Republicans won Tuesday night. At least some did, while others lost big.

The national media has seemingly examined this mid-term General Election ad nauseum. Some say it is a referendum on President Obama while others believe that it was simply a matter of the turnout being limited to old white guys. Hey, I resemble that remark, since I just turned 59!

Whatever the reasoning for more “reds” than “blue,” the elections on specific issues and issue-oriented candidacy seem more difficult to grasp when one puts aside the Republican congressional majority and my entire state of Texas once again electing GOP candidates. Oil and gas did not fare particularly well, for instance.

Voters in the San Francisco Bay-area city of Richmond rejected the council candidates on which oil giant Chevron spent millions to elect. Mayoral hopeful Tom Butts whipped Chevron candidate Nat Bates by a 16-percent margin. Chevron, the city’s largest employer, is facing a lawsuit filed by Richmond over a 2012 fire — one of three in recent years — that sent about 15,000 people to local hospitals for treatment. Chevron had sought candidates who would push for a favorable outcome for the oil and gas company. The company, through PACs spent millions on billboards and mailers for Tuesday’s elections. This led one professor to tell NPR that a favorable outcome should not be expected throwing money at a “no” election.

The issue of hydraulic fracturing — at least within the city limit of Denton, Texas — was also nixed. Here, some 58.6 percent of voters in this North Central Texas north of Fort Worth chose to keep so-called “fracking” out of the city. The oil and gas industry outspent opponents by more than a half-million dollars. The city, a college town that is home to the University of North Texas, sits within the 5,000-square-mile Barnett Shale, one of the nation’s largest natural gas fields.

This election in Denton is not the last word, at least when it comes to the powerful oil and gas industry in Texas. The state’s largest petroleum-related lobby and the Texas General Land Office — headed by Republican stalwart Jerry Patterson — have filed lawsuits against the city of Denton over the election results.

Republican State Rep. Phil King of Weatherford says he also plans to introduce legislation that would prohibit such bans as the one voters enacted in Denton.

Perhaps those oil and gas interests who found themselves beat in Richmond and Denton are just a single part of the Red State folks who were not as lucky as the candidates winning Tuesday evening. Outgoing Land Commissioner Patterson, himself defeated in the Republican primary as a lieutenant governor candidate, will turn his office over to a young Hispanic fellow named George P. Bush. This Bush is the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and is grandson of President George H.W. Bush and nephew of President George W. Bush. Figure out what all that means. Or maybe, one should read it and weep.

Although one might get the idea that this writer is anti-oil and gas, such an assertion would prove wrong. I own minerals that I would love someone to drill or, even to just lease. The latter usually brings me more money than the former since I do not own vast minerals. I don’t agree large petrochemical companies such as Chevron who perhaps derives more income from overseas interests, should push around cities with their money. If they have that much freaking money, send some of it my way.

As for fracturing, there is the distinct possibility that it is causing earth tremors, particularly in areas of East Texas. That cannot be good. Neither is it good some of the unknown about what fracturing can do to underground resources such as our water. The industry needs to give a s**t first about quality of life instead of the immediate petro dollars it will receive from buyers around the world.

Perhaps I am preaching to the choir. But the distinction is that this choir members makes a little, very, very little, off oil and gas. And though my opinion means nothing to those operators who drill in my tiny mineral interests, my voice along with those in Richmond and Denton can mean a lot when we get together. It is something the oil and gas industry needs to think about. Although that is probably just a pipe dream. When industries spend millions to influence a local election outcome, that spells greed and associated with it is tank trucks full of arrogance.

 

 

The keys to the kingdom and its burdens

This afternoon I was thinking about this old man from my childhood. Harry was the courthouse janitor and he bore a striking resemblance to the Straw Man in The Wizard of Oz.

I suppose it was for the posture as well as the hat that Harry reminded me of Straw Man. Harry was neither cheerful nor was he particularly grumpy. Perhaps weather-beaten or even life-beaten would fit as a better description of this janitor. It wouldn’t have been hard to fault Harry, in retrospect, for appearing either pissed-off or worse-for-wear. After all, he had who knows how many rooms and spaces were his to clean, including the clock tower on top of the old three-story structure as well as the courtrooms, offices and jail cells that were there during that time. Consequently, Harry had a bunch of keys.

