Electorally Speaking

The 2020 presidential election was one of the most fascinating in my life. Ironically, I thought the 2016 election would be hard to beat, but 2020 made it dull by comparison. Tragically, these elections may mean the end of fair and honest elections is near if such things ever existed.

No! I am not interested in rehashing the voting controversy of 2020. Neither am I interested in the whining over one candidate winning the popular vote yet failing to win the election. The popular vote does not always match the electoral vote.

That is one reason the United States of America is still in existence. You see, there is probably no such thing as a completely honest and fair election, nationwide or even statewide, anywhere on this earth.* With that said, honesty is not the problem.

The real problem is what some might call gerrymandering, while others consider it a result of demographic changes. Whatever the reality, in future presidential elections, the outcome may be clear once the parties select their nominees. Presidential campaigns may be more of a Punch and Judy show than a serious election battle.

I say this because many states moved in a direction that may make a joke of the Electoral College (College). The College is the biggest factor in preserving the essence of the democratic republic that is the United States. If it had not been for the College, the U.S. would likely be just another failed democracy. Instead, we have retained a democratic structure for a record amount of time. Sadly, that record is rapidly coming to an end.

Whether by design, ignorance, or the luck of the draw, states have used their powers to neuter the College. In a majority of states, the electoral votes no longer represent the will of the entire state. They represent the will of the urban areas. Some would argue that is only right since most citizens live in urban areas, but that does not make it legitimate. The founders set up this system to prevent the bigger states and the urban regions from riding roughshod over the rest of the country, as far as electing a president is concerned.

Now, a handful of areas within a handful of states are critical to the presidential election outcome. It makes little difference what the rest of the country does; if Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, and a few other major metropolitan areas vote as a block, other regions may not matter.** 

* I know it is impossible to empirically prove my statement. However, it is based on my experience with elections both as a voter, volunteer, and student of history, politics, and human nature.

**Just before I was ready to publish this, a study by the Brookings Institute came to my attention, which supports this position. In the 2020 election, available data indicates the incumbent won the popular vote in a significant majority of counties across the country. The challenger and now president won the popular vote in the heavily populated counties in key states.

© oneoldcop.com – 2021

Posted in Ethics, Political Extremes, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Of Christmas Just Past

‘Twas the day after Christmas, and in towns all about,
Suspenders were straining, and belts were let out;
Boxes and trash were piled by the street,
Awaiting trash trucks to make their first sweep;
And toys lay scattered throughout the homes,
From puppets to Muppets, to strange little gnomes,

While children imagined gifts yet to be,
By gift cards from Gram and old Grand-D.
Mothers were frantically planning their day,
Post-Christmas sales always start right away,
A few minutes late and the best will be gone,
Do we dare take the kids or leave them at home?

Fathers were sprawled in their loungers awaiting,
The kick-offs, the tackles, the players bragging and baiting.
The playoffs, the bowl games were all on the line,
The only thing missing- peace, quiet, and time.

As mothers decided and went for the doors,
The fathers all shouted, “Take the kids to the store!”
That evening saw dinners, leftovers no doubt,
And time spent remembering the laughs and the shouts.

Yes, all were sated, and most were quite pleasured,
To in-laws and others with memories treasured,
They all settled down, ready to call it a night;
The next day was scheduled to be sunny and bright.

But wouldn’t you know, before the first snore,
The doorbell announced, “Police at the door!”
Startled and more than a little perturbed,
Dad rushed to see why they were being disturbed.

He opened the door and faced quite a sight,
The house awash in amazing bright light.
It seemed one final gift there was that night,
A call claimed the SWAT Team needed to help,
As the family held hostage the Elf on the Shelf.

By S. E. Jackson

With apologies to the memory of Clement Clarke Moore

©oneoldcop.com – 2020

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A Soldier’s Christmas

Read this not long ago, and felt the need to share it. As the strangest Christmas, most of us have ever seen rapidly approaches, we need to remember those who, even this year, will be stationed around to world to make certain we will see better Christmases in the future.

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
my daughter beside me, angelic in rest.

Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree, I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.

My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep
in perfect contentment, or so it would seem.
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn’t loud, and it wasn’t too near,
But I opened my eye when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn’t quite know,
Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.

My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
and I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.

A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

“What are you doing?” I asked without fear
“Come in this moment, it’s freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!”

