The State of Texas: September 18, 2014
Video of the Day
For some reason, punters are always regulated to the back of the line. No longer, at least for A&M’s Drew Kaser. Starting with a t-shirt reminding everyone that “Punters are people too,” Kaser is now campaigning to be a Heisman nominee. In the video below, he makes a pretty decent case for letting the kicker have his rare moment in the sun:
Winners of the MacArthur Fellows Program, known to us idiots as the “Genius Grant,” were announced Tuesday. Turns out, Texas has a few such geniuses. Houston artist Rick Lowe won for his work that combines neighborhood rehabilitation, community development, and “mobile art.” Austinite John Henneberger won for his affordable housing advocacy, which has had a significant impact in Houston’s more neglected wards. And documentary filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer, is another Austinite, whose Academy Award-nominated film, The Act of Killing, examines the state-led massacre of millions of Indonesians in the 60s.*
Borderline Diplomatic — As a lead-up to his maybe-probable future run for president, Rick Perry is now sharpening his diplomatic skills with our southern neighbor. In a letter yesterday, the governor invited Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to see for himself how well all 1,000 National Guards are manning the border (so long as they aren’t hungry). The noticeably measured invite comes after Nieto, according to the Associated Press, called the recent Guard deployment both “unpleasant” and “reprehensible” (which one is it, Enrique?). “I believe strongly that our continued prosperity depends on a partnership that works collaboratively to address our shared border security challenges, rather than marginalizing the legitimate views of one side…. As friends we might not always agree, but we must have an honest and respectful dialogue about the challenges we share, which is why I write to you today,” wrote Perry, before turning the screws a little. “Our challenges today are partly a consequence of the failure of the Mexican government to secure its southern border from illegal immigration.” At the end of the day, though, Perry knows what issues he’s running on, which probably best explains the odd inclusion of the same stump-speech language that he’s been serving stateside. “Texas is a national example of job creation in the United States, and our economic climate and strong infrastructure network have allowed us to become the nation’s largest exporting state,” writes Perry in the third paragraph. For the full letter, go to Texas Tribune.
Football Rangers — Adrian Peterson isn’t the only one in trouble. Texas Rangers announced that they’re officially looking into who leaked “what appears to be the complete police case file” in the Peterson child abuse case that’s dominated national headlines for the past two weeks. The Rangers are “investigating the illegal leak after receiving a request late Friday from Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon and Houston Police Department officials. Tom Vinger, spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said all findings of the investigation will be reported to Ligon’s office,” according to the Houston Chronicle. Expect a lot of finger-pointing and flag-on-the-play over who went off-sides. As the story notes, “Houston police initially investigated the abuse report” before handing it off Montgomery County.” While the county has promised swift firings if it came from their office, it “feels certain the leak did not originate from there.” The HPD, perhaps in a bad tell, explained rather loudly how the leak could never have come from them. “HPD spokesman John Cannon said city police did not take any photos as part of their investigation, so those released to the media were not from his department.” Either way, leaking information about a child abuse case — remember, someone leaked photos of the kid — is illegal. In all likelihood, however, officials will reprimand the offender as sternly as the NFL has punished Peterson.
Blown-up — Congratulations, creepos! The state has just given you free-reign to snap all the dirty photos you want. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals yesterday ruled “a state law banning ‘improper photography’ — photos or videos taken in a public place without consent and with the purpose of sexual gratification,” unconstitutional and “a violation of free-speech rights,” according to Austin American-Statesman. Perhaps the decision is just a technicality? That the legalization of taking non-consensual upskirt photos is a gross generalization of the actual case at hand? Nope! “The case involved Ronald Thompson, who was charged in 2011 with 26 counts of improper photography after taking underwater pictures of clothed children … at a San Antonio water park,” reports the Houston Chronicle. “He contended that a plain reading of the law would place street photographers, entertainment journalists, arts patrons, pep rally attendees and ‘even the harmless eccentric’ at risk of incarceration.” To be fair, any case in which judges apply the limp-dick test to societal norms is asking for trouble. On the other hand, only in a degenerate, post-modern world could such pictures be considered the work of a ‘harmless eccentric.” As the Chronicle notes, some previous and current cases may now be under review. Some are clear violations of a person’s privacy. Others, like that of the 12-year-old convicted of a felony for taking a picture of another girl in a locker room, may need to be revisited.
Overton’s Do-Over — A busy day for the Court of Criminal Appeals: Convicted of poisoning her own son seven years ago, a Corpus Christi mother whose trial made serious headlinse will get another day in court. “In a 7-2 ruling, the Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday overturned [Hannah Overton’s] 2007 capital murder conviction on grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel because her lawyers did not call an expert on eating disorders,” according to the San Antonio Express-News. Overton’s son had died after ingesting “a fatal level of salt” and “Prosecutors soon seized on the theory that Hannah Overton, in a fit of rage, had forced Burd to eat salt.” According to a dietary expert, the defense is just as out-there. The boy “fit the profile of a child with an eating disorder, and most likely swallowed the fatal dose of salt himself.” Overton’s retrial comes after two other failed attempts at appeals. For a more judicial overview of yesterday’s decision, read this piece from Texas Monthly‘s own Pamela Colloff. And for a complete account of all the events, be sure to read Colloff’s unbelievably great 2007 story.
* This item has been edited to include Joshua Oppenheimer. We regret the error.