Friday, September 28, 2012

Happy 60th Birthday Big Tex!

“Howdy Folks!” is the large and loud southern welcome visitors receive upon entering the Texas State Fair. The booming welcome can only be given by a 52 foot tall famous cowboy, Big Tex.

The State Fair icon celebrates his 60th birthday this year. After his first debut in 1952, Big Tex has undergone a few changes to comply with his increasing age. These include a nose change, adding a wink to his eyes, as well as grayer hair and wrinkles in his face and hands.

Big Tex has long been a favorite to visitors of the State Fair, easily recognizable by his giant appearance that presides over the entrance. His staple Dickies jeans require 72 yards of denim and are held up by his 50 pound belt buckle. He wears size 70 boots and his hat is 75 gallons!

You can wish Big Tex a happy birthday in person starting Friday, September 28, when the State Fair officially opens for the season. Make sure to take a weekend off and enjoy the carnival rides, fair food, petting zoos, musical entertainment, car shows, and much more that make the Texas State Fair unforgettable!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Study Examines Cases of Executive Branch Corruption

Can Justice Department officials effectively investigate wrongdoing within their own administration without relying on an independent counsel?

In Prosecution among Friends political scientist David Alistair Yalof explores the operation of due process as it is navigated within the office of the attorney general and its various subdivisions.

The attorney general holds a politically appointed position within the administration and yet, as the nation’s highest ranking law enforcement officer, is still charged with holding colleagues and superiors legally accountable. That duty extends to allegations against those who had a hand in appointing the attorney general in the first place: Even the President of the United States may be enmeshed in a Justice Department investigation overseen by the attorney general and other department officials.

To assess this fundamental problem, Yalof examines numerous cases of executive branch corruption—real or alleged—that occurred over the course of four decades beginning with the Nixon administration and extending up through the second Bush administration.

All of these cases—Watergate, Whitewater and others—were identified and reported to varying degrees in the press and elsewhere. Some garnered significant attention; others drew only limited interest at the time.

In all such cases the attorney general and other officials within the executive branch were charged with initially assessing the matter and determining the proper road for moving forward. Only a handful of the cases resulted in the appointment of a statutorily protected independent counsel.

Yalof, associate professor of political science at the University of Connecticut, won the 1999 Richard E. Neustadt Award for the Best Book on the Presidency with his title, Pursuit of Justices: Presidential Politics and the Selection of Supreme Court Nominees (University of Chicago Press).

Get your copy now here!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Michelle Obama, Ann Romney Presented Vastly Differing Gender Ideologies in Convention Speeches

First ladies and prospective first ladies are generally agreed to be lagging indicators of the status of women in the American polity. In the recent Democratic and Republican national conventions, Ann Romney and Michelle Obama presented very different gender ideologies, attuned to critical contrasts within their respective parties.

Here MaryAnne  Borrelli, author of The Politics of the President’s Wife and expert in presidential studies and women and politics, analyzes the convention speeches of Romney and Obama – both of whom were tasked by media commentators in recent weeks with the challenge of “humanizing” their husbands.

In the weeks leading up to the Republican and Democratic national conventions, media commentators assigned Ann Romney and Michelle Obama the task of “humanizing” their husbands.  This was not expected to be an easy task.

At the time, Gallup was reporting Mitt Romney’s “likability” at 48 percent – a rating that had changed little in the previous eight months. Barak Obama’s job approval had remained lower than 50 percent, virtually without pause, since late in 2009.

While Michelle Obama was thought to be confronting the greater challenge, speaking on behalf of an incumbent president, both women were “reintroducing” men who were well known and widely criticized.

But as difficult as “humanizing” may have been, this was only one of the messages Ann Romney and Michelle Obama delivered in their convention speeches.  More importantly, Romney and Obama endorsed distinctive gender ideologies, with the goal of mobilizing influential partisans.

Romney’s Patriarchal Focus

As she has done throughout her husband’s campaign, Romney spoke as a satellite wife at the Republican convention; her words relayed and amplified her husband’s statements.

Focusing on the private sphere, she presented Mitt Romney’s patriarchal relationship with his family as anticipating his presidential relationship with the nation.

