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The State of Texas: November 11, 2015

Mass indictments issued in Waco shootout case, and Port Neches-Groves ISD fights off ”leftist extremists.”

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Quote of the Day

“I’ll put on my rawhide underwear and take all the chewings.”

Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller on his agency’s fee hikes

Spacey Wednesday

It’s been a great week for UFO sightings. A few days ago, a mysterious light was seen over Los Angeles and other parts of Southern California (don’t worry, it was just a missile test flight!). Now Houston has its own UFO, or, at the very least, mysterious lights that someone managed to capture on Twitter video. As they’ve so eagerly done time and again, the Houston Chronicle was all over the story, providing a wonderful slideshow examining the Unidentified Flying Object from every possible angle.

Texas By the Numbers

Home Base — Number of Texas locales named in Forbes‘s list of top cities for veteran careers: three. Houston’s rank: third. Dallas’s rank: ninth. San Antonio’s: tenth.

What Integrity? — The Texas government’s overall ranking from the State Integrity Investigation: 38th. Rank for public access to information: 48th. Lobbying disclosure: 45th. Electoral Oversight: 45th. State’s best categories: Internal auditing and state budget processes. Rank: 4th.

White Housing — Rate of white home ownership in Texas: 58.8 percent. Portion of white housing occupation in Texas: 51.8 percent. Hispanic home ownership: 27.7 percent. Portion of Hispanic housing occupation: 30.6 percent. Black home ownership: 8.3 percent. Portion of black housing occupation: 12. 5 percent.

Daily Roundup

Mass Indictments — The grand jury for Waco’s biker shootout in May has finally issued indictments, and pretty much everyone identified has some ‘splainin to do. After “a marathon nine-hour session,” the McLennan County grand jury issued 106 indictments, according to the Waco Tribune-Herald. That’s a 100 percent success rate by the prosecution presenting the cases! So what about the 80 bikers arrested after the incident who weren’t included in those indictments? Don’t worry, say officials, “the grand jury will return to consider charges against the other 80 bikers arrested on identical charges.” As the story notes, “the indictments, like the arrest warrant affidavits filed to support the 177 bikers arrested, are identical” alleging that “the defendants engaged in organized criminal activity by intentionally or knowingly causing the death of an individual,” which is a first-degree felony. The hours-long grand jury session was necessary to ensure the bikers and their associates were indicted before the 180-day mark of the shooting, after which there could have been “a flurry of motions from attorneys seeking relief for their clients.” Despite the criticism surrounding the slow process with the indictments, McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna is unfazed. “I’m not worried about the people on social media. I’m worried about the facts, the law and the evidence.”

Impossible is Nothing — Just how much does Port Neches-Groves ISD love its controversial Indian Spirit mascot? So much that they would rather keep it than accept money and support from one of the word’s most famous sports brands. “Adidas, a German multinational sportswear corporation, announced last week that it would give free design resources and financial assistance to any of the about 2,000 high schools in the country that use a logo or mascot drawn from Native American imagery or symbolism,” according to the San Antonio Express-News. The response from PN-G Superintendent Rodney Cavness, was unequivocal: “Changing it would be tapering down to political correctness of leftist extremists and we’re not going to do that here,” he said. Fun fact: the ISD is 78.3 percent white and less than one percent Native American. Apart from his assumption that being aware of the issues and concerns of minority groups is somehow part of a plot by “leftist extremists,” Cavness probably isn’t totally wrong to question Adidas’s motives. “They’re all about making a dollar and selling a brand,” he said. “That’s what’s driving them to do it.”

A Safer Bet? — Odds on the Texas Racing Commission surviving just got a little better. “Gov. Greg Abbott has appointed two new members and reappointed another to the commission that regulates the state’s horse and dog racing tracks,” according to the Dallas Morning News, which calls the move “a hint of progress in the standoff” between the TRC and state legislators. The fight is over the TRC’s use of “historic betting,” a game not that dissimilar from slot machines. The TRC had its funding taken away, then restored, back in September. “It wasn’t immediately clear where the two new commissioners – Boerne businesswoman Margaret Martin and Borderplex Alliance CEO Rolando Pablos of El Paso — stand on the issue. The re-appointee, Simonton veterinarian Gary Aber, voted in favor of historical racing.” Based on comments by State Senator Jane Nelson, it sounds like legislators really don’t want to lose out on the hundreds of millions ($438 million in 2014) bettors drop on dog and horse racing in Texas. Last week, the Legislative Budget Board extended the TRC’s budget for another ninety days, though there are still plenty of kinks to work out. “Court documents are still being filed in the attempt to appeal a judge’s ruling that historical racing terminals weren’t legal. No decision on that is likely before the first of the year.”

