Sunday, December 31, 2017

Mathis Teacher Declares for TBOE, District 2, Opposing Ruben Cortez in Democratic Primary

No one likes to be ignored, especially if they're running for office and not mentioned in an article listing candidates for that office.

Michelle  Davila, a teacher from Mathis, a one stop light town 37 miles west of Corpus Christi, signed two blog comments, letting us know she's running for the Texas Board of Education, District 2, as a Democratic primary opponent to incumbent Ruben Cortez. 

Michelle, or "Mika," as she's known to her friends, signed both comments as "Dr. Michelle Arevalo Davila," having earned a doctorate in bilingual education according to her campaign push card.

We repost both of Dr. Davila's comments below:

Dr. Michelle Arevalo Davila, December 30, 2017 at 4:40 PM

Why do you state "Hasse's likely opponent in the general election is Ruben Cortez?" You seem to forget that there is a DOCTOR OF EDUCATION, public school teacher running in this race as well. I may not be from RGV or Cameron County, but don't count me out. I would appreciate it if you would include me in these posts when you are mentioning the three Cameron county candidates. If we are really concerned about public education over politics, then why do you ignore the 15 year veteran TEACHER with published work in the field of education?

Also, this one:

Dr. Michelle Arevalo Davila, December 30, 2017 at 4:47 PM

"Non local democrat lady candidates from Mathis shouldn't be commenting here as anons" 

Let me correct you. I'm a lady, yes. I'm not posting as an "anon" I'm very clear to you who I am. My name is Dr. Michelle Arevalo Davila. Born and raised in Corpus Christi, where I TEACH for a living. 

Living in Mathis, where I am a member of the MISD Board of Trustees. 

I'm sorry you think I'm "not beating Ruben, Tad or Eric." That tells me that you value personal relationships over qualified candidates. 

My qualifications? 15 years of teaching. A Doctor of Education degree, a Congressional scholarship sponsored by the US Dept of State, published work in the field of education, 12 state certifications in the field of education and SO MUCH MORE. 

What on earth do you mean someone younger than me? I'm 37 years old. What are you looking for, a neophyte or a zygote? This is ridiculous. Don't discount me because I'm not from your area. I'll gladly drive down there and sit across the table from any of you and see what you know about MY FIELD.

Downtown Mathis, Texas

Saturday, December 30, 2017

If West Brownsville Could Only Talk to Us

Works Sanitarium, c.1909
Brownsville's first suburb, West Brownsville, has a comfy feel.  There is deterioration, some squalor, roofs on once stately homes covered with plastic tarps, foundation problems and overgrown, neglected landscaping.

Yet, the area, roughly from Palm Blvd. to the railroad, W. Elizabeth to the river, is not claustrophobic, cramping your brain like the housing off Alton Gloor, with smallish brick houses on tiny lots, 5 cars to a house.  

West  Levee and West Saint Charles are wide promenades.  The lots are large.  You can breathe without hyperventilating, swing your elbows from side to side, hitting nothing.

Diego Lee Rot
Brownsville Observer's music writer, Diego Lee Rot, lives with his son Jack in West Brownsville.  We  meet daily at his 100 year old asbestos-sided home for a walk through the alleys of West Brownsville.

Grandson Jack pirouettes, skips and hops along the way, gets scolded at intersections, contributing little to the conversation unless computers get mentioned, then starts lecturing until told to "shut up."

We pass the Works Sanitarium, a Brownsville hospital predating Mercy Hospital on Central Blvd.  Diego lived there over a decade ago, becoming best friends with his next door neighbor, Robert Silva, Freddy Fender's old drummer.

Diego's old apartment is now occupied by J.J. Struebelt, drummer for the Earthmen or whatever group Ben Neece is fronting.

The old Martin Lumber building on Fronton, with 60's styling, glass blocks in a round office, calls out.  We stop and take pics.

Jack follows me as I check tagging on an old warehouse.  "WSL" is scrawled on empty buildings, referring to West Side Locos, I'm told.
Jack walks by tagging


During the Viet Nam era draft, Donald Trump received several "temporary" deferments, allowing him to dodge military service.

