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The State of Texas: July 23, 2014

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Lazy Wednesday

Rideshare operations like Uber are great for turning over the business of cab rides directly to the customer and driver. But some, clearly, cannot handle the responsibility. The world’s shortest, most pointless Uber voyage is making the Internet rounds after a (admittedly inebriated) Houston man hitched a ride from one bar to the next. Distance between the two bars: 82 feet. Cost of drunken stupidity: $4.28. Getting fifteen-milliseconds of semi-anonymous Internet fame: priceless. Below is an app map of the voyage:

Texas By The Numbers

Transparently Expensive — Amount state has paid in legal fees for investigating UT Regent Wallace Hall: $600,000. Most expensive monthly bill: $163,302.91. Date: October 2013. Number of regents named Wallace Hall still not impeached: one.

Unlimited Edition Postal Collection — Average amount of mail imprisoned cult leader Warren Jeffs receives daily: 25 to 300 pieces. Going price for unwanted Warren Jeff prison letters at a recent GOP auction: $30.

Daily Roundup

Security Theater — Another day, another round of border stories. “The Homeland Security Department said Tuesday it arrested 192 people along the Mexican border in South Texas on immigrant-smuggling charges and seized more than $625,000,” according to the Associated Press. “The arrests, which took place under a crackdown called ‘Operation Coyote,’ took place over the last month and were part of a 90-day effort targeting smuggling groups.” And now Governor Rick Perry is sending roughly 1,000 National Guard troops to the area, a group, KVUE reports, that will not only stand vigilante but armed as well. “Major General John Nichols hopes to have the 1,000 trained soldiers in place in the next 45 days, and confirmed they will be armed with standard military weapons. ‘We don’t feel like this is militarization. This is the national guard coming in and helping Texas in a time of need and we’re supporting DPS,’ said Major Gen. Nichols.” Of course, money is needed in the area, but it appears a lot less than what our Commander-in-Chief was hoping will actually be appropriated for the cause: Senators are preparing a measure that would cut President Obama’s $3.7 billion request for emergency border funds by $1 billion.

Weed Bummer — For some, the term “super weeds” may invoke visions of a great time at at Willie Nelson concert. But cotton farmers in Texas know super weeds as a plague upon their crops. And recently “the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency turned down Texas state officials’ emergency request to allow cotton farmers to use a powerful herbicide to help combat” the problem, according to the Dow Jones. In its decision the EPA cited risks to drinking water and other hazards, in spite of the fact that the “situation does meet the criteria for an emergency.”

Wanted: Seabiscuit — A horse is a horse, of course, of course, unless it’s part of an illicit race. A “large-scale illegal drug and gambling ring in East Texas” was uncovered in Smith County, East Texas, thanks to a “year-long investigation,” reports Tyler’s KLTV. “According to court records, the track was in northeastern Smith County off County Road 3104. Undercover agents reported witnessing hundreds of people betting on horse races there.  … the Smith County horse races ‘were attended by a number of high-level Mexican drug dealers from East Texas, Dallas and Houston,’ and ‘up to $40,000 cash wagered on a single horse race.'” The Texas Racing Commission estimates there are about fifty illegal horse tracks in the state. Obviously, there are “safety concerns for spectators, jockeys and the animals.” And the Smith County Sheriff said this drug-related track investigation called the whole thing a “cancer.” But also worth noting, “the state misses out on $70,000- $500,000 per illegal track per year.”

Guilty Until Proven Poor — Waco is being put in the interrogation hot seat. Some are questioning McLennan County’s practice of investigating the finances of those who request a court-appointed lawyer. “Last November, the county assigned sheriff’s detective Eric Carrizales to investigate whether defendants requesting a lawyer are really as poor as they say they are. Local officials have praised the unusual idea as a way to save the county money by rooting out false claims by people who can afford to hire a private attorney,” reports the Texas Tribune. The detective investigates counsel-seeking defendants at their home, knocking “on the doors of defendants whom he suspects of lying … He also said he tells people who don’t want to talk to him that their applications require them to do so.” However, “the financial form defendants sign when seeking counsel . . . doesn’t include an agreement to talk to a detective.” Apparently, “the county replied that there is a misunderstanding about how the process work,” according to the Waco Tribune. But even the director of the “state agency that oversees public defense … said he hopes to discourage other counties from copying the McLennan County approach.”

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