Don't Mess with Texas, Texas
April 29, 2014
CC by: Texas State Library

In lots of ways, Texas has been a huge success story under the watch of Gov. Rick Perry (R). Perry has gotten some sharp elbows for his job-poaching tours of other states, but on Monday Toyota announced it is moving its U.S. headquarters to Plano, outside Dallas, from the Los Angeles suburbs. It isn't the first company to leave California, or another state, for Texas. The Lone Star State added 1.3 million residents from 2010 to 2013, according to U.S. Census data. That's more than any other state.

Perry, the state's Republican-dominated legislature, and many analysts attribute this growth and low unemployment rate to the combination of low taxes, lax regulation, few public services, and tracking-related gas boom. What's indisputable is that most of the people are headed to Texas' already sizable cities: Houston (pop. 2.2 million) added 34,625 people from July 2011 to July 2012, while Austin (pop. 843,000) expanded by 25,395 residents. Austin, which still thinks of itself as a funky college town, is now the 11th largest city in the U.S., adding about 100 new people each day. Here's what Texas' growth looks like in graph form, via The Wall Street Journal:

But the Texas system, like every other governing philosophy in the world, has weak points, and the two big ones in the Lone Star State are water and transportation infrastructure. Texas is in a multi-year drought, and the population growth is putting a further strain on water resources. And then there's the aging and inadequate roads and public transportation: Texans, like many Americans, really like their cars and don't particularly like traffic. Austin has the fourth worst traffic in the U.S.

There are other growing pains, too. "We are already straining our systems for water, power, schools, and roads," Texas State Demographer Lloyd Potter, a Perry appointee, tells The Wall Street Journal. "And they'll continue to be stressed unless we invest more heavily."

Most of the problems are fixable with money, but Texans — most lawmakers and residents — don't want to raise the money to fix them. There's no state income tax in Texas, so all those poached jobs add money to the state coffers only indirectly, through things like sales and property taxes and service fees. Instead of raising taxes to build new roads, Texas lawmakers prefer to let private companies build an incompatible array of toll highways.

The problems aren't going away. By 2040, demographers predict that Texas will have 40 million residents, from more than 26 million today. If the water becomes scarce and roads semi-permanent parking lots, that prediction probably won't come to fruition. Peter Weber

death penalty
7:37 p.m. ET
Joe Raedle/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Officials with the Oklahoma Corrections Department used bottles labeled potassium acetate during an execution in January, violating protocol, state records show.

Convicted killer Charles Frederick Warner was given a lethal injection on Jan. 15, and officials were supposed to use potassium chloride to stop his heart, The Oklahoman reports. On Sept. 30, officials received the same incorrect drug ahead of convicted murderer Richard Glossip's scheduled lethal injection, and a stay was granted by Gov. Mary Fallin (R) after the mix-up was discovered.

An investigation was launched by Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) into Glossip's scheduled execution, and he confirmed on Wednesday it will also look into drug mistakes. "I want to assure the public that our investigation will be full, fair, and complete and includes not only actions on Sept. 30, but any and all actions prior, relevant to the use of potassium acetate and potassium chloride," he said. Fallin said Wednesday that "until we have complete confidence in the system, we will delay any further executions." Catherine Garcia

6:47 p.m. ET

Paul Prudhomme, the influential Louisiana chef who made Cajun and Creole cooking popular across the country, died Thursday. He was 75.

Born in 1940 near Opelousas, Louisiana, Prudhomme was the 13th child in his family, and started cooking at the age of seven in a kitchen without electricity. Prudhomme opened his first restaurant at the age of 17, Big Daddy O's Patio, outside of Opelousas, Louisiana, and in 1975 became the first non-European chef at Commander's Palace in New Orleans. He introduced Cajun food there, which, says, was "almost unheard of in New Orleans at the time." In 1979, he opened K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen along with his future wife, K Hinrichs, and patrons would wait hours for his blackened redfish and sweet potato pecan pie.