Trump once took off his shoes to show the spurs to his biographer, Michael D'Antonio, who said he saw "nothing."

"So, you can't march?" asked D'Antonio.

"Not long marches," Trump replied.

Despite this mildest of disabilities, Trump has already spent 85 days playing golf, during his first year as president, more than tripling Obama's golf outings his last year in office, costing the taxpayers $42,528,394.

What makes this newsworthy is Trump's campaign statement in August 2016:    

"I'm going to be working for you. I'm not going to have time to go play golf,"stated Trump at the time.

Trump, increasingly sensitive to criticism about his excessive playing, may have found temporary respite from the nosy media.  Yesterday, when reporters attempted to take pictures of the president golfing, a mysterious white truck moved in place to block their view.  When the photographers moved to get a better angle, the truck was moved to again prevent pictures.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Cameron County Judge Candidate Robert Sanchez' Campaign Promises

From the editor:  Robert Sanchez, AKA Captain Bob, a candidate for Cameron County Judge, uses social media to get out his campaign message, typically via his blog named "The Captain's Table."  We repost his current blog article below with our attempt at translation following:

So this day has been interesting. Duardo Paz
Martinez. Brownsville and Cameron County is #1 in Texas. I say free Wi Fi in Cameron County for all. Second Causeway to SPI 911. PUB Brownsville rates dropped. $100,000,000.00 returned to rate payers. Rates dropped 38% immediately . So money goes to economy. Massive re paving of streets. Boca Chica Beach Cleaned. Like Mr Clean Bob Sanchez likes it, Analysis of all Airports here in Cameron County, Promotions of Parks I love, Contact with Bonding Companies and Elon Musk. Unity with Cameron County Commissioners and Future State Representative Alex Dominguez for massive funding for Cameron County.

Sanchez, despite mentoring by McAllen blogger, Duardo Paz-Martinez, has some difficulty with written English.  We will attempt to restate his campaign promises in more understandable language:

1.  Free wifi for Cameron County
2.  Build a second causeway to S.P.I.(That's already been approved by Txdot and Cameron County.)
3.  Brownsville Public Utilities refunds $100 million to ratepayers for a rate increase for the Tenaska Power Plant that was never built.
4.  38% reduction in overall P.U.B. utility rates
5.  "Massive" repaving of county roads, streets
6.  Cleaning Boca Chica Beach(just once Bob or on a regular basis?)
7.  Analysis of all Cameron County airports(by "all," I suppose you mean the Brownsville/SPI Airport, Valley Int'l Airport and the small airport in Port Isabel?)  After analysis, then what's next Bob? 
8.  Promotion of parks(You're going to advertise our parks in the Brownsville Herald or what?)
9.  Contact with bonding companies and Elon Musk(for what purpose, Bob?)
10.  Massive funding for Cameron County by unity with Cameron County Commissioners and Representative Alex Dominguez(okay???)

Wednesday, December 27, 2017



Tad Hasse
Sometimes, our readers do all the work for us.

Yesterday, we made a simple announcement of Tad Hasse's candidacy for the State Board of Education, District 2.

It was a mere announcement of candidacy, a reporting of Hasse's filing, nothing more.

A reader, wanting more substance, more detail, some elaboration, wrote:

"What are his qualifications? Parent, educator? What makes him a good candidate? What line of work is he in?"

Using the reader's question as sort of a skeletal outline, writing a little about Hasse is not difficult at all, after all, I'm a friend.

Hasse is the I.T. Technician for the City of Brownsville, some say "Brownsville's resident nerd."  If a city computer or computer system, computer program is not functioning as it should, Tad is called.

As the city's administrators and employees well know, Hasse doesn't just "fix things," he explains how they work or why they don't work or the procedure needed to get them to work better.

Hasse has two kids,both college graduates; Becky, a marine biologist in Corpus Christi and Charles, still choosing his field of endeavor.

Hasse himself is a graduate of UTB, with a degree in mathematics.  

