Does coffee fuel the separatist Texas nut movement? I hope not.

Today might be a slow news day for The website for the long-running news magazine reports today that a screwball amendment for screwy right-wingers who say Texas should secede from the United States is up for a vote in a state GOP convention.

Texas Republicans will vote on the secession measure Friday during  the state GOP convention taking place at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas. How appropriate is it that the Texas Republicans are convening in the former Dallas Convention Center? The center was renamed after the former GOP U.S. senator from Texas, who was also state treasurer and legislator as well as a television legal correspondent in Houston and a University of Texas cheerleader.

I didn’t always agree with Hutchison — I did let her use my office bathroom on a RV stop to my little East Texas newspaper during her treasurer candidacy — but I don’t remember hearing really off-the-wall ideas from her like her fellow Texas U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn.

"Big Sam" Houston towers over Interstate 45 south of Huntsville, Texas. One can see her a tall Texan who loved America, not like those who want to destroy both.
“Big Sam” Houston towers over Interstate 45 south of Huntsville, Texas. One can see here a tall Texan who loved America, not like those who want to destroy both the great state and union.

The idea of Texas succeeding from the union is nothing new in the Lone Star State. I suppose one act by Texas military hero, former president of the Republic of Texas and later governor of the state, Sam Houston, which makes him an American patriot as well as a Texas hero was his opposition to Texas leaving the Union during the Civil War. Houston was removed from office and refused a Union army offer to put down the rebellion then quietly retired to his home in Huntsville, Texas. If you happen to pass on the southern outskirts of Huntsville on Interstate 45, either in day or night, you will see the 67-foot-tall statue of this larger than life hero.

Since the United States put the kibosh on states taking off on their very on — with a heavy price to both the Union and the southern confederacy — talks of secession have been just talk.

Most of the recent talk has been fueled by one man, a Daniel Miller who lives about 15 minutes away from me in the city of Nederland, Texas, and someone who does make great use of the internet. But the Texas Nationalist Movement, or TMN, claims to have had a 400 percent jump in membership since the 2012 elections.

Among the reasons why the TMN seek a separate nation in Texas is a government wholly in the state,  and “an end to the siphoning of Texans’ hard-earned money by D.C. bureaucrats.” The movement also says that: “Independence is what the people of Texas want.” Well, I suppose I can’t argue with that although the independence is the one that many have sought in coming to the United States.

More than 125,000 people have signed the petition asking the White House to grant Texas independence. Only 25,000 signatures are needed to elicit a response from the office of the U.S. chief executive.

Jon Carson, director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, responded to the 2012 petition. He said that debate is healthy in our nation of  300 million people and can get noisy, but it shouldn’t tear our nation apart. Carson said the founding fathers created within the Constitution a right to change our nation through the power of the ballot. It didn’t create a right for a portion of the country to walk away from that union.

 “Although the founders established a perpetual union, they also provided for a government that is, as President Lincoln would later describe it, “of the people, by the people, and for the people” — all of the people,” Carson wrote. “Participation in, and engagement with, government is the cornerstone of our democracy. And because every American who wants to participate deserves a government that is accessible and responsive, the Obama Administration has created a host of new tools and channels to connect concerned citizens with White House. In fact, one of the most exciting aspects of the We the People platform is a chance to engage directly with our most outspoken critics.”

It is difficult to imagine what makes people seriously believe that life in the United States is so horrible that they would want to set off what would surely be a battle with the federal government, no matter how many “Texas Nationalists” there really are.

I served in my nation’s armed forces during the Vietnam era and the Cold War. By the time I served it wasn’t at all a really “hot” war. Still, the specter of terrorism was lurking around even back then in the mid 1970s. Three Navy Seabee officers were killed by Philippine terrorists while inspecting a road about three months before I enlisted in 1974. Three years later I would spend quite a bit of time near that same site in the Philippines on a ship. Some of that time included petty officer of the watch duty, armed with a .45-caliber pistol at my side. Knowing what had happened and what could happen would give me a scary edge, no matter that it was “peace time.”

