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This New Vision Into My Land And My Society Austin . I think the Texas Observer is dangerous for Texas. I think in some ways it is dangerous for Mr. Dugger. I know it is dangerous for writers. It almost destroyed me, for instance. I shall try to explain how. When I first joined the Observer back in 1958, I was almost amiable. Bland is a better word. I was definitely bland. Not defensively bland, like the Dallas TimesHerald editorialists, but aggressively bland, like the Houston Post’s. I remember the only strong feeling I had about the government of Texas, or its culture, was that I considered both rather firmly provincial. I regarded Lyndon Johnson as a nice fellow, a bit thick with oil and construction tycoons, but how else is a good man to be elected in Texas? I didn’t know much about ADA or Walter Reuther except what I read in Time Magazine, and I duly notified Mr. Dugger he could expect from me no dogmatic “liberal” stridency such as Luce & Co. detected in the ADA crowd. There is, after all, such a thing as good taste, I explained. In short, when I signed on with the Observer, I had approximately the same political stance as Dwight Macdonald had when he joined the staff of Fortune Magazine in the 1930’s: moderately progressive, with requisite gentility. After some years of rumbling around as a reporter in the interior of the American business establishment, the shock was so great that Macdonald emerged from Fortune as a left-wing socialist with strong Trotskyite tendencies. After seven months of seeing the inside of the government of Texas at work, I decided Reuther was a straw man and wondered if Mr. Dugger wasn’t one too. The corruption, the cynicism, the sickness of it all was so appalling to me that I got mad at everybody at the “conservatives,” naturally, but also at the “liberals” for their expediency and for their participation in the general cynicism that pervaded, and still pervades, our granite red state capital. I had become possessed by the kind of outrage that instantly and absolutely banishes considerations such as gentility and good taste. This emotion is a dangerous onerighteousness has its own blindnessbut it is a throbbing, passionate experience. I was consumed by this new vision into my land and my society ; it had been the Observer’s gift to me. It was an appalling gift, but also transforming. My typewriter smoked. Though I found time to backhand Lyndon as an “oily legend,” I concentrated my main fire on the two men who presided over the general chicanery in the granite building, Ben Ramsey in the Senate and Waggoner Carr in the House. I literally 4 The Texas Observer Larry Goodwyn went to the dictionary to fill out my portraits of these two gentlemen. I became a student of the methodology of democratic corruption. For 14, even 18 hours a day, I tramped up and down the halls of the capitol, developing sources among state employees and desperately reading Texas history in the old state library in an effort to find a framework that would give meaning to these new realities the Observer had forced me to confront. I learned who the lobbyists were; then learned to differentiate between the Big Lobby and the hangers-on. As I uncovered Ed Clark’s track here, there, and damn near everywhere, I developed a living, breathing hostility for this man who had been a good friend of my father’s in the more tranquil days of the Allred administration of the ’30s. That old windbag, Preston Weatherred, could posture all he wanted to as the “lobbyists’ lobbyist”and he had some potent eastern financial connections to be surebut I learned that the real power lay with Clark and that the real decisions were made when Ed and Ben Ramsey sat down together in the office behind the Senate chamber. Two tough, shrewd country boys from the San Augustine bottomlands running Texasoil brokers serving up a kept legislature. They knew it and I knew it, the hapless legislators knew it, several thousand people in and around government in Austin knew it, but apparently nobody else knew it. This thought, dawning on me in my innocence, was almost insupportable. The oil industry was a monopoly, the “independent oil industry” was a myth that didn’t exist, the monopoly ran the legislature, and Ed Clark was the principal broker. It was dazzling. REMEMBER THE DAY when I thought I had finally traced out all of 11=11.1.1M01114111111M0011111100/1/10011041111111101104 Editor’s Note The Texas Observer first appeared under that name on Dec. 13, 1954. This, then, is the tenth anniversary 1 issue. On short notice, about a week before the deadline, I asked the contributing editors, “Might you do a piece on the Observer the last ten years and the next ten?” Some of their responses include talk about me, which I’m running without editing because it would be hard to write about the Ob i server without writing about me, and because I respect these people. Still, I feel the need to beg your pardon for being editor of this issue. R.D. Ed’s clients and then tracked back the individual senators that those clients controlled; I computed that Ed Clark had 17 of the 31 votes in the Texas upper house. A Humble Oil vote here, a truck vote there, an insurance vote here, a TMA vote there. I remember, too when a West Texas senator delivered a tedious oration against the Eckhardt gas tax and a reporter, coming in late to the press table, asked what had been going on. A wire service man replied that “the ambassador from Phillips Petroleum just put on a 15-minute show against the gas tax.” Without the aid of any further identification, the newcomer’s eyes pivoted in the senator’s direction and he said: “Hell, doesn’t he know there’s a solid 22 votes against the bill already?” To which the wire reporter replied, “I think he was putting on a show for his boss.” Whereupon both reporters looked to the gallery where the lobbyist from Phillips was sitting. That I can recite the conversation of the two reporters in such detail after six years underscores the impact it had on me at the time. I would roar out of the capital, dash to the Observer office and write with passionate fervor. I was the reborn Lincoln Steffens with a healthy dash of Ida Tarbell thrown in. Muckraking at mid-century! I did my own little research on Standard Oil in Texas, tracing how the anti-trust laws of the populist era were “judicially interpreted” into thin air by two generations of Texas Supreme Court justices and a dozen or so Texas attorneys-general. I exhumed the classic dissent of Justice Harlan of the U.S. Supreme Court in the Standard Oil case of 1911 when he predicted the dire things that would happen to the republic as a result of the court’s surrender to big oil. Look, I said, It’s Happening . . . Right Here . . . Right Now! It had been happening, of course, for 50 years, but I was still in the process of learning that. Looking’ back, the 56th legislature was for me a course in American economic history in which I wrote my various theses in the weekly Observer. Dugger, who assuredly possesses a great capacity for indignation but who had also been in the trenches somewhat longer than I, let me have my. head. I have never asked him why. My personal life, meanwhile, became a shambles. Over several thousand steins of beer at Scholz’, I systematically denounced every liberal in the legislature as a spineless, lily-livered sell-out artist. About the only thing I can find creditable about my personal relations during this period was that I didn’t denounce folks behind their backs. My zeal was of the kind that demanded the villains be exposed in face-toface conversation. I informed some leaders