Saturday, December 31, 2011

Man With Carry-On Filled With Explosives Stopped By TSA in Midland, Texas

Patrol Officer and Explosive Ordnance Technician Dylan Hale, left, secures an explosives transport box to the back of a vehicle to be taken to a storage facility, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011, at the Midland International Airport in Midland, Texas. The military-grade explosives were confiscated from a departing passenger. (AP Photo/Odessa American, Heather Leiphart) Photo: Heather Leiphart / Odessa American

MIDLAND, Texas (AP) -- A man was detained Saturday after trying to go through a security checkpoint at a Texas airport with explosives in military-grade wrapping, federal and local officials said.
The man was stopped at a security checkpoint at the Midland International Airport about 9 a.m. and taken into custody by the FBI, they said.
City of Midland spokeswoman Tasa Watts said she had no information on the suspect but the explosives were wrapped in military-grade wrapping. She said the specific grade won't be known until the explosives are tested.
The Transportation Security Administration issued a statement saying one of its officers spotted a suspicious item in a carry-on bag during X-ray screening. It said the checkpoint was closed for about an hour while officers investigated and removed the item.

Good job TSA! You finally did something right, and you didn't even have to remove an elderly woman's back brace in order to protect flyers. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cowgirls Git It Dun

Check out these amazing pictures of cowgirls, courtesy of Miss Moss' archival searches of LIFE magazine.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Rains Bring Texas Some Relief, But Not Enough

It rained a lot this week, which has been great for our seriously parched state. A half-year of this week's weather — a near impossibility — could be enough to just barely take us out of the current drought, said Bob Rose, the chief meteorologist for the Lower Colorado River Authority. Not to mention what it would do to morale. Ugh.

The Austin-American Statesman reports, "While the recent rain hasn't replenished lakes and other waterways, Central Texas has benefited from unusually high amounts of rainfall amid a dry La Niña weather pattern. Pastures have begun to green, and burn zones have started sprouting plant life, avoiding dangerous erosion of the loose soil. However, the rain is nowhere near what meteorologists have said it would take to get Central Texas out of a drought: a handful of heavy, 4- to 5-inch rains."

So though your front yard looks the best its been all year, Lake Travis is still on the seriously low side. Keep on praying, or whatever.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

Want to know what it's like to be in Austin during the holidays? This link sends you under the lights at Zilker Park (click and hold - and don't forget to "look" up!):

Under the Zilker lights

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Rick Perry's Campaign Goes Horribly, Horribly Wrong

If you haven't yet seen this campaign ad for Rick Perry, prepare yourself to be appalled. As of viewing, the video has 266,225 YouTube dislikes and only 5,695 likes.

Rick Perry, you are surely misguided. There is no war on religion, and there never has been. But there has always been a seperation of church and state, and if a parent wants their child to have religious instruction, then they can pay for their child to go to religious schools. As long as public schools are federally funded, they will continue to abide by the Constitutional law.

Oh, and I'm pretty sure it wasn't faith that made America strong - no, that was manufacturing. Which is incidentally why we're on the decline now, because greedy corporations decided to outsource it for cheap labor.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Salty Texas

Does your state have it's own tortilla chips?

Stop SOPA, Y'all

PROTECT-IP is a bill that has been introduced in the Senate and the House and is moving quickly through Congress. It gives the government and corporations the ability to censor the net, in the name of protecting "creativity". The law would let the government or corporations censor entire sites-- they just have to convince a judge that the site is "dedicated to copyright infringement."

The government has already wrongly shut down sites without any recourse to the site owner. Under this bill, sharing a video with anything copyrighted in it, or what sites like Youtube and Twitter do, would be considered illegal behavior according to this bill.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, this bill would cost us $47 million tax dollars a year — that's for a fix that won't work, disrupts the internet, stifles innovation, shuts out diverse voices, and censors the internet. This bill is bad for creativity and does not protect your rights.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Unwanted Visitor: Portrait of Wildfire

Unwanted Visitor: Portrait of Wildfire is an outdoor art installation, which opened October 7, 2011, at the National Ranching Heritage Center in Lubbock, Texas. It serves to educate the public as to the causes of wildfires and the effects on the surrounding environment, while providing information on fire prevention and the purpose of prescribed burning.

The flames are made of crayons - as the suns hits them and the weather changes, the sculptures will melt, move, and morph considerably, as the design intended.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Texas Rep. Joe Driver Gets Five Years Probation for Stealing Public's Money, Says He's "Glad This Issue Is Finally Resolved"

Texas Representative Joe Driver illegally pocketed state travel money, pleaded guilty to felony abuse-of-office charges Tuesday and agreed to five years' probation.

