Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Texas Tuesday Masks Coming Off Round-up


Everybody seems to think we know what's up.


Guvnuh Quixote -- pronounce that however you like; I'm rolling with "Kwiksoat" -- has been under tremendous pressure from the Trump Caucus of the TXGOP to give Texans back the freedumb to die for the economy.  What better than Texas Independence Day to declare it?


I'll be celebrating Taco Tuesday myself (wearing a double mask).


In the latest criminal justice developments:


That's our transition to the Lege, which was mostly buried in meetings that have been consumed with blaming and finger-pointing about the Texas Blackout.  In the abridged version of events, PUC chair (and Abbott appointee) DeAnn Walker testified before committees in the Texas House and Senate, and her answers to their questions about winter preparations to the state's power grid, its subsequent failure, etc., were found to be universally unacceptable.  Lite Guv Dan Patrick called for her head yesterday, and within hours, she resentfully submitted her resignation letter.


I have more links regarding who will ultimately pay for their mistakes (hint: it won't be them) that I'll save for the next Wrangle/Round-up.  The Legislature's planned short work week was lengthened by other matters.


It gets worse, but we'll move on.  COVID numbers are improving, but the gains will be lost if the mask mandate, restaurant and bar restrictions, and/or limits on social gatherings are loosened.


And that's my segue to the social injustice news of the week.

Last week, our producer Davis Land headed out from his neighborhood in Houston to talk with people trying to restore their homes after a devastating winter storm knocked out power for so many Texans. It was nearly 80 degrees -- a huge change from a couple of weeks back, when many Texans were shivering under coats and blankets, waiting out a deep freeze and a utility shutdown. But after the cold let up, what was left behind was a mess of plumbing: burst pipes and sagging walls full of leaking water. There simply aren’t enough hands to do the work.


D Magazine caught up with Jim Schutze, whose decades-old book, The Accommodation, will be re-printed after CBS This Morning aired a story about its topic -- Dallas' complicated racial and political history -- last weekend.


No, I am certain we won't.  The freeze and its aftermath was very likely the last straw for some.


Let's move toward the end of this Round-up with some overdue election news.


Here's a thread with the standard "can the Donks do it" speculation, short a couple of candidates from Svitek's list above.


With 18 hats in a jungle primary, and perhaps more, anything is possible.  The election is in May.


Another too-long post, so let's close it here and save the rest for later.

Monday, March 01, 2021

The Weekly Wrangle from Far Left Texas

So Joe Biden's H-Town photo opp seemed to go well.



Perhaps he should have skipped making the remarks at the end of the afternoon, though, as the Aricept had clearly worn off.



"Representatives, uh, Shirley Jackson Lee, Al Green, Sylvia Garcia, Lizzie Pannili, uh, excuse me," Biden said and winced. "Pannell, and uh, what am I doing here?" he said. [...] "I’m going to lose track here," he added.

Prior to his day trip, he was not wrapping up a good week.  Few Houston journalists noticed or cared, apparently.  No inquiries were made -- or if they were, left out of the reporting.


Fuck it, I guess (right?).  Texas has bigger problems (right?).


Yes we do.


Kuff would like you to be more mad at the Public Utility Commission.  Socratic Gadfly offers his suggestions for people to fill those vacant "unaffiliated" board positions on ERCOT.  And whatever we're calling the winter storm and subsequent blackout, it's true that as bad as we all had it, the least among us had it worse.


A total of 509,206 people were still impacted by boil water notices as of Sunday night, with 458 boil water notices in effect, according to the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

San Angeloans had already been boiling water for a couple of weeks prior to the Big Freeze, as documented all over.  The Texas Living Waters Project urges the Lege to use this session to address the long-running water infrastructure challenges laid bare by Winter Storm Uri.


The death toll in Houston so far is 51.  In Austin, 86.  The full tally may not be known for weeks. Environmentally, we all got crushed again.


