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"The real world is risky territory for people with generosity of spirit. Beware."

                                         Hunter S. Thompson

RECENT

On the griddle: Learn more on menu above about my books and my work as a DC correspondent. Beneath are some pieces and snippets of recent vintage... 

New Year's Day Wisdom

 

"It's gonna be a wild ride."

                            Little Steven Van Zant

"If I had come home assless, penniless, I should have expected a bleak welcome."

                                             Sancho Panza

"To think that I have to lay hand on the sword, even against rascally churls of the baser kind with their hatchets, is a foolish thought."

                                       Sancho Panza

New Year's Song Nominations: (send yours)

     When the Whip Comes Down Rolling Stones.

      Send in the Clowns  (Judy Collins version.)    

                                   Submitted by Carol Haupt, NY, NY.

     

"Cue it high and let it fly." Instructions for our annual New Year's Eve Midnight Soul Review & Billiard Tournament -- and perhaps sound advice for life.

2019 Writer-in-Residence, Butte, Mt.

 

You can read too-kind coverage of our winter journey to Montana (think blizzards and below z). You can check out beneath what I discovered in the rich vaults of the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives -- the true tale of a journalist pursued by two of the most depraved operators in the wide-open days of the West.

"His hands were gnarled and twisted, but he was fast on the draw and deadly with either hand. He'd killed ten men, it was said -- likely many more. Dougherty was a crooked gambler an a morphine addict, a man-killer when he was full of dope and a sneaking coward without it."

Hell With the Lid Off

       Journalists in these mean times can appreciate the plight of Butte reporter Horace “Bert” Smith in the 1890s, when gamblers Billy Fay and Frank Dougherty declared their intention to shoot him.

       Smith's predicament is related in his newly unearthed memoir, "Hell With The Lid Off," his recollections of a wild period of Butte history with characters that gave the town its reputation.

       A pickpocket prostitute who fooled a San Francisco detective and the atheist who made a curious proposition with a Presbyterian minister were among Smith’s acquaintances over seven years on the police beat.

       "Reminiscences of a police reporter in Butte when it was the liveliest camp of earth,” Smith describes the manuscript, donated by Smith’s granddaughter, Melissa FitzGerald, to the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives.

       Horace Herbert Smith died in 1936 after establishing himself in New York as a front-line journalist and member of a literary salon that included muckraker Sinclair Lewis and Zane Grey, who chronicled adventure of the American frontier...(read it all)

Pictured here is Horace "Bert" Smith, Sr. his wife Annie White Fleming and Horace Herbert Smith, Jr." In a bust-loose mining city in the 1890's, Bert Smith changed from a Canadian-born tenderfoot into a pistol-packing reporter pursued by desperate killers.

Behind the scenes as Julian Castro maps presidential quest

San Antonio Express-News, Jan 12. 2019

 

 

NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa — At a “Potluck Insurgency” gathering in Iowa this week, Julián Castro previewed his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination, a campaign that evolved after the 2016 election and that emphasizes his San Antonio roots.

Responding to a question about prescription drug prices, Castro spoke of his immigrant grandmother, who lost a foot to diabetes and later her life to complications from the disease.

“You all know that with diabetes, that often happens. But she had medicine, and Medicare enabled her care,” Castro said, using a family story to buttress his support for a so-called Medicare for All approach to health insurance.

NHYD stands for New Hampshire Young Democrats, who invited Julian Castro to speak at their awards dinner at the New Hampshire Institute for the Arts in Manchester.

Dying Vines: It's Cabernet versus King Cotton on the herbicide-drenched High Plains

San Antonio Express-News, Aug. 19, 2017

BROWNFIELD, Texas — At Lost Draw Vineyards in the High Plains, chemical herbicide that drifted from a cotton field in July has left a patch of merlot grapes ailing, its leaves deformed and the fruit starting to shrivel.

Dusty Timmons is directing a rescue operation in the family-owned plot, tripling irrigation and doubling fertilizer. But he worries the grapes won’t contain the necessary sugar Kuhlman Cellars in Fredericksburg needs for the red wine. He may need to snip off the clusters and let the grapes rot on the ground, he said.

