Some folks in a small town in Central Texas had a strong reaction to a large-scale military exercise on U.S. soil called “Jade Helm 15.” The planned war simulation, set to take place in various locations across seven states, has some people convinced it’s cover for a domestic invasion. A two-hour informational meeting on Monday in Bastrop — presided over by a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel — did nothing to change their minds, so we start this week’s playlist of the news with Steve Earle‘s “Conspiracy Theory.”
The easiest way to enjoy the playlist is to download Spotify, a free program. But even without it, you can still follow along. Here are the other selections for the week:
A barely-noticed story about a small subset of Americans with boundless distrust of the federal government got a lot bigger when Gov. Greg Abbott weighed in Thursday with a letter to the Texas State Guard that read in part, “During the training operation, it is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed." By the end of the week, several national news outlets had picked up the story — it even came up in a White House press briefing on Wednesday, when press secretary Josh Earnest said of Abbott, “I have no idea what he’s thinking” — which reminded us of Boondogs’ “What was On Your Mind.”
The governor was in the news Monday for an entirely different reason: jury duty. Like any other citizen, he’s eligible, but he’d never been called in Travis County — until he moved into the governor’s mansion. After a couple of hours in a waiting room chatting with other potential jurors — another regular citizen experience — he learned he hadn’t been selected. We remembered “We the Jury” from the 1960 motion picture Murder, Inc.
On the latest edition of Budgetline — our occasional series on the people and the process behind the only thing the state actually demands of the Legislature — Ross Ramsey and Aman Batheja talk to state Sen. Jane Nelson, chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee, who recalls her freshman session. Warned, as all rookies were, not to make waves, she nonetheless voted against the budget — and never got called on again for the rest of that session. Now the first woman to chair what is arguably the most powerful committee in the Texas Senate, she’s come a long way, so we chose “Now I’m Here” by Queen.
As part of a larger ethics bill, the Senate on Tuesday approved an amendment to require all prospective candidates for office in Texas to pass a drug test. The ethics bill — and that amendment — still has to get through the House, but we remembered Yo La Tengo has a tune called “Drug Test.” That same day, the The House Culture, Recreation and Tourism Committee — which, among other things, offers various official state designations — added for House consideration the widely-used social media hashtag #txlege to the sometimes quirky list, so here’s “Pound Sign” from Kevin Fowler.
On Wednesday, members of the state House and Senate gathered to show support for several bills aimed at limiting payday lending practices. Opponents of such measures stress individual responsibility, but supporters say these loans can “[trap] consumers into a debt cycle they can never recover from," as one Midland city councilman put it. Here’s “All My Money Gone” by bluesman Henry Townsend.
Our Spring Member Drive launched Thursday. The simple fact is we can’t bring you the kind of journalism you’ve come to expect from us without your help. This year, our hope is to bring more new members into the fold, and thanks to you we’re off to a great start! Here’s a little old band from Texas called ZZ Top with a song called “I Thank You.”
Texas has long held “sales tax holidays” for school supplies, and, more recently, energy-efficient supplies. This week, the Senate added a third holiday to encourage consumers to “Pick Up a Gun.” Here’s the Ray LaMontagne song. On the House side, lawmakers on Thursday passed a bill designed to speed up the permit process for major industrial projects — in part by limiting public input. We remembered the Reggae classic “John Public” by Gregory Issacs.
In addition to the occasional Budgetline podcast we mentioned earlier, we’ve also got two weekly listens: our long-running TribCast, and The Ticket, in which veteran political reporters Jay Root and KUT News’ Ben Philpott dive deep into presidential politics. They’re all landing on our Tribune Podcasts page to make it easier to keep up — and hear what you might’ve missed. They’re never that long, but here’s “Ten Thousand Words” by The Avett Brothers.
Finally, higher ed reporter Matthew Watkins wrote on Saturday about the unintended consequences of a major remodel to Texas A&M University’s Kyle Field, that school’s storied football stadium: the loss of one of the region's major bat habitats. In their search for a new home, the bats have shown up in college dorms and the university natatorium — in sufficient numbers to briefly displace swimmers. Their presence can be disconcerting and at times unsanitary, but their positive impact on controlling insect populations and their benefits to farmers are considerable, so we close out this week’s playlist with two songs: “Bats,” by Josue Febles, and a Dopapod jam called “Bats in the Cave.” Enjoy!