Clickity Bits

Ted Cruz Has a Nearly Identical Perry “Oops” Moment During Debate

Star Recruits: The Real Reason Washington and Texas Are Tipping Off in China

More Secret, Jade Helm-Like Training in Bastrop!

Famous “Hug Lady,” an Armed Forces Favorite, Needs a Hug Herself 

Person of Interest in Texas Judge Ambush Arrested in Unrelated Murder

Texas Tech Dean Splits Over MBA Grade Change Controversy

Did we miss something? Got a hot tip? Email us at [email protected]. Or tweet @TexasMonthly and @ThatWinkler.

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  • space2k

    “tapering down to” ???

  • Jay Trainor

    …Internal auditing and state budget processes. Rank: 4th

    You’ve got to be kidding!

    How great is the audit and budget process helping taxpayers when THHC (just one among many commissions or agencies) has been riddled with scandals. Even Senator Jane Nelson says more work is needed in this area. For the last twenty years powerful well connected insiders have been feeding at the public trough and our elected leaders have either; not cared, turned a blind eye or been culpable themselves.

    No wonder the state auditor is resigning and what can we expect from an attorney general who’s under indictment? Where are the Bob Bullock’s when you need them to clean up the mess under the capital?

  • Mike Smith

    If you do the math, the District Attorney presented evidence and identified 106 people in 8 hour of real work time. Saying 8 hours is being generous. The grand jurors had to come into the room, be identified and given the orientation speech and then they all were excused to lunch and drifted back into work and then there was the closing of the grand jury and collecting the note pads and such out of 9 hours.

    Anyway, 8 hours is 480 minuted divided by 106 accused and that equals 4.5 minutes per accused to be identified in the videos or still photographs and that person’s criminality to be described and the jurors to vote on it.

    Not much time at all.

    Can’t be much to the indictments. It is a saving face move by the most untrustworthy people in the world.

  • Andrew Parks

    As both a graduate of Port Neches-Groves High School and a man of American Indian descent, I would like to address Dr. Cavness’s comments. First and foremost, I think they are entirely inappropriate. Any time a public servant, particularly one involved in public education, makes comments based in charged political rhetoric, I find it highly disappointing. It is particularly upsetting to me as an alumnus of PN-G not only because it crosses a vital ethical and professional boundary between partisanship and neutrality which our public servants are honor bound to adhere to, but also because it reflects so poorly on my hometown and a school district I am proud to have attended. While I personally consider myself a Republican and take issue with political correctness, Dr. Cavness’s comments in the Beaumont Enterprise were wholly out of line. I am not the only native of Port Neches and Groves that feels this way.

    The actual reason the team name “Indians” was chosen for the PN-G football team in 1925 is that the area now known as Port Neches was originally settled by Attakapa and Karankawa Indians, who lived there for approximately 1,500 years before abandoning the area around 1780. At the time the team name was adopted, Port Neches was covered in old Indian mounds which were slowly excavated by archaeologists over the years that followed and disappeared one by one. To this day, it is not uncommon to come across arrowheads and shards of pottery in Port Neches. I myself can remember finding some in my backyard as a child, which are still stowed away in an old desk in my room at my parents’ home.

    Over the years after we became the Indians, PN-G gained a reputation around the state of Texas for strong academics, excellence in extracurricular programming, a strong commitment to tradition and phenomenal community involvement in our schools; in fact, a book was written detailing the development of PN-G’s unique local culture in the early ’90s. PN-G has set numerous records for fan attendance at high school football games, including a national record set in 1977 that stood until 2012. Our fight song is very well known, as are our age-old traditions carried on by generations of PN-G students and the pride our community exhibits in our schools. It was because of this pride that in 1980, the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma saw fit to proclaim the Port Neches-Groves Indians honorary “Ambassadors of Goodwill” on behalf of their people. Make no mistake, our community considered that a distinct honor, noble privilege and sacred duty then, and still does today.

