Alligators 'n Roadkill

Alligators 'n Roadkill
On The Road


Thursday, January 10, 2019

Pie In The Sky

We often claim that our city of El Paso is, geographically, pretty large.  256.26 square miles, as a matter of fact.  Our population of just under 700,000, equates to about 2500 people per square mile.  By comparison, Dallas, Tx, is even larger, with a population of 3.2 million, and an area of 385.83 square miles, and 3469.9 people per square mile, and Houston is over 600 square miles, with a population of 2.3 million, which would be even fewer people per square mile.  Comparatively speaking, then, El Paso is sort of small potatoes.

Therefore, one may well ask, "Why are we always struggling to do things like those much larger cities?"  Particularly strange has been our recent destruction of a still usable City Hall in order to build a minor league baseball park, and the complete tear down of a once iconic, if not unique central plaza to be replaced by a "modern" and rather barren tiny square.  We also have been subjected to the introduction of a very expensive, but not easily accessible Top Golf facility, and something called iFly which, while still under construction, burned.  There is a planned Great Wolf Lodge that will also cost local tax payers a great deal of money.  There is continuous discussion about attracting new business to town, in order to create new jobs, but this is without ever addressing the reality of why new business, such as manufacturing, might not want to move to this isolated corner of far west Texas.

As some of you may know, El Paso has recently launched a Trolley system that runs a total of 4.8 miles.  Below is a map showing our already existing bus routes, which consistently carry buses that are always way under capacity.  As a matter of fact, according to City reports, our taxpayer funded public transit system loses more riders each year.

city bus routes

As you can see, the buses do cover a lot of the city.  However, the tiny little troller pretty much runs from nowhere to nowhere.  The route is obviously located in an area where comparatively few people actually live or work.  And, it is too short to be of any practical use for transportation, even if lots of people lived and worked along that route.
Trolley Route

However, once upon a time we did have a practical trolley system that covered a larger part of El Paso, and even crossed the border to run through a good part of Cd. Juarez, our former sister city.  Below is a photo of the interior of one of those trolleys (today's version features some of the same cars, renovated at great cost) when it was stopped at the international border crossing.  The man in uniform was a U. S. Customs agent checking for status.  It might be of interest to note that we rarely had to show any ID when crossing the border.  All we had to do was declare our citizenship.  Obviously, if one was a noncitizen, then one would be expected to have a border crossing card.

Nestor Valencia, a well known local artist who is behind many of the portraits you may have seen around the city, was also one of the planners for the Cordova Bridge -- Chamizal Park -- was also involved in helping to restore the Plaza Theatre and most recently helped plan the new San Jacinto Plaza:
"In 1920 through 1925 we had 52 miles of trolley system in El Paso. We were a street car system," Valencia said.  Valencia told ABC-7 that in 1922, the street car was moving 2.1 million passengers a year.
photos collected from around 1960, showing trolleys on both sides of the border can be seen here:
So, we are left with a number of questions:  Why did we just build this new trolley system, if we lack any real tourist attractions, don't need it for daily transportation, and cannot reasonably expect it, all by itself, to be a tourist attraction?  Why do we continue to subsidize a public transportation system that consistently loses money, while not really providing necessary transportation?  Why do we allow our elected representatives to neglect our streets at the expense of building unnecessary facilities and waste money fighting for things we don't need or want?