It has not escaped his notice that the current State Board of Education is not represented by a single mathematician.

Hasse has ideas about the way math is taught  in Texas, but he can share those himself.

Hasse has been involved for a couple decades in scouting, teaching Brownsville's youth necessary life skills and citizenship.  He's a prime mover in the annual mock city commission meetings where students assume the roles involved in governing the city.

In short, to answer the reader's question, Tad Hasse is a practical expert in information technology, a mathematician, a community leader with a high "problem-solving" aptitude, a long time fixture in the local Republican Party, but with a facility to go across party lines to get things done.

Ruben Cortez, Jr.
In contrast, Hasse's likely opponent in the general election, Ruben Cortez, Jr., did not graduate from high school.  To his credit, he did qualify for a G.E.D.  

Some of you may know Mr. Cortez as the son of Cameron County Justice of the Peace Linda Salazar.

Hasse must also get past young Eric Garza in the primaries.  Garza, along with David Polin, runs a political consulting and marketing firm, Garza & Polin Strategies, LLC.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

"So this is Christmas, And what have you done?"

Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

John Lennon, Yoko Ono

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun

And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

A very Merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong

And so happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red one
Let's stop all the fight

A very Merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas
And what have we done
Another year over
A new one just begun
And so happy Christmas

We hope…

Saturday, December 23, 2017


The cap at the left was purchased online several months ago, in a nostalgic effort to get in touch with my roots.

The logo on the cap is for Rainier Beer, naturally brewed since 1878 by the now defunct Rainier Brewery in Seattle, named, of course, after Mt. Rainier.

I was born in Renton, southeast of Seattle, the home of the Boeing Aircraft Company, but largely raised in Kent, about 10 miles further south.

From either town, actually all of the Puget Sound area, you could always look up on a clear day to see Mount Rainier.  It lended a feeling of stability, like a big security blanket and on warm days of 75 or 80 Farenheit, a cooling effect.

Mount Rainier, only the third highest elevated peak in the United States, actually has the highest topographic prominence in the world.  Prominence, according to wikipedia "characterizes the height of a mountain or hill's summit by the vertical distance between it and the lowest contour line encircling it but containing no higher summit within it. It is a measure of the independence of a summit."

Grandpa Barton in 1982, playing the saw
as a musical instrument, accompanied on
piano by Grandma Barton
So, there was Rainier Beer, but also, the more popular Olympia Beer from Tumwater and something called Lucky Lager.  I was a teenager before I realized it was not "Lucky Logger," since I didn't know anything about how beer was made and my paternal grandfather, Lawrence Barton, was a logger.

In my youth the Rainier Brewing Company was owned by Emil Sick, who also owned the Seattle Rainiers, a Pacific Coast League baseball team that played at Sick's Seattle Stadium.

For you historical purists, Mount Rainier is the "white man's name."  Native Americans, the Puyallups, referred to the mountain as, meaning "mother of waters" with the Carbon, Puyallup, Mowich, Nisqually and Cowlitz Rivers all beginning in the mountain's glaciers.




Last Selfie of 2017
This blog spewed out 433 offerings during planet Earth's current orbit of the sun, the 365.25 days we affectionately refer to as 2017.

The editor of the Brownsville Observer could even be more prolific annually, if he could survive on Neptune, as that solar orbit takes 164.8 Earth years.(One little tidbit picked up homeschooling a 7 year old)

Most of our articles dealt with something untoward, unfair, illegal or humorous in local government or politics, although occasionally we dealt with the latest fib from our Tweeter-in-Chief.

Former Fire Chief Carlos Elizondo, Former City Manager
Charlie Cabler
When City Manager Charlie Cabler abruptly resigned after 35 years with the City of Brownsville, it was a big story, although that entire story has not yet been told.

Before Cabler dropped his city key ring on the desk, Carlos Elizondo stepped down as Fire Chief and City Attorney Mark Sossi was fired.

All three seemingly had some involvement in an unlicensed ambulance operation siphoning off revenue from the city.

