Saturday, May 30, 2015

Texas Laws - Gas (It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over) and Guns

Fracking Operation - Planet Investigations
My good friend, Jack Garner, had this Letter to the Editor published in the Denton Record-Chronicle on May 20th.

"When Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg address, November 19, 1863, it was applauded by friend and foe as a celebrated statement of national purpose and intent.

He concluded his freedom masterpiece with ‘this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.’

Would tears flow down the cheeks of the great man were he to know that his declaration of freedom has morphed into ‘Government of the Oil and Gas industry, by the Oil and Gas industry, and for the Oil and Gas industry’ is apparently the law of the land? 

If the passing of Texas House Bill 40 is a bitter pill for you to swallow; knowing that Oil and Gas industry money cleared the way to extinguish majority rule and institute rule by the rich and powerful, consider this: the same thing is happening in Broadview Heights, Ohio, Mora County, New Mexico, Oregon, Colorado, and Highland and Grant Townships in Pennsylvania.

This constitutes a power grab whereby freedom is not being taken from us by the sword but by the big buck. If they can negate one man, one vote, if they can abolish the principal that the majority rules, that positions them to grant and reverse the freedom foundations by which this country was established.

If you love freedom, recognize the threat to its existence generated by the Oil and Gas Industry, and make a vow to fight against it." .. John Nance Garner V

HB 40 is the new state law passed ostensibly to overturn the frack ban that Denton voters passed last November. Other Texas cities have also expressed their intentions of banning fracking in neighborhoods for health reasons -- which of course, the Oil and Gas Industry denies there being any danger. The anti-fracking activists are intent on challenging this law as unconstitutional.

From The Denton Record-Chronicle"In addition to nullifying Denton’s ban, HB 40 greatly limits the ability of Texas cities and other local governments to write local rules pertaining to the oil and gas industry. Many legal experts call the new law sweeping and unprecedented."


Poster created Ca. 1980
10,728/year vs 32,000/year in 2013
Open Carry Law -- This bill passed May 29th, after lawmakers made concessions to law enforcement groups, removing an original provision that barred police from questioning people carrying guns if they have no other reason to stop them. Concealed handgun license holders are even allowed to skip the metal detectors at the state Capitol, as state troopers providing security assume they're armed. 

Taking a handgun into the Capitol? What if someone decides to get rid of a few lawmakers? Of course, it's probably mostly conservative Republicans who are  or will be openly carrying -- or even concealing their weapons. They wouldn't shoot the ones who granted them this privilege -- would they?

(Houston Record-Chronicle)

The Campus Carry portion of the bill passed the Senate this afternoon, which will force public universities to allow concealed handguns on campus, but it did not apply to private schools, who in this latest version would be able to opt out of the requirement altogether. (Democrats finally got at least one concession out of their 101 proposed Amendments approved, allowing regents to define gun-free areas on public campuses, which includes classrooms.) The final vote by the House will take place Sunday afternoon before heading to Governor Abbott for his signature.

Biker Shootout May '15 (CNN)

Do you wonder what would have happened if all of the bikers at the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco on that terrible day had their handguns exposed on their hips? Is anyone foolish enough to think they wouldn't use them?

Federal gun violence statistics in 2014 showed that every day in America nearly 90 people are killed by guns, a total of roughly 32,000 annually. Over 7,000 children are hospitalized or killed due to gun violence every year, according to one study published in the medical journal Pediatrics in 2014. An additional 3,000 children die from gun injuries before making it to the hospital, bringing the total number of injured or killed adolescents to 10,000 each year. We should stay on top of gun death statistics here in Texas with the new gun laws passed.

What is it going to take for Texas citizens to overrule the overzealous GOP majority in our Legislature? 

Love and Peace, please..

Sunday, May 31st: The Texas House voted to pass the Campus Carry bill, which will now go to Governor Abbott.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Preparing their life resumès... Part II

Being the worry wart that I am, I kept after Carajean to let me know if she and Audrey were safe. (At one point, when the weather was so bad during their flights, she answered my anxious texts with, "Turn off the TV, Mom!") Last night I received the following text from her, along with the picture, which Audrey sent, that was taken in Haida Gwaii. When you see this and read what Carrie says, you will see why I am just a wee bit concerned about them! 

