State of Texas: Sept. 18, 2013
Pictures of the Day
If you haven’t yet visited the Eclectic Menagerie Park in Belfort, here’s a recent snapshot. Giant spiders, and chickens, and ‘dillos, oh my! Created by the Texas Pipe and Supply distribution company, of all things.
These Books By Committee Are Gonna Be Cray-Cray — Kids tend to use their textbooks as doorstops, kindling ,and weapons. All of which are much preferable to adults using them as ideology pamphlets. Still, it was a great civics lesson yesterday during the highly anticipated and well-attended public hearing regarding the SBOE’s proposed science, math, and technology textbooks. Outside, pro-science supporters staged a rally with Darwin-as-Obama posters (“Change,” obviously, not “Hope”), as well as special guest appearances by professors Big Tex and … Godzilla(?). Inside, things were just as interesting. One pub that definitely completed its homework before class was Texas Tribune. It was all over the coverage, with Morgan Smith writing one of the more comprehensive pieces on the day’s events. Highlights (they’ll be on the test!) include prominent crusader, cavity denier, and former SBOE chairman, Don McLeroy, who seemed to be the creationists’ loudest advocate at the hearing. So dedicated he was in making his point that one board member thought he was trolling the hearings: “Are you saying ‘adopt these books’ facetiously?” asked Mavis Knight, genuinely confused. To be fair, “McLeroy’s testimony diverged from other witnesses skeptical of evolution, who criticized the proposed textbooks for inadequate coverage of alternatives to the scientific theory and asked the board not to approve them until publishers made changes.” The Dallas Morning News has a decent Cliffs Notes version of the events. The public hearing concerned 429 possible science, math, and technology textbooks—and more than ten biology books—for 2014, with the board voting in November on which doorstops make the cut. Mixed Grades: Three publications, three different figures—the DMN, Tribune, and the Longview News-Journal all have varying numbers w/r/t “textbooks,” ranging from fourteen to sixteen, with “biology books” apparently being used synonymously (and confusingly) with “science books.” Extra Credit: Reporters Jody Serrano and Kate McGee tweeted minute-by-minute updates of the hearing (if you’re into that kind of thing).
We Were Wrong, Manziel is Batman — Turns out, comparing Johnny Manziel to a mild-mannered schlub working a nine-to-fiver before spending his nights leaping tall defenders in a single bound is a bit off. He’s actually more like the head of Wayne Enterprises. Texas A&M reportedly raised $740 million in donations and pledges during the last fiscal year, according to The Eagle, the university’s student newspaper, which broke the story. Although Chancellor John Sharp made an obligatory nod to “faculty and students,” the main reason for the money storm likely had little to do with A&M’s sharecropping and tractor-pulling programs. Thankfully, Texas A&M Foundation President Ed Davis spelled it out loud-n-clear, noting that superhero players win games and winning teams raise money. Not only is the $740 million a record-breaking figure for the school, but “[w]hen it’s all collected and finalized, it should be an all-time record for a public university.” This is according to the gossip mongers at Deadspin, which also puts the figure in context: “The previous year, when A&M was just a mediocre Big 12 team, the university’s fundraising haul was just $181 million. One move to the SEC, one stadium renovation drive, and one Johnny Manziel later, and donations went up more than 300 percent.” Maybe A&M and the NCAA should let Manziel benefit financially from his own hard work, or, at the very least, buy this Boy Wonder a Batmobile or something.
How Do You Say ‘Welcome to Texas, Y’all’ in Chinese? — Two bits of news in the real estate market. For one, Houston homes are selling like hotcakes, or perhaps, like Manziel fever. Last month, home sales in the area jumped to more than sixteen percent with high-dollar homes seeing the greatest increase in sales volume. Sales for townhouses and condos were up by thirteen percent from the previous year along with a ten percent increase in rentals from 2012. All this according to a new report via the Houston Chronicle, which quoted the local Realtors’ chairman as saying things unheard of during the Great Recession, things like, “It’s difficult to say exactly when Houston’s boiling real estate market will begin to cool down.” Hot damn! Though caliente maldito or 熱該死 might be more appropriate. The Dallas Busines Journal also reported that “international buyers account for more than $6 billion in annual Texas housing sector.” There’s been an increase of such foreign invasions the past few years, with Texas and Arizona investments now third among international homebuyers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, more than half of those foreign investors come from Latin America with another fifteen percent coming from Asia. That’s all great news, especially for local diversity. What’s completely mystifying, however, is the fifteen percent coming from Canada. Welcome to Texas, eh.
Drawing Racial Lines — The state’s ongoing war over the Voter ID law is seeing another battle begin, this time with new armies. The Texas chapter of the NAACP, the country’s most powerful black advocacy group, along with the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, filed a lawsuit against the state’s recently passed Voter ID law, according to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Joining the Justice Department in fighting the law, the NAACP and MALC filed their lawsuit in the same federal court in which the current the DOJ is fighting its case. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has long defended the law, requiring hopeful voters show a government-issued photo ID, as necessary to protect against election fraud (nevermind that voter fraud is about as rare as a Longhorn win). Understandably, groups like the NAACP, MALC, and others suggest the law is both racist and classist. Associate Editor Sonia Smith wrote a nice recap in March 2012 of the DOJ’s involvement, and related, Michael Ennis has an extensive look at immigration reform in the September issue.