OCTOBER 2014

OCTOBER  2014
The "We Will Do Something" approach to government

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

BOO, WHOM?

I do not understand why, once a year, I am expected to provide a sugar rush to every kid in the neighborhood. This is the annual fall shakedown. The bonfire of the bonbons. And should I try offering these adolescent vagabonds healthy treats like diced carrots, sliced ham, a couple cheese chunks on toothpicks or, God forbid, a little rice pilaf,  my house would be egged, my windows soaped, my cat redecorated.  What this ‘Kinder Mafia” dextrose demand is pure dextrose, a mere saccharin surplus. Their obsession with processed sugar is neither healthy nor reasonable. Oh, sure, they dress it up in fairy costumes and go door to door chanting, “Treat or trick”. But what they really mean is "Show me the Marzipan!"   This not the holiday the ancient Druid priests envisioned, nor the Aztec mortuary artists. It is not a holiday. It is sugar wealth redistribution, confectionery socialism straight out of the barrel of a gummy bear.
The roots of Halloween were planted long before Christians had enough saints to celebrate "All Hallowed Saint’s Day". The Aztecs were celebrating Dia de los Muertos even before they were speaking Spanish., maybe 3,000 years ago. And the Druids in Ireland were celebrating “Samhain” by carving turnip Jack-o-lanterns,  2,500 years before they saw their first pumpkin. ‘And how’, you may ask, ‘could offerings to Mictecacihuatl, the Aztec Goddess who was still born, become individually packaged bags of M&Ms’ handed out to a skeleton named Debbie or Tom?  And I will answer you, ‘Only in a world where the love child of Salvador Dali and Ma Barker is allowed to design holidays, that’s where!
This is the night for hyperventilation and hypertension - when the line between the dead and the not-really-alive (also known as moderate Republicans) becomes fuzzy, and everyone grows concerned about ghosts, spooks, ghouls and zombies entering our world.  But its common knowledge that ghosts can’t manipulate physical objects, so they can only harm you psychologically, meaning Scientologists are safe since they don’t believe in psychology. And nobody should be afraid of “spooks” because once you speak a spook’s name they are “spooken for” and rendered harmless; which is what Dick Cheney did to the spook Valerie Plame.
Now Dick Cheney is a real live ghoul, one of  those creatures who revel in death and horror and who keep coming back to life again - this time on Fox News - the network staffed by zombies. Rupert Murdoch's invention is the perfect example of how we are terrified of all the wrong things in this life - and I cannot imagine Cheney and his fellow banshees from the shadow realm of the Federalists Society will cease being such soul sucking terror mongers after they have passed beyond the veil. 
Yes, on October 31st,  I will be answering my door bearing a bowl filled with tribute, because I don’t want to spend half of November pulling toilet paper out of my rain gutters. However, we could instead of Halloween been celebrating "Reformation Day",  when, in 1546, Martin Luther nailed his “95 Things I Hate About The Pope” to the front door of the Wittenberg Castle Church and was later charged with deformation of church property. So, logically, children could be going door to door, calling, “Treat or I’ll nail your butt to the door, you papist low life, and, oh, by the way have you got any Jews hiding in here?”  A bit hard to see children squeezing candy out of that transaction.  So I guess we’re lucky we got the screwed up jawbreaker sweet meat holiday we did get..
The truth (as if that ever mattered about holidays) is that Martin Luther defiantly nailing his arguments to the church door was probably no more real than the legend of George Washington chopping down a cheery tree. Neither thing really happened. And that may be yet another reason why you never see Martin Luther costumes on Halloween Night. I did see a George Washington once, but that was so long ago the costume was probably made in the United States.
This year Americans will spend over $6 billion on this mish-mash of a holiday. Almost all of our black and orange fix, like cocaine, is provided by overseas suppliers who have no other connection to us, and although that kind of chump change would barely support the occupation of  Afghanistan for a month, it does work out to about $65 per family this year. Our family is not spending anywhere near that much, so I figure Donald Trump and his Wall Street buddies must be spending like a billion each to make up for what us po' folks are'nt  spending anymore - call them  the ghoul creators.
About 4 million Americans will even be buying costumes for their dogs this year, like PetSmart’s spider web dog collar for $12, or PetCo’s dogie Pumpkin dress- up for $16. It gives a whole new meaning to the term "Puttin' on the dog". Still, this canine costume capitalism is surprising. considering that dogs and skeletons would seem to be a natural costume combo, popular with dogs as well as the humans. And once the holiday was over you would not have to store the costume -  you just let Rover bury it.
But as a nation we seem determined to spend as much as possible on this “dead holiday thing”.  We will be putting 2 million pirates (mostly boys, and far outnumbering the original pirates) on the streets Friday night, along with 4 million princesses - mostly girls and about equal to the number of real princesses) with adults to follow behind them, as back-up muscle. At the ring of the door bell us older folks, cowering in our homes, then answer the door armed with only a half-empty bowl of bite sized Three Musketeers, and hope that is enough to buy us protection for another year.
And that is where all smart adults should be, dreading the sound that fills the night with horror and chills the bones; “Trick or treat, trick or treat, give us something good to eat. Or else.”  Yes, Trick or Treat, and bon appetit, my fellow cowering masses. And if you survive this night, you have two weeks until the next horror; election day!
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Friday, October 17, 2014