“Basically, my family and I are thankful that this has been resolved,” Driver said. And just in time for Thanksgiving. This year, add to list: I'm thankful that the system slaps the wrists of white collar criminals who blatantly steal from the community that employs them as public servants.

The Texas Tribune reports that Driver admitted to the double-billing in an interview but said he thought the practice was appropriate — until a reporter asked him about it.

“Well, it doesn’t sound like it is now, if you bring it up that way,” Driver said. Damn lamestream press, always killing a Republican buzz!

Driver announced that he had reimbursed his campaign about $50,000 after the details of his billing practices were revealed publicly. Prosecutors said Tuesday that Driver would repay about $14,000 more, bringing the total amount repaid to $63,748.36. Driver will also pay a $5,000 fine and undergo any treatment or counseling recommended by the probation department.
No amount of therapy can cure such a serious case of douchebaggery. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Texas Puts Away Hot-Dog Thief For Life, Streets Safe Once Again

A man who tried to use a counterfeit $20 bill to pay for hot dogs, popcorn, and soda at a movie at a Fort Worth movie theater will pay for it with his life - his sentence is for 80 years.

Tarrant County District Attorney's office offered this press release:
FORT WORTH -- A career thief who tried to pay for a movie theater hotdog with a fake $20 bill was sentenced on Friday to 80 years in prison. On Wednesday, jurors in state district Judge Everett Young's court deliberated about three hours in convicting Charles Cleveland Nowden, 48, of forgery for passing the counterfeit money.
During the trial, prosecutors Dawn Ferguson and Lisa Callaghan presented evidence that on Nov. 6, 2009, Nowden tried to pay for two hot dogs, two cokes and a tub of popcorn with a $20 counterfeit bill at a Mansfield movie theater. Later, after Nowden was arrested, a police officer found $120 in additional counterfeit bills tucked inside the hot dog wrapper.
During the punishment phase of his trial, prosecutors presented evidence on two of Nowden's pending theft charges in Tarrant County and on another theft charge in Lamar County. In 2008, Nowden was arrested when he was found in possession of stolen allterrain vehicles. In 2010, Nowden was linked through DNA to a stolen 18-wheeler truck. And in 2011, he was caught stealing lawnmowers from a lot that sells farm equipment in Paris, Texas. The jury also heard that Nowden had previous federal convictions for bank fraud, possessing counterfeit cigarettes, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.The jury was able to consider those extraneous offenses and other bad acts in determining his punishment.
He must serve at least 15 years before he is eligible for parole.
Wow, Texas, you've really outdone yourself this time. Do the crime, do the time, sure. But 80 years? I suppose he should be thankful he didn't get the chair. This is Texas, after all. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

South Houston Sewer System Hacked Just To Prove How Easily It's Done

A hacker identified only as "pr0f" hacked into and posted diagrams of the South Houston Sewer System to show how easy it is to access the online infrastructure diagrams. The hacker posted that he had read about a similar incident that recently occurred in Springfield, Ill., which reportedly caused the control system to power on and off, burning out a water pump, and wanted to see if he could do it elsewhere.

The hacker of the South Houston system said he had no intention of harming the plant, but just wanted to prove a point. Authorities are stupidly blowing it off as no big deal.

"The plant runs automatically anyway," said Soto, who said he found out Friday about the hacking. "We just disconnected the SCADA system. That takes us off being online, where someone could change some of the operations on their own." Department of Homeland Security spokesman Peter Boogaard stated "DHS and the FBI are gathering facts surrounding the report of a water pump failure in Springfield, Ill. At this time there is no credible, corroborated data that indicates a risk to critical infrastructure entities or a threat to public safety." DUMB. DUMB DUMB DUMB. The hacker recognizes the magnitude of denial.

"Insanely stupid," pr0f wrote on "I dislike, immensely, how the DHS tend to downplay how absolutely F*****D the state of national infrastructure is. I wouldn't even call this a hack. ... This required almost no skill and could be reproduced by a 2-year-old with a basic knowledge of Simatic."

WHY WHY WHY? The powers in charge want o muzzle the internet in terms of online piracy and peer sharing, recognizing the force of people determined to get information that they want. Yet they refuse to safeguard the very sites that they run, deeming their security adequate or their information invaluable. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Texas Teachers Report "Stressful, Taxing" School Year

The Texas American Federation of Teachers released the results of a web survey about the worrisome deteriorating conditions of school and the working environment.  They report extensive teacher layoffs, increasing class sizes and deteriorating work environments.

3,549 responded to the web survey, about 82 percent of whom identified as educators.

· 92% said their district had eliminated positions — most reported between 10 to 50.
· 85% said the positions eliminated included teachers
· 79% reported cuts to student programs including pre-K, special education, electives, and athletics.
· Tutoring was the program respondents most frequently reported as cut
· 87% said that class sizes had increased at both the elementary and secondary level. 
The survey also asked respondents about their schools' climate for students, teachers, and staff — and how that compared to the year before. Eighty-one percent said it was "worse" or "much worse," and 72 percent described it as "stressful and taxing."

