Somebody Stole My Beto Sign

It’s election day in Texas. And true to form, some nighttime stalker from the new Republican Party stole my Beto sign. But I have a printer at home. It’s not quite the same but I was able to keep the distinctive black and white theme, although in smaller letters.

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Homemade Beto sign. He would be proud.

Just for fun, I put a little note inside congratulating the thief for coming back to steal my Beto sign a second time and noting that I was capturing it on my security cam.

Of course I wasn’t making a video. But I keep hearing that we are in a post-truth era. That’s my contribution.

I am writing at 4:42 pm. you still have 2 hours and 17 minutes to vote in Texas.

My Camera Captured the S&L Bubble about to Deflate in 1984. Really.

See the savings and loan bubble go down, down, down.
In March, 1984, American Savings and Loan Association did a little promotional activity in Lake Jackson hoping draw a few more depositors. Five years later they were insolvent.

About a year ago I was going through some old family photos and slides picking out a few to scan for a digital collection. This one caught my eye because of its colorful depiction of a nice spring day in Lake Jackson when the local S&L flew a hot air balloon over town. When I saw that they were using the Shy Pond as a take off and landing area, I headed that way with my 35mm camera that was already loaded with Kodachrome, one of the best films ever made.

The photo also caught my eye because it is symbolic of the fate of S&Ls in America that was due to befall them over the next five years. Do you remember the savings and loan bubble and how quickly they fell from their high-flying, money-making ways and deflated for all the world to see? This S&L held the original mortgage on the home we bought in Lake Jackson in 1982. Rates were sky high but due to plunge like the pretty balloon in the picture.

Ours was one of American S&L’s good mortgages at 13%. So, of course, we refinanced it at our first opportunity as did most of their other borrowers. By spring of 1989, just five years later, American Savings and Loan was insolvent and its chairman was being charged with financial misdeeds which earned him a little time in jail.

I remember standing in line to withdraw a CD they were holding for our United Way. The ten per cent yield was a good deal, of course, but I have never trusted high interest rate offers since then. Outliers are sometimes outlying (or maybe out lying?) for a reason that ought to be easy enough to understand: they need your cash more than you need the security and return they are offering. Sometimes the return exceeds the security. It took something called the FSLIC to make that CD good. I’m glad I got there before the FSLIC went under, too.

I wonder who got the hot air balloon in their insolvency settlements?

 

D Day, November 6

Next Tuesday, November 6, 2018, is a crucial day in our history.

The United States Constitution is a masterpiece of Eighteenth Century Enlightenment mechanics. Part of its genius is in the system of checks and balances that protects against the concentration of power in the hands of a single actor or group within the constitutional system.

Different actors are beholden to different electorates and some roles are selected at different times to provide overlapping periods in power. The effects of momentary passions are tamped down through these and a variety of other means. People in different power roles are accountable to different electorates and are chosen at various times to reflect and sometimes neutralize the passions of the day.

Thus, the nation has survived some perilous times and, often, the effects of incompetent leaders.

However, when all three branches of the government come under control of a single party, we have a problem. Assuming an ordinary level of party discipline, the checks and balances are upset and any hegemonic entity – we usually think of the presidency – has relatively unrestricted power to impose its will on the polity.

That brings us to our urgent need to get out and vote on Tuesday, November 6, if you have not already participated through early voting.

The president currently operates without any effective check on his power. Even if you love the man and his leadership, you should hope for a change of power in the Congress so that he will not operate unchecked any longer. While he provides some policy outcomes that some voters prefer, he has many disturbing leadership traits that ought to make any “small d” democrat very uncomfortable.

There is no need to list these traits here. If you read a newspaper at all you are well aware of his anti-democratic behaviors and the terrible example of his amoral leadership. He seems to know next to nothing about our country’s history, our leadership in the world, the ethic of sharing, or the constitution he is sworn to preserve, protect and defend.

Furthermore, the world hangs in balance as he ignores science and commits us to a course that will almost certainly make the planet uninhabitable by human life. Our summers get worse with fires, storms and floods. Each new announcement coming out of climate science seems to confirm that all their earlier alarms were underestimates of the damage already done, its irreversibility and the amount of time left to take action before we hit a final tipping point.

