Don’t Mess With Texas—or Drink There

Flickr/<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/lorri37/3070359006/">lorri37</a>


When a magazine in Dallas offered me a job last summer, my wife and I jumped at the chance to settle in the city that Molly Ivins once painted red. We had visions of a Lone Star libertarian utopia, where there was enough open space and distrust of government to allow everyone some freedom in choosing their bliss.

Boy, were we wrong. From the hip neighborhoods of Lower Greenville and Deep Ellum to the grittier areas of South Dallas, what we experienced was an over-policed nanny state—exactly the sort of thing you’d expect pro-secession and anti-liberal Texans to hate. But they’re not angry, because they’re not the target: Few straight white Texans have anything to worry about. That’s documented.

Want the full story? Check out my piece in the March/April issue of Mother Jones, “Lone Bar State.” The Lone Star State, it turns out, is still a place where “undesirables” can be rounded up, humiliated by authorities, tossed in jail cells, and even have their skulls cracked—legally. It’s made possible by a catch-22 in the state’s penal code: a public-intoxication law that permits peace officers to go virtually anywhere, anytime, and arrest anyone they want. Except who they really want to arrest, it seems, includes mostly gays, Latinos, and blacks. As one cop told me, “We go after the disenfranchised, the people who can’t stand up and defend themselves.” Another lawyer who represents folks arrested for PI put it even more bluntly: “If you’re brown and you’re around,” he says, “you’re going down.”

Much of that goes down just a few miles from the chic Dallas-area estates of George W. Bush, H. Ross Perot, and a bevy of other prominent, wealthy Texans. Down there, they’re fond of saying, “The eyes of Texas are upon you,” and obviously they mean it.

But today, the eyes of our readers are on Texas.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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