“I can’t go into a vineyard in the High Plains and not see herbicide damage,” said Timmons, president of the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association, whose company also operates Lost Draw Cellars in Fredericksburg.

He later corrected himself to say he’d recently seen one West Texas vineyard unaffected.

It’s hard enough worrying about God striking you down with hail without having to worry about your neighbor striking you down with herbicide,” he said.

High Plains growers, who produce more than 80 percent of Texas’s wine grapes, say they increasingly are plagued by the potent new formulations of herbicides cotton-growers deploy in their battle against weeds. (Read more.)

Watching  the harvest of these Chenin blanc grapes I saw  vines with leaves cupped and shriveled from the herbicides drifting from West Texas cotton.

I photographed raw sewage pouring into the Rio Grande from Mexico at the rate of 1.7 million gallons daily. Thinking about including this stop on my Toxic Tour of the World along with Nigeria, KwaZulu in South Africa, Mexican colonias and a few other choice spots.

Earth Day 2017: Along Mexico border, Trump EPA cuts trigger fears of backslide in pollution control

 

 San Antonio Express-News; Houston Chronicle April 23, 2017

 

NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico — Sewage gushing into the Rio Grande offers a pungent reminder of problems that could worsen under the Trump administration’s plan to reduce the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency budget by nearly a third and eliminate dozens of anti-pollution programs.

Joint U.S.-Mexico spending under the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement has helped stop release of millions of gallons daily of Nuevo Laredo wastewater into the river.

The EPA has spent $650 million on water projects on both sides of the border, bringing drinking water and sewer connections to tens of thousands of people in colonias.

No agency in the government would suffer more than the EPA, which Trump is targeting for a 31 percent budget cut and removal of one-fourth of its staff. That is the opening shot in a “Back-to-Basics” overhaul of the EPA by an administration determined to cancel long-established federal commitments or shift them to states and localities.

An EPA memo circulating among regional administrators and top staff asserts flatly that U.S.-Mexico border activities will be “eliminated” starting next fall. Border spending of more than $10 million a year is among more than 50 programs the administration intends to scrap.

They include the nearly $3 million EPA Gulf of Mexico program, which distributes grants for water testing, habitat repair and environmental restoration in the five Gulf states. Among projects last year were restoration of Brownsville wetlands and efforts to protect the waters of Galveston Bay.

That would end, along with programs to restore other water bodies, including the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay. (Read more.)

 

Who the heck is Beto O'Rourke? The punk rocker angling to take on Ted Cruz, that's who.
San Antonio Express-News March 11, 2017

WASHINGTON - Eyeing a takedown of Ted Cruz, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke may be on the verge of declaring his candidacy for a 2018 Senate race, the next best gauge whether Texas Democrats are enjoying the resurgence they claim.

O’Rourke, D-El Paso, made national news this week along with U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio, when they drove together from San Antonio to Washington in a rental car after an East Coast storm canceled many flights.

Their “bipartisan congressional town hall,” intended to show how members of different political parties can get along, drew thousands of followers via live streaming as the two talked about substantive matters, joked with one another and even joined in song along the way.

The congressmen announced Wednesday that the San Antonio to D.C. trip will become an annual event — to be called the Congressional Cannonball Run —and that other bipartisan teams from Congress will be invited to join.

Along with O'Rourke, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, is considering the 2018 Senate race and intends to make known his decision next month.

O'Rourke, 44, is a three-term congressman who devotes himself heavily to veterans’ issues. He is a fierce opponent of the Trump administration’s immigration policies and a fluent Spanish speaker who fights deportations and trumpets his border city as one of America’s safest.

He comes from a prominent political family but often seems the un-politician. He has played in three punk rock bands and counts great authors as influences in his life. He says both he and his wife, Amy, recently plowed through Tolstoy's 1,440-page “War and Peace,” likely the only member of Congress who can make that claim. (more)

This was the first profile of O'Rourke, noting his intention to run more than a year before he caught fire and came within 2.6% of bouncing Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.