The State of Texas: December 14, 2015
Paxton gets rejected, all the weekend gun stories, and the Lewisville Dam might be headed for an historic disaster.
Video of the Day
George W. Bush is running for president again, or at least in the Saturday Night Live universe, in which the 43rd president made an appearance—played by Will Ferrell—to make fun of all the current GOP candidates. Saturday’s episode had plenty of Texas, with another skit featuring Ted Cruz. As satirized by Taran Killam, this smarmy Cruz likes to randomly say the word “constitution” and give absurdly non-committal answers to direct questions.
A Fake Shooting — This weekend’s mock mass shooting (and demonstration and “mass farting” counter-demonstrations) that took place on the UT-Austin campus was a complete circus, media and otherwise. Everyone and their mother was there including the Grey Lady, USA Today, and Fox News, just to name a few. So how did it go? The pro-gun demonstrators, having promised to hold their mock shooting on campus before being warned by school officials that it would constitute criminal trespassing, held their play far from even the demonstrators who’d gathered to protest. “By 2:30 p.m., when the mock shooting was scheduled to occur and the two groups were supposed to converge, the gun rights crowd was mostly gone, the counterprotesters were confused, and the controversial event was over,” the Austin American-Statesman reported. “While people were busy following the march, which was regaled with flatulent sounds, plastic phalluses and chants of ‘We fart in your direction’ and ‘Texas farts,’ the gun-free zone protesters quietly pulled off their mock shooting to little fanfare.” One guy even rigged up a massive fart machine on his bike! The Daily Beast had one of the better takes on the quixotic strategy of the gun-lovers. “None of the other gun activist groups invited to participate in the action showed, leaving those media types to outnumber [the main group] five to one. Worse, the peaceful but vocal protestors lining the Guadalupe Street portion of the planned open carry march that kicked off [organizer Murdoch] Pizgatti’s event similarly outmanned his crew—by a factor of at least three. And, almost to a man, the media stopped following the gun activists’ march to interview the counter-protestors once they appeared, leaving Pizgatti and his pals to walk the streets, guns at their hips, almost completely by their lonesome.”
A Real Shooting — Slowly but surely, a fuller picture of what happened during the Waco Twin Peaks shootout in May is coming to light. On Friday, the Associated Press examined “hours of audio and footage and hundreds of documents including ballistics reports” showing that “four of the dead and at least one of the wounded were struck with bullets from .223-caliber rifles — the only type of weapon fired by police that day.” As the story notes, “It was not clear whether any bikers had similar guns to the police that day. Among the hundreds of weapons authorities recovered from the scene were 12 long guns, which could include rifles.” Since the beginning, bikers and bikers’ rights groups had and have maintained that the melee was something of a turkey shoot by police, and that bikers were intentionally picked up while being fully surrounded. As has been their habit to the extreme, “Police and the district attorney’s office declined to comment on the latest evidence, have previously defended the officers’ use of force, claiming that bikers had also opened fire on police.” To be fair, the AP doesn’t shy away from the violence of the bikers, noting that video (which CNN put out) depicts several bikers fighting one another. The next grand jury session concerning the case (and arrest of 180 people on identical charges) is scheduled for Wednesday.
A Threat of Shooting — While Austin was playing with fake guns, Irving had less fun with real guns. The state’s current go-to journalist for stories about anti-Muslim forces and the Islamic community, Avi Selk, reported from Irving over the weekend where demonstrations and counter-demonstrations took place. The resulting story is a detailed look of the efforts by both sides. “Members of the Bureau on American-Islamic Relations (BAIR) had traveled to Irving from cities across North Texas … convinced that Irving’s mosque had harbored an illegal Shariah court—a rumor that grew out of a voluntary mediation service for North Texas Muslims called the ‘Islamic Tribunal.'” BAIR’s spokesman said the group simply wants to “meet with members of the mosque. He wants to open up their books to assure they are not actively funding terrorist organizations.” Members of the group have been touting long guns during demonstration “to protect his group from Islamic extremists who might act out violently if they see Islam being disrespected — similar to what happened in May in a foiled terror attack in Garland.” In addition to groups like BAIR, the story goes deep with discussions from the other side, conversations with the local imam, peace protestors, as well as local church and synagogue leaders organizing “dialogues” and inter-faith forums.
Completely Shot — Well, this is terrifying for the DFW—Lewisville Lake Dam is apparently about to break, and should that happen the result “would dwarf the worst dam disaster in American history,” writes the Dallas Morning News. A dam official with the Army Corps of Engineers has given it the understated nickname “Trouble.” The big problem is seepage occurring under the dam’s foundation, “creating pressure and uplift conditions at one end of the dam.” The DMN explains in pretty black-and-white terms what would happen if the problems aren’t fixed. “Only 34 miles upstream from Dallas, the Lewisville Dam holds back 2 million acre-feet, or 2.5 billion tons, of water when the lake is full. If the dam failed, the magnitude of all that water unleashed from Lake Lewisville down the Trinity River would” be the worst dam disaster since 1889, “which occurred after several days of pounding rain breached the South Fork Dam [in Pennsylvania]. The flood killed 2,209 people and devastated the city. The Lewisville Dam holds back 125 times as much water as the South Fork Dam.” What more? “With a full reservoir behind it, a 65-foot-tall flood wave traveling 34 mph would quickly inundate a wide swath of Lewisville, Coppell, Carrollton, Farmers Branch, Irving, Las Colinas and other communities bordering the Trinity River.” This time, about 431,000 people are projected to be harm’s way. Read the entire piece for all the terrifyingly scientific details, and keep this final thought in mind. The Lewisville Dam is “currently ranked as Dam Safety Action Class 2, with ‘very high’ risk and ‘failure initiation foreseen.’ But the Corps is weighing whether to raise this to Class 1, the category for dams that are ‘extremely high’ risk and ‘critically near failure’ and require immediate action to avoid catastrophe.”
Shot Down — It looks like UT’s Popcorn Guy has another entertaining event to look forward to. On Friday, the judge overseeing Ken Paxton’s felony case rejected the Attorney General’s numerous motions for dismissal, “flatly,” as the Statesman put. Paxton’s attorneys had pretty much thrown everything they could at the problem, including accusations of impropriety by the state judge who started the original grand jury, and questioning the very constitutionality of the laws Paxton has allegedly violated. No dice. State District Judge George Gallagher issued a series of ten “succinct” orders that “provided no legal reasons for his decisions.” So this thing’s finally going to trial, right? Ha. “‘With all due respect, we are disappointed with court’s rulings today, as we believed each of the motions was well founded,’ defense lawyer Bill Mateja said. ‘We are currently reviewing whether to appeal … and will make that decision in the near future.'” In addition, Judge Gallagher “gave defense lawyers permission to file additional pretrial motions, indicating that Paxton’s legal challenges aren’t yet over.”