Cabler did not stay for a victory lap, "going away" party or to assist an orderly transition for his successor.  His pre-Halloween departure was, as if spooked by a ghost, Texas Ranger or F.B.I. agent.

Even faster than Cabler's exit was Mayor Tony Martinez' insistence that the City of Brownsville cut the check, some $220,000, for Cabler's severance or, most likely, silence.(If anyone had personal knowledge of the mayor's illegal shenanigans, it was Cabler.)

We covered the rise and fall of Cesar de Leon, as if a Shakespearean tragedy with an internal flaw bringing down the hero, reserving our compassion for his dual nation parents who had so carefully nurtured him for success.

Cesar's racial epithets, caught on the 4-1/2 hour tape, likely by Carlos Elizondo, were aimed at female lawyers of color, who ate his legal lunch locally, in their work for the D.A.'s office.  

Ironically, De Leon was accusing the black women of racism, hinting they viewed local "taco-eaters" as "wife-beaters," fit only for prison.

Last month, Cesar de Leon, gave a high school book report style comment at the park department's town hall meeting on future re-positioning of the Confederate rock.  His words, including a mention of racism and tolerance, rang hollow, without moral authority.

The once golden boy will hang on to his position, but without any expectations of accomplishment.  The non-racist part of the rant, captured on Elizondo's tape machine, revealed an arrogant, greedy young man with a sense of entitlement, resembling most of the politicos already in office.

The year also brought some measure of justice to the Irene Garza family, with the conviction of former Catholic priest John Feit for her murder in McAllen 57 years ago.

When local Bishop Daniel Flores offered a public apology for the pain caused by the church's handling of Feit and the incident, a non-practicing Catholic called.

"The bishop shouldn't have done that," the caller claimed.

"The church wasn't responsible for the murder or the coverup."

I vehemently disagreed, explaining how the local church officials knew Feit had assaulted another young woman a few weeks before, knew he committed this murder, but, simply transferred him to a monastery up north.

Former Hidalgo County District Attorney,
Rene Guerra
Perhaps, the brunt of criticism and blame should be leveled at despicable former Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra, who blocked the prosecution of Feit for over three decades, telling the Irene Garza family there would be an indictment "when pigs fly."

Guerra finally gave in to pressure from the public and the family of Irene Garza to seek justice in the case, but he had a devilish, "fuck-you!" ace up his sleeve. A grand jury was called in 2004 and convened for 15 days. Waiting to testify were Father Joseph O'Brien, former monk Dale Tacheny, Texas Ranger Rudy Jaramillo and others. But the only witness called by the reluctant District Attorney was a lady who testified for the defense in Feit's earlier trial years ago.

Guerra's dirty work was undone this year with Feit's conviction.

Friday, December 22, 2017



From the editor:  Brownsville's elite power couple, Robert Sanchez and Amanda McDonald, have been front and center ever since the dynamic duo started blogging about their daily lives on Calle Jacaranda.

Robert, AKA "Captain Bob," writes a daily missive, "The Captain's Table," while Amanda does "The Last Blonde in South Texas: A Memoir."

Yesterday, Amanda's blog offering revealed that life among B'ville's rich and famous is not always what it seems.  We repost her blog article below:

BMW Breaks Down….Why does this hurt so much?

Today was one of the worst days that I have had within the year of 2017. 

My car broke down, and since I have purchased this glorified piece of shit I have invested at least$ 3,000 in repairs alone. 

On top of that, the payments have been excruciatingly painful. The car, shall we say, with an original thought….this horrible vehicle represents risk and destruction. I will have to have a company tow for me, and pray to the car Gods that the repairs will not cause tardive dyskinesia.

On top of everything, as most of you may know, I have to take care of Robert Sanchez as well. That is a full time job in itself. 

When bad things happen, it is so very temporary. I thanked God today that I still had my life after being stranded. I could go into further detail, however I am sure that you can always create the imagined outcome anyway. It is, after all, so much more exciting!