Monday, November 14, 2011

PETA Asks Turkey, Texas To Change Name To 'Tofurkey'; Texans Laugh and Laugh and Laugh

PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, pulls another WTF move by asking the city of Turkey, Texas to reconsider it's name. PETA, don't you have like, actual things you could be doing to help animals? And why should one poor town lead the anti-fun crusade against Thanksgiving? The mayor's office of Turkey had no comment, followed by a giant meat sandwich.

Here's the letter from PETA:

Dear Mayor Carson, 
I am writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and our more than 3 million members and supporters, including thousands in Texas, with an idea that will boost Turkey into the spotlight and promote compassion: Rename your town "Tofurky" for Thanksgiving. If you agree to adopt this moniker for just one day, we'd be happy to provide a delicious, healthy vegan holiday feast for all the town's residents. 
Tofurky is a savory, flavorful, "meaty" vegan entrée with wild-rice and bread-crumb stuffing that is 100 percent cruelty-free. In contrast, virtually all turkey meat sold in the U.S. comes from factory farms, where birds are confined by the thousands to filthy, barren sheds. They are drugged and bred to grow such unnaturally large upper bodies that their legs often become crippled under the weight. These bright and social animals are denied everything that is natural and important to them, and at the slaughterhouse, turkeys are still conscious when their throats are slit. Changing the town's name to Tofurky will remind people around the country that we each can have a delicious, protein-packed, and satisfying Thanksgiving meal without supporting animal abuse. 
PETA's feast would feature Tofurky with mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes (made with vegan margarine), and vegan apple pie topped with vanilla dairy-free ice cream. Introducing vegan cuisine to your residents would help improve their health: A vegan diet is free of the saturated animal fats and cholesterol found in meat and dairy products, and according to the American Dietetic Association, a vegan diet reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. 
Thanksgiving is the perfect time to rename your town and give turkeys, as well as your town's citizens, something to gobble about! Please let me know of your decision. 
Sincerely yours, 
Tracy Reiman
Executive Vice President

Friday, November 11, 2011

Watch Rick Perry's Campaign Crumble

Rick Perry can't even remember which government agencies he would shut down. That guy, what a joker!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Move Over Whole Foods: Texas Finally Gets Trader Joes

Now, this may not seem post worthy to all y'all outside of Texas, but Austin-based Whole Foods has had a stranglehold on a Texan's grocery store options. I love overpriced, ridiculously fancy groceries as much as the next person, but I also love produce wrapped in plastic and microwavable everything.

The new Houston store is expected to open in spring of 2012, company spokeswoman Alison Mochizuki said, at the same time Trader Joe’s will open another Texas store in Fort Worth.

As soon as we get some In-N-Out Burgers, we'll finally be half as cool as California.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Will African-American Texans Vote Republican? Probably Not Based On These Billboards.

Four new billboards have hit East Austin, as well as South Carolina and Ohio, reading slogans such as "G.O.P. is the new black" and "Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Republican". Ooooohhhh boy.

Austin resident Amy Hayes questioned the billboard featuring Dr. King.

"I think a Republican back in 1968 was a little different than being a Republican now," said Hayes. "It's just a different party now." 

Austin NAACP President Nelson Linder calls the sign featuring Dr. King disrespectful. "Martin Luther King was about civil rights and social justice," said Linder. "That's not the current Republican party."

What even is the Republican agenda anymore? It has become a complete mindfuck, a ridiculous, oxymoronic, hypocritical, nonsensical, fear-mongering freak show of greed and hysterics. A party that stands on a platform of limited government rule, except when it comes to immigration, defense, women's health, and drug policies.

Linder says it will take more than billboards to change African-Americans' opinions about the G.O.P. "Unemployment, health care, police brutality -- those are our issues," said Linder. "Address those issues, regardless of party, and we'll vote for you."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rick Perry Still Contends That Obama's Birth Certificate May Be Fake

Keep at it, Rick. Whatever keeps you out of the Oval Office.

Today, and for the third time, Perry readdressed the (incredibly wrong) idea that President Obama might not be American-born.

From the Huffington Post:
When asked if he believed the president was born in the United States, he said, "I have no reason to think otherwise." Asked why he didn't give a definitive answer, Perry replied, "Well, I don't have a definitive answer, because he's never seen my birth certificate."
Perry said in the CNBC interview, "I'm really not worried about the president's birth certificate. It's fun to poke at him a little bit and say, how 'bout let's see your grades and your birth certificate." Perry's own transcript from Texas A&M University, obtained by The Huffington Post, shows that he seldom earned anything above a C and includes a D in Shakespeare and a C in gym.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Willie Nelson Occupies

The greatest Texan of all time "stands with humanity."

