Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country
of West Texas
By Smokey Briggs
Tuesday, August 7, 2001
Slim and the flag burners
I saw Slim the other day.
He was saddling a three-year-old pony that wasn't real sure about the
whole saddle and bridle deal. I stood quite until he got the cinch snugged
up and stepped away to light a cigarette and let the pony settle down.
"What'cha doing Smoke?" he asked through a puff of smoke.
"Not writing next week's column mostly," I said.
"What are you going to write about?"
"Flag burning, I think," I said, knowing I was opening up a can of worms.
I had not planned on bouncing ideas off of Slim. I was pretty sure any such
conversation would be short and not very sweet.
"You going to talk about the House voting to amend the Constitution to
make burning Old Glory illegal?"
"You know," he said with a kind of sad look on his face, "It is a shame
that we even have to discuss something like that. Some things ought to be
sacred. Not because the law demands it, but simply in the name of common
"Yep," I agreed.
"Well, you are the lawyer, what is the legal angle?"
"Well, the House voted to amend the Constitution to make flag burning
illegal. There are still a bunch of hoops to jump through and it would have
to be ratified by the states. But what the House did was legal," I said.
"And the beginning of the end of free speech according to the television
guys," Slim said.
"No. I don't think so. You do not have to be all that smart to read the
First Amendment and figure out that what the authors were protecting was
the written and spoken word_ not everything in the world that some how communicates.
It does not say anything about acts that communicate without words."
"The Supreme Court opened a whole can of worms when it interpreted the
First Amendment to protect what it calls communicative acts. Every action
communicates something. Now we are left with the Court deciding what is a
communicative act and what is not, rather than having a black and white standard
that makes sense," I said. "We would have done better to amend the Constitution
back then to include "communicative acts" rather than putting words in the
Constitution that just are not there. What we did is bad precedent even if
we like the result," I said.
"Well, I figure burning the flag as a way of expressing yourself ought
to be legal. Just as long as my response to it is judged a constitutionally
protected method of communication too," Slim said with a thin smile.
I had to smile too. I could imagine Slim's communicative response.
"So, do you think this amendment is a good idea?" he asked.
"No," I said and waited for the deluge of cursing I felt was sure to come.
"Me either," Slim said quietly.
"No. It is a stupid idea. If you have to pass a law to make burning the
flag illegal, what's the point? You can't legislate good manners, or common
decency. We can demand it as a people, but passing another law won't do a
bit of good."
"Was there a time when Americans did that — demanded decent behavior
of each other?" I asked.
"Yep. I'm old enough to remember that. And there were penalties for being
a jerk," he said as he stubbed out the cigarette on a fence post. "Especially
for something like burning the flag."
"We didn't need any silly law for something like this. We just handled
it," Slim said.
"I think that makes you a club-toting cretin unfit to live in truly civilized
society," I said with a smile.
"I can live with that," Slim said.
I guess I can too.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Smokey Briggs is the editor and publisher of the
Pecos Enterprise whose column appears on Tuesdays. He can be e-mailed at:
Bombs need to fall on Vieques
The United States Navy owns two-thirds, or about 66 percent, of the island
of Vieques off the coast of Puerto Rico. It uses less than three percent
of the entire island as a live fire bombing range where live ordinance is
used during military exercises.
For several decades people have been protesting the use of the island
for such practice. The regular complaints have been environmental damage
and safety of the islands civilian inhabitants. Neither argument holds any
Until recently, nobody paid much attention.
That was before President Bush walked into the Whitehouse and began courting
a solid Hispanic voting block.
In 1999 two bombs missed the target and killed a Puerto Rican civilian
guard working at the live-fire range.
The Navy stopped using live munitions after that.
Now President Bush, in response to more protests, has agreed to end the
use of any portion of the island as a training ground.
This looks like a political decision made without thought as to what is
right or wrong, or what is best for America's national security.
It looks like a decision calculated to ingratiate President Bush with
Hispanics as a group, and Puerto Ricans specifically — the Hispanic
group he has the lowest ratings with.
The problem is that the Navy still needs to train, and it needs to train
with live ordinance. Training with dummy ammunition is not the same as training
with the real thing.
That goes double for aircrews and pilots handling 500-pound bombs. You
cannot simulate that.
So now our military preparedness will take another hit in the name of
President Bush would do better to simply do the right thing and worry
about the political consequences later.
His father failed on that count and it cost him the support of his core
voters in the 1992 presidential election — and his credibility.
Read our lips Mr. President, some of us care more about doing the right
thing than we do about winning a political battle.
Is there a cover up at City Hall
On July 30, 2001, 1 read an article In the Pecos Enterprise about three
subjects that were arrested at a local Allsup's store. The story said
that the three subjects were in a white 1989 Chevrolet pickup.
However the report declined to say who the owner of the white Chevrolet
pickup was. Could it be that they failed to mention who the owner of the
pickup was is because the pickup belonged to the Town of Pecos City.
I noticed that the report did not mention any charges filed against anyone
for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, so it appears that the use of the
vehicle was authorized.
My question is, who authorized these three subjects that do not work for
the City of Pecos to use a city vehicle at four thirty on a Sunday morning?
Is it just a coincidence that one of the subjects arrested was the Fire
Chief's son and the vehicle that they were in was a city pickup assigned
to the fire department.
I am an ex fireman from the Pecos Volunteer Fire Department. When I
was in the fire department I was not even allowed to let one of my kids even
ride on a fire truck due to insurance reasons. Now we are loaning city vehicles
to intoxicated kids.
My next question is, who would have been liable for any damage if these
intoxicated subjects would have been involved in an accident? My guess would
be that the tax payers of the City of Pecos would have covered that bill.
My final question is, are the city officials planning on taking any action
on this incident or just sweeping it under the rug and forget that it ever
Young man experiences Texas hospitality in Pecos
I am writing to let you know about a truly Texas hospitality experience
that my young son, Jason, had in Pecos on Wed., July 18, while he was
making the long drive from our home in Northern Virginia to San Diego,
California. As a mother, of course, I worry from the time he leaves
Virginia until the time he arrives safely in San Diego.
Jason had been driving most of the day, in 105 degree heat, when his Ford
Bronco just seized up and shut down while driving on 1-20 through Pecos.
He walked to a gas station on 1-20, 1 believe. The gas station employees
right away were so kind and helpful to him, even helping him make arrangements
for towing his truck to their station. Then, they looked at the truck and
said "we don't want you to have to spend any more money than you have to,"
and said it was best for him to see a mechanic friend of theirs just down
the street. By now, it was closing time at the auto repair shop, but the
employees there stayed open late to help my son. Not only did the auto repair
shop stay open late to help him, but the mechanic looked at the truck and
said, "all you've got is a bad gas filter and it's only going to cost you
$30"! In this day-and-age we live in where other people seem so ready to
jump at the chance to take advantage of another person, all these wonderful
souls who befriended my son in Pecos showed him nothing but honesty, kindness
and the true spirit of "yes, we are our brother's keeper." (Since we live
in the Washington, DC suburbs, our experiences here have been far different!)
As a mother, I am so grateful to all these wonderful men of Pecos and
just had to write to let you know what fine citizens you have in your town
- but I'm sure you already know that!
Since my son is still driving cross-country to San Diego, I haven't been
able to find out from him yet the names of the gas station, the auto repair
shop and the fine men who helped him, but once I do, I will let you know
and I will also write them myself to thank them. They should truly be commended
for their good deeds! It really strengthens my faith to see that there truly
are "angels among us," and these men sure were angels to my son.
SUSAN M. CARLSON
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York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321
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