    As a young man who grew up hearing stories of how his great-grandfather, an illegitimate child of a Cherokee woman, faced struggles and trials all his life on account of his race, and whose grandfather kept his heritage a family secret to his dying day, I understand the underlying sentiments that people of American Indian descent hold on this issue. That said, I am also a graduate of a high school that uses the American Indian likeness due to strong historical ties to American Indians in the area, and which goes to great lengths to ensure that it depicts American Indians in an honorable and respectful way. I am proud of my high school for this. I reflect fondly on my high school experience, which like any such experience in Texas was dominated by high school football, and I will sing PN-G’s praises on this issue to my dying day.

    Dr. Cavness is not originally from Port Neches or Groves. In my opinion, Dr. Cavness probably doesn’t fully understand the importance of PN-G’s traditions or its duty to the Cherokee Nation. Frankly, I am embarrassed that he would choose to interject political rhetoric in place of an explanation of our history and how our traditions developed. Please do not take that as a reflection on all of PN-G. That is not us, and that is not the way want our culture to be represented on a grand stage. Please consume his statements with that in mind.

    • Jed

      so “political correctness” is OK when you’re part of the group being defended? a little empathy might go a long way towards fixing your “issue with political correctness.” it’s just possible that many, even all instances of political correctness – not just the one that benefits you – are also motivated by a concern for others’ plights.

      • Andrew Parks

        I didn’t say that political correctness was okay when I’m “part of the group being defended,” or in any case, for that matter. In fact, I explicitly said that I generally take issue with political correctness, and do not think the PN-G team name should be changed in the interest of being politically correct.

        • Jed

          but you DO think it should be changed?

          • Andrew Parks

            No, I don’t think it should be changed. I think Dr. Cavness’s comments were out of line and don’t accurately explain why it shouldn’t be changed, which was the point of my initial post.

          • Jed

            my mistake. i misunderstood your disagreement with cavness on tone as an indication that you disagree with him on the question. didn’t read carefully enough, i apologize.

          • Andrew Parks

            Don’t worry about it, man.

    • ᏣᎳᎩ

      Andrew, there are a lot of big problems from PN-G and as an alumni myself I have seen these problems. The biggest thing is cultural appropriation and the effects it has on the culture. When someone that lives and knows the actual culture comes forward and says they’re doing it all wrong and they get backlash with negative and disrespectful remarks, that is where the offense is taken and that is where the “keepers of goodwill” ends. Another big issue is PN-G uses a lot of material where the Cherokee Nation does not have a say that they can use it, such as warbonnets, double trailers, and especially “Geronimo” who was Apache. PN-G does not have permission from the nations and tribes that do use those, so they do not have a right. The thing about Native American culture is that each nation and tribe are different so you cannot just receive permission from one and take it as a free for all like what I have seen from PN-G.

      • Andrew Parks

        “Cultural appropriation.” The moment this hit the news, I had a feeling that was coming.

        I mentioned in my first post under this article that I’m a man of American Indian descent. Several generations back, one of my ancestors was able to get away from one of the reservations and all of the persecution wrought on American Indians by the federal government. The exact details have been lost to time, but what we do know is that for at least three generations after that, my ancestors roamed from town to town across Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arkansas and north Texas fleeing racism, falsifying census records and other government documents to conceal their heritage, intermarrying and looking for work anywhere they could find someone willing to hire a native hand.

        I grew up hearing the stories of how my great grandfather, who had prominent native features despite being mostly of white descent by that point in the family line, left his home town as a young man to get away from discrimination, and traveled hundreds to thousands of miles a year to find work. Despite having apprenticed under his father, who was white, as a blacksmith for his entire childhood, he was forced to settle for carpentry and manual labor and couldn’t inherit his father’s blacksmithing practice because, put simply, nobody trusted the work of an Indian blacksmith.

