The State of Texas: February 11, 2015
Tweet of the Day
There was a time when politicians and reporters got along. That time is no more.
Texas higher ed official sat next to me at Senate hearing. I introduced myself as AP reporter. He moved. #txlege
— Jim Vertuno (@JimVertuno) February 10, 2015
Nothing good ever comes from tweeting, and a Texas teen has learned that the hard way. The teen was fired from a job she hadn’t even started after tweeting out, “Ew I start this f— a— job tomorrow,” followed by seven(!) thumbs-down emojis, garnering international attention. Or, as the San Antonio Express-News so preciously put it in a video summary, “a two-word expletive adjective that rhymes with Chuck Bass.” When her future boss got wind of her tweet, he logged into Twitter and fired her. The teen, @Cellla_, is apparently doing okay as she’s been retweeting supportive tweets (and her media mentions) from around the world.
Texas by the Numbers
Take Me to Church – Number of megachurches in the U.S.: 1,643. Number in Texas: 207. Rank among states: Second. Number one state for megachurches: California. Number in Houston: 37. Largest Texas megachurch: Lakewood. Attendance: 43,500.
Oil Canned – Number of people Halliburton is expected to lay off due to the oil bust: 6,500. Total number of Halliburton employees: 80,000. Portion of layoff: 8 percent. Cut in drilling budget Pioneer plans to make: 45 percent.
The Pampered Arm of the Law – Number of tax dollars Jack Stick, the former general counsel of Texas’s Health and Human Services Commission, spent on a custom black leather chair: $2,800. Amount spent on gaudy new badges for HHS investigators: $36,000. Cost of each badge: $80. Cost of custom badge holders: $16. Cost of previous badges: $32.45. Cost of badges worn by the DPS’s highway patrolman: $27.
The Forever Guards – Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick would like a human wall to separate Texas and Mexico indefinitely it seems, declaring yesterday that he hopes to extend the stay of the National Guard troops on the border beyond March’s planned draw down, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Despite the fact that the National Guard has no real authority and only acts in a support role for border security, this will be no cheap stunt. Patrick is “seeking an additional twelve million dollars to keep the troops there through May,” and “the Senate’s budget includes about $815 million for border security, which is more than the previous seven years combined,” reports the Texas Tribune. But Patrick forgot one little detail: he doesn’t control the National Guard, Governor Greg Abbott does. After Patrick said he hoped to work with Abbott and House speaker Joe Straus to fund the extension, Straus issued the following statement: “I appreciate Governor Patrick’s remarks, but Governor Abbott is the Commander in Chief and he will decide whether to extend the National Guard’s deployment.”
American Trial – Testimony begins today in the trial of Eddie Routh, who killed famed sniper Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield. Routh has confessed to the slayings, but his lawyers plan to mount an insanity defense. While much has been made of the difficulty of obtaining a fair trial because of the extensive media attention the case has received, there’s another (equally problematic?) issue for the defense. “Routh is not the first veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to commit murder, and his trial will not be the first time lawyers for a veteran claim that war trauma was responsible for insane behavior that should not be judged by the typical standards of human conduct,” notes the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in a solid, context-providing piece. “The trial—and specifically how jurors react to claims about the role PTSD played in Routh’s shooting of Chris Kyle—will test the limits of American sympathy for the struggles of veterans when those struggles lead to criminal behavior.”
Glorious Brownsville – Giselle Rosas has a lovely piece in Quartz about Brownsville and its future as Elon Musk’s galaxy carport. First, there’s the region. “Unlike other border towns, Brownsville, Texas, never reached its full ‘border potential,’” writes Rosas. “It currently stands as an underdeveloped town with a poverty rate of 36 percent, compared to the country’s overall figure of 15.9 percent. However, similar to San Diego, Brownsville has a vast land of 147.5 square miles, a year-round subtropical climate, and is only 30 miles away from the beach.” Then, of course, there’s the way the community has all but bent over backward for the SpaceX program. The University of Texas at Brownsville “plans a bigger physics program, preparing students to essentially work for SpaceX,” and the “UT System [has] proposed Stargate, a radio frequency technology program, creating the partnership between SpaceX and UT Brownsville’s Center for Advanced Radio Astronomy and opening facilities adjacent to the SpaceX Boca Chica complex.”
Return to Zion – Frederick Merril Jessop, the former Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints bishop who officiated Warren Jeffs’s wedding to Jessop’s twelve-year-old daughter, will soon see freedom. “Jessop, 79, will be transferred to a prison in Huntsville and released in two to three months, said Raymond Estrada, a spokesman for the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles,” reports the Salt Lake Tribune. Utah-based private investigator Sam Brower, who has spent years investigating the FLDS, expressed his disgust at the news on Facebook, according to the St. George News: “Despite his early parole, [Jessop] has repeatedly committed the most inconceivable crime a parent could commit against his own child—knowingly turn them over to the perverse whims of a serial pedophile.” Jessop married off at least eleven of his daughters to Jeffs, Brower continued. Jessop was sentenced to ten years in 2011 for conducting an illegal marriage. For more context on the FLDS, read Katy Vine’s feature stories on both the state’s raid on the Yearning for Zion ranch and Warren Jeffs’s trial.