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  • Originally published 08/07/2013

    Tourists to Mexico still drawn by peyote trips

    REAL DE CATORCE, MEXICO – Gisele Beker, a 26-year-old Argentine, trudged for hours in scorching sun to the sprawling Wirikuta desert craving peyote, the hallucinogenic cactus that Mexicans deem sacred.Joined by three Mexican friends, Beker was living her dream as part of a new wave of tourists taking a trip for a trip — in this case to see where Lophophora williamsii takes her.“Did you strike gold yet?” she asked her Mexican friends anxiously after a 700-km trip as they searched the desert floor for the small, spineless cactus full of psychoactive alkaloids, particularly mescaline.The drug is technically illegal, but for centuries it has played a role in indigenous culture in northern Mexico and Texas, where it is part of transcendence and meditation for cultures such as the Wixarika, or Huicholes in Spanish — so much so that this remote corner of San Luis Potosi state has become a bit of a promised land for those who have trekked here to try peyote, despite the logistic challenges, since the 1960s....

  • Originally published 07/09/2013

    Glenn Hubbard and Tim Kane: The Great Wall of Texas

    Glenn Hubbard, dean of Columbia Business School, was Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush. Tim Kane is the chief economist of the Hudson Institute. They are authors of Balance (Simon and Schuster, 2013), an excerpt of which is the basis of this essay.Before their empire fell, the Romans built walls.They began by erecting barriers along the border following the death of the Emperor Trajan in 117 A.D., notably Hadrian's Wall, which belted Britain. Later emperors erected internal walls, even around the great city itself, to ward off barbarians. After 300 A.D., the Emperor Diocletian effectively converted the entire Roman populace into feudal serfs, walling them off from internal movement in a vain effort to stabilize the chaotic economy.Despite the cautionary tale of Rome, building walls, both literal and figurative, has remained a habit of great powers in decline -- the fateful course taken not only by Ming China, but also Soviet Russia, and even Great Britain.Sadly, many Americans are all too eager to repeat history....

  • Originally published 06/21/2013

    Audie Murphy, a Texas hero still missing one medal

    Audie Murphy, one of the most decorated soldiers of World War II, was awarded almost every ribbon and medal available. His name can be found on a commemorative postage stamp, a veterans’ hospital and even the Hollywood Walk of Fame.But Mr. Murphy’s home state has never bestowed its highest military award, the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor. And for the second time in two years, an effort to give him one has fizzled.Now family members and supporters are wondering if Mr. Murphy, who died in 1971, has been forgotten, along with other war veterans from what has been called the greatest generation.“I’m disappointed,” said Nadine Murphy Lokey, 82, Mr. Murphy’s only surviving sibling. “I think they had him in the history books at one time, but they’ve taken him out,” she said. If students do not learn about him “and people don’t talk about him, well, they forget.”...

  • Originally published 05/17/2013

    Amy Reading: How a Texas Paper Brought Down Billie Sol Estes

    Amy Reading is the author of “The Mark Inside: A Perfect Swindle, a Cunning Revenge and a Small History of the Big Con,” recently published in paperback by Vintage.Billie Sol Estes, the Texan con man whose exploits rattled the administrations of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, died in his sleep May 14. From a penniless background, Estes built up a $40 million West Texas empire of cotton, grain, real estate and fertilizers, and then lost it all when a series of newspaper articles in 1962 revealed that many of his dealings were fraudulent.

  • Originally published 05/15/2013

    German dialect in Texas is one of a kind

    The first German settlers arrived in Texas over 150 years ago and successfully passed on their native language throughout the generations - until now.German was the main language used in schools, churches and businesses around the hill country between Austin and San Antonio. But two world wars and the resulting drop in the standing of German meant that the fifth and sixth generation of immigrants did not pass it on to their children....Hans Boas, a linguistic and German professor at the University of Texas, has made it his mission to record as many speakers of German in the Lone Star State as he can before the last generation of Texas Germans passes away.Mr Boas has recorded 800 hours of interviews with over 400 German descendants in Texas and archived them at the Texas German Dialect Project. He says the dialect, created from various regional German origins and a mix of English, is one of a kind....

  • Originally published 05/06/2013

    Revisiting LBJ's Austin

    Long before Austin became a bustling hub of live music, technology and food trucks, it was a simple capital city, dominated by politicians and lobbyists. That city was the Austin of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s day. Though Johnson did not live in Austin for much of his life, the city made a mark on him from an early age. He was only 10 when he began accompanying his father, a state representative, to the Capitol, where he became enchanted with the legislative process.Johnson returned to the city frequently for the rest of his life, often for politics but also for refuge.“As soon as father landed in Austin, he began to feel relief,” said Luci Baines Johnson, 65, the president’s younger daughter. “Two days in the Hill Country did more for his soul than two weeks in the Caribbean would’ve done.”...