Our job on November 6 is as serious as the job of the allied forces waiting in the English Channel in June, 1944. The labors they undertook and the sacrifices they sustained were profoundly more daunting than anything required of us to go vote next Tuesday. But what we do may be just as important for the future of mankind.

Your vote is a right. It is a responsibility. And this year you need to vote for Democrats at least for the Senate and House of Representatives. For us Lake Jackson folks, that means a vote for Beto O’Rourke and Adrienne Bell. They will be a major part of the constitutional structure that will hold this president accountable. Even better, they are both excellent candidates and people.

And they really will keep the pre-existing conditions requirement of the Affordable Care Act. They were in favor of it before it was cool.

In Lake Jackson: The Times They Are a’Changin’

I have not been totally sold by talk of the blue wave in November. Certainly it is something to hope for but I don’t have much faith in the majority in these times, especially not the majority of the folks who manage to register and vote in the age of internet manipulations, intentional voter suppression, auditless electronic balloting and the attack on truth itself from the highest offices.


Sasha Tarrant and Rita Lucido hold back an enthusiastic Eeyore, whose guest appearance got the Dems going. Rita Lucido (on the right) is the Democratic candidate for Texas Senate District 17,

It was in February that Ted Cruz famously said of Texas Democrats, “They will crawl over broken glass in November to vote.” He may very well have been right. Tonight I saw more Democrats at one time in Lake Jackson than I have ever seen before.

The Southern Brazoria County Democrats held a fundraising barbecue at Jasmine Park in Lake Jackson. The place was packed with Democrats. And it was a lot more fun than crawling over broken glass.

Adrienne Bell (U.S. House, Dist. 14) was there. Rita Lucido (Texas Senate, Dist. 17) was there. Mike Collier (Lieutenant Governor) was there. And there were lots of other candidates for state, county, regional offices and judicial seats.

And there were all the “just plain folks” like me who were there to eat barbecue and enjoy the friendship of people who have decided that it is not alright to accept the behavior of the sitting president.

Lila Lloyd was there. Sharron Stewart was there. Mike and Ann Lange were there. And there were probably a few people there who would as soon not be mentioned as having been seen consorting with Democrats. But we love them just the same and look forward to having them join us, next time in the privacy of the voting booth.

The time for pretending that it is normal to vote for Republicans for any office is over. Done. The only patriotic thing to do in November is to NOT vote for anyone under the R column. That is my best nonpartisan advice. Then, as soon as we get ourselves out from under the kleptocracy, we can go back to being Democrats and Republicans again. And all of us can keep on loving the country we live in.

Chapelwood Adds Montessori Preschool Choice in LJ

A new Montessori preschool classrom will be offered at Chapelwood United Methodist Church in Lake Jackson beginning this fall. The church has recently renovated space, purchased materials, recruited and trained a masters degree teacher for the opening school term.

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New Montessori classroom guide, Rachel Silvas, shows one of the several maps that preschool students will work with this fall. In addition to the U.S. map, there is one for each of the continents.

A commercial group is planning to offer Montessori classes in the area but they are still in the process of acquiring property, designing and building space. That group earlier sought a zoning variance to allow them to purchase and build a school on land near Bess Brannen Elementary. The city of Lake Jackson denied the variance because of the already difficult traffic situation around Bess Brannen. They have since acquired property in Richwood on Highway 288-B.

The Chapelwood project has been carefully planned over the last three years. The school continues to offer traditional classes along with the Montessori class.

The Montessori class will be under the direction of Ms. Rachel Silvas who is in the process of completing her training at the Houston Montessori Center which is affiliated with the American Montessori Society.

Spaces are still available. Yesterday’s article in The Facts gives more details on how to get more information and enroll a child between ages 2 and 1/2 and six.

We Visit with Adrienne Bell, District 14 Candidate for Congress

Ann and Mike Lange hosted an event on Thursday to introduce Adrienne Bell to the folks in her Lake Jackson neighborhood. Ms. Bell is a candidate for the Texas District 14 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. She is running a hard race against the incumbent, Randall Keith Weber, an Alvin heating and air conditioning contractor.

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Adrienne Bell, Candidate for Congress

Ms. Bell is a teacher in the Houston Independent School District who has been politically active but never run for office herself. She was very involved in President Obama’s campaigns in Texas and was honored to receive his endorsement the day before our meeting with her.