"We were only in Vancouver for one night. We are in the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia, also known as Haida Gwaii. It is very remote. Very few people. Have been doing a lot of hiking and plan to hike a difficult trail to the top of Sleeping Beauty tomorrow. It involves ropes and ladders and a little scaling. If clear, we will be able to see Alaska at the top. Have seen 3 bears. One on a hike, crossing the river. Bald Eagles are everywhere. Saw a family of river otters today on our picnic. The trees are truly magnificent. Audrey has become quite the trail blazer. Although, we have had a guide on two of our outings."  

Ropes, ladders, and a little scaling? 3 bears? A guide on two of their outings? I continue to pray to God the Prayer of Protection over my two tiny adventurers! And I know She will protect them.


Baseball season is in full swing as evidenced by my youngest grandson Travis. I have been unable to go to any of his games this year, but the Saturday before Mother's Day my oldest grandson, Cameron, stood in for me. I got the rundown from him and Travis's dad, Matthew. It seems that Travis's team, the Orioles, was losing. In the top half of the last inning, the visitors had two men on base when the coach sent Travis in to pitch. 

Did he ever pitch! Travis struck out three in a row. As if that weren't heroic enough for him, he scored the winning run in their last up-to-bat. Way to go, Travis!

Travis is not only a fine baseball player and a PGA Southern Texas Division Junior Golfer who has won a couple of tournaments, but he consistently makes the A and B honor roll. Some of his seventh grade classes are Advanced Placement. I recently asked him what his favorite class is -- "Texas History", he beamed. He makes us all proud.

Cameron sent this photo as he was cheering for the "hero" of the ballgame. He told me that the whole team was cheering for Travis. I wish I had owned a decent camera when Cameron was a little kid playing soccer in Denton. I would love to have photos of those games.

Miss Kelly, my youngest granddaughter, is holding her own with the rest of my grandchildren. She and her mom, Amy, couldn't be at Travis's game that Saturday as she was playing volleyball. Mom said, "Kelly made the all A Honor Roll, and Travis made the A/B Honor Roll. He is in Pace Math and is doing very well. I am so sad I missed his performance, I was at Kelly's volleyball game and she scored several points and is a fabulous overhead server."
(I had to research PACE [Programs for Advancement, Challenge and Enrichment] Math. These courses are designed to prepare students to take future AP and/or IB courses in high school. That's Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate. "These programs give high school students an opportunity to pursue college-level studies while still in high school. Depending on the college they attend, these courses can lead to advanced placement [skipping entry-level courses] or sometimes even receiving college credit for the coursework completed under these programs. The AP courses are accepted at virtually all U.S. colleges and universities, while the IB program has more limited acceptance within the U.S. but is growing in popularity." Guess that means these courses are meant for the smart kids, huh?)

Kelly is a strong math student as well. The past two years she has been chosen to participate in the Steiner Ranch Elementary's Math Pentathlon Team - Steiner Strategic Stallions. This is a program that is run through the school on a strictly volunteer basis. Those participating in this program:
  • Learn active problem solving, 
  • exercise strategic thinking, 
  • accelerate math skills, and have fun playing games!
Amy said, "The tournament this year was here in Austin. It's the Math Pentathlon Division II Tournament. They play 5 different Math games in the tournament, all against different schools in Austin and the surrounding area. They did well, although the competition was tougher this year. We did not win State again, but had a good finish." You can tell by this photo how seriously Kelly takes her math competition. 

This lovely young lady is Annie, who we are proud to have as a member of our family now. She and her brother, Bruce, live with my daughter and her husband, Branch. Their late mother, Evelyn, is Branch's sister. Annie, very bright and eager to go to college and get on with her life, took summer classes last year, and is graduating along with her brother this month - at the tender age of 16. She plans to attend OSU in the fall, along with her cousin, Ashlyn. She will be 17 in August.
Big brother, Bruce, will turn 18 this next week. He plans to attend Texas Tech next fall, and follow in his late mother's footsteps by being a pre-med student, with the intent of becoming a physician like her and so many others in this family. He and Annie both are graduating "with honors". I know their mother will be there in spirit, and will be very proud of both of them.