“This man will not fail.”  Why not?  Because he has not failed his wife or his children.  The patriarch as president, the president as patriarch – these highly gendered roles have been historically intertwined.

Today, this gendered vision of leadership and power resonates particularly well with social conservatives, a segment of the Republican base that has been hesitant to endorse Mitt Romney.

Obama’s Appeal to Supporters of Women’s Rights

Michelle Obama’s convention speech also was centered in the private sphere, with her explicit assertion that “my most important title is still ‘mom-in-chief.’”  Still, Obama’s speech was less consistently focused on her husband – she stood both as satellite wife and presidential surrogate.

Obama’s independence was evidenced in the lengthy narrative about her upbringing, her self-portrayal as a child of the struggling middle class, an identity that she immediately leveraged on her husband’s behalf.

We can trust Barack to do what he says he’s going to do, even when it’s hard – especially when it’s hard.”  Why?  Because, like his wife, he was raised in a family that knew hardship and yet believed in American values, an experience that instilled in him a deep sense of empathy.  Obama’s speech, explicitly and implicitly, was an appeal to supporters of women’s rights, feminism, and women-centered activism.

Romney, Obama Portray Conservative Gender Role Models in Tight Race

First ladies and prospective first ladies are generally agreed to be lagging indicators of the status of women in the American polity.  When these women are assigned the further task of defending and reframing their husbands in a tight race, there is still more reason for them to be conservative gender role models, avoiding the “distraction” of debates about gender roles and ideas.

Even so, in 2012 Ann Romney and Michelle Obama are expressing very different gender ideologies, attuned to critical contrasts between their parties.  If the power and impact of their campaigning is to be understood, these connections between gender, party, and politics must be recognized.

And if the identity of these women is to be respected in its full complexity, then examining their gender is only the first step.

Michelle Obama’s media relations testify to the importance of race in perceptions of the first lady.  If Ann Romney becomes first lady, and if she chooses to present herself as physically challenged, or even as disabled, she would have an opportunity to overturn historic preconceptions of the bodily perfection required of a “lady.”  This was a change begun by Betty Ford, with her advocacy on behalf of breast cancer prevention and treatment.

Romney and Obama are very different gender role models.  And it is their differences that reveal the most about this campaign, that promise to reveal the most about the United States presidency.

MaryAnne Borrelli
Connecticut College

Friday, September 14, 2012

Absence of Tactical Air Control Teams in Libya Prolonged NATO Campaign

On Tuesday, heavily armed Islamist militants stormed and burned the American Consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi, killing the U.S. ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three of his staff members. It was the first time since 1979 that an American ambassador had died in a violent assault.

Many Libyans considered Stevens a hero for his support of their uprising against Col. Muammar el-Qadaffi a year earlier. 

In March of 2011, a multi-state coalition intervened in the Libyan civil war, pitting air power support and "rag-tag" rebel forces against Qadaffi's ground operations. 

 At the time, Military Historian Steve Call assumed results would be quick and dramatic -- similar to the Afghan rebel forces' air-supported take-down of the Taliban regime just a decade earlier. 
Instead, the Libyan campaign -- one devoid of tactical air control teams on the ground that had galvanized the Afghan war effort  -- would drag on for seven long months.

When I learned NATO was intervening in the Libyan civil war I assumed quick and dramatic results, because I assumed they would realize they had a readymade blueprint to follow. 
The Libyan rebel forces looked very much like the Afghan forces that had rebelled against the Taliban and the Kurdish rebel forces that had fought Hussein in Northern Iraq; in each case air power, teamed with these rebel forces, had proved an insurmountable team, first in bringing down the Taliban regime in 2001, and in tying up significant Iraqi forces in Northern Iraq during the 2003 invasion. 

The blueprint seemed perfect: link NATO air power with the Libyan rebels the same way it had been linked with Afghan and Kurdish rebels.
After watching events unfold through major media channels for several months, however, and seeing no dramatic results, I became suspicious and started questioning contacts in the reporting world.  One lead led to another, and before long I was corresponding with Chris Chivers, a Pulitzer-prize-winning writer for the New York Times who had been reporting on the rebellion.

