Early in my career – right after some of the moisture dried behind my ears – I left a fairly large, well-known firm for a smaller one. I liked the higher pay with fewer meetings. The trade-off was, at the smaller firm, no one was getting paid to motivate me. It was a pay-on-performance kind of place, and after many ups and downs, that has turned out for the best overall.
That is the kind of decision you can make in a free society.
At the smaller firm, I met an older gentleman, all 6 foot 5 of him, who was both a World War II and Korean War vet. He was of that Scotch-Irish stock that is so common in Texas. Enlisting in the old Army Air Corps during WW2, he was too late to see combat. Sometime after V-J Day he was discharged. He went back to his small hometown and worked in a local bank. A few years later, as Communist-backed North Korea invaded South Korea, he enlisted in the U.S. Marines.
Sgt. Mack, as we called him around the office, was a little older and wiser than the average new Marine. He quickly earned his corporal’s stripe as we chased the Communist-dogma-inspired North Koreans deep into their own territory. Not much later, he advanced to sergeant. It was, after all, a war.
Unknown to our forces at the time, Chinese Communist forces infiltrated North Korea during the fall of 1950. Fortunately, Sgt. Mack and many other Marines, as well as elements of the U.S. Army, British Royal Marines and South Korean units, stopped the Communist 9th Army’s attempt to overrun us at a place called Chosin Reservoir in 35-below-zero weather.
Korea was the first large scale direct clash between U.S. troops and Communist forces. For years, we thought only Chinese and Korean Communist forces were involved. Since the fall of Communism in Russia, we now know that the Communist North Korean pilots were in reality, in many if not most cases, Russian Communist fighter pilots. In Korea, we were in direct battlefield contact with all the major Communist powers including the Russians.
Sgt. Mack cherished his freedom and earned his patriotism fighting Communists. He paid for it with his Purple Heart and the pain of his old frostbite that would return from time to time. He died in the 1990s.
Communism in its purist form not only demands that the state owns and controls all property, but also ultimately demands that it owns the individual citizen. What you do for a living, where you live, even what you say in public is all controlled by the state. For the most part, atheism is encouraged by those in power. Faith in a higher power is frowned upon. In effect, the government is to be the only authority.
Sometimes I fear that we are letting Communist thinking encroach too much into our system. Would we know it if it did, and how many would object?
In Communist countries, the media is controlled; its job is not to inform folks but to support the government. Journalists who do not comply may be punished or even killed.
Before settling into academia, a former journalism professor of mine worked for a U.S.-based media company and was sent into Communist-dominated Eastern Europe and Russia during what were called the Cold War years. I remember the day (sometime in 1981) that he lectured us on the fact that those who wrote for the media in those countries were not journalists in the American or Western European sense of the word but merely propagandists.
He reported that even saving newspaper clippings was not allowed, as the facts in news stories were often changed on a day-by-day basis to serve the interests of those in power. He knew of instances where old ladies had been sent to the Soviet/Communist version of a concentration camp, in Siberia, for wrapping their family dishes in old newspapers for storage purposes.
In Communist countries, the government owns you, right down to your old newspapers.
These facts should be taught in Civics and History classes in junior high if not in grade school, but evidently they are not.
Recently in Italy, Texas, parents were asked to buy shirts for their students in sympathy with a band program. The program had to do with Russian composers. Red shirts were ordered (the international color of Communism) with the words "RED" in capital letters stenciled in white over the red T-shirt. In the "D" of the T-shirt was the hammer and sickle, a symbol of Communism.
I have been told by an Italy school board member that the shirts were ordered from a UIL-approved catalog. How very sad on so many fronts. If that is true, this is far more than a local issue. Even Russia is no longer Communist. The Russian flag is now three-colored and no longer includes the hammer and sickle, the most hated symbol since the swastika of Nazi Germany.
Communist Gulags (concentration camps) and firing squads were responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of innocent people from Eastern Europe to Russia and China. Ironically in this case, teachers – as well as poets, political activists, the religious, and even old women who wrapped their dishes in newspapers – died at Communist hands or were beaten and starved, just short of death, in the lands of the hammer and sickle.