Maybe the kind of strong coffee one gets down here in Southeast Texas, itself considered Cajun country, has something to do with the wild ideas like those who seek a separate nation in Texas. I note that the TMN website listed locally manufactured Seaport Coffee, a family owned and operated company in Beaumont, as it the “official fuel of the Texas Nationalist Movement.” Whether Texas Coffee Co., which makes Seaport as well as many different wonderful kinds of spices, knows of its TMN distinction I do not know. What I do know is that the nationalist movement does not speak for Texas nor Texans. A separate Texas nation is just a dream, a joke, and a dream.

It’s flooding down in Texas …

Ah, just as the 1982 Supertramp song “It’s Raining Again,” declares, it is raining once or maybe twice or perhaps even three times again down here in the sodden Southeastern part of Texas.

It has actually flooded in some parts. Houston has largely shut down today as officials say this is the “rainiest day ever, before noon,” according to online magazine Slate.

The many-times lifesaver of urban life in Houston, TranStar showed late this afternoon that water was still standing below 1-10 West, the Katy Freeway, only five miles or so from what  is known as the widest highway in the world.

This still from highway cameras on the Katy Freeway just outside of Houston just after 4 p.m. shows water below still standing. Photo from Fair Usage by TransStar.
This still from highway cameras on the Katy Freeway just outside of Houston just after 4 p.m. shows water below still standing. Photo from Fair Usage by TranStar.

I have been off work today. I had intended to do some work today, including a safety inspection but the other half of my inspecting was prevented from flying from Dallas to Houston or Dallas to Beaumont. I was supposed to be off work today. I didn’t even notice it until I got up and looked at my work calendar that I found I shouldn’t work today. It happens sometimes.

A quick calculation tells me I have lived, on and off, about half of my 60 years in this part of Texas. I have been through about four or five hurricanes, two of them pretty nasty. Plus, the subtropical area in which I live averages between 58-60+ inches of rainfall per year.

But I cannot recall a year that has had the amount of rain over several rain events since I have lived here.

Last month saw some exceptional flooding on the Sabine River between Texas and Louisiana where I was raised. Some 12 or maybe more inches of rain fell over the area. But worse, hard hit was the area to the north of Toledo Bend Dam, the largest such impoundment on the Sabine and the last dam before the river meets the Gulf of Mexico.

Toledo Bend Dam and its reservoir is the fifth largest man-made lake in the United States. The dam spans the Texas and Louisiana border. I remember when my Daddy and I crossed the Sabine near there to attend the groundbreaking for the facility back in 1960. I don’t remember a whole lot of the day but I do remember crossing the river in a boat provided by our local fire department. The site for the ceremony was the type of such that one would expect to see in the South. There was plenty of barbecue, several local high school bands, and politicians out the wazoo .

Governors Price Daniel Sr. of Texas and Jimmie Davis of Louisiana were also there. The bands played a rousing rendition of “You Are My Sunshine” when Davis was introduced. It was Davis, a gospel and country singer, who popularized the tune on record in 1940. To add a little perspective, Daniel’s son, Price Daniel Jr., was later elected as Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. After leaving office, he was later allegedly shot and killed by his wife, Vickie Daniel, whom he first met while she was a waitress at a Dairy Queen. She was acquitted of murder in the death of Daniel Jr. in a spectacular trial which was recounted in a book and made-for-TV movie.

Ten years later after dirt was first turned, in 1970, the massive reservoir, dam and power plant were finished. It was quite a feat for a facility of that size to be built without the help of the federal government. Both Texas and Louisiana have Sabine River Authorities.

US Geological Survey scientist Jimmy Hopkins takes a stream stream flow measure in Bon Wier, Texas, during the March 2016 flooding. USGS photo by Jody Avant & Jeff East
US Geological Survey scientist Jimmy Hopkins takes a stream stream flow measure in Bon Wier, Texas, during the March 2016 flooding. USGS photo by Jody Avant & Jeff East

Since Toledo Bend Dam has operated, flooding has been at a minimum down river along the nearly 90 miles to the south along Newton County. The same in most cases applied to  Vernon, Beauregard and Calcasieu parishes in Louisiana which are across the Sabine from Newton County. The river then continues on through Orange County and the port of Orange and onto the junction of the Sabine with the Neches River where the salt-water  Sabine Lake empties into the Gulf.

