Everything is Big in Texas


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NASCAR’s season provides a test of drivers’ mettle and stamina, gumption and luck on a variety of environments. There are superspeedways and little ovals and intermediate tracks. There are winding road races and roaring straightaways ending g-force-popping banked turns. The circuit travels around the country, not only allowing fans from many markets (because this is business, you know) to spend lavishly at races. The season’s many stops throughout the country allows not only for a championship picture to become clear, it is also a barometer, a corn-dog-and-tall-brew’s litmus test of conditions both local and nationwide.

Ft. Worth, Texas, where Texas Motor Speedway is located—itself site of this weekend’s Saumsung Mobile 500–is a much different place, geographically and temperamentally and even spiritually than Daytona Beach, Florida, as Daytona is so different from Martinsville as Bristol seems apolunar to Atlanta, or Pocono from Sonoma, or Watkins Glen from Richmond. Each race is a different planet in the system, with its own specific gravity and gravitas. It’s hot or cold (where there are races in the winter and summer or spring and fall), it often rains or stays dry as a bleached cattle skull. Track conditions change, not only between tracks, but on the tracks themselves, as the race proceeds on any given day, as they age, as whatever Fortune (or Wynona, as she is known in NASCAR) doles out from what’s hidden in her phantasmagorical Daisy Dukes.

The distance from Phoenix, Arizona, where all the racin’ was last weekend, to Ft. Worth is not that far, not in the reckoning of the wide-open spaces of the fenceless – 850 miles. My first wife grew up in southern Idaho, and her family thought nothing of driving 2 hours to Pocatello just to get ice cream. Everyone’s car had over 200,000 miles on their odometer. Just a hop and a skip and jump over to Ft. Worth from Phoenix, Big Country Style; the tracks at Martinsville, Richmond, Charlotte, Atlanta, Bristol, and Darlington can all be reached in half that distance.

Such distance, such size is especially important to Texans. Nowhere else is there such girth envy.

Mr. Magoo gets off the plane when it arrives in Dallas. He goes into an airport restaurant and orders a cup of coffee. When the waitress arrives, she puts the cup between his hands. He says, “Wow, this cup of coffee is big!” The waitress replies, “Everything is big in Texas.” After enjoying a cup of coffee, the airport shuttle arrives to take him to the hotel. He climbs in and, naturally, notices the size of the seats. He says, “Wow, these seats are big.” The driver says, “Everything is big in Texas.” He arrives at the hotel, checks in, and asks where the men’s room is. The clerk indicates that he should take a left. Unfortunately, Mr. Magoo is bad with directions as well as being shortsighted, so he instead takes a right and ends up in the pool room. After wandering around for a moment, he falls into the hot tub. He spends the whole night screaming, “No! No! Don’t flush! Don’t flush!”

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The big news in Texas earlier this week is that Texas Stadium in Irving—a suburb of Dallas–was demolished, by designed implosion. Home to the Dallas Cowboys for 38 seasons (and five Super Bowl Championships), the owners built a new, $1.5 billion dollar football stadium for the Cowboys in Arlington.

An 11-year-old boy named Casey Rogers won an essay contest by Kraft Macaroni & Cheese to win the honor of pushing the button triggering the stadium explosion. Rogers had started a charity providing food and clothing to the homeless.

Given the right amount of boom-boom, Texas Stadium went quickly, falling like some stricken T-Rex to go from football dynasty cathedral to piled rubble in moments.

Fans were sentimental about all the memories of Cowboy supremacy in Texas Stadium, but the move makes good business sense. Super Bowl XLV will be at the new Cowboys Stadium, with seating for more than 100,000 fans. The 3 million square-foot stadium (affectionately known as “Jerry World,” for Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, whose baby this project is the largest domed stadium in the world, has the world’s largest column-free interior and the largest high definition video screen which hangs from 20 yard line to 20 yard line. Jones told ESPN back in 2008 that he believed that one day, Cowboys Stadium would be as recognizable than the White House.

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In a state where everything is big, the biggest thing in Texas is not a thing or even a dream but an attitude, fuelled by ambition and its shadowy contempts. Like an egomaniac with low self-esteem, Texas is loud and proud and a bit too big for its boots.

Just like NASCAR.

Get down in your saddle and cool a while, and I’ll tell you how, and perhaps why: though I doubt any of my explanations will throw a drop of cold water on the fun.

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Everything is big in Texas. Texas is the second-largest state and has the second largest population. Texas has big, powerhouse sports teams. Its women have big boobs and its men strut around in expensive cowboy boots. (A Texan friend of mine once boasted that his lizard-skin cowboy boots cost 450 bucks. Apiece.) Texan politics is a mixture of major-league hardball and Texas death match wrestling. Late Cretaceous Texas was home to Alamosaurus, the largest dinosaur in North America and one of the largest dinosaurs of its time. The poker game which pays the biggest bucks in competition is, of course, Texas Hold ‘Em.

Tall Texans have Texas-sized appetites. You can order a 72-oz. steak at the Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, and if you can eat all of it, it’s free. Over at Arnolds, you can order a burger made of 20 lbs. of hamburger that’s pressed into a patty half an inch thick by two feet wide. At Big Lou’s Pizza in San Antonio you can order a 42” pizza and a 36-oz. margarita at Lee’s Taco Garage (also in San Antone).

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Big meat.

And for appetites further down, well: I Googled “biggest tits in Texas” and found   a gal named Shugar n Texas, a late 40-something a big gal around with 38JJ boobs who confesses a weakness for “men and chocolate and shoes, of course,” a stay-at-home-mom, “happily married” cam-girl aspiring porn actress whose hobbies include “playing in the pool and flower gardening, movies and sex.” Also there was Sheyla Hershey, a prettier breast monstrosity (34KKK) who had eight breast augmentation surgeries until she reached the legal limit in Texas for silicone in the body (about 2 quarts). Sheyla wants to earn for Texas a Guiness Book of World Records berth for biggest breast implants and has moved to Brazil to accomplish the feat. All for her home state, says the Houston wife and mother.

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Bigger ‘n’ hell and half of Texas: 38JJJ Shugar and 34KKK Sheyla.

Texas oozes -no, struts-with confidence. It’s big and bad and doesn’t take any shit from any uppity Easterner.

