October 29, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

How can I put this to you gently? When you vote for the President of the United States, IT WON’T COUNT! Texas is a red state, and all 38 Electoral College votes will go to Gov. Mitt Romney. However, there are several interesting down-ballot elections that might change the future — just ask Henry Shoemaker, which means taking a fresh look at an old story, for it’s worth repeating.

Shoemaker was a simple farmhand from Smithfield Township, DeKalb County, Indiana. On the first Monday of August, 1842, elections were held for local offices. In addition, reapportionment had given DeKalb and an adjoining county, Steuben, a single representative to the Indiana House. The two candidates were Enos Beall, a Whig, and Madison Marsh, a Democrat. On election day Shoemaker remembered that he had met Marsh during the campaign and had promised to vote for him, so Shoemaker saddled up a horse and rode 12 miles into Kendallville, arriving at the polling place late in the afternoon.

“When he applied to vote,” the Indiana Committee on Elections later reported, “the inspector handed him a sheet of tickets, but as all of them contained the names of Enos Beall for Representative, he enquired (sic) for ‘another kind,’ and the inspector handed him a sheet of tickets with the name of Madison Marsh for Representative, that he then enquired of the same inspector if he ‘had scissors or a knife to cut them with,’ and the latter handed him a penknife.” Not wishing to vote the straight party ticket of either party, Shoemaker proceeded, quite literally, to split his ballots. As the voting officials looked on, Shoemaker cut out the name of Marsh from one ballot along with the others he wanted, then cut other names from the second sheet.

He handed the clippings to the inspector — four separate pieces of paper, three small sheets inside a larger one. The inspector accepted the papers without a word, and put them in the ballot box. Shoemaker hung around the voting site for an hour or more, but no one said anything about his unusual ballot. Later, however, when the tabulation began, the voting officials threw out Shoemaker’s ballot.

On the next Sunday the sheriffs of the two counties met at the Steuben County courthouse to compare the certificates for the election for state representative. The final results were 360 votes for Marsh and 360 votes for Beall. The sheriffs “by casting lots” chose Beall as the winner. Marsh immediately appealed to the Committee on Elections, which held extensive hearings on the matter. (It is from the Indiana Commission on Public Records and the Library of Congress that I dug out this story.)

The committee found that in Smithfield township only 16 votes were cast for representative, all of them for either Marsh or Beall; that there was only one person named Henry Shoemaker in the township and he was a qualified voter; that he had voted “openly with no appearance of concealment or subterfuge” and had not tried to vote more than once and that the inspector had accepted Shoemaker’s ballot and had put it in the box himself; and “we have the uncontradicted oath of Henry Shoemaker, that he did intend to vote for Madison Marsh for the office of Representative.” Also, the committee noted that it was the inspector’s own knife which was used in the surgery.

“In summing up the whole matter, your committee find (sic) that Madison Marsh has received a majority of the legal votes, if they had all been counted, and the voice of the ballot box had been properly regarded, and that he is therefore entitled to the contested seat.” The Indiana House agreed, and Marsh — a Democrat — took his seat in the Legislature by a single vote.

Prior to the 17th Amendment, U.S. senators were chosen by state legislatures. In 1842, the main candidates for the U.S. Senate from Indiana were Oliver H. Smith, the Whig senator who was up for re-election, and the Democratic candidate, Gen. Tilghman A. Howard. Another candidate, Edward A. Hannegan, was a dark horse. The Indiana Senate joined the House and on the first ballot, to everyone’s surprise, neither candidate got a majority. On the sixth ballot Smith got 69 votes. Howard got one vote and Hannegan, the dark horse, got the magic 76, making him the new senator from Indiana. Hannegan’s winning vote was supplied by Madison “Landslide” Marsh.

Four years later, in 1846, the U.S. Senate was bitterly divided over whether to declare war on Mexico. A caucus of the Democratic senators, which comprised the majority, was called to determine which way they would vote, but the vote in the caucus was a tie. Then it was determined that one senator was not present: Edward Hannegan of Indiana. He was sent for and promptly voted “Aye” for war. It broke the tie, fixed the Democrats’ decision, and war was declared – by one vote.

That is how Shoemaker is best remembered in Indiana, yet there is one more point to be made. The war in Mexico was touched off by the U.S. annexation of Texas one year earlier. John Tyler was president, having taken office upon the death of William Henry Harrison. That left the vice presidency empty. The move to annex Texas had failed as a treaty, which needed a two-thirds vote in the Senate, so Tyler tried again — this time as a simple resolution, which needed only a majority, not two-thirds. It passed, 27 to 25. If any senator supporting annexation had changed his mind, there would have been a 26-26 tie. There being no vice president to break the deadlock, annexation would have failed and Texas would have remained an independent republic. For the record, Sen. Hannegan voted for it.