  • Originally published 05/03/2013

    A Loving Trip Back to a Different America

    The Trip to Bountiful Stephen Sondheim Theater 146 W. 43rd Street New York, N.Y.How many of us would like to take a trip to our own historic Bountiful, the town where we grew up and raised our children, but a town that has, over the years, receded far into our memory?That’s what aging Carrie Watts wants to do in Horton Foote’s sixty-year-old story about 1947 Texas, The Trip to Bountiful, a charming, splendid play about a woman in one era in Texas history returning to another.Carrie, a delightful old woman, lives with her last child, middle-aged Ludie, and his pushy wife, Jessie Mae, in a cramped two-room apartment in Houston. She yearns to return to the town near the Gulf of Mexico where she grew up, Bountiful, a place she has not seen in more than twenty years. She just wants to go back for a visit and tour the streets that she loved as a child and young woman.

  • Originally published 04/19/2013

    Waco: The City Where the Waco Siege Didn't Actually Happen

    Today, April 19, 2013, is the twentieth anniversary of the bloody end to the "Waco" Siege at the Branch Davidian's Mount Carmel compound -- a forlorn place that is, in fact, 13.8 miles east of the city of Waco.I do not know who was the first person to assign the name of "Waco" to the terrible events that took place 20 years ago. What I do know is that he or she did a great disservice to Waco, often pronounced "Wacko," as I have heard repeatedly whenever I tell someone that I was born and raised in the city.Let me be quick to own that Waco has had its share of problems, one of them a so-called act of God, a 1953 tornado that killed more than 100 people and blew away much of downtown. As a young boy, I watched from the picture window of my father's real estate office about one and a half miles from the eye of the storm. The day turned completely dark, almost black, and downtown was never the same.Then the feds closed a big Air Force base and a tactical fighter wing, and the people and the real estate market went, if not altogether south, then off to Austin, Houston, or Dallas.

  • Originally published 04/05/2013

    TX looks at Hispanic history

    CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — For most residents from bigger Texas cities, the South Texas city of Corpus Christi has always been a day-trip destination for a quick beach getaway. But often overlooked are the coastal city’s deep roots in Mexican-American history, some of it wrapped up in the civil rights movement.And while Corpus Christi doesn’t have a huge number of museums or landmarks connected to Latino history, visitors can find plenty of interesting things to see, from an exhibit about a physician and civil rights leader to a statue of the late Tejano star Selena....

  • Originally published 02/22/2013

    Richard Parker: The GOP's Lone Star Blues

    Richard Parker writes for McClatchy-Tribune Information Services....Democrats are champing at the bit to turn Texas blue. “People are now looking at Texas and saying: ‘That’s where we need to make our next investment. That’s where the next opportunity lies,’ ” one Democratic state senator told Politico. There’s even optimistic chatter of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s capturing the state in 2016 if she runs for president....Texas was reliably Democratic for more than a century, from Reconstruction through the Lyndon B. Johnson years. Johnson ably — albeit cynically and sometimes illegally — harnessed the Hispanic vote to keep his more reactionary opponents off balance in primaries.But the liberal 1960s drove white conservatives into what was once a minuscule Republican Party. With the help of Rust Belt migrants in the 1970s, Republican strength grew under John G. Tower, Bill Clements and the elder George Bush.... 

  • Originally published 02/21/2013

    Besieged commander's 'Victory or Death' letter returns to the Alamo for first time

    A plea for help penned in 1836 by the commander of the besieged rebel Texas forces at the Alamo, in which he vowed "Victory or Death," returns to old Spanish mission for the first time Friday. William Barret Travis' famous letter to "the People of Texas and All Americans in the World," will get a police escort from the state archive in Austin to the Alamo, which is now in the heart of downtown San Antonio. The weathered, single-page letter will go on display for two weeks, starting this weekend, and will be kept in a special display cabinet and given round-the-clock guards....  

  • Originally published 01/24/2013

    Brent Budowsky: Hillary Turns Texas Blue

    Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.The Lone Star State is headed blue — the only question is WHEN Texas becomes a Democratic state. If Hillary Clinton runs for president, she will have a fighting chance of carrying Texas, which shares revolutionary demographic trends rewriting the rules of politics, and of creating opportunities for Democrats to regain control of the House and achieve a national realignment of Rooseveltian magnitude.