Especially from Washington, the uppityist, most dictatorial, step-all-over-my-Abilene-Black-Elk-cowhide-boots-and-I’ll-keel-ya mudhole of anti-Texan, anti-business, anti-Godamighty authority next to Gomorrhah or even, perhaps, New York City, whose size and attitude can make a baseball player the richest man in sports. (Alex Rodriguez got the largest sports contract ever at $25,200,000 from the Texas Rangers in 2001, but then the New York Yankees bought out Alex’s 10-year contract and offered him $27,500,000 for a ten-year contract in 2008. Every time Rodriguez steps up to the plate now, he earns $64,710.)

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Business is good in Texas. Its economy is huge (second largest in the country, 15th largest in the world). Forty-six of 500 Fortune 500 companies are in Texas. Texas has suffered along with the rest of the world in the current recession, but its fundamentals are a lot better. In 2009, Texas’ state gross product (GSP) declined more slowly than the U.S. economy – (-1.7 percent versus -2.5 percent). The unemployment rate in February was 8.2 percent compared to 9.7 percent nationwide. Miraculously, Texas has weathered the national real estate crunch without significant damage to property values, mostly due to strong consumer-protection regulation. (Texas law makes it difficult for homeowners to treat their homes as piggybanks, extracting cash by increasing the size of their mortgages.) The Texas state economy is the best in the nation—take that, Callyfornia, N’Ywark.

A Californian, a Texan, and a New Yorker, attending a convention in a little town just outside Las Vegas, were standing in a seedy bar enjoying a few drinks. The Californian grabbed his wine spritzer, knocked it back in one gulp, then he threw the glass against the back wall, smashing it to pieces. He told the other startled drinkers that the standard of living was so high in California that they never drank out of the same glass twice.  Next the New Yorker finished drinking his Manhattan, and threw his glass against the back wall. He loudly proclaimed that in New York not only were they all are rich from banking and imports, he too never drank out of the same glass twice. Next the Texan drank his beer, drew a revolver, and shot the Californian and the New Yorker. As he was returning the gun to his holster, he told the wide-eyed bartender that in Texas they had so many New Yorkers and Californians that they never had to drink with the same ones twice.

Business is good in Texas because Texans know how to do business in a big way. Texas is about as pro-business a state as you’ll find anywhere. According to Forbes Magazine, 20 of the top 500-richest Americans are Texans, earning their big bucks from everything from oil to hotels to Wal-Marts (Alice Walton is the richest Texan with some $20 billion buck in the bank), banking, pipelines, supermarkets, cable companies, football teams and, yes, salsa (Christopher Goldsbury, $1.2 billion). Fifty-eight Fortune 500 companies are located in Texas, more than any other state.

I’ve seen Texans do business, they go at it like no one else. I’ve been to press association conventions all over the country in relation to my job, staffing a tiny trade booth where I hawk my company’s wares to weekly newspapers. The New York Press Association is the swankest (The state buildings in downtown Albany are jaw-droppingly huge, and Saratoga Springs is old-school big-money.) I’ve been to the Minneapolis state press convention in January when it never got about ten degrees below zero. I’ve been to downtown Boston for the New England Press Association and in places like Lexington, Kentucky and Norfolk, Virginia and Portland, Oregon for the National Newspaper Association conventions, which move around the country.

All of these were good, but the best I’ve attended, hands-down, is the Texas Press Association conventions. I’ve been to three of them. They are cheap, extremely well-managed, convenient, and are a guaranteed sell. They’re always held at convention hotels located right next to the airport, hotels which offered on their adult movie channel balls-to-the-walls at all the right angles, not-just-the-curvatures porn for lonely business travelers long before hotels in the Midwest or Northeast. Those guys know how to do business—smart, efficient, effective, with a broad Texas smile and deep, deep Texas pockets.

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Texas Motor Speedway was built to make money. Erected in 1995, the 1,5-mile quad-oval track is not the largest on the circuit (it’s similar to Atlanta and Charlotte), but it’s one of the fastest.

“If you’ve every wanted to see NASCAR, go to Texas,” posted one satisfied customer at a track-rating site– “fantastic facility, plenty of parking, enough trashy junk food to satisfy any appetite, not too many queues and spectacular viewing.”

Monte Dutton wrote of TMS this way: “This glistening speed palace fits the Lone Star State to a T, from its biblical traffic jams to its full-of-himself president, Eddie Gossage. The national anthem was once sung by a cowboy named Woody who didn’t know the words, and he was pinch-hitting for the concert pianist Van Cliburn, who didn’t make his helicopter.”

Business was so good over the first eight years that a second race was added in the year. Two smaller, old-school NASCAR tracks – Wilkesboro and Rockingham – were closed to make room in the schedule for the Texas dates.

Ticket sales for Sunday’s Samsung 500 are flat compared to next year, but given the state of the economy — and the state of racin’ (remember, Bristol missed a sellout—by more than 20,000 seats00for the first time in 54 consecutive Sprint Cup races). TMS officials expect a turnout of 400,000 for the entire race weekend, with an attendance of 175,000 on Sunday. There’s a ticket price for everybody’s budget, according to Eddie Gossage, president of Texas Motor Speedway – ranging from reserved seats as low as $20 or a luxury condo. “It’s a fluid environment,” Gossage said. “If you just listen to your customers — whether they are individuals or corporations — they will tell you what they want.

Ever the promoter, Gossage was reported to have offered $100,000 to Dallas DJ Terry Dorsey of KSCS-FM to change his name to texasmotorspeedway.com. It turned out to be an April Fool’s joke, and it caught much of the major media with its news-hungry pants down. A perfect promotional stunt.

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Last year, Jeff Gordon won the spring Texas race after a dry spell of 47 races, and it was his first win in Texas after 17 tries. Gordon called the Texas track a puzzler for him: “I would say, at 90 percent of the tracks, I have a good idea of what I need to do,” he said. “At Texas, I was just frustrated. This was tough. The transitions off the corners are like no other. It’s the most challenging 1.5-mile track we go to.”

Since winning at Texas last year – it’s been his only win since 2007 – Gordon has been on a roll of sorts, finishing in the top 5 14 times and second in seven of those races. Texans hate be second to anybody, so maybe that makes Gordon a spiritual Texan.

And hell, Gordon’s big, Texas-rich, resting in a Texan’s usual penultimate spot on the Big List,No. 2 on Forbes’ highest-paid NASCAR drivers list ($28 million a year, including income from promotional deals, second only to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s $30 million).