The exception to the flooding has been in low-lying areas where folks have settled on the river banks near Deweyville in southernmost Newton County. However, the March rainfall caused not only severe flooding in Deweyville, but also along the river just south of the dam and all along the river along Newton County and the three Louisiana parishes. More than 5,000 homes were flooded in Deweyville and the surrounding areas.

Some residents, especially those of my age and younger, recall the Sabine River as only endangering a small portion down river from Toledo Bend near Deweyville for flooding over the years. Many, like myself, had mistakenly believed that Toledo was built for flood control. It turns out that it wasn’t. The Sabine River Authority of Texas pointed out in the wake of the flooding that the dam was only built for water supply, electrical generation and recreation. A number of those who were flooded were incensed that, even though weather forecasts had called for such a huge amount of rain along the Texas and Louisiana border, the river authority did not open the gates of the dam which some victims believed might have prevented the flooding. The Texas river authority said that the law prevented the opening of the gates until a certain lake level had been reached. So, the gates did not open until the lake reached the level, which by then, contained a much increased volume from the rainfall.

A group of residents whose homes have been destroyed by flooding have met with attorneys to consider a class action lawsuit against the Sabine River Authority.

Perhaps the March 2016 flooding is of the type that is called by government planning and emergency officials a “100-year” or even “500-year” flood. But one must consider the rains this area has experienced today, including flooding that brings Houston — some two hours away from the Sabine River — to its knees. It seems at times that is just too foolish to try and outguess nature.


Guns, guns everywhere but where are the well-regulated militias?

Today seems to be another one of those days that is all about guns.

Capitol police shot and injured a man, who was described by Capitol Police Chief Matthew R. Verderosa as an individual “known by Capitol Police” who had been to the complex on an unspecified number of times. Verderosa told reporters the man was attempting to enter the Capitol Visitors Center when a magnetometer used for detecting metal went off. The suspect withdrew his weapon and he was immediately shot by an officer. Other details are not yet available as the shooting happened about 1:30 p.m. my time (Central DST.) The Daily Beast has a story naming the alleged suspect, as well as a linked story about that individual’s capture after an incident in October 2015 in which the man yelled that he was a “prophet of God” from the U.S. House balcony. The report indicates the man was charged with “unlawful conduct” at the Capitol, as well as assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest. The story does not say why the man is still out walking the streets.

Previous violent incidents have happened inside and outside the nation’s Capitol. Two Capitol police officers were killed in 1998 by a deranged man, two others and the suspect was shot. The suspect, Russell Eugene Weston Jr., 59, has never faced trial as he is believed to be too mentally ill. He remains indefinitely in a federal prison in North Carolina. A famous incident dating back to 1856 also happened inside the Capitol among two congressional members. U.S. Rep. Preston Brooks beat Sen. Charles Sumner with a walking cane, nearly killing the senator. The beating came after Sumner denounced the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which would have admitted Kansas as a free, or slavery-free, state, to the nation. Sumner attacked the bill and mocked the authors of the Act, Sens. Stephen Douglas of Illinois and Andrew Butler of South Carolina. Brooks was Butler’s cousin. Apparently, there was no walking cane lobby the size of the NRA in those antebellum days.

Down here in Texas, there is hardly a worry that anyone will be near-fatally caned at the Capitol in Austin. The Capitol is guarded by a special force of state troopers who take their jobs very seriously. Plus, one who is licensed to carry a firearm is admitted on an expedited basis. Members of the press, or just plain ol’ Texans wanting to visit the beautiful pink granite edifice, have to wait in another line.

