The State of Texas: December 17, 2014
Ain’t That Somethin’
Seeing that old car you sold a while back driving down the road is a bittersweet sight. Seeing that former vehicle serve as a mobile anti-aircraft gun carrier by Islamists in Syria has to be the weirdest feeling ever. That’s what happened to Texas City plumber Mark Oberholtzer, whose pickup—identified with his business decal on the side—recently made an appearance in video posted by the Islamic extremists.
Texas By The Numbers
Shocking Increase — Number of times electroshock therapy was used on Texas patients between 2012 and 2013: 14,176. Number of patients: 2,243. Increase since 2001: 67 percent.
All Down Hill From There — Year Bexar County saw a peak income: 1999. Medium household income: $53,415. Brazos county: 1969. Income: $41,380. Cameron County: 1979. Income: $37,642. Dallas County: 1969. Income: $61,026. Harris County: 1979. Income: $66,759. Lubbock County: 1979. Income: $50,39.
Holiday Rush Hour — Number of Texans expected to travel 50 miles or more during the holiday period: 8.1 million. Number that will drive to their destination: 7.5 million. Increase from last year: 4.2 percent. By air: 363,000. Increase: 2.5 percent. By bus, train or cruise ship: 253,000. Increase: 2.9 percent.
Schoolhouse Perry — Governor Rick Perry is leaving office, but his name will live on forever, in part thanks to some recent efforts by A&M. The university’s regents “will vote on whether to rename Texas A&M’s generic-sounding Academic Building the ‘Governor Rick Perry ’72 Building,’” after Perry, according to the Texas Tribune. “They will also consider a resolution honoring Perry for his ‘outstanding dedication and service.’” Unfortunately, the building doesn’t house Perry-appropriate subjects like business or governmental ethics, but instead is home to areas the governor occasionally struggles with, like modern languages.
Pajama Party Foul — Kind of hard to believe no one saw this coming. Congressman Blake Farenthold, who is known for his ducky PJs, pictures with scantily clad women, and association with the website blow-me.org, has been sued for sexual harassment by a former aid. Farenhold “is accused of creating a hostile work environment and sexually discriminating against Lauren Greene, his former communications director,” reports the Daily Beast. “According to a lawsuit filed by Greene last week in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and first reported by National Law Journal, Farenthold was generally a sketchball towards her.” Among other things, the congressman allegedly told the aid, among other things that should not be discussed, about the “sexual fantasies” he was having about her.” In its write-up, Huffington Post includes some other tawdry details. According to the Associated Press, Farenhold’s spokesman said the congressman would be cleared of wrong-doing “once all of the facts are revealed” and that staffers have “have a very different view of the allegations,” which doesn’t sound like a complete denial, just, you know, a misunderstanding.
Overjoyed Overton — Hannah Overton, the mother convicted of killing her foster child in 2006 with an overdose of salt, was granted bail yesterday, and “her release, pending a new trial, comes over two months after the highest appellate court in Texas overturned her murder conviction and life sentence,” writes ABC News. The Overton case has been chronicled extensively by Texas Monthly’s own Pamela Colloff, whose 2012 story was included in last year’s highly-regarded Best American Non-Required Reading anthology. At Overton’s hearing, “Hannah’s new legal team made the most of what was supposed to be a straightforward bond hearing, putting on numerous witnesses,” writes Colloff in an update yesterday. “Arguably the most dramatic moment of the hearing came when Hannah’s attorneys revealed that one of the state’s star witnesses at trial … had recently contacted Hannah’s defense team.” Overton’s bail was set at $50,000 and prosecutors have not yet announced whether they will persue a retrial.
Cold As ICE —Hello, Sarah Saldaña! The Dallas-based U.S. attorney was named the new head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, reports the Associated Press, “making her the first Latina to oversee enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws.” We hope she enjoys painful beaucratic gridlock and very heated controversies, because Saldaña was chosen to head ICE just as Obama’s recent executive action on immigration has caused a firestorm (though, as the story notes, Saldaña actually had pretty broad bipartisan support before the controversial decision). She’ll oversee the sprawling issues concerning the border, which Vice magazine explored by reporting on the Herculean (and sometimes hopeless) efforts by Texas authorities to properly document all the migrant dead. In 2013, “US Border Patrol reports having recovered the bodies of 463 suspected migrants coming from Mexico. That number however, does not include all those found by local law enforcement. ‘What’s reported could be a gross underestimate,’ [said Dr. Kate Spradley, who analyzes migrant remains at Texas State University]. ‘Here in Texas, we don’t have a tracking system, so we really don’t know.’”