        He eventually married a white woman, and his son, my grandfather, was able to pass for white. My grandfather spent his entire life desperately hiding his native heritage for fear of meeting the same fate as his father before him and losing his livelihood. My grandfather went to his deathbed refusing to speak of his heritage with anyone outside of the family, and only rarely remarking on it within the family, normally with a sense of shame and embarrassment. My grandmother, also white, is still alive, and won’t talk about my grandfather’s heritage at all, even in this day and age. My father, who held a very close relationship with my great grandfather and learned more about the heritage while spending childhood summers with him at his home near the Cherokee reservation in Oklahoma, is more open about it, but doesn’t advertise it. I’ve chosen to break from the family tradition of secrecy by talking about it openly; in my opinion, it’s time to stop running and accept who we are.

        I say all of that to say this: this “cultural appropriation” concept is nonsense, an insult to what my ancestors went through, a complete contradiction of the underlying principle of diversity, and self-defeating for modern day American Indians.

        My parents once asked my great grandfather, by then in late eighties, why he refused to acknowledge his ancestry anywhere on paper, despite always keeping a personal relationship with Cherokee Indians living on the reservation in Oklahoma. His answer: “Because the Indians are the most persecuted people on the face of the earth.” He wasn’t referring to the Washington Redskins when he said. That persecution was extensive and horrifying, not trivial and virtually inconsequential. It came in the form of thousand mile long death marches, mind-boggling massacres and the rounding up of an entire class of people into small plots of the most undesirable, unlivable land available through dozens of military campaigns carried out over decades, all in a genocidal effort that, frankly, would make Hitler blush. To waste time and energy, and to try people’s patience, by reacting to a the names of a handful of sports teams as though they’re crimes against humanity is to equate those names to the horrors heretofore outlined, which is in itself a marginalization. Furthermore, it shifts the focus away from the history of what happened to the American Indians – to my ancestors – and trivializes those atrocities. In essence, you’re missing the forest for the trees.

        The definition of cultural appropriation is the adoption of elements of one culture by another. For the better part of human history, that concept has borne no controversy. England and all of her former commonwealth borrows her language from the Romans and the Germans. France and Spain, and by association their former colonies, borrow their languages from the Romans as well. Christianity borrows most of its holidays from a variety of predecessor religions. The European nations borrowed their ability to navigate the seas and many of their commercial traditions from the Arabs. Virtually every widely used custom in the United States has its roots in some European tradition somewhere. Most American music traces its lineage back to Europe and Africa. The idea of cultures trading characteristics has not only been common practice for centuries, it’s often been considered a mark of human progress; indeed, the underlying precept of the argument that diversity makes society stronger is the idea of cultures and sub-cultures sharing skills, customs, perspectives and characteristics. That renders this idea that “cultural appropriation” is inherently bad inert on its face.

        As applied to the mascots issue, the “cultural appropriation” concept takes a different turn. In essence, proponents of the theory argue that it objectifies and marginalizes the “appropriated culture.” I could not disagree more. To say that is to say that the use of the American Indian likeness by a sports team devalues and mocks American Indians. If anything, the opposite is true. The choice of an American Indian mascot isn’t motivated out of a view of American Indians as inferior worthy of mockery, it’s motivated out of a view of American Indians as strong, fierce, proud and defiant – all characteristics considered positively and worthy of emulation in our society and the sports arena in particular – and, as in the case of PN-G, out of historical connection.

        You say you’re an alumnus of PN-G. If you are, I’m sure you recall the statue of Geronimo in the main hallway of the high school donated by the class of 1960. Why do you think Geronimo was selected as the inspiration for that donation? Do you think it was to mock him? Or do you think it was because Geronimo is infamous for fighting back against the persecution of his people to the very end? Don’t you think it’s more likely that Geronimo was selected because the class of 1960 identified the characteristics of bravery, strength, pride and dedication he exhibited, and wanted to celebrate those characteristics in a manner that would exemplify them for the generations of PN-G students to come? Does that sound like mockery to you? It didn’t in the view of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, either; indeed, the letter written by their chief that accompanied the proclamation specifically indicated that he was impressed with the honor and pride with which we portrayed the American Indian likeness. Frankly, as both a PN-G alumnus and a man of American Indian descent, I agree.

