By Lynn Ashby 26 Dec. 2011
How hot and dry was Texas in 2011? Wildfires wiped out hundreds of homes and up to half a billion trees. Lakes dried up to reveal cars and bodies. Texans suffered through the hottest June, July and August on record in the United States, according to the National Weather Service. Our 86.8 average beat out Oklahoma’s 85.2 degrees in 1934.
This was also the year that gave us the near-destruction of the Big XII and Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential hopes. The Aggies continued to give us oddball events, and our pols proved Texas has the sleaziest. So let’s take a look at 2011, the Year of the Rat.
Right-wingnut radio talk show host Glenn Beck looked all over America for his new home and radio-TV studios. Where would such a conspiracy-screwball feel most at home, comfortably surrounded by similarly minded people? Dallas, of course.
Prose and Cons: Anthony Graves, who spent 18 years on Death Row for a crime a special prosecutor ruled Graves didn’t commit, was due to receive $1.4 million compensation, but the Texas Comptroller’s office ruled Graves was ineligible because the words “actual innocence” did not appear in the document ordering his release. Other Texas Death Row inmates will no longer have a last meal after convicted murderer Lawrence Russell Brewer ordered up a vast feast including two chicken fried steaks, a cheese omelet and loads of extras – then didn’t eat them.
Texas state Sen. Judith Zaffirini was running for re-election in her district along the Mexican border, but had to change her logo. Border residents were alarmed to see lawn signs with a big jagged Z, a symbol for the Zetas, a murderous drug gang. Meanwhile, the Zetas were horrified that anyone might mistake them for members of the Texas Legislature.
Hullabaloo Disconnect, Disconnect: After a century of being in the same conference with UT and Baylor, Texas A&M split for the SEC. Then fired its coach. Aggie Quote of the Year: “Bring it on.” – Texas A&M Deputy Chancellor Jay Kimbrough, longtime Perry trouble shooter, to Aggie officials who had just fired him. At the time, Kimbrough was holding a pocketknife. Kimbrough later said it was just a joke.
Maroon Is Also a Verb Div: “I have to admit that the stupidity on this board (of regents) always brings me back to the point that I know I’m not the dumbest (expletive) out there.” – Texas A&M athletics chief financial officer and senior associate athletic director, Jeff Toole, written on a fan web site, anonymously, he thought. He also called A&M President R. Bowen Loftin a “putz.” and a “hopelessly underqualfied puppet.”
Goal Finger: Dallas Cowboy Roy Williams mailed a $76,000 engagement ring to former beauty pageant winner Brooke Daniels of Tomball and a recorded marriage proposal. She turned down Williams, a former UT football star, and kept the ring, he claimed. Williams went to court, but finally got the ring back. No word on the romance.
Big D for Disaster (A wardrobe malfunction seems minor): After years of planning and vast amounts of money spent, Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium also hosted heavy snow and ice which canceled flights. Traffic was a dangerous hockey game, and 850 fans were told their temporary seats were not useable because they were unsafe. The unhappy ticket-holders sued. Meantime, during that Dallas weekend, 59 people were arrested on prostitution related charges.
Worst Sports Fans: The boo-birds in Austin who heaped scorn on Longhorn quarterback Garret Gilbert after a couple of incompletions, and the fans were Longhorns! Wonder if they would do that to his face – that face which goes with his 6-foot-4-inch 219-pound body? No matter, Gilbert got hurt and transferred to SMU. We’re doing better at getting a return on our athletic investment: Of the top 100 Texas graduating high school football players this past spring, only 43 went out of state. Usually, we keep just a few of the blue chippers.
In politics, the year began with years – Tom DeLay got three of them in the clink.
From his re-election in November of 2010 until last Sept. 28, Gov. Rick Perry had gone through $762,680 in state funds for bodyguards (read: sherpas) on out-of-state trips. These taxpayer funds were used during a family vacation to the Bahamas and trips made by Anita Perry alone. Just why al-Queda would attack Mrs. Perry in Amsterdam or Madrid isn’t clear.
“Commerce, education and – what’s the third one there? Let’s see. I would do away with Commerce, Education, and let’s see. I can’t – the third one, I can’t. Sorry. Oops.” – Our not ready for prime time Texas governor in a GOP presidential debate.
U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, married to the Clear Channel fortune, is the richest member of Congress, displacing Sen. John Kerry, married to the Heinz fortune. A Texas congressman on the House Financial Services Committee has filed for personal bankruptcy. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, a Democrat, has $2.9 million in liabilities, and nearly $1.5 million in assets. Most of the debt, $2.6 million, is a claim by Wells Fargo Bank. Fortunately for the congressman, his House Financial Services Committee has jurisdiction over legislation affecting banks.
Gentlemen, Start Your Indignations: Five Republican lawmakers from the Houston area — Reps. Kevin Brady, John Culberson, Michael McCaul, Pete Olson and Ted Poe — all voted to eliminate federal dollars earmarked for National Public Radio and Planned Parenthood. But they voted yes for the Defense Department’s multimillion-dollar sponsorship deal with NASCAR racing teams. Lost in Space: Houston didn’t get one of the retired space shuttles for the Johnson Space Center. Instead, NASA awarded them to such space bases Los Angeles and Seattle. Don’t Keep on Truckin’: A Sealy factory officially lost its $3 billion contract to build 23,000 trucks for the US Army.
We haven’t even started yet, so let’s get back together next week and honor the dishonorable before Texas Monthly steals our list for its Bum Steer Awards.
Ashby awards at firstname.lastname@example.org