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Big things can even call in small packages in Texas, or rather, bigness affects its smallest aspects. Paris is a city of about 25,000 located about 100 miles northeast of Dallas, up near where the state borders with Oklahoma. The town boasts the slogan, “The Second Largest Paris in the World.” It was first settled in 1826 and was a cattle slaughterhouse powerhouse, the city owning the largest facility. The city was also a major cotton exchange. Many wealthy Texans came to live there and built stately mansions. In 1998, Paris was selected as the “Best Small Town in America” by Kevin Heubusch in his book The New Rating Guide to Life in America’s Small Cities.

Big money – big shadow, too. The history of Paris is noosed by the reality of racism in the  Lone Star State. There have been many, many public lynchings in the best little Paris in the West. Been there all along, and not much has changed. On February 24, 2009, the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune profiled an incident at the Turner Industries plant in Paris, where “black workers say nooses, Confederate flags and racist graffiti have been appearing throughout the workplace for months.” (African-American workers there allege that the symbols were in place for much longer – several years — and though they complained, they said they were ignored by bosses or told to be quiet.

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Harry Dean Stanton in Wim Wenders’ “Paris, Texas”

The city found an awkward immortality in Wim Wenders’ 1984 film “Paris, Texas” and stars Harry Dean Stanton as Travis, who has been lost for four years and is taken in by his brother (Dean Stockwell). He later tries to put his life back together and understand what happened between him, his wife Jane (Nastassja Kinski), and his son Hunter (Hunter Carson). Paris, Texas is notable for its images of the Texan landscape and climate. The first shot is a bird’s eye-view of the desert, a bleak, dry, alien landscape. Shots follow of old advertisement billboards, placards, graffiti, rusty iron carcasses, old railway lines, neon signs, motels, seemingly never-ending roads, and Los Angeles, finally culminating in some famous scenes shot outside a drive-through bank in down-town Houston. The film is accompanied by a slide-guitar score by Ry Cooder, based on Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground.” Newsweek referred to the film as “a story of the United States, a grim portrait of a land where people like Travis and Jane cannot put down roots, a story of a sprawling, powerful, richly endowed land where people can get desperately lost.” The film won the Palme d’Or (Golden Palm) at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival.

Leave it to those far Easterners in Europe to besmirch a tiny jewel on the necklace of Texan pride which swings somewhat periolously from Shayla’s 100-acre cleavage.

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Speculation swirls that Paris Hilton has gone Texan with breast implants. Though she has long denied having them — “Years ago I asked my dad for a boob job and he said it would cheapen my image. So I decided not to do it,”  she once told the press – images on TMZ the other day sure gave the impression. Given other recent photos of the rail-thin heiress/party girl, the rumor seems like a fib, a Texas-size whopper.

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Paris, Texas, and Paris Hilton, Texas-style.

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Tall tales go with big Texas.

A Texan went to Chicago and thought he would buy a new “city” outfit. He went into Marshall Fields and when asked by a sweet young woman if she could help him, answered, “Yes ma’am, ya see, I’m from Texas and I want to buy a complete outfit.”

Well, her eyes lit up as she asked, “Where he would like to start?”

Well ma’am, “How about a suit?”

“Yes sir, what size?”

“Size 53 … tall, ma’am.”

“Wow, that’s really big.”

“Yes ma’am, they really grow them big in Texas.”

“What’s next?” she asked.

He replied, “How about some shoes.”

“What size?”

“Size 15 … double D.”

“Wow, that’s really big!”

“Yes ma’am, they really grow them big in Texas.”

“What’s next?”

“Well, I reckon I’ll need a shirt.”

“Yes sir, what size?”

“Nineteen and a half … 38,” he replied.

“Wow, that’s really big!”

“Yes ma’am, they really grow them big in Texas.”

She virtually glowed as she asked, “Whew … is there anything else I can do for you?”

“No ma’am , I reckon that will be all.”

Well she tallied up his bill while the Texan was counting out his money. She asked, “Sir could I ask you a question?”

“Yes ma’am, I already know what it is and the answer is four inches.”

She is astonished and blurts out, “Why, my boyfriend is bigger than that!”

Without so much as a stutter, the Texan replied, “Across ma’am?”

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Politics are big in Texas, which has given the United States four presidents – Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnnon, a Democrat, and the father-son duo of George H.W. and George W. Bush. Sorry, Lone Starrers: Virgina has provided the U.S. with eight of its presdents; but four is a lot more than that half-wit state of Hawaii, purported birthplace (there are rumors – OK, fibs – that A-rabia is more the location) of our current President, Barak “Saddam” Hussein Obamacare.

When Texas was a sovereign republic back in the 1830s (after successfully defeating Mexico for rule of the territory) it had four of its own presidents – Sam Houston, M.B. Lamar, Sam Houston (again) and Dr. Anson Jones. Texas (which back then included an what became Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Wyoming) was annexed to the United States in 1845. (Texas was really big back then.) Texas saddled up with the Confederacy (seceding from the Union just fifteen years after hitching up); at the end of the Civil War, most Texans were pissed at the disruption in trade and finance, and hitched their wagons back to the US of A in 1870.

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Two-time Republic of Texas president Sam Houson.

For a century after Reconstruction, the Democratic Party enjoyed electoral dominance on all levels of state government and in the Lone Star State’s representation in the national government. Democratic rule was dominated by a conservative white political elite that strongly promoted economic development, but that resisted change either in race relations or social programs for the poor. Tensions within the party over these issues were effectively muted until the civil rights movement and mounting tensions in national politics finally erupted into state politics in the 1950s. The parties began to change.

Republicans were not completely absent during this period, but their electoral victories were few and limited in scope. The most common successes were at the presidential level, where Texas supported Republican candidates in 1952, 1956, 1972, and in every election after 1980 as Republican strength grew.

Red elephants consolidated their position after the 2000 census when state Senators attempted to draw a congressional district map that would guarantee a Republican majority in the state’s delegation. The Democratic-controlled state House desired to retain a plan similar to the existing lines. Not surprisingly, this created an impasse. With the Legislature unable to reach a compromise, the matter was settled by a panel of federal court judges, who ruled in favor of a district map that largely retained the status quo.

However, the Republicans dominated the Legislative Redistricting Board, which draws the lines for the state legislative districts, by a majority of four to one. The Republicans on this board used their voting strength to adopt a map for the state Senate that was even more favorable to the Republicans and a map for the state House that also strongly favored them as Democrats had before.