The GNA, Gun Nuts of America, lost one battle over firearms, however. Actually, no group was identified but a person whose psudonym is the hypernationalist, enlisted folks to sign a petition on to allow the open carry of firearms during the July Republican National Convention in Cleveland. More than 42,000 people have signed on despite the fact that federal law says that ain’t happening. A spokesman for the U.S. Secret Service told the Washington Post:

“Title 18 United States Code Sections 3056 and 1752 provides the Secret Service authority to preclude firearms from entering sites visited by our protectees, including those located in open-carry states,” Secret Service spokesman Robert K. Hoback said in a statement. “Only authorized law enforcement personnel working in conjunction with the Secret Service for a particular event may carry a firearm inside of the protected site.”

The hilarious, or maddening, however one cares to define it, GOP presidential candidates have tippy-toed all around the Secret Service laying down the law. The stock answer for Donald J. Trump is “I’d have to see the law first.” Well, Donald “The Donald” Trump, why don’t you go wearing six-guns on each hip on the stage and sees what happens?

I tried to find a non-partisan group with statistics on gun violence. While the Brady Bunch are well meaning altough the figures sometimes are not associated with a particular point in time. But I  presented a link anyway.

A site I found this afternoon presents some pretty near real-time evidence as to what is going on out there with people and guns. The Gun Violence Archives lets one see what is happening in a particular sector of gun violence. Let’s say for instance, children killed by guns. I have no idea how far the database goes back but it is over the last several years at least. The database gives the date, the state, city, address, the number killed and the number wounded. Each incident has a linking “source,” which is likely a newspaper story. There is also a link for the “incident” itself, which lists the names, ages of those killed and wounded and the reason for violent act.

Here's a thought!
Here’s a thought!

Here is a mass murder (which is classified by the database when more than four people are killed) that happened last August in a part of Houston that is less than 85 miles from where I reside. This incident took place Aug. 8, 2015 leaving dead six children ranging in age from six-to-13 years of age, and two adults. The 49-year-old shooter tied up all eight victims and shot them in the head. This is cast as a “family-involved” shooting. Here is just one of the stories with the very saddening details. This article from the Houston Chronicle also includes the three-page criminal complaint against the alleged shooter. The accused, charged with capital murder, turned himself into Harris County Sheriff’s deputies after a standoff.

Many Americans know the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by heart, even though somewhat less probably kn0w the First or the Fourth Amendments word-for-word. Gun nuts cite the 2nd Amendment but probably kn0w even less about the Supreme Court decisions that give gun owners and the “well-regulated militias” a little room to breathe. That is why groups like the NRA wants a pro-gun-nut as president and as members of Congress. The next president in January 2017 can, especially with a Democrat majority in the Senate, replace perhaps a couple or more aging justices of the Court who might arrive with all sorts of ideas — such as tinkering with that language on the “well-regulated justices.” Maybe that’ll happen. Maybe it will not happen. Just read some of those gun-violence cases. If nothing else, perhaps it will make one think about guns and how they are destroying families and friendships one bullet at a time.


GOP debate promises great laughs and a guy who blitzes wolves

Howdy folks! We down here in the Lone Star State are having us a Republican debate shortly, out there at the University of Houston! Whatever happens tonight, be prepared for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to speak with an exaggerated Texan drawl, maybe mixed in with a few words en español.  Then watch as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio pepper Cruz in a Spanish-style inquisition to which the not-so-fluent Spanish-speaking Cuban-Canadian will only shake his head.

Meanwhile, Rubio’s posse is gearing up for the possibility of a brokered convention. That will be more fun than when the dog ate baby brother!

As for Trump, who the hell knows what he will say. He is likely to say something about building a wall and having Mexico pay for it.  Although, one might guess that is not playing well south of the Border. As  former Mexican President Vicente Fox said in an interview today: “I declare: I’m not going to pay for that f***ing wall,” Fox said. “He should pay for it. He’s got the money.” Truer words were never spoken, at least by a Mexican politico.

Fun galore tonight at the University of Houston on CNN. Even The Wolf Blitzer will get in on the act as moderator. Maybe he will reveal tonight just how does one blitz a wolf?  Puzzling.