In the photo she is sharing part of our meeting with a group of seniors in Texas City. It’s a big district and multi-tasking a requirement. No problem. She teaches second graders.

We Lose an Old Friend: Don Sanders, Houston Music Legend

Don Sanders, songwriter and singer, died Saturday from the combined effects of frontotemporal dementia accompanied by ALS, a very cruel combination in the Alzheimer family of disorders. It was a final irony on his career that his death was big news in the Houston Chronicle, a paper that had paid him little attention during his most productive years.

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Don Sanders, July 1, 2012, during a visit to Lake Jackson.

I met Don Sanders just after enrolling at the University of Houston in 1961. Don came there from Jones High School in Houston. I arrived from Galena Park.

We had both been accepted into the Interdisciplinary Honors Program, the forerunner of today’s Honors College. We had several classes together each our first two years and a weekly colloquium in the junior and senior years.

Don was a sharp kid. He had an acerbic wit and a green corduroy suit that he wore almost every day of our freshman year or, who knows, he may have owned several. But I doubt it. He didn’t come from the kind of family where the kids had more than one suit. The suit was in the style of his heroes the Kingston Trio.

Don played guitar and banjo and sang folk songs that were beginning to pick up in popularity in the early sixties. We learned from Don about hootenannies, the Limeliters, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Lead Belly and Joan Baez. As Don became an accomplished musician, he sang with beautiful control and a great range. Early on, he was always high pitched and his voice could be irritating at first. The beauty and finesse of his vocal performances I heard thirty years later were shocking to me at first.

But Don was so much more than a folk singer. He wrote songs, performed on stage, did comedy, wrote a novel or two (never published as far as I know), performed for children, and wrote probably tons of poems. Apparently, even more than those things, he inspired other people to do their best work. Some of them are names you probably know very well. He was a regular at Houston’s Anderson Fair and on KPFT.

I wasn’t in touch with Don after college. His music scene was not one that I fit into and I was busy with the kind of boring white collar jobs he was intent on avoiding. His astonishing career is fairly well covered in the Houston Chronicle article. There is also an interview in the Houston folk music oral history archive.

Don and I were in touch again after Hurricane Ike in 2009 when he performed at the Grand 1894 Opera House in Galveston as a benefit to help rebuild the facility that had been severely damaged in the storm. In 2012 he asked if I could help him with some memories from our college years for the personal memoir he was writing. I wondered whether it would still seem like a friendship after all those years pursuing our very different lives. But we found a lot of joy in our conversation that day, July 1, 2012.

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Visiting with Don in 2012.

As it turned out, there wasn’t much I could offer to fill in the cracks in such a creative life as his. We reminisced about the day in November 1963 when we went to his house near the runways of Hobby Airport (it was Houston International then) to see if we could see John Kennedy on his arrival in Texas. There were several of us from University of Houston and we did, indeed, get to see the president and first lady, two days before he was killed in Dallas.

Three or four of us stayed over at Don’s house that night. His mother made breakfast for us and as we prepared to make our way back to our morning classes at UH, Don called out, “Charles, Tom: come and see these guys. I have never seen anything like this. They are going to be big.” So we rushed in to see the image of the Beatles performing on tape on the Dave Garroway Show. You could have fooled me. Although I became accustomed to and learned to love the Beatles later, I really didn’t get what was so special then. But Don had the ear for it. This was several months before they appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show and took America by a storm.

My regret today is that I did not pay more attention to an old friend as he struggled to make it in the music world. He apparently inspired others and they did the things they had to do to have fame. But Don wanted something else. He wanted peace: peace in the world and peace in his own life. Staying in Houston was his gift to America’s new great city.

Don came back to visit Lake Jackson again in the summer of 2013 when I invited him to see our Brazosport Center Stages production of Les Misérables. He had kind things to say about our local production.

I went to see Don at his home in the Heights a few weeks ago. By then, his disease had greatly diminished his ability to communicate. We spoke a few short minutes and he told me had to go somewhere which was highly unlikely. I held his hand and told him I would try to return when he had more time to talk. But I knew he was uncomfortable with the visit and I really doubted I would be returning.

Sunday morning, I received the email announcing his passing.