Thus we see how that one vote put Texas in the Union and put us under Washington, which is why to this day, Texans shout as one: “Curse you, Henry Shoemaker!”


Ashby votes at




Platinum Motorcars Rolls into Houston, 2nd Texas Location

October 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs

HOUSTON – (October 23, 2012) Platinum Motorcars, Texas’ premier exotic and luxury car rental dealership, announced the launch of its Houston office in the heart of the Museum District on the grounds of the acclaimed Hotel ZaZa. Now with two Texas locations, Dallas and Houston, Platinum Motorcars leads the Texas two-step in luxury sedan, SUV, sports car and exotic vehicle leasing. The Houston dealership is co-owned by Benny Black, founder, and David Nguyen.


Located at 5701 Main Street, Platinum Motorcars hosts its fleet of exquisite and exotic beauties which include the Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder, Aston Martin DB9 Volante, Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, Ferrari 430 Spyder and 430 Scuderia, and the Rolls-Royce Phantom. Platinum Motorcars also offers chauffer services and sales for hard-to-find vehicles. Leasing prices range from $349 to $1,499 per day.

With a growing demand to lease exotic sports cars from their existing traveling clients, as well as newly referred clients, Platinum Motorcars opened its second Texas location in Houston. While many cities in the nation are struggling with unemployment, the economy in Houston is booming. Not only is Houston one of the largest cities in the nation, it is also one of the biggest international hubs in the world. It is home to many businesses including corporate headquarters for almost two dozen of the Fortune 500 companies.

Houston is also home to many of Platinum Motorcars’ elite clientele and with the growing trend to lease exotic sports cars prior to purchasing, many Platinum Motorcars’ customers will lease for several days or weeks in order to get a feel for the vehicle, and in this economic climate there is not a better time to test drive a $250,000 car for a fraction of the price.

“Houston is a world-class city that we are proud to call our new home,” said Black. “Our clients will find not only beautiful cars, but customer service that is unmatched by any other dealer in the city.”

Platinum Motorcars was created with a focus on high-end customer service. Clients want more than a “nice car.” They want an experience, and the Platinum Motorcars team delivers. Unmatched in customer service, vehicles are often wrapped in bows waiting in the client’s driveway for special occasions, and cars are always delivered spotless. Platinum Motorcars guarantees that what you see is what you get when choosing one of their exotics; all vehicles displayed on are the exact vehicles in the inventory and what clients will be driving.

“Unlike other exotic car dealerships, we encourage our guests to sit in the cars, touch the steering wheel, smell the leather, hear the engines roar and view their numerous luxury amenities,” said Black.  “The cars speak for themselves, and we want guests to immerse themselves in their grandness.”

Customers throughout Texas and the Southeast have the opportunity to enjoy Platinum Motorcars’ exotics as all vehicles can be transferred to any location and delivered to the customer upon request.  Cars are delivered on trucks and trailers to ensure a smooth, clean and enjoyable ride. Author, fashion commentator and creative ambassador for Barney’s New York Simon Doonan once told Black, “The back of your Mercedes is so clean that I can eat from it!”

Platinum Motorcars believes in giving back to the community and is already involved with several charities and galas throughout the Houston Area and looks forward to participating in many more. “We want to show Houston that we aren’t just here to make money but that we’re here to make a difference,” says Nguyen.

Platinum Motorcars is the only bonded, licensed and insured rental car facility in Houston. Because of this, and the owner’s eye for detail and beauty, Platinum cars have been featured in the newest remake of the hit series Dallas, ABC’s Good Christian Belles, NBC’s Chase and Style Network’s Big Rich Texas.

Platinum boasts repeat clientele with numerous sports players like Oakland Raiders Safety Michael Huff, New York Giants Defensive Tackle Chris Canty and Dallas Cowboys Defensive Linebacker DeMarcus Ware, as well as celebrities such as Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, Elizabeth Hurley and Matthew Perry.



October 22, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby




THE LINE – If you are waiting to get your Texas driver’s license, don’t check your watch, or the calendar. Cut down a tree and count the rings. I have been waiting here since February, or maybe March, as one of my editors said, “I’ve told you a million times. Don’t exaggerate.”

Every Texan knows there are three events we really dread: a Rice-Texas football game, listening to a Rick Perry speech and getting our driver’s license. It has always been a long and dreary process, but I swear the problem has become worse since the Texas Legislature cut spending for the Department of Public Safety (DPS). Our state troopers’ motorcycles have pedals and training wheels, the Texas Rangers moonlight as Dallas baseball players and the drivers license offices are only open during eclipses of the moon.

Take this one office (we have three in the state). The lines formed at dawn. Some applicants brought their lunch, others have their pup tents and a few women have their children, even though they weren’t pregnant when they arrived. To wile away the days, I have investigated this long-running sore. First, part of the problem is that everyone but the OU football team wants to be a Texan. Remember, our state’s population increases on average of 1,100 a DAY, and even new-borns, like the ones around me now, want to drive. For 12 years there was little increase in the drivers license (let’ call it DL, the DPS does) operations, but that has changed and apparently I am wrong about it getting worse.

