The State of Texas: October 29, 2014
Quote Of The Day
“What we want [her voters] to think is … ‘I don’t need to go to the polls. I’ll go spend my food stamp money at the grocery store, or whatever, you know, on Election Day.’”
— Republican candidate for Dallas County Judge Ron Natinsky on Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson’s majority-minority constituency.
Daily Show Wednesday
Last night, during The Daily Show‘s Texas tour, Republican Representative Louie Gohmert made an appearance. Kidding! But wouldn’t that have been an fantastic spectacle?! No, instead it was Democrat Representative Joaquin Castro, accompanied by his giant grin:
Texas By The Numbers
Fast Money — Economic impact of Circuit of the Americas, according to a new report: $897 million. Economic impact of SXSW: $315 million. Total COTA impact since it began three years ago: $2.8 billion.
Big Charity — Largest amount given by an individual to a Texas charitable institution in 2014: $60 million. Number of individuals in Texas that donated $1 million or more: twenty-eight. Number of donors in the top ten whose wealth came from oil: three. From healthcare: two. Number of donations in top ten that were directed to the UT system: four.
Get Lit — Amount Dan Patrick, Republican lieutenant governor candidate, has raised in the past two months: $2.06 million. Amount his opponent, Leticia Van de Putte, has raised: $2.09 million. Amount Patrick has spent in past two months: $3.14 million. Van de Putte: $2.23 million. Amount Patrick has left: $2.82 million. Van de Putte: $1.47 million.
What The Frack? — Texas has had some pretty good conspiracy theories — Oswald didn’t kill Kennedy, the Sriracha factory is moving here — but we have a new one that could top them all. “A pro-drilling website run by two [Denton] men charges local anti-fracking activists of having ties to the Kremlin,” according to The New Republic. “(Some of the activists have appeared on RT, the Russian state-funded news channel.)” The tidbit theory is actually in a larger piece about the energy companies efforts to push fracking on towns that have expressly said they do not want fracking. Denton, of course, has become something of a case study in this fight over a civic preference vs. economic prosperity (at least for energy companies) and TNR‘s piece is a nice overview of the war being waged. At least the state seems to be listening to concerns. “Texas regulators on Tuesday tightened rules for wells that dispose of oilfield waste, a response to the spate of earthquakes that have rattled North Texas,” reports the Texas Tribune. As the piece points out, “Texas has more than 3,600 active commercial disposal wells. In 2013, the Railroad Commission approved 668 permits for disposal wells, double the number of approvals in 2009” while “In the past year, about three-dozen earthquakes with a magnitude of 2.0 or higher have struck communities atop North Texas’ gas-rich Barnett Shale.” Since “a growing body of research links the drilling of disposal wells to earthquakes,” the commission made an appropriate decision, although not without getting a dig in at The Man. “The commissioners … said the vote showed how well Texans can respond to issues without federal intervention.”
Executions — Miguel Paredes was executed by the state last night after his last-minute appeal was turned down by the U.S. Supreme Court. As the Huffington Post notes, “The execution was delayed slightly to ensure the IV lines were functioning properly,” because, you know, that’s caused problems earlier this year. The execution of the Mexican Mafia-tied killer of three is the last one scheduled in Texas this year, according to The Guardian. Paredes became the “10th and probably last prisoner to be executed by the state in 2014. In Texas, that number counts as a down year … the lowest annual total since 1996.” The figure puts Governor Rick Perry’s total body count at 278. Considering our penchant and notoriety for executions, it’s only a little surprising that a Belgian website published an outlandish hoax story about this. The September 21 report, just now making its rounds in English “claimed the Texas Department of Corrections bought an African child to feed a death row inmate slated to die for raping and cannibalizing children in his neighborhood,” according to the San Antonio Express News‘s detailed and absurdly hilarious recap of the story. We may have a barbaric criminal justice system, but we’re not animals. On the more humane side, the ACLU is currently pushing to allow terminally ill death row inmate, Max Soffar, to be released. (Earlier this month, Texas Monthly‘s own Michael Hall chronicled his story on our website.) Soffar has long claimed he didn’t commit the murder for which he’s been convicted, and there appears to be some pretty good evidence for that, and now he’s dying of liver cancer. He’s applied for clemency, but in a display of bureaucracy at its best, “The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles recently denied Soffar’s petition for clemency, claiming it cannot be granted since an execution date has not been set for him.”
Ebola Watch: Day 28 — Say this about Texas: we take care of our nurses. The second Nightingale to contract Ebola after assisting with the care of Thomas Eric Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital has been declared virus-free. During a news conference yesterday, Vinson said “I am so grateful to be well, and first and foremost, I want to thank God,” reports the New York Times, adding that she recovered “at Emory, which since August has successfully treated three other patients with Ebola.” In other, good-Ebola-news, the Park Cities man who made headlines for Ebola-themed Halloween decorations, has said he “wants to use the attention to help raise money for charity, but he’s having a bit of trouble.” The announcement goes to show that even regular folks know how to handle a PR crisis. “Now, Faulk says he wants to raise money for Doctors Without Borders, a charity that’s active in fighting Ebola in West Africa,” according to KHOU. So far, however, he’s “raised about $150 for Doctors Without Borders, but the group said ‘No thanks.’ It didn’t want to be associated with Faulk’s decorations. Even Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital didn’t want to take part.” We’re not completely out of the Ebola woods yet, either. In preparation for its Texas event, “NASCAR sent out educational information on the Ebola virus to its race teams,” according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. And just in time for a Halloween scare, ABC13 Eyewitness News is running the following headline, originally in all-caps: “Texas researchers warn public of Ebola’s sister virus.” Trick or treat, y’all.
Beat Down — More details are emerging about the ignorant redneck who attacked a man at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport for being “gay.” Turns out, he was a drunk, ignorant redneck. Also: he’s no Texan. Dallas Morning News reporter Robert Wilonsky has a pretty great story detailing the official, and now redacted, police report on the incident. The man “was charged with public intoxication and simple assault … If convicted of the Class C misdemeanors, he’s looking at some small fines — up to $500 for each count — but no time behind bars.” Sounds about right, especially since public condemnation and embarrassment seems to be sufficiently punitive. As for that drinking, the man’s victim previously tried to calm him down, but, as Wilonsky writes, “clearly, that didn’t work — because as [the redneck] told another witness, he’d had a lot to drink. Specifically: ‘100 drinks.’ Which may not be entirely accurate.” As for the theory that actor Paul Rudd joined in taking out the assailant, it’s not only been debunked but the real man, Dallas resident Ben Kravit, has now spoken out on what “What It’s Like When People Think You’re Paul Rudd For a Day.” Kravit seems like a super cool bro, (sorry, ladies and men wearing shirts of any color, he’s engaged). But if you see him out, buy him a beer. The real question now is why the other pink-shirted man who jumped in to assist on the tackle like a lineman was rolling around the airport in a wheelchair before and after the incident?