Keys are what made me think of this old fellow. He had keys to every thing, every record, every matter and, yes, every miscreant in our county.

Our family was poor back in those days, but we were like the Rockefellers compared to old Harry. A child with less social instinct might have thought  Harry was rich from seeing all the hardware one might find in the shack which housed Harry and his family.

Why in his yard one might find washing machines, and old refrigerators, tires, probably a propeller off a B-29 from World War II, the hood from a Chevrolet that was of an indeterminate age, old transmissions, batteries and assorted odds, ends and dirt. Harry also reminded me a little of the Pigpen character in Peanuts who was always drawn in the cartoon with dirt swirling about him, kind of an opposite of a white tornado.

But no matter how filthy Harry was, and how much crap was in his yard, I was nonetheless envious of those keys. Having been all up and down the stairs of every floor of that courthouse, I knew there must have been tons of secrets that the doors and cabinets and safes held in that place.

Today I drove to Houston and back to switch to a new work car. I had a 2010 Chevy Impala exchanged for a 2014 Cruze. Of course, it had a fancier key fob than I previously possessed. Why I can even start the car remotely. But I have to surround my Cruze keys with my Toyota Tacoma keys as well as the key to my office, key to the office building/elevator, my postal box key, the keys to my storage unit, bicycle lock and a P-32 military can opener that I’ve never been able to shake from my time in the service.

I have spares, of course, so I had to  pair those off with my spare Cruze key. It has developed into quite the ordeal.

Looking back, I thought Harry the janitor must have had some wealth albeit less material than abstract. I should have recognized old Harry probably wasn’t old at all. He may have been my age or even less, though he had surely been burdened down from the life of poor white trash not to mention holder of the keys to the county castle and all it entailed.

Well, I guess thinking in such dimensions, that makes me wealthy. Guess I’ll go jingle my keys and dream of an island with some tanned bathing beauties.

 

My mea culpa runneth over: Could I have changed DeLay-Babin history?

Ignorance seemed to sweep the state of Texas last night as all of the top right-right-wing candidates won the GOP primary for state offices. This include Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick who swept the top two offices. Fortunately, not all Tea Party candidates won the right to run in the November General Election. I speak specifically in the race to replace Rep. Steve Stockman, who gave up his office to seek the U.S. Senate seat held by John Cornyn.

Woodville dentist and former mayor Brian Babin defeated Tea Party mortgage banker Ben Streusand by a 58-42 percent margin. Streusand lives in Spring, a Houston suburb that is out of the district.

Babin lost two previous congressional races in 1996 and 1998 to original “Blue Dog Democrat” Jim Turner of Crockett. The GOP candidate for the 36th Congressional District of Texas, Babin, will face Democrat Michael Cole, a teacher at Little Cypress-Mauriceville in Orange County. A Libertarian candidate, Rodney Veatch, also will oppose the GOP and Democratic candidates.

The area in which CD 36 lies includes rural East Texas pineywoods, the area where I grew up. Longtime congressmen who served much of the area included colorful Democrats Charlie Wilson and Jack Brooks. Gerrymandering left out most of Jefferson County and adds GOP-prone areas of northern Harris County, home of Houston.

I lived in the area during the 1996-1998 Turner-Babin races and covered parts of both races for area daily newspapers. I found both men friendly and intelligent. I had been on the verge of a hot political story had I put more effort into it. “You gotta have heart,” as goes the song from “Damn Yankees.” At the particular time I didn’t have it.

I went to write about a rally for Babin at Cloeren Inc. in Orange. Pete Cloeren and his Dad had built a very successful plastics business. Unfortunately, he threw his politically-untested hands into helping finance the Babin campaign at the behest of Tom DeLay. A scheme was hatched that every Cloeren employee would donate to Babin the maximum $1,000 contribution allowed in congressional races.