According to local reports, the offending Commie and possibly UIL-approved T-shirts are now gone, but how about the underlying problem? Italy, Texas, is a nice small town full of hard-working people. I’m almost sure we have no Communist teachers, so if this lack of historical literacy has taken root here, it probably has in other places, too. This is about more than T-shirts; it is about a dangerous philosophy and American apathy and ignorance.
If we do not even recognize the symbols, would we recognize the ideas?
Paul D. Perry This article was originally published, in a slightly different version, in the Waxahachie Daily Light
Lucky is from mixed cow-dog stock. She appears to be mostly Australian shepherd. Her coat is a mixture of dark gun-metal grey over a lighter grey. Then there are a few white streaks that mark her years. Lucky is about 13; she came to us as a puppy. A married couple who manage ranches for a living gave her to my eldest daughter when she was 10.
That eldest daughter and her husband have recently made me a grandfather. Lucky has quite a history with us.
Our older kids are starting to leave the nest. They leave their dogs behind, and that’s not a problem. An older dog that was not raised in an apartment or a starter home with a small yard may not adjust well to change. We have a few acres, and the dogs know where their home is; I think they have a good life here. I suspect the canines might agree. They also have each other.
We were an eight-child, four-dog household before our kids started to leave the nest. That is an excessive number of pooches, but to hold the child to dog ratio at 2:1 isn’t too bad. Right now, the child to exotic lizard category is only 8:1. If you don’t have children, you might not understand the math.
Lucky is probably deaf, and I suspect her eyesight is slipping. She’s not totally blind yet, because she reads lips and understands some hand signals. She has some arthritis in her hip and back. She appreciates a back rub now and then. Don’t we all.
When Lucky was about 2 years old, I noticed a few pieces of pizza missing from a pie that was laying on the kitchen counter. After polling the household, it was determined that Lucky was the culprit. I scolded and disciplined her. A few weeks later, I noticed that a slice of pizza was hanging partially off the same counter. This time, only the toppings were missing. I temporarily called her Misdemeanor for a while after that.
When Lucky was about 3, we lived in the Red Oak area, in a relatively new home. After we converted the garage into a bedroom for my two oldest daughters, I had a propane heater installed in order to supplement our central heating unit.
I bought that heater from a local firm that had reconditioned it, and I had it installed by a licensed plumber. We never ran the heater all night, and we only used it on exceptionally cold nights before the girls went to bed. We also had gas sensors and smoke detectors for added safety.
One cold night, I started that heater before the girls went to bed. We were in the living room. I don’t remember if we were watching TV or playing board games, but I heard barking and growling. Lucky typically didn’t bark without a reason.
I walked back to the girls’ room, and the entire heater almost to the wall cut-off valve was engulfed in flames. There was furniture near. The flames were too hot to get to the cut-off valve. I grabbed an oven mitt from the kitchen, reached briefly through the flames and shut the gas off.
Everything was OK.
I remember Lucky sitting on my daughter’s top bunk bed barking and growling encouragement. No doubt she prevented a disaster. A few minutes more and the ceiling and/or the attic might have been involved in the fire. Lucky has earned every meal since.
Her best friend is Ranger, an aging half-Ridgeback, half-Catahoula, but still 90 pounds of brute. He was my oldest son’s dog at one time. Ranger is about Lucky’s age but enjoys pretty good health.
I office at home most of the time. One morning this past week, I coaxed Lucky outside. As she crept through the door to the great outdoors, Ranger touched her muzzle to muzzle and gently pushed her up against my Buick. I watched as Ranger checked both to his left and right and then gazed out into the pasture. Then he let Lucky proceed into our yard. All the while, Ranger stood guard.
Was it respect, concern or fondness? Too often we attribute human-type thinking to animals. Maybe it’s just that Ranger picks up on the fact that I think Lucky made her place with us on a winter night years ago.
This article was first published in the Waxahachie Daily Light
Devastating wildfires across Texas in recent weeks have been the most visible evidence of a yearlong drought that Texas officials have declared to be the worst on record. Behind the highly visible carnage caused by the fires, the drought also has inflicted a toll on the Texas economy that will have long-term ramifications across the state.
The dry, hot conditions have placed severe strains on the ranching and farming industry, as well as threatening our recreational hunting and fishing sector.
