Angry Texas mom backs down social studies text publisher, frustrates Texas School Board’s bias

October 3, 2015

Cover of the Texas edition of McGraw-Hill's World Geography (image from Birdville ISD site)

Cover of the Texas edition of McGraw-Hill’s World Geography (image from Birdville ISD site)

Oh, the power of one angry mother!

It’s not like we weren’t warned, by people like the Texas Freedom Network. The last round of “book approvals” by the Texas State Board of Education introduced some stunning inaccuracies into books used in Texas history, geography and economics classrooms. GOP appointees and board members worked hard to make sure even correct history standards could be skewed in actual texts.

One Houston-area mother saw her son’s text for world geography, videoed the thing and put it up on Facebook. Surprisingly, the publisher, McGraw-Hill, backed down, and promised fixes.

Here’s the video, from Rusty Styles:

The good news? This one angry mom got McGraw-Hill to take the ethical path, and promise to fix the caption. On Facebook again, McGraw-Hill said:

This week, we became aware of a concern regarding a caption reference to slavery on a map in one of our world geography programs. This program addresses slavery in the world in several lessons and meets the learning objectives of the course. However, we conducted a close review of the content and agree that our language in that caption did not adequately convey that Africans were both forced into migration and to labor against their will as slaves.

We believe we can do better. To communicate these facts more clearly, we will update this caption to describe the arrival of African slaves in the U.S. as a forced migration and emphasize that their work was done as slave labor. These changes will be reflected in the digital version of the program immediately and will be included in the program’s next print run.

McGraw-Hill Education is committed to developing the highest quality educational materials and upholding the academic integrity of our products. We value the insight the public brings to discussions of our content.

World geography was usually taught in the 9th grade in Texas; recent changes in requirements pushed world geography to a lesser status; many Texas kids get to pick between world geography and world history (both used to be required).

Students are old enough to need to know the truth on these issues. That is not to say that history books should stretch or chop the truth at any time, but it is to note that students in early high school are developing an ethical outlook on their lives. Adults, including book publishers, need to lead exemplary lives.

What other errors didn’t get the public scrutiny they deserved a few years ago?

Any other angry moms out there?


EPA intervenes to clean up mystery toxic dump threatening Texas county’s water

September 29, 2015

Maybe EPA should take Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s advice, and go door to door asking who did it.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Monday the agency will work to stop a toxic plume of tetrachloroethylene (PCE) that threatens to contaminate well waters in Burnet County.

The source of the plume, and who dumped the stuff, are unknowns.

EPA’s announcement:

EPA Adds Burnet Co., TX, Groundwater Plume to National Priorities List of Superfund Sites

Five hazardous waste sites added, seven proposed nationally

(DALLAS – Sept. 28, 2015)  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) added the Main Street Groundwater Plume site in Burnet Co., TX, to the National Priorities List (NPL) of Superfund sites, a list of sites that pose risks to people’s health and the environment. Superfund is the federal program that investigates and cleans up the most complex, uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites in the country and converts them into productive community resources by eliminating or reducing public health risks and environmental contamination.

The site lies about one mile south of the city of Burnet between County Road 340 and County Road 340 A. A plume of tetrachloroethylene, or PCE, was found in the groundwater in this area during monitoring of the Bertram Public Water Supply in 2010. The source of the contamination is unknown.

“Texans understand how precious water resources are for families and businesses,” said EPA Regional Administrator Ron Curry. “Addressing contamination helps alleviate the risk to the community and return property to economic use.”

The plume released into the Ellenburger-San Saba Aquifer, and contaminated two public water supply wells and seven private wells. Monitoring indicates levels in drinking water wells are below EPA’s health-based maximum contaminant level (MCL). Two wells that exceeding the MCL are used for irrigation and livestock watering. Exposure to PCE could harm the nervous system, liver, kidneys, and reproductive system, and may lead to higher risk of some types of cancer.

EPA regularly works to identify companies or people responsible for the contamination at a site, and requires them to conduct or pay for the cleanup. For the newly listed sites without viable potentially responsible parties, EPA will investigate the extent of the contamination before assessing how best to treat it.

