State of Texas: Oct. 1, 2013
Video of the Day
Star Wars Kid, Grumpy Cat . . . Texas tuba players. The Lake Travis Cavalier Marching Band is now Internet famous! Thanks go entirely to a tubular wreck last week. The band’s received national press after a video of their tuba section’s halftime pileup hit YouTube. Everyone’s relieved it didn’t happen to the bassoon section.
Tweet of the Day
Due to a lapse in government funding, this account will not be active until further notice.
— U.S. Capitol (@uscapitol) October 1, 2013
National Hooky Day — You know things are bad when even a Twitter account goes inactive. As the federal shutdown begins today, there’s going to be a number of Texans with nothing to do but catch up on laundry, read a book, take an eight-martini power lunch, and generally free up the highways. Numerous publications have laid out what to expect and what you won’t be able to do during this time of gummit doin nothin’ in an official capacity. Read both the Austin American-Statesman and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for straightforward stories. For the less inclined, the Houston Chronicle has not one, but two (!) slideshows detailing the services affecting Texans, with the latter being a who’s-hot-who’s-not of agency employees. Basically, you won’t be able to check out the Hubble telescope since NASA has turned off 97 percent of its thrusters. And forget about going to any national parks, since Ranger Rick has to whittle away the hours doing something else. You’re also out of luck if you wanted to hang out with Robo LBJ at his presidential library in Austin. Unfortunatley, numerous publications have made it clear that, yes, taxes will still be collected and you can still go to jail. Even more troubling though, is that things will get serious if the shutdown continues. As the Texas Tribune notes, “While federal employees will feel the initial pinch, state agencies reliant on federal funding are scrambling to cover budget holes to carry them through the shutdown.” So about that eight-martini lunch, seriously, you may want to consider following in the footsteps of our fearless leaders, who’ve apparently already started passing the time in just that manner.
Texas Gets Graded on a Curve — In another example of government programs working well at not working, the Department of Education has granted Texas a 2013-2014 waiver from No Child Left Behind. Now, “only the lowest-performing 15 percent of schools will be subject to a series of federally prescribed interventions, instead of what would have been nearly all of the state’s school districts next year because of a failure to meet the law’s requirement that 100 percent of their students pass reading and math exams by 2014,” according to the thorough Texas Tribune piece by Morgan Smith. Although Texas joins 41 other states and D.C. in receiving a waiver, it’s kind of like the teacher’s pet also not turning in her homework. As USA Today notes, none of the other waivers, “may carry the symbolic importance of Texas’ waiver. The law was the signature education initiative of President George W. Bush, who modeled many of the changes it implemented nationwide on the practices of his home state while he was Texas’ governor.” During the parent-teacher conferences, TEA commissioner Michael L. Williams had a pretty defiant excuse, saying “Texans know what’s best for Texas schools.” Though, suffice it to say, our school standards are still … evolving.
Royally Fracked? — The Royal Dutch Shell company recently announced that it’s pulling out of the oil business, at least in Eagle Ford. The Wall Street Journal reported that Shell plans on selling its stake of a whooping 106,000 acres. Interestingly, the move “illustrates the struggles major oil companies have had in places where smaller energy firms have thrived … Like many of the largest oil companies … Shell was late to invest in shale formations that, thanks to new drilling techniques and hydraulic fracturing, have become productive sources of oil and gas.” So it looks like now is the time to frack for all those with dreams of prospecting. Though, don’t get too excited. Karen Blumenthal’s April Texas Monthly story reminds us that the “Bust of Times” is always around the next bend.
Even Friendlier Skies — If working in the fields ain’t your thing, you could try aiming higher, much higher. Yesterday, American Airlines announced that it’s now boarding more than 1,500 new pilots. According to a Dallas Morning News item, the Fort Worth-based company will begin “hiring and training 40 to 50 pilots a month beginning this winter ‘through at least summer 2014.'” Travel time for the hirings will be for the next five years and the company attributes the smooth flight to “an incoming fleet of new airplanes … more international flying [and] pilot retirements.”
Of (Almost) Sound Mind — Ten state psychiatric facilities are getting a massive overhaul thanks (?) to an investigation of a woman’s death nearly five months ago at Terrell State Hospital. The good news is that federal regulators are “making top bosses visit patients throughout the state; regularly inspecting how well doctors are performing; and revamping the way they identify and solve problems,” according to the Austin American-Statesman. The bad news is that while they’ve “tackled major deficiencies” the state hasn’t “change[d] the very thing that triggered months of federal scrutiny in the first place: A lack of independent oversight in the way the hospitals review the death of a patient.” That could change in the future, though sooner than later is probably better since Texas psychiatric facilities don’t have a good medical record when it comes to mental health. Just four years ago, there were numerous firings and suspensions at a state home for the mentally disabled when it was discovered that employees at arranged “fight clubs” among residents. A report that year found that more than 200 employees in various facilities were fired or suspended last year for abuse. All told, putting some restraints on the operations for their own safety is probably a wise idea.
Take A Knee — Two Longhorns have been taken out of the game, and neither event happened on the field (nor are any named Mack Brown). After 32 years as Longhorns AD, DeLoss Dodds is expected announce his retirement today. On an obvious note, ESPN says the “effects of that decision on the future of the Longhorns athletic department will be far-reaching.” A more important loss for the moment is that of UT quarterback James Street, who went to the Big Stadium in the sky, at age 65. Street led the Longhorns to a 1969 championship after taking full control over “The Game of the Century” against Arkansas. Nearly every major publication — from the NYT, to the LA Times and ESPN — has noted the loss of this Texas legend. Street is survived by his wife and five sons.
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