Experts with the Texas AgriLife Extension at Texas A&M University estimate that the drought has cost Texas $5.2 billion in crops and livestock. In fact, many Texas ranchers may be forced to go out of business as a result of the devastating weather conditions.
The drought has killed much of the grass used for grazing, and ranchers are faced with a choice: They sell off their starving cattle before they've fully matured, pay unusually high prices for hay to keep their herd alive or move their herd out of state where conditions are better.
Almost all the hay for Texas ranchers is coming from out of state, and officials with the Texas Farm Bureau say that the cost to transport a bale of hay is now more expensive than the bale itself. Meanwhile, some out-of-state hay producers are using the shortage to charge exorbitant prices.
Understandably, many Texas ranchers have opted to sell their cattle under these circumstances. One survey by the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association found that ranchers have sold off 40 percent of their cattle this year compared to an annual average of 5 percent to 10 percent.
Officials with the Texas Farm Bureau believe that percentage has gone up even higher in the last month. The Farm Bureau also reports that they are hearing from many ranchers who plan to leave the business for good after they sell off their herd. TSCRA's survey confirms that one in 10 ranchers have left the industry this year.
Farmers also have suffered. Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples reports that cotton farmers have lost $1.8 billion because of the lack of rain; lost revenue from hay is $750 million; and corn losses are $327 million.
Officials with the Lower Colorado River Authority recently announced that they may be requesting permission to cut off water to farmers downstream of Austin because water reserves are so depleted. If that happens, rice farmers in Matagorda, Wharton and Colorado counties could see losses of $75 million and the elimination of 1,000 farm labor jobs, according to a report in the Austin American-Statesman.
Even hunting and fishing, one of Texas' most beloved pastimes, could take a hit. Wild turkeys and deer are struggling to find water to drink and moist foliage to eat, according to Kirby Brown of the Texas Wildlife Association, who reports that fawn production will likely be down. Before discounting this as just an inconvenience, consider that hunting and fishing is a nearly $9 billion industry in Texas according to a 2006 study.
The economically harmful effects of the drought are compounded by the fact that it is taking place as we face the most serious recession since the Great Depression. The stagnant national economy is driving up unemployment across the country, including Texas.
Making matters even worse is that some of the regions of Texas with the highest unemployment — the South Texas counties near the Rio Grande — are regions where farming and ranching play a large role in the local economy.
The economic damage done by this drought will be long-lasting even if rain comes soon. Ranchers forced to sell off cattle before reaching their peak value can never recover that loss and replenishing their lost inventory will take major capital investments. The farmers and hunting-related businesses who lose income can't make it back when the rain returns.
The $5.2 billion of losses in crops and livestock that the drought is said to have cost is a conservative estimate. It doesn't include fruits, vegetables or peanuts. Nor does it include the indirect impact of the drought that has been especially pronounced in regions where agriculture is the largest sector of the economy. Businesses that sell feed, fertilizer, seed, heavy machinery and other agricultural supplies are adversely affected by these negative conditions.
Texas has fared better than any other state during the current economic challenges and has led the way in private sector job creation over the past decade. That is due in part to our strong agriculture sector, which has always played a vital role in our state. One out of every seven jobs in Texas is tied to that sector.
But this devastating drought has imparted serious and real damage. Texans must be prepared to deal with the long-term economic and human costs of this drought for years to come.
Tom Pauken is Chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission and author of Bringing America Home.
In the 17th century, the leading empires of Europe went about carving up the New World. Their motives were varied, some despicable and some quite lofty. If we reduce most of them into categories called God, Gold and Glory, you begin to see what I mean. While Spain most clearly evinced the latter two, and everyone knows the English sought religious freedom, those are gross oversimplifications. Spanish missions served a dual purpose of fortification and care/conversion of the Indian. The Spanish ultimately established legal protection for Indians within its system too, whereas the English kept Indians outside domestic legal protections by establishing frontiers of exclusion. The English did go about establishing New Israel in New England, but they also desired and acquired land and established commerce for profit as much as piety. Moreover, the Puritan dream was sullied some, by Salem’s famous panic over witches in 1691-3.
