The State of Texas: January 6, 2015
The Austinite Who Would Be King — Occasionally some Texan (say, Governor Rick Perry), will threaten to have Texas secede from the Union. Or, in more tragic cases, a man will declare himself a country of one. Child’s play, all of it. How about overtaking an existing country? That’s the pretty wild story currently making international news. “Two men have been charged in the United States [by the Department of Justice] with conspiring to help overthrow the government of the small West African nation of The Gambia,” according to the Associated Press. One of those men is, in fact, an Austinite. Of the rebel group, Reuters reports that the Austin housing developer allegedly bankrolled the whole operation back in December. As the BBC reports, the “Texas businessman, was in charge of the alleged conspiracy and would have been appointed interim leader of The Gambia had the coup attempt succeeded, according to documents filed in court.” For a pretty detailed profile of the Austinite, check out the Austin American-Statesman’s story. The full criminal complaint is available here and, as NPR notes, it’s “a tale worthy of a Hollywood script.” Charlie Wilson would be proud.
An Admiral-able Plan — The orders from Admiral Bill McRaven are clear: full steam ahead. On his first day as the University of Texas’s new chancellor, McRaven sent a system-wide email saying it was time to throttle past controversities and put them in the university’s wake. Actually, he made no seafaring references, but said, specifically, “there have been disagreements and disputes that have harmed the reputation of this great UT System and, as a result, we have missed opportunities to move forward. We are better than that. It is time to resolve those arguments and look to the future.” As the Austin American-Statesman so smartly notes, McRaven made these comments “without getting into specifics.” The white whale, of course, is the on-going scandal surrounding the scallywag regent Wallace Hall. And apart from Hall, “the system and its Board of Regents have been at odds with the Austin flagship and its president, Bill Powers, on a variety of matters in recent years, including tuition, the organization of the fundraising office and measures of faculty productivity.” In his closing paragraph, McRaven called for all-hands-on-deck, declaring, “I am confident that by pulling together we can forge a future that is befitting of the majesty that is Texas.” Aye aye, Cap’n.
Twitter Ted Cruz, IRL — Politicians on Twitter is a lot like WWF wrestling. Everybody knows those old men (and women) aren’t really tweeting, but we pretend anyway. CNN pulled back the curtain on one such staffer, profiling 26-year-old Josh Perry, the kid running Ted Cruz’s Twitter account. The Nederland-bred staffer has been Cruz’s ghost Twitter writer since the Senator’s campaign. Actually, he was the driver for ten months, too, until he caused a wreck and “was ‘unceremoniously promoted’ after the accident—to behind a computer.” Putting Perry in the digital driving seat was a smart move. As the story notes, Cruz is the most mentioned politician on the social media platform, and there are some impressive stats to back that up. Perhaps more importantly, Perry has made the federal government totes relevant, if ever so slightly. Working hard while Cruz did his filibuster thing last year, Perry had the senator read out some meme-specific tweets (ask your kids, old people), including one that referenced “ain’t nobody got time for that.” Said Perry: “No matter what else happens, ‘ain’t nobody got time for that’ is in the congressional record because of lowly ol’ me.” It’s a micro-victory for microblogging.
The Secret Champion — Us Texans can be big, brash and loud sometimes, especially when we’re on top of the world. But there’s a quiet, tiny champion in Spring that really is the best of the best. Thank Houstonia magazine for directing the public’s attention to Simone Biles. The seventeen-year-old is the best gymnast in the world, and not just because she recently won three gold medals and a silver at the World Gymnastics Championships. She’s also “won more world championship golds than any other gymnast in US history” and “the first American woman to win back-to-back all-around titles since Shannon Miller two decades ago.” But you wouldn’t know all that since Biles trains at “a nondescript warehouse sandwiched between a drapery wholesaler and a medical device company in a gritty, industrial area of Conroe.” It’s a great read, not worth spoiling here, and definitely worth checking out.
Stunning Reprimand — By now, it should be pretty obvious (since it’s very well documented) how rarely police officers get punished for gross violations of personal space. one such disturbing incident happened in Texas last month when a Victoria officer “used a stun gun on a 76-year-old man during a traffic stop for an expired inspection sticker.” But in this particular case, some justice has been served. As the Associated Press reports, the officer involved in the incident has been fired for violating “policy areas including conduct and performance, use of force and arrest without warrant.” According to the Victoria Advocate, “the police department’s policies weren’t available following the announcement nor was the chief to further elaborate on those violations.” he “criminal portion of the investigation, completed by the Texas Rangers, has been forwarded to the district attorney’s office for review.”