg Abbott, quickly replied (three days later) that our voting requirements were necessary because: “The fact is voter fraud is rampant — and in Texas, unlike some other states and unlike some other leaders, we are committed to cracking down on voter fraud.” Is it really “rampant?” Absolutely, by the millions, but let’s look at the record. First is PolitiFact, a non-partisan fact-checking organization which investigates pols’ more controversial statements to see if they are true. It’s a gold mine because our pols, from both parties, are truth challenged. In this case. PolitiFact determined that, according to the Texas attorney general’s records, 18 instances of voter fraud have been confirmed in Texas since 2002.
Then we have a student group at Arizona State University’s journalism school which compiled a nationwide database that showed in Texas there were 104 cases of alleged election fraud since 2000. The investigative journalists determined that 37 of the 104 Texas allegations were made against voters, but a whopping 15 had resulted in a guilty plea or conviction. An August 2014 analysis made by a Rutgers University political scientist professor, Lorraine Minnite, found three – yes, THREE! — credible allegations of fraud in Texas elections since 2000. We must put these horrifying numbers in perspective: 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. My fellow patriots, 18 or even as many as 104 votes out of 72 million could easily swing our Legislative or Congressional seats into the commie community.
Charges of an abundance of voter fraud have been made only by Republicans, but the Dems can be just as wrong in the other direction. U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Dem from Dallas, wrote in an opinion column published Aug. 8, 2013, in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:“Studies have shown that voter fraud is non-existent in Texas.” She later explained she should have written “virtually non-existent.”
At this point we must note that Texans can vote by mail or in person, and our voter ID law, the very strictest in the nation, is only aimed at fraud in person. I mean, you don’t have to present a photo ID to the postal carrier when you mail in your ballot. So here we have a ticking time bomb. Just how prevalent is this treasonous act? Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., went on ABC’s This Week on Aug. 9 and said: “Take Texas for example, where Lyndon Johnson’s obviously from, they passed these voter ID laws. In the decade before it, 10 years, they only prosecute two people for in-person voter ID, only two people. You’re more likely to get struck by lightning in Texas than to find any kind of voter fraud.”
According to PolitiFact, in 2014, the National Weather Service said the odds of being struck by lightning are1 in 960,000. Texas had the second-highest number of lightning-related fatalities from 1959 to 2013, behind only Florida. But that’s mostly because Texas is so big, both in terms of area and population; once you adjust the death rate, Texas actually ranks 33rd. The NWS said that the probability of being struck by lightning in Texas is right around 1 in 1.35 million. So how does this 1 in 1.35 million chance compare to the probability of finding voter fraud? OK, let’s do the math: Four cases of fraud for 72 million votes makes the chance of voter fraud 1 in 18 million. So you really are more likely to be struck by lightning in Texas than turn up any case of voter fraud. But can we trust figures from some Yankee senator, or the stats from a federal government that tells us we can keep our doctors? I say the number of Texans being struck by lightning is far more, or maybe less.
How rampant is voter fraud? In 2015, Francisco “Frankie” Garcia, Rebecca Gonzalez, Diana Balderas Castaneda and Guadalupe Escamilla were convicted of trying to buy votes in a Donna school board race with cocaine, cash, beer and cigarettes. It’s a small step from the Donna school board race to Congress or the White House. Some lefty pinkos say Texas’ strict voter laws are a transparent attempt to screen out minorities who would probably vote Democratic. I reply: So? Now our course of action is clear. No one gets to vote in Texas without a photo ID, a note from their doctor that they are heathy enough to cast ballots and they must pass a urine test for coke.
Ashby votes at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Lynn Ashby 18 April 2016
THEY’VE GOT OUR NUMBER
THE REFRIGERATOR – A warm spring afternoon, time for a beer. I was given a six-pack of some new product made by Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co. The can is bronze colors, (and says it’s “copper ale”) and the name is 1836. Interesting. Here are some words on the side: “If you have to ask what 1836 stands for, please put down this beer and leave our country.” That’s not very nice, but at least they said “please.” It is yet another reminder that Texas is awash with newcomers who are changing Texas, Texans, our very culture and, which speaks volumes, the name of our soccer team.