DeLay was there at the rally I attended. I heard pols say that the Cloeren employees, each, all donated $1,000 of their own money in Babin’s name. I said: “Right! What bullshit.” I knew that was illegal and I knew it was about as likely as pigs flying that all the employees each gave $1,000 toward Dr. Babin’s campaign. Yet I was lazy, burned out, didn’t give a shit. Had I the time and the energy to go full force at this story as I had in later years chasing every cow pie that potentially entered the North Bosque River and the Waco city water supply, perhaps I might have changed the course of history with respect to Mr. DeLay. But I doubt it. I seriously, seriously doubt it.

In the end, well, we don’t know the end yet to the former bug killer, DeLay’s, saga. I do know from my time covering court cases that Houston appellate attorney Brian Wice — a sometimes legal talking head on TV — is still a guy I enjoyed hanging out with while awaiting a jury verdict. I say all that and add Wice is hell on wheels on appeals and he is representing Tom DeLay in “The Hammer’s” overturned conviction.

Babin and his campaign committee were fined $20,000 by the Federal Election Committee and paid $5,000 in excessive contributions. And now look at him. He’s the “Comeback Kid!”

That’s about as mea culpa as I’m going to get. I started off writing this thinking, “Well, at least we didn’t get Streusand if the GOP candidate wins in November.” But remembering my little lapse in doggedness, I feel even more that the 36th CD needs to elect Michael Cole.

 

 

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The days of grocers past

Does anyone remember the jingle: “Let’s go to Henke’s now, Henke’s now, Henke’s now … thrifty place to shop.”

Well, the song is a lot like the one you hear or may have had heard in the past that goes: “Let’s go Krogering, Krogering, Krogering … “

It’s all the same and with a reason. The giant grocer Kroger bought Houston-based Henke & Pilot chain the same year I was born, in 1955. The Henke name was no longer used beginning in 1966, or there about. Although the jingle seemed to hang on.

I suppose if you are under 30 and grew up in the U.S., most grocery stores have always been a constant. I know the grocery chains in East and Southeast Texas haven’t seemed to change much over those years. Where I live, in Beaumont, there aren’t a lot of grocery choices. There is Kroger, of course. Two larger regional chains seemed to have elbowed out any potential large competitors with the exception of Kroger. H-E-B, which was once pretty much a Central Texas chain has grown like crazy and even some of the smaller towns around here have mid-sized or small versions of its stores.

H-E-B has mega-stores in different locations in the state. Two were built when I lived in Waco. There is one humongous H-E-B in Beaumont on Dowlen Road that anchors a small strip mall. When it first opened it featured a small “Central Market,” which is the company’s gourmet grocery chain. One may find all the hipsters at the Central Market in Austin (that should be ‘Markets,’ and they are littered with ‘foodies’ in major suburbs like Plano and Southlake in the DFW area.) I will give the tres chic  H-E-B that it does have many great items one would be hard pressed to find elsewhere.

Unfortunately, Beaumont isn’t a hipster town — at least not in reality — so its H-E-B Central Market was gone and installed was a doc-in-a-box. A new, and presumably likewise large, H-E-B is now solid ground but will be coming up at the site of the old Baptist Hospital at South 11th Street and College. This is next door to the booming Memorial Hermann Baptist Hospital and its surrounding medical village. This is kind of a crossroads of where Beaumont’s  mostly Black, goodly-sized Hispanic and minority White population all have to go at one time or the other. If they don’t go to Baptist they usually go up 11th to Christus St. Elizabeth or to Texas Medical Center in Houston.

Of course, the “Golden Triangle” also has an abundance of Market Basket stores. It is a chain in Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana some half-century old, based in Nederland, Texas, that has seemed to do just fine.

Various other stores either went out of business or got bought out. The Brookshire Brothers chain, based in Lufkin, can be found pretty much in the Big Thicket and Deep East Texas areas. The company has also moved into areas of east Central Texas and parts of Central Texas as well.

One need not mention Wally World.

I think about some of the stores that were once here in Beaumont: Albertson’s, Gerland’s, gosh knows who else. In Nacogdoches, where I spent a great deal of my life, Safeway was once a huge, unionized store. Kroger was also unionized there. One of the first girls I dated upon first moving to Nac, I met at Safeway. Those are the kind of memories one likes to have of a grocery store instead of getting stuck in line to no end. The Safeway girl and I parted quicker than some of those lines, I would suppose. But we left amicably as she wanted to move back to Houston and I said, well, if someone wants to move to Houston then I guess I have no great opposition to it. I was fine just where I was at that time, and several other times.

