Duck fishing, women biking may return to Ferguson

By the looks of its city Website, Ferguson, Mo., appears a rather pleasant place to live or visit.

Two static pictures bookend the top of the site. One shows a drawing or picture of a fishing rod apparently cast out into the water. A duck is pictured just below it. It is uncertain as to whether the duck is giving the invisible angler moral support or whether the person is fishing for ducks. Over on the right bookend is a rather cute young lady riding a bicycle. She wears modest shorts and a sleeveless T-shirt. The shirt is sometimes called a “wife-beater” when worn by men but since a woman is wearing it, maybe it is a “husband-beater” or “boyfriend-beater.” Maybe T-shirt is safe.

Several pictures in the middle of the Ferguson page fade in and out. They include some historic railroad cabooses and a picture of the city fire department’s only ladder truck spraying a stream of water on a couple of kids in T-shirts and shorts, presumably during a summer day. Perhaps given the rioting along with several businesses burned down over the last couple of nights, the ladder truck photo is maybe the most unfortunate of the Web pictures.

Of course, one can probably find many signs and pictures or symbols of where the infamous occurred.

I recently stayed in Dallas for a week of meetings which meant a drive from our hotel off the Stemmons Freeway to downtown near the Convention Center —  the latter now named for former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison — and back. The route took us under the triple underpass past Dealey Plaza. It was under that triple underpass where the presidential limousine carrying John F. Kennedy sped through after he was shot and was pronounced dead a short time later on Nov. 22, 1963.

Dealey Plaza, Dallas. Grassy Knoll, Texas School Book Depository, top right. Wikimedia Commons

Dealey Plaza, Dallas. Grassy Knoll, Texas School Book Depository, top right. Wikimedia Commons

A colleague of ours from Colorado rode with us on those days to our meeting in downtown Dallas. This associate told us he had never either been to Dallas nor seen the site where Kennedy was assassinated. He found the site fascinating and even professed it to be on his “bucket list” of sites to visit before he met his end.

One particular topic of discussion on the way back to our hotel was while driving in front of the old Texas School Book Depository where alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald worked and fired the rifle that killed Kennedy. Elm Street, which ran in front of the famous book building and on which JFK rode when he was shot was marked with a couple of  “Xs,”  painted where the bullets fired from the sixth floor of the depository building.

I have been to Dallas many times. I even lived in two different suburbs for short periods of time. I have also been downtown to the assassination site on more than one occasion. I did not remember the Xs being there.

Apparently, the Xs have been painted on the street for years and the city would remove them, both for street work and from keeping tourists who would dodge traffic for a picture near the X from ending with the same ultimate fate as Kennedy. My colleagues and I had a discussion about the Xs and I found several stories including this one from the paper of record in Big D.

The police shooting of Mike Brown and all the unrest it has spawned will never match the infamy as that of what happened in Dallas 51 years ago this month. But some recognition will always remain in Ferguson for those who appreciate even the biggest warts on our American history. Most cities with former black eyes even Waco, Texas, — despite, boosters of that Central Texas city still point out, the onetime Branch Davidian compound is 12 miles northeast of Waco — ultimately come to grips with their past. And while these dark times are not particularly celebrated, they do become a rightful place in local and sometimes even national history.

What Ferguson — in the landing path of Lambert International Airport — will become someday is hard to guess. Perhaps just as soon that all the discord came to town after the police shooting of Mike Brown, so will it eventually disappear. Then may once more people may fish with ducks, or for them, and cute women wearing sleeveless Ts will roam the suburban St. Louis landscape.

Awaiting on the Ferguson grand jury. All at prime time.

For three months a St. Louis County grand jury has looked at the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by suburban Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. For more than an hour, CNN has trumpeted its “Breaking News” banner, with its anchors saying that an announcement was imminent as to the decision of that grand jury. One correspondent says an announcement may come in two hours while Wolf Blitzer says a statement by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon will say something to the media at any time.

When? For God’s sake. All the delay does is just heighten the tension.

A message on my phone by CNN says that the decision will be announced at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.