First, some stats I stole from others. They call it “plagiarism,” I call it “research.” As we know by bumper stickers and license plates, newcomers are arriving from everywhere, many from the other 49 states, lots from Mexico and the rest of Latin America, and all over the world. One example: almost a quarter of the residents in Harris County were born in foreign lands. OK, two examples: Houston has 84 foreign consulates, third most in the U.S. This surge of arrivals is easily seen when a Houston team plays a visiting team, college or pro. You will see as many flags, T-shirts and cheers for the Dodgers, Sooners, Dolphins or Bears (Chicago) as you will see for the local team
Houston, Austin-San Antonio, and Dallas-Fort Worth added more people last year than any other state in the country, growing by more than 400,000 residents. It is as though every man, woman and child in Minneapolis moved here in that 12-month period, and sometimes I think they have. Austin is the fastest growing big city in the country, and according to new U.S. Census Bureau data, the five-county Austin region now has almost 2 million people. But when it comes to metropolitan areas, greater Houston is Number One, adding more people than any region in the country. Harris County alone added nearly 90,500 residents. Combined, the greater Houston metropolitan area, which includes Houston, The Woodlands and Sugar Land, grew by about 160,000 people between July 2014 and July 2015. Even in a year when the area was hit with the oil bust, the fracking finale and when U-haul companies report a greater exodus of rentals than in-bound, the population gain was still bigger than the two previous years.
All of these folks may change, acclimate, assimilate, accommodate, or die off. A neighbor moved here from Pittsburg and remained an avid Steelers fan the rest of his life. His kids, one a Longhorn, the other an Aggie, aren’t. But our new Texans have changed us, too. For years there were big parades in Houston on April 21 (that’s the anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto, pilgrim). If it weren’t for the Sons of the Republic of Texas firing a few shots in the air to celebrate, the day would go unnoticed. Fortunately, the Texas Aggies mark the date with their Muster. At noon on March 2, Texas Independence Day. UT students would drop a huge Lone Star Flag down the Tower, the band would play our national anthem, “The Eyes of Texas,” and afternoon classes would be forgotten. I don’t think they do that anymore.
We require that our young people take Texas history, and daily recite the Texas Pledge of Allegiance, in English I assume. I once got an angry letter from a mother who had just moved here, and objected to her children saying the pledge. Then I got another letter from a newly arrived mother who objected to a column I wrote about requiring my children to say Sir and M’am to their elders, be they coachmen, butlers or food-tasters. She wrote, “I will ask them to do so only after I have earned their respect.” (At this point I will note that my own mother sent her three sons off to the U.S. Marine Corps – we were seeking an easier and less disciplined life.)
Most native Texans would not haul statues of Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee off a college campus to be dumped elsewhere. The Houston ISD is in the midst of changing the names of several schools, including John H. Reagan: He was the postmaster of the Confederacy. What did he do wrong, mail pipe bombs to Grant? One might think that the massive arrivals from such liberal places as California and New York would nudge Texas to the left. Oddly enough, we now have the most conservative state and federal elected officials since they authorized Ku Klux Klan Day at the State Fair of Texas in 1923. But when did anyone greet you with “Howdy,” and when was the last time you heard “Dixie”? On the other hand, Texas has been blessed by new ideas, habits and food, like good delis, better pizza and the best Tex-Mex on earth, Remember that Houston was developed by two brothers from New York, which explains our original city slogan, “Fugetaboutit!” Of course, there are those missionaries to the savages who like to tell us how things are better Up North. They are easily dismissed with that old Texas term, “Git a rope.”
Finally, earlier we mentioned the ale, 1836, and its warning label. That year, 1836, was the original title of Houston’s brand new pro soccer team (those teams have odd names). In our case it was a fitting title, that being the year of the founding of both the Republic of Texas and the city of Houston. Big and unexpected problem: Many, if not a majority, of new fans would be newly arrived Hispanics. To them 1836 was also the year of the Alamo, San Jacinto and Mexico’s defeat. The new Houston futbal team was renamed the Dynamo, a totally meaningless and useless title. So much for assimilation.
Here I am, contemplating the true meaning of 1836. It mean Texas, ever changing, welcoming the new while keeping the good stuff, M’am.
Ashby is changing at email@example.com
THE DINING ROOM TABLE — If I deduct line 34-J from the total of lines 3-R and the leftovers of Page 2-D, I think the federal government owes me an even $250,000. Oh, hi. I was just watching my wife do our 2015 federal income taxes, and seeing if I can pull one on the IRS like CBS and Xerox, and make the rest of you poor wage slaves pay my part. Don’t believe me? I’ll explain. First, let’s destroy the myth we hear over and over again from those talk-radio demagogues who say repeatedly. “Half of Americans don’t pay taxes.” Not true. Everyone pays taxes, but an estimated 45.3 percent of American households — roughly 77.5 million — will pay no federal individual income taxes. Big difference. (That number has fallen regularly from 50 percent reached during the peak of the financial bust in 2008.) Of that 45.3 percent, half of them don’t pay federal income taxes because they don’t have any taxable income. That makes sense. We’ve got millions of elderly Americans in nursing homes who haven’t earned a dime since Truman was President. How many homeless, unemployed, disabled? The other half of that 45.3 have loopholes, which means millions of Americans with incomes, even sizeable incomes, pay no federal income taxes, and it’s all perfectly legal.