Should I mention all of this as just the usual failure of Texas Republicans, Texas government generally ... or is it is a failure of capitalism?


What do you think it is ... if it's not?


It's not all bad news.  Some people out of state even stepped up to help.


And those plumbers from New Jersey, who've decided to stay in Houston awhile, plumbers being the people most needed right now.

Citrus farmers in the RGV, also devastated.  We're beginning the 15th month of 2020, it seems, even as the outlook for the pandemic brightens.


Dos Centavos tells us about his successful vaccination experience. And Robert Rivard for the San Antonio Report is firm about the need to continue taking the pandemic seriously.

Too long today to include election news, social justice/injustices, and all the rest of the usual Wrangling, so I'll add that tomorrow or later in the week.  Here's our wrap.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Welcome, Joe Biden, to Texas. Here's a Round-up just for you.


I know you've been a little busy, Mr. President, and I don't want you to get the wrong impression; your sycophants are doing just fine in that regard.  You have, once again, a grand opportunity here in the Deep-In-The-Hearta to "build back better", not to mention bluer, and if you flunk this one, we'll all have that strong Republican Party you and Nancy Pelosi keep saying you want -- in Texas, and all across the country -- two years from now, and for another ten years or so after that.

Try not to fuck it up by making more promises you won't keep or telling outright lies about the amount of aid you say you will provide.

Speaking of grand deceptions ...
“If all consumers don’t benefit from this, we will have wasted our time and failed our constituency,” then-state Sen. David Sibley, a key author of the bill to deregulate the market, said when the switch was first unveiled in 1999. “Competition in the electric industry will benefit Texans by reducing monthly rates,” then-Gov. George W. Bush said later that year.


Here's the deal, though: we complain about these assholes when they're not working, and then we complain about them when they are.


In fairness, they know they're going to be busting their guts all summer in special session on redistricting, so they might as well take long weekends -- you know, the five-day kind, from Thursday through Monday -- every week until May.  They always cram all their work into a few late-night skull sessions anyway, and besides the job pays shit.  It's always been about the bennies, and Borris Miles will be the first one to tell you that chasing skirts around the Pink Dome ain't what it used to be.

Yeah, life is tough all over, especially for those ERCOT folks -- most of whom didn't live here anyway -- who just cut and ran away from their jobs.


Then again, it's not like they went to Utah last week.  Or Cancun.


You think any of those CEOs who live in California are having second thoughts about relocating their companies to Texas?


For me, the question used to come down to, "Why can't the Democrats in Texas figure out how to beat the worst Republicans in the nation?"  Looks like they're finally figuring out that they're worthless.


(Don't miss Kuffner's predictably saccharine take on this.)

Need mo' background on the Lone Star Epic Fails? Don't see ^there^, see here.

The TexTrib and ProPublica collaborated on the story about how the state repeatedly choked in protecting the grid from extreme weather.  Greg Palast emphasized that this all began when we got collectively "Lay'd" in the '90's by W. BushScott Braddock retweeted Mike Hixenbough's point about the Texas Railroad Commission escaping scrutiny regarding the frozen oil and gas pipeline infrastructure.  And Brad Friedman spoke to TSU professor Robert Bullard about the crisis.

"Texas prides itself on being the Lone Star State," (Bullard says). "But this severe weather event and the power outages and loss of water has shown us that we are the ALONE Star State. Our energy policy of 'go it alone', keep the federal government out, doesn't make any sense. And it's never made any sense. We need to rejoin the United States [and] rejoin the grid."

Of all the cartoonists I read -- and I read a lot -- the most consistently ironic is the conservative Ben Garrison.  There is a cottage industry that's sprung up around mocking out his cluelessness.


Yes, those damned windmills.  First they caused cancer, then they froze up (not in places like Norway or the Antarctic, but in West Texas), and now launching strikes on tanker trucks and bomb trains.