According to the DPS there has actually been an increase in the department’s budget. The last session of the Legislature came up with $63 million in funding, which is being used to open six mega centers, hire 266 additional employees, and purchase equipment and technology “to improve customer service and efficiency.” We can only imagine how long this line would be if the lawmakers had spent that money more wisely,  like hiring lawyers for the attorney general’s office to fight the onslaught of the 19th Century. The DPS says it is already lining up proposals for the upcoming session of the Leg to streamline the DL process. Next year: an abacus in every office!

Now some handy tips to get through the line quicker, or avoid it altogether. Clip and save.  In some cases you can renew on-line. The DPS says: “A large number of people eligible to renew online, by phone or by mail aren’t currently taking advantage of this time-saving option. Visit or call 1-866-DL-Renew to find out if you are eligible for these convenient service options. Change of address transactions can also be taken care of online.”

As with many state operations, Mondays and Fridays tend to be the busiest days.  For customer convenience, most offices have extended hours until 6 p.m. on Tuesdays. But remember, state offices close for all state holidays, which include any month with an R. Summer is one of the busiest times in DL offices. DPS hires extra summer interns to handle the easy stuff — duplicates and renewals — to free up the pros  for more complicated transactions, like applications from those in the Federal Witness Protection Program.

Since you can renew anytime within one year of the expiration date of your DL, pick a time that is convenient for your schedule and perhaps shorter lines. One last point. Make sure you have all proper documents, including you pardon papers, and money. I paid $25, which is not bad for the priviledge of bouncing over potholes for the next six years. (Most licenses are good for that period, less time after your fifth DWI.)

If you are under 18 years of age the cost is $16 and if you’re 85 or older it’s $9. Shouldn’t the price for these two categories be, say, $5,000 a year? That would sure cut down on accidents. Motorcyclists must add $15 to the cost. We have all seen those suicidal “Wild One” wannabes zipping down the freeways, weaving in and out. Does that extra $15 cover the costs of cops, EMS and LifeFlights? Only in Texas do we have to wear a helmet if we ride a bicycle but not if we’re on a motorcycle. DL offices now accept credit cards, cash, checks, and money orders. Where does the money go? To something called the Texas Mobility Fund. I have never heard of that state agency and have no idea what it does, but I think it’s controlled by Ben Barnes.

Does it seem that every Texan is driving on your road and trying to get into your rightful parking spot? Probably, because there are approximately 16 million DLs currently in operation. Consider that the state’s population, as of this hour, is an estimated 25,674,681, and every one of them is going somewhere. The DPS doesn’t know who received the very first Texas driver license, but the state began issuing them in 1935. My mother started driving at age 14 before licenses were issued, and never did take a test. That explains our family’s car insurance rates. Photo IDs didn’t come in until 1968, and now have many uses, including voting.

A clerk at the DL office told me any applicant age 65 or over can go to the head of the line, but the DPS home office said that is not official policy. I would try to go to the front but the others waiting here would beat me to jelly with their walkers. You have noticed throughout this magnificent explanation that the document in question has been called a driver’s license, drivers’ license and just drivers license. So what is the legal name for it? Look on that piece of plastic in your wallet. It is driver license, not plural, not possessive, with no apostrophe. My eyes are listed as “BRO,” which is DPS talk for bloodshot. Now look at your photograph. Would you want that person driving on Texas roads?


Ashby is unlicensed at





Carols by Candlelight

October 22, 2012 by  
Filed under Events

2012 Houston Heights Association Holiday Home Tour
Six Houston Heights Neighbors Open Their Homes on
Friday, November 30 & Saturday, December 1
Patron Party is set for Thursday, November 29

Mark the calendar now for “Carols by Candlelight,” the 2012 Houston Heights Association Holiday Home Tour, set for Friday, November 30, and Saturday, December 1. Six Houston Heights neighbors will welcome visitors into their homes that will be all decorated for the holidays.

The Tour provides a rare opportunity to look inside these unique spaces that reflect the rich Houston Heights architectural tradition and the personalities of the homeowners.

Houston Heights Neighbors and Their Homes:

    • John and Diedre Reed, 606 East 8 1Ž2 – Traditional Louisiana cottage filled with antique furniture and unique collections, including blue and white Delftware.
    • Alyssa Parrish and Michael Bublewicz, 528 Arlington – Renovated 1920s cottage nominated for a HHA Community Improvement Award.
    • Marisa and Gavin Hurd, 946 Arlington – 1894 Queen Anne Victorian cottage, updated and expanded in 2010.
    • Brad Wise and Shireen Taylor, 433 West 24th –   Circa 1915 Craftsman Bungalow listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
    • Shana Ross and Mary Beth Reuter, 1008 West 15th – Contemporary with stained concrete floors, exposed ductwork, and framed by trees, so prevalent in the neighborhood.
    • Adolphus and Celisa Pressley, 1522 Alexander – 1920s Bungalow restored to create an eclectic style using reclaimed materials in the house and furnishings.

