Dateline of the Week
Of all the places a person can report on in Texas, Dane Schiller’s beat might be the best. The dateline for his recent feature about the crew of the aging, Galveston-based Coast Guard ship is everywhere and nowhere: “ABOARD THE COAST GUARD CUTTER DAUNTLESS.” It doesn’t hurt that the story is a great read either.
Song of the Day
NPR has the details on the recently released Johnny Cash album, Out Among The Stars, a previously lost collection the newly sober Man in Black recorded in the early eighties. Most importantly, however, is the title track, which features the Lone Star State in the very first (un-sober) line: “It’s midnight at a liquor store in Texas …”
Albert Schwartz, a leader of El Paso’s desegregation effort, died Friday. Schwartz started his noble efforts at a young age, helping to liberate Nazi concentration camps in WWII. Back home, the “department store executive … led an effort that made El Paso the first city in the old Confederacy to end segregation in public accommodations.”
Tanked — In one of the stranger coincidences in Texas history, on Saturday, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the state saw one of its own: a “barge carrying nearly a million gallons of marine fuel oil sprung a leak after colliding with a ship … in the Houston ship channel,” according to the Dallas Morning News. Officials say about 168,000 gallons of the crude stuff were dumped after one of the barge’s tanks ruptured. Judging from the various (and national) news reports, however, the biggest concern isn’t so much the destruction of wildlife and the oceanic eco-system but the business cost of a cleanup on aisle five. The remains of the barge were cleared by Sunday, but what’s unclear is when the channel, “one of the world’s busiest petrochemical transportation waterways,” will reopen to ships.
Dot the Eyes, Cross Your Fingers — The Austin American-Statesman has an extensively reported story that shows just how serious the phrase “getting off on a technicality” can actually be. A Huntsville inmate serving life in prison (from a 1985 conviction) is aiming for release because of a decades-old typo from a Dallas police report that had him committing a crime two months too soon. The Statesman began investigating claims of the inmate accusing prosecutors of misconduct to be sure this wasn’t another example a la Michael Morton or Anthony Graves. “But for every Michael Morton, there can be dozens of guilty inmates with nothing but time to pen appeals from prison.” That appears to include this inmate. The Statesman discovered the inmate has a bad reputation in prison (selling meth, prison escape) and concluded that he is guilty of the crime he’s aiming to have overturned. However, the inmate was locked up in a different state during the time of said crime, according to official documents.
A Moveable Glass Ceiling — If there’s one positive things stemming from the Davis/Abbott mudslinging over wage discrimination (Abbott’s not for it, preach or practice), it’s that folks are now talking about the issue. First was the Houston Chronicle, which looked into the wages of top positions in the attorney’s general office. Now, the Texas Tribune has a look at the gender wage gap in other areas of Texas government. Surprise-surprise, of the fifty highest paid positions, only twelve are women. But a “closer look at gender disparities in other state agencies demonstrates that the issue defies simple explanation. In some cases, the agencies with the widest gaps specialize in the kind of work that has long been dominated by a single gender.” Examining the data revealed that in the Senate, for example, “Women, on average, make $3,081 more than men, and 11 of the 20 highest-paid workers are female.” And in some areas, there’s gender conformity, i.e. state road workers are mostly men and the Department of Family and Protective Services is 84 percent female. The main takeaway from all this? Texas is doing progressively better than you might think when it comes to wage equality, which isn’t to suggest that the complicated issue should ever be taken for granted.
Cat Scratch Fever Breaks — How bad does Longview not want to see Ted Nugent? Pretty bad. The city paid “$16,250 to end contract negotiations with controversial rocker Ted Nugent, who was under consideration as the headliner for Longview’s Fourth of July celebration,” according to the AP. The payola-in-reverse happened last month, shortly after Nugent made some more of his wild remarks about President Barack Obama. The city’s spokesman had a great explanation as to why negotiations were called off: “[There were] a variety of reasons. Cost, structure, is it the right musical act for this type of event — a city-sponsored, family-oriented overall event,” but the outgoing chairman of the Gregg County Republican Party minced no words when he said, “We have paid $16,000 to Ted Nugent for political correctness.” Although, to be fair, it is pretty capitalistic and Republican-friendly if everything, including political correctness, is up for sale.