My daughter teases me about bragging on my grandkids. I gave that some thought, and I realized I do more of that than any of my friends. Why? For one thing, I don't believe there is any such thing as too much praise of our youngsters, and it's something I never received as a child. Having grown up in an extremely critical, and even abusive home, I have wondered from time to time what my life would have been like if our home had been more supportive and loving. Then I realize that I would not want it to be any different. I might have gone on to get more education, but -- and that's a big "but", if it had been different, I would not have the wonderful family I have now. My children and grandchildren are my greatest loves, and bring so much joy and happiness into my life, I cannot imagine life without any of them. I feel so blessed. For, as the Bible says, "If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing."  I Cor. 13:2

My beautiful, talented, loving children and grandchildren tell me in so many ways, "I am something!" I am loved, and so are they.

Peace and love to each of you,

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Preparing their life resumès... Part I

It's that time of year again. The time I like to catch up with the lives of my seven grandchildren. Sometimes it's hard to pin them or their parents down to get the real "scoop", but for the time being I have a little news I've put together.

First on the list of achievements so far this year is my oldest granddaughter Audrey, who recently received her Master in Environmental Management (MEM) / Ecosystem Science and Conservation at Duke University/Nicholas School of the Environment. She has accepted a summer job at the Nicholas Institute of Environmental Policy Solutions. This Institute is part of Duke, but it's a professional organization. Her mother Carajean, and other grandmother, Two, were there for the graduation exercises. A day or two later, Audrey and her mom left just as Tropical Storm Ana was reaching the east coast of North Carolina, causing their flight to be canceled. Audrey's graduation gift was a trip to Vancouver, British Columbia, where she and her mom were to go hiking, kayaking, and river rafting. After one flight being canceled, and another delayed while waiting on food to be delivered to the airplane, I am assuming that they finally made it to Vancouver. I spoke with Carajean on Mother's Day night as they were driving to catch a flight out of Charlotte. They should be getting home to Texas soon, and hopefully have lots of wonderful photos to share with me.

Audrey's younger sister, Ashlyn, just finished her freshman year at Oklahoma State University. Earlier this semester her mother wrote me that Ash had scored 98 on a chemistry exam! Following in her big sister's footsteps must have been difficult for her, as Audrey was Valedictorian at the Academy they as well as younger brother Tanner attended. I think middle children often have difficulty finding their "place" in the world. Ashlyn seemed surprised, and more than a little pleased with herself when she discovered her grade point average for the year was 4.0. I am not surprised at all, my dear granddaughter.

Carajean's son - our 16-year-old, aspiring tennis champ, Tanner, has had a busy year as well as his older sisters. I haven't heard what his final grades were, but he has maintained a straight A average throughout his school years. I have no reason to believe this year will be any different. Grades aside, two things stand out in his young life so far this year -- he finally got those braces off! And last I heard he was taking his girlfriend Emily to the Prom this month. (I am hoping his mom sends photos when she returns from Vancouver.) Tanner is going to attend college preparatory courses at a school "back east" this summer. Another question I have for his mother! Which school?

From the looks of these worn-out tennis shoes, Tanner played a whole lot of tennis tournaments all year. I believe this photo was sent to me in February, surely by now he has bought a new pair.

My oldest grandchild, Cameron, visited me on Mother's Day, and we tried to catch up on all his activities. As I've mentioned in the past, Cameron is a 2013 graduate of LSU and currently Director of Lifespan Religious Education at the Westside Unitarian Universalist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. He, like his dad, Craig, is also interested in politics, having done a lot of volunteer campaigning for politicians when he was in high school. Back in February, he ran into Wendy Davis at his favorite coffee shop in Fort Worth, where apparently lots of
interesting folks hang out from time to time. Recently he was elected to be "Young Adult Co-Facilitator" at the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly later this year to be held in Portland, Oregon. He will retain that position for the next three years, and feels it is a great honor - as does this proud grandmother. Cameron is also starting to give voice lessons in his spare time.

Cameron's younger sister, Hannah, who auditioned for and was accepted into the Booker T. Washington Performing Arts High School in Dallas last year, has finished her first year there. This school is well known throughout the U.S., and is difficult to get into. Cameron graduated from there as did some of the well known performers in music, the theater, and the arts. Norah Jones and Patti LaBelle are two of its alumni. Hannah is another one of my high-achieving grandchildren, having made straight As most of her school years. She has been in advanced placement classes at Booker T, maintaining her A average, and recently told her dad that, even though she loved acting, she thought she just might like to be an attorney some day. I hope he reminded her that there were many flamboyant lawyers throughout history who could be considered "actors"! That way she can enjoy both her talents. When I realized I didn't have a recent photo, I texted Hannah to send me one - a selfie would do. She just sent this one. She has a good sense of humor like her dad and brother!