Willie and his wife "don't mind paying our share."

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Texas Takes On Teen Pregnancy...Again

Kudos to State Representative Valinda Bolton, who spoke at the 2nd Annual Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy Conference at the capitol on Thursday. Representative Bolton is the new Executive Director for the Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, and qualified at that: She has been working as a non-profit consultant her whole professional career, and has been a widely known and well-respected domestic violence and family issues expert around the capitol. 

Texas has the third highest teen birth rate in the nation, and the second highest rate of repeat teen pregnancy. Current policy still dictates that abstinence-only sex education is taught in high schools across the state, despite Texan teens desperate pleas for a more comprehensive (realistic) sex ed.

Teen pregnancy is a public health crisis, costing Texas taxpayers more than $1.24 billion a year in public healthcare and child welfare expense. Beyond monetary costs, it keeps young adults ignorant to the facts about sexual health and is inherently shameful of a sex-positive lifestyle. Education of any type fuels analytical discussion, discovery of identity, and critical thinking. Forcing outdated and unrealistic sexual and moral expectations on young adults curtails their ability to make important decisions in their own right and become adults.

The Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy believes "through the use of evidence-based, effective curricula and programs, as well as access to age appropriate preventative healthcare available to teens regardless of socioeconomic status, race, gender, or ethnicity, we can reduce the teen pregnancy rate in Texas." But that involves huge policy overhaul in the school systems, which requires the support of people. It's time for us to accept that teenagers may have sex, despite the propaganda - and our only recourse to protect them is through thoroughly educating them about both consequences and contraceptives. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Dust Bowl Returns To Texas

A 72 mph dust storm roiled through Lubbock, Texas today. The Associated Press reports that the 8,000 foot high dust cloud dropped visibility to between zero and less than a quarter of a mile. "It went from light to dark, just like that," Lubbock convenience store clerk Alma Williams told the AP. "I've never seen anything like it. It really scared me."

With forecasters predicting that the worst drought on record will last well into next Spring, this biproduct storm foreshadows (bam!) a look into what climate change has in store for Texas. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Four Mentally Disabled Texans Found Chained In Philadelphia Basement

I am so appalled by this that I am just going to quote the Houston Chronicle:
Three people have been charged following the discovery of four malnourished mentally disabled adults chained to a boiler in a locked northeast Philadelphia basement room that was too small for an adult to stand up straight and also reeked of waste from the buckets they used to relieve themselves, police said Sunday. The 29-year-old woman and the men, who are 31, 35, and 41, have the mental capacity of 10-year-olds, police said. They were taken to a hospital for treatment and listed in stable condition. Little said the victims, whose names were not released, appeared to have no physical problems other than malnourishment.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the four captives apparently came from Texas, lived for a year with at least one of the captors in West Palm Beach, Fla.; then arrived in Philadelphia around Oct. 4. Interviewing the victims has been difficult and it was not clear whether Texas was their home or just a stop on their odyssey as prisoners.
Charges of criminal conspiracy, aggravated assault, kidnapping, criminal trespass, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment and related offenses were filed Sunday against Linda Ann Weston, 51, and Thomas Gregory, 47, both of Philadelphia, as well as Eddie Wright, 49, officially listed as homeless but originally from Texas. Listed numbers for the defendants could not be found Sunday and it was unclear whether they had attorneys. Police are investigating the possibility that the suspects were trying to make money through access to the victims' Social Security or disability checks, police said. It wasn't clear how they know the victims.
This to me is just one microcosmic example of how low Americans will stoop in order to steal money. What a disgusting example of greed. From the bankers on Wallstreet to the homeless from Texas and Philadelphia, I am appalled by how the desperate need for money has made taking advantage of less fortunate people the status quo.  

The exterior of the apartment building on Longshore Avenue where police found four adults being held chained. via The Philadelphia Inquirer

Friday, October 14, 2011

Summer's End

Well, not really. But it looks to be the last 90 degree day for awhile, so we're saying goodbye to the swimming holes today.
Hamilton Pool, here we come.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Texas A&M, Rick Perry's Alma Mater, Filled With Mean-Spirited Conservatives

Though I'm sure many students at Texas A&M are bright, promising, kind people, they need to admonish their inherently privileged classmates who are at school to learn analytical thinking but are completely mising the point.

Texas Aggie Conservatives, a student organization at Texas A&M University, has started a petition requesting that the governor immediately call a special legislative session to end in-state tuition rates for illegal immigrants attending Texas' public colleges and universities and criticizes Perry for allowing taxpayer dollars to support illegal immigrants.