Also I remember the little East Texas town from where I came. We didn’t have any of those big-named stores. Maybe a couple of years after I left a Brookshire Brothers came. It was a familiar brand because my uncle Sox retired from the company. Uncle Sox then worked part-time after retirement in a little town outside of Lufkin called Huntington. Uncle Sox worked for Boots store, named after a man called Boots. Sox and Boots. Seemed kind of proper, yet still gets a big family chuckle.

Some of the small-town stores I remember delivered. Dick’s Grocery, whom I am named for (Dick, not Grocery), used to set their fruits and vegetables out on the curb. I remember one store, owned by Ira Bean, sold a little of everything. Then there was Joe Harrell’s who we saw for smoked meats and his homemade sausage. And like family was J & J’s, the corner store, but not like in a convenience store. I remember they had a big old wheel of cheddar sitting on top of the butcher case. John & Juanita were as good of people you could find.

Man, those were the days. Well, excuse me because I have to go to Kroger’s. Have a great weekend.

There is no free lunch (at McDonald’s)

Read this story.

If the facts are 100 percent correct as alleged by this McDonald’s worker then it would be enough for me to say: “I’m not ever going to McDonald’s again.”

What the hell. I hardly ever go to McDonald’s anyway.

Basically this girl alleges she was fired from her job at McDonald’s after paying for some firefighters’ meal after they returned from a house fire. Then another group came in and she felt they should get a comp as well. She texted her boss to ask. That was the straw that broke Ronald’s back, allegedly. McDonald’s say there is more to the story of her firing than was stated. Oh, but they can’t say anything because of privacy laws. How freaking convenient.

I guess this rubs me the wrong way in more than one way. The biggest irritant is that the fast food joint doesn’t make cops pay but apparently not other public service types. This has been and, apparently still is, a practice at more than just the golden arches. A bit more than 30 years ago when I was a firefighter that was the widespread practice in the town in which I lived. Not that you work for the perks, but hell, sometimes people do appreciate the job you do. You are risking your life when you roll out of the station.

People seem to have more of an appreciation of public safety people now, more so than they did before 9/11. Still, I guess some of the restaurant people figure they can only give out free food only to so many. Okay, when that grease trap you didn’t ever clean catches fire and puts the place into an inferno, go call your hero coppers to put it out. Sorry.

I do remember some girls bringing cookies to our station one time. It was a couple of days after we helped get them back inside their house after they locked themselves out.

Once, I do recall eating at a McDonald’s after a fire. It was an early Sunday morning, must have been early January because the college still was out and there was zero traffic. I was riding in the open jump seat with someone. Can’t recall who. Mike was driving and Mason was lieutenant. I don’t remember who all was on the other pumper either. I guess I remember those two guys because they are gone after relatively early deaths. I remember it was sleeting or snowing that day. A car with a guy, his wife and kids, passed by and looked at me and my fellow firefighter riding the jump seat like, “These guys must be freezing.”

This was back when I was still young. Really pretty young. I guess I was about 23. Man, I had fun back in those days.

We ate breakfast, a Mickey D’s Big Breakfast as I recall. And I remember Mason paid for it. I don’t recollect if Mason paid for those of us on both trucks but he did pick up Engine 309’s tab. That’s more than I can say for Mickey D.

Southwest 737 lands eight miles short of destination

All over the news today, the errant landing of a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 at an airport near Branson, Mo.

Southwest Flight 4013 had been scheduled to land at the Branson Airport. It instead landed at the M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport — a.k.a. Clark-Tanney Co. Airport — some eight miles away and with a runway almost half of the size of the Branson facility.  The Springfield News-Leader website reported that the Southwest jet took off today without incident. The aviation website FlightAware.com reported that the plane landed some 30 minutes later at the Tulsa International Airport in Oklahoma.