In 2002, Texas Republicans gained control of the Texas House of Representatives for the first time since Reconstruction. The newly elected Republican legislature engaged in an unprecedented mid-decade redistricting plan.

Hardball. Texas has been Republican territory since. The state’s as red (in the Republican, not communist sense) as a dripping-rare 72-oz. Big Texan steak.

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Two-term Republican Governor Rick Perry is running again for the seat in 2010, and he beat his opponent Kay Bailey Hutchenson  on a populist, Tea-Party line, suggesting that Texas might secede from the Union – once again – if it tries too much to tell Texas what to do. Speaking at a Tea Party event in 2009, Perry said,

“There’s a lot of different scenarios. We’ve got a great union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that? But Texas is a very unique place, and we’re a pretty independent lot to boot.”

Hardball. To boot, there’s even speculation that Perry is planning a run for the presidency in 2012. Last week on the gubernatorial stump, speaking before the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orlands, he He exhorted the GOP to be the proud party of “no,” especially given Washington’s direction. Because Republicans, he said, know what government’s role is: “It’s as servant, not as master. It is as protector, not as provider…” He embraced Tea Partiers as people who are “bringing back America to its rightful place, people who understand what the Constitution is all about,” he said.

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Rick Perry speaks of Texas seccession at an Austin Tea Party gathering in 2009.

Like Republicans. But mostly, like Texans.

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For ARCA racers, this is a big weekend with the Rattlesnake 150 at TMS on Friday night. It’s the first time the series has returned to this track since 1998.

The last ARCA race – last weekend, on April 11 — was at Salem Speedway in Salem, Indiana.

Salem seats 10,000.

TMS seats more than 200,000. (Though how many of those seats will have bodies in them for the Rattlesnake 150?)

ARCA racer Alli Owens of Daytona Beach had her best finish (ninth-place) in the Salem race assisted by new crew chief Jeff McClure. Owens wrote in her Facebook Notes about the race,

… The 200 lap race put our #15 team through the most adversity you could imagine. I got hit under yellow and caused a tire rub, went a lap down, got our lap back from the lucky dog, took four tires and worked our way up to second, got shuffled back to seventh and then wrecked by Bryan Silas and went a lap down again, got the last lucky dog and then got caught speeding on pit road, and finally the last thing I want to add to that is every single wreck took place right in front of me the whole day! I managed to destroy all four corners of my race car and still come back and finish 9th on the lead lap! WOOOO WEEEE talk about exciting!!!!!

Looking ahead to Texas, she says, “Racing at Texas is going to be awesome. I struggled a little bit there at our test session, but I found my confidence at Salem. I’m really looking forward to carrying that over at one of the fastest tracks on the circuit. We’re definitely prepared and ready to go. My teammate Steve Arpin won last weekend, so hopefully I can bring Venturini Motorsports another win at Texas.”

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Alli Owens with a fan at Salem last weekend; Owens’ No. 21 ElectrifyingCareers.com Chevrolet after the race.

For the ARCA drivers, the experience of driving at a big track like Texas (they were at Daytona in February, and will race at Talladega on April 23) must be like that of the guys on the bus of the Class A Durham Bulls, imagining what it’s like to play in the big leavgues. In the 1988 movie, Kevin Costner plays Crash Davis, a career minor-league catcher who is brought in to coach a young pitching phenom named Ebby Calvin Laloosh (played by Tim Robbins) who has a wicked-mean fastball but no control. One day, as the team is make the long trek by bus to their next minor-league gig, Crash reveals that he one played in “The Show” (the major-leagues):

Yeah, I was in The Show. I was in The Show for 21 days once – the 21 greatest days of my life. You know, you never handle your luggage in the show, somebody else carries your bags. It was great. You hit white balls for batting practice, the ballparks are like cathedrals, the hotels all have room service, and the women all have long legs and brains.

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Minor-league catcher Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) advises rookie pitching ace Ebby Laloosh (Tim Robbins) in “on how to survive in the Show (the major leagues) in “Bull Durham.”

Surely racing at Texas must be like worshipping at a cathedral for the ARCA crew. Its Texas-style immensity blows away the tiny tracks which are their normal, barely-scraping-enough-together-for-the-next-race fare.

ElectrifyingCareers.com, a site which encourages careers in the electrical industry, is Owens’ primary sponsor. Nothing against these folks, but sponsors at the ARCA racing level are, well, rather obscure. Here are some of the other sponsors of cars at the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 from last weekend at Salem Speedway: Buffalo Wings & Rings (Patrck Sheltra, finished fourth); Anti Monkey Butt Powder-Advantage Chiropractice (Darrel Basham, 15th); American Legion-David Law Firm (Jerick Johnson, 21st); ApplianceZone.com (Brad Smith, 23d).

Hey, ya gotta do what ya gotta do. I’m sure the ARCA crew will be singing the praises of racin’ at the cathedral known as Texas Motor Speedway.

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The niceties of tea parties – think of delicate old ladies in lace and red hats tipping porcelain china cups to their red-purple-lipsticked lips – don’t come to mind when you see images of Tea Party rallies. They’re jostling, hostile and jingoistic, full of signs that read “I’m Mad As Hell” and “No Obama Socialism.”

Tea Party darling Governor Rick Perry is paying $225,000 to sponsor Bobby Labonte’s No. 71 Chevrolet for Sunday’s Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

“It seems every election cycle,” Ramsey Poston, a NASCAR spokesman, told the Houston Chronicle, “you see candidates from both parties looking to make that connection with NASCAR fans.”

Mr. Labonte’s car will also carry Perry slogans and will be shown across Texas in the days leading up to the race, beginning on Wednesday at barbecue restaurants in San Angelo and Llano. Mr. Labonte will wear a blue fire suit with “Perry Governor 2010″ on the front when he drives the car at Texas Motor Speedway.

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Gov. Rick Perry with Bobby Labonte and the No. 71 Chevrolet, festooned with an ad for Perry’s Texas gubenatorial / presidential?? race.

“I couldn’t be more excited to have Governor Perry on board the No. 71 for the Texas race,” Mr. Labonte said. “It’s always great for me to come back to my home state, and now I’ve got an even bigger reason to be able to connect to all of the fans and my fellow Texans.”

Governor Perry, a Republican who is running against the Democratic candidate Bill White, the former mayor of Houston, said he was sponsoring Mr. Labonte’s car because the two Sprint Cup races and IndyCar race in Fort Worth were among the most popular events on the state’s sports calendar, adding an estimated $300 million to the area economy each year.”