See below for detailed home descriptions.

The experience will be complete with the joyous sounds of carolers at each home and at the Heights Fire Station, where local food trucks will be available for visitors to enjoy.

The Tour has become a favorite seasonal destination, where visitors can also enjoy getting in some holiday shopping in the antiques and vintage clothing shops, art galleries, and eclectic boutiques. There are coffee shops for a relaxing break, and fine dining at world-class restaurants in the area

Holiday Home Tour Headquarters:
Heights Fire Station, 107 W. 12th Street at Yale, Houston, Texas 77008.
Ticket sales, parking, the shuttle stop and food trucks will be located here, in addition to entertainment by neighborhood carolers.

Tour Hours:

  • Friday, November 30, 6:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 1, 3:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Tickets & other information:
Advance tickets will be available online at beginning October 31 and at various Houston Heights locations closer to event date.  Tickets will also be available during tour hours at the Holiday Home Tour Headquarters and at each Holiday Home Tour home.

Tickets are $20 in advance for all six homes or $25 on tour days. $5 per-home tickets can also be purchased during tour hours at those particular homes. Bundles of 10 tickets will be available online for $175 through November 28.

Free shuttle buses will operate during the tour on both Friday and Saturday. Patrons may board the shuttle buses at the Holiday Home Tour Headquarters, where parking is available.

The Patron Party is an annual festivity that will take place Thursday, November 29, 7:00 – 10:00 p.m. at 941 Cortlandt, the beautifully redesigned and renovated 1920s bungalow home of Leann Mueller, this year’s Holiday Home Tour Executive Chair. Entertainment will be provided by classical-music group WindSync, Ensemble in Residence with the Da Camera of Houston Young Artist Program. Tickets are limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Individual tickets are $125 and include an exclusive preview of the Homes on Tour from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. To purchase tickets, visit

For more information, visit, call the Houston Heights Association at 713-861-4002 and select option 7, or e-mail

The Houston Heights Association (HHA) is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) non-profit civic organization which promotes and fosters friendship, goodwill and community spirit within and around the Houston Heights. Proceeds from the HHA Holiday Home Tour go directly into the community for beautification, restoration, and maintenance of the Heights Boulevard esplanade, Marmion and Donovan Parks, and the historic Houston Heights City Hall & Fire Station.  Additionally and among its many other endeavors, the HHA supports educational activities for local schools and schoolchildren, and promotes local businesses.

Simon Fashion Now® presented by Cadillac

October 18, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs

photo by Michelle Watson

This season, Simon Fashion Now® presented by Cadillac arrived at The Galleria in conjunction with Fashion’s Night Out on Thursday, September 6!

During Fashion’s Night Out, more than 50 of The Galleria’s retailers rolled out the red carpet to celebrate the best of fall fashion.

During the Thursday night cocktail party and fashion show kicking off Simon Fashion Now® presented by Cadillac, more than 800 fashion forward Houstonians were in attendance at ICE at The Galleria. The cocktail party and fashion show kicked off fall Simon Fashion Now events – a dynamic three-day celebration of beauty and style at The Galleria.

Guests at the Thursday night luxury cocktail party enjoyed trend inspired cocktails from Grey Goose, while stunning models from Page Parkes rocked the runway in fall’s hottest looks. Fire dancers were also on hand to entertain guests between retailer runway scenes.

The party rolled on for the fashionable crowd as Gigi’s Asian Bistro & Dumpling Bar hosted an exclusive post party immediately following the fashion show.


October 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE DRY CLEANERS – “Is my black suit ready? The one with the ketchup and bird droppings that needed cleaning in a desperate way? And is the canvas hanging bag repaired, the one that got ripped when an American Airlines row of seats landed on it?”

The clerk smiles at me. “Done rango mood sausage.”

These days I need subtitles when I do business with my valet, dry cleaners and most other clerks, cab drivers and muggers. America, and especially Texas, are awash with foreign-born, each speaking only their dialect of Mazandarani.This is not a bad thing except when I’m trying to get my done rango mood sausage.

We should not be surprised at the size of this melting pot, nor do we need to make any apologies for our immigration laws. In 2006, the last year I can find, we accepted more legal immigrants as permanent residents than all other countries in the world combined. Give me your huddled masses: Nearly 14 million immigrants entered the U.S. from 2000 to 2010. Today we house 43 million foreign-born, or 13.5 percent of the total population. This is not a historic high – 100 years ago the figure was 15 percent. Indeed, we are not tops among all nations – in Canada it’s 17 percent and the Aussies have 24 percent. Still, we’ve got a lot.

