school. I’d snatch a few leaves and quickly chew them up to mask my prepubescent smoker’s breath, and then, after one of those unavoidable, acrimonious scenes of undeniable ‘self-incrimination \(I’d left some cigarettes in a shirt pocket which mama had up in resignation. They didn’t like me smoking and I could not smoke in the house then, but I suppose they knew that there was really nothing they could do to to me. . We smoked in an attempt to look older than our years, to project a “cool,” sophisticated and impressive image as-others years older than us then seemed to be. But what happened to Humphrey Bogart, Nat King Cole and John Wayne also happened to my father \(dead at 62 from emphysema and aunts and uncles, all smokers, all gone years before any of us wanted them to be; hundreds of thousands of lives each year, growing into millions of deaths attributed to smoking. But we didn’t stop. IKEPT SMOKING because nicotine is one of the most highly addictive substances of abuse known to pharmacol ogy, and the times I’ve attempted to quit are as legion as the times I’ve failed, the number of times I’ve told myself the same lie I once told myself about other forms of substance abuse addiction: “I can quit anytime I want.” It is something of a novelty to anyone doing time in prison when his or her keepers mandate policy changes that result in direct and long-lasting benefits for the kept. I can’t honestly say that I look forward to the coming weeks of mass detoxification and its inherent and potential problems. Yet my experiences over the past 18 years in the Texas prison system assure me that, more than likely, it won’t be as bad as we are telling ourselves it might be, and for many, the eventual, desired results will seem a curse transposed to a blessing. Not only will a major health issue be resolved, but we’ll be spared from those gross encounters of the worst kind, each time a prisoner stops, bends and picks up a discarded butt from a filthy concrete floor, hoping no one’s watching as his dignity dies a little more, pretending the derisive laughter is not really at his expense, and surely not at our own. I don’t plan to wait until the March 1 deadline to begin weaning myself from nicotine addiction. Instead, I plan to slowly, mindfully cut down on the numbers of cigarettes, are each day, and then, when the last can of Bugler is gone, buy no more. I’ll suffer just as surely as everyone else, but I’ll do so on my terms, not the state’s. Who knows? I might get lucky and by that time, my own sense of panic will have burned away. 0 Continued from pg. 24 Austin radio talk-show hosts Bob Cole and Sammy Allred complained when they were left off the list. QUARANTINE. In an effort to stop the spread of rabies from South Texas, the state Board of Health on Jan. 13 declared a quarantine to stop the commercial movement of wild animals at high risk of rabies, such as coyotes, foxes, raccoons, skunks and bats. Dogs and cats more than 3 months old must have a current rabies vaccination certificate. Two persons have died since 1991 from the canine rabies, which has been found in coyotes and other animals in 18 South Texas counties. While the Texas Department of Agriculture sought and was denied EPA approval to place poisoned baits in an effort to control the disease, the state is proceeding with a more benign plan to spread baits with oral rabies vaccinations. NO REST FOR THE WICKED. When the Senate held a lottery to determine who would get four-year terms and who would have to run again in 1996, 15 senators who drew two-year terms included Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin; David Cain, D-Dallas; Chris Harris, R-Arlington; Don Henderson, R-Houston; Eddie Lucio, DBrownsville; Greg Luna, D-San Antonio; Mike Moncrief, D-Fort Worth; Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound; Drew Nixon, RCenter; Peg Rosson, D-El Paso; Florence Shapiro, R-Plano; Bill Sims, D-Paint Rock; Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio; John Whitmire, D-Houston; and Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo. The senators considered to be in the most marginal districts include Democrats Cain and Sims and Republican Drew Nixon, who scored an upset victory against former state representative Curtis Soileau, a lawyer, in marginally Democratic Deep East Texas District 3 during a bad year for lawyers. Democrats generally fare better in presidential election years. SAVE THE FARMER. The Texas Farmers Union will meet at the Holiday Inn South in Austin on Jan. 27-28 to set policy and urge protection for the nation’s family farmers and ranchers as Congress prepares to take up the 1995 farm bill and the Legislature reviews policies that will affect agriculture. “In 1995 we are at a crossroads in determining whether the family farm will remain as the primary agricultural system for the United States,” said Joe Rankin, president of the Texas Farmers Union, in announcing the 91st annual convention of the state’s oldest farm organization. NO HELP. The Court of Criminal Appeals,. on a 6-2 vote, ruled Jan. 11 that an indigent defendant is entitled to have a lawyer when a case is remanded to an intermediate court of appeals. Texas Lawyer noted he court’s new Republican judges, Sharon Keller and Stephen Mansfield, dissented without an opinion. LOOK AT THE RECORD. Texas lawmakers may buy into the Republican initiative of cutting back on welfare benefits, but at least the state’s largest daily newspaper is covering the other side of welfare reform. Credit George Rodrigue of the Dallas Morning News with ongoing coverage of the difference between rhetoric and reality, including a Dec. 27 report contrasting plans to do away with welfare and the reality of the 13.6 million Americansincluding 9.2 million childrenwho receive aid. Social scientists offered statistics to show the prospect of welfare payments plays little or no role in whether poor young women choose to bear children. Rodrigue also noted that welfare families face stresses unknown to middleclass families, but only about 2.5 percent of children on AFDC have been taken away from their parents by child-protection workers; the 14 percent of children on welfare who have been suspended or expelled from school was only a percentage point above the rate for poor children not on welfare; and studies in Denver and Seattle found that raising welfare benefits cut school dropout rates by one-fifth. The Jan. 24 Dallas Morning News reported that while Wisconsin’s welfare reforms have been highly touted, the share of Wisconsin’s schoolchildren living in poverty has increased by 65 percent and an unprecedented 42 percent of those using a Salvation Army homeless shelter are children. FILING FLAP. Setting up a potential battle of modem jockeys vs. the computerimpaired, the State Democratic Executive Committee in its January 10 meeting remained in support of an effort to revoke the Texas Ethics Commission’s authority to require candidates to file their campaign finance reports electronically. The SDEC on Dec. 3 adopted a resolution seeking legislation to make electronic finance reports voluntary, arguing that forcing candidates to file electronically might keep low-income candidates from running for office because they could not afford a computer. Still, Suzy Woodford, executive director of Common Cause in Texas, told the Houston Chronicle the party officials were not interested in the public having access to the information. She said exceptions could be made for candidates who cannot afford computers. The Democratic officials were not persuaded, although they clarified that they were not opposed to voluntary electronic filing and would support increased funding so that Ethics Commission staff could enter the data from paper filings to the computer database. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23
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