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. 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 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.

Monday, February 08, 2021

SB LV Hangover Wrangle

Not inclined to go long this morning.  Let's open with COVID.  An update as this post was being prepared:

Texas will hit 40,000 deaths from the coronavirus today, according to Dr. Peter Hotez.  And while hospitalizations are declining, we're a long way from reaching herd immunity.

Here's a thread from Sema Hernandez about her recent experience with one of her children in Pasadena's (TX) school.

Before "Texans Behaving Badly", let's get to some of the news generated last week by Greg Abbott and Dade Phelan.  I made mention in last Friday's Roundup, but there's also been a few other takes posted that are worth your consideration.

Texas Freedom Network also has an analysis of Abbott's SotS and also how Speaker Phelan's committee chairs will conduct business. A sample:

Anti-abortion zealots like Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, and Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, will turn their committees into parade grounds for legislation designed to ban the procedure entirely ... Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, will head the Human Services Committee, giving him another shot at passing legislation to turn religion into a license to discriminate against LGBTQ Texans.

We know Phelan is against many of the marijuana bills proposed; opposition to vice has long been enforced by the Texas TaliBaptist Caucus.  But who is it besides the church crowd that's blocking casino gambling in the Lone Star State?  Reform Austin suggests a few parties.

Entities with competing interests, namely other casinos, don’t want to see the Las Vegas Sands organization running the table.

First, there are tribal interests in Oklahoma and Texas. The Chickasaw Nation has spent over $350,000 to Strategic & Public Affairs Consulting lobbyist Daniel Hodge. (PD adds: Hodge was a longtime right-hand man to the governor before opening his shop.) The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is paying between $25,000 and $49,999 for three lobbyists. Finally the Kickapoo Tribe in Texas is paying four lobbyists between $100,000 and $150,000 each this session.

Another possible opponent to the Las Vegas Sands expansion in Texas is Tilman Fertitta, who owns the Lake Charles casino The Golden Nugget. Seven lobbyists hired by his company, Landry’s Inc. are being paid from $10,000-$24,999 to $150,000-$199,999 a year (in disclosure forms).

These numbers pale in comparison to the up to $4.5M that the late Sheldon Adelson’s group has spent building up their army of 63 lobbyists.

Money chat is normally Kuff's beat, but I don't see much lately there regarding CFR, so note RA's piece on the top ten PACs in the state.  Only two -- the bottom two -- are affiliated with Democrats or progressives, though H-E-B grocer Charles Butt's PAC and the mega-law firm Greenberg Traurig gives to politicians of both political persuasions.  As best I know, much of GT's blue side fundraising and donating is still headed by the well-connected Roland Garcia.

And concluding our look at the Lege ...

Socratic Gadfly exposes the bogus claims of NRA Pander Bear Drew Springer.

At the top of the "TBB" this week: Ted Cruz.

"The left -- and some grifters on the right -- are consumed by partisan anger and rage," the (Cruz) spokesperson said via email. "Sen. Cruz will continue to work for 29 million Texans in the Senate."

No, he won't. Cruz works only for himself, his potential run for president in 2024, and in the meantime will vote 'no' on everything Biden does or nominates and get into Twitter spats on cultural topics.

The TexTrib via Progrexas has the story about the TXGOP staffer who was fired after he posted video from the DC riot.  (He had also spread around that fake Pizzagate conspiracy theory.)  Bud Kennedy at the FWST took note of the Parker County school trustee who advanced the "Stop the Steal" nonsense.

I will save environmental and social justice links for the week-ending Round-up.  Here's a few items to close out today.

You're running out of time, and places, to get your square fish, chicken and dumplings, jalapeno cornbread, and/or chocolate ice box pie.

Sunday, February 07, 2021

Sunday QOP 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.

Friday, February 05, 2021

EOW Lone Star Leftist Round-Up

Greg Abbott's state of delusion and Dade Phelan's wacky committee chair choices lead the loony tunes headlines going into Super Bowl weekend.

Your pal, Gov. Helen Wheels.

