Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Feds Declare Texas "A Disaster", Have Been Waiting to Say That for Years

Texas is on fire, and not in an omigod-we're-going-to-the-championship-game way. Today, President Obama and U.S. Department of Agriculture designated the entire state a "natural disaster area" due to the extreme conditions. Many farmers have lost their entire crop because of drought and wildfires. This is bad news for everyone, unless you hate avocados, oranges, and pecans - Texas is second in the country in agricultural production. The Austin-American Statesman writes:
The state just endured its driest eight-month span ever— ending May 31 — and some parts have not seen significant precipitation since August, prompting drastic drops in lake and underground water levels. Burn bans are in place in 235 of the state's 254 counties and nearly 260 water suppliers, most around the San Antonio area, have either voluntary or mandatory restrictions on water use. May, typically the state's wettest month, did little to alleviate the problem, yielding less than half its average rainfall with an estimated 1.65 inches. The state is also enduring its worst wildfire season ever. More than 3 million acres have been scorched by the blazes that have not spared even the more humid East Texas region.

The combination of high temperatures, windy conditions and lack of rainfall is delivering a giant "Fffff YOU" to the entire state, and now it's threatening the neighbors.

The Agriculture Department designated 213 of Texas' counties directly affected by drought as disaster areas, and the remaining 41 also qualified for assistance because they are contiguous. Thirty-two counties in Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas and New Mexico also garnered the designation because they are adjacent to Texas counties.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a news release, "President Barack Obama and I want these farmers and ranchers to know that we will support them through the recovery process and help them once again become productive suppliers of food, fiber and fuel that keep America prospering. This designation will help provide that support."

Money helps the farmers, but there really isn't much that anyone can do about the land until we get some rain up in here. I'm hoping that pumping tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere helps, since we're already so good at that and adamant about continuing to do so. Guess we'll just have to heed the governor's advice to pray about it.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

DMV Votes on Confederate Flag License Plate Commemorating Violence, Racism, Terror, and Texans Who Fought in the Civil War

From The Houston Chronicle:

A local division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans is just one vote away from gaining approval of a Texas specialty license plate bearing its logo, which prominently features the Confederate flag. The Texas Department of Motor Vehicle license board voted on the group's request in April, but it was a tie vote. One of the nine members was absent, so the board decided to reconsider the request at its next meeting June 9.The meeting, however, didn't take place because a board member from Houston died June 3.

Now, the Sons of Confederate Veterans must wait until Gov. Rick Perry appoints a new board member, and that might not happen until fall, said DMV spokeswoman Kim Sue Lia Perkes.

Why do people keep trying to bring back the Confederate Flag? Why should we honor our relatives who had shitty ideas? Do you suppose that there are grandsons of Nazi's who claim that their ancestors need a commemorative license plate, but can't understand why people could be offended? The Sons of Confederate Veterans is a nonprofit that "preserves and honors the history and legacy of Confederate soldiers. Formed in 1896, it is the oldest hereditary organization for male descendants of Confederate soldiers", according to its website. They argue that the flag is a "symbol of heritage." Why are you so proud of a heritage that stood to uphold racist ideas, enslave half the population, and ultimately, LOSE?

"We don't know how to answer when someone is offended," said Ray James, the immediate past commander of the Texas division of SCV. "It's really frustrating. The flag has been tarred with a brush of racism. We're trying our best to honor Confederate soldiers. This knee-jerk reaction against all things Confederate is not right. They think because the flag was misused in the past that we don't have a right to display it today, and it's not right."

It is not that you don't have a right to display it, just as you have the right to be a completely insensitive idiot. It is that the Department of Motor Vehicles, an extension of the state and federal government, should know better than to validate a racist symbol and honor a war based on the idea of succession from such governmental bodies (which fund DMVs) as to establish, by law, a caste society based on the idea that one skin color is inferior to another. Truly, one can't imagine why the reaction is so knee-jerk.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Fire Inside

Explanation from the July print edition of Buzz Texas magazine:

"Burning House, a site-specific artwork/installation by SFA alums Clint Alexander and Emily Sloan Alexander, is located on the east side of Hwy. 59 about 40 miles south of Lufkin, between Seven Oaks and Legget. It is a permanent installation. The pair of artists added flames, amde of canva wrapped around fencing and then painted, to the 19th century shotgun house to create 'contemporary folk art, examining the socio-economic beginnings of East Texas and creating a new life of such relics through the creation brought through pseudo-destruction. It is also a form of activism, bringing art into under-represented areas,' Sloan Alexander said."