For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts,
to the window that danced with a warm fire’s light
then he sighed and he said “Its really all right,
I’m out here by choice. I’m here every night”

“Its my duty to stand at the front of the line,
that separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I’m proud to stand here like my fathers before me.

My Gramps died at ‘Pearl on a day in December,”
then he sighed, “That’s a Christmas ‘Gram always remembers.”
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ‘Nam
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.

I’ve not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he’s sure got her smile.
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red white and blue… an American flag.

“I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home,
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat,
I can carry the weight of killing another
or lay down my life with my sisters and brothers
who stand at the front against any and all,
to insure for all time that this flag will not fall.”

“So go back inside,” he said, “harbor no fright
Your family is waiting and I’ll be all right.”
“But isn’t there something I can do, at the least,
“Give you money,” I asked, “or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you’ve done,
For being away from your wife and your son.”

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
“Just tell us you love us, and never forget
To fight for our rights back at home while we’re gone.
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.

For when we come home, either standing or dead,
to know you remember we fought and we bled
is payment enough, and with that we will trust.
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us.

Michael Marks
December 7th, 2000

Click the link to see more of Michael’s work, and read the story of this poem. http://cybersarges.tripod.com/soldierschristmas.html

Images by ArtTower and by JamesDeMers from Pixabay

Posted in Family Vaules, Holidays, Leadership, Patriotism, Uncategorized, Veterans, Vietnam | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Keep Knocking?

Good advice is hard to find these days. This is especially true when one is seeking advice in all the wrong places, and today, there are plenty of wrong places. Take this blog, for example. I may only think I have the expertise to support my opinion.

Even if I know what I am talking about, knowledgeable people can be wrong. Just look at the so-called experts whose opinions, advice, and claims changed almost every news cycle during the 2020 Pandemic. Be that as it may, hang in for a minute and see what you think.

The bit of advice on the right sounds so well-meaning it must be valuable. That is why you can find that message in any number of places on the internet. In this case, it popped up on Facebook. The poster is someone I know fairly well, and I know they meant the post to be helpful. Sadly, it, like the verse in a popular country song, “In a race that you can’t win, slow it down,” is well-intentioned claptrap.

Yes, there are times when one should quit knocking on a particular door. Yes, there are times when the race is lost and conserving one’s energy is appropriate. That does not mean someone should live their life with these pieces of so-called wisdom as their mantra.

Unlike another, older, country lyric, “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,” these are not sage advice—knowing when to hold’em is a tactic, as is folding. It is the difference between winning and losing a hand of poker, not giving up on a dream or mission.

Yes, some will pursue a dream until they lose everything or everything meaningful in their lives. Yes, there is a point when you may need to decide enough is enough. The question is knowing when you reach that point.

Do you recognize these names, Einstein, Lincoln, Edison, Disney, Spielberg, Rowling? These and dozens of other famous people faced doors that would not open, races they could not win, and other challenges in their lives. Yet, they persevered. Today, their names are in the history books as winners, innovators, and examples of never giving up.

Trying hard and being persistent will not always bring success. It will, in many cases, bring you the satisfaction of knowing you did your best. Whatever the outcome of your efforts, one thing will always be true. The only period at the end of a sentence that is final is one we may know is coming, but we will not see. Until that point, it is too early to give up.

© oneoldcop.com – 2020

Posted in Daily Life, social media, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Christmas 2020

T’was a month before Christmas,
And all through the town,
People wore masks,
That covered their frown.

The frown had begun
Way back in the Spring,
When a global pandemic
Changed everything.

They called it corona,
But unlike the beer,
It didn’t bring good times,
It didn’t bring cheer.

Airplanes were grounded,
Travel was banned.
Borders were closed
Across air, sea and land.

As the world entered lockdown
To flatten the curve,
The economy halted,
And folks lost their nerve.

From March to July
We rode the first wave,
People stayed home,
They tried to behave.

When summer emerged
The lockdown was lifted.
But away from caution,
Many folks drifted.

Now it’s November
And cases are spiking,
Wave two has arrived,
Much to our disliking.

It’s true that this year
Has had sadness a plenty,
We’ll never forget
The year 2020.

And just ‘round the corner –
The holiday season,
But why be merry?
Is there even one reason?

To decorate the house
And put up the tree,
Who will see it,
No one but me.

But outside my window
The snow gently falls,
And I think to myself,
Let’s deck the halls!

So, I gather the ribbon,
The garland and bows,
As I play those old carols,
My happiness grows.