With many parts of Texas still besieged by huge COVID-19 caseloads, a bungled vaccination rollout, and an unemployment rate unseen since the Great Recession, Governor Greg Abbott chose to paint a much rosier picture in his State of the State address Monday.

“Texas remains the economic engine of America, the land of unmatched opportunity, and our comeback is already materializing. Texas has added new jobs for eight months in a row. ... Texans are returning to work. Students are returning to school. Families are re-establishing routines,” Abbott said.

“With each passing day of more vaccinations and increased immunity, normalcy is returning to Texas.” With his prologue about that pesky pandemic out of the way, Abbott went on to outline his political agenda for the 2021 session that consists largely of red meat for his party’s right-wing base.

The governor's so-called emergency items include election integrity, which are QAnon code words for voter suppression.

Abbott (AG Ken Paxton, and others) spent the weeks leading up to the 2020 election pushing back against every local attempt to make voting in a pandemic easier and safer, all while spreading misinformation about alleged "rampant voter fraud", so (this) is no surprise ...

Several Republican lawmakers have already introduced election bills that would further restrict the mail ballot system and increase criminal penalties for voter fraud. Last session, Senate Republicans passed an “election integrity” bill that would raise criminal penalties for certain election-related offenses; establish stricter rules for assisting disabled, elderly, or absentee voters; and altogether increase the likelihood that people who mistakenly violate election laws face criminal prosecution. As (the Texas Observer) reported then, voting rights advocates warned that the bill would “sharply escalate an ongoing campaign of voter suppression.” While the bill died in the House, Abbott wants that same bill to be a starting point for lawmakers this session.

Yesterday the new speaker of the Texas House made his selections of the heads of the chamber's working committees for the session.  To say there are some surprises understates it.

Cain, R-Deer Park, was one of several lawyers who volunteered for the Trump campaign’s failed effort to throw out the election results in Pennsylvania, traveling to Philadelphia and interviewing poll workers and watchers. He declined Thursday to say whether he believes the federal election results were legitimate, or that the Pennsylvania lawsuits were adequately vetted. ... Since then, the Houston-area lawmaker has filed three election-related bills in the House, two aimed at rooting out non-citizen voters and one proposing to increase criminal penalties on voters who list an incorrect home address.


“Texas already makes it harder to vote than any other state. Rep. Briscoe being put in charge of the Elections Committee is a clear signal that the politicians in charge intend to make it even harder,” Anthony Gutierrez, the head of Common Cause Texas, a non-partisan public-interest group, said in a statement. “We’ll be fighting to stop them at every step.”

In 2019, then-Texas Secretary of State David Whitley was forced to resign after his office attempted to purge tens of thousands of voters, few of whom were confirmed to be ineligible, and the Senate did not confirm his nomination. Under Cain’s proposed legislation, gathering data for similar purges would be required.

One last bit from there, for our edification.

A poll released this week by the University of Houston showed 83 percent Republicans in Texas believe there was widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election, compared to 45 percent for the electorate overall.

As of (yesterday), all of Cain’s Twitter activity before Dec. 21 appeared to have been scrubbed, including a widely shared post from November sent on his way to Philadelphia. Asked about the apparently deleted tweets, he said, “News to me.”

Some things never change; this cartoon is from 2003.

Wieners: "Fresh blood", i.e. the new generation of right-wing freaks; Team Bonnen (a clap-back at Empower Texas, despite all the wingnuts at the committee helms), Dallas Republicans, and in the spirit of bipartisanship ... Democrats Victoria Neave and Harold Dutton.

Loosers: The old guard; the X-Men (the ten Lege Rethugs who garroted ex-Speaker Dennis Bonnen) and female members of the House, who got stiffed on chairs.

Bruised fee-fees, new alliances, an upended dynamic because of the pandemic, an assured special session on redistricting, where the long knives will come out ... fun!

I could go long again on Texans behaving badly, but that topic really exhausts me, so I'll save it for Monday's Wrangle.  A few social justice updates:

And scattered, mostly unrelated good news/bad news Tweets to close out.