On the other hand, this case is both explosive and tiring. It’s all about race. All the time. I’m sorry. So many feel they have the moral high ground when it comes to a race, specifically, their race. Red and yellow, black and white.

“Mostly say hooray for our side,” as Stephen Stills wrote in the 1967 Buffalo Springfield protest song, “For What It’s Worth.” Despite the song’s timeliness, it was written about the response from youth to a Los Angeles city edict that restricted activity at a  complaint-ridden club which young people saw as a civil rights infringement.

Gov. Jay Nixon, the Democratic governor of Missouri, is now speaking to the media on how the police and National Guard are preparing for the announcement on the grand jury report.

The governor called for “Peace, respect and restraint.”

“The world will be watching us,” said St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, at the news conference about the upcoming announcement.

More than two hours since I started watching, waiting to find out the Ferguson grand jury details, this continues.

Holy smokes, a big show before the big show.

 

84th Texas Lege must think guns need their full attention

Texas is a wonderful place. If you don’t believe it, just ask a Texan. Personally, I think The Lone Star state is a great one. I’ve lived for brief times elsewhere. For instance, I lived in Mississippi for 2 and a half years when I was stationed there in the Navy. I served aboard a warship for a year after that. No one ever pulled a gun on me and said I had to live in Texas. It was a decision that I made alone.

So bunches of Texans, myself included, will attest to the greatness of our home state. Thus, it baffles me how one of the most prominent topics shaping up for the biennial session of the Texas Legislature appears to be firearms — guns. That is guns both long and short, concealed or unconcealed, worn either on the inside or outside by both citizen and official, and even packed by paramedics and volunteer firefighters.

Looking at the early bills filed today — the 84th Legislature begins Jan. 1, 2015 — I found no less than 10 bills filed in the House and one in the Senate seeking much more freedom for those who carry guns. Now if you happen to think of Texas, one of the things that comes to mind is guns. Texans love their guns. So one might wonder how much freedom do Texans want when it comes to firearms?

Texas has had a concealed carry law for almost 20 years. The legislation — signed into law by then-Gov. George W. Bush — had a number of restrictions with it such as where handguns could and could not be carried. So-called “long guns,” such as rifles and shotguns” had no statewide prohibition as to how and when they were carried into the open.

Almost seven years ago an amendment to the gun laws almost silently became effective as to how, when and where handguns could be toted. The state had long had a “traveling rule” saying guns could be carried by unlicensed individuals if they happened to travel through several counties. This became expanded considerably with the 2007 amendment. People could now travel from their home and back with a handgun as long as it is concealed. No license needed. The person carrying had only to have the gun hidden from plain view and they could not belong to a criminal enterprise. “Okay, I don’t have a gun anywhere that you can see. I’m also not a member of the Bloods, I swear.”

Discontent by some gun enthusiasts over the carry law for long weapons heated up this year in Texas. Here in Beaumont, where I live, is one of the places where demonstrations were held by people walking down the streets carrying their rifles, along with their kids slinging rifles, in the open.

It seems now the debate over how Texans carry weapons — either concealed or not concealed — has come full circle.

A push for openly carrying handguns has arisen and a black Republican lawmaker from East Texas has filed bills which would allow open carrying of pistols. Rep. James White, a former Army infantry officer and teacher from rural Tyler County, has filed HB 164 which changes the concealed carry law to include carrying a handgun openly.

North Central Texan Rep. Jonathan Strickland, a former community college student and pest control salesman who describes himself as a “Conservative Republican,” helps neatly trim the legal edges of both open and concealed debate. His HB 195 would abolish the offense of “Unlawfully Carrying a Weapon.” This would apparently also include legalizing illegal knives and clubs.

The pre-filed bills also broaden the places and circumstances where weapons may be carried. A curious bill filled by freshman Republican Rep. Ken King, an oil and gas service owner from the Panhandle-South Plains area, allows open carry by some of those issued concealed carry permits such as retired law enforcement officers. The bill adds, however, the authority for handguns to be allowed for “certain emergency services personnel” who operate within a county with less than 50,000 people.