Still it would be hard to find a more beautiful vision, than that which launched New England—and America. Governor John Winthrop captured it in a sermon he delivered aboard his ship Arbella. Before his followers could even touch shore, they were thoroughly instructed in “A Modell of Christian Charity” (1630). The model was covenantal, devoted to constructing a community at Massachusetts Bay Colony based upon the word of God:
Now the only way to . . . provide for our posterity, is to follow the counsel
of Micah, ‘to do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God.’ For
this end, we must be knit together . . . as one man. We must entertain each
other in brotherly affection. We must be willing to abridge ourselves of our
superfluities, for the supply of others’ necessities. We must uphold a familiar
commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We
must delight in each other; make others’ conditions our own; rejoice together;
mourn together; labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our
commission and community in the work, as members of the same body. So
shall we keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. . . .
Indeed, Winthrop not only had a way with words—he lived what he preached. He knew what it was to mourn together: his small son Henry drowned in a river within a few days of their arrival. When Winthrop’s wife Margaret arrived the following spring, she brought news that two more of their children had died, including the newborn baby daughter he never saw. Winthrop also knew what it was to sacrifice: he paid out his fortune for the colony’s provision and re-supply, and he devoted the remainder of his life to the colony’s success.
John Winthrop remained confident that God would see them through. As he wrote in his shipboard sermon:
The Lord will be our God, and delight to dwell among us, as His own people,
and will command a blessing upon us in all our ways . . . . We shall find that
the God of Israel is among us, . . . when He shall make us a praise and glory that
men shall say of succeeding plantations, ‘the Lord make it like that of New England!’
For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people
are upon us.
And so they were, and so they have remained. Ronald Reagan was the last president to explicitly reference this ‘Shining City upon a Hill’—a reference that originally comes from Matthew 5:14, which has come to mean everything good America hopes to be or strives to become.
Americans managed to carry forth the Puritan banner into the 18th century and beyond: the sense of special mission, as well as the work ethic and self-discipline that goes with it. American experience would prove to be exceptional in this regard. Today Europe and England—indeed the rest of the world—look upon us for leadership and example. In large measure, this is because the Puritan vision embraced that role. The Puritan institutions of church, family, and community also evolved along lines that are uniquely American. The Puritan Fathers deserve a place of honor in our history, for their idealism and struggle—even if results did not always live up, in their time or ours.
Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford. Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he serves as State Director of the Republican Freedom Coalition (RFC). This article is from his newly released book, Horse Sense for the New Millennium available on-line at and from fine bookstores everywhere. Email: .
Virginia Tice seems like your average, sweet little 65 year-old lady in Bonneau, South Carolina—hardly the sort of person who would spark a First Amendment controversy.But that’s exactly what’s happened after she pulled her pickup truck into a gas station on July 5, 2011 and got a $445 ticket from a local policeman.You see, Ms. Tice’s truck is decorated with a novelty item called “Bulls Balls,” a set of big, red fake testicles hanging from the truck’s trailer hitch.Like a similar product called “Truck Nutz,” they’re sold online as an expression of the truck’s (and by extension, the driver’s) machismo.They’re not popular with everyone; state legislatures in Virginia, Maryland, and Florida have proposed banning the fake testicles, and even the Dallas Morning News’ “Problem Solver” editor has fielded questions from north Texas drivers about the novelty items.
The ticket issued to Ms. Tice is for allegedly violating South Carolina’s obscene bumper sticker law, which provides that “A sticker, decal, emblem, or device is indecent when taken as a whole, it describes, in a patently offensive way, as determined by contemporary community standards, sexual acts, excretory functions, or parts of the human body.”Bonneau’s police chief, Franco Fuda, is eager for a jury trial to determine the issue and stands by his department’s ticket-writing policies.Ms. Tice doesn’t want to pay the hefty fine (no jail time is involved), and her lawyer Scott Bischoff states “We’ll let a jury decide whether this is really criminal behavior.I don’t want to take away from the importance of free speech, but it’s really comical.”
I tend to agree.I’m no fan of big government telling someone how they can and can’t decorate their vehicle.If there’s no safety issue involved, I could care less if you have a bumper sticker, flag, or emblem professing allegiance to a school or sports team, expressing your political or religious views, or depicting a cartoon character urinating on the logo of a rival car maker.South Carolina’s law has been successfully challenged before on free speech grounds, and I expect this outcome to be no different.It takes (pardon the expression) real cojones to go up against the First Amendment; besides, the law as it is written shouldn’t even apply.It outlaws obscene depictions of human body parts, and Ms. Tice’s clearly pays homage to something belonging on a bull.
