Category Archives: State news

Is it possible for a huge upset in Texas?

I’ll say it once more with feeling: I want Beto O’Rourke to win the U.S. Senate seat now occupied by Ted Cruz.

O’Rourke is the Democratic challenger to the Republican incumbent.

There. That’s out of the way.

A new poll by Quinnipiac University suggests that this moment, O’Rourke is well within striking distance of shooting down the Cruz Missile. The poll puts Cruz a 47 percent, with O’Rourke at 44 percent; the margin is well within the poll’s 3.6-percent margin of error.

I’m not going to pop the bubbly. It’s only mid-April; the election will occur in November. That’s about a thousand lifetimes, politically speaking.

Texas remains a heavily Republican state. I get that it always remains a huge hurdle for a Democrat to win a statewide race in Texas, something that hasn’t happened since 1994.

With all this talk of a “blue wave” getting ready to sweep over Congress in this year’s midterm election, I am left to wonder if that so-called Democratic wave is going to wash over Texas this fall. If it does, and O’Rourke at least keeps this contest competitive, then it well might portend something quite significant happening around the rest of the country.

To be truthful, it concerns me that Texas has been so maddeningly non-competitive in these statewide races. It really isn’t critical that Texas flip completely from Republican to Democratic leanings. What I would prefer to see is a competitive political climate that keeps the major parties more intellectually honest.

I don’t like one-party dominance. I don’t like it now and I didn’t like it in the Golden Triangle, where Democrats once ruled supreme over the political landscape. That has changed in that corner of the state. I wish it would happen in the Texas Panhandle.

I also am hoping it can happen in at least one highly visible statewide race: Beto vs. the Cruz Missile.

But … yes, I want Beto to win.

Another ‘first’ occurs on this journey

MELISSA, Texas — Life is full of firsts, isn’t that correct. First born. First kiss. First traffic ticket.

How about this? First recreational vehicle setup in the middle of a ferocious North Texas thunder and hailstorm.

Yep, my wife and I cleared that “first” with mixed results.

Our day started out calmly and peacefully as we pulled out of our RV campsite just north of Beaumont, where we had visited with some of our many good friends. We hooked our RV up to our truck, shoved off and headed north to this community just north of Dallas.

We arrived under a darkening sky. We need to navigate our way through some road construction, pulled into the RV park where we had reservations.

Then it happened. The sky opened up. And it poured torrents of rain. The thunder roared. The lightning flashed.

Before we got out of our truck after we pulled into our reserved space, the hail began pelting — no, pummeling — our vehicles. The hailstones were size of agate marbles, man! They beat the daylights out of us.

I sought to unhook the truck from the fifth wheel, plug in the water line and hook up the electricity.

We fled inside the RV. We decided to wait it out. The hail didn’t stop. The noise was deafening. We had to shout at each other to be heard over the roar. Toby the Puppy was frightened. Heck, I was scared. So was my wife. We wanted it to end, I’m tellin’ ya.

The hail then began to subside. Aha! I’ll take another pass outside at finishing the setup.

That was a mistake! I stepped outside. The hail returned in full pummel mode. It beat on my noggin. I lowered my head to keep my face from getting pounded by the hail … and then I walked smack into the tempered-steel fifth wheel hitch on the front of our RV.

I cut my face in two places: on the bridge of my nose and on my forehead. Yes, it bled! My wife was horrified. She pulled me inside the RV, applied an ice pack wrapped in a dish cloth.

The end of this tale? Well, the hail stopped. We finished setting up. The blood stopped coming out of the cuts on my face.

OK, there’s a glimmer of good news. Our pickup didn’t suffer any hail damage; nor did the fifth wheel.

We know this is only a first-time event. It won’t be an only-time happening. Hey, we live in Texas, where the weather is spectacularly unpredictable.

Our journey will continue.

Blogging ‘payoff’ comes in many forms

VILLAGE CREEK STATE PARK, Texas — We’re about to shove off soon for points north of our former haunts along the Texas Gulf Coast.

