UPDATED Texas Oil and Gas Regulators Warn of Russian Conspiracy to Fund Anti-Frackers

Categories: Texas, Whatever

On repeat at the Texas Railroad Commission
We've updated the end of this post to include a statement from Gasland writer/director Josh Fox.

The drilling revolution brought on by hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" - the process of shooting millions of gallons of chemical- and sand-laden water underground to coax oil and gas out of massive shale formations - has led to a long, serious debate in Texas. What that debate has largely been about: faucets that catch fire; methods for disposing of drilling waste that seem to cause earthquakes; a process that sucks up vast amounts of water in drought-stricken areas; and air-fouling pollutants that have accompanied the drilling boom.

What that debate hasn't been about: Russia. That is, unless you're Texas Railroad commissioners David Porter and Barry Smitherman.

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Does the Wendy Davis Book Tour Count As Campaigning? Does It Matter?

Photo by Allison Hess
She'll be doing less of this while she promotes that book.

State Sen. Wendy Davis stopped campaigning for governor this week. You'd think that her Republican opponent, Attorney Gen. Greg Abbott, would be thrilled, but Abbott is thoroughly unenthusiastic about the move. Why? Well, Davis is taking a break from her campaign to promote her new book, Forgetting to Be Afraid.

And since she called a timeout and everything, she has been utterly focused on making sure people want to buy her book. Totally. She definitely was not trying to persuade Texas voters to consider her when she popped up on Good Morning America on Monday. She is not reminding the general population of the Lone Star State about her stance on abortion -- and those famous neon pink running shoes -- when she talks openly and honestly about the two abortions she chose to have (for medical reasons).

The fact that this book has made Davis's campaign front-page news, and given her some of the best coverage she's had since the filibuster that rocketed her to political stardom last year, is just a big old coincidence, not a clever bit of political maneuvering. Nope, she's just promoting her book, y'all. Nothing to see here.

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The Tea Party Does Not Love Rick Perry


Gov. Rick Perry has been a bit of a conservative darling of late. Yep, the Republicans have rallied round the man after he was indicted for corruption charges a few weeks back. It was a touching moment of unity in a party that has been remarkably divided in recent years.

Well, that's all over or now. It turns out the guy with the most presidential hair in politics still - unsurprisingly, in a bit of stunning optimism - wants to be president. He's gunning for a 2016 White House run and he is duly putting together a team to turn those Commander-in-chief dreams into reality (with fewer "oops" moments this time, we assume.)

To do so he has hired three, shall we say, controversial figures. It doesn't seem to take much to anger ye olde Tea Party people these days, but Perry couldn't have done a better job if he'd tried. He hired former President Bill Clinton aide Mark Fabiani for his legal team. He also hired former McCain-Palin campaign consultant Steve Schmidt (who has sounded off his thoughts on Sarah Palin, and said thoughts aren't exactly positive.) And then, for the piece de resistance (or coup de grace depending on your viewpoint) he hired Henry Barbour.

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Texas Among the Worst for Gender Equality


Let's talk about gender (in)equality, shall we?

In 2013, the U.S. failed to make the top 10 -- or even the top 20 -- of the World Economic Forum's list of the most gender-equal countries. And we're guessing that little issue is, at least in part, because of the big ol' state of Texas.

A recent study from WalletHub ranked Texas 47 out of all 50 states for gender equity because, according to the data, Texas is near the bottom when it comes to how states treat women.

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UPDATED: Most Texas Abortion Clinics Will NOT Close Next Week

Photo by Francisco Montes
Texas is working on it.

UPDATE: Yeakel issued his ruling on Friday afternoon, and to the surprise of pretty much no one he struck down the requirement that all abortion clinics be certified ambulatory surgical centers, according to the Texas Tribune. The lawsuit also asked that Yeakel suspend the admitting privileges requirement for two clinics -- Whole Woman's Health in McAllen and Reproductive Services in El Paso -- which were forced to close because of said requirement. Yeakel granted that request, meaning there might just be an abortion clinic option west of San Antonio within the Lone Star State again.

In his ruling, Yeakel said HB 2's ambulatory-surgical-center requirement "burdens Texas women in a way incompatible with the principles of personal freedom and privacy protected by the United States Constitution for the 40 years since Roe v. Wade."