While this can be chalked up to one of those “Oops” moments — and was by some news outlets — the safe landing had the potential for disaster as the 737-700 came to rest only “a few hundred feet” from a 50-foot gravel embankment at the end of the runway, according to the News-Leader story by Thomas Gounley. The story and the initial one by Claudette Riley provided the best coverage of the incident I have seen in reading some of the Missouri, AP and network stories on the Web. Hey, trust me, I was a journalist  for some 20 years and covered several of these breaking news events that received national attention. And you can believe me because I’m always right and I never lie.

Southwest has suspended the pilots. Buses took the passengers, who spent about 75 minutes on the landed aircraft, to the Branson airport. The story today had the interesting footnote, one subtle yuk, that Southwest had to “find Branson for another five months.” The airline plans to cease flights to the airport in June.

The 2010 Census estimates say Branson has 10,520 people although the city has long been known for its many theaters catering to country music lovers and an older crowd such as Roy Clark, Glen Campbell, Andy Williams and the Oak Ridge Boys. Frontier Airlines is the other carrier currently operating out of Branson. Even with the extensive tourist trade its hard to imagine a city with 10.5 thousand folks having an airport with two major airlines serving it. Our airport here in the Beaumont-Port Arthur and Orange, Texas vicinity serves a regional population of a half-million people, however, it is only an hour-and-a-half from Houston and its two major airports. It currently has American flying to and from Dallas-Fort Worth International. United Airlines still has a bus service to George H.W. Bush International Airport in Houston back and forth to Jack Brooks Regional Airport in Nederland from its merger with Continental

Private and public entities had to put a $1.5 million revenue guarantee for American to begin flying its regional jets from Southeast Texas from its D-FW hub. American became the most recent airline over the past 40-something years in the Beaumont-Port Arthur area.

Southwest pulled out of Beaumont-Port Arthur after a little more than six months in 1979. My third airline flight, flying from what was Houston Intercontinental in 1974 to BPT, was on a turbo-prop Convair 880 that was part of the Texas International Airlines fleet. Texas International, previously Trans-Texas Airways, eventually merged with Continental.

Back and forth. Up and down. That’s the airline biz.

This is no fun vacation. Of course, it isn’t really a vacation.

It has been a week since the government shutdown and many of us who work for the feds have been furloughed. Time off is good and I planned on taking annual leave next week, but it looks like that won’t be happening. I may be wrong, and I hope that I am, but I don’t see the federal government totally opening shop until at least Oct. 17. That is, of course, when the debt ceiling must be raised or the nation will default on its debts. At least, that is the best I can make out of it.

I have always enjoyed time off from work until lately. I can’t remember the last time I took off just to go somewhere and enjoy myself. It was maybe one or two years ago.

If I had the money, I would go somewhere for a week or a few days. Maybe I would visit a friend in El Paso, or another in Mississippi. But I have very little money and that little money I have I am trying to determine what I will have to use it for.

Never in my life have I seen a group of people – and I am speaking to Congress and my President – who seem to have a total disregard for the employees whose welfare they are charged to oversee. I still support the President, but I truly hope he gets something done and soon. I am headed toward a place I never wanted to be again, that is homeless. Wouldn’t that be a nice “visual” for Congress or President Obama?

I have a “Donation” button on my blog page that goes to my PayPal account. Please feel free to use it. Your help for this furloughed government employee is much appreciated.

Note: I work part-time for a government agency. In the last couple of years health problems have forced me to rely more on that part-time job than on my dream of freelancing. I ask those whom I know who read this to please give me a hand so both that I and this blog can continue. — Thanks, Dick

Sitting here, waiting for the fiscal shoe to drop

My friend Marcie sent me a text message earlier that unfortunately is more enthusiasm than accuracy at the moment.

“Looks like no govt shutdown. Good news for you! We’ll see … ”

That’s okay, Marcie, it’s the thought that counts. For the moment at least.

The latest in the war between the Democrats vs. the GOP vs. Tea Party is a Senate spending bill that restored funding for Obamacare as well as to keep the government running. It’s been sent to the House where it either be accepted or sent where old bills go to die.

