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State of Texas: Sept. 17, 2013

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Picture of the Day

Here’s a recent street campaign (in true social media fashion) challenging a February study that declared Beaumont the “saddest city,” based on tweets from the city. Either way, it sure beats “Clapton is God”

Daily Roundup

A Stranger From Our Neighborhood — Washington D.C. is still reeling from the violent incident yesterday morning—which eerily recalls the Fort Hood massacre—when a gunman killed twelve people and injured at least seven others at the Washington Navy yard before being shot dead himself. Authorities are still piecing together the day’s events, but the sole shooter has been identified as Aaron Alexis, 34, of Fort Worth. The Wall Street Journal has an initial profile of Alexis, who had Navy Yard security clearance from a private company. Alexis was with the Navy until a 2011 firearm incident in Fort Worth. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram posted an intimate video of residents and journalists who actually remember Alexis “trying to teach himself Thai” and who was “part of the family.” As seems to be the pattern these days, conspiracy theories popped up immediately, with none other than famed Texan Alex Jones calling the shooting a “false flag” and Alexis a “patsy” for a government rollout of gun bans. Texas Tribune reporter, Aman Batheja, also tweeted a story he wrote in 2009 for the Star-Telegram noting that “many terror plots have Dallas-Fort Worth ties,” including Timothy McVeigh, Hosam “Sam” Smadi, and Osama bin Laden’s personal secretary. Ideological bickering and talking points will inevitably follow, but for now, send the families and survivors your thoughts, prayers and/or positive vibes.

Julián Castro for … shhh! — Ceci n’est pas une campagne, says Julián Castro, though he could’ve fooled the rest of us. The nationally-known, San Antonio mayor was up in Iowa for the annual steak fry (I know, it sounds terrible) hosted by Hawkeye Senator Tom Harkin. Texas Monthly’s own Meagan Flynn has a prime-cut dispatch from the event that may or may not be Castro’s amuse-bouche for a presidential run, though he may or may not have to fight with fellow attendee, VP “Geronimo Joe” Biden, for his meal ticket. The steak fry has “been held every year since 1979 … In 2007, every official candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination smiled with their spatulas and steaks the same way Castro and Biden did this year. And the steak fry is also a spot for up-and-comers. Bill Clinton spoke here before he became president, as did Obama.” Like another politician with a familiar name, Castro gave the keynote speech at the most recent Democratic National Convention. Castro, again, talked about education, his bootstraps roots, and the American Dream. Incidentally, he “politely deflected” talk of a presidential run. Given the ring-kissing, the stumping, the personal story, the laughably transparent non-answer about future ambitions, it seems pretty obvious that Castro is only interested in “energizing Democratic voters.” Though we can all assume that’s not part of his national plan to reduce fossil fuel dependency.

New Underground Resistance — As the drought continues, Texans are starting to dig for water like it was gold, and the rule of law is as murky as the Gulf of Mexico. The Texas Tribune has a look at the new battle front over water rights and supply that is being waged below the surface. Although the state owns the water above ground, there’s little regulation about the groundwater flowing just beneath our feet. And a “recent state appeals court decision signals that only years of expensive legal battles will provide clarity,” writes Neena Satija. “The ruling in Edwards Aquifer Authority v. Glenn and JoLynn Bragg is the first instance of a state appeals court finding that groundwater regulation resulted in a violation of property rights under the Texas Constitution.” Texas regulations and law essentially looked over the groundwater issue until just last year when the State Supreme Court declared that some regulations on water pulled from private properties could essentially be seen as government theft. And the most recent Fourth Court of Appeals decision in Edwards Aquifer Authority v. Glenn and JoLynn Bragg said just a thing had happened. Experts are expecting plenty of proposed groundwater legislation but even more court battles in the near and distant future. If only we could find a way to extract moisture from lawyers, we’d be seeing waterfalls. Texas Monthly has been covering the water issue since the wells were full, and this 2012 piece by Nate Blakeslee is a great refresher on the ongoing water-fights.

Art With Some Serious Kickback — Ahhh, yes, London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. The world’s largest collection of man’s greatest artistic triumphs. Filled with everything from sculptures of antiquity to ancient Japanese woodblock prints. And pretty soon, the museum will feature something uniquely American and, specifically, Texan—the 3-D printed gun developed by artistic provocateur (and current UT law student) Cody Wilson. Via the Dallas Observer, the museum is acquiring the firearm because “[t]he invention of this so called ‘wiki weapon’ sparked intense debate and upended discussions about the benefits of new manufacturing technologies and the unregulated sharing of designs online.” The museum obtained two of Wilson’s “Liberator” prototypes, which “represent a turning point in debates around digital manufacturing.” For the uninitiated, Wilson and his company, Wiki Weapons, not only created the first working 3-D printable gun but offers the plans free for any curious artist-in-training. Argue all you want about the “gun” aspect, but Wilson does come across as a “prankish … high-falutin’ French literary theorist.” He’s steadfastly denied his interest in gun rights’ arguments, 2nd Amendment discussions, or firearm policy and instead maintained that he’s doing project as a way to usurp The Man’s capitalistic hold: “Is this a tool for real change?” Wilson told me in March. “What does it actually mean in the post-capitalist scarcity area when we all have access to the means of production?” With his twenty-first century project and rhetoric about “using progressive language about information to confuse the prohibitionist impulse about certain objects,” perhaps Wilson’s “art” might’ve been better suited for the Tate Modern.

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