LIMITS TO LOGIC

I am tired of reading about willfully stupid humans, such as the well education and well accomplished drones at the Language Research Center at Georgia State University. For decades the LRC was mired in intellectual orthodoxy and mediocrity, investigating what you would expect and discovering what you would expect.. Then in 1982 a 2 ½ year old bonobo chimpanzee named Kanzi shattered their ethos. 
 Using American Sign language, which he had picked up from his mother, Kanzi spontaneously signed “marshmallow” and then “fire”. Given matches and marshmallows by the obliging staff, Kanzi gathered twigs, struck a match (above) and set the wood to burning. Next he jammed a stick into a marshmallow (above), which he then toasted and gleefully ate. What the humans finally learned from this “Noah Chimp-anski” was that language is not about syntax, its about communication. The revelation changed their whole scientific process...for a time..
Long after Kanzi had retired to a farm in Iowa, the humans in Atlanta appear to have fallen back into their academic lethargy, as they recently released a study indicating that apes not only think about food, but they also think about thinking about food. To the humans with degrees this is “metacognation”. As one of the two directors of the experiment explained, “There has been an intense debate in the scientific literature in recent years over whether metacognition is unique to humans.” This was the statement which convinced me that homosapians are still in search of a clue. Why didn't they just ask Kanzi? But I would like to talk to you for a moment about Flouride.
 