Some of these are legal newcomers – last year 694,193 immigrants were naturalized as U.S. citizens, down from more than 1 million in 2008. Of these, 52,927 are newly minted Texans. I always like those photos of proud, new Americans holding up their right hand, often grasping an American flag in the left, swearing their allegiance to the Constitution, the IRS and the NFL.

The problem is our illegals. ICE estimates there are 11.6 million of them, and of these, 6.8 million, or 59 percent, are Mexicans. In Texas we have about 1.8 million illegal aliens, slightly less than the populations of Dallas and Fort Worth combined. These estimates are sort of silly. If the feds know how many undocumented residents (don’t you love that euphemism) live here, why don’t they do something? It’s like when the DEA agents say they only intercept 15 percent of the illegal drugs coming in. There is no way on earth they can know. It’s a meaningless figure.

Whatever the number, the border-busters don’t play by our laws. In effect, we are telling them, “The first rule of America is: you don’t have to obey the rules.” Every now and again we read about poor Ivan or Juan or Pierre. “He’s been here 25 years. Why deport him now?” If the longer you break the law the less guilty you are, then a robber who holds up 25 Wells Fargo banks is less guilty than someone who only loots one. Incidentally, the Obama administration has deported far more illegal alien criminals than any other President we’ve had.

Immigration has lost its panache as a hot button for most of us. Not too long ago surveys showed it was a top priority among American voters. The problem has now slipped down among our concerns between swine flu and double parking. Besides, it is frustrating to wonder how secure are our borders after all the money we’ve spent. Last year in El Paso, after noticing an increase in morning foot traffic, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection assigned a special lane to students who cross between 7 and 9 a.m., a result of a push by Mexican parents to place their children in American schools. One 18-year-old girl said that all 25 classmates in her school lived in Ciudad Juárez. It is believed that 800 to 1,400 students a day pass back and forth across the border. No wonder our schools are underfunded. True, these youngsters aren’t staying – until college when they get in-state tuition. Maybe we have express lanes for coyotes smuggling in eight youths or less.

This student matter brings us to the DREAM act, which is for youngsters who came here illegally but have stayed out of trouble, gone to school or the military. The act gives them two years amnesty, by any other name. I’ve got this cynical theory. We see lines of these kids who fill out a form for ICE: name, address, phone number, daytime location, photo and swear they are in this country illegally. Then the feds know exactly how to round up a couple million applicants and say, “Just step into this bus marked Matamoros.”

What do Andrew Carnegie, Bob Hope and Albert Einstein have in common? They were all immigrants, as were Irving Berlin, Elizabeth Taylor and more than 40 members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team. I am all for legal entries of immigrants, which add a rich diversity to our culture. (Students at the Houston ISD speak 84 different languages.) We all love St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo and Mafia movies. Besides, remember that some of the original Anglo-Texans were actually illegal immigrants. But today’s newcomers should arrive with the proper papers, and fit in as soon as possible to take their place in our society, voting and even holding office. Still, how can we, in good conscience, have bilingual ballots? Those who can’t speak decent English are doomed to rake our leaves, bus our tables and become governor of California.

When in Rome, speaka de Italiano. In Cyprus, speak Cyp. When I visit South Africa I speak southern: y’all, corn my pone and damnyankee. It is only proper to show respect for our hosts. So why is it that foreigners sneak in here, stay for years, and still can’t split a definitive pluperfect in the nominative case? I blame our teachers. Assimilate, or go home. Once, when flying back from Paris to Houston, our plane went right over Montreal. I turned to a Frenchman sitting next to me and said, “Do you know that Montreal is the second largest French-speaking city in the world?”

He nodded and replied, “Yes, and isn’t it a shame.”


Ashby is non-lingual at






Uptown Holiday Lighting

October 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs, Events

The 27th Annual Uptown Holiday Lighting will be held Thanksgiving evening, Thursday, November 22nd. To kick off the holiday season, Santa will make his annual appearance to light up more than a half-million lights on 80 trees lining Post Oak Boulevard and on area building rooftops. The spectacular evening culminates with a dazzling fireworks extravaganza.


WHEN:                       Thanksgiving evening

                                      Thursday, November 22nd

·         Begins at 4 p.m.

·         Fireworks extravaganza begins at 7 p.m.

WHERE:                     Uptown Houston – Post Oak Boulevard

(Between San Felipe and Westheimer)


COST:                          Free and open to the public


PARKING:                  Public Parking – Free parking is available at the following locations:

                                      Centre at Post Oak * Dillard’s Garage * Williams Tower * Four Oaks Place * The Galleria * Post Oak Plaza * Post Oak Central                                     


INFO LINE:                (713) 621-2504









October 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE ED/OP PAGE – This is my favorite part of the newspaper, especially my own brilliant efforts. It’s the editorial/opinion page (ed/op for short), which features opinions, letters to the editor and political cartoons as opposed to the leftist-commie claptrap that infiltrates the rest of the media. Don’t you just despise those bomb-throwers? Why don’t they write what I want to read, and tell me what I want to hear?