We have too many friends left unseen on this return, but we’ll vow to get caught up with them on our next visit — which we hope will be sooner rather than later. Many of them read this blog.

This visit has produced an unexpected — but quite welcome — acknowledgement of my new calling as a full-time blogger.

Some of the friends with whom we got caught up told me how they have learned a bit about Amarillo and Texas Panhandle politics from the blog posts I have filed for all these years.

How does it get any better than that? To my way of thinking, it really doesn’t.

I don’t write this blog to obtain notoriety. I merely write it because it gives me pleasure. I like ranting. I get a kick out of raving on occasion. I don’t mind hurling a criticism at those in power. I cannot resist the temptation to “afflict the comfortable,” although I do not really believe this blog “comforts the afflicted.”

However, to be told by friends that High Plains Blogger has provided a bit of an education about a region of Texas that is far away from the Gulf Coast makes me smile — and gives me more than enough reason to keep going for as long as I am able.

Harvey’s impact will be felt for a long time

BEAUMONT, Texas — Here’s the buzz my wife and I are getting while visiting friends in the Golden Triangle: Hurricane Harvey left a lasting — but not indelible — impact on this region.

We’re hearing that many neighborhoods remain under repair. The Northwest Forest neighborhood west of the city is “like a Third World country.” Streets are under repair. We noticed huge slash piles of brush stacked up under tall timber along Interstate 10 as we entered the city.

But the city will fight its way back.

Hurricane Harvey stormed ashore for a second blast in the late summer of 2017, dumping a record-setting 50 inches of rain in a 24-hour span of time. It deluged the city water system. Two of our friends told us of being without water for more than a week, while the electricity was restored in short order.

“Riverfront Park is destroyed,” we were told. The park used to be a site of outdoor activities next to the Civic Center along the Neches River. It’s now gone.

We all have read about huge fundraising efforts ongoing to assist the folks in Houston, about 80 miles west of the Golden Triangle on Interstate 10. Houston Texas all-pro defensive end J.J. Watt has become an iconic figure in the Bayou City for his work raising more than a quarter-billion dollars to assist in the repair of Texas’s largest city.

Yes, Houston needs help. The state and the federal government have stepped up to lend disaster assistance.

The pain stretches a good bit beyond the big city. Beaumont is feeling the pain brought by the storm’s rage.

I have no doubt that our friends in the Golden Triangle will recover. They will triumph. They will get on with their lives.

I’m betting, though, they’ll never listen again to the sound of rain with the same serenity it used to bring.

Harvey’s footprint remains huge

VILLAGE CREEK STATE PARK, Texas –– I knew it before we got here. But to see it up close still reminds me of just how powerful nature’s wrath can be.

Hurricane Harvey stormed ashore for a second time along the upper Gulf Coast in the summer of 2017. It had blown in earlier over the Coastal Bend, wiping out neighborhoods with high wind and storm surge.

The storm backed away over the Gulf of Mexico and then returned over Houston and the Golden Triangle with — shall we say — a record-setting deluge. It totaled 50 inches in a 24-hour span of time, which is the greatest single-day downpour in continental U.S. history.

Harvey’s footprint remains all over the Golden Triangle. We arrived at Village Creek State Park — just north of Beaumont — hoping to hike the trails and enjoy the sights and smells of the Big Thicket. No can do, we were told by the park staff. All the trails remained closed.

The storm inundated the park. It damaged the trails. It made them impossible to trek.

The Big Thicket National Preserve just a few miles north of us are OK, the state park staff told us.

It’s good to be back where we once lived for nearly 11 years before moving to the Texas Panhandle in early 1995.

My heart broke during Harvey’s assault on the Golden Triangle. Many of our friends suffered from the storm’s wrath, if not from actual flooding and the damage it brought to their property, but from the terror they clearly must have felt during that terrible time.