He said that they too at the Times were wondering about the apparent lack of results, and when I asked if he knew of any tactical air controllers on the ground in Libya he said emphatically that they were not being used; my suspicions were confirmed. 

As anyone who even mildly agrees with my thesis in DangerClose: Tactical Air Controllers in Afghanistan and Iraq (Texas A&M University Press, 2007) will know, tactical air controllers were the key to making the marriage of air power and Afghan and Kurdish rebels so devastatingly effective. 

These specially trained Air Force “ground troops” live and work with friendly ground forces and coordinate ground efforts with those of the aircraft overhead.  By not having tactical air controllers on the ground, NATO air leaders were not only losing the essential synergy of air and ground working together, they were severely hampering their own efforts.
The reasons for this are simple.  Working independently against unopposed enemy ground troops, as in NATO’s air campaigns in Bosnia and Kosovo, aircraft have great difficulty finding ground forces, especially at altitudes necessary to escape enemy air defenses because the enemy disperses his forces to minimize the impact of air power.  Even if the enemy is confronted by a ground force that makes them consolidate so they can fight effectively, friendly ground forces and air power will be working at crossed purposes if they are not coordinated. 

For one thing, friendly ground forces could be launching an offensive in one region while aircraft are operating in another region, and as a result, pilots will still find it hard to locate enemy ground forces that have no need to consolidate.  And if aircraft are operating in the same region as the friendly ground offensive, pilots cannot tell friend from foe without someone on the ground telling them which forces to strike. 
This problem was dramatically highlighted in Libya when a NATO aircraft dropped a 500-pound precision bomb less than 100 meters from reporter Chris Chivers – he was lucky to have survived. 

NATO did a very effective job bombing fixed sites and enemy air defenses, but with Gaddafi fighting for his life, he was not going to surrender just because his country’s infrastructure was being destroyed; to defeat Gaddafi, the rebels and NATO had to close with and kill his regime’s ultimate support: it’s fielded forces. 
Had NATO used tactical air controllers to link the air and ground campaigns in Libya, the rebels would have forced Gaddafi’s troops to expose themselves to effectively directed air strikes, thus helping the rebels succeed.  Without such coordination, what resulted was two separate campaigns that dragged on for over seven months.

To me, the lesson learned is clear: to effectively employ air power in any scenario where enemy ground forces must be defeated, you must make tactical air controllers the central component linking air and ground operations.
Steve Call is author of Danger Close: Tactical AirControllers in Afghanistan and Iraq (Texas A&M University Press, 2007) and Selling Air Power: Military Aviation and American Popular Culture after World War II (Texas A&M University Press, 2009). Danger Close is Texas A&M's best-selling ebook, selling seven times more than any other ebook the press has released. It is number 14 on the Amazon Best Sellers Rank for Kindle ebooks inaviation, and is available for $9.99 here.

Call is an assistant professor at Broome Community College in Binghampton, New York, teaching both American and military history. During his 20-year career in the U.S. Air Force, Call held many command and staff positions, including liaison officer with the army, Pentagon staff officer, and squadron commander.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Campus “Living Room” Featured in August Spirit Magazine

“It was said when we opened this building 61 years ago that it was the premier student center in the nation. I’m happy to tell you that it is again.”—President R. Bowen Loftin ‘71
Once again, the “living room” is welcoming Aggies and non-Aggies alike with open arms. From its inception in September of 1950 to its reopening on Muster 2012, the Memorial Student Center, or MSC, has been considered the “living room” of campus. With its hundreds of wide-open study areas and huge multimedia and gaming floor, students of every kind can feel welcome.
Spirit Magazine, a publication of the Texas A&M Foundation, celebrated the new MSC in all its splendor as part of its August issue, with a photo spread and feature article on the Muster celebration.
As Governor Rick Perry ’72 stated at the reopening, “You can make a good case that the Memorial Student Center is where the heart first started beating for any number of young Aggies.” I believe this as true as an Aggie myself.
When students first arrive to campus, the MSC is always the main focus. Everyone wants to experience one of the greatest traditions on campus. However, students soon realize that the MSC is more than just a place to hang out. The multiple “Hats off, please” and “Stay off the grass” signs remind you that you are a part of something much greater than yourself. The original purpose of the MSC, as Amy Bacon expresses in her book Building Leaders, Living Traditions: The Memorial Student Center at Texas A&M Universitywas as a memorial to Aggies who lost their lives in the two world wars. As United States Representative Bill Flores ’76 said, “I think it’s very appropriate that we are rededicating the MSC on Aggie Muster, when we remember why this place exists.” However, thanks to J. Wayne Stark, the MSC’s first director, the MSC became more than just a monument to fallen comrades; it helped the university expand its focus to embrace an even more inclusive future.
This living memorial and long-standing traditions help Aggies: past, present, and future, remember that we too will be remembered by our classmates at Muster, Silver Taps, and with the MSC.
For more information on the new and improved MSC, click here.
There’s a spirit, can ne’er be told…”
--Paige Bukowski