“It is outrageous that Texas A&M, because of Gov. Perry, is awarding those who violated the law with in-state tuition and financial aid,” said Steven Schroeder, chairman of the Texas Aggie Conservatives. “The Texas government, especially in these troubling economic times, should not be subsidizing the higher education of adults who cannot legally work in the United States."

Conservatives still don't get it. If you are six years old and brought by your parents here from Mexico, put into public school because it's free (and decent), learned the language because you were submersed in it, and adhered to the laws henceforth, you are not an willful illegal immigrant who broke any rules. You are a victim of your parents choices, and Mexico is no longer home. Child-illlegals grow up unwillingly as Americans and had no decision in law-breaking matters. Why would we punish them? Send them back to a country they've never known, a language that might not be their first? These are kids we are talking about. 18 year olds - did they just jump over the border on their 18th birthday, quickly fill out a college application and start school? They've been here for years, and their legal issues are actually their parents. Why do conservatives continue to punish people who struggle to make life easier or better? Isn't that the elitist notion of all? Is it simply impossible to empathize with someone whose opportunities are so lacking that they have to break international law in order to make life just a little bit better?

Texas Aggie Conservatives, do yourself a favor: GO READ A BOOK.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Return of the Rains

Good job Rick Perry: the praying paid off. It's finally rained in Texas after 3 and half months of sunshine. I had to see it to believe it, but not that its here, I feel okay about reporting the forecast: more rain.

Several South Central Texas counties, including Travis, Hays and Bastrop are set to see scattered to numerous showers and strong thunderstorms that are expected to produce one to two inches in the Austin area. The strongest thunderstorms are anticipated in the Rio Grande Plains, where wind gusts could reach 40-50 miles per hour.

Stormy weather is supposed to continue through Monday, with the chance of rain increasing to 60 percent on Sunday.

If you're reading this from somewhere other than Texas, you may be curious as to why I'm treating it like such an event. When you watch the Earth around you burn and die a slow, painful death while the leader of the state denies that anything is wrong with the climate, rainfall feels like hope, or at least a chance.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Rick Perry Has Money, Duh

Full fundraising reports are not due to the Federal Election Commission until Oct. 15, but Rick Perry has reportedly raised over $17 million in his quest to beat Obama next year. Why not use some of that to put out the new fires in Bastrop?

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, reportedly raised between $11 million and $13 million in the third quarter after raising about $18 million in the second quarter.

Jeez, even the pizza candidate sounds better than these knuckleheads (UPDATE: NO. No that's not true.).

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Rick Perry Is Blantantly Racist

According to The Washington Post, Rick Perry used to take friends, colleagues, lawmakers, and supporters to go hunting in his family's camp. The name, painted in block letters across a large, flat rock standing upright at the entrance reads, “Niggerhead”.

That's right. "Niggerhead".

Writes The Washington Post,
Over the years, civil rights groups and government agencies have had some success changing those and other racially offensive names that dotted the nation’s maps. But the name of this particular parcel did not change for years after it became associated with Rick Perry, first as a private citizen, then as a state official and finally as Texas governor. Some locals still call it that. As recently as this summer, the slablike rock — lying flat, the name still faintly visible beneath a coat of white paint — remained by the gated entrance to the camp. When asked last week, Perry said the word on the rock is an “offensive name that has no place in the modern world.”
Except on his personal land.

"My mother and father went to the lease and painted the rock in either 1983 or 1984," Perry said. "This occurred after I paid a visit to the property with a friend and saw the rock with the offensive word. After my visit I called my folks and mentioned it to them, and they painted it over during their next visit. Ever since, any time I ever saw the rock it was painted over."
Perry's version of events differs in many respects from the recollections of seven people, interviewed by The Washington Post, who spoke in detail of their memories of seeing the rock with the name at various points during the years that Perry was associated with the property through his father, partners or his signature on a lease.

Of those interviewed, the seven who said they saw the rock said the block-lettered name was clearly visible at different points in the 1980s and 1990s. One, a former worker on the ranch, believes he saw it as recently as 2008.
So Perry isn't bothered the fact that he and his family used to use the word and may in fact still. And just think America: there are people in this country who want to elect this man directly after our first black President. Knock ourselves half a century back in time.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Ironically, Austin Switches to All-Green Energy While Rick Perry Keeps Denying Climate Change

According to the Austin American-Statesmen, Austin became the nation's first major green-energy-only municipal operation today. Going "all green" will cost $8.5 million this year but is a key first step in the city's Climate Protection Plan. The initiative, which won former Mayor Will Wynn national acclaim when the City Council adopted it in 2007, is intended to cut Austin's contribution to global climate change by reducing the community's greenhouse-gas emissions over the next 50 years. Switching to renewable energy was seen as a way for the 12,000-employee city government to demonstrate leadership to the rest of the community.