Friday, June 17, 2011

Filmmaker's Airport Hijinks Get High-Fives from Airport Administration

Two California filmmakers got stuck at an airport overnight and decided to make a movie about the way they spent their time stranded - playfully marauding through the terminal. Joe Ayala and Larry Chen filmed themselves causing harmless mischief late night in a deserted Dallas/Fort Worth airport.

The first remarkable thing about the film is how well-shot it is. Ayala and Chen, both automotive photographers, were flying back from a shoot and had about $30,000 worth of camera equipment between them. The fluorescent lighting combined with vast space of an airport make for an interesting set. It's hilarious to watch them entertain themselves and obvious that they have free reign of the terminal - they throw spitballs in the bathroom, race wheelchairs through the halls, even use the PA system. Their escalator routine is physical comedy gold, and their easy access to booze is jaw-droppingly shocking (mostly in wistful jealousy - you can do that!?).

But after viewing, the film is infuriating. Not at the filmmakers, but at the airport. Considering what a person goes through to a terminal, the uncomfortable-at-best process of lock-down, level "Orange" security measures (whatever that means, anyway). Babies who are patted down. Whole body-image scannings. I expect that an airport is a fucking fortress after I get through that puff machine. DFW is completely deserted throughout what appears to be the entire night (Chen said they were shooting non-stop from 1:00-4:30 a.m.). The only other person seen on film is a maintenance man. David Magaña, the airport spokesman, noted that security agents did observe the filmmakers at the airport, but “because the filmmakers were presenting no threat to themselves, to others or to flight safety, and were causing no damage, there was no imperative to curtail their activities.” BOYS WILL BE BOYS, AMIRITE?

While the airport manager tried to downplay the harm, DFW airport board member Betty Culbreath pointed out that despite the lightness of the mischief, the film sends the wrong message. “It’s not funny. It’s not going to happen again as far as I’m concerned. It should not have happened because it gives the perception the airport is sitting out there unguarded and that’s why I was concerned, and am still concerned.” Magaña, unconcerned that you have given up your right not to get felt up every time you fly in exchange for such security, seems unconcerned of these implications. He goes on to point out that the filmmakers have done the airport a favor by mentioning that the airport is now better securing the restaurant after hours. SUCCESS! Because Ruby Tuesdays is what you were hoping would be more secure after seeing that film. Magaña also continues to uphold the airlines worst-business-model-in-the-world standards by "pointing out in a creative way a lot of times travel plans are altered and you gotta make the best of it. These guys did that.” Yeah, quit complaining about your cancelled flight. Get creative, you whiners!

For now, their hijinx are being accepted as clever pranks - Magaña said they "had received few complaints because the men cleaned up after their stunts, picked up their spit balls in the bathroom and returned the wheelchairs. Chen even washed and returned his beer glass." The airport has not decided whether or not to press charges, but it sounds unlikely since the CEO of DFW "really liked [the film]". It's a big win for the guys. Their shitty night stuck grounded in DFW turned out to be not completely insufferable, unlike most time spent in an airport, and the stunt will certainly be great for their careers. But for me, it's infuriating to have to rely on hackers like Lulzsec or filmmakers like Chen and Ayala to point out the inherent flaws in the security of businesses who demand our private information or loss of civil liberties in exchange for their services.

Originally posted by Rachael on TheYayorNay.com

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Rick Perry A Prophet?

Rick Perry told FOX News this afternoon that the reason that he is so unpopular with Texans is “The prophet is generally not loved in their hometown.”

Texans aren't particularly taken with Perry, but it's certainly not because of his proclaimed propheticality. Perhaps it's Texas' record deficit. Or his refusal to spend the Rainy Day Fund at the expense of public education and state social services. Or that he asked us to pray for rain. Or that of all 50 states, Texas has the highest proportion of uninsured people, the third highest poverty rates, and ranks near the bottom in education achievement. Maybe it's the assbaggery of comparing yourself to a prophet.

So now he's considering a run for the White House. Isn't Rick Perry supposed to hate the federal government?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Ridiculously Raucous Republic of Texas Rally Rolls Down Riverside

The annual Republic of Texas (ROT) Biker Rally is the the fourth largest motorcycle rally of any kind in the U.S and takes place the second Thursday in June in downtown Austin. Tonight, an expected 50,000 riders rev up and cruise down Congress Avenue while 200,000 spectators revel on a closed off 54 square blocks of the downtown area for what is considered the largest biker party in a downtown area of a large city. Headlining shows include Eddie Money and The Doobie Brothers.