Christmas is not cancelled
And neither is hope.
If we lean on each other,
I know we can cope


Keep it going!
(Copy&Paste or Share blog) Please attribute as follows:

Copyright-Shawna Hickling
By: Shawna Hickling, Calgary, AB, Canada
November 19, 2020

(Poet’s P.S. – I NEVER use the word ain’t but isn’t had too many syllables for the poem!)

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Intelligent Virus?*

I debated whether to jump into the controversy surrounding the docudrama “The Social Dilemma.” After all, anyone with common sense understands that big tech, big pharma, Amazon, and Walmart, to name a few, are using artificial intelligence (AI) regularly. They want to predict everything possible about their clients, prospective clients, and the influence a mother’s social media time may have on the unborn’s future preferences. Okay, fact-checkers, that last phrase was sarcasm, not fake news.

Returning to this piece’s point, I had a real-life “AHA!” moment recently.  After having a run-in with COVID-19 leading to a ten-day isolation period, one of my first ventures out of the house reinforced my view that COVID is not the only virus to be feared. There is another virus, one we call social media. It is infecting everything we do, see, read, taste, touch, or smell. 

The idea that anything one says near some electronic devices will lead to an advertising onslaught is nothing new. It has become a running joke in some circles, “Don’t let “Alexa, Cortana, Siri, etc. hear you ask for something, or advertising will inundate your timeline and inbox.” I have discovered it is unnecessary to say a word to have one of those little AI invaders flood your systems.

My suspicions concerning the invasive nature of the high tech world were further confirmed when I stopped at the grocery store. My primary purpose was to pick up a couple of items to replace some consumed during our little period of quarantine. However, as I was wrapping up my visit I noticed wine was on sale.

My wife has two vices of sorts. She really enjoys her favorite blend of cold-brewed coffee every morning and a glass of wine before dinner. She is not addicted to either, but they are her little comfort zone indulgences.

Knowing she was running a bit low on her evening indulgence, I picked up a nice bottle of one of her favorite blends. Keep in mind we never buy wine at this chain of stores. In fact, I am the only one who shops there regularly, and I only buy a handful of non-alcoholic items from this company.

Within two hours of returning to my home office computer, the ad above popped up on Facebook. Again, I’ve never purchased wine at that store. Also, I’ve never purchased wine with the credit card I used that day. Yet, in less than 120 minutes, I was identified and targeted. Thus the ad triggering this blog.  

FB inundates me with advertising from Home Depot, Amazon, Tommy Hilfiger, and various companies in the electronics business. It has never pushed an alcoholic beverage my way, and I was a bit stumped. Then I remembered. 

I am a member of that chain’s customer club. I used my club card number to earn a discount on several items!  In retrospect, I suppose I should be surprised it took that long for their little electronic virus to track me down.

*For the record, I have taken a bit of license with the term virus. However, I believe its use here is appropriate.  The AIs identify you, your preferences, and your browsing habits to inundate you with unwanted advertising. This is much like a biological virus that identifies a victim’s weakness and saturates the body whose immune system is vulnerable.

© oneoldcop.com – 2020

Posted in artificial intelligence, Daily Life, social media, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Speaking of Viruses

Wednesday, November 18, 2020, dawned like any other day of my week. Little did I know when I headed to the gym that morning, 2020 was about to pull its latest dirty trick on me.

I finished my treadmill time at the gym a little before 8:00, ran a couple of errands on my way back to the house, and spent a bit over an hour in the yard taking care of “honey-dos.” By 10:30, I’d logged around 9,000 steps, ten flights of stairs, and filled a yard cart with the debris from several large seasonal plants. Then, the real work started.

I am playing catch up on my Bible Study videos and my writing. I managed to complete one lesson on the Book of John and proofread a couple of chapters in my most ambitious writing project to date. Then, the phone rang, and my world came to a screeching halt.

I was one of the 2,112 people Tarrant County, Texas, reported as testing positive for COVID-19 that morning. My positive test was part of a pre-op procedure before minor surgery. I exhibited no virus-related symptoms and still have no symptoms. Also, I did not feel any different that morning than any morning this year. Yet, my life, and the lives of those around me, were disrupted significantly.

Of course, our doctor tested my wife. Bingo! She was positive as well and has no symptoms. Still, the ripples kept spreading. A good friend and colleague from church had to be tested because of my results. His results were negative, thankfully. My daughter had to close her restaurant for at least one day while her staff submitted to tests. If anyone on her team tests positive, that may be the end of her restaurant. The county will likely close her down, and she may not have the resources to reopen due to previous county-wide shutdowns.

