Texas got a high grade this week and took fifth place in the "Top States for Business" in a CNBC study. (Yay! Business!) But before you order the cake and call everyone to the break room, you need to check another title we received in the same study: "Second-Worst State to Live In." That's pretty much a solid "F" on the report card. 72 out of a possible 325 points in the "Life, Health and Inclusion" category, so maybe cancel that cake.
That's right, dear readers, Mississippi finally has someone to look down on, and it's us. (Arizona was the worst state, and Mississippi didn't even make it to the bottom ten. Take that, haters.) "We're 49! We're 49!" (or I guess #2 if you go with the inverted scale?)
That is why CNBC’s annual America’s Top States for Business study pays particular attention to quality of life. Now, with workers increasingly holding the cards, it is especially important in our methodology.
Our Life, Health and Inclusion category considers factors such as crime rates, environmental quality, and health care. For the first time in 2022, we also consider the availability of childcare, which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found is a major obstacle for parents seeking to reenter the workforce.
We also consider inclusiveness of state laws in areas like protections against discrimination and voting rights. That’s not politics, it’s business.
Many Gen Z and millennial workers will turn down jobs that don’t match their values, Deloitte found. If you need workers, you want to be in a place they are willing to go to.
Another study that came out today smears a little more poo on our glossy self-image. A Texas House Committee released its report on the recent Uvalde elementary school massacre. According to the Texas Tribune,
No one was able to stop the gunman from carrying out the deadliest school shooting in Texas history, in part because of “systemic failures and egregious poor decision making” by nearly everyone involved who was in a position of power, a new investigation into the shooting has found.
The 77-page report, reviewed by The Texas Tribune, provides a damning portrayal of a family unable to recognize warning signs, a school district that had strayed from strict adherence to its safety plan and a police response that disregarded its own active-shooter training.
In total, 376 law enforcement officers — a force larger than the garrison that defended the Alamo — descended upon the school in a chaotic, uncoordinated scene that lasted for more than an hour. The group was devoid of clear leadership, basic communications and sufficient urgency to take down the gunman, the report says.
Notably, the investigation is the first so far to criticize the inaction of state and federal law enforcement, while other reports and public accounts by officials have placed the blame squarely on Uvalde school police Chief Pete Arredondo...
"A force larger than the garrison that defended the Alamo." Ouch.
In a somewhat related/unrelated story, The Houston Chronicle detailed a criminal case that went before Judge Franklin Bynum presiding over Criminal Court of Law No. 8 this last week. Defendant Guido Herrera walked into the tony Galleria Shopping mall in Houston with an assault rifle on Feb. 5th of this year along with 120+ rounds of ammo and a loaded handgun. Dressed in "tactical" pants, gloves, and a shirt with the vigilante "Punisher" skull logo, all under layers of black baggy clothing, he was nearing the Westin Galleria Conference Center where hundreds of young girls were competing in a dance competition. He had an AR-style rifle in one hand, and a bible in the other. Because of course Guido did.
According to the Chron:
Radio traffic warning of an armed man made it to an off-duty Houston police sergeant working a security job. That sergeant quickly found and tackled Herrera to the ground before he could reach the Westin Galleria conference area, a brave act on Feb. 5 that may have thwarted a mass shooting, according to prosecutors.
He had bookmarked the Old Testament scripture he clutched to a Genesis passage about Sodom and Gomorrah, officials said.
(In a different incident, our pal Guido drove to a local FBI office and asked to speak with the "FBI Director." When it was noticed that he was armed, he was arrested. He was a month overdue for his original court date.)
The prosecutors threw the book at him. All two misdemeanor counts - disorderly conduct and unlawful carrying a weapon. The sentence? Six months in the Harris County lockup. (He would get another year tacked on for the FBI incident.) This was the maximum that all involved could come up with. In total, he'll spend another year in jail w/ credit for time served. Remember, carrying long guns is legal in Texas - prosecutors had to make a case that he was carrying them in "a manner to cause alarm."
His defense attorney, Armen Merjanian (or "Armen the Hammer" as he is known on his Insta page,..)
"...advocated for his client’s right to possess the weapons he had during both arrests — the latter of which was a bond violation.
When it came to the defense to argue for a lesser sentence, the lawyer accused the judge of not liking guns — a remark that prompted Judge Bynum’s ire as inappropriate and inaccurate.
The Galleria, which is private property, prohibits firearms. Police officials noted in court records that the Galleria outlines its firearm policy on its website and at the mall entrance.
“He’s a gun-loving Texan,” Merjanian said. “He has a right to possess these weapons whether we like them or not.”
Guido the shooter had been only feet away from the door to the young girls' dance competition.