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Message from Beto O'Rourke

The government of the greatest country the world has ever known, the wealthiest, most powerful nation on the planet: closed until further notice.
This shutdown – hundreds of thousands of our fellow Americans working without pay during the holidays, basic government functions no longer available to the taxpayers who fund them – didn’t have to happen. The Senate passed a compromise government funding bill two days ago, 100–0. The men and women who can’t agree on what to name a post office were able to unite and unanimously agree on how to fund the entire government.
But maybe it was intended to happen.
Maybe in the face of an investigation that seeks the facts surrounding allegations of collusion with a foreign government and obstruction of justice within our own government… as one aide after another pleads guilty… as the stock market tumbles… as men and women intent on keeping their dignity and their conscience flee his administration… perhaps the President calculates that by adding to the blizzard of bizarre behavior over the last two years and shutting down the government at Christmas, while his own party still controls each branch of it, the institutions that we need for our democracy to function (and to ensure no man is above the law) will be overwhelmed.
From a President who promised action, we got distraction.
But my concern for the country goes beyond the immediate pain and dysfunction that this shutdown will cause. Beyond even ensuring that this President is held accountable. What’s happening now is part of a larger threat to us all.
If our institutions no longer work, if we no longer have faith in them, if there’s no way to count on government even functioning (three shutdowns this year alone), then perhaps ultimately we become open to something else. Whatever we choose to call it, whether we openly acknowledge it at all, my fear is that we will choose certainty, strength and predictability over this constant dysfunction, even if it comes at the price of our democracy (the press; the ballot box; the courts; congress and representative government).
If there were ever a man to exploit this precarious moment for our country and our form of government, it’s Trump. Sending 5,400 troops to U.S. border communities during the midterm elections. Organizing Border Patrol “crowd control” exercises in El Paso on election day. Defying our laws by taking children from their parents, keeping kids in tent camps, turning back refugees at our ports. Calling the press “the enemy of the people” and celebrating violence against members of the media. Pitting Americans against each other based on race and religion and immigration status. Inviting us to hate openly, to call Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals, to call asylum seekers animals, to describe Klansmen and neo-Nazis as very fine people. Seeking to disenfranchise fellow Americans with made up fears of voter fraud. Isolating us from the other great democracies as he cozies up to dictators and thugs. Lying again and again. Making a mockery of the United States – once the indispensable nation, the hope of mankind.
So we can engage in the immediate fights about blame for this latest shutdown… fall into his arguments about a wall, or steel slats, at a time of record border security and in the face of asylum seekers – our neighbors – fleeing the deadliest countries in the world… we can respond to his name-calling and grotesque, bizarre behavior… or we can pull up, look back at this moment from the future and see exactly what is happening to our country.
We are at risk of losing those things that make us special, unique, exceptional, those things that make us the destination for people the world over, looking for a better life and fleeing countries who lack our institutions, our rule of law, our stability.
If ever there was a time to put country over party it is now. This is not about a wall, it’s not about border security, it’s not about Democrats and Republicans. It’s about the future of our country – whether our children and grandchildren will thank us or blame us. Whether we will lose what was fought for, made more perfect, by the men and women who risked and lost their lives at Antietam, on Omaha beach, in Jackson, Mississippi… whether we will be defined by greatness and ambition or pettiness and fear. Whether we will continue to live in the world’s greatest democracy, or something else.
In the short term – let’s pass the funding bill that was agreed to by the Senate 100–0 just a few days ago. Send it to the President with the confidence that we represent the people of this country and that we are willing to override his veto if he cannot respect their will. Show that government can work, that we can see past our immediate differences to serve the greater good. To put country over party. To put country over one man. To do what we were sent here to do.
In the longer term – we must strengthen all of our institutions at the very moment they are called into question. Some clear opportunities for Congress: Ensure that our representatives in government reject PAC money, corporate and special interest influence. Demand that they hold town halls in our communities, listen to and respond to their constituents. Show America that they are working for us and for no one else.
Take action on the most urgent issues of our day: climate change, healthcare, endless war, income inequality, immigration, the vibrancy of rural communities and inner cities, education and criminal justice reform. Define the goal in each area, build the coalition to achieve it, find the common ground (between parties, between branches of government), and move forward. Prove that our system of government – whatever its problems – is still the best thing under the sun.
It’s action vs. distraction. One will save our democracy, the other will lead to its end.
- Beto

Thursday, October 11, 2018

No Excuses. Just Vote!

Love is a pile of ____, A Musical

We were invited to a performance of a play at the Teatro de la Ciudad de Chihuahua, in Chihuahua, Mexico, this past Saturday evening. This was a presentation of the City of Chihuahua, and featured some very professional actors.
                                                           The Playbill:

Before I mention the play itself (other than showing you the playbill, that is), let me tell you about the venue.  The theater itself is old, and its location has variously been occupied by theaters known by names such as Betancourt (1877-1904, when it was destroyed by fire), Teatro Centenario (until 1938, when it was again destroyed by fire), then Cine Colonial (1947-1992, when the doors were closed).  As the names might suggest, it was a regular theater, with live performances up until it became a movie theater in 1947.  Following the closure in 1992, the theater was not used until the City opened it as The Theater of the City, in 2001.