Prudhomme's popularity spread across the country as food writers began to come to New Orleans to pay him a visit. He wrote numerous cookbooks, including Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen, opened pop-up restaurants in New York City and San Francisco, gave a demonstration at the Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris, and started Magic Seasonings Blends, sold in all 50 states and 30 countries. Food writer Craig Claiborne said in 1988 that Prudhomme "has had the greatest influence on American cooking, in cultivating the public interest in American food, of anybody I know. ... People said, 'There must be more to Southern cooking,' and he opened up the floodgates to the whole field of Southern cooking." He is survived by wife Lori Prudhomme. His first wife, K Hinrichs, died in 1992. Catherine Garcia

Should you stay or should you go
4:22 p.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) saw numerous signs that becoming speaker of the House just wasn't meant to be. There was the Benghazi gaffe about Hillary Clinton and the impossible demands of the House Freedom Caucus. But perhaps his biggest red flag was the comment from "a lot of friends that were really supportive that said, 'Why do you want to do it during this time? This time will be the worst time. They're going to eat you and chew you up,'" McCarthy recounted in an interview with Politico, shortly after he abruptly announced Thursday that he was dropping out of the speakership race.

Although many thought McCarthy could gather the requisite 218 votes to become speaker, he knew that he "was never going to be able to get 247," he said, referring to the total tally of Republicans in the House. And, Politico reports, he wondered if he could be an effective speaker with "essentially the bare minimum" of support.

McCarthy said he wasn't so sure. "The conference is an odd place," McCarthy said. "Sometimes you gotta hit the bottom to be able to come back. This gives us a real fresh start — a new start gives a fresh start. Having a fresh face brings the conference together."

Read the full story over at Politico. Becca Stanek

4:20 p.m. ET

Choreographer Ryan Heffington has a talent for putting together some unusual, breathtaking dances — remember the video for Sia's "Chandelier"? This time, Emma Stone is Heffington's leading lady in the music video for "Anna," by Arcade Fire's Win Butler.

Filmed on the supposedly haunted Queen Mary ocean liner, Billboard reports that the music video was partly inspired by stories of the Lady in White, "a young and beautiful woman who, it has been reported, likes to dance to unheard music in the Queens Salon." While you really need the sound on for the full effect, Stone's performance is mesmerizing just about any way you look at it. Watch it in full below. Jeva Lange

a sob story
3:05 p.m. ET

Everyone had just finished saying the Pledge when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) stood up and announced he would be withdrawing his bid for speaker of the House — a decision that has thrown a wrench into the plans of the confused and scattered GOP Congressional leadership. In fact, McCarthy's announcement came as such a surprise that Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) said some members were actually sobbing afterward. "The person next to me was crying," Rooney told The Hill.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) had the same story for The Washington Post's Robert Costa:

Likewise, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) told The Hill that fans of McCarthy's were in shock. "They lined up to give him a hug," Huelskamp said. "I saw tears in eyes. It's the strangest thing I've seen in a long time." Jeva Lange

Fed cred
2:46 p.m. ET
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Federal Reserve released the minutes from its September meeting today. We learned the results of that meeting the day it ended, but the minutes can still provide a window into what's going on in the heads of the Fed officials who vote on monetary policy. Take this quote:

To some [members], the continued subdued trend in wages was evidence of an absence of upward pressure on inflation from current levels of labor utilization. Several others, however, noted that weak productivity growth and low price inflation might be contributing to modest wage increases. A number of participants reported that some of their business contacts were experiencing labor shortages in various occupations and geographic areas resulting in upward pressure on wages, with a few indicating that the pickup in wages had become more widespread.

Consider that line against something you'd never read in the Fed minutes. Something like: "Other members responded that their contacts amongst the unemployed and low-income workers saw no evidence of rising wage pressure at all."

Fed officials understandably rely on their contacts throughout the world of business owners to gauge regional changes in the economy. Those contacts have vested interests in having monetary policy prioritize low inflation over low unemployment. That doesn't mean the stress and worries they're under are not genuine. But with the exception of recent activism efforts, people who desperately need job growth to continue have no equivalent access to Fed officials' ears. Cold aggregate data is all that speaks for them.

That's bound to have an impact on how the Fed weighs it priorities. Hearing from people on the ground may be qualitative, not quantitative, but it can help parse the quantitative data. Human beings are social creatures, after all, and Fed officials are only human. Jeff Spross

This just in
2:45 p.m. ET

U.S. officials reported Thursday that Russian missiles aimed at Syria fell short of their target and crashed in a rural area of Iran. Intelligence estimates that at least four missiles crashed, though it remains unclear where they landed. Russian ships were positioned in the South Caspian Sea, and officials say that missiles' flight path would have "taken them across the northern sections of Iran and Iraq on the way to Syria," The New York Times reports.

Though one official said there "may be casualties," CNN reports that another official said that still remains unknown. Becca Stanek

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