Here's another choice line from Yeakel's decision:

When viewed in the context of the other state-imposed obstacles a woman faces when seeking an abortion in Texas -- including a sonogram requirement, a waiting period, and the reduced number of abortion-performing physicians resulting from the admitting-privilege requirement -- the court is firmly convinced that the State has placed unreasonable obstacles in the path of a woman's ability to obtain a previability abortion. These substantial obstacles have reached a tipping point that threatens to "chip away at the private choice shielded by Roe," Stenberg v. Carhart, 530 U.S. 914, 952 (2000) (Ginsburg, J., concurring), and effectively reduce or eliminate meaningful access to safe abortion care for a significant, but ultimately unknowable, number of women throughout Texas.

The decision is pretty much gilt-edge guaranteed to be appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, so this is not, most likely, the final word on the matter of HB2. You can read Yeakel's entire ruling at the end of this post.

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Numbers of Texas Natives Shrinking as Population Booms

Categories: Texas

For more and more residents, this is becoming true.
As the population of Texas has swelled since the mid 1970s, the number of native Texans has shrunk, according to a fascinating chart from the New York Times blog The Upshot. In their "Where We Came From, State by State" story, charts for every state in the country show the number of people moving in and where they are from. While better than 60 percent of Texas residents were born here -- quite a bit more than states like Arizona and Wyoming -- there has been a steady upswing of non-native Texans for the last 40 years.

Where they come from is even more interesting.

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Texas Has Fastest Average Driving Speed in the Country

Categories: Texas, Traffic

Welcome to Texas!
Setting aside for the moment that Cars.com referred to Texas as the "Longhorn State" (some Texans might fight you over that one), they do paint a picture of the LONE STAR state as a place for wanton speeders in a report about speeding in America. In their report, Texas ranks higher than any other state at 78 mph. Not all that surprising when you consider the 80 mph speed limits on highways, also the highest in the nation.

On the other end of the spectrum were Alaska and the District of Columbia coming in at a modest 55 mph. Of course, in Alaska there are probably more off-roads than roads. And does D.C. even have a freeway?

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Beer at Gun Shows? What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Categories: Texas

Photo by Davvi Chrzastek
What's on the menu.
Years ago in Huntsville, Texas just around the corner from my aunt and uncle's house was a convenience store. The sign for this store was something that cracked up my father and I for many years. It read (in all caps): BEER WINE GAS DRUGS AMMO. It is difficult to imagine anyone could want much more than that except food perhaps, but that seems implied. Still, the idea that you could liquor up, gas up and load up at the same store always gave us a little chuckle.

Wisely, the folks who make the laws in this fine state have seen fit for some time now to do whatever they can to separate guns from liquor. While this may be Texas, even we gun totin' cowpokes understand the danger inherent in mixing those two items. That could change, however.

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Cop: If I Go on a Killing Spree, Blame It on "Useless Lazy Turd Bags"

Categories: Texas

Rob Douglas ain't payin' for your bling.
Proving once again that idiots just can't control themselves on Facebook, a Marlin cop has been fired after airing his frustration over welfare recipients, stating "if I ever snap and go on a killing spree, it will be in a supermarket on the first."

Sergeant Rob Douglas was fired for "violating the city's ethics and internet usage policies," according to KWTX. He'd been with the department for five years.

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Courts are Making Interesting Rulings on Abortion Restrictions Similar to Those in Texas

Categories: Texas

Photo by Francisco Montes
Yep, they kind of did.

Texas is most likely on course to enact the last section of the state's stringent abortion laws, forcing all but six of the abortion clinics in Texas to close, but there are interesting goings-on as similar state abortion laws work through the court system.

Last week, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that Mississippi officials couldn't require doctors to obtain hospital admitting privileges. Hospitals have refused to grant those privileges and the move would force the last abortion clinic in Mississippi to close. State officials said women in need of abortions could travel to Tennessee or Louisiana to get them, but that didn't get any traction with the court. In the opinion, written by Reagan appointee Judge E. Grady Jolly, it was stated that requiring women to leave the state just to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion was, go figure, unconstitutional because states aren't allowed to palm off constitutional rights on other states, creating an "undue burden" for women in the state. (Yes, leaving the same court ruled that leaving Mississippi is an undue burden but traveling across Texas is not.)

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