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the enactment of the Comprehensive Environmental, Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), the law establishing the Superfund program. Superfund’s passage was a giant step forward in cleaning up legacy industrial waste sites to help ensure human health and environmental protection. The Superfund law gives EPA the authority to clean up releases of hazardous substances and directs EPA to update the NPL at least annually. The NPL contains the nation’s most serious uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites. The list serves as the basis for prioritizing both enforcement actions and long-term EPA Superfund cleanup funding; only sites on the NPL are eligible for such funding.

Federal Register notices and supporting documents for the final and proposed sites:

Information about how a site is listed on the NPL:

Superfund sites in local communities:

More information about the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), the law establishing the Superfund program, can be found at:

More about activities in EPA Region 6 is available at

# # #

Tetrachloroethylene is a commonly used solvent, often used in dry cleaning of fabrics and degreasing metal parts.  The chemical is also known as perchloroethane, or perc. It was first synthesized in 1821 by Michael Faraday. It is volatile, but highly stable and not flammable.

EPA documents say, “Effects resulting from acute (short term) high-level inhalation exposure of humans to tetrachloroethylene include irritation of the upper respiratory tract and eyes, kidney dysfunction, and neurological effects such as reversible mood and behavioral changes, impairment of coordination, dizziness, headache, sleepiness, and unconsciousness.” It is classed as a Type 2A chemical for carcinogenicity, which means it is a probable human carcinogen, but not a potent one.


Burnet County, outlined in red, covers parts of five different watersheds. EPA map

Burnet County, outlined in red, covers parts of five different watersheds. EPA map

Burnet County is in Central Texas, in red on this EPA map

Burnet County is in Central Texas, in red on this EPA map













Forgotten Texas history: Battle of Medina, August 18, 1813

August 19, 2015


Most deadly battle ever in Texas?

Back in 2006, reporter Art Chapman in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram made a plea to remember the deadliest battle for Texas independence, fought years before the Texas Revolution (in an article that may be gone from the internet).

In 2013 the Battle of Medina lay buried under seven more years of newspapers and historic events.  We need to fight to remember history.  This is another punch in that fight.

Billy Calzada photo, 2011 Reenactment of the Battle of Medina (in Texas)

Caption from Tropas de Ulramar: Re-enactors dressed as participants in the Battle of Medina fire a musket volley during a ceremony on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2011, commemorating the 198th anniversary of the Battle of Medina. The event was sponsored by the Texas Society – Sons of the American Revolution. The Battle of Medina was fought on Aug. 18, 1813, when a Spanish army, attempting to win Texas from the Republican Army of the North, which was supported by the United States and included veterans of the American Revolution, won a battle fought south of San Antonio near Espey. It is thought that about 800 Republicans died in the battle. [Other estimates put the death toll on the Texas side at 1,500]

Two years after the bicentennial, does anyone remember it yet? 

The long drive for Texas independence from Mexico may be more clearly seen in the light of the continents-long struggles for independence that included not only the American Revolution, but also revolutions in the nations of Haiti, Mexico, Chiapas, and others across Central America and South America. The Battle of Medina was a part of that earlier history. Fought on August 18, 1813, it was more deadly than any other battle in the wars for Texas independence, it is linked to Mexico’s long history of struggle. It occurred in the same year that Haiti got independence, and in the middle of the War of 1812, which helps to obscure the history of the battle.

Chapman’s report said:

“Contrary to popular belief, the struggle for democracy in Texas did not begin with the Anglo-led revolution of 1835-36,” author and historian James Haley wrote in a recent Austin American-Statesman article. “In fact, the yearning for liberty had its own ongoing legacy in Latin America.

“As early as 1810, movements for independence began simultaneously in Venezuela and Argentina. It was also in 1810, on Sept. 16, that the Mexican priest Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla raised his famous grito, the cry for social justice that opened the Mexican campaign for independence, a date now celebrated as Diez y Seis.”

America was drawn into that campaign when it funded a small force under the control of Bernardo Gutierrez de Lara, one of Father Hidalgo’s emissaries. A former Army officer, Augustus Magee, went along with the expedition to offer military advice. The Gutierrez-Magee Expedition, also called the Green Flag Rebellion because of its banner, soon captured Nacogdoches. All went well for the expedition — too well — and Texas independence was quickly claimed. Spain took immediate measures to quell the insurrection.

It ended at the Battle of Medina, “the biggest, bloodiest battle ever fought on Texas soil,” a South Texas historian says.