Of course, all the friends and close associates with whom I had contact in the last several weeks are concerned for their safety. I had to notify my gym to be safe, and I am essentially under house arrest for the next ten days, depending on who one asks. For instance, my gym said don’t come back for two weeks without a negative test, and one nurse said three weeks quarantine. I’ll go with the CDC guidelines of ten days.

I am not sharing this as just my tale of woe. Yes, it is a mild pain in you know where, but others have it a lot worse. My problem and I am not a conspiracy theory junkie, is this. There is something rotten in Denmark, or in this case, D. C. Either that or the medical profession is less competent than most of us would care to believe.

I do not claim incompetence lightly. I do want to qualify the charge, however. I know a lot of doctors socially. I have several doctors I respect and trust with my health. Unfortunately, they are no longer free to practice medicine as they would like. Instead, they must follow the guidelines established by insurance companies, research facilities, and bureaucrats with M.D.s. The COVID mess is just the latest example of external interference with a doctor’s ability to practice medicine.

There is apparently no empirical data justifying the guidelines for quarantining asymptomatic COVID patients. The publicly available literature concerning procedures and protocols for dealing with asymptomatic positives makes it clear labeling a person without symptoms a danger is simply a CYA activity.

I say this is a CYA activity for several reasons. First, as suggested above, the majority of the evidence concerning this topic is anecdotal. Using this anecdotal data, the “experts” originally estimated 60 percent of new infections came from symptomatic patients and 40 percent from asymptomatic patients.

Now, the infamous Dr. Fauci is quoted as saying that 50 percent of the new cases may come from people like me, asymptomatic positives. It seemed he and others are basing this on more anecdotal evidence. One case cited is an individual tested for 70 days. She continued to test positive during that time, even though she never developed any virus related symptoms. Their reasoning concerning how she could be the modern equivalent of a “Typhoid Mary” made absolutely no sense, at least as reported by the publication in which I found it.

The “experts” believe her immune system was too weak to destroy the virus. On the other hand, it was strong enough to thwart the virus, as she never succumbed to the little suckers. Oh! By the way, she is a high-risk patient due to her age and medical history. Still, she managed to live through a total of 105 days, according to the report, of infection without becoming sick from the virus. She, like me, was tested because she was going into the hospital for a non-virus condition.

The bottom line for all us “non-experts” is this. The experts are guessing, and they change their best guesses more often than a mother with a newborn changes diapers. Yet, we ignore their guesses at our and our loved one’s peril.

I will wear a mask in public. I will wash my hands like a raccoon with a bushel of shelled pecans* and carry a six-foot pole to keep you safe from the possibility I am infected. I will also be one of the first people in line when the vaccine becomes available.

There! I’ve ranted enough for today. I may have more to say if the wind shifts the direction of the hot air from Dr. Fauci and other medical blowhards. Until then, sayonara.

*Okay, raccoons do not wash their food, apparently they can sense their food through their paws, and wetting it makes food easier to sense. Still, if you ever watched one eat around water, it looks as if they are washing every bite.

© oneoldcop.com – 2020

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Factually Speaking: Oregon Drugs

We all know fact-checking is a bit of an oxymoron. Still, some of the stuff on FB these days is just nuts. Take the snarky little meme below for example.

FB marked it as false and explained why they considered it wrong. Is the comment 100 percent factual? No! It is sarcasm designed to highlight the stupidity in the world today, including the fact-checking arena. 

Did Oregon legalize cocaine? Not completely. However, they did “decriminalize” possession of small quantities of hard drugs, including cocaine, to a parking ticket level. Actually, in some cases, parking fines are higher than the penalty for drug possession.

Are straws illegal in Oregon? Technically they are not unlawful, but they are considered a controlled substance to a degree. It is illegal for a business to give a customer straws or some other items unless they specifically request the item. The business faces a fine if they violate this law.   

So, the meme is technically false news.  Yet, public statements by the authorities in Oregon clarify the purpose of the drug laws’ changes were to stop the prosecution of drug users while prosecuting those who supply customers with straws, catsup packets, sugar packets, and other disposable items. 

Of course, it is apparently still illegal in Oregon to sell, manufacture, or distribute controlled substances. The manufacturing, sale, and distribution of straws, mustard packets, and other condiment packets is still legal, at least for now.