Here in ed/op land every four years there are two repeating and predictable

phenomena. First, the yawn before the storm. Over the past several months the pundits have been using weasel words to explain why Obama will beat Romney or the other way around. We have read columnist after sage grind out quotes, observations and the ever-rare common sense, about the upcoming presidential election. Notice these soothsayers never say flatly who is going to win, by how much and why. Their expertise is chock-a-block with “could,” “might” and “maybe.” This does us no good. We need to know who’s going to win BEFORE the election. Anyone can pick the winner on the first Wednesday after the first Tuesday in November — a nod to the Constitution — just as I can give you the winning Lotto numbers the day after the drawing. (Actually, I shall now tell you, not the winner, of this presidential election, but the loser: the American people.)

It isn’t only the printed pundits who cover their tails with vague and meaningless pronouncements. Turn on any Sunday morning TV talking-heads show, or go to the propaganda channels that hide behind the fig leaf of being fair and balanced, and we will see the usual suspects sitting around a table pontificating about the election. Note these are usually the very same people whose writings we read on the ed/op page.

So much for these Olympians who hand down worthless bombast when we need the inside skinny before we bet. Next we have step two: after the election. That is when the gurus give us closing-the-barn-door wisdom. “It was obvious to me that…” “Clearly he swept to victory because blah, blah, blah.” “As I said all along, the left-handed, red-haired single pipefitters were the key to….” Tell us something we don’t know, otherwise gimme the remote. (Incidentally, if you have been wondering about the origin of the word “pundit,” it is an East Indian word coming from “pun” meaning “pompous” and “dit” from “idiot.”)

After the election results are in and the last chad has been hanged, we have the blame game. One side is going to win, and they will bask in their mandate (ha!) from America and do nothing. The winner’s advisers, hangers-on, third cousins and media mouthpieces will carefully explain how their genius succeeded. Ah, but the fun part will be observing the losers. JFK said that success has a hundred fathers, but defeat is an orphan.

Those orphans will be finger-pointing, backtracking and explaining what they really meant. It’s Spin City time. Whatever the cause of the defeat, you won’t find a single soul who will say, “I screwed up.” It’s gutless, but understandable because, for the hired guns, it’s their profession and they need to get a new gig next election cycle. Who’s going to hire a loser? Candidates are already lined up for the 2016 presidential election, GAD! The Karl Roves, James Carvilles and faceless speech writers need work. Half of them have resumes frothing with the victory laps. The losing half will be mixing drinks and opening doors for the winning half.

Another group involved in this CYA (Cover Your Anatomy) are the pollsters. For a year or so they have been coming out with their varying surveys telling us who’s ahead among dog breeders. If any of them got the outcome wrong, and their findings will be out there for us to see, they will also have a problem next go-round trying to sell their accuracy.

Besides the pundits and advisers, what about the people who gave the money? What do those donors whose cash was bet on the losing side have to show for their generosity besides an autographed photo of them shaking hands with a has-been? This election has witnessed the Brothers Koch (pronounced Coke as in: Elections go better with Koch), Schwartz György (Dem political moochers know him as George Soros), Sheldon Adelman and many mystery donors, since the Citizens Unit case made secret donations possible. They are going to be licking their wounds and nursing their resentments. Did you make a hefty donation to the losing candidate in hopes of landing an ambassadorship or at least a major defense contract? Sorry, however, your check made a lot of poor chauffeurs, waiters and bumper sticker printers happy. Consider it part of the trickle-down theory.

A major move in the blame game is to find the proper targets. The losers will point to the slimy campaign the other side ran. If Romney loses, he will blame MSNBC, Hollywood liberals, his dog-on-the-car-roof story, that “I like to fire people” quote and obviously the 47 percent solution. Should Obama lose, he will castigate Wall Street, the Tea Party and racists. Or it might be something simple. Historians blame Richard Nixon’s loss to Jack Kennedy on Nixon’s refusal to wear makeup in their TV debates. It made Tricky Dick look sweaty if not oily, like a thief trying to pull off a major caper. Come to think of it….

So we must endure the current cacophony, then wait for all the post-election explanations, filling up the ed/op sections of newspapers and jamming the air waves. But be assured that the losing candidate will not shoulder the blame himself. After his defeat at Gettysburg, Gen. Robert E. Lee told his troops, “All this has been my fault. It is I who have lost the fight.” Can we in our wildness imagination hear the loser say this? More probably he will say, “It’s all the fault of the press.”


Ashby pundits at


Moody Gardens debuting Snow Tubing at Festival of Lights

October 1, 2012 by  
Filed under Blogs

GALVESTON – Moody Gardens® visitors can slide into the holiday spirit this winter, as the largest holiday lighting event on the Gulf Coast unveils a thrilling new experience.

