The State of Texas: May 19, 2014
Miss Beazley, George W. Bush’s Scottish terrier, has gone to doggie heaven. This being a former First Dog, the passing was no small matter. The Bush office issued an official statement, followed by rather somber items in the press. “[Barney, the first Bush dog] preceded Miss Beazley in death, passing away from cancer last year at age 12,” noted the New York Daily Press, while CBS News dutifully reported that Miss Beazley “died after wrestling with lymphoma.” Apparently, the video “A Very Beazley Christmas” was one of the dog’s greatest life achievements.
Mr. Castro Goes to Washington — San Antonio mayor Julian Castro has been tapped by President Obama to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (and kudos to the San Antonio Express News for breaking the original story). It seems second time’s a charm in this case, since Obama had already tried once before to lure Castro to Washington. What, pray tell, made one of the state’s most prominent Democrats change his mind this time? “[H]e has been advised to raise his profile in the hope of securing a slot on the national [2016 presidential] ticket,” according to the New York Times breakdown. “Democrats said that by taking an executive position in Washington, he would bolster his résumé …” Some politicos believe Castro, one of Texas’s most prominent Democrats, is being groomed because Republicans, who usually scramble for non-white-male candidates, already have a few potential Latino VP choices. For those counting at home, that’s now three Texans with maybe-possible executive ambitions. The 2016 election should be fun, y’all.
Depressing Campaign Tactics — Debate barbs and satirical viral videos are one thing, but the run-off race between lietenant governor candidates David Dewhurst and Dan Patrick has taken a decidedly ugly turn. On Thursday, “supporters of Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst released court documents to the media to show that Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) was hospitalized for depression in the 1980s,” according to KPRC and just about every other Texas outlet. Things got a little tense throughout the weekend. If it was an attempt to pull a Thomas Eagleton and personally discredit Patrick in a last-ditch effort (early voting starts today), it appears to have severely backfired. Patrick has responded forcefully to the disclosure, while his high-ranking supporters are calling this a “new low in Texas politics.” While the politicians are most definitely underestimating their own profession, media observers are calling foul, too. Texas Monthly’s own Erica Grieder writes that Patrick’s past, private record “doesn’t meet that criterion” necessary for full public disclosure. Especially since “Patrick’s public record is full of things that he can fairly be criticized for — lying, blustering, condescending, playing the victim.”
Blurred Property Lines — The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has an extensive property survey of the ongoing battle between the Bureau of Land Management and ranchers concerned that they’re going to lose their land. The piece covers a lot of complicated terrain, but one thing seems pretty clear: Texas ranchers are about to dig in for a drawn-out fight. “‘I would tell folks to be patient, but if it appears the federal government is going forward to assert claims, I would tell folks they need to hire a lawyer,” said one attorney well versed in land lawsuits. Up for debate, apart from 90,000 acres, is what exactly constitutes borders on the Red River and who owns that land. “If the agency moves forward with its assertion that this has always been public land … title searches would probably have to be conducted all the way back to the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.”
Total Access — There is now a Big Three of telecommunications and Dallas-based AT&T is part of the club. On Sunday, the company agreed to buy satellite TV provider DirecTV for $48.5 billion. If the deal does go through, AT&T would serve 26 million customers, just behind Comcast-Time Warner Cable’s proposed 30 million viewer deal that’s also still being considered. “But the deal could face unique regulatory scrutiny from the Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice,” according to the Associated Press. “Unlike the cable company tie-up, the AT&T-DirecTV merger would effectively cut the number of video providers from four to three for about 25 percent of U.S. households. That’s a situation that could result in higher prices for consumers and usually gives regulators cause for concern.” AT&T, however, has said its new position would allow it to basically be the Apple of service providers, offering an all-in-one service that ties “mobile phone, pay TV and Internet service together on a single bill.”
Mixed Reviews — Some of the jurors from the original trial that sent Bernie Tiede to prison are displeased with his release. “He confessed that he did it. We found him guilty. In the punishment phase we gave him a life sentence — that’s the max you can give him,” said the former jury foreman Jessie Jackson, according to the Longview News-Journal. “It was pretty much a cut-and-dry case. He killed a lady and put her in a freezer. … Him getting out under these circumstances, I don’t think is right.” Jackson was one of three former jurors who spoke to the News-Journal, and each seemed to hold the same sentiment: “But probably if this movie hadn’t have come about, would he be going through this? Would he be released? I doubt it.” The story, of course, is far from over. The country’s premier Bernie beat reporter, Texas Monthly‘s Skip Hollandsworth, was featured on NPR‘s On The Media. The ten-minute segment is a lot of fun and worth a listen. Hollandsworth not only covers the case’s history, but as he explains: “A new jury in Texas might listen to the evidence and go, ‘hogwash. You murdered an old lady. You not only shot her, you shot her in the back — which you don’t do in East Texas — and off to prison you go for the rest of your life.” Considering how many twists and turns this story has, it may be best to consider Bernie a multi-part TV special, rather than a movie with a couple possible sequels.