Our only words of encouragement are in the form of our regular teleconference agenda that came by email this afternoon, which says nothing shutdown-related. Of course, us part-timers were already given a short phone call  from our supervisors late yesterday afternoon telling us we would be told something Monday as to any possible furloughs. The procedure is roughly the same as we had during the last time the Republicans threatened to shut us down. As far as I know, unless there has been any last minute change, we still will be considered non-essential personnel.

I suppose I look at the possibility of going unpaid for however long. If it is a day or maybe two, then I might be okay. Anymore than that and I might have to try a Web-driven telethon.

But I shall not dwell on these things. I just hope the media will have the good sense to stop making a hero out of Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, who now is the most toxic Texan in the Senate. Yes, he’s different. Different in the a**hole way.

Have a great weekend and, in the words of the late, great Bob Marley: “Don’t worry. About a thing. Cause every little thing going to be all right … ”

I sure hope so, Bob.

 

The monkey dances as the scores run upward.

The fields hosting some of the best teams in college football were a slaughterhouse last weekend. See for yourself:

No. 4 Ohio State 76, Florida A & M 0.

No. 7 Louisville 72, Florida International 0.

No. 8 Florida State 54, Bethune-Cookman, 6, By golly at least the small, historically black Wildcats scored a TD.

No. 20 Baylor 70, Louisiana-Monroe 7.

Stephen F. Austin 52, Montana State 38. This sounds more like Texas 6-man football but my alma mater the Lumberjacks of SFA were pretty even unlike some of these match-ups.

Even here in Beaumont, Texas, the rebuilt-from-the-grave Lamar Cardinals, a FCS, or what was once Division 1-A, throttled the smaller Bacone Warriors of Muskogee, Okla., 53-0. I saw the Bacone bus at the MCM Elegante Hotel while coming home from work late. I said: “Bacone?”

Bridge City HS, UT wishbone T fullback Steve Worster. Those were the days.

Bridge City HS, UT wishbone T fullback Steve Worster. Those were the days.

Some football “purists,” if such a word exists came to work Monday at their radio or TV studios, eyes raised, ready to engage in “for” or “against.” What do smaller schools get in exchange for playing much larger and ranked BCS schools? Oh, and getting beaten like a rented mule? Money. Yeah buddy, beat me until I turn green like the GEICO Money Man. I think GEICO, who is owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire-Hathaway, has some of the most clever advertising characters ever. Love the Gecko and Ralph the Pig, along with the Money Man. He must be Buffet in a younger day.

Here is my alma mater playing Texas Tech on Sept. 7. Tech 61 SFA 13. Attendance, more than 54, 000. On RedRaiderSports.com, old buddy, former co-worker and fellow SFA journalism alum Kevin Gore hit the nail on the head:

“Texas Tech is the toughest opponent on SFA’s schedule, how do you think they’re gearing up mentally for their trip to Lubbock?
KG: “Well, you know, it’s a money game for Stephen F. They’re getting $387,500. They try to play a money game every year.”

To paraphrase an old chem professor, you don’t get 20,000 students to show up for a chemistry lecture.

I have been searching for what SFA brought home in cash in the beating they took a year or two ago playing the Texas A & M Aggies at Kyle Field, but can’t find the amount.

Other reasons exist for these mismatched contests but money reigns supreme, at least for the “beat-ee.”

The question raised is whether these games contain “sportsmanship.” WTF? I remember in high school, a football player and a pretty girl would be the “Sportsmanship Couple.” This couple would take a bouquet to another such couple from the other team. I never got to be a sportsmanship, uh half-a-couple. I was just the equipment manager. And I remember a game in high school in which I watched from the sidelines as our team racked up 60 to 0, the best I can remember. We put a 300-pounder lineman in at halfback and he bulled his way through a couple of yards a la Refrigerator Perry style. That was before The Fridge though.

This score-up-running scene I described was a district football game. It was a school we played year in and out, except every so often and when the University of Texas body that runs interscholastic events — my best friend and I were 2-for-2 in the Nederland Foresnic Tournament. We raced to see who could first dig up dead bodies and find crucial evidence. Oh bullshit, it was a debate tournament!

Where this all comes out is sometimes the score gets run up. It seems a bit unseemly when this is all for money. But you have to make that dancing monkey dance. That is not a racist statement. You ever see a dancing monkey?