The State of Texas: December 23, 2015
Greg Abbott shuts down a winter solstice display in the Capitol, Planned Parenthood loses funding, and no charges in Bland case.
Sad News of the Day
If this was meant to be a promotional effort for Chris Hemsworth’s latest movie, In the Heart of the Sea, it was very upsetting one. A 45-foot-long whale beached itself in Galveston yesterday and eventually died, garnering attention from multiple news agencies. Authorities suspect the whale the had been sick before dashing itself against the shore. A “necropsy” (fancy name for autopsy), will happen today. At least they’re not trying to blow it up with dynamite.
Texas By The Numbers
Rubbed the Wrong Way — Number of Houston massage parlors that openly advertised sexual services: 250. Number of those officially licensed to offer massages: 11. Number of area massage parlors cited for operating without a license or with an unlicensed massage therapist in past eleven months: 38.
Grinches — Number of DWI arrests made by DPS troopers during last year’s holiday season (December 24—27 and December 31—January 3): 403. Speeding tickets: 7,274. Seatbelt tickets: 724. Fugitive arrests: 292. Felony arrests: 166.
Border Check — Number of people in Texas stopped by the Border Patrol between October 2014 and September 2015: 210,470. Previous year: 332,457. Decrease of Mexican nationals detained: 18 percent. Decrease in apprehensions of nationalities from countries other than Mexico: 65 percent.
Humbuggin’ — A “winter solstice” display inside the Capitol has been removed following a complaint from the governor. Although there are plenty of Christmas trees and nativity scenes, this “display, approved by the Preservation Board’s staff, was the work of the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, a church-state separation group that, depending on your point of view, is either very clever or very grating in promoting its point of view,” writes the Austin American-Statesman. The display sounds pretty harmless, very American in fact! “The display was a cardboard cutout of the nation’s founding fathers and the Statue of Liberty looking down at the Bill of Rights in a manger. It had been set up in the Capitol’s basement, hardly a high-traffic area, and didn’t generate much of a public response,” according to the Texas Tribune. “But after finding out about it, Abbott called it a ‘juvenile parody’ in a letter asking the State Preservation Board to remove the exhibit.” Weirdly, Abbott cited the Constitution in his condemnation of the Constitution-loving display. “The Constitution does not require Texas to allow displays in its Capitol that violate general standards of decency and intentionally disrespect the beliefs and values of many of our fellow Texans,” writing, too, that “the exhibit deliberately mocks Christians and Christianity.” On a completely unrelated matter, many Christmas traditions are taken directly from pagan practices and here’s some fun evidence that magic mushrooms were an integral part to all that. Merry trippy Christmas, y’all.
Poorly Planned — Because there’s a moral disagreement about what Planned Parenthood does, citizens of Texas (both male and female) will now suffering the consequence of overly reactive politics. “Texas health officials are cutting off funding to a Planned Parenthood affiliate for an HIV prevention program,” writes the Tribune. “The contract is federally funded through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but managed by the state. … By ending Planned Parenthood’s contract, the state is cutting off almost $600,000 in annual funding, which the health care provider used for HIV testing and counseling, condom distribution and referral consultations.” The Houston Chronicle notes that program “conducted 140,000 HIV tests and over the past two decades given out 300,000 condoms to Houston area residents.” The effort to choke off Planned Parenthood, no matter the reason is “sure to draw comparisons to the state’s still-pending decision to cut Planned Parenthood out of the state Medicaid program. That decision, which was announced in October but has not yet been finalized, would deprive affiliates across the state of more than $3 million in reimbursements for a variety of services for low-income men and women.” The state says it’s working on a plan B of sorts. But considering its past efforts, poor people shouldn’t hold out hope for a Christmas miracle.
No Indictments — Jail officials will not face charges in the death of Sandra Bland, who died while in custody at the Waller County jail in July. A grand jury made the decision on Monday, but that doesn’t mean the controversy is done with. “Although grand jurors decided late Monday that Waller County sheriff’s officials and jailers didn’t break the law in their treatment of Bland, they are scheduled to return in January to consider whether to indict Trooper Brian Encinia, who arrested [Bland],” writes the Associated Press. “It’s not clear what charges the grand jury might consider when it reconvenes. Indicting an officer is generally a rare act, but Bowling Green State University professor Philip Stinson, who receives federal funding to track police violence and arrests, told the Des Moines Register last year that there is no government or scholarly database that tracks the outcome of grand jury proceedings involving officers.” Meanwhile, Bland’s family in Chicago continues to push back against the official results of investigations concerning her arrest and death, and protestors have begun asking the Justice Department to get involved.