Via Motorcycle Bike Week: The ROT Rally expects more than 50,000 participants in 2011, and will draw over 200,000 spectators to the downtown streets of Austin during the Friday Night of ROT. The attractions out at the Travis County Expo Center include a ride in bike show, custom bike builders, The World Famous Wall of Death, Comedians, national named bands, The Paradise Bar, a tattoo expo, contests for the ladies, stunt riders, 350 vendors and distributors, the ROT Rally Friday night parade and more. The Guinness Book of World Records certified the ROT Parade as the "Longest Parade of Motorcycles."

Be careful out there tonight, because Eddie Money has moves and more.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Texas Sky Only Rains Sadness, Never Water

In more Texas-is-burning-news, all of Travis County's Fourth of July displays, including downtown Austin, are being cancelled due to the the "exceptional" drought and the wildfire warning plaguing most of the state. The Fire Marshall said the ongoing drought and winds have made conditions too dry to allow fireworks. The next big desicion to be made is whether to ban firework sales in the county. DON'T YOU TREAD ON ME ON THE MOST IMPORTANT DAY OF THE YEAR, GUVRNM'NT!

It will be interesting to see how many people oblige the Fire Marshall on the most patriotic of holidays in favor of not burning their neighborhood down. Personally, I'll be sitting on my porch with a hose and a Lone Star. You'll never take away my right to shoot up explosives into the air in honor of a country I'm constantly threatening to secede.

Related: Texas Now Actually Hell
Governor Rick Perry Wants Texans To Throw Money At Strippers, Er, Make It Rain

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

So Many Cowboys, So Little Rope

National Geographic Archives
Cowgirls at the Rodeo, South Worth, Texas

Captain Obvious Now A Meteorologist

It's hot in Texas in June.

Via the Austin-American Statesman: Forecasters say it appears the region is in for another sweltering summer, similar to 2009, when Central Texas had 68 days of 100-degree weather. Already the mercury has reached triple digits five times this year, including a record 103 yesterday at the airport and at Camp Mabry. There isn’t much change in the forecast this week, with highs in the upper 90s and sunny skies.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

"Oil Money Just Makes Life Easier" Understatement of the Year

The New York Times reports that about in the next 12 months, over a dozen companies plan to drill up to 3,000 wells in about 20 new onshore oil fields between Carrizo Springs and Catarina in South Texas. Advocates/ men with billions of dollars say the drilling could "increase the nation’s oil output by 25 percent within a decade." There is only one catch.

The oil from the Eagle Ford and similar fields of tightly packed rock can be extracted only by using hydraulic fracturing, a method that uses a high-pressure mix of water, sand and hazardous chemicals to blast through the rocks to release the oil inside. The technique, also called fracking, has been widely used in the last decade to unlock vast new fields of natural gas, but drillers only recently figured out how to release large quantities of oil, which flows less easily through rock than gas. As evidence mounts that fracking poses risks to water supplies, the federal government and regulators in various states are considering tighter regulations on it.

No problem, it's not like we need fresh, clean water, and Texas has plenty of it anyway. Besides, who cares about the environment when it comes to financial gain?

The oil industry says any environmental concerns are far outweighed by the economic benefits of pumping previously inaccessible oil from fields that could collectively hold two or three times as much oil as Prudhoe Bay, the Alaskan field that was the last great onshore discovery.

Of course the oil industry says the economic benefits outweigh the environmental concerns. UH-DOI. That would be their economic benefits that they speak of.

There is a lot of budding excitement from the people who hope the oil fields will bring prosperity for their families and their town, and those who are ready to exploit the hopeful.

“That’s oil money,” said Bert Bell, a truck company manager, pointing to the new pickup truck he bought for his wife after making $525,000 leasing mineral rights around his family’s mobile home. “Oil money just makes life easier."

EOG Resources began quietly buying the rights to thousands of acres in the Bakken and Eagle Ford field and Chesapeake and a few other independents quickly followed. Now the biggest multinational oil companies, as well as Chinese and Norwegian firms, are investing billions of dollars in the fields.

Just in time, it was getting pricey to fill up my Texas Edition Silverado: