Category Archives: Texas News

Texas Student Wins National Geographic Bee

Red was unaware that there was a Geographic Bee, but is pleased to report that Pranay Varada of Irving has won this year’s Bee.  The event, sponsored not surprisingly by National Geographic Magazine, tests the entrants knowledge of countries,  rivers, lakes,  mountain ranges, borders and cultures.  Second place went to Thomas Wright of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The Bee was decided in a thrilling sudden-death tiebreaker won by Varada when he correctly identified the Kunlun mountains, a 1,200-mile range along the Tibetan plateau.  Who knew?  Certainly not Red who somewhat prides himself on his geographic knowledge.

Quick – what city is famous for Boston baked beans?

 

Varada finished in sixth place last year, but another year of hard work (who doesn’t love looking at maps) paid off.  He won a $50,000 scholarship, a trip to the Galapagos Islands and a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society.

Texas GOP in Turmoil

The Texas Tribune reports that members of the so-called Freedom Caucus sabotaged more than 100 bills in the Texas House last night in retribution for not getting their way in attempting to restrict abortion rights even more, make sure that everyone has a gun and that good God-fearing white people are not abused.   It’s all too complicated and inside baseball for Red to explain, but it does show that there is no Republican solidarity in Texas and that the ultra rightwing of the party is willing to do anything to inflict punishment on those who will not go along with their attempt to turn Texas into the largest Christian Church in the country where the good ol’ boy whiteys are running the show.

This Just in – Houston Highways are Congested!

In what can hardly be called news, the Texas Department of Transportation has revealed that 44 of the State’s most congested roadways are in – of all places – Houston.  Even less surprising is that the stretch of the I-610 West Loop between I-69 and I-10 is the worst.  Red thanks TxDOT for this valuable information, but is still wondering why nothing was done to relieve congestion when that part of the West Loop was rebuilt about a decade ago. Yes that entire stretch was rebuilt and not a single land was added – with the exception of additional entrance/exit ramps crossing the I-69 interchange.   KHOU reports

 The annual hours of delay per mile along that one stretch is more than 1.1 million hours.

We  asked TxDOT, specifically, about what it’s doing to improve the worst stretch. For starters, connectors at 610 and the Southwest Freeway are being modified. And it plans to build elevated express lanes over the existing loop in the years to come.

Who to Vote Against in 2018

Every  Republican Congressman from Texas – with one exception – voted for the abomination that is the Affordable Healthcare Act (aka Trumpcare) – and then celebrated with a beer afterwards.  They voted for a bill that they had not read, that didn’t have a score from the CBO and that was rammed through without any support from the Democrats and then were positively giddy.  Gee, that sounds familiar.  Who has been complaining about the similar passage of the ACA (aka Obamacare) for the last 7 years?  Oh yeah, the Republicans.  Except the ACA had a CBO score so we actually had a pretty good idea of what it what cost and what its effects would be.

The current crop of Republicans somehow managed to forget all of their past criticisms of the Democrats and the passage of the ACA after nearly a year of debate and work,  and rush to push out a bill that will punish the most vulnerable, possibly cause approximately 24 million people to lose coverage, eviscerate critical protections for average folks,  and provide a huge tax break for their fatcat donors.  And despite the claims that popular provisions of Obamacare (such as coverage for pre-existing conditions) are being protected – it’s a bald-faced lie people.  Red hasn’t read the 1800 pages of the ACHA (and is guessing that none of the Reps who voted for this have either), but reports are that under the ACHA, states will be able to opt out of coverage for pre-existing conditions.  No doubt, that will be high on Our Poor Idiot Governor’s list of things to accomplish in screwing over the average Texan (apparently his only goal in life).  So in Texas, it may soon be a pre-existing condition to have been raped, assaulted, pregnant, or have had a caesarian section, cancer or a host of other diseases, illnesses and problems.  Good luck getting affordable insurance then – all you Trump voters.

So who was the lone Texan GOP holdout?  By pure coincidence, it happens to be the only GOP congressman who had a competitive race in 2016.  That would be Will Hurd of San Antonio who beat Pete Gallego by less than 4000 votes out of about 225,000 cast.  Hurd managed to stand on his principles in not casting a vote that likely would have doomed his chances for re-election next year.  According to Hurd,

“Since the implementation of Obamacare, I’ve told my constituents that the only meaningful metric when it comes to healthcare is actual access to quality, affordable care – not just health insurance. While the goal of Obamacare was to make healthcare more accessible and more affordable, it has done just the opposite. Likewise, while the goal of the American Health Care Act was to combat the skyrocketing premiums and outrageous deductibles millions of Americans face, it too, falls short.”

It warms the cockles of Red’s heart, to hear such selfless sentiment delivered by a vulnerable Congressman who is devoted to the best interests of his constituents (which primarily include re-electing said Congressman).  Would that others had such courage.

Dan Patrick Gets Dope Slapped by House

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (TP) really, really wanted a vote on one of his pet projects – school vouchers.  After getting the increasingly right-wing Texas senate to pass a bill that would create education savings accounts allowing parents to remove children from public schools and send them to private alternatives, and provide tax breaks for businesses offering donations to help pay for private schooling.  The measure went down in flames in the Texas House – about the last bastion of occasional sanity in GOP-dominated Texas politics.   The House voted 103-44 to reject Patrick’s plan.  Democrats and rural Republicans torpedoed any chance of passage.  Republicans wonder how they sell a bill that  would reduce public school funding to parents who actually like public schools and have a harder time selling Patrick’s patchwork plan to rural voters where the public schools are the only option.

On to the bathrooms!

Dave Bliss – Despicable, Disgusting and Dumbfounding – and Those are the Nicest Things You Can Say About Him

It’s not as if Baylor needed more bad news – even if its old news – but a new documentary on the lowest of the many low moments in Baylor Athletics history has reminded many of what a completely corrupt athletics program Baylor has been running for decades now.  It’s not enough that Head Football Coach Art Briles keeps trying to rehabilitate himself after he let his football players abuse and rape women.  It’s not enough that Baylor apparently strong-armed the Waco police into helping cover up their players’ crimes.  Now, everyone has to be reminded that former Head Basketball Coach Bliss actually attempted to cover up a murder of one of his players – by another player.  And rather than having a respectable degree of remorse, Bliss apparently still thinks he got the short end of the stick by being banned from coaching for 10 years.  Yet amazingly, another supposedly Christian college hired Bliss two years ago.  Bliss had been the basketball coach at Southwestern Christian University in Bethany, OK  – which Red is sure is a fine institution that believes in forgiveness such that it hires complete scum like Bliss – until Showtime recently aired the new documentary detailing Bliss’ role in covering up the murder of  Patrick Dennehy by teammate Carlton Dotson in 2003.  Bliss claimed that Dennehy was a drug dealer – a vicious lie that Bliss refuses to let go of.   Deadspin has more on why Bliss was likely forced to resign and why this piece of walking human filth should never be around college students again.

Southwestern Christian University men’s basketball coach Dave Bliss announced his resignation this evening just a few days after Showtime premiered a documentary on the murder of former Baylor player Patrick Dennehy by then-teammate Carlton Dotson in 2003. Bliss was the Bears’ coach at the time, and his handling of the scandal is a major part of the documentary.

Bliss agreed to be interviewed for the documentary, even though it would inevitably reflect harshly on his time in charge of Baylor. After Dennehy was killed, Bliss repeatedly claimed that he had paid his tuition at Baylor by selling drugs. In fact, Bliss had violated NCAA rules by paying Dennehy’s tuition himself after Dennehy transferred from New Mexico. The NCAA was closing in on Bliss, and he cooked up the drug dealing story (which Waco PD say there is no evidence for) to shake investigators.

In the documentary, he repeated his claim, saying, “He was selling drugs. He sold to all the white guys on campus … He was the worst.” Despite the apparent fabrication, Bliss defended his comments after they were revealed last month.

