The State of Texas: July 13, 2015
Quote of the Day
– Shannon Sanderford, newly crowned Miss Texas, who should probably keep some things secret.
The Houston Rockets’ “superman” Dwight Howard loves his heroes, so of course he was at the San Diego Comic Con. He got into the spirit of the annual event, partly by dressing in a Predator outfit and partly by acting like a genuine geek. Exhibit A:
The Resistance – Operation Jade Helm 15 begins in about 48 hours, and Texans are ready. A citizen surveillance effort appropriately dubbed “Operation Counter Jade Helm” includes hundreds of people from across the Southwest according to the Houston Chronicle, which has a few details about the Texas flank of the cross-state operation. “Eric Johnston, a 51-year-old retired firefighter and sheriff’s deputy who lives in Kerrville, is a surveillance team leader in Texas. He’ll coordinate three groups of volunteers, about 20 folks in total, who hope to monitor the SEALs, Green Berets and Air Force Special Ops in Bastrop, Big Spring and Junction.” As the story notes, the “first challenge” is that vigilant citizens don’t even know where the drills are taking place. The Chronicle notes that the watchdogs “aren’t worried about martial law,” according to Johnston, “but feel like they can’t trust the government, and want to make sure the Military isn’t under orders to pull anything funny.” Meanwhile, the Army says that Bastrop, site of the loudest anti-Helm protests, won’t see too many black helicopters. “Bastrop law enforcement agencies have been briefed extensively about Jade Helm operations, [Lt. Col. Mark] Lastoria said,” the Austin American-Statesman reported. “Residents might see a water truck or a couple of Humvees, he said in April, but aside from that, the only unusual activity they might notice is a helicopter that will be used one night.”
Hand-overs and Takeovers – It’s the dawn of a new era for the Alamo. “Flags were lowered and prayers were said in the myriad languages of the Alamo’s 1836 defenders on Friday as the Daughters of the Republic of Texas ended their 110 years as custodians of the mission-turned-fortress-turned-shrine,” writes the Associated Press. “Members of the 124-year-old group held a solemn, low-key ceremony to mark the handover of the Alamo to the General Land Office of Texas.” The DRT was forced to give up custodianship after years of mismanagement. Not that it’ll now be a smooth ride for the GLO. Almost immediately, Commissioner George P. Bush was forced to respond to fears that the Alamo’s new World Heritage Site designation would mean a UN takeover. His official statement was short, sweet, and very Texan: “Ain’t gonna happen.” His assurances didn’t help. “Between two and three dozen people were at the rally a hot Saturday afternoon, organized by David Watts, who is running for the Texas House of Representatives,” according to the San Antonio Express-News. “Watts said it’s not so much that he worries the UN will take over the Alamo. Rather, he described it as ‘sort of a creeping influence.’”
Wedding Fever – Now that Texans of every sexual orientation can have a proper wedding, the party season is on. Dallas tourism officials are hoping to become the City of Gay. The Dallas Morning News reports that the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau is actively looking at ways to attract gay tourists. “It’s simple: It’s dollars and cents,” the bureau’s CEO Phillip Jones told the Morning News. “The LGBT community tends to spend a lot more money when they travel.” The story is a great look at the efforts cities such as Dallas and Houston have made and continue to make when attracting the LGBT community—everything from sporting events to the arts. As for what is considered the Wedding Capitol of Texas, Dripping Springs, the Texas Tribune predicts an uptick in weddings in the area already filled with chapels. There might not be as much fun in Waco, but it too is making an effort. At the Central Texas Metropolitan Community Church over the weekend, there was a 24-hour “marriage-a-thon,” at which “local pastors waived their fees for any same-sex couple wishing to be married,” according to the Herald-Tribune. Seven couples tied the knot.
Rough Ride – Lawsuits concerning the Waco shoot-out in May are picking up speed like bikers on a flat, open stretch of road. Although his client dropped a previous lawsuit against city and county officials, Dallas attorney Clint Broder announced another effort on Friday. This one relates to the designation of an active police officer serving as foreman of the grand jury that may hear the biker cases. The lawsuit claims a conflict of interest, according to the AP’s report. The suit claims that the officer’s “presence as foreman of the randomly-selected 12-person panel should not be allowed” because the officer was allegedly involved in executing search warrants and “may have been present at the city’s convention center where people were processed after the shooting.” As the Waco Tribune-Herald reports, there are only four bikers still remaining in jail, three with pending felony charges. After ninety days, the three who are still incarcerated and not charged will be entitled to personal recognizance bonds, or bonds that will be low enough to give them their freedom. The ninety-day period is up August 15.
El Shawshank Redención – Well, that didn’t last long. About sixteen months after he was captured, notorious drug kingpin Joaquín Guzmán Loera, known as El Chapo, has escaped. Guzmán made his getaway Shawshank Redemption-style, through a two-by-two-foot hole in the shower room of Mexico’s most secure prison. “The opening in the shower led to a mile-long tunnel leading to a construction site in the nearby neighborhood of Santa Juanita in Almoloya de Juárez, west of Mexico City,” according to the New York Times. “The tunnel was more than two feet wide and more than five feet high, tall enough for him to walk standing upright, and was burrowed more than 30 feet underground. It had been equipped with lighting, ventilation and a motorcycle on rails that was probably used to transport digging material and cart the dirt out.” The escape is particularly embarrassing for Mexican officials, since they denied calls by Texas (and other national) officials to extradite the drug lord to the U.S.