I'll have more on COVID, social injustices, whatever Biden says or does (or doesn't) later in the week. Here's a few giggles at Ted Cruz's expense.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Warming Up Round-up from Far Left Texas



As frozen Texas reel(ed) under one of the worst electricity outages in U.S. history, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott blamed grid operators and iced-over wind turbines but gone easier on another culprit: an oil and gas industry that is the state's dominant business and his biggest political contributor.

And as the toll deepened (last) Friday from a week of historic winter storms, which have killed more than 20 people in Texas, the dogpiling on a power grid that is proudly isolated from the rest of the country ignores warnings known by the state's GOP leaders for years.

Not the AP story you'd typically read in the Odessa American.

Abbott's slathering of blame for this week's electrical outages solely on the operator of Texas' power grid is both misdirected and coming a decade too late, say critics familiar with the state's utility systems.

[...]

“What happened is absolutely unacceptable and can never be replicated again,” he said.

But critics point out that this week's rolling blackouts were themselves a repeat of a 2011 incident in which freezing temperatures played havoc with the state's grid.

One thing before we return to moronic Texas Republicans.


ERCOT has indeed been referred to as the 'traffic cop', so I suppose that makes the state's Public Utility Commission 'internal affairs'.  ACA still B. Abbott appoints the three members of the PUC.  Begin the investigation there.


And so we leave the CanCruz snark behind and focus on the problem-solving.


Kuff worries that Republicans in the Lege are determined to learn all the wrong lessons from the freeze and the blackouts it caused.  Socratic Gadfly offers his take on some of the issues in The Great Texas Freezeout of 2021 with a sports metaphor: "Nature Bats Last 1, Texas Exceptionalism 0."  Andrew Exum at The Atlantic reveals the difference between performative governance and actually governing.  Speaking of:


There were lots of heroes all over the Great State.


The Great Freeze caused our refineries and chemical plants to shut down, but that didn't stop them from spewing pollution and climate-change elements into the air.

To prevent damage to their processing units due to the shutdowns, refineries flared, or burned (feedstock that would have been refined under typical operating conditions), releasing gases, Reuters reported.

The five largest refiners emitted nearly 337,000 pounds of pollutants, according preliminary data supplied to the Texas Commission on Environment Quality (TCEQ).

[...]

Exxon’s Baytown Olefins Plant emitted nearly a ton of benzene and 68,000 tons of carbon monoxide, with the company blaming the halting of “multiple process units and safe utilization of the flare system.” It said the shutdown was due to loss of utilities, including third-party natural gas supply, and the icy weather.

Meanwhile, Valero Energy Corp said in its filing to TCEQ that the Port Arthur refinery released 78,000 pounds over 24 hours beginning last Monday. It also cited the winter storm and interruptions in utility services.

Oil refineries in Texas have also suffered widespread damage due to the brutal cold and are expected to be down for weeks of repairs. Companies in the oil industry have warned customers that they won’t be able to meet deliveries under contract, Bloomberg noted.

Not going any longer today with the bad news.  Biden's coming this week; maybe someone will ask him why only 77 counties have been approved for FEMA relief.  There will be a blog post about that and everything else that unfolds in the aftermath of Winter Storm Uri.

To close today: another Black History Month memory.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Sunday Cancun Ted Funnies



More, just a couple of days ago, here. Ted showed too much of his ass this past week.

*      *      *

Nick Anderson, who founded Counterpoint, was interviewed by Houstonia Magazine about his cartooning career post-newspapers: "(A)rtists from all political leanings are providing takes on today’s biggest headlines as contributors. Of the 18 satirists, ten -- like Anderson -- saw their jobs cut. It’s too soon to know if Counterpoint will hit it big (at the moment it has more than 170,000 subscribers), but if it does this could be a way to ensure that his art form doesn’t just die out."

Please support their work if you possibly can.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Wrangling the Texas Leftists



It's going to take more than the incompetence, hubris, and by now-normalized sociopathy from Texas Republicans to make this happen beyond the meteorological.  Sorry, Michelle.