"I agree with the scientific community; global warming is a reality, and we will continue to lead American cities by maintaining our community vision" for carbon reduction, Mayor Lee Leffingwell said in a statement. "I am hopeful that other cities will be inspired to follow suit, now that our vision has become a reality."

Meanwhile, tonight at a town hall-style debate in New Hampshire, Rick Perry said, “[Global Warming is] frankly not proven...the climate has been changing for thousands of years, and for us to take a snapshot in time and say, ‘The climate change that is going on is man’s fault, and we need to jeopardize America’s economy [to fix it.]’ I’m a skeptic about that."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Piranhas in Texas?

A pre-teen girl hooked a piranha in Tom Bass Park, Texas this summer. With a hot dog.

A photo of the piranha caught in Harris County. Photo courtesy of Texas Park and Wildlife Department. Photo: Texas Park And Wildlife Department. / HC 

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department fisheries staff identified, confirmed, and verified that the hot dog loving fish with teeth is in fact a red-bellied piranha.

Over the past few years, we've seen more and more of them being brought in," Robert Goodrich, assistant chief for fisheries law enforcement for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, said of prohibited exotic aquatic species. "The Internet has made it a whole lot easier for people to get them" - piranhas, freshwater stingrays, snakeheads and other dangerous and potentially dangerous or ecosystem-damaging fish.

According the Houston Chronicle, piranhas, evolved to live in consistently warm water, can't survive when water temperature drops below about 50 degrees. But research presented by the American Fisheries Society indicates piranhas "might" be able to "overwinter" in waters in parts of the Deep South, including the southern third of Texas. The research indicates piranhas "could" live in winter in deep South Texas and most of Florida.

Like we don't have enough problems. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

What Price Will Texas Pay For So Many Uninsured?

According to this scary report, the overall health care quality for Texas is poorer than in every other state, especially when it comes to preventive, acute, and chronic care, as well as care for diabetes, heart, and respiratory diseases, according to the 2010 report of the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. YIKES.
"Texas has the highest rate of uninsured people in the country - 24.6 percent - and the number of uninsured that has grown by 35 percent during Governor Rick Perry’s 11-year tenure. The burden of the Texas health care crisis falls largely on the working poor. Most of the state’s uninsured adults have jobs and are US citizens or legal residents, according to the nonpartisan Center for Public Policy Priorities. Working adults account for nearly two out of three uninsured Texans between ages 19 and 64, though most of them make less than $25,000 a year."
Ehh, but don't worry about the poors. They should just get a third job, amirite? Oh, and it doesn't matter if Governor Perry wins the White House or not. Things are gonna get worse for Texas no matter what.
"In the last legislative session that ended in May, the state cut two thirds of the funding for women’s health clinics and underfunded Medicaid by almost $4 billion, in addition to cutting hospital reimbursements. This follows other health cuts in the Perry years. Texas stands to benefit more than any other state under the federal health overhaul that President Obama signed into law last year."
But every other state is screwed if Perry sits on the throne. The Governor vows to repeal Obamacare if he becomes the commander-in-chief, so someday you all can enjoy ER trips for "vaccine-preventable diseases such as influenza and hepatitis A, uncontrolled asthma, diabetes, or untreated infections of the ear, sinus, or tooth spreading to the brain, requiring surgery, and bone infections that result in permanent disability."

You're so silly, tooth infection-gone-awry patient! Why, you should have elected to have health insurance. Don't be so dependent on the government for everything! Use your freedom! Freedom starting as low as $400 a month!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

One Last Middle Finger For Death Row Inmates

Texas is abolishing the "special last meal" for prisoners about to be executed.

"Enough is enough," state Senator John Whitmire wrote in a letter on Thursday to prison officials, prompting the move. "It is extremely inappropriate to give a person sentenced to death such a privilege. It's a privilege which the perpetrator did not provide to their victim."

Unless, of course, you're wrongly convicted. That never happens.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Bad News For Perry (and Texans): Texas Unemployment Rises

The Texas unemployment rate reached 8.5 percent in August - an increase from 8.4 percent in July.
The Texas unemployment rate ranks 27th, tied with Colorado. Why does everyone in the nation think that Texas is doing so great? Ah, yes. The mighty prophet spews his rhetoric.

The Texas Workforce Commission says the state lost 1,300 jobs in August. Texas gained 8,100 private-sector jobs, but those jobs were negated by job losses in the public sector. For the year, Texas has added 272,000 jobs in the private sector but lost 19,000 government jobs. Last month, Texas lost 11,500 jobs in local government, for a net loss of 9,400 government jobs. I can't imagine why so many government jobs are being cut. Who's in charge of this ship again?

