The State of Texas: May 18, 2015
After plenty of publicity and a lot of scrutiny over money, Texas’s favorite son, Matthew McConaughey, spoke at University of Houston’s graduation. As if he were playing the character McConaughey, McConaughey skipped any sort of dorky robe and sat on a stool to casually drop some life lessons like they were bongo beats. The second line is literally “A sugar donut or some oatmeal?” and it only gets better from there. Oh, and congrats to the graduates too.
Image of the Day
How big of a ruckus did those bikers make in Waco? Even the East Coast is talking about it. Here’s today’s cover of the Boston Herald:
Sons of Texas Anarchy – It seems like something straight out of a movie. Yesterday nine people were killed and eighteen were wounded after a “noon-hour” shootout took place at a Waco breastaurant among rival motorcycle gangs. “The melee reportedly started in a Twin Peaks restroom and quickly spread to the bar and spilled into the parking lot, where an estimated 100 bikers with allegiances to as many as five gangs had gathered,” according to the Waco Tribune, which was all over the story the moment it broke. “Gang members reportedly clashed using knives, chains and clubs, and then drew firearms on each other and on law enforcement officers who responded.” More than 165 people have been arrested, and “they will be charged with engaging in organized crime,” writes the Associated Press and WFAA. Oddly, much attention has been given not to the people who perpetuated this madness but to the business where it happened. “Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said Twin Peaks had become a known hangout for motorcycle gang activity and he blamed management for creating an atmosphere that contributed to Sunday’s violence,” according to the Tribune. Police say they asked the restaurant to close down its biker night because things were getting a bit unruly and management refused. Management, however, said in a statement that it was and is always cooperative with police. During a press conference, Swanton called these claims “an absolute fabrication.” Swanton said, “In 34 years of law enforcement, this is the most violent crime scene I have ever been involved in,” which partially explains why the chaos has attracted the attention of nearly every major media outlet in the country, from the New York Times to the Los Angeles Times. More details are sure to come to light today (especially from the Tribune’s reporter Olivia Messer, who has been providing the best coverage on Twitter). And already Vox has a lovely explainer in which one expert called Texas “an emerging battleground for outlaw motorcycle gangs.”
Black Bell – Blue Bell can’t catch a break. The company announced Friday that it was laying off about 1,400 employees and furloughing another 1,400. The numbers don’t sound like a lot, except the company only has about 4,000 nationwide. “More than half of its Brenham workforce will be affected … with 250 employees laid off and 300 on partially paid furloughs,” according to the Austin American-Statesman. “Remaining workers will see their pay cut.” The cuts amount to about a third of the company’s workforce and are the first layoffs it’s seen in 108 years. A piece from the Houston Chronicle provides some sad color to the Brenham loses. The woes continue in the Dallas Morning News, as the company explained “the slow implementation of the biggest food safety overhaul in almost 80 years.” In the Q-and-A with the paper, Blue Bell contends that it was following the letter of the law, although in light of its “voluntary agreement” with Texas and Oklahoma health departments, the answers have a mea culpa flavor to them.
Ken’s Sin – We all knew Attorney General Ken Paxton was into some suspicious activity even before he got elected. Now there are finally some new details on the extent of his efforts. New court documents show that Paxton “earned thousands of dollars by referring his private legal clients to a financial adviser now accused of ‘unethical and fraudulent conduct,’” reports the Dallas Morning News. Paxton, of course, did not tell those clients he was getting paid and has already paid a $1,000 fine for failing to register as an agent, which is also a possible third-degree felony. As before, Paxton is still trying to shake the stink of his old arrangement five months into his tenure. His friend Fritz Mowery, the adviser, however, seems to be having a rougher time of it, particularly since the state has accused him of butt-covering and backdating Paxton-related materials sent to clients. So what’s going to happen to Paxton? Who knows! The first prosecutor already recused himself (after some loud objections) for being a close friend. According to the Morning News, “Paxton has maintained that by paying the civil fine, he has adequately addressed the issue. Criminal charges for failure to register are rare but not unheard of: State Securities Board records show that eight others in Texas have been criminally prosecuted in the past five years.”