There's been so much calamity over the past week that my efforts to document it via Tweet feed collapsed.  I don't think that Katrina -- or even COVID-19 -- will match the Presidents Day Frozepocalypse in historical ramifications.  (There's always the next disaster.)  All of us suffered in large measure, if not quite equally.  When the power goes out for days, and then the water has to be boiled for several more days -- affecting everyone, including the wealthiest among us -- then I'm reminded of the hardscrabble lives of my ancestors just a couple of generations back.  Shivering under blankets by the fire, shitting into a hole in the ground, eating cold food.  Never mind the summers without a/c.

(Digression: Mine was the first generation of Dorrells not born on the farm.  Not the first that was college-educated; that distinction belongs to my mother's side of the family and my great aunt, who earned her doctorate in the 1930's.)

Rather than try to catch up, here's some of the highlights.

CancunTed (pronounce that in a couple of ways) decided his act of contrition needed to be performed on Fox News.


This is what Ali Velshi calls 'natural gaslighting'.  AOC shows us what "doing everything we can" actually looks like.


Greg Abbott's miscues, similarly, fell into both 'words' and 'deeds' categories.


John Cornyn, Ken Paxton, and Dan Patrick seemed to understand that saying or doing anything might not be the wisest course, and they hunkered down somewhere.  Not former governor and Trump energy secretary Rick Perry, though.


Bullying and mocking these jerks on social media is fun, but have you tried taking real action?


Beto and the Castros are also helping out, but so far not running for anything.  I'll be voting Green everywhere I can, and that includes Delilah for TexasDavid Collins has the interview.




And among other Texas cities, San Antonio is holding municipal elections this year and has a Green standing for mayor.


And here's the TPA wrangle, unsorted.

Socratic Gadfly, for Lincoln's Birthday and Black History Month, looked critically at two new history books that try to make Lincoln into St. Abraham of Lincoln in one particular area.  Kuff considered the possibility of appellate court redistricting in this legislative session.  Rick Casey at the San Antonio Report connected the Capitol insurrection and the Republican push for voting restrictions to the Big Lie of voter fraud.  The Great God Pan Is Dead brought us a little D.H. Lawrence.  Paradise in Hell let us in on the secret of the most affordable city in America.  And Andrea Zelinski, now writing for Texas Monthly, tried to make sense of Texas secessionists.

Closing out the week with some laughs.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Thursday Texas Frozen Toons

Paraphrasing the little old lady at the beauty shop: "Because they won't wait for Sunday".




Still got a regular Wrangle in the chute (though it will have to be titled "Lone Star Round-up" by now).

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Texas Power Outrages


As if he doesn't know who might be responsible.


They had a couple of weeks to prepare. They could have gotten some de-icing materials from one of the state's airports. Somebody fell down on the job, and millions of Texans are suffering and at least ten in Houston alone have died.


No foresight. No 'thinking ahead'. No preparation for a 'rainy day'.


All of this incompetence ought to be bad enough to provoke some resignations, but of course we know that our Grand Old Politicos are more interested in scoring points on Twitter than they are in actually governing.


Ending this with some levity, such as it is. Still more Wrangling to come.

Frozen (but Thawing) Wrangle


This obviously is a monumental screw-up by the state of Texas, ERCOT, and the companies responsible for power generation in Texas. Why was demand not better anticipated? How are generating plants rated for cold weather production? The list of questions goes on and on. There is plenty of blame to go around, as it seems likely that people will lose their lives due to cold, or medical needs for electricity.

Be wary of those quick to scapegoat wind turbines or any single government official or political sides for this failure. This is a failure of the whole government and a lack of sensible regulation of electricity generators. We need to learn from this mistake so that it is not repeated. After our teeth stop chattering, of course.


Lots more, including the usual, to come today (as long as the juice stays on).