Flouride is an isotope of the element Flourine. The nine electrons of Flourine are the hormone ravaged teenager of the periodic table, hungrily sharing its electrons with abandon . It took 74 years to purify and isolate Flourine because it bonds with whatever container you put it in, corroding right through it. Even when finally isolated the pale yellow gas desperately bonds to itself – which is why it is called a diatomic. This hunger to mate made Flourine an industrial wunderkind, transferring wanted qualities to other compounds. It is essential for the smelting of metals. It is the F, in CFC, once used in cooling systems. And when you hit the button on a spray can, there's still a good chance the effective material that jets out, is being carried on some isotope of Flourine.
Flouride is one of those isotopes, one electron short of its parent Flourine, making it twice as eager to bond with any available electron, even ones already happily married - as when six atoms of Florine mate with two atoms of hydrogen already bonded to a sodium atom or a single atom of chloride. And those are the two most common chemicals, hexafluorosilicic acid and hexafluorosilicate, used in water fluoridation in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control, also in Atlanta, calls fluoridation "one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century.” And yet there are some humans who call it a government intrusion, and even spreading poison. To which I am inclined to respond by screeching and throwing my poo at them.
Yes, Flouride is toxic. And toxic is always bad. But remember that salt, which is vital to your survival, is made up of sodium and chlorine, both of which are extremely toxic. And drinking salt water will quickly kill you. Fresh water, on the other hand, is good for you, unless you are drowning. Sugar gives you energy, but is toxic to a diabetic. And don't even get me started about peanuts. Toxic is a level of consumption, not an absolute. Flouride is toxic in anything over moderate amounts. But at minimal levels, it is a powerful weapon against tooth decay. Areas in Colorado with naturally occurring Flouride in their drinking water had lower rates of tooth decay, which is how it occurred to medical doctors in the late 19th century to suggest adding Floride to water supplies. And stopping tooth decay turns out to also be a defence against heart attacks. It is a public health measure that costs less than a dollar a year for the average family. But try telling any of that to a libertarian, and you are liable to get a riacin tainted post card from hell. And that is what I really want to talk about – the politics of conspiracy.
Any discussion of American conspiracy theories over the last 100 years, must include a mention of Robert Henry Wineborn Welch, Jr., the North Carolina native who invented the “Sugar Daddy”, a 40 gram hunk of Carmel on a stick, 24 grams of which are sugar. The confection made Mr. Welch very rich, which predisposed him to believe anyone suggesting that sugar caused cavities must be a dirty stinking anti-capitalist. So naturally the political organization which Welch founded, “The John Birch Society”, saw fluoridation of the nation's water supply as a communist mind control plot. Lots of people wanted to believe in that conspiracy. But the only one man made millions propagating the myth: Robert Welch.
Among the 12 acolytes at the first meeting of the JBS, on December 8, 1958, was a chemical engineer from Texas named Fred Koch (above). An admirer of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, Fred was described by a family friend as “a monarch, untouchable.” Just out of college in the 1920's, he had invented a better method for cracking gasoline out of oil. But the big four oil companies drove him out of business in the United States. So Koch moved to Russia, where his built a dozen new oil refineries for Uncle Joe Stalin. While the communists made Fred rich, he also found their regulations restricting. When the Second World War forced him home, he felt much the same way about the U.S. government. Anyone who stood between Fred and what he wanted, was not merely wrong, they were evil. Fred now saw a communist hiding under every bed, and like his friend Welch, believed Presidents Roosevelt, Truman and even Eisenhower were either communist or had been duped by them..
Fred's son David admitted in 2007, “He was constantly speaking to us children about what was wrong with government.… It’s something I grew up with.” Charles was told, “If you don't make it, you'll be worthless..” Says David, “He could do that sort of thing so effectively." And when the old man died in 1967 while shooting ducks, he left behind a quartet of sons who felt entitled, inferior, cheated and arrogant. As a progressive writer described them, “The two middle brothers, Charles and David, are the crazy ones. The other two, Frederick and William, are the loony ones.”
David and Charles (center and right, above) took control of the family fortune, cutting William (above, left) out of the loop after he heavily invested in coal mines, which have never lived up to the Koch profitability standards. So William began decades of litigation against his two brothers. He sued over his share of a trust fund, over the sale of company stock, over a coin collection. At one point he even dragged their 87 year old mother onto the witness stand just months after she had suffered a stroke. Did I mention that William and David are twins?
If Fred is looking on from Valhalla, he must be proud of David and Charles, especially for the political groups they have founded and funded with more than $200 million, such as Americans For Prosperity, and The Tea Party. They even found a way to make William's erratic coal mine profits more dependable, by funding the global warming conspiracy movement. It was the lesson handed down by Robert Welch. Many climate change critics are honestly driven, or just honestly stupid. Every “green” project stands the same chance of failure and fraud as any “non-green” business. But the only people profiting from climate change denial are Charles and David Koch. And that is not an accident.
Which brings me back to our cousins the bonobos. Another recent research paper out of Yale and Duke University “discovered” that our fellow primates “exhibit emotional responses to outcomes of their decisions by pouting or throwing angry tantrums when a risk-taking strategy fails to pay off” according to the press release. This research may be worthy of a reward for restating the obvious 
We might ask Kanzi (above) about the Koch brothers, and their risk-taking behavior, but the old boy is now retired on a farm in Des Moines, Iowa. Like Charles and David, Kanzi is the alpha male in his troop, but since bonoboos are matriarchal, his is largely a symbolic role. He spends his time constructing complex sentences complaining about his grandchildren and screwing anything and anyone with reach, just like the Koch brothers. But in the Bonoboo world, fucking each other is a way of reducing tension. In the ethos of the Koch brothers, sex and business are a form of aggression. And that is the difference between humans and the less evolved apes. They know something we don't.
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

WHAT'S EATING YOU?

