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Clapped out

In his 1973 opus “The Gulag Archipelago,” Russian novelist and historian Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn relayed a story from a Soviet party conference during the rule of Joseph Stalin, noted dictator and late-night cinema enthusiast. The Communist leader had just given a rousing speech — or at least I assume it was rousing, given what happened next:

Let’s reminisce: Horse Traders

I was born too late to encounter the colorful swindlers called “roaders,” as roving livestock merchants were called in the early decades of the 20th century. After reading about their exploits as recorded by Western writers like Elmer Kelton, I believe I missed something interesting. The traders with their strings of horses and mules made their way over the dirt roads, closely followed by clouds of dust and flies. They carried guns and lived out of wagons, cooking over open fires.

The Great Kate Wait

Finally, there’s news that puts the firing of Ray Rice and the death of Joan Rivers on the back page. Princess Kate is going to have a baby! A tweet from the Royal tweeter says the baby will be born in April and will be a spare to the heir of the throne, which moves some royals down a peg in the lineup for the crown. If it’s a girl, maybe she’ll look like a twee Shirley Temple, since her older brother, precious Prince George, could pass for Spanky on Little Rascals.

You can’t make this stuff up

Just in the United States, the cosmetics industry pulls in some $70 billion a year in sales of what’s commonly called “makeup.” But lipstick, mascara, eye shadow and the like aren’t the only kind of makeup the cosmetic giants are peddling.

Comptroller of public accounts protects from over-spending

This November, Texas voters will elect someone new to most of the state-wide offices: The office of the governor; lieutenant governor, comptroller, agriculture commissioner, land commissioner and railroad commissioner. Over the next several weeks, I will talk about the duties and powers of each office, and how the office effects the lives of Texans.

Good news about Medicare

As a grateful beneficiary of Medicare who had some major medical expenses covered by it this year, I pay attention to news about its fiscal health. There has been too much talk in Washington by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan and others about privatizing Medicare or raising the age at which older Americans can receive benefits. In contrast to these disturbing proposals, the recent news about Medicare has been good.

Putting the ‘you’ in utopia

It’s a great premise, I’ll give them that. Executives at Fox have green-lit a new reality show, slated to hit your boob-tube Sunday night, called “Utopia.” The network is dumping 15 people onto a secluded compound and tasking them with creating a society from scratch. It’s a little bit “Survivor,” a little bit “Lord of the Flies.”

Contests and Promotions

Stop signs are forever: Checkpointless

It’s Labor Day Weekend across this great nation, which means a three-day weekend of barbecues, trips to the lake, and, of course, the temporary suspension of the Fourth Amendment. It’s one of those rare occasions when we can reconnect with old friends, provide the kids with some life-long memories, and be subjected to search and seizure methods on par with a third-world country.

Railroad commissioners’ purview extends far beyond trains

This November, Texas voters will elect someone new to most of the state-wide offices: the Office of the Governor; Lieutenant Governor, Comptroller, Agriculture Commissioner, Land Commissioner, and Railroad Commissioner. Over the next several weeks, I will talk about the duties and powers of each office, and how the office effects the lives of Texans.

Buckets of misplaced charity

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks — and even then, I imagine the icy images would have found their way under your slab — you’ve likely heard of the “Ice Bucket Challenge.” If you haven’t — maybe you’re an Unfrozen Cave Man Lawyer , I’m not here to judge — it’s a bunch of people ostensibly trying to bring attention to Lou Gehrig’s disease by dumping freezing water over their heads. For all its faults, at least that step in logic makes sense.

Where have you gone Mrs. Helena Fair?

Besides learning diaphragmatic singing in the Kate Wakefield Elementary choir, writing a check and memorizing my social security number in Dillingham Middle School, learning the checks and balances of government in my senior civics class, my most important class lesson was in Mrs. Helena Fair’s Health Occupation Students of America-HOSA. During the 1977-1978 school year, Mrs. Fair, unannounced, brought in a guest speaker to talk to our class of 20 girls. She was a nurse employed by the Grayson County Health Department and the subject was birth control and contraceptives.

Reminiscant: My longest day

Aug. 22, 1944, during WWII, was surely the longest day of my life, despite the fact that I was only 19 at the time. On that day my plane was shot down over Yugoslavia on a bombing raid, and it was the prelude to almost nine months of harsh imprisonment as a POW in Germany.