Seventeen years later, it’s a new year (almost)

The end of the year is one of those times when many people take stock of their lives. I guess 2015 was better than 2014 although I have had many better years. I lost only one close friend and a cousin this year. My medical condition is probably better than the year before. I still suffer from chronic pain and diabetes. I have made strides in lowering my A1C and hope that during my next blood test I will find it at or near an acceptable range.

One thing that has not changed, is my automobile. I thought about this while returning to my pickup truck this afternoon after buying a few odds and ends at Kroger.

My 1998 Toyota Tacoma has some scratches and a noticeable dent in the back, passenger side of its bed.

I am living in the same town in which I bought the truck, Beaumont, Texas, back in December 1997. Although, there was a seven-year period during which time I lived in Central Texas rather than the Upper Texas Coast where I currently live.

A couple of months after buying the truck, I moved to Waco – whose boosters consider the city as “The Heart of Texas” — where I worked my last full-time job from 1998 to 2015. That is a whole other story, perhaps hundreds of stories, as I worked as a journalist. I should say, though, this post is a look back or, perhaps a story, about that maroon pickup of mine that now registers 175,000 miles on its odometer. Perhaps mileage is more important than time anyway. My late brother John, a character if there was one to be had, said whenever someone told him he looked older than his age: “It’s not the years, it’s the miles.”

I looked at the small scratch this afternoon that extends nearly the length of the passenger side of my vehicle. That happened not long after I moved to Waco. I stayed at a hotel for quite some time and I returned home one evening to find some man who was visibly shit-faced. He told me: “This is my parking space. You need to move.” I told him there were no assigned parking places there and that I was not going to move my truck. Later, in my room, I heard what sounded like an awful metallic sound. I looked out the window and saw the same man. He was “keying” my truck. I wanted to yell “What the f*** are you doing you ass****? But I was concerned he might start a fight or worse. This is Texas after all, where men with guns are everywhere. I opted instead to call the local police department in the small suburban town north of Waco where I was living.

The police officer talked to the man and took my report, but did not arrest the vandal. He said he could only do something only if the cop actually saw the drunken fool committing the crime. The officer said I would need to come to police headquarters during working hours and file a complaint.

Just minutes after the police left, out came, once more, the drunken criminal mischief-maker. The troublemaker was hovering around my truck as if he intended to do more damage. I called the cops once again. The cop returned and told the man to get back to his room and stay there, or else he would go to jail for drunkenness.

I filed charges and found out that the man who damaged my truck was arrested and jailed, then soon was released on bail. Someone told me, maybe the suburban police officer, that the man had an argument with his wife that night and checked into the motel.  I don’t know how long it took the case to be disposed of through the county court. I think the charge was classified as a Class B Misdemeanor because of the amount of damage he did. Eventually, the vandal pleaded out and was assessed probation and was ordered to pay me restitution for the damages. I got the check for the amount of money the body work would cost. But I needed the money more than I needed body repair so the scratch remains to this day.

There are other scratches on the pickup from times both remembered and not. A number of tiny bumps can be found on the roof and hood of the truck, the product of at least one particularly intense hail storm near Dallas. I had spent the weekend with a friend when the storm hit. I looked out the window of his house and found the ground covered in white, as if it had snowed. Goodness, gracious, great balls of hail!

More recently someone must have backed into my truck bed, leaving a noticeable dent. Oh well, the scratches and bumps lend a certain amount of character to one’s wheels. I would tend to agree if someone would tell me that these bumps and bruises lower the value of the truck. Nevertheless, I have received several offers for my ride. One day I might just take up one of these offers for the right price. I had about $1,900 worth of repairs made on various mechanical issues this year. That is definitely the most I have spent repairing the truck during the 17 years I have had it. The old Toy-ota still runs well, receives much better mileage than before the repair – definitely a good deal since gas prices here have fallen to $1.50 per gallon – and my old pickup truck built during the last century is street legal.

What more does a man need?