© oneoldcop.com – 2020

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The Broad Brush

The idea of painting with a broad brush is nothing new. Whether one is speaking of cars, watermelons, or movie genres, humans are prone to praise or condemn without specificity. For example, “Fords make the best pick up on the road” is a claim one can hear in television commercials and the local honky-tonk. Of course, Chevrolet fans may take exception to the comment, but who cares what they think? After all, those guys had any sense they’d all be driving Dodge Rams.

There! I managed to use a broad brush and insult at least two groups of male truck owners and women who own trucks. Of course, it is likely, except for a close friend who worships his F250, most people will see that first paragraph for what it is, a way to get your attention and hopefully make you chuckle. However, there is nothing funny about the reality inspiring this piece.

Painting with a broad brush is just a common human trait until it becomes a way of labeling others. Then it rapidly begins to shift to something else, stereotyping, bias, even prejudice. When you or I use the broad brush to label, describe, or denigrate a group of people, our comments’ impact is normally limited to friends and associates. On the other hand, public figures, personalities, politicians, and the media’s use of broad terms and accusations are a bit more concerning.

For example, the item inspiring this piece was a headline or banner for a news story when I opened my home page. The banner read, “Police Stop Black Man While Jogging.” The immediate assumption one makes reading that is some “cop” was harassing a person of color. As it turns out, the incident may have been an overreaction on the part of several ICE Agents.

The problem, however, is the misuse of the term police. The word police is used as a broad brush today, covering all law enforcement personnel, whether they are police officers or not.

Now, you may be thinking I am the ultimate hairsplitter with this bull hockey. That is your right, but ICE agents are not police officers. Neither are FBI agents, DEA agents, or any of the plethora of NCIS agents portrayed on television today.

Police officers are the men and women who patrol our streets, investigate accidents, and respond to missing persons’ calls. They handle domestic disturbances, welfare checks, and take theft reports, along with many other activities. Yes, they might stop a jogger of any skin, tone if the person matched a suspect description, seemed suspicious in some other way, or created a safety hazard.

For the record, in this case, if the story was accurate, the ICE agents may have been pushing the limits of probable cause in stopping the jogger. The fact they did not detain him, even though he was reportedly uncooperative, may indicate the stop was not appropriate. It may also suggest they made a mistake and realized it after questioning the individual. Still, the headline’s wording and tone made any reader quickly assume “they” did it again. “They” harassed some poor guy because of his skin color. That generalization is unfair and unsafe.

I could stop at this point. I could, but another story caught my eye when I opened my browser the morning I first planned on posting this piece. A headline and the story which followed implied “law enforcement” has an inappropriate relationship with right-wing extremists. In reality, the report covered one sheriff’s actions in Michigan. It appears the Sherriff has some form of relationship with a band of yahoos arrested for plotting to kidnap the governor of Michigan.

The story also claimed the Michigan sheriff was a member of a questionable sheriff’s association. The article alleged the association is a right-wing extremist group itself. If it is as far out there as the article implied, it is a bit concerning, but one should keep in mind, more than 3,000 sheriffs are serving in the United States at this time. Of that number, only 161 are allegedly members of the organization.

Even indirectly accusing all sheriffs, much less the rest of law enforcement, of being in bed with extremists is a bit much. If a bigoted right-wing crazy is elected sheriff, it is because most of his or her constituency shares at least some of those views.

Here is the bottom line. Using the term police in a headline accusing a specific department, agency, or officer of misconduct is a form of broad-brush thinking and finger-pointing bordering on stereotyping and bigotry.

Law enforcement entities are not all “police,” and they do not all have the same mission and authority. ICE agents, for instance, do not meet you at grandma’s house to see if grandma is okay. FBI agents do not investigate automobile accidents. DEA agents do not respond to missing persons’ calls.

Sheriffs and their deputies perform many duties similar to police chiefs and their officers, but there is one significant difference. Sheriffs are normally elected officials, answering only to the voters.

Equating these individuals, offices, or designations with the hundreds of thousands of men and women serving as police officers in the United States shows ignorance, prejudice, or both.

Police chiefs and the officers they manage answer to the mayors, city managers, city councils, and the citizens of the municipalities in which they work. They are the ones who respond to your home when someone is peeping in your window. They respond when someone steals your kid’s bicycle.

The vast majority of police officers have no more respect for extremists of any sort than those victimized by said extremists. In fact, police officers are often the targets of the miscreants with whom they are being compared.

