The State of Texas: January 20, 2015
Quote of the Day
‘I don’t shy away from the fact that I have been preparing. Preparation’s done. I’m ready.’
– Rick Perry on his 2016 presidential run
New Kids On The Block – The most exciting party politicians are capable of throwing is happening today. Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick catch up with the rest of the elected officials by being sworn in as our state’s head honchos. At the swearing-in, Abbott will, like thirty governors before him, take the oath on the famous “Sam Houston Bible.” Unfortunately, the party-poopers at the Dallas Morning News report that “Caretakers of the brittle, brown 199-year-old holy book … have evidence that suggests the book may have never belonged to the state’s equivalent of George Washington.” No matter, there will be a barbecue picnic and an Inauguration Ball. This fun’s not cheap, though. “Tuesday’s daylong celebration is expected to draw as many as 30,000 Texans and comes with great fanfare and a super-sized price tag — about $4 million,” reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. None of that money, however, will go toward impressing leaders from our next-door neighbor. Apparently, in “a break in tradition,” no Mexican dignitaries will be attending the event, according to the Texas Tribune. Mexican dignitaries have been coming since George W. Bush was inaugurated, but it’s not clear why that’s not happening this time. “In an interview with The Texas Tribune on Friday, Abbott demurred when asked whether Mexican governors were invited. ‘It will come as no surprise that, consistent with my campaign for governor, you will see a level of Hispanic theme in the inauguration,’ Abbott said.” So long as it’s not like Rick Perry’s 2007 inauguration, things should be fine on that front.
The Cost of Integrity – There plenty of argument as to whether Rosemary Lehmberg should have resigned her position as head of the Travis County public integrity unit after her embarrassing arrest. But now there’s little doubt just how important that unit is. After Rick Perry vetoed the unit’s $7.5 million funding over the position disagreement, prosecutors for the unit “decided to drop a number of criminal cases involving state government,” according to the Texas Tribune. Those cases included a little tax fraud here, a little insurance fraud there. Oh, and a no-bid contract that’s eerily similar to the 21CT scandal. “A criminal investigation into tens of millions of dollars worth of deals awarded through a similar process [as 21CT] … for Perry’s highly touted and controversial border-security program,” was halted because of the budget cut, reports the Houston Chronicle. “The unit pulled together enough money to maintain operations at a reduced level. Previously, officials had said the only disrupted investigations related to motor-fuels tax violations and other routine matters.” But the revelation regarding the border security contract “also indicates that contracting problems could stretch far beyond – and above – the state health commission now under scrutiny.”
Killin’ It – If there’s one thing Americans love, it’s watching Texans being badasses. That couldn’t have been made more clear than this weekend, when American Sniper became a record-breaking blockbuster. Sure, there’s plenty to talk about with regard to the portrayal of Texan Chris Kyle, the deadliest sniper in American history, but numbers can’t be argued with. The movie “opened to a phenomenal $105.3 million over the four-day Martin Luther King holiday weekend,” according to the Wall Street Journal, “the largest opening ever for an R-rated movie or a drama and one of the biggest surprises in modern Hollywood history.” As Entertainment Weekly notes, “The Oscar-nominated film set a new record for a January opening by taking in $30.5 million on Friday, breaking the mark set by Cloverfield ($17.2 million on Jan. 18, 2008). January is a notoriously slow month at the box office, so Sniper‘s debut is particularly eye-opening. … American Sniper also took a couple records from James Cameron’s Avatar, which previously held the records for biggest January weekend performance (it made $68.5 million the first weekend of 2010) and biggest gross for a single day ($28.5 million) in January.” But is the movie any good? Well, apart from anti-war folks, audiences seem to really love it, giving the patriotic flick an average “A+” rating.
Big Game Over – The Dallas Safari Club can’t seem to catch a break. Last year, they earned plenty of scorn for auctioning off a hunt for an endangered white rhino and the safari itself “has been postponed until the winner receives permission to import the carcass from Namibi.” Now, they’ve had to cancel this year’s big game prize: killing an African elephant. “The Dallas Safari Club planned to auction a 12-day African elephant hunt in Cameroon during its annual three-day convention at a Dallas hotel, a hunt valued in the auction catalog at $20,000,” reports The Guardian. “Animal welfare activists planned to picket the convention hotel on Saturday, but the club’s executive director, Ben Carter, said elephants ‘in fact, are overpopulated in certain areas of Africa.’” The reason for cancelling the prize isn’t completely clear, but the “donor of the hunt withdrew his donation,” according to the Associated Press. The good news is that “this year’s auction prizes still include a 14-day trophy hunt in Mozambique for an adult male leopard.”