Now I am not certain what King’s bill, HB 353, means. Is he talking of allowing volunteer EMS and fire personnel in counties with less than 50,000 to carry pistols openly? With some quick figures I put together using the U.S. Census database, I would estimate that about we are talking about 80 percent of the 254 Texas counties. That would include a lot of armed volunteer firefighters and EMS folks.

What is wrong with arming volunteer firefighters? That is partly a question that has hovered over the fire service for many years. The question has gone back at least for a half-century or more, back to the days when Southern firefighters were shown on national TV news turning their hoses on those protesting civil rights. This may also have caused injuries or even death for those “firemen” who later tried to extinguish the too many blazes set during the race riots of the late 1960s across the U.S.

Many larger, professional, fire departments later recognized the danger of their being used as a tool of the police. This especially was true once firefighters became the most logical choice for delivering emergency medical services. Here is an example I was given while training as a rookie firefighter. Let’s say you have a medical call. It turns out there is a patient overdosing on heroin or another drug. The EMT needs information about what the patient was doing prior to the emergency to properly treat and maybe save the person. If the patient could say anything, upon seeing an armed medic, he might not disclose that he ran up a bunch of junk in his veins. Such a scenario also is used in the battle over fire departments and so-called “public safety agencies.” The latter are cross-trained as cops and do all three jobs as cop, EMT and firefighter. Some places it works. Others it fails.

I know the zealots want zero restrictions on guns. No regulation whatsoever are wanted. As much as I enjoy target shooting with both long guns and pistols, I believe moderation in all things. I say that now, but I mean it with weapons. I once thought handguns that were openly carried was the way to go. I no longer think so. I think too many complications are in the way of that working. The bills advocating open carry and these other bills filed for 2015 in Texas, they need watching, closely.

To shoot or not to shoot. Vaccines aren’t always a quandry.

Last week I finally got the shingles vaccination that I had waited several years to receive. I know how old and pathetic I must sound. Still, my father and a brother both had shingles when they were alive. It sounded like a living hell.

I had the chickenpox as a young man and so I was a supposed walking target for shingles.

Around 1-in-3 will develop shingles in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

 “Anyone who has recovered from chickenpox may develop shingles; even children can get shingles,” says the CDC. “However the risk of shingles increases as you get older. About half of all cases occur in men and women 60 years old or older.”

The same virus that causes chickenpox — varicella zoster virus — causes shingles. If I had a supposition, I would suppose that the 60-year-plus age when shingles tend to occur most was a reason that the Veterans Affairs people told me I had to wait until age 60 to receive the shingles vaccine. Then one day, when I was 58 years old or so, I saw a sign in the VA and later one in a pharmacy that said one could get the vaccine at age 55. So I scheduled a shot but later had to cancel it because I was having arthroscopic knee surgery. That finally went on by and about two weeks ago I had a flu shot. It was followed a week later by the shingles vaccine.

I know that a lot of younger folks with kids are against vaccines, worrying that vaccinations may cause all kinds of maladies, like congenital autism, diabetes or multiple sclerosis. Whether these younger parents actually knew folks who suffered diseases some of the 20th century vaccines prevented — like polio, even seemingly benign diseases that could cause death such as measles — I don’t know.

I suppose it would be a fair question to ask why chickenpox was not knocked out by some shot? Well actually, there is now a vaccine as the government licensed one in 1995. Chickenpox, for most people, is a walk in the park considering the other childhood diseases most of us growing up in the 60s suffered such as German measles (rubella), the red measles (Rubeola) or the mumps. The latter, a disease of the salivary glands were always scary-sounding to us little boys because of its seldom ability to “go down,” meaning it could cause testicular atrophy leading to sterility. Of course, it was even scarier when you didn’t know what the hell people were talking about!

When I was a small fry I got all of those shots one needed. Of course, they hurt like hell. I am convinced that people who gave shots to kids for anything at all either didn’t know how to give it so it would not hurt, or else they were taking their day-to-day frustrations out on us little ones rather than on a swig of Jesus in a jar.