Supreme Court Finds Texas Uses Obsolete Standard for Mental Illness in Capital Cases

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Texas has been using an obsolete standard in determining whether persons convicted of capital crimes have the requisite mental capacity to deserve execution for their actions.  In a  5-to-3 decision,  the Court determined that  Bobby James Moore, who killed a store clerk in in Houston in 1980 during a botched robbery, had not been judged by a correct standard for his decided mental deficiencies.  Guilt  was not an issue; nor was the fact that Moore had extremely limited  mental abilities. In fact, prosecution’s expert witness had testified  that Moore “suffers from borderline intellectual functioning.”  The case now goes back to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals – a court notoriously favorable to upholding death penalty convictions.  The state must come up with a new method to determine if a convicted inmate is intellectually disabled and therefore ineligible for execution.   Texas can no longer rely on decades-old medical standards and a controversial set of factors.   The Texas Tribune has more.

 Moore was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in July 1980, three months after he walked into a Houston supermarket with two other men and fatally shot James McCarble, the 73-year-old clerk behind the counter, according to Texas’ brief to the high court.

In 2014, a Texas state court used current medical standards, which looks for deficits in intellectual and adaptive functioning that began as a child, to determine Moore was intellectually disabled and could not be executed. But the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overruled the decision, claiming the lower court erred by using those standards instead of the state’s test.

The test, commonly known as the Briseno standard, was established by the Court of Criminal Appeals in 2004, two years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that executing the intellectually disabled was unconstitutional. The court defined the test using a medical definition from 1992 — which claims intellectual and adaptive functioning must be “related,” meaning Moore’s poor adaptive skills could be traced to something else, like an abusive childhood. The test also uses several other nonclinical factors (the Briseno factors) to help courts determine adaptive functioning. The Court of Criminal Appeals claimed, based on its test, that Moore doesn’t legally have the disability.

Included in the Briseno factors is a controversial reference to Lennie, a character from John Steinbeck’s novel “Of Mice and Men.” The Briseno opinion written by the Court of Criminal Appeals said most citizens might agree a person like Lennie, a childlike character who didn’t intend to kill a woman but simply didn’t understand his strength, should be exempt from execution. The state has argued the reference was an “aside.” Critics say it exemplifies the arbitrariness of defining intellectual disability in Texas.

In the opinion, Ginsburg faults Texas for using current medical standards in other criminal cases, but not with the death penalty.

“Texas cannot satisfactorily explain why it applies current medical standards for diagnosing intellectual disability in other contexts, yet clings to superseded standards when an individual’s life is at stake,” she wrote.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Moore was not intellectually disabled by looking at both intellectual and adaptive deficits. But the high court knocked down the ruling not only on adaptive functioning  — how he can learn new skills, etc. — but also on intellectual functioning as well. Previous court rulings have stated that when intellectual functioning is “borderline,” with an IQ at or around 70, the state must look into adaptive behavior. Moore’s IQ, 74, led the high court to rule that this was necessary, which is what triggered Roberts’ dissent.

Roberts agreed that the nonclinical Briseno factors are an “unacceptable method” of determining adaptive deficits but said the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals still performed its due diligence in determining Moore’s intellectual functioning.

“The Court overturns the CCA’s conclusion that Moore failed to present sufficient evidence of both inadequate intellectual functioning and significant deficits in adaptive behavior without even considering ‘objective indicia of society’s standards’ reflected in the practices among the States,” Roberts wrote. “The Court instead crafts a constitutional holding based solely on what it deems to be medical consensus about intellectual disability. But clinicians, not judges, should determine clinical standards; and judges, not clinicians, should determine the content of the Eighth Amendment. Today’s opinion confuses those roles.”

Moore’s case was the third time since 2002 that the high court considered the death penalty and the intellectually disabled. That year, justices ruled that executing people with intellectual disabilities is unconstitutional, but it left it up to the states to legally determine the condition. In 2014, the court weighed in on borderline cases, ruling that states can’t use an IQ below 70 as the sole way to define the disability.