We’ll get to catch up with some of them. We might even hear their tales of struggle and triumph.

Ex-congressman faces a possible prison term

I would feel a hint of compassion for a former congressman.

Except that I cannot.

Steve Stockman once was a Republican member of the House of Representatives. He served two non-consecutive terms. He now faces a possible decades-long prison sentence if a jury convicts him of mail and wire fraud, money laundering and election law violations.

He allegedly treated himself to lots of campaign cash, not to mention using it to pay for non-political related expenses for staffers and family members.

I don’t know whether he’s guilty of the charges brought against him. That will determined by a Houston-area jury. I do know of Stockman as one of the strangest politicians I’ve ever encountered.

He first won election to the House in 1994 as part of the GOP Contract With America tidal wave. He managed to sweep from Congress a powerful Democratic committee chairman, Jack Brooks of Beaumont, who at the time was the senior member of the Texas congressional delegation. Brooks chaired the House Judiciary Committee when he lost to Stockman — who knew next to nothing about the congressional district he represented for two years.

He most recently invited the angry man of rock ‘n roll music, Ted Nugent, to attend President Obama’s State of the Union speech in 2013; that occurred during Stockman’s second term in the House.

He didn’t distinguish himself at all during his time in the House. He ran for the U.S. Senate in 2014, but lost to incumbent John Cornyn in the GOP primary.

Stockman was a goofball while he served in the House. As the Texas Tribune reported, Stockman once had a bumper sticker printed that read: “If babies had guns they wouldn’t be aborted.”

Doesn’t this jokester just crack you up? Naw, me neither.

Well,  I’ll await his verdict and I might offer a comment when the jury delivers it.

I would wish him well, if only he had learned how to behave himself while he served in the People’s House.

Bob Bullock would be proud of this one

AUSTIN — Wherever he is, I am quite certain Bob Bullock — the late and legendary Texas lieutenant governor — is a happy man.

Why? Because a museum built and dedicated in his memory is a sight to behold. Its artifacts are educational in the extreme. Its ambience is welcoming, as are the docents scattered on all three of its floors willing to explain the whys and wherefores of Texas history.

I pledged to go to the Bullock Museum of Texas History upon visiting the Texas capital city. Today I did so.

Planning for an education on Texas history

It is so very interesting.

The museum opened in 2001, two years after Bullock’s death. He had lobbied hard to get a history museum built. He managed to persuade the powers that be to erect the museum not far from the University of Texas and the State Capitol where Bullock toiled for the last part of his lengthy public service career.

It is a marvelous tribute to someone I didn’t know well, but someone about whom I had learned a great deal upon arriving in Texas in the spring of 1984.

I learned that he was one tough son of a bi***. He was irascible, a bit of a grouch. He didn’t suffer fools at all — let alone lightly. He was a classic conservative Texas Democrat, which meant that he favored the working man and woman but didn’t take up the cudgel often for progressive social causes.

He also worked well with Republicans. Bullock and a fellow Democrat, former House Speaker Pete Laney, developed a constructive — and productive — working relationship with Republican Gov. George W. Bush. They worked as an effective team until 1999, when Bullock left office; he would die later that year of cancer.

The Bullock Museum tells the story of Texas in multiple parts. It tells visitors about the wreck of the LaBelle (the remains of which are pictured above), a French ship that sank in Matagorda Bay in 1684 after sailing to the New World from Europe, a mission it wasn’t even designed to complete.

It walks visitors through the fight to gain independence from Mexico, Texas’s nine-year existence as an independent nation and then its annexation into the United States in February 1845.

I won’t go through all that the museum contains.

I’ll just add this takeaway: As much as the state celebrated the sesquicentennial of its independence from Mexico, while giving relatively short shrift to the 150 years since its annexation into the United States, so does the Bullock Museum.

I say this not as a criticism, per sue, but merely as an observation.

I am thrilled to have finally seen this sampling of Texas’s rich history.