                                            The theater from the street

The presentation that we saw was an original play whose name ends with the well known emoji for "poop."  The name is literally suggesting that love is nothing more than a pile of same.  Basically, despite my own inability to hear and completely comprehend the dialogue, I got the gist of the idea that young couples today argue over petty things, and have a bit of trouble resolving their differences.  It is a comedy, and it does have a number of really decent songs.

                                            A great view of the interior

I have to confess that I was disappointed from the get go to see the actors using microphones, and in my opinion, that took something away from the entire presentation.  Even though these were the behind the neck, hang near the mouth type, they could not overcome the rustle of clothing too close, or the inevitable movement that put the mikes too close to the mouth.  So, in addition to the fact that young people tend to talk too fast for us older folks, and my own limited Spanish, I had to deal with distortion that was pretty much present throughout.  In short, my comprehension of this play was very limited.

                                              Some of the intricate detail

I understand that at least one of the songs belongs to one Cristian Castro, a well known Mexican singer, and a brother of one of the cast members.  That brother played the part of the Psychiatrist, and his name is Marcos Valdes, who just happens to be the son of Loco Valdez, a famous Mexican comedian, and a member of a very distinguished family of actors.  Marco's mother is Veronica Castro, a famous singer, actress, producer, and presenter.

I guess I'm trying to say that this play has some serious bona fides, and, as I did mention, it is a professional presentation that was - for me, at least - marred by the use of microphones coupled with a less than ideal sound system.

Monday, October 1, 2018

So, Why Does The U. S. Have A Department Of Defense?

I have been thinking about our yuge (we're talking major Bigly here) National Debt and Deficit, and other woes of the Trumpian Era, and this one thing keeps bothering me.  Now, I grant you, this did not begin with the current administration.  It began a long, long time ago, when we first chose to ignore the warnings of Dwight D. Eisenhower, when he talked about the Military Industrial Complex, upon his leaving the office of President.  It escalated over the years, and then got really, really bad in the wake of the stupid that followed 9/11.
I am talking about Defense Spending, and the seriously out of control Department of Defense!  Why should our spending on what we euphemistically call Defense be so damn high?!
Just to be sure that I had this right, I looked up the word:
1.      the action of defending from or resisting attack.
"she came to the defense of the eccentric professor" · 
synonyms: protection · shielding · safeguarding · guarding · security · fortification · 
·        an instance of defending a title or seat in a contest or election.
"his first title defense against Jones"
·        military measures or resources for protecting a country.
"the minister of defense" · 
synonyms: armaments · weapons · weaponry · arms · 
2.      the case presented by or on behalf of the party being accused or sued in a lawsuit.
synonyms: rebuttal · denial · vindication · explanation · mitigation · justification · 
3.      (in sports) the action or role of defending one's goal against the opposition.
"we played solid defense"

I do not see anywhere in that definition, anything about sending our armed forces to any other place on this planet!  Do you see words like "invasion" or "occupy" in there?  I sure do not.  I mean, how is invasion of Iraq equal to "protecting" our nation?  Did Iraq have the power to invade us, and only the Defense Department was aware of that?  So, how are we defending our nation by invading the Middle East, and making war on nations, when it was individual terrorists who brought down the Twin Towers?  Why did our "Defense" not prevent that horror?  Isn't that what Defense is supposed to do?  When did Defense become Offense?  Why are we OK with this?

Have we all forgotten just how much money we've allowed our Defense to piss away over the years?!  Are we all totally ignorant of the good that could have been accomplished with that much money, if diverted towards the infrastructure, or health care, or education?  Does it not hurt you to think of all the waste?  All the loss?

How is joining an all volunteer Army, and going off to countries whose citizens never hurt us equivalent to "serving" the nation?  Hint:  If you joined the Army (or, the Navy, or the Air Force, or the Marines, or even the Space Farce) to serve your country?  You don't need to go to some far away place to do that.  You can "serve" your country right here at home by volunteering to house and feed the homeless, or educate young people, or volunteer at a hospital, or go to work fixing broken streets and highways!

And, if we have a desperate need for Defense of our nation (I abhor the use of that word, "homeland"), then should we not have shoreline artillery batteries, Air Force Bases near our borders, and Army posts?  Why must our Defense be concentrated overseas?

I mean, if we have some 800 +/- bases across the world, that is not even remotely like Defense.  That's Empire Building, and we have always denied any bent towards Imperialism.