Again: Without having massacred a crowd at the mall, he was going to serve only a few months on misdemeanor charges. (As an Argentine national, Guido will also be tossed out of the country.)
A cop/security guard tackled him, and literally wrestled the guns away from him. It happened in seconds. He never pulled his service weapon because he feared it would cause a panic, and he wasn't sure he had enough time. He just lunged, grabbing the barrel of the long gun.
In Uvalde, 376 law enforcement personnel stood around for an hour as 19 kids (and 2 teachers) were slaughtered or bled out, awaiting help.
"We're 49, We're 49."
We've got a great issue this week, with some great stories.
We have yet another guest columnist, and a great story behind her addition here.
A week or so ago, a FB post from a female friend of mine threw out an angry rant on how the patriarchal control by old white dudes led us to the reversal of Roe v Wade... etc etc. Now, as an oppressed and constantly persecuted (!) old white dude, I have a pretty thick white skin. I admitted as such... and that she was free to berate all of us old, white codgers. Because there is a LOT of historical and contemporary truth to the accusations. But in the interest of political reality (no, really) I gently (no, really) pointed out that about half of the MAGA movement (or certainly GOP voters) are women. And also that Supreme Judge Am Barrett has, so far, identified as a female. And maybe while we moderate and left-leaning guys work on our fellow less-enlightened geezers, there were plenty of gals that were voting consistently for the pro-life agenda who needed a good talking-to, maybe by fellow gal-pals.
You, of course, know what happened next. As with all things social-media, no minds were changed. My comment made her even angrier (surprise!) And then, a miracle: I chose just to let it go (bigger surprise!)
But within the hour, another good friend of mine posted an amazing article which was my counter-comment writ large. This other friend was not just a left-leaning social-media poster... she works as a public defender at the appeals court level, and more importantly, did a lot of pro-bono work escorting young (usually underage) women that wanted to get an abortion, but who were afraid to obtain parental consent. In cases like those, girls and young women needed to go before a judge to determine if they were sufficiently mature enough to make such a determination. My friend has horror stories about what these girls had endured... rape, incest, etc. (In light of the Dobbs case, I'm not sure what will happen to cases like that - I'm assuming that abortions will be illegal for them as for everyone else.)
Later that same day, someone else shared the same article. "An Open Letter to American White Women on Roe v Wade" was written by M. Yvonne Taylor.
Just a couple of days later, Outlaw Writer Myra Jolivet sent me an email, letting me know that she had another candidate for a guest writer. It seems that a woman that had babysat her kids after a tough divorce had a couple little girls of her own who would sometimes come over. One of those little girls was Yvonne Taylor, and she was currently finishing a PhD and did some amazing writing from time to time, I should contact her! Couldn't believe it. But wait, there's more...
Part 2 of that... Yvonne was looking at the Outlaws writer list and saw John Nova Lomax's name. She told Myra that John was a friend of hers way back when but that they'd lost touch w/ each other. Myra explained that in fact, John had been in the hospital... Yvonne came down to Houston to check in w/ John and was able to visit him in the hospital.
It's a pretty small world, kiddies.
Yvonne was happy to share her "Open Letter to White Women" article. It's a powerful piece. (And, don't worry whyte ladies, she includes us old patriarchal whyte dudes in her criticism.)
While we're discussing some nation-changing happenings, Roger Gray wonders why America is in a perpetual state of high dudgeon over a collection of trivial things and stupid people. Don't we have bigger fish to fry?
(Spoiler alert: we do.)
It's been a rough few weeks.
So this week we have a few really fine feature stories that might take your mind off of some of the more dreadful current events.
DeeceX can't get over the pictures coming back from the James Webb Space Telescope. Like so many of us, there was a time when he dreamed of becoming an astronaut. And now, seeing pictures of starlight from essentially billions of years ago... we are again awestruck. And inspired in new and completely different ways.
I want to say it was from one of those movies where Willie Nelson took a turn as a movie star. I'm having trouble sourcing the exact movie, but there was a great line regarding manly footwear here in Texas. I recall Willie answering the question about the secret to happiness. He replied, "Good boots and cream gravy." And by God, if Willie didn't say it, he should have. At least I just did. And Michael-V. returns with another great guest column... about the simple, perfect joy of a pair of good boots. There's really not much need for anything else. 'Cept maybe some cream gravy.
James Moore has confined himself out in Marathon, TX for the last few weeks "to get some writing done." "Confined" out in West Texas is a relative term, and Moore has expanded his boundaries to pretty much anywhere west of the Pecos. Which, like always, is lucky for us. He and DeeceX and some pals took in a game at the historic Kokernot Baseball Field in Alpine, Texas. You know those athletes that say, "I'd be playing this game even if I didn't make any money doing it." Well, there are some guys that mean that.