I have my younger two grandchildren, Travis and Kelly, as well as the newest members of my daughter's family, Bruce and Annie, to speak of in Part II. All of them are doing pretty special things as well..

There have been so many tragedies happening in the world lately, the latest being the horrific train wreck in Philadelphia. The loss of life and terrible injuries have to be extremely hard on loved ones. 

The second earthquake in Nepal is very difficult to fathom. Rarely does a strong earthquake follow so quickly on the heels of a big one -- aftershocks are not usually as strong as the original quake. I feel so fortunate to live in a part of the world that doesn't live under the threat of anything so deadly. Some might argue with me due to the threat of tornadoes we've been under this spring. And friends of mine who live in areas where "fracking" by the big oil companies is causing minor earthquakes would beg to differ as well. One friend outside Oklahoma City said they had 18 "minor" earthquakes in one 24-hour period recently. That area is much too near the New Madrid Fault Line. In the 1800s, there was a strong earthquake that decimated many towns up and down the fault. Could it happen again? And how do our citizens in California live with the fact that the "big one" will someday occur along the San Andreas fault?

Nepalese military service members unload supplies from a UH-1Y Huey in Charikot, Nepal, May 5, Nepal, May 5.
There are so many good people and organizations rallying to support the victims of these incidents. To hear that one of the U.S. relief helicopters is still missing somewhere in the mountainous region of Nepal is saddening. 

Prayers are needed for all of the people who have lost loved ones in both of these disasters, the ones who are struggling to survive in the aftermath of the earthquakes, and for the discovery of the missing helicopter. May it only be down in an area that communication is impossible due to the mountainous terrain, and all of the men aboard surviving in good condition. While we're at it, thank God for all of the wonderful first responders and relief workers who rush to any disaster -- here and abroad. The Red Cross and the Salvation Army surely deserve our gratitude - and our donations.
I just received a text message from my daughter Carajean. She said they finally made it safely to Vancouver, and are having a great time. They will be heading home to Amarillo on Tuesday. I'll bet the rest of the family misses them. 

May all of your loved ones be safe and happy in these tumultuous times.

Peace and love,

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Bogeyman Is Gonna Getcha!

“Texas, our Texas..” Oh, my, is our state ever again going to be thought of as something other than a bunch of gun-toting, red-neck, conspiracy theorists? I cannot believe the flak that the upcoming multi-state military exercises named Operation Jade Helm 15 are causing in our “great” state. 

Many of these theorists were at the State Capitol recently, toting their handguns on their hips and assault rifles slung across their shoulders as our Texas Legislature was voting on the “open carry” law. (Something that deserves a good long look at as well.)  Wing nut used to be something you put on the end of a bolt to hold it in place. Now it seems that right-wing nut has pushed that definition out of use. These so-called pro-life, gun rights advocates (now that’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one) just have to keep stirring up more reasons to buy more guns.
(Photo from Texas Tribune - Yep, these are Texas citizens!)
When this past March the US Army Special Operations Command announced that they would be training with Special Forces units from other US Armed Forces (including the Green Berets, Navy SEALS, Marine Special Operations Command, and the 82nd Airborne Division) in a multi-state exercise across a five-state area from July 15 through September 15, the conspiracy theorists went crazy! Texas politicians, bowing to the rants of these conspiracy theorists, are speaking out about this operation. After all, the votes of these folks are what put them in office.

Governor Abbott directed the Texas State Guard (separate from the Texas National Guard) to monitor the operation. He wrote: “During the training operation, it is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed.” And Abbott is demanding “regular updates on the progress and safety of the Operation.”  I suppose to be on the safe side, former Governor Rick Perry - who is a presidential candidate, made a public statement that he thought "Governor Abbott went too far in raising questions about the military exercises." He trusts the military, even when you "can't trust the leadership" of our government. Maybe he's distancing himself from Texas... while still getting a shot in at Obama.

The states that were chosen for these exercises have the wide open spaces and difficult terrains that will help our military prepare for combat in other countries if needed. Some are even insinuating that these exercises are in preparation for an invasion in Iran and a Middle East-wide war. Unbelievable. According to the map they are spreading around, Texas is the equivalent of Iran.