Filemon Vela

From the editor:  Congressman Filemon Vela, whose District 34 slithers up into central Texas farm country, an obvious gerrymand, never forgets his roots and his base in Cameron County.  He's been firmly and loudly against the border wall and joins his fellow members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in imploring the House of Representatives to take action on DACA.  

We reprint today's CHC press release below:

Dec 21, 2017
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Chair Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-01) released this statement following a vote in the House of Representatives on the Republican Continuing Resolution:

“The House Republicans’ decision to close their eyes to 800,000 Dreamers who were counting on them to do the right and moral thing this holiday season is devastating. Delaying passing a permanent, bipartisan solution like the Dream Act before the end of the year will continue to cause thousands of more Dreamers to fall out of status and become targets for detention and deportation, spreading more fear in communities across our nation. House Republicans had the power and solution to end this crisis; instead, they recklessly returned home leaving the livelihoods and families of Dreamers in a cruel limbo.

“We will continue to be relentless in our fight for Dreamers because we need this done now. We will leverage every single opportunity to keep all Congressional leaders committed to the goal of permanently protecting Dreamers by mid-January. You can bet on the CHC, Dreamers, many rank-and-file Republicans, and the overwhelming majority of Americans to hold this Congress accountable.”

Thursday, December 21, 2017


Bishop Daniel Flores, Diocese of Brownsville
He didn't have to do it.  Many church leaders never admit to a wrong committed by clergy, covered up by the church itself.

Daniel Flores did.

“As a Catholic, as bishop of this local church, and as a human being I am horrified by this,” the bishop wrote in a message posted on the diocese website. “The suffering caused to so many by this crime in incalculable.”

“On behalf of the church, for the sinful actions of members of the church, I express this sorrow to the family, and to those whose faith has been injured by these events,” stated Flores.

Art Bell's Interview with George Carlin~1999

From Brainwashing to Circular Reasoning to the Unexplainable

Art Bell, "Coast to Coast"
Our last story used primarily religious examples of brainwashing, manipulation, thus prompting this comment from a reader:  

"It seems to me you might, in some cases, be confusing faith and stupidity. Granted though, sometimes it very hard to tell the difference."

True enough.  Several of my examples of brainwashing were religious in nature, although the Trump cult combines elements of religion, hero worship and false narrative.

Trumpites, not unlike religious zealouts, can find ways to illustrate and "prove" their viewpoints without actual, provable facts.  

This reminds me of a Biblical definition of faith at Hebrews, Chapter 11, Verse 1:  

“Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.”(Evidence and assurance, realities?  Nicely worded scripture!)

The notes for my previous article, written on a single page of a spiral notebook, contained references to, not just religion, but UFOs, alternative medicine, chi, transcendental meditation, etc. Of course, we can't do justice to all that here.

As an avid listener of Art Bell's Coast to Coast in the 90's, a show dealing with the paranormal, aliens and other phenomena, I remember another tool used by political spinmeisters, religion explainers and true believers of all shades; circular reasoning.

Circular reasoning starts with since we all know this is true. . . . . . ending with this must also be true.  Facts are frequently used, but incidental or irrelevant to the argument.

Art Bell had a number of programs about aliens, some originating in Roswell, New Mexico.

Art would interview a former sheriff, who lived in Roswell in the 40's, detailing his tenure as sheriff, the size of his family, precisely when he saw what he saw, etc., minutiae, detail after detail, but stopping just short of the single most important fact;  when did he see the little green men and what did they tell him about their mission?

Art would hold his listeners spellbound, building to a crescendo, then unsatifyingly shift to another nuance on the subject.  Classicly circular in reasoning.

Pehaps not little green men, but ghosts, demons, the paranormal are part of the life experience of many, Nena included.  

Her grandmother, Rosa, practiced a form of witchcraft on King Street in a house moved to make way for the Gladys Porter Zoo.  She did hexes and blessings for those who asked.

Nena and her sister can't be convinced they didn't see strange things in that house, lights and water faucets turned on during the night, the cries of a baby emanating from a shrine her grandmother had set up for her long-dead granddaughter.  There were gruesome things too they don't like to talk about. 