Perry is gambling, Texas Hold ‘Em Style, that Tea Party appeal will be a big draw among NASCAR’s base. Maybe he’s holding two aces with that sure knowledge, but Labonte? He’s currently 31st in the points, and finished 31st, 40th and 39th in the past three Texas races. Maybe Perry is gambling that folks will remember Labonte’s glory days, when he finished 3d in the first four races. Aces or deuces for Perry, that tax-drubbin’ douche, or Labonte, who’s still racing for glory at the fag-ends of a career?

Well, hell. Bobby Labonte’s a Texan (Corpus Cristi). The only Texan on the Sprint Cup circuit, too. Need anyone say more?

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Today is Tax Day. The Tea Party Express comes to the end of 47-stop tour today in Washington. Yesterday the Express was in Boston, site of the original Boston Tea Party. Speaking before a crowd of about 2,000, Sarah Palin (wearing a red leather jacket) accused President Obama and his Democratic allies in congress of backing policies that will produce “un-American results.”

“I’m not calling anyone un-American, but the unintended consequences of these actions — the results — are un-American,” said Palin. She resurrected a campaign flub of Obama’s to mock the president’s policies. “I want to tell ’em, nah, we’ll keep clinging to our Constitution and our guns and religion — and you can keep the change,” Palin said. The reference was to a comment Obama made as a candidate about people in economically depressed communities clinging to guns and religion.

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Sarah Palin addresses a Tea Party crowd in Boston yesterday. What’s with all the leather suits? Surely, big money’s involved. California Attorney General (and Democratic gubernatorial candidate) Jerry Brown is investigating Palin’s contract to speak at a state university. The Associated Press has reported that a copy of the purported contract, found in the trash bin by students, specified that the ex-Alaska governor get first-class airfare and three rooms at a luxury hotel.

CBS reported that Palin thanked the Tea Party Express group for “putting up with all the B.S. from the lamestream media.”

Maybe it’s lame to report this, but Politico recently reported that The Tea Party Express is not exactly a grassroots organization. Maybe this is splitting hairs and lame truth-seeking, but it was really the brainchild of a Republican political consultant in Sacramento seeking to “give a boost to our PAC and position us as a growing-force/leading-force as the 2010 elections come into focus.”

Lame too perhaps, but similarities between the Tea Party and the Boston Tea Party for which it was named (well, sort of – the “Tea” really stands for “Taxed Enough Already”) are thin. Both protest government bailouts of large interests – Bostonians of 1773 were protesting the English governments subsidizing of the British East India Company, making competition for the tea market impossible for the colonists. But the cry in 1773 wasn’t “No Taxation!” but “No Taxation Without Representation!” meaning that colonists would rather destroy the tea rather than conceded to the authority of legislature in which they were not directly represented.

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The Boston Tea Party. On Dec. 16, 1773, colonists dressed up as Indians boarded three British ships and threw their stores of tea into Boston Harbor in protest of the Tea Act, which attempted to expand the British East India Company’s monopoly on the tea trade to all British Colonies.

The Tea Party of today is a bit cloudier of purpose. Palin characterized spending as out of control and suggested the current administration had raised taxes, despite the fact that the ninety percent of Americans have gotten a tax cut under Mr. Obama. And ironically, the richest Americans which are monopolizing wealth in this country have the most to gain from making the tax cuts implemented by the Bush Administration permanent at the end of this year.

Saturation of wealth at the top is what’s robbing middle-class Americans of their livelihood, pushing them to the outer limits of suburbia. And seven out of ten jobs eliminated in the recession came from the blue-collar sector, a recession which, at root, was due to lax regulation of Big Finance going back to Ronald Reagan (not the TARP resuscitation of the economy in 2008).

One of the enduring ironies of American life is that while taxation in America is much lower than most other places in the world, resistance to taxation is the highest in America. And it’s also a strange truth that the very people who have the most to gain from the policies of the Obama Administration – the so-called blue-collar, working class poor – are the ones who are most stridently opposing them. But such subtleties get lost in the vitriol and clamor of just being pissed off at someone.

Besides, anyone used to the details just don’t really matter. American’s aren’t that well-educated and seem less and less concerned about things like subtext and context. The other day, Gov. Rick Perry, responding to criticism from his Democratic opponent that the state’s education system is failing, shot back, claiming that the drop-out rate in Texas wasn’t so bad – only about 10 percent. According to Texas’ foremost authority on dropouts, the non-profit San Antonio-based Intercultural Development Research Association, more than 1.2 million students have been lost to attrition in Texas since 2000. The total number lost since 1985, the year the state hired IDRA to study the magnitude of the problem, is more than 2.9 million.  The organization generally calculates that Texas public schools fail to graduate one out of every three students (thirty percent), with the percentage inching up to 40 percent for black and Hispanic students.

And that’s despite an estimated $18 billion in federal stimulus dollars helping at the state and local government level.

No wonder so many whoppers get out at Tea Party events. You want to win big at Texas Hold ‘Em? Bluff and bluff big.

And for the vested interests who have the most to gain from more tax cuts, they can only rub their hands with glee.

Business will be good in Texas, that’s for sure.

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Maybe big Texas has something to do with tall tales and memory. Texas has a long history – the first European explorers found the regions populated by Indian tribes in 1519. Texans remember their republic and Republican squabbles. They remember their Alamo, though memory is selective (the Alamo was a church, not a fort, and the folklore of the siege of the Alamo in 1836 extends far more widely than its dull truths – some historians believe that Davy Crockett survived the siege of the Alamo only to be executed by the Mexican military, but what’s more fun than going out in a blaze of glory?)

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Davy Crockett  (right) whups Mexican ass at the Alamo ass despite a lack of bullets.

Texans sure have pride in their long memories. Maybe that’s why Eddie Gossage booked dinosaur-rockers Foreigner to play before last year’s spring race, and is bringing in Peter Frampton to play before Sunday’s race. Frampton is a legend that won’t die, like the Alamo – his 1976 album “Frampton Comes Alive” sold 16 million copies (it was in the bedroom of just about every girl I went home with back in that day) (what radio wasn’t playing “Baby I Love Your Way” in the summer of 1977??), and he’s managed to keep recording. (His 2007 instrumental album “Fingerprints” was nominated for a Grammy, and he’s getting ready to release “Thank You, Mr. Churchill” later this month.

