Highlights from Hair Balls
After the news of a grand jury's seating and Rick Perry's hiring of defense lawyer David Botsford, the word on the street is, "What took you so long?"
The last time a Texas governor faced possible indictment was almost 100 years ago. In 1917, James "Pa" Ferguson's past shady dealings, which were common knowledge among the well-connected, finally came to light via a quarrel with The University of Texas about removing faculty that "Pa" disliked. When the Board of Regents refused to do Ferguson's bidding, he vetoed practically the entire appropriation for the university.
Is any of this sounding familiar?
Just like Ferguson, Rick Perry allegedly attempted to coerce Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg to leave office, and upon her refusal, he vetoed $7.5 million in funds to the Travis County Public Integrity Unit. The kicker being that the TCPIU was in the process of investigating him for his laundry list of misdeeds of his 14 years in office.
It went to a grand jury last year, but that panel's term expired. If this particular Perry domino tumbles, a whole line of them will follow.
From weakening the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to please the energy lobbyists and nuclear waste hawkers, to cronyism on the state's water boards, to possible misuse of funds in Cancer Research Prevention Institute of Texas and theTexas Emerging Technology Fund (for which others took the rap), the high jinks of King Perry's court and his lieutenants get increasingly deeper, murkier and more malodorous than a cow pasture every day. So deep, in fact, that it could implicate a certain attorney general who wishes to be governor. The bovine excrement will really hit the fan when voters get to view the emails of Texas legislators. Federal District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos issued an order recently for the State of Texas to turn over legislators' communications because they may reveal a discriminatory motive in the 2011 Texas voter ID law.
Will all of this rich Texas dirt hurt Perry's 2016 presidential aspirations? One bright spot is that it may relieve the Republican National Committee of some work because the vetting for the GOP's 2016 presidential field is being shared with grand juries.
Rick Perry's biography is a cautionary tale for all politicians: A simple boy from Paint Creek, Texas, allowed power, authority and wealth to go to his head and in the end, his sense of inflated self-importance may be his ultimate undoing.
Killing Archaic Symbols
HISD names new mascots.
When the Houston ISD school board decided to retire some mascot names that it found culturally insensitive, it opened up the naming process to the community, who were invited to submit their top two choices to HISD administration.
Hamilton Middle School's Indians will become the Huskies (the school's first choice). Welch Middle School's Warriors will become the Wolf Pack (also its first choice). And Westbury High School is leaving behind the Rebels to become the Huskies (Who knew that name would be so popular? And also their first choice).
Lamar High School will drop the Redskins — although clearly not all students were in favor of that — to become the Texans, the school's second choice and the one that HISD administrators and trustees believe is better to adopt.
Because some people find the Lamar community's first choice — of all the words available to them in the English language — was culturally insensitive as well.
The word was "Texian," which to some people sounds like just some old-fashioned way of referring to the people who came here to live about the time of the state's move to independence from Mexico.
We called up Dr. Raul A. Ramos, director of undergraduate studies at UH's history department, who told us that "Texian is the self-identified term that Texan separatists used in 1835, 1836 in the war against Mexico. Generally it was used by Anglo Texans to refer to themselves. That's the definition.
"Does that exclude the Mexican Texans living in that time? It's a controversy. It appears to exclude that. You could get into a debate about whether it would exclude Mexican Texans – Tejanos – and certainly it would exclude Mexican Texans who didn't agree with separating from Mexico," Ramos said.
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Another professor we contacted, Lorenzo Cano, associate director of the Center for Mexican American Studies at UH, said the Anglos who eventually moved into Texas brought new "racist attitudes" and wanted to institutionalize slavery in the state.
"This is why I thought it would not be a good thing to use the word 'Texian' because of its association with the South and with bringing the institution of slavery into Texas. Not to say every immigrant held slaves," Cano said.
Back in December, HISD Superintendent Terry Grier wrote in an op-ed for the Houston Chronicle that it was time to move on from some of the names of the past.
"Our goal in HISD is not to obliterate all vestiges of traditional figures that were once widely embraced. That is an important part of each school's cultural and historic literacy."