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Real Bonnie and Clyde Possessions to be Auctioned!

The notorious outlaws and lovers Bonnie and Clyde are perhaps more famous today than they were while they were outlaws. Their widespread popularity and fame could be linked to the fact that they were lovers and outlaws, or because they have been romanticized into Robin Hood-like figures, since they robbed banks during the Great Depression. Whatever the reason is people from across the country are so fascinated with them; there is no doubt the two lovers were law-breaking murderers and thieves.

On September 30, the guns and other items connected to the infamous gangsters will be auctioned off in New Hampshire. Auction officials estimate that each Bonnie and Clyde weapon could sell from anywhere between $100,000 and $200,000.

What were the weapons these two chose to carry? Clyde carried a Colt .45-caliber pistol in his waistband, while Bonnie concealed a Colt .38-caliber revolver in her inner thigh. The two weapons were confiscated after they were ambushed by law enforcement officers in 1934. Along with the guns, other items that were found in the car after the ambush will be auctioned off. These include Clyde’s gold pocket watch and Bonnie’s cosmetic case.

To learn more about Bonnie and Clyde, we’ve provided our own list of books to read up on!

Gangster Tour of Texas (Texas A&M University Press, 2011): T. Lindsey Baker, who holds the W. K. Gordon Endowed Chair in Texas History at Tarleton State University, is also author of the book Gangster Tour of Texas. Gangster Tour of Texas not only features criminals Bonnie and Clyde, but traces a trail of crime that had its beginnings in 1918, when the Texas legislature outlawed alcohol, and persisted until 1957, when Texas Rangers closed down the infamous casinos of Galveston. With detailed maps, photographs of the criminals, victims, and crime scenes, as well as in-depth historical research, this book offers a fun and comprehensive view of the lawless outlaws of Texas.

“The Death of Bonnie and Clyde” and Other Stories (Texas Review Press, 2012): Author and associate professor/lecturer of writing at the University of Utah, Michael Gills, compiles together stories of the most wayward of characters—murderers, hitchhikers, thieves, as well as stories of UFO’s and killer tornados

Bonnie and Clyde and Marie: A Sister’s Perspective on the Notorious Barrow Gang (Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2012): Author Jonathan Davis personally worked with Marie Barrow on documentary’s concerning the Barrow Gang. He gives a unique and interesting side of the story, that reveals a sister’s perspective of her brother’s and their gang, and what it was like to live in the media’s constant scrutiny and distortion.

Feuds that Shaped America

From the Hatfields and the McCoys to the Suttons and the Taylors, historic disputes have long captured the public interest, becoming the focus of television shows, movies, and other elements of popular culture. Texas A&M Press distributes several titles about historic feuds in Texas history.

Not every feud has risen to national attention like the infamous Hatfield and McCoy dispute. But, Texas feuds such as the one between the Johnson and Sims families of West Texas read like a Western Romeo and Juliet love story. Bill O’Neal’s book concentrates on the families from Scurry and Kent counties in West Texas, which were united in a marriage between 14-year-old Gladys Johnson and 21-one-year-old Ed Sims. Following a nasty divorce, Ed tried to take his daughters for a prearranged Christmas visit in 1916 when Gladys and her brother Sid shot him dead. In the tradition of Texas feudists, the Sims family sought revenge. Check out O’Neal’s book: click here.

