If at First You Don’t Secede, Try, Try Again

January 27, 2013 § 1 Comment

Let the nonsense begin!

On January 16, Rep. James White, R-Hillister, filed House Bill 568, AKA the “Texas Self-Sufficiency Act,” which would require the state to study the effects of cutting financial ties with the federal government. White says he filed the bill because the state needs to be prepared for the possibility that the federal government could not meet its financial obligations because of “fiscal dysfunction” in Washington, D.C. Which prompts the Old Curmudgeon to offer up an alternative moniker for HB 568: “The Chicken Little Act.”

White’s bill would create a “select committee to evaluate the effects of reduction in or elimination of federal funding on the state budget due to federal fiscal policy; the state budget gets about a third of its revenue from federal funding.

“We always talk about 10th Amendment rights, but there are 10th Amendment responsibilities. If Texas is an independent nation or if we continue to be a part of the United States, which I am for, we still need to have a strong Texas,” he says.

“We love the United States. We want to keep the 50 states together,” White has insisted. “We do not support secession, though a significant group of my constituents do.”

Texas’ motto is “Friendship.” Perhaps that was true in 1930 when the Legislature adopted it. I wasn’t around yet to know for sure, but since Texas’ last lynching took place in 1935, I’m betting that then as now, friendship in Texas was selective.

HB 568 is not intended as a call for secession, White insists. Well, Honorable Representative White (As in “For Brutus is an honorable man”) the reaction of many other patriotic Texans (including the Old Curmudgeon) might be, “Methinks thou insisteth too loudly.”

BTW, the recent petition for Texas secession filed on the White House’s “We the People” website has received more than 125,000 signatures, although many of the individuals who have signed are not actually from Texas.

The Old Curmudgeon wonders how many of these co-signers have actually thought through all of the negative ramifications of secession (which far outweigh the few – if any – benefits). But that topic deserves its own time and place.

One of the highlights of this session is the general disregard our legislators have for the U.S. Constitution, some of whom, in addition to the White Knight, are proposing to illegally override several other areas of federal legislation for the “good of Texas.”

Jim-foolery like HB 568 crops up like Johnson grass or poison ivy every legislative session. And why, you ask? Because it’s part of the lege’s DNA, especially when it comes to monetary matters.

The Old Curmudgeon suggests the Texas Legislature adopt for itself a motto that truly reflects its wisdom (financial and otherwise) and moral fiber, such as:

In mĭnĭmis cauti, in maxĭmis negligentes,” or “Cautious in small matters, careless in great.”

And speaking of mottos, here’s one the lege should take to heart, if it had a salt lick of sense:

Vir prudens non contra ventum mingit,” or “A wise man does not urinate against the wind.”

Exploring the distinguished history of the lege’s fiscal wisdom could fill a book. Ol’ Curmudge will settle for recounting just a few of the more memorable moments, spread out over several installments.

Early on the morning of October 11, 1855, the adjutant general’s office and living quarters, a log cabin, was destroyed by fire. Adjutant General James S. Gillett was aroused by the noise of fire close to him. He rushed from his room to the adjoining, records room and discovered it and the archives in flames. The window shutter was open and had no doubt been forced open. The fire was burning so rapidly that Adjutant General Gillett was barely able to save a few clothes and get out alive.; in a few more minutes his sleeping apartment would have been enveloped in flames. If there had been a breeze the fire would have spread to surrounding buildings.

All the records of the office and a large number of important papers filed in the cases of applicants for relief were destroyed. It was the work of an incendiary, probably by some person or persons implicated in forgery schemes, regarding state land grants to army veterans, whose guilt would be found in the records in the Adjutant General’s office. General Gillett had carefully avoided having any fire kept in his room for some time past. As mentioned, the office’s window had been found open and the fire appeared to have been built on the floor. The fire created a very strong feeling of indignation against its perpetrators.

The House of Representatives had reported in 1852 that protection and preservation practices and procedures were insufficient to protect these valuable records and recommended an appropriation to rectify this shortcoming. The records, including the invaluable muster roles of Texas Revolution veterans, were also in poor condition.

A Col. Boggess, deputized by the House of Representatives, found one of two suspects, a man named Hines (also often referred to as “Haynes”), near Rusk, in November. Hines confessed, and in so doing, implicated John. J. Blankenship and B.J. Lewis, saying that they had promised him $1000 for burning the adjutant general’s office, but after he had fired the office, the pair paid only half of the amount promised. Warrants were sworn out in Travis County for their arrest.

Meanwhile, in December 1855, a fire at Johns and Gamble, painters, was only just contained. It almost destroyed the old treasury building. If it hadn’t been contained, there’s no telling where it might have spread. There was then some talk of organizing a fire company, but as the State Gazette observed, “The excitement will last a few days, then die off and not again be revived until another calamity will admonish the citizens of Austin of the utter insecurity of their property against the ravages of fire.”

A special committee of the sixth legislature reported on January 8, 1856, that the vague and uncertain testimony of military service then in effect for land warrant eligibility made it possible for dishonest persons to obtain a large amount of bounty and donation warrants by forgery. It was alleged that some of the parties concerned in the forgeries were responsible for the fire, so as to destroy all evidence against them.

Two years earlier Gillett had told the legislature of the importance of placing these documents in a fire proof building. Testifying before the committee, Gillett said, “Just then they were seized with a keen fit of economy and refused. They can now see the result of their unwise parsimoniousness. ‘Pennywise — pound-foolish.'”

As we shall see, that phrase, “Pennywise – pound-foolish,” will keep turning up like a bad penny in reference to our esteemed legislative “corpus dementis” in successive installments of this topic.

§ One Response to If at First You Don’t Secede, Try, Try Again

  • jessesublett says:

    Thanks for this one, Xeke. I’ve never heard of Rep. White before, and maybe this is his idea for making a name for himself. “Nimcompoop” is a name you’d think a politician would like to be known for, but there it is. He says that a “significant” number of his constituents do favor secession. It would be interesting to really get a head count on this, particularly if certain aspects of reality were explained to them. Perhaps by “significant” he means loud mouth, ignorant people, the kind who take up all the air and butt space in the room, as opposed to significant meaning a large number.

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