The rest of us pay the remaining taxes to run the federal government, but let’s destroy another myth. The U.S. government does not depend solely or even mostly on income taxes to pay its bills. (Remember that the State of Texas has absolutely no income tax. We run Texas on other funds, mostly sales and property taxes, Lotto, UT football tickets and what the DPS wrings out of you for going 85 in a school zone.) Actually, less than half (47 percent) of what Uncle Sam rakes in comes from our income taxes. Another 33 percent are payroll taxes used to fund Social Security, Medicare Hospital Insurance, and unemployment insurance. By law, employers and employees split the cost of payroll taxes, but research has shown that employers pass their portion of the cost on to workers in the form of lower wages. Take THAT, union goons. About 9 percent comes from estate taxes plus the feds’ cut on booze, tobacco, gasoline and anything else they can think of, and 11 percent comes from corporations.
This brings us to the mom and pop businesses which need federal tax breaks to stay afloat, like GE, Boeing and Bank of America. If you paid one single dollar in federal income tax last year, you paid more than Verizon. FedEx and Citigroup. Actually, according to Citizens for Tax Justice (no doubt a commie bomb-throwing group), at least 15 Fortune 500 companies don’t pay any federal income taxes. In addition to those already mentioned, the list includes Interpublic Group, JetBlue Airways, Mattel, Owens Corning, PG&E, Pepco Holdings, Priceline.com, Prudential Financial, Qualcomm, Ryder System, Time Warner, Weyerhaeuser and Xerox. Of course, we must remember Mitt Romney’s famous quote, “Corporations are people, too, my friend.” And some wags’ reply: “I’ll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one.” These companies do pay taxes, just not federal income taxes, like you and I pay — and pay and pay.
One way these corporations avoid U.S, income taxes is to operate out of a post office box in the Cayman Islands, or just keep the money earned overseas over the seas. James Surowiecki, writing in the New Yorker, notes that “tax inversion” allows U.S. companies to merge with foreign firms, keep operating right here, but pay lower U.S. taxes. It’s a growing phenomenon. There was just one such deal in the 1980s, but there have been more than 50 in the last decade, most since 2009. The biggest was Pfizer’s $160 billion merger with an Irish company.
Again, it’s all perfectly legal, if immoral. These corporations hire top-talented tax lawyers, CPAs, lobbyists and bartenders to explain to members of Congress why beekeepers or lighthouse managers or bullfighters need special tax breaks, and they get them. I’ll bet not one single word in the budget was actually written by a member of Congress. The budget currently being debated is more than 2,000 pages, spends $1.149 trillion which works out to nearly $572 million per page. Last year the revenue and spending were about $3.5 trillion and $4.0 trillion, respectively, leaving a deficit of $474 billion. As huge as that is, it is more than an 11 percent decrease from the previous budget’s deficit of $535 billion. Our children will thank us.
Now let us discuss tax collectors, the most despicable creatures in society. Jesus thought so, in looking for apostles, or maybe disciples, I get them mixed up, he chose Matthew, a tax collector for the evil King Herod. Who better to change from despicable to good? Unfortunately, Saint Matthew, as he is now known, was martyred, but apparently not for being a tax collector. Today, we are facing a change in their ranks. After several false starts, the IRS is hiring for-profit debt collectors to chase down deadbeat tax dodgers. The problem is for years the IRS has been warning us not to trust anyone claiming to be a federal tax collecting agent who wants your money. Last year, more than 5,000 victims fell for the scam, giving fake agents $27 million, so now who are we to trust? As for the IRS, Congressional Republicans, pandering to the deadbeats, have cut the agency’s tax enforcement budget by one-fifth since 2010, when adjusted for inflation. I, for one, wish we had more IRS tax collectors so the rest of us wouldn’t have to make up the losses of those tax dodgers. One study showed that for every one dollar spent on hiring an IRS tax collector, 32 dollars were brought in.
Back here at the dining room table, maybe I can deduct the time I watch CBS.
Ashby is dodging at firstname.lastname@example.org