Chuck Parson’s The Sutton-Taylor Feud follows the bloodiest feud in Texas, in which William Sutton and his friends waged war against the large Taylor family. While there had been cold-blooded murders before between these two families, the killing on Christmas Eve 1868 of Buck Taylor and Dick Chisholm was perhaps the final spark that turned hard feelings into fighting with bullets and knives. In this definitive study of the Sutton-Taylor Feud, Chuck Parsons demonstrates that the violence between the two sides was in the tradition of the family blood feud, similar to so many other nineteenth-century American feuds. For more on the bloodiest feud in Texas, click here.

In The Feud That Wasn’t, author and historian James Smallwood argues that there never was a Sutton-Taylor feud to begin with. There he claims that what seemed to be random lawlessness can be interpreted as a pattern of rebellion by a loose confederation of desperadoes who found common cause in their hatred of the Reconstruction government in Texas. He chronicles the cattle rustling, horse thieving, killing sprees, and attacks on law officials by the Taylor ring, drawing a picture of a group of anti-Reconstruction hoodlums who banded together for criminal purposes. For more on the feud that wasn’t, click here.

Which feud, well-known or not, interests you most?

--Paige Bukowski

TAMU Inducts Eight New Members into Corps Hall of Honor

On April 14th of this year, Texas A&M University acknowledged the lifetime accomplishments of eight former cadets during the Corps Hall of Honor induction ceremony in Rudder Auditorium. Prior to these new additions, the Corps Hall of Honor had only inducted 96 former cadets along with two honorary inductees – President George H.W. Bush, one of the new inductees, and former US Secretary of Defense Texas A&M University President Robert M. Gates. Established in 1993 to pay tribute to former cadets who lived a life that embodies Aggie Spirit, the Corps of Cadets formed the Hall of Honor to pay tribute to Aggies who possess and live the values upon which the Corps of Cadets was instituted: honor, loyalty, service, pride, patriotism, faith, leadership, and honesty.

These incredible men whose accomplishments will be forever in the Corps of Cadets Hall of Honor are:
  • Captain Eli L. Whiteley, Class of 1941
  • Major Hughes “Buddy” Seewald, Class of 1942
  • Mr. Don Adams, Class of 1957
  • Major General H. Hale Burr, Class of 1965
  • Lieutenant General John A. Van Alstyne, Class of 1966
  • Mr. W. Michael Baggett, Class of 1968
  • U.S. Representative William H. “Bill” Flores, Class of 1976
  • President George Herbert Walker Bush
For videos about these men and the honorable lives they led, click here.

--Paige Bukowski

Texas State Fair Plans to Set New World Record with…Fritos Pie?!

If you’re planning on going to the Texas State Fair and want to see something memorable, I suggest going on October 1st. On that day the saying “everything’s bigger in Texas” will once again stand true to its word by celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Fritos corn chip by setting out to achieve a world record for the biggest-ever Fritos pie. At approximately 10:00am spectators can view the construction of the manifestation at the feet of Big Tex himself. If the world record is set, attendees will be able to sample the record-breaking treat.

The tasty corn chips were discovered when Elmer Doolin, father of Kaleta Doolin, author of Fritos Pie: Stories, Recipes, and More, purchased the recipe from a local businessman and began making what would become Fritos in his mother’s kitchen with nothing more than a converted potato ricer. In 1961, Fritos became immensely popular when Elmer joined forces with H.W. Lay & Company, forming Frito-Lay, Inc. Elmer’s mother also helped with marketing the new-found success by creating recipes using the Fritos; one such recipe was the now famous Fritos Pie.

For more on Kaleta Doolin’s book and the remarkable history of Fritos, visit our website at

Monday, September 3, 2012

Calling All Outdoors Lovers!

Do you enjoy the outdoors? Love the television show Parks and Recreation? Share your favorite clip from the show in the comments section below or on our Facebook or Twitter. Then check out TAMU Press’s forthcoming book On Politics and Parks by Mr. George Bristol, political insider and parks advocate.