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Sunday "Case Dismissed" Funnies



Nick Anderson, who founded Counterpoint, was interviewed by Houstonia Magazine about his cartooning career post-newspapers: "(A)rtists from all political leanings are providing takes on today’s biggest headlines as contributors. Of the 18 satirists, ten -- like Anderson -- saw their jobs cut. It’s too soon to know if Counterpoint will hit it big (at the moment it has more than 170,000 subscribers), but if it does this could be a way to ensure that his art form doesn’t just die out."

Please support their work if you possibly can.

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Extra Texas Left Wrangling



Lots happening; another impeachment trial, Neera Tanden's confirmation hearing, the Lege gaveling back in, and me with a pot full of links already, so here comes a second edition of the Wrangle.

First, a few updates since yesterday.  "Team Cruz" has been trending overnight.  If Ted wants to play like this, we got time.  Today, tomorrow, every day for the next four years.


And regarding other Texans Behaving Badly:


With respect to COVID-19:


I promised an update on environmental news, and it's going to intertwine with Houston business and Texas Democrats and Republicans in Washington.  Feel free to connect the dots.  Let's start with this news item.

-- Houston Energy Companies Lost Billions in 4th Quarter of 2020

ExxonMobil, which has its main campus in Houston, reported a stunning $20 billion in losses in the fourth quarter alone. Reuters reports it's the first time Exxon has posted an annual loss as a public company, and some investors are using it as an opportunity to push Exxon to focus on clean energy in hopes of boosting investor returns.

Houston-based ConocoPhillips lost more than $700 million in the fourth quarter for a total loss of $2.7 billion in 2020. BP, which also has its U.S. headquarters in Houston, reported a full-year loss of $5.7 billion, compared to $10 billion profit in 2019.

(Last) week the price of West Texas oil hit an 11-month high at just over $55 per barrel. For most of last year prices hovered at or below $40 a barrel. Many companies say they need around $50-60 per barrel to break even.

Oilprice.com reported the week before last that the frackers are gearing up again.  That reads to this dispassionate observer as the very definition of 'boom and bust'.  Put another way: "This juice might be worth the squeeze again; let's work this lemon some more before we move on".

But some things aren't coming back.

Lone Star Republicans are as dense as bedrock about the prospects for 'oil bidness as usual', but a handful of Texas Dems are no smarter.

Vicente Gonzalez of McAllen, Henry Cuellar of Laredo, Lizzie Pannill Fletcher of Houston and Marc Veasey of Fort Worth objected to the president’s order directing the secretary of the interior to halt new oil and gas leases on federal public lands and waters.


The very definition of pandering.

While our electeds can't see past their next campaign finance report, those of us who want to keep breathing clean air and drinking clean water will focus over the horizon.  Some oil companies are taking baby steps in the right direction.  And some residents of polluted fenceline communities are taking matters into their own hands.  There's just so much more that needs to be done.


That's my segue to some Lege business.  So if the Godniks won't let us gamble at the tables, is it possible they might allow sports books?


The announcement of the Sports Betting Alliance comes after the late Sheldon Adelson’s group, Las Vegas Sands, expanded their lobbying effort to legalize gaming in Texas. The Sands' push appears to want to work in tandem with the alliance to take the biggest shot to legalize both sports betting and gambling in Texas in recent memory.

Andy Abboud, senior vice president of government affairs for the Las Vegas Sands, told the Dallas Morning News, “We view sports wagering as a component of our efforts in bringing destination resorts to Texas and creating robust, long-term economic development and jobs for the state. We look forward to working in tandem with their coalition during the legislative session.”

Mark Cuban, billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks told the Morning News in an email, “I think it’s time ...it makes no sense for us to force Texans to go to neighboring states to gamble in casinos.”


Unlike casinos, there is a significant amonut of illegal bookie action going on everywhere -- online and off. It just makes sense ... but that usually doesn't move our legislators much.

I'll blog about the Movement for a People's Party and the Green Party, perhaps tomorrow and append some of my thoughts to David Collin's, along with a profile of the GPTX's gubernatorial candidate. Closing here today with some suggested fiction reading.