Spanish forces slaughtered more than 1,000 of the rebels, perhaps as many as 1,500. The battle methods, and total extirpation of the losing forces, would recur in the Texas Revolution.

Fewer than 100 republic troops survived the battle, Thonhoff said. Those not killed in the battle were later chased down and executed. Retaliation went on for days. Royalist forces swept into San Antonio and took revenge on anyone they suspected of aiding the rebel forces. One of the royalist officers was a young Lt. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.

The bodies of soldiers killed in battle were left where they fell. It would be nine years before their bones were gathered and buried in a communal grave.

This story should translate well to the Texas-required 7th-grade history course. Here is a cause — the archaeological excavation and historical marking of the battlefield itself — which lends itself well to getting students to write letters to state legislators and state education authorities. Here is news of an archaeological site that could provide work for a generation of diggers, and experience for countless school kids taken on tour. And the story of the battle is one of those relatively unknown gems that excite students who realize, after they discover it, that they know something that most others do not know.

English: Medina Battle -State Marker- Near Lem...

Medina Battle -State of Texas historic marker Near Leming, Texas. Wikipedia image

As well, this should be supplement to world history courses, which in my experience too often overlook the independence wars and successes in Central and South America. The article mentions independence movements in Argentina and Venezuela. The United States fought Britain in the War of 1812, which was the western fallout of England’s simultaneous war with Napoleon (who was on the road to getting his comeuppance in Russia). Haiti’s drive for independence from France racked that Caribbean nation. A mapping exercise showing the various independence movements occurring between 1800 and 1826 provides links to parts of the narrative of American nations’ independence that often gets overlooked.

The battle also ties together several otherwise loose threads in the Texas history curriculum.

  • The Gutierrez-McGee Expedition falls into that time period and that type of movement to steal Texas known as the filibusters.
  • The treachery of the Green Flag Rebels in executing the Spanish officers in San Antonio after the Spanish had surrendered raises issues of ethics in battle that are rich for discussion.
  • Incompetence with which the Texian forces were led into the battle, missing completely the feint the Spanish troops made until they were already into a classic battle trap, is another place to emphasize the importance of having good leaders especially in rebellion (this will become clear to students, perhaps, when they study the events of 1775 and 1776 and Washington’s leadership, in the 8th grade curriculum in Texas).
  • Santa Anna’s presence as a young officer at the Battle of Medina suggests that he got the idea of “no quarter” early in his career; see how the tactic plays out 23 years later at the Battle of the Alamo, the Battle of Coleto, Goliad, and the Battle of San Jacinto, with an older Santa Anna in command.
  • In the context of Texas’ becoming a “majority-minority” state with a very large population with historical ties to Mexico, the Battle of Medina deserves greater consideration in Texas history curricula.

Partly due to the brutality of the Spanish victors to the survivors, wounded and dead, the battlefield itself was not cleaned up for years — bodies lay across a wide area.  Medina was a touchy point, a point of embarrassment perhaps to local Mexicans and Texians, a loyalty test for the Spanish rulers.  So the battle site was ignored and hushed up.  200 years later, we don’t know the exact site of the battle.  A lot of work remains to be done, exploration of archives in Spain, Mexico and Texas, exploration of map collections, archaeological and paleontological work on the suspected sites of the battle.  But every year this work remains undone, the story becomes that much more difficult to find.  It is unlikely we’ll ever know all that we probably should about the Battle of Medina.

Other sources you may find useful:


Battle of Medina reenactment, Pleasanton Express photo

Photo from the Pleasanton Express: “A Color Guard representing the U.S.A., Spain, Texas and Mexico, plus descendants of the men who fought and died in [The Battle of Medina] will be presented at the Battle of Medina ceremony.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

How do Texas’s voter ID laws hurt Texas voters? This film shows how

April 30, 2015

Abbie Kamin, a Houston lawyer assisting Texas voters keep their right to vote, explains how Texas's voter ID laws hurt Texans, and damage democracy in the U.S.

Abbie Kamin, a Houston lawyer assisting Texas voters keep their right to vote, explains how Texas’s voter ID laws hurt Texans, and damage democracy in the U.S.

Video you won’t see at 11.

From the Texas Voter Identification Assistance Project, at the Campaign Legal Center.