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Peter Frampton, then and now and how.

“What better way to get the fans of Texas Motor Speedway fired up for the Samsung Mobile 500 than to hear that famous ‘talk box’ guitar sound of Peter Frampton,” Gossage said. “His live performances throughout his career have been legendary, and I expect that to hold true when he entertains the crowd at “The Great American Speedway!”

That “talk box” of Frampton’s like a single line by a Saturday Night Live comic for which they are endlessly remembered – like Gilda Radner’s “Nevermind!” or “Well, excuse me!” by Steve Martin or “The Stevemeister, makin’ the copies” by Rob Schnieder. Frampton’s “talk box” delivers the goods, Texas style, straight ahead and with all the braggadocio of Davy Crockett at the Alamo, killing 20 wetbacks with a single rifle shot.

The crowd will be thrilled.

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Texas is a gun-friendly state. The right to bear (and flaunt) arms is as important as, say, the right to wear cowboy boots or get massive silicone breast implants. Limits are few and scorned. Beyond federal minimums, about the only restriction in Texas is law, tailored after a Houston city ordinance, prohibiting making a gun available to a minor.( The law was passed in response to a rise in accidental shootings by children with their parents’ guns.) More than 150,000 Texans are licensed to carry handguns, and many more have them in their homes. There is a gun show in the Houston area at least once a month. In Texas, a loaded gun in the car is OK as long as you are “traveling,” which is defined as driving from one county through another to a third.

In 2009, following Montana’s lead, a bill was introduced in the Texas legislature challenging federal authority to regulate guns under the interstate commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution. Under the proposed legislation, firearms and ammunition produced in Texas for use in the state would be exempt from federal laws and regulation.

The bill’s sponsors say it is more about defending states’ rights and sovereignty from an over-reaching federal government than about guns. “I think states have got to stand up or else most of their rights are going to be buffaloed by the administration and by Congress,” said Republican Texas state Rep. Leo Berman, one of the bill’s chief sponsors. “It deals with firearms and ammunition, which raises eyebrows, but it’s more of a 10th Amendment bill than a Second Amendment bill,” added Andy Kuchera, his legislative director.  “Sovereignty is a big issue right now.”

Governor Rick Perry supports allowing teachers and staff members to carry guns at school as long as they are adequately trained in gun safety.

“I’m pretty much a fan that if you’ve been trained and you are registered, then you should be able to carry a weapon. Matter of fact, there’s a lot of instances that would have saved a lot of lives,” Mr. Perry said.

The governor is a staunch advocate of right-to-carry provisions and has advocated allowing licensed gun owners to carry them into places where they can currently be banned, such as college campuses, churches, bars and private businesses.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence – a movement started after the shooting of White House Press Secretary Jim Brady in an assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan in 1980  — gave Texas an “F” in its efforts to curb firearm trafficking, for nonexistent efforts to strengthen prepurchase background-check requirements, for lack of restrictions on ownership of military-style assault weapons and lack of any legislative efforts aimed at keeping firearms out of the hands of children or controls placed on the carrying of firearms in public places – specifically, for allowing colleges and employers to restrict the carrying of weapons.

But Texans, as a rule, aren’t buying it. As the argument goes, “guns are like tools: crazy people use anything to commit crime.” Smart Texans lock and load and wait. And they’re willing to break with the Union in order to defend their Alamos to the death.

In a hardball state like Texas, firepower is often the resort of choice for settling differences, for better and ill.

On April 11, Billy Joe Shaver was found not guilty Friday in the shooting of a man outside a bar in Texas in 2007. A jury reached a verdict after two hours of deliberation in the case involving Shaver and the man he allegedly shot, Billy Coker.

After the verdict was read, Shaver hugged supports, including band members. During the trial, Willie Nelson showed up for the last two days of testimony of the four-day trial.

“I knew in my heart we would win,” Shaver said outside the courthouse. As for Coker, 53, Shaver, 70, said, “I am very sorry about the incident. Hopefully things will work out where we become friends.”

Shaver testified in his own defense saying he feared for his life when he shot Coker in the upper lip in the patio of a bar in Lorena with a 22-caliber pistol. Shaver said Coker showed a knife inside the bar and asked him to go outside. “I wanted to scare him … wanted to beat him to the punch. I feared he was going to kill me,” Shaver said.

The prosecutor asked Shaver if he was jealous because Coker was talking with his wife, Wanda. “I get more women than a passenger train can haul. I’m not jealous,” Shaver said.

A witness, Daniel Silvas, said he thought Shaver was trying to “get away” before shooting.

“I couldn’t fight him, no way, he was built like a doggone fireplug. He’s younger than I was,” Shaver said.

Shaver said that when Coker realized Wanda Shaver had been married to Coker’s cousin, “he went bad real quick.” The ex-husband committed suicide. Bad feelings existed between Wanda Shaver and Coker’s side of the family.

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Billy Joe Shaver, right, talks with attorney Dick De Guerin after being acquitted. DeGuerin, considered one of the state’s best criminal defense lawyers, worked on the case for free.

source: Country Standard Time News Magazine

Shaver settled his dispute Texas-style: so too another man who bought a pistol from a local gun shop and then went ballistic.  On November 5, 2009, at Fort Hood—the most populous US military base in the world, located just outside Killeen, Texas—a gunman killed 13 people and wounded 30 others. The shooter was Nidal Malik Hasan, a U.S. Army major serving as a psychiatrist. At approximately 1:34 p.m. Hasan entered his workplace, the Soldier Readiness Center, where personnel receive routine medical treatment immediately prior to and on return from deployment. According to eyewitnesses, he took a seat at an empty table, bowed his head for several seconds, and then stood up and opened fire. Initially, Hasan reportedly jumped onto a desk and shouted: “Allahu Akbar!” (“God is Great!”) before firing more than 100 rounds at soldiers processing through cubicles in the center, and on a crowd gathered for a college graduation ceremony scheduled for 2 p.m. in a nearby theater.  Witnesses reported that Hasan appeared to focus on soldiers in uniform. He had two handguns: an FN Five-seven semi-automatic pistol, which he had purchased at a civilian gun store,  and a .357 Magnum which he may not have fired. A medic who treated Hasan said his combat fatigues pockets were full of pistol magazines. He was shot by civilian police officers, and is now paralyzed from the waist down Hasan has been charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted murder under the Uniform Code of Military Justice; he may face additional charges at court-martial.