I had shots for everything when I was in the Navy. I swear some of the diseases must have been made up. I felt a little peaked after some of the shots. A few of the vaccines I received were given with some kind of gun. The only vaccine that made me really ill was for Yellow Fever. I spent the night shaking with chills in the dispensary at Boot Camp. For some reason, the corpsmen put me in an ice-cold shower. Ta-da! it didn’t work.

There may have been some environmental reasons behind some of the medical problems I have today: Type 2 diabetes, palsy, whatever that’s causing my lower back problems. I don’t know, as a people we tend to think something singular causes everything. I have had some exposure to some questionable substances and I’m not talking about the ones that makes objects appear closer than they really are. I was exposed to a place where leaking barrels of Agent Orange were stored. The old late 1940s destroyers on which I rode for a year was stuffed full of asbestos. And maybe I am wrong, but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if those old buildings I worked in for about two decades that held printing machines and massive amounts of ink and chemical were a formula for a “sick building.”

I don’t know but I can tell you I never had diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, smallpox or Yellow fever. Those kind of things would have ruined your day, for sure.

 

Local football game will be interesting for wrong reasons

Tonight one of the most interesting high school football games in the country will be played literally down the road — about two miles — from me. Unfortunately, it will not be interesting in a positive way.

You see, one of the top teams in its class in Texas will play arguably one of the worst, in a playoff match. The team that makes it, sadly, interesting is 0-10. That’s right. It has a 0-10 record this season and makes the playoffs. That is because there are only four teams in its district and the school’s classification allows for four playoff spots per district. And it just gets worse. The Spartans of Houston Scarborough High School also have an unenviable 57-game losing streak.

The Goliath to the Spartans’ David is West Orange-Stark. It is a “football powerhouse” — to put it in trite sports-speak — for its division. This is despite the Mustangs have twice been beaten in non-district games.

The WO-S losses came from a school in a larger division and another from a smaller division, the latter is my high school alma mater as a matter of fact. Both teams are ranked in their respective Top 10 in the same year-end poll.

That the Spartans are playing West Orange-Stark at the neutral site just two miles away from me has nothing to do with the hubbub that has landed Scarborough in nationwide media outlets this week. That the Spartans are meeting the Mustangs or any team at all, “that’s the ticket,” as long ago Saturday Night Live  Jon Lovitz character Tommy Flanagan “the Pathological Liar,” would say.

Such a scenario as that for the Spartans stirs up the hard-core fans who listen to sports talk radio and who despise that whole “Every kid gets a trophy” mindset. What really is behind the changes that added playoff spots at the same time divisions based upon school enrollment were reconfigured? One stated reason by the University Interscholastic League — the University of Texas System-run entity which governs public school athletic and academic competition — is the addition of divisions and added playoff spots will create a “perfect storm” of football that will let all championships take place on the same weekend. Well, kind of. The two Division 1A, or six-man football team championships, will happen the weekend before.

All 12, yes 12, playoff games will occur at the Jerry Jones palace to football, a.k.a. AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

 “Having all football championship games in one location truly makes for an amazing experience for the coaches, athletes and fans, and last year it lead to a Texas high school football attendance record,” said UIL Executive Director Dr. Charles Breithaupt, in a press release. “We are excited to return to AT&T Stadium and continue to improve on a world class event in the state of Texas.”

And I am sure that all the games on the Dallas Cowboys’ turf will make for one big Jerry-load of money to be spread around — likely from the UIL, the schools, TV, and not to mention Jerry Jones.

Some coaches argue that allowing more teams a playoff spot can be good for the team and the fans, that the kids can actually get better by competing in a playoff game. Maybe so.

Or, it could mean that teams such as Scarborough will add needlessly to its long string of defeats and be blown out of the water by ridiculous scoring margins.

I have kind of mixed feelings over the “every kid gets a trophy.” I won’t elaborate due to the complexity of my sentiments. But I think, regardless of the outcome of WO-S versus Scarborough tonight just down the street, the pitfalls can be many with four playoff spots in a district that ranges from four to seven or so. The quality of the game can change where lopsided scores are the norm and the confidence of young players sink instead of rises.