Published on Apr 24, 2015

Under Texas’ new restrictive photo/voter ID law, more than 600,000 Texans now lack sufficient identification to vote in elections, with little to no help from the State of Texas to resolve the problems. The Texas Voter Identification Assistance Project, coordinated by the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan nonprofit, provided assistance to Texas voters who wished to vote but lacked the newly required identification, and thus were disenfranchised.

At the Campaign Legal Center’s site, there’s a press release on the video, released to correspond with arguments on voter identification issues at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

CLC FILM RELEASE: On Day of Fifth Circuit Oral Argument, Meet Victims of Texas Voter Photo ID Law

CLC Staff

Apr 28, 2015

Today, the Campaign Legal Center released a short film focusing on three lifelong voters disenfranchised by Texas’ voter photo ID law (SB 14), the most restrictive and burdensome voter ID law in the nation.  The ten-minute film produced by Firelight Media traces the efforts of the Campaign Legal Center’s Voter ID Project to assist registered voters to overcome the many hurdles erected by the new law in order to obtain the photo IDs required by SB 14.

Today in Veasey v. Abbott, oral arguments will be heard in a challenge to that law, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans.  Attorneys at the Campaign Legal Center serve as co-counsel for plaintiffs Congressman Marc Veasey, LULAC, and a group of Texas voters.

Following a two-week trial last fall, U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos enjoined SB 14, finding that it was as an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote as well as an unconstitutional poll tax, had “an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose.”  The state defendants immediately appealed Judge Ramos’ decision. In mid-October, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed that decision solely to avoid confusion in the November 2014 elections, and the U.S. Supreme Court subsequently refused to vacate the Fifth Circuit’s stay.

The film released today traces the plight of three Texans who were victims of the Texas voter photo ID law and the massive effort required of many voters to exercise their right to vote under the new law.

“These longtime voters were had their voting rights violated because of SB 14 which the District Court found to be unconstitutional and in violation of the Voting Rights Act,” said J. Gerald Hebert, Executive Director of The Campaign Legal Center.  “The plight of these victims, who suffered a violation of their voting rights through no fault of their own, mirrors the evidence that prompted Judge Ramos to strike down Texas’ intentionally discriminatory, modern-day poll tax.”

The first challenge (Veasey v. Perry) to the Texas photo ID law was filed by the Campaign Legal Center and others in the summer of 2013 claiming that SB 14 violates the 1st, 14th, 15th and 24th Amendments to the Constitution, as well as Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.  Several additional challenges were then brought against the Texas law (including one by the United States).  All of the cases were consolidated in the Southern District of Texas in Corpus Christi.

In addition to overseeing the Voter ID Project, the Campaign Legal Center is part of the legal team representing the Veasey-LULAC plaintiffs that includes Chad Dunn and K. Scott Brazil (Brazil & Dunn), Neil G. Baron, David Richards (Richards, Rodriguez & Skeith), Armand Derfner (Derfner & Altman), and Luis Roberto Vera, Jr. (LULAC).

To read the Legal Center’s Fifth Circuit brief, click here.

To read the District Court decision striking down the Voter ID law, click here.

Tip of Millard’s old scrub brush to Michael Li.

True story: Yellow Rose of Texas saved Texas at the Battle of San Jacinto

April 21, 2015

This is mostly an encore post, for the 179th anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto.

After suffering crushing defeats in previous battles, and while many Texian rebels were running away from Santa Anna’s massive army — the largest and best trained in North America — Sam Houston’s ragtag band of rebels got the drop on Santa Anna at San Jacinto, on April 21, 1836. Most accounts say the routing of Santa Anna’s fighting machine took just 18 minutes.

San Jacinto Day is April 21. Texas history classes at Texas middle schools should be leading ceremonies marking the occasion — but probably won’t since it’s coming near the end of the state-mandated testing which stops education cold, in March.

Surrender of Santa Anna, Texas State Preservation Board

Surrender of Santa Anna, painting by William Henry Huddle (1890); property of Texas State Preservation Board. The painting depicts Santa Anna being brought before a wounded Sam Houston, to surrender.

San Jacinto Monument brochure, with photo of monument

The San Jacinto Monument is 15 feet taller than the Washington Monument

How could Houston’s group have been so effective against a general who modeled himself after Napoleon, with a large, well-running army? In the 1950s a story came out that Santa Anna was distracted from battle. Even as he aged he regarded himself as a great ladies’ man — and it was a woman who detained the Mexican general in his tent, until it was too late to do anything but steal an enlisted man’s uniform and run.

