The State of Texas: March 25, 2015
Video Of The Day
Another day, another “Uptown Funk” parody. While some are wildly creative genre mashups—like the Harry Potter-themed pick—this one from a Denton middle school teacher is about, um, STAAR testing. Not exactly hit-song material. Apparently, it’s meant as a motivational booster. Definite “A” for effort, however:
Texas By The Numbers
South by Drunk – Total number of DWI arrests made during SXSW: 61. Number of breath samples: 19. Number of blood draws: 42. Percent of arrestees who refused to give a breath or blood sample: 57 percent. Percentage of breath samples that were higher than .15 BAC: 47 percent.
Ride ’em High – Paid attendance at the 83rd Houston Livestock Show And Rodeo: 1,377,477. Previous record in 2012: 1,377,416. Total attendance on the grounds: 2,483,193. Record in 2014: 2,485,141.
Viva La Tejas – Most Hispanic city in Texas: Laredo. Percentage of population that is Latino: 95.94 percent. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission area: 90.99 percent. Corpus Christi: 59.7 percent. Houston-Woodlands-Sugar Land area: 37.6 percent. DFW-A area: 29.48 percent.
Refining Responses – The Texas Tribune and the Houston Chronicle have an extensive and interactive look at the Texas City BP explosion, which happened a decade ago this week. The blast killed fifteen people, injured 180 and, as the story notes, is “now one of the most studied industrial accidents in U.S. history.” Apart from rehashing the tragedy, the piece also takes a look at the safety of the refinery industry, where accidents continue. As reported “at least 64 energy company employees and contractors were killed in the decade before the 2005 Texas City blast. At least 58 have died in the 10 years since” and the “Department of Energy has tracked nearly 350 fires at refineries in the last eight years.” The Texas City refinery continues to have its own problems, apparent in the way the new operating company, Marathon Petroleum, has safety policies “in print [that] they’re not practicing,” according to a “United Steelworkers health and safety representative who has worked at the site since 2008.” One refinery worker who still punches the clock said the “overall safety at the Texas City plant has vastly improved. But he says the about-face on temporary structures [a safety issue] sounds like an invitation to repeat the nightmare.”
Everyone, Get Your Gun – It is open season on gun restrictions this legislative session. Not a week since the state senate passed open carry and campus carry bills, at least one lawmaker is calling for even more gun-friendliness. Representative Drew Springer has authored a bill that would eliminate most of those pesky “gun-free” zones for concealed carry holders. As the Dallas Morning News observes, “it’s unclear what kind of support there would be for such a far-reaching bill” as pastors and hospital personnel have already lined up against it. For his part, Springer has said he would consider an amendment exempting such places. For those looking to express their right to bear arms, the test to do so might become a little easier, at least in regards to having to bear the weight of an arm.The senate approved “amending shooting tests for state residents seeking concealed handgun licenses, letting applicants use .22-caliber weapons rather than the .32-caliber ones currently required,” according to the Associated Press. To paraphrase the bill’s author, Charles Perry, the change would allow even weakening grandma to successfully fire down range. The amendment passed unanimously.
Getting Fracked – Lawmakers’s “get the gummit off our backs” hypocrisy is one step closer to reality. Also known as a law to prevent local cities from banning or controlling fracking operations within their legally designated areas, the “Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Economic Development voted 8-0 on Tuesday” to advance the legislation,” reports the Houston Chronicle. The effort isn’t going through without some crying “foul.” As the Austin Business Journal reports, a hearing for the House’s version of the legislation saw “160 people from across the state testifying primarily against two proposed bills.” The most powerful David in this Goliath fight has been the Texas Municipal League, which “has not hesitated to engage the Texas oil and gas industry, having already published one opinion blog that said the oil and gas industry had ‘gone nuclear’ against local homeowners.” As the Texas Tribune notes, the biggest concern about these bills is that “the bills as written would only add to the confusion, potentially taking away tools cities have long used to police health and safety. That’s partly because of its broad definition of what types of oil and gas operations would be ‘subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the state.’” No surprise that a “litany of petroleum groups support the legislation.”
Secret Missions – The United States Army would like all you secessionists, conspiracy lovers, and general government worry warts to know that it has no plans to invade Texas. If this seems like a given, clearly you’re not spending enough time in certain corners of the Internet. “Some fringe websites have paraded a PowerPoint presentation, reportedly from [U.S. Army Special Operations Command], as evidence of Jade Helm 15, a series of military exercises across California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Texas. They say it will train the U.S. military to suppress American citizens rebelling in a coming military coup or civil war,” reports one of the Military-Industrial Complex’s propaganda arms, the Army Times. Just to be clear (and to add confusion/panic), “The Army says Jade Helm is a real exercise and will take place in the Southwest, as the slides indicate.” What’s really set off the conspiracy crowd is that in the exercise, Texas has been labeled a “hostile. To those people “a high degree of libertarian support, pro-gun leanings and patriotism make Texas a target.” A spokesman for USASOC parroted what they always say about such covert operations: “It’s a training exercise. Just a regular training exercise.” Sure. And the MK-ULTRA program was just a really big acid-dropping party.