Saturday, September 17, 2011


As a high-pressure system broke down and moved south this week, a “cool” front moved into the Hill Country, west of Austin yesterday, and stalled out, drawing Gulf air and moisture to the region, said Chris Morris, meteorologist for the National Weather Service.
That’s pulled us away from the extreme triple-digit highs that have largely dominated the last four months and toward highs in the lower 90s, the service said. Lows will be in the low 70s, the service said.
A "cool" front. HILARIOUS. Low 90 degree temperatures actually feel freezing, compared to the summer we've had. 
This is also the second day we've had light showers and thunder, though we've only seen less than an inch of rain. Everything looks different, however, with the shimmery sheen of water coating it. It's been too long. 
20% chances of rain again tomorrow. Please, more!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Texas Still Burning

Airshp and Lindsay Braun of The Butler Bros have designed awesome t-shirts that are raising money for Central Texas Wildfire relief efforts. 100% of the net proceeds benefit those affected by the tragic wildfires in central Texas.

Here is the current situation according to the Texas Forest Service:

· Yesterday Texas Forest Service responded to 35 new fires for 9,752 acres including new large fires in Harris and Trinity counties.
· In the past seven days, Texas Forest Service has responded to 149 fires for 17,334 acres.
· The Leigh Community (#262) Fire in Harrison County was contained Wednesday at 518 acres.
· Assessment crews continue to survey the damage of numerous fires that occurred across Central and East Texas during the past week. It is currently estimated that 1,939 homes have been destroyed since Labor Day weekend.

Buy a T-shirt, help a family.
 ...and just as charred.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Texas Christian University Students Not Acting Very Christian

Three sexual-assaults have been reported in 9 days at Texas Christian University (and the semester just started!).

From the Star Telegram:
On Aug. 18, campus police received a report that a female student was sexually assaulted in a residence hall by someone she knew. Campus police received another report Aug. 22 of an attempted sexual assault, also by an acquaintance, that apparently occurred in a residence hall. On Aug. 26, Fort Worth police notified TCU police of a sexual assault several blocks south of the campus. The reported victim appeared to know the attacker in that case, too.

The period from the start of the semester through Thanksgiving break is sometimes called the "red zone," explained Melissa Lucchesi, outreach education coordinator for Security On Campus Inc. That time often has a higher incidence of crimes, she said. "It's the first time students are away from home," said Lucchesi, adding that students are living in a new setting and socializing. Sometimes, they experiment with alcohol or drugs.

 "I am a concerned parent," the mother of a TCU student wrote to the Star-Telegram. She asked not to be identified. "My concerns are that the school is out of control. There is too much on campus drinking and partying."
Excuse, me who are these Christian students and parents who think that being away from home and experimenting with drugs or alcohol is license to rape? Maybe it's the extensive sexual-crimes history at the school?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Texas Is Burning

See how fast wildfires spread: This is Bastrop State Park in the Lost Pines areas near Austin, home to the endangered Houston Toad. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Gov. Perry Responsible For Cutting State Funding For Volunteer Fire Departments

Anybody hear about the series of wildfires blazing across the state of Texas? Under Governor Perry this year, Texas slashed state funding for the volunteer fire departments that protect most of the state from wildfires like the ones that have recently destroyed more than 700 homes. And while Texas just broke an 86-year-old record for most days above 100 degrees with the worst single-year drought on record, that same Governor -- Presidential contender -- still denies climate change!

Flames roar near Bastrop State Park as a wildfire burns out of control near Bastrop, Texas, September 5, 2011. An estimated 1,000 homes are being threatened in Bastrop County, just east of Austin, as a 5700-hectare wildfire rages out of control, causing evacuations. Photography by: Mike Stone, REUTERS

Volunteer departments that were already facing financial strain were slated to have their funding cut from $30 million to $7 million, according to KVUE.

RawStory reports:
The majority of Texas is protected by volunteer fire departments. There are 879 volunteer fire departments in Texas and only 114 paid fire departments. Another 187 departments are a combination of volunteer and paid. For that reason, aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) could be more important than ever to the state where wildfires have recently been raging. At a press conference Monday, Perry promised to seek federal disaster relief and said that FEMA would be in the state by Wednesday.

While the Texas governor has been highly critical of FEMA in the past, he told CBS’ Erica Hill Tuesday that now was not the time to worry about reforming the agency.
Perry has harshly criticized the federal government in the past, and surely will the bashing while simultaneously expecting it to save the people he is responsible for putting in peril. His hypocrisy and poor management of resources continue to be flagrant. I can't believe people like this guy.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Texas Reminds You How It Loves Freedom With 673 New Laws That Take Effect Today

Literally hundreds of laws took effect today in Texas, while the most controversial, the law requiring women to receive a fetal sonogram and hear about its results at least 24 hours before an abortion, has been kiboshed by a federal judge. There is a preliminary injunction striking down portions of the law requiring doctors to share and discuss the sonogram with the pregnant woman. Thank you courts!