Lots of luck to the Mustangs and Spartans tonight. The wind chill right now is 37 F, pretty cold for late fall here in Southeast Texas. Dress warm!

Flying the skies for better times

This year is about in the books. Were it not for turning 60 next year, I’d say: “Yeah, get it on!” But I think I will need the almost 10 months before hitting that mark to prepare. You know, I’ve been saying: “You’re getting old” for some time. Damned if it isn’t really happening now.

I ruminate over this subject, not in the cud-chewing sense, because this year wasn’t one of the best. Like other years it has had its good parts and bad ones. But these type of things usually balance out. Not so much this year. Up until 2014, for the past nine years, I have pretty well written on this blog something at least once per day on weekdays. That hasn’t been the case this year.

The reasoning is a combination of all the crap that was heaped upon my life, and death. The latter being the double whammy of losing two brothers within two months of each other. A knee injury and the workers compensation system I faced caused an extended length of time in pain waiting for surgery then physical therapy. I still have mobility issues with the knee. I went through the hassle today of attempting to locate a place to tie my shoelace because the knee doesn’t work properly. I also started a steady schedule in my part-time job that is 32 hours per week. That’s almost a real job. Combined with my duties as a regional vice president for my Union local, it actually is more than a full-time job at times.

And on and on. You don’t want to hear my tales of woe and I don’t particularly care to relive them. But this is just my way of saying I want to do more on the blog. Maybe overhaul it a bit. I haven’t added or taken away a bookmark in quite awhile. That changes today.

I am including on my list of bookmarks a link to a site called GlobalAir.com. It is not a political site nor humor nor any of the categories I generally seek out for a read. GlobalAir is a reference site for the aviation world. Why do I care about that? First of all, I find this a site of great potential to search when I need information about aircraft and pilots. I am not a pilot, by the way. I once was a nervous flyer. But during one time during my full-time career as a reporter I was tasked to write about transportation. It happened to be a rich environment because one of our “neighbors” in my newspaper’s area happened to be George W. Bush.

I found myself writing many times about “TFRs,” for Temporary Flight Restrictions, which were least restricted when the President was in Washington and increased to the point that at least two general aviation airports were shut down whenever some high-powered leader came to see “W” at the Crawford ranch. I might just have enough information to write a book of potential pitfalls when a President decides to live in your town or decides to become President while he lives in your town. It’s not exactly a cakewalk.

So, a gentleman from GlobalAir.com introduced me to the site and asked if I would be interested in linking my blog to it. GlobalAir.com appears as if it has a load of useful information for me as a journalist and I can only imagine how helpful the site could be for one who’s livelihood is in aviation.

We are almost to a new year and I’m not 60 until next October. So I am getting an early start to 2015 with hopes of making it much better than the last year. I can’t say adding a link about aviation will do it, but it is is a place to take off.

There’s hope for the VA this Veterans Day

Yesterday, during my monthly visit to the VA clinic for a methadone refill, I stopped to think of just how drastically the patient population at the facility had changed over the years.

There are still grayed and sometimes feeble veterans of World War II although that population is shrinking rapidly through attrition by time. The same is happening with Korean War veterans. And my generation, those vets of the Vietnam War and that era, are still in great number even though we too are getting gray and sometimes moving about much slower.

What struck me as I waited on a visit to my PA was the number of women who were getting called into the primary care practitioners’ offices, and they weren’t just those accompanying their veteran husbands. Likewise the faces of men seem younger and younger. Some may have lost limbs from roadside bombs although those disabilities are getting more difficult to spot because of better prosthesis and post-battlefield care. Sadly, there too are the growing numbers of young men and women who carry the burden of post traumatic stress disorder, the silent and sometimes crippling mental wound.

Much has been written lately about the significant failures discovered in the Department of Veterans Affairs. As one who has written professionally about the VA over the years and my status as a veteran who uses VA for health care, such problems are not so shocking. I had hoped when the President appointed former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki that the twice-wounded and one-time commander of the 1st Cavalry Division would set the VA straight on its shortcomings. I include both the benefits administration and well the health administration.