For a decade, the Festival of Lights has entertained visitors with more than 100 lighted scenes themed to holiday music. Now in its 11th year, the Festival will feature Snow Tubing, a ride down a 100-foot ice slide set up on the Moody Gardens grounds on Galveston Island, one of the most popular vacation destinations in the Southwest.
Along with the new attraction, returning visitors to the Festival of Lights will see several new stationary and animated light displays, including Victorian Christmas scenes.
The Festival will open on Nov. 10 to kick off nearly two months of a fun-filled holiday season.
It will run Thursdays through Saturdays from Nov. 16 to Dec. 8, before open nightly from Dec. 13 until Jan. 5, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Hours run from 6 to 10 p.m.

Snow Tubing will be featured Saturdays during the Festival, before opening daily on Dec. 22. The slide will open from noon to 10 p.m. and cost $12 for admission.
“We are excited to bring this new activity to the Festival of Lights,” said Moody Gardens president and CEO John Zendt, who added that guests appreciate the traditional and new activities this event offers each year. “Guests will be given a tube to glide down our big ice slide. This is going to be a lot of fun.”
The Festival kicks off on Nov. 10, with Santa Claus set to parachute in and flip the switch for the light displays. From there, visitors can walk the trail of the million-light display and see different holiday themes throughout. Live entertainment including choirs, musicians and dancers will be a part of the festivities.
Inside the Visitor’s Center, guests can get their photos taken with Santa, as well as enjoy several seasonal movies like the “Polar Express 4D Experience” in the MG 3D, Ridefilm and 4D Special FX Theaters.

Admission to the Festival of Lights is $6.95. With the purchase of a Festival of Lights entry, tickets to the Aquarium Pyramid®, Rainforest Pyramid®, MG 3D Theater, 4D Special FX Theater, Ridefilm, Discovery Museum and Colonel Paddlewheel Boat are available for only $6 each.

Admission to the area’s only outdoor ice rink is included with a Festival ticket. Guests can bring their own skates or skate rental is available for $6. A holiday buffet is also available at the Garden Restaurant.

Food Drive Fridays return this season to provide a discount and help those in need this holiday season. Guests can bring a non-perishable food item any Friday during the event and receive 2-for-1 Festival admission. The food will be donated to the Galveston County and Houston Food Banks to help needy families in the area.
Other special events for this year’s Festival of Lights include a gift market, a half marathon and Family Fun Walk, and “A Magical Christmas” Dinner Show.
The inaugural Holiday Half Marathon will be at 8 a.m. on Nov. 8 and primarily take place on Moody Gardens’ property and Scholes International Airport. The Family Fun Walk will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 17. Tickets are $15 per person (children under 3 are free). Race participants will receive a t-shirt, finisher’s medal, and a post race party with music, food & drinks. Age groups awards will be given as well.
The Holiday Gift Market is scheduled for Nov. 23 to 25 at the Moody Gardens Convention Center. Admission is $5.

Moody Gardens presents “A Magical Christmas” Dinner and Show starring Master Illusionist Curt Miller and friends is being offered on Dec. 14 to 16 and Dec. 20 to 27 at the Moody Gardens Convention Center. The price is $49 for adults, $29 for children under 12, and includes the dinner buffet and performance, Festival of Lights ticket and all taxes, gratuities and parking. Premium seats and group pricing are available for the dinner show.

Hotel rates during Festival of Lights start at $149 per night, plus taxes.
For more information, call 1-800-582-4673 or visit
Moody Gardens® is a public, non-profit, educational destination utilizing nature in the advancement of rehabilitation, conservation, recreation, and research.


CAPE COD – Have you ever had lobster quiche? How about lobster wieners? Then there are lobster rolls, lobsters steamed, broiled, baked and probably on your ice cream and in your coffee. This is not a complaint, it’s just what the Cape Codders eat. Actually, during the summer the locals are outnumbered by the tourists from BAW-ston and Noo YAWK. I waited till fall, just as the trees are turning and some of the outliers are leaving this lovely area. Yet there are still plenty of tourists around, which brings us to today’s subject.

This is Sandwich, the oldest town on “the Cape,” as we Natty Bumppos of the dunking stool say. It’s a cute little village with clapboard houses, strict zoning – even fast-food chains and gas stations look like they were designed by Cotton Mather. A short distance away is the beach which is nothing like our Gulf beaches. They have a better class of seaweed.

Now we come to the town of Plymouth which is not exactly on the Cape but is close enough. As every American child knows (maybe), the Pilgrims fleeing religious persecution in England and wanting freedom of worshhihp, looked all over the world and decided to come to America to get away from the English. Calling themselves “Pilgrims,” they first stepped ashore here on the Plymouth Rock, declared their adoration for all mankind, including the Indians, and set up shop. That is why millions of us come here every year to pay homage to the Rock in its original form and place.