The two girls would run to their grandmother crying, only to be reassured:  "Don't worry little ones, it's just Juanita's baby."

Speaking of communication from the spirit world, Art Bell would occasionally receive an anonymous call from someone with the recorded voice of a demon.  Although not claiming to be a believer in demonic activity, I admit that voice caused my whole body to shake and lowered the temperature in the room seemingly 20 degrees.

OK.  Religious and political propaganda exists as does circular reasoning.  But, there's also the unexplainable.  I have questions about all of it, just no answers.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017


Years ago, when Diego was a newborn, Nena and I lived directly across from an Assembly of God church is rural Arkansas.  On Sunday mornings, we could hear weird, unintelligible chanting, accompanied by music.

When the music and talking stopped, I fixed my gaze on the front door, curious as to what kind of crazies would exit the building.  I was stunned that folks normal to that area walked out, not different from people seen at the post office or corner store.

One man lit a cigarette while walking to his Mustang.  A lady and three girls, all in long dresses, chatted with another family.  One man, with a young family, wore bib overalls.  It was all typically Arkansan.  There was nothing to indicate they'd all been either "speaking in tongues" or listening to it only moments before.

Several years later, I was curious as to how the Reverend Jim Jones could lead a cult in Guyana into a mass suicide where 918 killed themselves and their children drinking Kool-Aid laced with cyanide.  Some of those falling prey had been educated in good schools.

My basic question keeps surfacing:  How do intelligent people fall for stupidity?

I've long admired my Uncle Gordon, who reminds me of comedian/talk show host Dick Cavett, with similar intelligence and subtle humor.  An architect and builder, Gordon is also one of Jehovah's Witnesses, believing that the billions of Earth's population, who do not share his religious beliefs, will be executed at the Battle of Armageddon by God Almighty.  Again, intelligence and stupidity coexisting inside one human being.

Currently, about 35% of this country's populace are seemingly true believers in Trumpism, daily imbibing Fox and Breitbart News without a filter. 

Many of these followers are not stupid.  Like the Jehovah's, People's Temple and the Assembly of God, they can argue and defend their point of view to infinity. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


Jack's Homeschool Classroom
It's been nearly a year since Diego Lee Rot took his son Jack out of BISD, midway through first grade, asking me, his grandfather, to take over.

Jack and I can both relax as we've put some academic distance between the little boy and most of his peers, while finishing up his fourth grade workbooks.

Diego and I have had phone conversations about introducing more "real life" skill sets into Jack's education.  Last year, Jack learned to pump and pay for gasoline at Stripes and order at Burger King, necessary know-how for the real world.

This morning's nearly flat tire in Diego's F-150 gave us another opportunity to incorporate "real life" into Jack's education.  

As we drove out Military Highway towards Garden Park, I told Jack:  "I want you to watch carefully and write down everything the man at the tire shop does."

Jack's actual notes:

"Put a jack under the truck and lifted it up.
Took off the lug nuts and pulled the tire off.
Put more air in the tire.
Put the tire in a bathtub.
Took the tire off the rim and put a patch on the inside.
Put air in the tire.
Put the tire back on the truck."

While Jack may never work at a tire shop, he knows the process, a "real life" skill.  That sequence will be part of tomorrow's review.

When Jack's dad proudly told me that Jack had created an "arm" for his Minecraft character, going to , I asked Jack to explain.

The picture above shows Jack trying to tell me something about pressure plates and debugging on Minecraft.

I don't know shit about the video game, but I'm told it teaches some programming skills.

"That's fine, Jack.  You can play AFTER completing 4 pages of 'Grammar' and 'Reading Comprehension.'"

My philosophy on education?

The 3 R's are necessary, actually imperative, but the need for "real life" and video game skills can't be minimized  or underestimated. 


From the editor:  Cameron County constables have many duties; their work in the court system, guiding funeral processions, but, also, leading house movers through the labyrinth of Brownsville streets.  The pics below show such a moving team negotiating the corner at W. 9th Street and W. Saint Charles.


Self-Portrait by Josie del Castillo