Sadly, that didn’t happen. Shinseki wasn’t responsible for all the problems about which employees blew whistles to the media. Still, the general failed his assignment.

I hope, as I do whenever a new VA secretary is chosen, that Bob McDonald will cause marked improvements to the VA. The West Point grad and retired head of Proctor and Gamble is talking a good game. Although, many leaders of troubled organizations often do that.

McDonald has laid out some explicit changes for the VA. Among these are: “Establishing a single regional framework that will simplify internal coordination, facilitate partnering and enhance customer service. This will allow Veterans to more easily navigate VA without having to understand our inner structure,” says a VA blog post on its Website.

That might mean little to those without a great knowledge of the VA organization. However, if this change is made — once all the corporate-speak is overlooked — this could make for a significant transformation in how the VA does business.

While it may seem apples to oranges when thinking about the VA shortfalls such as long waits for doctors this could translate to better and faster care down at the patient level. Think about it. Remove a whole extra, unneeded level and who knows what possible good might come.

I may be wrong. I have been many times before. But on this day of remembering veterans I think the VA could be on the course for better service in its health care, benefits and, yes, even in its cemeteries the VA maintains. That is my hope, at least. Those who fought and served before me gave us all the opportunity to hope. So why not take that chance?

Happy Veterans Day.

Accidents, believe it or not, do happen

There are no accidents.

I am not saying that sentence in the sense that everything happens for a reason. I do not know whether that is true or not true. No, I say there are no accidents, anymore. Once that was the case.

My body has scars that have been with me through much of my life.

Weird little first-finger top? It was an accident. Believe me!

Weird little first-finger tip? It was an accident. Believe me!

Take a look at this finger picture.

It’s my finger. And I’ll cry if I want to, cry if I want to, cry if I want to. You would cry too if it happened to you.

Well, if you were a 5-year-old inquisitive kid who just HAD to see if he could make the belt stop on my Father’s Shop Smith table saw. You might cry. Or maybe not. All I remember is all that freaking blood coming from the top of my finger.

 

And, naturally, I wasn’t supervised. Well, I was “supervised” by my older brother. He was 13 or 14 then. He was using a buffer-type attachment to the saw to buff his shoes. And what a pretty shine his shoes had. I guess. He was, after all, cutting the table saw off! I don’t think I got any blood on his shoes. Jeez, what a mess. My brother Robert passed away last April he was the one buffing his shoes. My brother John died about two months later. He was the one who, while visiting a cousin picked a shotgun from up off a rack and decided to do some remodeling of our cousin’s home. He missed me, the child standing on the other side of the wall, by not very much. Of course, my brothers’ recent deaths had nothing to do with what child safety advocates today would be doing flips over. Take it easy everyone! These were accidents. Nothing but accidents. Parents with five boys cannot be five places at once! “Lib, you take those two and I’ll take these three,” I could hardly imagine my Pop saying to my Momma. “We’ll put a rope around them all.”

No they couldn’t do that. If it was today they’d end up on the 6 o’clock news for ropin’ the kids. But Holy Moses Lincoln-Mercury! Whatever happened to accidents?

An interesting aside. The belt almost severed the top of my finger. It was just hanging by very thin skin. My doctor cleaned it thoroughly. Then he put the top of my finger back on my index where it belonged. Nary a stitch was used. And my finger grew back, rather ugly. But it grew back. I can still smell the hydrogen peroxide the doctor flooded my finger with that Sunday afternoon.

Up in the East Texas Pineywoods near the place where I grew up, a man driving a tractor-trailer the other day ran into the back of a stopped school bus. The 72-year-old Louisiana man who was driving the pickup reportedly dozed off for a split second and struck the Kirbyville school bus. Maybe a half-dozen students were taken to the hospital though none were seriously hurt. It was said the gentleman driving the truck went to the hospital to check on the kids. One of those commenting on the story on local media said one of the kids the man went to check on was his daughter and the father had a lot of empathy for the driver, who reportedly was told to leave.

A number of people were apparently outraged that state troopers filed felony injury to a child charges on the driver. A felony charge! The 72-year-old could be sent away for up to two years in prison if convicted. And why was this? Was the driver drinking? No, said the troopers. Was he on druuuggggssss? No. No. The man nodded off. Has that ever happened to anyone before?

