The State of Texas: April 27, 2015
Videos of the day
If you’re gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough. Or, in the case of some Texas men, at least very lucky. There were two examples of this recently, both with some element of man versus wild. The first instance, at the Spring Crawfish Festival, is perfectly summed up by the KHOU headline: “Men Play With Alligator and You Know How This Story Ends.”
In the second instance, two guys get a tad too close to a West Texas “landspout”:
Digging Around – The recent study from Southern Methodist University linking earthquakes to wastewater injection wells appears to be having some positive aftershocks. The Texas Railroad Commission said Friday that it is reconsidering the licenses of two energy companies. “The commission will ask XTO Energy and EnerVest Operating at ‘show cause’ hearings in June why their permits should not be canceled and their wells shut-in,” reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The move is a significant one, as the Railroad Commission has been notoriously slow to move on energy issues; as the Star-Telegram put it, “Previously officials at the Texas Railroad Commission … have been reluctant to link North Texas earthquakes, most recently near the old Texas Stadium in Irving, to drilling activity, saying they want to meet with the researchers and dig into the data.” The hearings in a couple months, however, shouldn’t be considered a complete reversal. At a public hearing before the weekend, Representative Drew Darby, chairman of the powerful House Natural Resources Committee, “didn’t go so far as to make the connection between drilling activity and earthquakes, but said the recent study warrants additional review.”
Jailhouse Justice – Prisoners don’t always get the fairest, most humane treatment, so the conclusion of an upsetting case in Houston is pretty notable. About forty Harris County detention officers were disciplined after it was reported that six months ago, an inmate was left to rot in feces-riddled and bug-infested squalor for several weeks. Sheriff Adrian Garcia “fired six jail supervisors, including two jail sergeants who have already been indicted on felony charges of tampering with government records,” writes the Houston Press. “Garcia says he’s also suspended 29 employees, ranging from detention officers to sergeants and deputies, without pay from anywhere between one and ten days. One other jail commander has been relieved of duty and demoted, while Chief Deputy Fred Brown, who oversees jail operations, has agreed to resign.” The man had originally been arrested for a simple marijuana charge and held due to a probation violation; he was later found incompetent to stand trial for an incident inside the jail. As the story notes, the jail’s medical staff had thoroughly documented the conditions without doing anything (just doing their job), and Garcia has blamed the systemic neglect on a lack of resources to assist the mentally ill.
All Your Base Are Belong to Us – The Fort Worth Star-Telegram notes how “mayors of cities with military installations are waging a unified effort to persuade legislative budget writers to allocate $150 million to the governor’s Texas Military Preparedness Commission, which would award grants to communities to help enhance bases.” There are a few reasons for the recent push. For starters, the legislative session ends on June 1. And then there’s the fact that “the proposal to expand the pool of grant money … comes as Texas bases and defense plants are still feeling the repercussions of more than three years of automatic cuts known as sequestration. Several major Army installations are facing layoffs of thousands of military and civilian workers.” As the story notes, Naval Air Station Fort Worth alone “is the third-largest employer in North Central Texas and contributes more than $9 billion to the state economy,” and “the $150 million request represents only one-tenth of 1 percent of the nearly $150 billion that the 15 Texas military installations bring to the state’s economy.”
Star Power – Whether you’re an old-world believer in the power of statist achievements or a libertarian futurist who sees progress being made by specific individuals, Texas is definitely the place where the next space race is blasting off. While Elon Musk’s (hit-or-miss) efforts around Brownsville have gotten plenty of attention, the Associated Press has a fun article pointing out that there is another billionaire tech guy with eyes on the space prize. “The presence of Blue Origin, LLC, the brainchild of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, barely registers in nearby Van Horn, a way station along Interstate 10, a full decade after he began buying land in one of Texas’ largest and most remote counties.” Despite keeping a much lower profile than Musk, Bezos has made progress. He recently announced that “his company’s new hydrogen rocket engine, designed for suborbital missions, had completed hundreds of tests at the West Texas site, adding, ‘soon we’ll put it to the ultimate test of flight.’ That could come late this year.” As the Associated Press remarks, these new attempts aren’t the same as those back in the golden age of space efforts. Considering how much of it has petered out (we haven’t gone to the moon in 43 years), maybe this rich man space race is for the better. At the very least, here’s hoping Bezos, too, will be offering jobs for space farmers.