The State of Texas: February 26, 2015
Passive-Aggressive Baked Good of the Day
The debate over same-sex marriage is getting pretty personal, heated, and in-your-face. But at least people are still exercising their kind-of-subtle jabbing skills. Yesterday, lawmakers and conservative leaders celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Texas Marriage Amendment by cutting into a wedding cake. An anti-gay cake, if you will. At the same time, and unbeknownst to most, the rabbi who presided over our historic same-sex wedding, led the legislators’s morning pray yesterday. “Oops,” said Austin representative Elliott Naishtat, who had introduced the rabbi.
Off-Border Problem – Some good news and bad news about that whole surge effort to curb illegal immigration at the border: The good news is that it appears to be working. What’s the bad news? According to the Houston Chronicle, it “cost more than $100 million and compromised the Department of Public Safety’s ability to combat crimes elsewhere, according to an internal DPS assessment.” The report noted that such “surges” really are political theater, and what works best is a sustained effort. “The permanent assignment of a sufficient number of troopers, agents, and Texas Rangers to the border region is more effective and efficient than short-term deployments from around the state,” reads the assessment, which also calls for more funding for equipment. More than likely, DPS will get their wish. “Abbott has named border security as an emergency item, allowing bills related to it to be passed in the first sixty days of the legislative session. Both the state House and Senate have also prioritized the issue, proposing budgets with unprecedented levels of spending on border security.”
Betting, Off-Track – Rule number one in gambling: never mess with the person holding all the money. The Racing Commission is learning that lesson the hard way, getting a lashing from senators furious over the commission’s approval of “historical racing” last year. It had done this despite a letter from legislators saying the commission should not approve such betting. “Right now, your budget is zero, and I’ve had nothing here today that’s convinced me that it needs to change,” Senate Finance Committee Chair Jane Nelson said to commission chairman Robert Schmidt who received a forty-minute grilling yesterday, according to the Houston Chronicle. “This isn’t about gambling to me. It’s not about horse racing to me. It is about an agency that has gone rogue, in my opinion.” It’s not all righteous indignation, however. As the Texas Tribune notes, “some of the language in that letter was drafted by lobbyists for out-of-state casinos.” All bets are now off since even historical racing may be in jeopardy. “The issue is now tied up in court after a judge ruled the agency had overstepped its authority. Race tracks are appealing the decision, Schmidt said, and the commission had not decided its course of action.”
Twelve Angry Jurors – A day after Eddie Ray Routh was found guilty of the murders of American Sniper Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield, jurors spoke out on their decision that took less than five hours. Routh’s lawyers had made the insanity case, which no one bought. Speaking to ABC’s “Good Morning America,” one juror said, “Every time something bad happened [Routh] pulled the [PTSD] card.” Said another juror, according to the Dallas Morning News, “He knew the consequences of pulling the trigger.” The name for Routh that now seems to be sticking is “American Disgrace,” which Kyle’s stepfather, Jerry Richardson, uttered during his impassioned speech to Routh after the verdict was read. Despite the association with the latest Oscar-nominated Clint Eastwood film, even Routh’s lawyer said that “the fact that some jurors had seen the movie did not hurt their case.” The defense plans to file an appeal within a week’s time.
Back of the Class – Here’s some really infuriating news out of Dallas. A recent report found that “about a quarter of black students in middle school and high school in Dallas ISD were suspended in the 2011–12 school year,” according the Dallas Morning News. “In comparison, 6 percent of white students in secondary schools and 9 percent of Latino students in those grades were suspended.” Blacks, by the way, only make up 23 percent of the student population. Sadly, this targeting—intentional or not—is nothing new. The Department of Education found that black boys are suspended three times more often than white boys and black girls six times more than white girls. Even at the preschool age—four years old—black kids comprise “nearly half of all out-of-school suspensions.” Putting it mildly, the Dallas report says the figures raise concerns that such targeted punishment is not “developmentally appropriate and culturally responsive.”
We Are Martians – We’re one small step closer, y’all. “The first two confirmed payloads slated for launch from SpaceX’s commercial rocket launch site at Boca Chica Beach were announced, reports the McAllen Monitor. The announcement constitutes SpaceX’s first two confirmed payloads from the Boca Chica site, which held its official groundbreaking in September, and the launch is tentatively scheduled for 2017. There was another small step toward commercial exploration in space, too. Earlier this week, the Mars One project announced its list of finalists for a mostly theoretical, one-way colonization trip to the red planet. Among those who made the cut include Texan Sonia Van Meter, whom you may have read about before in Texas Monthly. Just after the short list was announced, Van Meter recently sat down for an interview with Jezebel. Those looking for a deep space exploration of the project should also check out the recent story from Matter.
Brisket Competitors Now Have to Really Put Their Money Where Their Mouths Are
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