There is just one problem. That ain’t the way it happened. They never called themselves Pilgrims and weren’t described as the “Pilgrim Fathers” until 1799 – that’s 179 years after landing. They called themselves Separatists, and were actually intolerant Protestants who broke from the Church of England to form their own denomination. (They were so uptight they considered the Puritans too liberal.) The Separatists didn’t flee to America but to the Netherlands which put up with all sorts of different cults. But after several years, the leaders of the group found their kids were becoming more Dutch than English, marrying into Dutch society and falling away from the flock.

So they looked around for some place where they could be English without belonging to the Church of England. Virginia, of course. But on their way here they got blown off course and ended up, not at Plymouth, but near the site of modern Provincetown in November, 1620. They eventually came here and waded ashore from the Mayflower, which they had leased, in late 1620. About 100 of them survived the trip and half of them died that winter. Oh, and they killed a lot of Indians.

The Plymouth Rock landing story was never mentioned in the settlers’ extensive letters and diaries, and the name itself, “Plymouth Rock,” didn’t appear until 121 years later. What’s more, this may or may not be the real rock. When plans were made to build a wharf at the landing site in 1741, a 94-year-old local records keepeer named Thomas Faunce identified the precise rock his father had told him was the first solid land the Pilgrims set foot upon. Workers split the big rock into two parts — the bottom portion left behind at the wharf and the top portion moved to the town’s meetinghouse. In 1834, it was moved again, this time to Pilgrim Hall. In 1880, the top of the rock was moved back to its original wharf location and rejoined to the lower portion. You can see a big scar across the middle of this rolling stone. But this might not be its original location.

Over the years the date “1620” was carved into the rock.Souvenir hunters chipped off parts. The original Plymouth Rock was estimated to have weighed 20,000 pounds. It now is about one-third that size, and today there are pieces in Pilgrim Hall Museum as well as in the Patent Building in the Smithsonian. In 1835, Alexis De Tocqueville, traveling the U.S., wrote, “This Rock has become an object of veneration in the United States. I have seen bits of it carefully preserved in several towns in the Union.” It looks like a huge baked potato resting on the sand beneath a Victorian canopy. You can see it but can’t touch it.

So why on this fall afternoon are the streets filled with tourists? There is not a paid parking available. Cars are backed up for blocks. Shops line the street opposite the Rock selling T-shirts, mugs, banners and more T-shirts. A doughnut shop is cooking up a batch for the visitors. This nation may be in an economic downturn, but all is well in Plymouth, Mass.

We only steal from the best. Why can’t Texas copy Plymouth? Just create a huge tourist trap out of almost nothing. OK, Chrysler did name a car after this town. Nobody drives a Nacogdoches. We don’t have a Dedham granodiorite (its official rocky name) but we do have a Rockwall, the Rockets and the Dasypus novemcinctus (our official state small mammal, the nine-banded armadillo). We can sell T-shirts: “My Folks Went to Pampa and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt.” The tour guide says, “And on this very spot, the Apollo 13 landed.” “Port Arthur – Gateway to Vidor!” “College Station – SEC’s Darling or Doormat?” “Junction — Home of the best feral hogs in Texas.” Tourist bureau pamphlet: “Why visit Palestine, Paris and Athens when you can see them all in Texas?” Plymouth has the Pilgrims. We have the Kilgore Rangerettes. Now which bunch would you rather take to dinner?

We must get started, because thus far we haven’t done too well in the tourist trap business. Houston, aka Space City, home of the astronauts, can’t even get a lousy space shuttle to exhibit. A flyover doesn’t count; that’s just rubbing our nose in it.

Would it help if we started wearing buckles on our boots and burning witches?


Ashby rocks at





Celebrate the importance of after school in greater Houston at breakfast

October 1, 2012 by  
Filed under Events

The Greater Houston Lights On Alliance hosts a breakfast on Oct. 18 at 7:30 a.m. at the Hotel Derek, 2525 West Loop South.  The 13th annual event is a celebration of the importance of after-school programs in Houston and follows a national movement to call attention to importance of after-school education.

Keynote speaker is Council Member C.O. “Brad” Bradford.  Khambrel Marshall of KPRC Channel 2 is the emcee, with special guest Dr. Peter A. Witt, Texas A&M University.   Cost is $40 and includes parking.

To register, go online to  For information, call (713) 696-1331 or email:

The Alliance includes the following members:  Harris County Department of Education’s Cooperative for After-School Enrichment; the Houston Parks & Recreation Department and the After-School Achievement Program; The YMCA of Greater Houston;  the South East Texas After-School Association (SETAA);  Citizen Schools;  Boys & Girls Club of Greater Houston; Houston Independent School District; and Fort Bend Independent School District’s Extended Day Program.