There’s a meme that has gone around Facebook asking mostly us Boomers how on Earth did we ever survive as children? Our parents let us stand up in the seat with no seat belts and car seats were as foreign as tofu back then. Why my parents, let us boys ride in the back of our pickup truck all the way from East Texas to Houston and back one time. How dare they? And we just loved it! And we loved them.

We’ve come to a point in the road where the concept of “an accident” has gone the way of riding our bikes all over town as kids and coming home on hot summer nights when it turned dark. There is nothing wrong with safety and saneness and all of those “s” words. But having an ogre in every story seems as if it is a coping mechanism for the insecure. No we shouldn’t tear down our fences and let the whole world’s kids play in our swimming pools unattended. Yes, we have car seats and seat and lap belts. And we should use them.

We also need to realize that someone might be to blame when something bad happens and some folks may not. We have to realize that there are accidents. And that they happen and sometimes we just can’t do anything about it.

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.

 

 

Ho hum in some elections. Others have real issues to decide.

Of the two acts I did this afternoon — vote and get a flu shot — I have to say the latter was perhaps the most significant. That is to me, at least.

The flu shot might help keep me safe from some flu bug. And perhaps influenza can be ruled out should I get some other virus like Ebola or West Nile. The second bug is always a possibility when the skeeters are out and biting as they do here in the marshes of Southeast Texas.

But other than fulfill a civic duty, I do not believe voting today accomplishes much for me. Oh, I suppose if Wendy Davis surprises the world and wins as governor, or if Democrat Sen. Leticia Van de Putte wins Lieutenant Governor, then perhaps I will feel some satisfaction. The first doesn’t seem likely at all, however, and the second, we’ll just have to see.

We have Republicans in our local congressional districts and are likely to stay that way for awhile.

The Texas Legislature? Even worse, although there are a few Democrats including my State Rep. Joe Deshotel who can get a few things done.

In reality though, even a change in who controls Congress — Reds or Blues — will not really matter a whole lot because the number of seats gained will do little toward changing anything. Thus, we can probably expect the same do nothing Congress we have had for some time. And in the case of the people who make it a do-nothing body, that will probably be a good outcome given all the nuts loose among Capitol Hill.

While my election might not mean much, to me at least, some issues will be of importance to voters in other venues. Marijuana usage and other matters will be decided in some states. And we shall see what the impact the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission verdict the Supremes allowed will have on local governments in at least two cities.

One is the mayor-council elections in Richmond, Calif. The Bay Area city had a massive fire at its Chevron refinery in August 2012 that caused all kinds of local problems including illnesses for its citizens. This has led to numerous lawsuits including those against the city government. This election has seen millions spent on billboards and mailers for candidates who would side with Chevron. It is an overwhelming media blitz by big oil.

A similar election is taking place today in our own state of Texas. Residents of Denton, Texas, a North Central Texas, college town, are voting to ban or not ban “fracking.” That is the use of chemicals and water that are infused in the ground to create fracturing which make oil and gas flow more freely. The technique is credited for massive amounts of oil and gas, the latter pushing the U.S. into the forefront of global natural gas producers.

Opponents say fracking has its problems though, some say the possibility of fires from water spigots, even earthquake-like tremors in some vicinities.  A lot more study probably is required to get to the bottom of whether fracking is more bad than good. But it is easy to say why Denton residents might like to put a hold on the process, at least in the city limits.

This too is an election drawing unlimited amounts of moo-lah by oil and gas concerns and their supporters.

I suppose this election all depends upon where one lives whether the election is a meaningful exercise in civic responsibility. Some say that if you don’t vote, you don’t have the right to complain. Well, by God, I have the right to complain anyway and I do. Voting apparently does some good. It’s just hard to see when it is something hundreds of thousands and millions do all at once. It’s like Chinese residents of China jumping off a chair all at once. What the hell would that feel like? I don’t want to know. But perhaps it is applicable.

And then, maybe it isn’t.