I cannot believe citizens in the United States believe that this military exercise is a prelude to Obama's declaring Martial Law in Texas! Some have even theorized that the closing of several Walmart stores across the state is in preparation for using them as “detention centers” or even more laughable, "reeducation centers".

Presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz had to put in his two cents worth. He recently told Bloomberg Politics, "...the federal government has not demonstrated itself to be trustworthy in this administration, the natural consequence is that many citizens don’t trust what it is saying. “I think part of the reason is we have seen, for six years, a federal government disrespecting the liberty of the citizens. That produces fear, when you see a government that is attacking our free speech rights, or Second Amendment rights, or religious liberty rights. That produces distrust. Of course! That explains it. It’s Obama’s fault.

Then there is another conspiracy theory presented on the Agenda 21 Radio site that These states occupy the same territory as the former territory that was Mexico, and the United States purchased following the Mexican/American War. This area is known in Mexico as Aztlan. Aztlan is the legendary ancestral home of the Aztec peoples and is being sought after by activists such as Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán or MeChA and La Raza to be returned to Mexico.” (We aren't the only country that has extremist organizations rallying for aggression.) Really? We're now preparing to defend ourselves against Mexico?

As it’s the “alternative news” sites that are having a hey day with these conspiracy theories, I checked out one of them on Rational Wiki. This one was described thus:

Before It's News is a citizen journalism outfit, where anyone can write something and have it go up. Or at least, that was the intention, as it was promptly flooded with conspiracy theorists and is now an outlet for an 'unabashedly unhinged' take on world events and religious prophecy. The advertising is for survivalist supplies.” That can probably be said about most of the alternative news sites.

I guess a lot of the ones who are raising such an outcry about Operation Jade Helm 15 were not born yet or were still too young to remember Operation Longhorn that took place in Texas in the spring of 1952. As I was an army brat, I remember my dad was fully involved in those exercises while stationed at Fort Sam Houston. We were in the middle of the Korean "Conflict" which took place from 1950 to 1953, and my dad had been called up with a reserve unit from a small town in Texas.

OPERATION LONGHORN took place in March/April 1952, when Lampasas County, Texas was used to stage a huge mock battle between the Aggressor Force led by troops from the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, N.C. -- and U.S. forces represented by several Army divisions from nearby Fort Hood. Dad had been assigned temporary duty to Fort Hood, and his role during these exercises was as Battalion Sergeant Major. He had been a paratrooper in World War II, but I'm not certain what he actually did during these exercises. Paratroopers were dropped into Lampasas County, Texas for a mock "takeover". We never talked about it. I do have commendations located in his military records that he received from his commander at that time. 

There is an interesting article about Operation Longhorn in the Lampasas Dispatch Record. From what I've read, there were not the paranoid conspiracy theories going around at that time. Training of our armed forces has always been necessary, and as military warfare and weapons have become more sophisticated as the years have passed, of course that will dictate how, where, etc. these training exercises take place.
(Texas Longhorn Cattle)

I also read a cute story in the Tyler Morning Telegraph about someone's grandmother who's ranch land was among the thousands of acres leased in Lampasas County for Operation Longhorn.

"Although things were explained to grandma, she was still a little fuzzy on details. On the first day of the exercise, with rain clouds blowing in, planes flew over and dropped paratroopers within sight of the house. From the porch, grandma watched with interest as they got dug in, then concern as it started to rain. 

'Go down and bring those boys up to the house,' she ordered Uncle Ernest, 'before they get soaked.'

Knowing the futility of arguing, Ernest sheepishly drove down in his pickup to see if the soldiers needed shelter. The lieutenant in charge rode back with him to personally explain to grandma why her hospitality had to be declined."

I wonder if residents of the states where Operation Jade Helm 15 takes place will show the same hospitality! Or would some, like our Texas cowboys, just pull out their six-shooters or assault rifles and start firing on the "invaders"?

Now I've joined the ranks of those who love to make fun of those with differing opinions. All I have to say is 

Peace, and don't let the bogeymen getcha!

Friend, Cliffie S., sent me the following photo. This speaks well of our educational system in Texas! The school system textbooks and what they put in them (or leave out) are always controversial.