Quote for the Day

“I think that your successor 500 years from now is going to be writing about us the way that we write about the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages. It’s just so corrupt, in the same way that they were selling bishoprics and indulgences to shorten your time in purgatory. We’re selling votes. We’re selling amendments. We’re selling democracy, and it’s absolutely disgusting. But what makes it even more fucked up is that everybody knows that it’s happening, but it’s just what has always happened for so long now that it’s all-encompassing in the system. No one seems really willing to do anything that will compromise their ability to be successful in that system by stepping out of it.”

Rep. Beto O’Rourke, candidate for U.S. Senate

Read more about O’Rourke’s campaign in the Texas Tribune.

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Today in Texas History – October 9

Image result for houston astrodome postcard

From the Annals of the Eighth Wonder –  In 1999, the Houston Astros played their last game in the Astrodome. Predictably it was the last game of a divisional series loss to the Atlanta Braves.  After winning the first game in Atlanta, the Astros lost 3 straight to Braves.  The Braves held a 7-0 lead after a 5 run 6th inning.  The Astros rallied to score 5 runs sparked by a 3 run homer by Tony Eusebio in the 8th inning.  The Astros had a chance to tie in the bottom of the 9th.  As Jeff Bagwell came to the plate, Red’s buddy the Big Dog remarked, “This is kind of a career-defining moment for Bagwell.”  Bagwell failed to deliver.  The Astros still had a chance with Ken Caminiti at the plate.  Caminiti, who had carried the Astros in the series with 8 RBI’s and a .471 average, hit a long ball to the warning track in left field and the Astros run in the Eighth Wonder of the World was over.  The blame largely fell on future Hall of Famers, Bagwell and Craig Biggio who combined for a total of 4 hits while batteing .154 and .105 respectively in the series.

Today in Texas History – October 6

From the Annals of the Freethinkers  –  In 1877, Dr. Levi James Russell was whipped for being an infidel and free thinker.  Originally from Georgia, Russell had mined for gold in California, later graduated from the medical school of Pennsylvania College, returned to gold mining in Colorado and eventually moved to Harrisville in 1868.  There he farmed and practiced medicine while also serving for several years as the chairman of the committee on medical botany of the Texas State Medical Association (now the Texas Medical Association).  He also helped found the Little River Academy and in a move that would lead to his whipping became a charter member and president of the Association of Freethinkers of Bell County a group of agnostics, atheists and non-theists.   As a result, he was expelled from the Masons and Knights of Pythias and ultimately assaulted for being an infidel.   Undeterred, Russell continued his medical practice and his natural-science collection until his death in 1908 at Temple.

Today in Texas History – October 5

From the Annals of the Undeclared Wars – In 1964, Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson first began to come under pressure for his plan to escalate the undeclared war in Vietnam.  Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wisconsin) began to speak out against preparation for additional troops in Vietnam.  Nelson claimed that Congress did not intend the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution to endorse escalation into a full scale war in Vietnam.

The GOTR had been passed on August 7 in response to North Vietnamese patrol boats allegedly firing on U.S. warships in the waters off North Vietnam on August 2 and 4.  Whether there was an attack and if so, whether it was provoked has been much debated, but the incident prompted Congress to pass the GOTR with only two dissenting votes in the Senate.  The GOTR gave Johnson power to “take all necessary measures to repel an armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.” Johnson apparently viewed the resolution as giving him a free hand and began a major escalation of the conflict which ultimately cost the U.S. 58,220 lives and achieved nothing.

America’s True Love Affair

It wasn’t always this way.  You used to have a rifle and maybe a shotgun for hunting.  Some folks had a pistol – usually a revolver.  Boys had a .22 to shoot bottles and vermin.  Maybe a few guys bought a gun that their wife didn’t know about and hid it in the attic. A few “collectors” had some rare pieces. You might have some extra ammo around.  No one had an arsenal.  No one kept 1000’s of rounds of ammunition in their garage or basement.  Some men and a goodly number of women liked owning a gun, but it didn’t go much beyond that.

Somewhere that changed.  Red can’t exactly pinpoint it, but maybe it was in the late 70’s that the gun lust started to build.

After college, Red was living in an apartment up in Northwest Hills with his friend Tom.  He didn’t own a gun, but there were some fairly well-to-do country boys who lived next door.  Red thinks they were taking the 5.5 year route to a degree at UT and enjoying their time in Austin before heading back to God knows where.  Tom was much friendlier with these guys than Red who was working pretty hard to make ends meet.  But when Red would go over to visit, the guns were always out.  And as Tom put it, these boys wouldn’t just handle their guns – it was like they were fondling them.  You almost expected them to put their lips up to a .45 and give it a long loving kiss.  It was a love affair. Red’s not sure but between the three of them, they probably had 20-30 weapons in that apartment. You’re probably wondering like Red did at the time, “why so many guns, gentlemen?”  Because other than that, they seemed like fairly normal country boys.  Except for this.  They were virulent racists.  As they more or less indicated, they were armed to the teeth because at almost any moment “the niggers in East Austin” were sitting there plotting how they were going to rise up, sweep into Northwest Hills (or any other white part of town) raping, pillaging, killing, looting and most importantly stealing all the guns.  They weren’t about to let that happen to their little corner of the world.

This was the first time Red encountered true naked gun lust.  Yes many of his friends had guns, but Red did not at the time.  Red’s daddy had been through the worst of it as a medic and ambulance driver in a battalion aid station in France, Belgium and Germany in WWII. Red could only guess at how many wounded and dying soldiers he had seen.  He wanted nothing to do with guns or hunting.  He did let Red have .22 and shoot bottles out at the ranch, but that was about it.

But still, the gun lust in Red started to grow.  He started hunting in his 30’s and found that it was an enjoyable experience.  Not so much the shooting and taking of game, but the outdoors experience and camaraderie.  And everyone had a nice deer rifle but Red.  So he bought one and then a shot gun and then he wanted more and more.  The lust was taking hold.  When Lil’ Red came of hunting age, he got a rifle and a shot gun (both nicer than Red’s by the way).  But was that enough.  The lust was strong and Red couldn’t even tell where it came from.  It made no sense really. Red believed that there should be some restrictions on gun ownership, that nobody needed a semi-automatic weapon or stockpiles of ammo, that there should not be loopholes for background checks and that some other ideas might be useful as well. Yet, the creeping lust was there. Red would always check out the gun counter at the local sporting goods store and think, “It would be nice to have one of those.”

Finally, Red said enough was enough.  He kept the two hunting rifles and shotguns because they were actually used for hunting and a .357 because his father-in-law gave it to him and sold everything else to someone in whom the lust was still running strong.  Yet, it still makes Red a little proud somewhere deep inside that he is a “gun owner.”

Today in Texas History – October 4

From the Annals of the Insurrection  In 1862,  insurrectionist troops under Confederate command surrendered Galveston to Union forces.   Commander William B. Renshaw led a squadron of eight ships into Galveston harbor to force surrender.  The rebel commander, Brig. Gen. Paul O. Hebert, had removed most of the heavy artillery from the island believing it to be indefensible.  As the squadron approached, the Fort Point garrison fired on the federal ships, return fire dismounted the rebel cannon. Col. Joseph J. Cook, in command on the island, arranged a four-day truce while he evacuated his men to the mainland. The Union ships held the harbor.  Union forces did not contral the town until the arrival of the Forty-second Massachusetts Infantry, led by Col. I. S. Burrell on December 25.  Union control was short-lived as rebel forces recaptured the island and drove off the Union squadron about a week later.