The State of Texas: April 23, 2014
Mom Of The Day
Occasionally, that ol’ journalistic aphorism about how a dog biting a man isn’t news finds a real-life example that proves that saying wrong. Or in this case, that the opposite is at least true. In March, an Alvin woman bit off a dog’s ear in a effort to stop to it from mauling her two-year-old daughter. The mom’s reasoning for her counterattack is rather straight-forward: “I only know to fight, so how else do you get somebody to stop?” quotes KHOU11. “I mean, I would do the same thing with a human being.”
Texas By The Numbers
Gushing Gulf — Gulf of Mexico’s expected output of oil production in 2014: 1.4 million barrels. Expected output in 2016: 1.9 million barrels. Projected oil-production spending for this year: $17 billion. Percentage increase from 2013: 20 percent. BP’s current market value, four years after the Deepwater Horizon drilling accident: $151 billion. Market value in 2010: $119 billion.
Workplace Hazards — Percentage of Texans without any kind of workplace insurance: 30 percent. That figure in real numbers: at least 500,000. Percentage of Texans covered by workers’ compensation insurance: 81 percent. Percentage of Texans without workplace compensation but with private insurance: 70 percent.
Game Stopped — Number of stores traditional videogame retailer GameStop plans to close: about 130. Percentage of customers who shop online before making a purchase: 60 percent. Number of stores it plans to open thanks to its newly acquired brands: between 300 to 400. Specialty of newly acquired brands: wireless services. Relevance to retail videogame stores: none.
This Land Is My Land — So much for the sense of communal belonging. Attorney General Greg Abbott has sent a stern letter to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management as the department considers its options regarding public lands and their future use in three states. In Texas, a 116-mile stretch of the Red River could be affected by the departments plans. “Private landowners in Texas have owned, maintained, and cultivated this land for generations,” wrote Abbott. “Despite the long-settled expectations of these hard-working Texans along the Red River, the BLM appears to be threatening their private property rights by claiming ownership over this territory.” As the Texas Tribune reports, an agency spokesman has said the land isn’t even fully surveyed yet and that “It’s been mischaracterized in different forms, as if BLM is coming to seize land or take land in some form.” The Tribune notes that while “Frustration has simmered in parts North Texas for months … [Republican] state officials have only recently picked up on it” What, pray tell, might have inspired these government servants to suddenly become so fanatically anti-government? Fox News lays it out pretty clear in the first sentence of its story about the potential “land grab.” The outcry comes “on the heels of [the federal government’s] dust-up with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy,” now affectionately known as the Bundy Ranch Standoff. As exciting as it might be to see another armed confrontation, this time between the Feds and come-n-take-it Texans, let’s hope we can make it to election day before killing each other.
The Kingdom of Texas — Just how big is the latest Texas oil boom? “By the end of this year, Texas could become the world’s second largest producer of oil behind Saudi Arabia,” according to the Houston Chronicle. “The state’s production, driven mainly by the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas and the Permian Basin in West Texas, will reach about 3.4 million barrels per day, propelling it past Iraq and Iran for the world’s No. 2 spot.” That’s right! For once, we’re claiming victory over situations in Iraq. At 9.7 million daily barrels last month, however, the state still has a ways to go to before it can out-rule Abdullah bin Abdulaziz’s kingdom. In the near future, it just may be Mexico that oil and gas companies start conquering, at least that’s been the talk at the Eagle Ford Consortium conference in San Antonio this week. The real sign of victory from this latest oil boom will only happen once Texas, like Saudi Arabia’s neighbor the UAE, starts building man-made islands in the shape of the Lone Star.
Fizzling Out — A year after the West fertilizer plant explosion and what to show for it but buried bodies and a town half rebuilt? Oh, right, there’s the findings from Federal safety officials’ investigation, which they touted yesterday at a conference packed with residents and town leaders. The only problem is the findings are “preliminary” and what they found is what everyone already knew. Or still doesn’t know. The panel announced that the exact cause still isn’t known but the hazardous chemicals definitely weren’t stored properly, according to the Associated Press. Also, first responders didn’t know enough about the dangers they faced but, hey, “even if the firefighters had known more, there still isn’t clear guidance on what to do in that kind of situation.” If these preliminary findings, which took a year to compile, sound rather unhelpful, imagine how frustrated West citizens are. “I know these things take time,” West Mayor Tommy Muska told the Dallas Morning News. “But after one year, you’d think we’d have something. We should be past ‘preliminary.’” As one resident said, “Most people are to the point now, here we are a year later, of what difference does it make?” The town, leveled physically and psychological by the tragedy is trying to find closure and it looks like that won’t come from officials or investigators or legislators. As both articles note, “Despite investigations that have yielded information about safety deficiencies at the plant and voluntary safety steps taken by the nation’s fertilizer industry, not a single state or federal law requiring change has been passed since April 17, 2013.”
Austin City Unlimited — SXSW’s lil baby brother, Austin City Limits, released its festival line up yesterday. And like its big brother, ACL is trying to include a bit of everything. As the Austin American-Statsman coyly notes, “Like the television show from which it got its name, the festival has evolved and the roots rock feel that historically characterized the event seems significantly subdued. This year’s six headliners are split evenly between hip hop, electronic dance music and alternative rock.” Also evenly split: the number of yesterday acts. Big names include Dirty South grandfathers Outkast, grunge grandfathers Pearl Jam, digital-acoustic grandfather Beck and (for reasons unknown to anyone with an appreciation for relevancy), angry-white-rap grandfather Eminem. There aren’t any grandmothers, but perhaps that’s because all the women are in top contemporary acts like Lordes, Chvrches and St. Vincent, all of whom are set to perform (let’s agree to collectively ignore blatant musical chameleon Lana Del Ray). Still, the lineup as a whole looks pretty eclectic and most importantly, fun! Another plus: ACL won’t have any “interactive” portion, apart from partying hard.