I wonder of Superman ever has a creepy crawly moment, just before he steps into the shower, when out of the corner of his X-Ray Super vision he notices a bunch of little buggies crawling over his skin. Of course his skin is "super" and never wears out, meaning he does not support a menagerie of livestock, grazing on his desiccated flesh, like we do. And I've got to say, that makes Superman a little less Super. Because compared to your personal zoo of Dematophagoisdes pternyssinus, AKA the Mighty Dusts Mite (actually some 15 species) grazing on your body at this very moment like vast microscopic herds of minuscule buffalo, Super Villains are a minor annoyance.
Feel the sudden urge to scratch? Don’t bother; scratching just creates tiny Alps of dead skin for these buggies to feast upon. The truth is we don’t merely live on this planet; this planet also lives on us. Louis Pasture had it right; even fleas have fleas. And so do we, and so do our fleas and so do the fleas starving on the desert that must be the empty plains of Superman's flesh.
Despite their small size (three of them could fit in the period at the end of a sentence and about 42,000 of them live in every once of dust) these driven little arthropods have a massive impact, because the Dust Mite does not eat dust – ah, would that dusting had such a dedicated helpmate. Rather they feast on the 50 million flakes (about 1 ½ grams) of skin we shed each and every day. About 80 % of the “dust” you can see floating in a beam of sunlight is your own dead skin, and fodder for these microscopic herbivores. These are the bugs that give spiders the heeby-jeebies!
Our mighty mite companions also enjoy munching on hair, pollen grains, fungal spores and bacteria, as well as cigarette ash and tobacco, clothing fibers, fingernail clippings and filings, food crumbs, glue, insect parts, paint chips, salt and sugar crystals and even graphite; in short everything and anything we are, use or touch, they eat and regurgitate and re-eat and re-regurgitate, etc., etc. (Dust mites have no digestive tracts).
When you sleep (we spend about 1/3 of our lives in bed) your body and bedding is transformed into an Acaroliocal Park (acarology being the study of dust mites) which makes Michael Crichton’s "Jurassic Park" look like it had been stepped on by an Apatasaurous. As much as half the weight in your ten year old mattress could be the 10 million mites who live there and depend on you for their dinner each time you lay you down and go to sleep. Mites don’t like sunlight and they love high humidity, meaning when you climb into bed tonight they will be there to welcome you, waiting for you to exhale and pull the covers up.
They also love rugs and carpets, dusty bookshelves and dusty books and nooks and crannies on fabric covered furniture. And they are completely harmless – except that their poop and their desiccated corpses are a source of human allergies and likely a cause of asthma. During a mite’s lifetime of 3 to 4 weeks she can produce 200 times her own weight in mighty pop and leave 300 cream colored mighty mite eggs, all capable of taking your breath away. A dehumidifier helps with the allergies (dust mite populations drop at anything below 50% humidity) and regular vacuuming can help keep their populations under control. But there are studies showing that carpet or mattress shampooing or even using a Hepafilter on your vacuum cleaner merely increases the resident population because it moistens it and scatters it. 
These tiny bugs have evolved so closely with us that there are no conditions or chemicals that will kill them without doing the same thing to us. So basically, the best we can hope for in our war with dust mites is a draw, because the world of the dust mite is a familiar yet strange place where air behaves more like water and a each human hair supports an isolated ethos.
And as every Ying has its Yang, and every Superman has his Bizzaro Superman, the herbivore dust mite has engendered the family Cheyletidae, the micro-predatory dust mite, which can be 6 – 8% of the total mighty mite population. These minuscule lions and tigers and bears stalk their prey every night, even migrating with them onto and off your body, unseen and largely un-felt, pouncing with vicious crushing microscopic jaws. They are no less heartless for their lack of a heart. Some digest their food inside its own shell (something to think about the next time you eat crab) by injecting masticating juices, and some of these tiny predators even consume the shell, reducing their meals to a tiny pile of mush before consuming it.
It even seems that our current  mighty mites are the survivors of a once more varied population of “guest workers”, as was attested to by the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket, just before vespers on December 29, 1170. What was amazing was what happened to the Archbishop’s corpse, as described in Hans Zinsser’s 1935 epic book, “Rats, Lice and History”, beginning with Zinsser’s description of the dead Archbishop’s robes of office. 
When he was murdered Becket was wearing, “…a large brown mantle; under it, a white surplice; below that, a lamb’s wool coat; then another woolen coat; and a third woolen coat below this; under this, there was the black, …robe of the Benedictine Order; under this, a shirt; and next to the body, a curious hair-cloth, covered with linen.” 
As Becket’s corpse grew cold the successive layers of robes also cooled, and all the little creatures that had been living within the folds and pleats started looking for a new home. Wave after wave of various fleas, ticks, spiders, pincher bugs, and other creatures flowed out from the corpse, “…like water in a simmering cauldron” producing in the hushed mourners gathered in the dim cathedral, “…alternate weeping and laughter…’”. Those Saxons; they sure knew humor when they saw it, skittering across the blood stained marble floor. And the unseen mites must have been far more numerous and just as desperate to find their meal ticket suddenly giving then the cold shoulder.
 Not only did the dead Becket popularize the hair shirt, but his corpse offered an abject lesson in the realty of life before the invention of the water heater. Without easy access to warm water people tended not to bathe. And that made them much more intimate with their pests and parasites than we of the hygienic era. But despite our best efforts we still live with the mighty Dust Mite. In fact, if you listen very carefully, you can probably hear them marching across your flesh right now, and everything you touch during an average day, looking for a snack.
Sleep tight, and don't let the dust mites bite. And Trick or Treat and bon appetit.
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Friday, October 10, 2014