NPR reports: U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks said in his ruling that requiring a doctor to show women images from the sonogram and the sounds of the fetal heartbeat violates the First Amendment rights of doctors. The ruling also struck down a requirement that allows women to avoid seeing the sonogram images only if they sign a statement that they are pregnant because of sexual assault or incest. The state cannot compel a woman to disclose such private information that she may not even wish to tell police, Sparks ruled. Sparks ruled such disclosure is an attempt by the state to "permanently brand women who choose to get an abortion."

That's what I call justice!

From the Austin Ameican-Statesman, here are the laws most likely to actually affect Texans (editor's notes are mine):

• Newborn hearing screenings: Newborns in small Texas counties often cannot receive hearing tests, which have been offered in larger counties. Senate Bill 229 allows babies born in smaller communities to be screened.
• Spanking: House Bill 359, better known as the spanking bill, lets parents opt their children out of corporal punishment in public schools that allow the practice. Otherwise, spanking is OK. (The major school districts in Central Texas don't allow spanking.) [Editor's note: ONLY THE MAJOR ONES?!!]
• Summer nutrition: SB 89 requires school districts in which at least half the students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches to provide a summer nutrition program. [Editor's note: There is no such thing as a free lunch.]
• Teen violence: HB 2496 creates a 12-week teen-dating violence prevention program in the courts to educate teens and provide counseling and referrals. If offenders complete the program, they could have their criminal cases dismissed.
• Football helmets: Aimed at preventing concussions, HB 675 requires school districts to replace helmets that are 16 years old or older and to recondition, every two years, helmets that are 10 years old. [Editor's note: when common sense becomes law. Sigh.]
• Internet dating: Requires online dating services to disclose whether criminal history background screenings have been performed on their members. SB 488 also requires online dating services to publish a list and description of their safety measures.
• Cancer drugs: HB 438 requires health insurers to provide coverage for oral medications that fight cancer at the same coverage level as intravenous chemotherapy drugs. [Editor's note: Fuck cancer.]
• Elder care: HB 2903 expands the state-supported Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, which provides health care and assisted-living services for senior citizens who want to live independently rather than in nursing homes. [Editor's note: All the seniors, who independent, throw your all-inclusive care up at me.]
• Funerals: HB 718 addresses protests at funerals, which have been targeted in recent years by anti-war protesters. The new law prohibits demonstrations during funerals and three hours before and three hours after the service. Under previous law, demonstrations were banned one hour before and after a service. [Editor's note: While I am morally aligned with this law, I wonder how this infringes on First Amendment Rights.]
• Body parts: SB 187 requires more stringent chain-of-custody documentation for the transportation of bodies and body parts. The law was prompted by a 2007 incident in which a truck full of embalmed human heads used for medical training was found on a Texas highway without documentation. [Editor's note: ew.]

Monday, August 29, 2011

Texans More Likely To Marry, Divorce, Remarry, Pressure Each Other To Do The Same

It turns out that Texans (and Southerners) are more likely to marry, and to divorce, in Texas and across the South than in other parts of the country, according to new census data released today. Second marriages last longer in Texas and the South, partly because people remarry more quickly than elsewhere. This is very interesting to note in a region and state that are constantly "defending" marriage.

These recent statistics come from the 2009 American Community Survey, which attempt to offer more detail about marriage, divorce and widowhood. The report complements the detailed data being released from the 2010 Census, which offers a window onto modern family life. Here are some of the highlights:

  • The median age of first marriage has risen sharply nationwide, up to 28.4 for men and 26.5 for women in 2009, compared with 22.5 and 20.6 respectively in 1970.
  • People in the Northeast wait longer to marry and, after a divorce, are less likely to remarry.
  • Those in the South, which includes Texas, marry at a younger age and remarry more quickly.
  • Higher marriage rates are inextricably linked to higher divorce rates.
  • People in the Northeast and on the West Coast are more likely to live together than those in the South and Midwest, so their break ups constitute a "non-statistic", without legal documentation to show for it.

As someone who was raised in the Northeast and began adulthood on the West Coast, I can assert that Texas is definitely the place I've felt the most societal pressure to marry my long-term partner. I have met many people in their 20s and 30s, regardless of political affiliation or social conservativeness who desire to marry, and imminently, even if they aren't in relationships (especially if they aren't in relationships). It's also a place where I've met a lot of people in the same age group have been divorced or are contemplating it, which surprises me - no kids or mid-life crises to drive spouses apart. That's not empirical evidence, but it's certainly interesting to see.