© oneoldcop.com – 2020

Posted in Civility, Daily Life, Ethics, Law Enforcement, Leadership, Police, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Far East Frisco?

More years ago than I care to count, a rugby teammate and I traveled to the Austin Rugby Tournament. This tournament was the highlight of the Texas rugby season for many reasons. One of the biggest reasons was the location. Austin is the state Capital, but more importantly, it was the party Capital of Texas.

Sadly, this piece is not about Texas rugby’s love of Austin or partying. This is about Austin’s geographic and societal dysphoria. Somewhere in the relatively recent past, probably the 1960s and early ’70s, Austin began to drift west culturally. By that, I do not mean West Texas. In some ways, Austin began to feel more like California than Texas.

The shift was partly due to the influx of former Californians. Whether they migrated to Central Texas to attend UT, or simply found a kindred vibe in the hemp haze floating around the city, they poured into town like lemmings running across the tundra. As their numbers increased, cultural changes began to emerge. Today, Austin is, in some ways, a landlocked eastern extension of San Francisco.

As luck would have it, there was a 7-11 within in few blocks of exiting 35. Pulling up to the store, we noticed a sad-looking character sitting on the curb in front of the door. As you can probably surmise, he was not simply taking a break; he was panhandling. My teammate looked over at me with a puzzled look on his face and asked, “You think there’s one at every 7-11 here?”

Though I did not recognize it at the time, the young teammate mentioned above noticed an early sign of this shift. His observation came after we rolled into Austin on a Friday afternoon. After driving 220 miles or so on the always under construction IH35, we needed a pitstop.

At first, I thought he was joking. He wasn’t. He was dead serious. Keep in mind; he was a college student in his first year away from home. Besides, a panhandler planted in front of a convenience store was not common in north Texas. In fact, you didn’t see guys and gals with their hands out working street corners, parking lots, or other locations much anywhere in Texas in those days.

After assuring my young friend that was not the case, we took care of business. We hit the restroom, grabbed some sodas, and headed to the tournament venue, Zilker Park. Zilker was another reason ruggers liked this tournament.

The park was immediately adjacent to Town Lake. There were some great little restaurants and bars within walking distance, and it was a prime jogging and sunbathing area for UT coeds. What more could a couple of hundred rugby players want from a tournament location?

Since the trip and question mentioned above, Austin shifted even further west, politically, and socially. As with cities in California, the relatively moderate climate, location, and left-leaning political structure made Austin more attractive. Wealthy movie stars, high tech entrepreneurs, transients, and a semi-permanent street population found the place irresistible.

Today, as with San Francisco, the homeless are everywhere it seems.* Despite the best efforts of churches and charities, and more recently, the government, people are panhandling all over town. Of course, some of these needy people are not homeless or destitute. Some are opportunists, taking advantage of charitable people. Panhandling is their job, and it provides a pretty good, tax-free income in some cases.

When I visit Austin these days, it reminds me of my last visit to San Francisco. There, people sleep on the streets, block doorways to businesses, and take care of their pitstop business almost publicly. Sadly, the local politicians in Austin are not satisfied with attracting people in need, and the super-wealthy who like Texas for its tax structure.

Recently, the movers and shakers controlling Austin took another step toward joining the crowd working to make Austin an extension of California. The city government decided to modify ordinances addressing certain behaviors by transients, homeless, and panhandlers. As one might expect, the changes caused concern within some segments of the population. As with any such modification, some concerns are legitimate, and some are chicken-little warnings.

Whatever the reality, the changes make Austin more attractive to those engaging in this behavior. The changes also make it more difficult for law enforcement to control the behavior of those who violate or push the envelope on these ordinances. These moves make it more difficult for businesses to operate and for the residents who wish to live in a civilized environment.

Sadly, the story does not end there. The Austin City Council voted earlier this year to cut the police department budget by 33 percent. The council seems to have two goals.

One is to change the way the department hires and trains officers for law enforcement duties. The other is to establish a new form of public safety department, not focused on enforcement. If this keeps up, the only difference between Austin, San Francisco, and Los Angeles will be the Golden Gate Bridge and Hollywood.**

*Critics of the last sentence will be quick to pooh-pooh such statements. They will claim there are only a few hundred living on the streets at any one time, but counting transients and the homeless is more difficult than counting Trump voters in a blue state.

**The pictures in this piece came from both Austin and San Francisco.

© oneoldcop.com – 2020

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