That woman was mulatto, a “yellow rose,” and about whom the song, “The Yellow Rose of Texas” was written, according story pieced together in the 1950s.

Could such a story be true? Many historians in the 1950s scoffed at the idea. (More below the fold.) Read the rest of this entry »

Coffee City? Population seems awfully low

February 6, 2015

Coffee City sign.

Coffee City, Texas

Our friend Jim Stanley posted this on Facebook.

Population count seems too low, doesn’t it?  Must be a pretty tight filter.

Caption these yourself. From the City of Coffee City website.

Caption these yourself. From the City of Coffee City website.


Texas earthquakes, 2014

January 7, 2015

WFAA Channel 8 map of four quakes confirmed by 10:00 p.m. news casts, showing how close the quakes are in proximity to each other and the site of the old Cowboys Football Stadium.

WFAA Channel 8 map of four quakes confirmed by 10:00 p.m. news casts, showing how close the quakes are in proximity to each other and the site of the old Cowboys Football Stadium.

This Tweet from our local NBC TV affiliate sums it up nicely.

North Texas shook yesterday — not big quakes, but a bunch of ’em — and that doesn’t sit well with Texas oil executives, since it seems likely gas and oil drilling, especially hydraulic fracturing (fracking), and especially waste-water reinjection seem to be causes.

I grew up in Utah.  We had quakes you could feel, at least weekly.  Our home sat less than a mile west of the Wasatch Fault.  Many mornings my mother would stand drinking her coffee, looking over the stove and out our kitchen window at Mt. Timpanogos, remarking on the earthquakes.  Most often we couldn’t feel them, but the power and telephone lines that slashed through our $10 million view of the mountain would dance in sine waves during quakes. It was pretty cool.

Along the more famous faults, one rarely comes on more than a couple of quakes a day.

Dallas — more accurately, Irving — is far away from most major faults, and rarely has more than a couple of quakes a year in recent human history.

So this swarm of quakes makes news!

WTVT Channel 11 (CBS) reported:

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – Nine earthquakes, three of them with a 3-point magnitude or greater, rocked North Texas Tuesday into early Wednesday, knocking items off walls, causing cracks to appear in ceilings and generally rattling nerves across the region.

“The last one really shook,” said CBS 11 anchor and reporter Ken Molestina, who felt the the earth move in the White Rock Lake area of Dallas.

The latest quake, reported just before 1 a.m. Wednesday, measured in at a 3.1 magnitude, and was centered near the convergence of State Highway 114, Loop 12, and the Airport Freeway near the old Texas Stadium site in Irving.

Others felt the temblor in the Uptown area of Dallas and as far away as Bedford and Mesquite.

Here’s a list of the quakes in order of when they happened:

7:37 a.m.                    2.3 magnitude

3:10 p.m.                    3.5 magnitude

6:52 p.m.                    3.6 magnitude

8:11 p.m.                    2.9 magnitude

8:12 p.m.                    2.7 magnitude

9:54 p.m.                    1.7 magnitude

10:05 p.m.                  2.4 magnitude

11:02 PM                   1.6 magnitude

12:59 AM                   3.1 magnitude

Rafael Abreu, a geophysicist with the USGS, spoke with NewsRadio 1080 KRLD and said while the Irving earthquakes happened only hours apart, given the strength and intensity, “we’re not calling it an aftershock.”

At last count Tuesday night, there had been 24 or more earthquakes in the Irving area since November 1, 2014.

Jokes fly, too.  Not this much shaking since Elvis toured the area heavily in 1957, some say.

Screen capture of USGS reports of four earthquakes in or near Irving, Texas, on January 6, 2014

Screen capture of USGS reports of four earthquakes in or near Irving, Texas, on January 6, 2014

Recent studies show earthquakes in other areas linked to oil and gas drilling and extraction.  All of these quakes are in close proximity to working wells or wells being drilled.

What’s the Earth trying to tell us?

Details from USGS on biggest quake, January 6, 2014

Details from USGS on biggest quake, January 6, 2014


Historically, Texas has not been a hotbed of earthquake activity, between 1973 and 2012.  Texas Seismicity Map from USGS.

Texas Seismicity, 1973-2012. USGS


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