Ironically, except for MP’s, soldiers at Ft. Hood are not allowed to carry weapons.

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Type of semi-automatic pistol used by Hasan in his attack, purchased at a civilian gun store.

Score-settling and masculinity are ingrained deep into the literature of both the Wild West and pulp crime novels of the mid-20th century. “It’s awfully nice to get so goddamn mad at something you want to bust it wide open,” Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer reflects in My Gun is Quick (1950), “and it’s a lot better to take that goddamn something you’re mad at and smash it against the wall and do all of the things you wanted to do, wishing it could have been done before it was too late.”

Yes, the thrill of getting even, of getting ‘er done … it’s almost sexual, isn’t it, something you nail with every punch, every pull of the trigger …

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A couple of Texas hunters are out in the woods when one of them falls to the ground. He doesn’t seem to be breathing, his eyes are rolled back in his head. The other guy whips out his cell phone and calls 911.

He gasps to the operator, “I think my friend is dead! What do I do?”

The operator, in a calm soothing voice says, “Just take it easy. I can help. First, lets make sure he’s dead.”

There is a silence, then a shot is heard.

The hunter says, “OK, now what?”

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Texas is pro-business. It is also pro-guns and pro-capital-punishment. It is pro-creationism and pro-life. And it’s willing to re-write the books to gird and guard these majority beliefs.

The Texas Board of Education approved in March a social studies curriculum that will put a conservative stamp on history and economics textbooks, stressing the superiority of American capitalism, questioning the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a purely secular government and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light. “We are adding balance,” said Dr. Don McLeroy, the leader of the conservative faction on the board, after the vote. “History has already been skewed. Academia is skewed too far to the left.”

Efforts by Hispanic board members to include more Latino figures as role models for the state’s large Hispanic population were consistently defeated, prompting one member, Mary Helen Berlanga, to storm out of one meeting, saying, “They can just pretend this is a white America and Hispanics don’t exist.”

But Texans only know hardball. “I reject the notion by the left of a constitutional separation of church and state,” said David Bradley, a conservative from Beaumont who works in real estate. “I have $1,000 for the charity of your choice if you can find it in the Constitution.” Is he talking maybe about the Tea Party Constitution, or maybe the constitution of the old Republic of Texas?

Conservatives also included a plank to ensure that students learn about “the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract With America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association.” Call it educational re-districting: he who has the right to write the textbook gets to re-write history.

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For a look at what a properly Tea-Partied, Washington-seceded Texas might look like, think of Infield Nation, Texas-style, a place filled with “devotees of beer, NASCAR and top-lifting chicks,” writes one online enthusiast. “I’ve never been to Mardi Gras,” writes another, “but I’m pretty sure that partying out in the Texas infield on a race weekend is a glimpse into what it’s like. Let’s just say lots of beads are involved, as are semi-naked women. It truly is a sight to see (and, for me, requires a decent amount of beer consumption… wine is a little too prissy for this event).”

The partying began in earnest yesterday in the Texas Motor Speedway infield as NASCAR Nation’s louder, rowdier clan celebrated American freedom at its best, with flags, beer and breasts in abundance.

The following account of the TMS infield from the fall 2008 race comes from Bruce Cameron whose blog is The Racing Reporter:

Two weeks prior to the race, a small city emerges on the infield and at the surrounding camping areas of TMS. Tens of thousands of RV’s, campers, tents, trucks, buses and throngs of Nascar citizens move in. The smell of “NASCAR Napalm” hangs in the air. NASCAR Napalm is a combination of grill smoke, dirt and various waftings of propane, gasoline for generators and 90 weight “whale oil” used in the rear end of the race cars.

… The mood Friday was festive as it was Halloween. Prior to the truck race, costumed kids were seen trick-or-treating throughout the infield. At the conclusion of the truck race, it was the adults’ turn to do their own version of trickin’ and treatin’. Naughty Nurses, Ozzy and Sharon types and others displayed their energy atop million dollar haulers, cheap campers or old converted school buses. The tops of campers and scaffolding made a convenient staging area for the 2 story beer bongs.

Every night, there were cheers, loud music, and merriment from the Crown Royal Coaches on turn 1, make-shift night clubs near Turn 3, and campsites everywhere. With NASCAR fans, it’s all systems go.

There were Marti Gras beads adorned by men and women, along with various levels of dress. Most NASCAR fans express their allegiance by wearing the colors of their favorite driver or his sponsor. T-shirts, hats, flags, and pajamas of all colors covered the infield. One woman got attention with her shirt that asks Dale Jr., “Do you want to Mount An Dew Me?”

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A lady fan showed me her campground (she has one at home), a “Jimmie Johnson Love Nest.”

If you are rich enough to be near turn one and have pavement, you can easily ride your bike, motorized beer cooler or skate on a rip stick to your site. Many others ride bikes as a necessity for food, bathroom access or visitation. Golf carts clog makeshift roads and passageways. Some fans who needed a lift, would grab a rope and a skateboard to be pulled to their destination by one of the motorized carts or pit bikes. People have been known to be intoxicated, go to neighboring camps, knock on doors and ask to borrow your gas-powered cart to “drive around and drink beer.” The incredible part of this in addition to their blood alcohol level is their sense of entitlement.

Many camp sites were enjoying multi-player games such as Wii sports. These don’t go so well if you are under the influence. Several players were in deep denial and continued to play despite their very poor performance (with the game and otherwise). Other games were played where intoxication was not quite a hindrance – dice were rolled to determine how many drinks were to be consumed, cards were dealt to determine who consumes, etc. Jello shots were consumed by the hundreds along the backstretch.

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For a different look at what a properly Tea-Partied, Washington-seceded Texas might look like, think of the Branch Dividian compound near Waco Texas. The Branch Dividians formed back in the 1930s as part of a reform movement in the Seventh Day Adventist church. The group gained members and moved to a hilltop near Waco, Texas, moving a few years later to a larger compound. In 1959, Florence Houteff, widow of sect founder Victor Houteff, announced that the Second Coming of Jesus was immanent, and members of the sect were told to gather at the compound to await the blessed event. That didn’t happen, there were some years of squabbling over leadership and things got ugly. One member killed another with an axe over who was the chosen messiah. The murder went to the insane asylum and the survivor became David Koresh, the leader at the compound when things really got crazy.