Lately, everybody seems to think their case is more important and earth-shattering than it really is.Sometimes, it’s up to judges to remind them that it’s not.For example, in July, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit handed down an opinion in an intellectual property dispute between Georgia-Pacific Consumer Products (makers of Quilted Northern toilet paper) and Kimberly-Clark Corporation (makers of the competing Cottonelle brand of toilet paper).At issue was whether Kimberly-Clark’s brands of tissue infringed on Georgia-Pacific’s quilted design.In his ruling, Justice Evans voiced some surprise at the extent of the legal combat over a product that is such a mundane part of life:
We are told that during the “expedited” discovery period leading up to the district court decision we are called upon to review, some 675,000 pages of documents were produced and more than a dozen witnesses were deposed.That’s quite a record considering, again, that this case is about toilet paper.
ustice Evans went on to have some more fun with the subject matter of the lawsuit, noting that although the trial court judge had “dutifully plied her opinion,” the appellate court must “now wipe the slate clean and address Georgia-Pacific’s claim.”Nicely done, Justice Evans—you were on a roll, and no doubt the winning paper company was flush with success.I’m sad to report that shortly after this opinion was published, the venerable and witty jurist passed away).
In the same month, our own Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals unloaded with a “benchslap” against a would-be cheerleader, her mother, and their attorneys who had taken a situation out of the movie “Mean Girls” and made a federal case out of it.In Sanches v. Carrollton-Farmers Branch I.S.D., the justices expressed little interest with the teen soap opera taking place at CreekviewHigh School:
Reduced to its essentials, this is nothing more than a dispute, fueled by a disgruntled cheerleader mom, over whether her daughter should have made the squad.It is a petty squabble, masquerading as a civil rights matter, that has no place in federal court or any other court.We find no error and affirm.
The court also had some choice words for Sanches’ attorneys, calling their brief “unprofessional,” “so poorly written that it is difficult to decipher what the attorneys mean,” and filled with typos and “miscues [that] are so egregious and obvious that an average fourth grader would have avoided most of them.”Ouch!
And then there are those lawsuits that just make no sense to me, and which give the legal profession a bad name.For example, recently a product liability lawsuit was filed in federal court in the Eastern District of Texas (Texarkana Division).The parents of a Texas high school cheerleader are suing because their daughter was seriously burned while attending a campfire with some high school friends.A boy attempted to reignite the campfire by pouring gasoline.Did they sue the boy?No.They sued Blitz U.S.A., the manufacturer of the gas can, saying that there must be a safer alternative design that could have prevented such an incident, and that Blitz should have warned about the possibility of a fire like this occurring.Seriously?Some idiot pours gasoline on a fire, causing out of control flames, and it’s the fault of how the gasoline can was made?You’ve got to be kidding me.It’s gasoline, for crying out loud.Unless you’re appearing in a “Jackass” movie, you shouldn’t be pouring it on a fire.Why not sue singer David Bowie?After all, he once did a song called “Putting Out Fire With Gasoline;” maybe he’s to blame.
If that isn’t enough proof that the concept of personal responsibility is lost on some people, then consider this lawsuit recently filed in New York.Diane Schuler killed herself and 7 other people in a wrong-way collision on the Taconic State Parkway when she crashed her minivan into an SUV occupied by 3 men; toxicology reports indicated that Diane Schuler was drunk and high when the accident happened.Among the occupants in her car who were killed were three of her young nieces, ages 5, 7, and 8 respectively.So who would you expect to be sued?Shockingly enough, Diane Schuler’s husband Daniel decided to sue, saying the accident couldn’t have been the fault of an inebriated, stoned wife driving the wrong way—that would be too easy an explanation.Instead, he’s sued the state of New York itself, claiming that the highway was poorly designed and that it lacked proper signs (not counting all those “Wrong Way” signs, of course).He also filed a separate lawsuit against , the grieving father of the three little girls who were killed.I’ve heard of “the best defense is a good offense,” but suing your brother-in-law after your own wife kills all 3 of his kids seems like a monumentally stupid, offensive idea to me.
And you wonder why the legal profession gets a bad name?