The State of Texas: September 16, 2014
Image of the Day
There are boundary maps, topographical maps, treasure maps, and Hollywood star maps. But few are as revealing and interesting as people maps. The Express-News recently picked up one of the latter, showing the racial makeup of San Antonio (note the key on the bottom right-hand corner). It’s a fantastic visual representation of how the city’s living markers and lines are really drawn:
The prophetic, number-crunching Nate Silver has been something of an irrefutable tea-reader. Until now. Just last week, Silver’s blog FiveThirtyEight finished its extensive search for America’s Best Burrito (“67,391 burrito-selling establishments” were evaluated, with 64 making it into the NCAA-like bracket). It featured plenty of eye-pleasing graphics, cutesy burrito-as-basketball prose and a few numbers spread out like guacamole. What it didn’t have was a Texas winner (Yes, we know San Francisco love its burritos, but please). Not to mention only three Lone Star burritos made it to the Sweet Sixteen, which is—to confuse sports metaphors—like having only one SEC team in the CFPs. At least El Paso got its due. Stick to presidential elections, Silver.
Deadly Prognosis — While not quite the trial of the century, the case of Dr. Ana Maria Gonzalez-Angulo and her alleged poisoning is making the hospital rounds for all the rightly salacious reasons. The quick diagnosis is that the events recalled at the trial, which started Monday, seem like they came straight from a General Hospital script. Gonzalez-Angulo, “one of the most respected oncologists in the world” is accused of “lacing two cups of [her lover-doctor’s] coffee with ethylene glycol, a colorless and odorless chemical found in anti-freeze and widely available” at the hospital where she and the victim worked. “When he said it tasted ‘sweet’ and that he liked his coffee ‘black,’ she allegedly told him it was just Splenda,” according to CBS’s account of the trial. There are also other phrases you don’t read too often in news stories (“oral sex and a shot of vodka,” being one). To really sell the craziness of the story, the Harris County prosecutor told jurors, “this case is about a woman who was totally obsessed. … This defendant had a fatal attraction.” Unsurprisingly, Gonzalez-Angulo’s side of the story isn’t exactly the first thing people want to read about. But the defense has said “there is no conclusive proof that the coffee was poisoned, and that the prosecution has dramatized the relationship ‘to fit a theory that just doesn’t match the facts.'” The trial continues today and is expected to last until the end of the month.
Planned Detachment — In Hidalgo County, there is a service that dare not speak its name. “The Planned Parenthood Association of Hidalgo County announced Monday that it is cutting its ties with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and is relaunching as the Access Esperanza Clinics Inc.,” according to the Texas Tribune. “The move is the first step in the organization’s attempt to reclaim state dollars for women’s health care for impoverished women—money that lawmakers cut off in 2011 for all Texas clinics affiliated even loosely with Planned Parenthood or other abortion providers.” It’s like WorldCom rebranding itself, but in this case, for no good reason other than a harsh and mostly inaccurate reputation. National Planned Parenthood leaders called it a “practical decision” and local women’s health leaders, while they express regret in cutting ties, seem more dedicated to the cause of providing women’s heath services to those in need. As the piece notes, “about 90 percent of the women to be served by Access Esperanza Clinics live at or below the federal poverty level,” which in 2010 alone stood at 23,500 women.
What Texas Miracle? — Talk of how great the Texas economy is doing is all well and good. Until, that is, you look at the blue-collar stiffs who are breaking their backs as the backbone of the state. According to a new report from Standard & Poor’s, the standard our state’s income inequality is pretty poor. As the VP of the Dallas Federal Reserve explained, “while wages and employment in Texas grow faster than the national average, with six-figure wages from the oil and gas sector lifting up the general economy, the state has a much higher percentage of low-paid, low-skilled immigrants and higher share of workers earning the minimum wage than the average state,” according to the Associated Press. The story also compiles some pretty unpleasant numbers, including the fact that “Texas ranked eighth in the country in wealth gap” and “the top 1 percent in Texas earned 26.3 times more than the bottom 99 percent.” Sure, this sounds like the beginning of a socialist rant, but even Standard & Poor’s says this ain’t a good thing: “Not only does rising inequality appear to stunt overall economic growth, but S&P links it to a slowdown in average yearly gains in state tax revenues.” The real Texas miracle, then, will be when the working poor are given the opportunity to actual move up.
Permanent Detention — The Associated Press has an interesting look at the jail/schools being used to educate/detain the influx of migrant. “For about 200 immigrant children … it is another school day, except that they are housed in a federal immigration jail and risk possible deportation,” reports the AP from Karnes City. “Classes are eight hours a day … The curriculum for pre-kindergarten to 12th grade is the same as bilingual schools across the state. Days begin with the reciting of pledges of allegiance in English to the Texas and American flags.” The facility, like others around the country, have done their best to take the penal element out of housing women and children. Older children who crossed alone have mostly been “released to live with relatives in the U.S. and have matriculated into ordinary public schools as their cases progress.” No word on how the kids like their U.S. education or how the teachers are braving the job since AP was barred from talking with either group during its Karnes City visit.
Sympathy For the Devils — Here’s a bizarro case out of Wise County that’s disturbing on several levels: a sergeant with the sheriff’s office was arrested for taking naked pictures of sex offenders. He allegedly “forced a male sex offender to strip naked and be photographed” and later pressed for more photographs, specifically of the man’s erect manhood. According to an affidavit obtained by the Wise County Messenger, “there are several more nude males that appear to be in the same bathroom (the victim) described, others are in the county impound office and yet more in what appears to be a residence.” The story is still developing and it’s already pretty complicated. It’s hard not to see the sick irony in the situation, but as Grits For Breakfast, which first highlighted the story, notes, the case challenges easy definitions of victim/offender and justice/abuse. It “indicates how easily this powerless population may be manipulated and abused. They’ve been stripped of so many rights, subjected to so many degradations, that it’s near-impossible for a layperson to judge the legitimacy of such demands and requires tremendous courage to confront abuses.”