The State of Texas: November 9, 2015
The power and the glory of Texas’s energy market, and a biracial girl is cut from cheer team because of her curly hair.
Song of the Day
Somebody get Angela Paxton to the Grand Ole Opry! To introduce her husband, Attorney General Ken Paxton, at the Texas Federation of Republican Women convention, Mrs. Paxton played an original ditty, crooning: “I’m a pistol packin’ mama, and my husband sues Obama.” The crowd went wild. It’s not the first time Mrs. Paxton has gotten ’em on their feet.
— Patrick Svitek (@PatrickSvitek) November 6, 2015
Actor Gunnar Hansen died on Saturday at the age of 68. You may not recognize his actual visage, but every one knows Leatherface, the power-tool wielding incarnation of evil Hansen portrayed in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Read more about the movie and Leatherface with Texas Monthly‘s deep looks into Hansen and the movie by John Bloom and Stephen Harrigan.
Bush Fire —George W. Bush sometimes didn’t see eye-to-eye with his father, but H.W. had a significant influence in his son’s policy. That seems to be the main takeaway from a conversation between Dubya and H.W.’s biographer at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas on Sunday. The story begins by stating that Dubya “acknowledged … that he may have downplayed how much he sought advice from his father during his presidency, a sign of the influence George Herbert Walker Bush still has over his son.” The elder Bush’s book has already gotten some attention because in it the 41st president “criticized his son for setting an abrasive tone on the world stage and failing to rein in hawkish Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense chief Donald Rumsfeld,” not to mention expressed reservations over the “cowboy image.” The AP notes, however, (perhaps wistfully) that “that sensitive topic was not addressed.” All 836 pages (including illustrations!) of the book, “Destiny and Power,” are now available for your reading pleasure. Even the bastion of liberal journalism, The New York Times, liked it!
Winds of Change — Speaking of the NYT, it has an interesting look at how our state’s energy providers are competing for customers in the lower 48’s only independent electrical grid. One of the more ingenious incentives, featured in the piece, is free power at night, when wind energy really gets cranking. As the story notes, however, “the giveaway is hardly altruistic. Deregulation in Texas has spurred intense competition for customers. By encouraging energy use at night, utilities reduce some of the burdens, and costs, that the oversupply of wind energy places on the power grid.” Independent from the rest of the country, no other area “has gone as far as Texas, which is conducting a huge energy experiment.” Unplugged to the rest of the country or regulations, the Texas market is “one that makes it better suited for innovation than most others. It is by far the largest deregulated electricity market in the country, spawning scores of retail power competitors hungry to make new customers and keep old ones.” The whole piece is worth reading, even by candlelight.
End of the Road — Rashad Owens, who mowed down four people with his car during SXSW 2014, was found guilty of capital murder on Friday. The verdict, delivered just over three hours, is something of the final chapter in the tragedy. “During Owens’ weeklong trial, prosecutors sought to show Owens knew he could kill someone when he barreled through music fans as he fled police during the SXSW festival in March 2014,” explains the Austin American-Statesman in its great multimedia story. “But defense lawyers attempted to shift the focus to what they said was Owens’ lack of bad intentions, saying he had been confused, scared and drunk when he ran from an officer, without time to realize the gravity of his decisions.” Owens received an automatic life sentence. “As those he hurt addressed him in their final statements of impact, Owens, 23, broke into tears.”
Wite-Out — Well, that’s one way to avoid the appearance of racial profiling! KXAN dropped a fairly extensive story on Friday, examining the large number of Latinos who, when ticketed by DPS troopers, are being categorized as white. DPS troopers are required to note race as a way to track and prevent possible racial profiling. But KXAN found that “DPS troopers across the state are inaccurately reporting the race of minority drivers who are African American, Asian, but mostly Hispanic, as white. KXAN uncovered the discrepancies while reviewing more than 16 million DPS traffic citation records dating back to 2010.” KXAN doesn’t provide too many actual data points apart from the fact that “the five most common last names of drivers stopped and recorded as white by troopers are: Smith, followed by Garcia, Martinez, Hernandez, Gonzalez and Rodriguez,” and that “more than 1.9 million drivers with traditionally Hispanic names listed as white over the past five years. For the same time period, approximately 1.6 million were reported as Hispanic.” There’s a lot of huffing, puffing, and breathless quotes, but the piece could be the start of something very uncomfortable. At the very least, the “investigation suggests the number of Hispanic drivers stopped by DPS may actually be much higher than what the agency is reporting.”
Bad Spirit — An eleven-year-old Tomball girl was kicked off of her cheerleading team because she didn’t have straight hair. Makayla Fallaw is a biracial eleven-year-old with thick, curly hair, and was told she couldn’t participate in Woodlands Elite Cheer Company’s upcoming competition because her follicles didn’t match the rest of the team’s, according to her mother. As the Houston Chronicle writes, three kids whose hair was in the minority were told to straighten it. One did, while another left the team with Makayla. Her mother says she was told she could easily get chemical relaxers or heat treatment, solutions she’s not comfortable with. The story is combing its way through national and international outlets, for all the obvious reasons. The cheer company’s “all-star” director says the issue isn’t as black and white. “When you come into the sport, you understand there is make up to it. There’s hair to it,” he said, according to ABC13. “We were trying to make the exception. We were trying to find a compromise and a happy medium. And [Makayla’s mom] wasn’t willing to have a compromise. She was very defensive.”