On February 27, 1993, the Waco Tribune-Herald began the “Sinful Messiah” series of articles. It began,

If you are a Branch Davidian, Christ lives on a threadbare piece of land 10 miles east of here called Mount Carmel. He has dimples, claims a ninth-grade education, married his legal wife when she was 14, enjoys a beer now and then, plays a mean guitar, reportedly packs a 9mm Glock and keeps an arsenal of military assault rifles, and willingly admits that he is a sinner without equal.” The article alleged that Koresh had physically abused children in the compound and had taken multiple underage “brides” amounting to statutory rape. Koresh was also said to advocate polygamy for himself and declared himself married to several female residents of the small community. According to the paper, Koresh declared he was entitled to at least 140 wives, that he was entitled to claim any of the females in the group as his, that he had fathered at least a dozen children by the harem and that some of these mothers became brides as young as 12 or 13 years old.

The ATF raided the compound on Sunday morning, Feb. 28, 1993. Koresh was tipped off a mail carrier who was his brother-in-law who had been asked by a reporter for directions to the camp. Gunfire was exchanged, killing 3 ATF agents and wounding 16. Five Davidians had been killed. In both cases, some of the dead may have been killed by “friendly fire.” A siege then ensued (are we talking about the Alamo here?). Fearing that a mass suicide would be attempted, the FBI went in with armored vehicles and .50-caliber rifles. Soon after, fires broke out simultaneously in different parts of the building.

As the fire spread, Davidians were prevented from escaping; others refused to leave and eventually became trapped. In all, only nine people left the building during the fire.

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The siege of Waco goes up in smoke.

The remaining Davidians, including the children, were either buried alive by rubble, suffocated by the effects of the fire or shot. Many that suffocated from the fire were killed by smoke or carbon monoxide inhalation and other causes as fire engulfed the building. Footage of the incident was being broadcast worldwide via television. In all, 75 died (50 adults and 25 children under the age of 15) and nine survived the fire on Apr 19 (on Feb 28 five had been killed in the initial ATF raid and buried on the grounds, one killed by ATF after the raid while returning to Mt. Carmel and 35 had left during the FBI standoff).

Nothing remains of the buildings today, as the entire site was bulldozed by the ATF two weeks after the end of the siege. Only a small chapel, built years after the siege, stands on the site. Despite significant primary source video, much dispute remains as to the actual events of the siege.

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Think of Waco and overdub it with Sarah Palin’s words yesterday in Boston: “We’ll keep clinging to our Constitution and our guns and religion — and you can keep the change.”

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Oh, but back to racin’.

Owner Tony Stewart makes his 400th Sprint Cup start Sunday at Texas. Speculation swirls about Kasey Kahne’s relocation to Hendrick Motorsports (possibly replacing Mark Martin in 2012) and racing for a year’s interim with Stewart-Haas racing.

Jimmie Johnson comes in leading in the points, but he knows how precarious his lucky run can be. Last year, the big monkey wrench thrown into his fourth consecutive Sprint Cup championship came in the fall Texas race, when Sam Hornish got into Johnson five minutes into the race, causing the No. 48 car to slam hard into the inside wall on the back straight. Chad Knaus and company (with aid from some of the other Hendrick Motorsports teams) worked on the car for an hour and got the car, in some kind of shape, back on the track so Johnson could finish 38th and not last.

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Jimmie Johnson drives down pit road to rejoin Sunday’s Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. After a lap 3 accident, Johnson’s crew was joined by members of the No. 5, No. 24 and No. 88 crews to help replace the rear-end housing, hood and nose to get the car back on the track on lap 115.

The spoiler is supposed to get its first true test at the fast Texas track, though most drivers don’t think it will make much difference over the former wing. Jimmie Johnson, for whom the wing has been a very fortunate device, is probably the uneasiest about its introduction, yet in the manner of how the Team 48 runs, expect a slow but sure evolution with it.

As I said before, Texas has been the only oasis of victory for Jeff Gordon since 2007. As hot as he’s been running, expect him to go all-out here. Kyle Busch is long overdue for a Sprint Cup win at Texas (he is gunning for his fifth consecutive Nationwide series win at the track, joining Jack Ingram and Dale Earnhardt in the record books.) So is Carl Edwards, who won both Texas races in 2008. South-of-the-border Juan Pablo Montoya’s bum luck may change here and his always-fast car will get him his first raceway win.

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Last year, when the Texas Longhorns lost to the Alabama Crimson Tide 37-21 for the BCS football championship, Eddie Gossage made good on a bet and raised the Talladega flag over Texas Motor Speedway. I’m sure he’s gunning for a stellar event in Texas this week, as the next race moves on to Talladega.

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Eddie Gossage reluctantly flies the Talladega flag at TMS after the Longhorns lost to the Crimson Tide.

By federal law, Texas is the only state in the U.S. that can fly its flag at the same height as the U.S. flag. Think about that for a second. You fly the Stars
and Stripes at 20 feet in Maryland, or California, or Maine, and your state flag goes at 17. You fly the Stars and Stripes in front of Texas Motor Speedway at 20 feet, and the Lone Star State flag flies at 20 feet. The Texas capitol is the only one in the country that is taller than the capitol building in D.C. That’s the law, signed those in as part of the deal when Texas stopped being the Republic of Texas and joined the United States.

Whoops — I just checked that source and it turns out to be an urban legend, or, as they say in the Lone Star State, a tall tale. Well, you can put your boots in the oven, but it don’t make them biscuits. Texas is still a part of the USA, and just like every state it flies its flag in the no. 2 position.

Texans hate being number two at anything. Tea Party Texans are probably politicking to have the number two removed from the count, it not being fit for prime time. (Jeff Gordon, who has finished second seven times since winning the spring Texas race last year, probably wouldn’t mind getting rid of the number two, too.)

And they had better be on guard, according to Governor Rick Perry. He’s urging those participating in in today’s Tea Party Tax Day rallies to “continue looking over your shoulder … for people trying to make the Tea Party party into something that it’s not.” Apparently he and other Republican strategists are concerned that liberals will seek to infiltrate the rallies with racist signage in order to generate negative publicity. Perry said “you can bet that every dirty trick is going to get played on tea parties, trying to marginalize them, trying to make them into something that they’re not.” Nice idea to blame someone else for the anger sure to boil at the rallies.

Perry knows the value of a whopper. And he’s learned, like George W. Bush, to let the attack dogs do the barking. He was also not scheduled to speak at any of the rallies today.

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