The State of Texas: April 18, 2014
So much for the scary passages in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It would appear that homework has taken a particularly dark turn. El Paso parents are in an uproar after discovering that a take-home assignment that “involved reading several bleak passages in which a child possibly gets abused, a wife discovers her husband is cheating, and a mother learns of her son’s death at war,” according to Gawker. The passages in question were part of an assignment in which the fourth-graders were asked to draw inferences from the events described. The school is investigating these “hilariously dark [commentaries] on the meaninglessness of domestic life, in the style of a Raymond Carver short-story collection.”
Mixed Opinions — Two polls released yesterday show that all of Texas likes to keep things weird. Or, at the very least, eclectic. A new survey by Public Policy Polling found that 47 percent of Texans would consider Ted Cruz the “top dog in the state,” and 54 percent support Greg Abbott in the gubernatorial race against Democrat Wendy Davis (who 25 percent of those polled support). But that doesn’t mean the state is stereotypically “red.” “Perhaps the most surprising results of the survey are that, even in conservative Texas, many Texans favor the more liberal position on expanding Medicaid, raising the minimum wage and guaranteeing equal pay for equal work, though, on this last question, it is hard to know how much to read into the finding,” according to the Austin American-Statesman. Increasing the minimum wage to $10 was supported by a 55/37 margin, Medicaid by a 49/35 margin, and the Paycheck Fairness Act by a 50/30 margin. And if that weren’t enough, Texas Tech also released a poll that shows the future of Texas may not be purple, but might very well be a rainbow: While researchers found that undergraduate students overwhelmingly supported Greg Abbott, they’re almost evenly split on gay marriage (48 percent to 47 percent), a significant change from the forty-percent approval in the past.
Permanently Impounded — What is perhaps the final chapter of the Warren Jeffs saga concluded peacefully yesterday after the state officially seized the FLDS’s YFZ ranch in Eldorado. “In a statement, DPS said only eight adults were still living on the West Texas property and agreed to leave after meeting with agents. DPS said authorities helped them vacate the ranch and take an inventory,” according to KXAN. In 2011, Jeffs was given life in prison for the sexual assault of two girls, and then back in January, the state obtained final judgment in the forfeiture of the 1,600-acre ranch. For a look back at the years-long saga, be sure to read the fantastic dispatches from Texas Monthly‘s own Katy Vine.
Texas Rambo — It’s a scene straight out of some twisted, Old West revenge movie. The 2013 Kaufman County murders are back in the news again after it was reported that accused killer Eric Williams had planned yet another hit on a court official. Recall that “Williams, a former Kaufman county justice of the peace, is facing the death penalty if convicted in the shooting deaths of DA Mike McClelland, his wife Cynthia, and prosecutor Mark Hasse. It is one of the most notorious crime sprees in North Texas history,” according to CBS 11 News. Now, new evidence suggests that “Williams also planned to kill former state district judge Glen Ashworth, who had once befriended Williams and had hired him as his court coordinator.” The information comes from Williams’s wife who claims that Williams planned to attack the former judge at the latter’s ranch, “shoot him with a crossbow …then, while still alive, cut open his stomach, douse him with napalm and set him on fire.” As the story notes, this revelation “explains a puzzling discovery exactly a year ago … [of] a suspected getaway car … a crossbow, arrows, two jars of homemade napalm, a hunting knife and surgical gear — including the booties.”
Going Overboard — In more Texas-making-national-headlines-for-embarrassing-reasons news, the San Antonio Express-News reported that “Political consulting firm employee Shaun Nowacki registered the political action committee, ‘Boats ‘N Hoes PAC,’ with the Texas Ethics Commission on April 1.” An offensive PAC name is one thing, but Nowacki is “listed as comptroller for Blakemore and Associates Consulting Firm, whose namesake, Allen Blakemore, is the ‘senior strategist’ for Republican Dan Patrick’s lieutenant governor campaign. The firm also advised Greg Abbott, the GOP nominee for governor, during eight previous campaigns from 1991 to 2004, according to Blakemore’s website.” Unsurprisingly, the revelation has caused a bit of a stir, especially as Texas Democrats look for fodder against their well-positioned opponents. As Politico notes, the relatively offensive name “might be a possible reference to the movie ‘Step Brothers.'” But the opposition is arguing that “Greg Abbott’s consultants are clearly taking their cues from Abbott himself, who campaigns with an admitted sexual predator of underage girls … who argues women are inferior to men.” A bit harsh, perhaps, but point taken! Shady PAC fellas, next time, just use a reference from Bridesmaids. Or safer still, Frozen.