Personally, I think it is way past time to stop saying that we must have a huge Defense budget, and time to begin calling it what it is.  It is either an invasion budget, or an empire building budget, or better yet, an Offense Budget, because all of those are more accurate and honest.

Bottom line, for me, is this:  We don't need a humongous military force.  No.  More.  War.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

My latest email from Beto's Campaign.

Beto for Texas

Dear John,
Yesterday, we wrapped up our 34th day straight on the road with 6,803.0 miles on the odometer.
Beto for Texas
On the road to El Paso.

MY NOTE:  This photo is particularly poignant and significant, if you can read the road sign.  The history of how a nearby ghost town got its name is interesting, and I tend toward the first one provided, here:  GO BETO!

On Thursday in Sweetwater, Tom Ritchey introduced me at our town hall at the Argos bookstore. Amy and I had met Tom and his wife at a gas station in Fort Davis at the outset of this trip, weeks ago. We had just picked up our kids from Prude Ranch and were on our way to Alpine when Tom took the time to introduce himself and say hello to us.
It made me happy to see us come full circle -- after traveling to Del Rio, Corpus Christi, Nacogdoches, DeSoto, Galveston, Missouri City, Longview, Muleshoe, Austin, Comanche, Edna, Houston, Alice, Victoria, Brownsville, Beaumont, Tyler, Laredo, Iraan, Lubbock, Rockport, McAllen, Lampasas and many, many more communities -- to be back in West Texas, to see Tom again in his hometown, where he is the winningest football coach in Sweetwater history, and to have such a great conversation with the community about anything and everything on our share my impressions of the amazing Collegiate High public school I had visited earlier in the day in Roscoe, to listen to those I want to serve tell me about healthcare, education, delivering for our veterans -- it just made me grateful to be doing this and to be doing it with so many wonderful people.
Beto for Texas
Town hall in Sweetwater.
Beto for Texas
With Coach Tom Ritchey and his wife.
Yesterday, we closed out our last stop on this road trip at a rally in El Paso, the town we started from 34 days before, the place Amy and I are raising Ulysses, Molly and Henry, the center of my world. Today, I am thinking through all of the amazing people we’ve met, all the extraordinary volunteers and field staff who made these meetings possible (shoutout to our Ambassadors!), all of the good energy. Everywhere we go in Texas, we find that people are focused on the future.
Beto for Texas
Town hall in McAllen.
Beto for Texas
Town hall in Lubbock.
We’re not running against anyone else or another political party. We’re running to do our best for this country, for every one of us. To make sure that we can all learn to our full potential by getting behind our public educators; to ensure that we are all well enough to contribute to our maximum capacity in life because we will lead on universal, guaranteed healthcare; to use our standing as the most diverse state in the country to rewrite our immigration laws in our own image; to ensure that our criminal justice system treats everyone with dignity, respect and provides equal justice; to know that every one of us can find work that ensures purpose, function and a living wage, that we have access to the higher education, the skills and the training to be able to find it; to be there for those who’ve borne the battle, with resources, oversight and accountability for veterans’ services -- to move forward, always. With confidence, courage, strength and, in Truman’s words, “with an unstoppable determination to do the job at hand.” Leave the fear, the anxiety, the hatred and the smallness behind.
Beto for Texas
Town hall in Edna.
Beto for Texas
Town hall in Comanche.

Beto for Texas
Town hall in Iraan.
This is the most encouraged, the most hopeful, the most excited I’ve been for the future of this country. Despite the disappointments we might face, the dysfunction that defines so much of our national government today, the deep damage we do with policies of family separation or trade wars that hurt our farmers, ranchers and exporters -- I know that we are a match for this moment, that Texas will help lead this country in a better direction.
Beto for Texas
Back-to-school town hall in Austin. Hook 'em!
Beto for Texas
Opening our new Houston HQ with Representative Sheila Jackson Lee.
I know that because I’ve met you everywhere in Texas, in every county in the state. I’ve seen the determination to do better for yourself, for your kids, for this state, for this country, for this generation and for every generation that follows.
You’ve inspired me, filled me with hope and you give me confidence that we will win this election and that we will deliver on the very high expectations that we’ve set with, by and for one another.
I am grateful to be doing this with you.

Beto for Texas
6,803.0 miles on the odometer.