        I’ve already mentioned in this thread that the original settlement of Port Neches by Attakapa, Karankawa and Nacazil Indians was the inspiration for the choice of the team name in 1925. I also mentioned the old burial mounds that no longer exist in Port Neches due to excavation. I bring that up now to point out that the signs of those original Indian settlements are now gone. The generations of Port Neches natives who follow will not see them, and unlike much of the rest of the South, they won’t be able to identify the historical connection by the city’s name; “Neches” is French in origin. How do you think they’ll know that history? How many Southeast Texans do you think would know who the original settlers in the area were if it weren’t for PN-G serving as a reminder? How would changing the name not be effectively covering up history? If the name was chosen to recognize and honor our historical connection, doesn’t changing the name amount to forgetting and dishonoring it? I think so.

        That brings me to how this push to end American Indian mascots is ultimately self-defeating for American Indian tribes. Whether you agree with my analysis thus far that there’s nothing wrong, and even a net benefit, to the practice, or think it’s wholly a bad thing, the reality in modern day American society is that the only interaction the average American will have with American Indian heritage outside of some vague mention in American history classes will come from two places: a movie theater and a stadium. We’re discussing the stadium here. Most of the groups against the mascot practice cite the image it portrays as their main concern. Realistically, what do we think is a worse image in the mind of most Americans: the mascot of their favorite teams wearing a headdress, or a civil rights group taking their favorite mascot away?

        The truth is that this isn’t a problem for American Indians, this is an opportunity. American Indian tribes constantly advocate for better education and greater awareness of the atrocities committed against them. I couldn’t agree with those positions more; I’m a wholehearted proponent of the Churchill philosophy regarding what happens to those who don’t know their history. What better way to accomplish that goal than partnering with the Redskins, the Chiefs, the Braves, the Indians, and the Warriors – all professional sports teams with multi-million dollar media enterprises at their disposal – to do exactly that? What would reach more Americans? A dedicated Smithsonian museum in Washington, or a dedicated American Indian exhibit in several professional stadiums around the country, fully funded national awareness campaign and an informational video at the beginning of each game? What has more educational value: protests and an occasional interview with the national media, or partnering with the dozens of high schools around the country who use the American Indian likeness to create a specialized curriculum to incorporate into their standard US history classes? How much more meaningful would that be?

        Now, since I’ve discussed Geronimo, who was Apache, and the Attakapa, Karankawa and Nacazil, who obviously weren’t Cherokee either, I’m sure you’d like to reiterate that PN-G only received “permission” from the Cherokee, and that PN-G has gone beyond the scope of Cherokee traditions.

        Let me start by saying this: PN-G didn’t receive “permission” to do anything. The Port Neches-Groves Indians were named “Ambassadors of Goodwill” (note: not “keepers”) on behalf of the Cherokee people. That’s not the Cherokee giving PN-G permission to use the American Indian likeness, it’s the Cherokee people naming PN-G an honorary representative of their sovereign nation. That noble privilege didn’t come with the condition that PN-G could only use Cherokee traditions, nor did it give PN-G a permit solely to use them since, after all, it wasn’t a form of permission to begin with. In fact, neither the proclamation nor Chief Swimmer’s letter mentioned anything about Cherokee-specific traditions. What they mentioned was the honor and pride with which PN-G carried itself in representing the American Indian likeness. It was, to refer back to my Geronimo analysis, the characteristics – pride, courage, tradition and so on – exhibited by the PN-G Indians that the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma identified with, not the specific traditions of PN-G.

        Now that we’ve established that the honor bestowed upon us by the Cherokee Nation is not “permission,” let me say this: PN-G doesn’t need permission to use the American Indian likeness, nor does any school, any more than Notre Dame needs permission to use the Irish likeness (which, by the “cultural appropriation” line of reasoning, is a much bigger deal, by the way; that said, also being of Irish descent, I don’t take issue with that either).

        Lastly, there’s one more thing I want to make clear. Nothing in my comment was ever meant to construe PN-G as being perfect. No high school’s perfect. I’ve brought up the potential for American Indian mascots to be used as teaching tools. My personal thoughts are that there’s room for improvement on that front at PN-G, and I’ve expressed that to the right people before (never received any backlash for that, by the way; honestly have no idea what you’re talking about on that front). If it’s not out of line, I’d like to extend to you an invitation to do the same – let’s be constructive and try to improve PN-G’s traditions, not eliminate them. That said, that alone is not enough for 90 years of proud PN-G history to be uprooted and destroyed.