KING OF THE HILL

I find it curious that “King of the Hill” is such a popular game in Houston, Texas, since there are no hills there. In fact, because of all the oil, gas and water pumped out of the clays underfoot by Texans building their personal hills, most of the town has subsided 10 feet or more. Consider that archetypal post war Houston hill climber – Frank Wesley Sharp (above, left). He was not part of the  circle of wealthy, power hungry men who ran Houston. As one biographer said of the amiable salesman, “He was in many ways...a loner...He just wanted to win whatever race he was in at the time.” At forty Frank first experimented in the northwest suburbs with a development on the cheap. Like the rest of Houston, his 1946 Oak Forest tract had no zoning laws. It did have paved streets and water, sewage, gas and power lines - even a golf course - but Frank left most of the buildings to independent contractors. Having climbed that hill, however, Frank was now compelled to find another, higher, mountain to stand upon.
On July 3, 1954, Houston newspapers screamed, “Sharp Announces Houston's Biggest Home Project.” Humbly titled Sharpstown, Frank's pièce de résistance was to be a $200 million 4,000 acre city within the city, with 15,000 homes, an indoor air conditioned shopping mall, nine churches, seven parks, two hospitals, two high schools, a golf course, a twin drive-in theater, three nursing homes, a 750 acre industrial park, six auto dealerships, even a Jesuit College Prep school And running through the center of Sharpstown, was a 300 yard wide strip Frank “donated” to the city, for a brand new freeway aimed at downtown Houston, 9 miles to the northeast. It was a fully planned if not a fully funded community which only required a $3 million investment from Frank.
And most important of all,. adjacent to the Sharpstown Center Mall, at 7500 Bellaire Boulevard, Frank built a ten story office tower that housed the Sharpstown State Bank, which was Frank Sharp's real money-making scheme. You see, in 1962 (when the mall opened), as in 1867 when Credit Moblier was chosen as the general contractor for the transcontinental railroad, as in 1792, when speculators promoted the swampy Yazoo Lands, Frank Sharp knew that making “real” money had nothing to do with buying low or selling high. In a capitalist system, the greatest profit is always in buying politicians, whose price and morals, are usually cheap.
It was bad luck that Frank Sharp did not really get rich from Sharpstown. One of his partners died in a hunting accident midway through the multi-year construction, and the banks asked for another $5 million to refinance his loan. Frank found new partners to carry him over, but the interest rates they demanded were so high, Frank had to promise not to sue them for usury. Two years later Frank was able to buy himself out of that crushing deal with $3 million in cash, which he borrowed from George and Herman Brown. Of course he also had to agree to grant their company, Brown and Root, exclusive contracts for all future construction in Sharpstown. The thing about sharks, that sharks often forget, is that sharks eat sharks.
Still, by the late 1960's, Frank could finally see the summit, and there was just one last precipice to overcome. His Sharptown Bank had too low a ratio of deposits to loans to qualify as a member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the private-slash-government agency that guaranties deposits in member banks. And without that guarantee, Frank's Sharptown Bank could not attract the institutional investors and depositors he needed to firmly establish the foundation of his hill. In July of 1969 Frank met privately with Texas Governor Preston Smith (above) in a Houston hotel suite to discuss the problem. And, what do you know - darn - if they didn't came up with a solution.
At the time Governor Smith (above, left center) was locked in a messy Democratic primary fight, but the winner would go on to an almost default victory in the general election, since Texas had been overwhelmingly Democratic for over a hundred years. But whatever he was going to do, Smith had to do it quickly even if re-elected, because Texas limited its governors to two year terms. So later that summer Smith met with his Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes, who presided over the State Senate, Speaker of the House Gus Mutscher (above, left), his aide Rush McGinty,  the Speaker's close ally Representative Tommy Shannon, Attorney General Waggoner Carr (above right), State Insurance Commissioner John Osorio, and a member of the State Banking Board, Elmer Baum, who was also Chairman of the Texas Democratic Party. Smith informed his cabal of his three part plan, suggested by Frank Sharp's problem.
Step one required each member to apply for a loan from the Sharpstown Bank, which Frank would personally approve. Cabal members would use those funds to buy stock in another of Frank Sharp's financial properties, his National Bankers Life Insurance Company, now based in Dallas. Step two required the legislature to create a Texas Deposit Insurance program, which would be much more lenient in their deposit to loan ratio's than the FDIC. This would put the Texas taxpayers on the hook should the Sharpstown bank go under, but nobody expected that would happen, since the guarantee would attract the large institutional investment Frank Sharp needed to ensure the bank's future.