Cruz vs. O’Rourke: a fight to watch

I’ll lay this out there right away: You know where I stand regarding U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, whom I have dubbed “The Cruz Missile.”

For those of you who don’t know, I’ll just say this: I do not support him. There. That’s out of the way.

I’m going to watch his fight for re-election with intense interest. He has a Democratic challenger who hails from way out yonder, El Paso. Beto O’Rourke is a member of the U.S. House. He wants a promotion to the other end of the U.S. Capitol Building.

I am not going to predict how this year’s election will turn out. I’m not smart enough to make such a prediction. Yes, I consider The Cruz Missile to be the favorite. Texas is seriously Republican. Our voters are more conservative than liberal. Cruz is banking on the voters’ party loyalty.

But wait! O’Rourke is raising lots of money. He has raked in more campaign cash than Cruz. It’s coming from somewhere. He is tapping the state’s pockets of progressive voters.

Political observers do suggest that O’Rourke needs to build his brand. He needs to establish a political identity. Many of us know how to ID Cruz. I consider Cruz to be a front-running media hog. He loves the spotlight. He’s good at basking in it. He ran for president in 2016 after serving just partly into his first term as a senator; that’s not a strike by itself against him, as Barack Obama did the same thing in 2008.

If there is a “blue wave” set to sweep across the land in the 2018 midterms, I suspect that the Cruz-O’Rourke contest will determine just how angry voters are at the manner in which Republicans have governed the nation. We’ll know whether that wave is for real or whether it’s a mirage created by wishful thinkers.

My heart hopes that Cruz gets the boot. My head prevents me from suggesting it will happen.

It will be among the critical U.S. Senate races to watch.

An alternative to the SH 130 race track uncovered

LOCKHART, Texas — I am happy to report a bit of good news to you as a follow up to an earlier blog post about getting caught on the race track that also is known as Texas 130.

We found our RV camp location at Lockhart State Park, after some difficulty finding our way off of Texas 130, and its posted 85 mph speed limit. That’s all fine. It’s history.

What we discovered is that U.S. 183, which is the highway we intended to take from Austin to the state park, actually runs parallel to Texas 130.

It serves as a sort of frontage road for the nearly 30 miles we need to drive from visiting family members to the place where we’ve parked our fifth wheel RV for a few days.

Good grief, man! If I could have found this highway the first time — the day we arrived in the Austin area — I wouldn’t have had so much angst to share with you in that earlier blog post.

As it turns out, U.S. 183 allows us to cruise along at a “leisurely” 60 to 65 mph, while we watch the speed demons roar along at breakneck speeds just a bit over yonder on Texas 130.

What’s more, we get to do so without being charged a toll.

Who knew?

Life is full of surprises, yes? Some of them are nice surprises to boot!

 

Why push the panic button on the border?

Donald Trump has an itchy panic-button finger.

The president is prone to pushing that button at the slightest provocation, such as his decision to order National Guard troops to the southern border with Mexico.

He contends there’s a tidal wave of illegal immigrants pouring over our border with Mexico. However, as the Texas Tribune reports, the federal government’s own figures show such crossings are at historic lows.

So, again the the question must be asked: Why the rush to essentially militarize a border with one of this nation’s closest and strongest allies?

As the Tribune reports: ” … U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s own statistics indicate that despite the uptick in March, the total number of people apprehended or turned away since October, when the federal government’s fiscal year began, was lower than during the same six-month time frame in the previous fiscal year. This year, there have been about 237,000 apprehensions, compared to 2017’s 271,000.”

This appears to be Trump’s modus operandi. He prefers sowing seeds of fear. Remember his inaugural speech in which he declared “this American carnage” is going to stop? That became the signature statement from a dreary and frightening speech that is usually intended to appeal to Americans’ noble instincts.

Not from this guy.

I keep circling back to the notion that we have plenty of assets to deploy — local law enforcement, customs agents, Border Patrol — to accomplish what the president wants.