Step three would see Frank use his new investors to encourage his customers and associates, like the Strake Jesuit College, to buy shares of National Bankers Life as it went up, from $20 to $26 a share. Finally, the cabal members would cash out their stock, pocketing the profits. It seemed a fool proof plan, particularly when handled by astute politicians who had almost complete control of the Texas Legislature. And all went according to plan. To a point.
Frank approved $600,000 in loans for the cabal members, which they used to buy Bankers Life stock. The Texas Deposit Insurance Program was hurriedly passed in the final late night hours of a special session. But then to the surprise of many in the cabal, Attorney General Carr issued a public letter warning that Texas taxpayers would be put at risk insuring banks too weak to qualify for the FDIC program. That gave Governor Smith an excuse to veto the bill, which he did. Of course Smith and most of the cabal sold their Banker's Life stock before he signed the veto. Preston Smith was not stupid.
All told, the cabal members made about $250,000 in profits. Governor Smith alone made a $62,500 profit . The head of the Texas House Appropriations, Bill Heatly, made just under $50,000. Rush McGinty, made about $45,000 . And Rep. Tommy Shannon profited $37,000. But that left Frank's other customers who had trusted and believed in him, like the Jesuits, holding the Bankers Life stock on its way down. The Jesuit college lost $6 million dollars after the Governor's veto was announced. And being sore losers in this King of the Hill game, they called the Federal Securities and Exchange Commission.
Two years later, on January 18th, 1971, Governor Smith was inaugurated to his second term. But the Austin celebratory parade was disrupted by angry crowds, cursing and throwing bottles at the floats and marching bands. That very afternoon in Dallas, the U.S. Department of Justice had publicly indicted several members of the cabal, and Governor Smith had been named as an unindicted co-conspirator. The public reaction was immediate and extremely angry. By the end of the month the SEC had seized the Sharpstown State Bank. Examining its books they were unable to locate $16 million. And even though the bank was not a member, the FDIC paid the private depositors in full, up to $20, 000. By the end of February the National Bankers Life Insurance Corporation had also been seized. Civil suits were flying, and two dozen elected and appointed state officials were charged in Federal and State courts with crimes. For a time it looked like people were actually going to jail. .
The February 1972 trial of Speaker Mutscher, Rep Shannon and aide Rush McGinty was moved to Abilene, Kansas because of pretrial publicity in Austin. And on March 15th , after two hours of deliberation, a jury found them guilty. The very next day Federal Judge J. Neil Daniel sentenced them each to five years...probation. Gus Mutscher had his conviction thrown out on appeal, and was later elected as a judge for Washington County, Texas. At his trial in Dallas, Frank W. Sharp was sentenced to three years...probation. He also paid a fine. Of $5,000, or about 1/15 of the profit made on Sharpstown Bank Scandal. In the next election cycle, about half of the state legislature was replaced, but the Democrats retained control of both houses.
In the end only one politician actually went to jail - Walter Knapp Jr (above), a four term Democratic Representative from Amarillo. He was not involved in any part of the cabal, but in the attendant publicity he was convicted of stealing $1,200 worth of postage stamps, which he traded for a new pickup truck. For that crime Walter Knapp was sentenced to four years in prison, and there was no probation for him. He served a year, before an appeals court judge ordered a new trial, and released Walter on bail. In March of 1974, his wife Nancy, divorced him, and over Thanksgiving that year she remarried. In December Walter confronted Nancy on an Amarillo street and shot her in the head. When police confronted him, Walter shot himself.
Governor Smith (above) remained an uninidicted conspirator, and although he tried to run for re-election, he was eliminated in the Democratic primary. In 1974 he started his own bank in Lubbock, Texas, and in 1986 transferred to Great Western Mortgage Company. He died in 2003.
Frank Welsey Sharp never shot anybody. He never stole $1,200 in petty cash. He never committed a violent crime in his life, unless you consider bankrupting families and emptying college funds a violent act. .In his final years, he liked to wander the mall he had built, talking to shoppers and business owners. It was all that was left of the hill he had named after himself and then clambered atop  Frank died peacefully, at 87 years of age, in 1993. And in Houston, a new generation is still playing King of the Hill, which still remains, a game of winner-take-all by any means possible..
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