Tag Archives: Winter Storm Uri

Strained

On September 1, several new laws went into effect here in Texas – 666 to be exact; a number that surely makes evangelicals tremble.  Some, like Senate Bill 968, which bans “vaccine passports”, became law immediately when Gov. Greg Abbott signed them in June.  Others, such as House Bill 2730, which deals with eminent domain, go into effect January 1, 2022.

Overall, it appears that some of them are designed to oppress the basic human and constitutional rights of certain groups.  The Texas State Legislature meets every two years and, in 2019, their principal goal was to loosen gun restrictions even more than they already were.  Those of us who aren’t obsessed with firearms (meaning we don’t suffer from Pencil-Penis Syndrome) wondered how much more lax these rules could become.  Stupidity never ceases to amaze me, and conservatives in the Texas State House always deliver.

This year’s session, though, has raised eyebrows and tempers across the nation – and mainly because of two of those 666 laws in particular.  One deals with voting and the other with abortion.  Abortion has always been an open wound for social and religious conservatives.  To them it’s worse than the growing economic inequalities in the country, the prescription drug epidemic, or the fact that so many children in the U.S. live in poverty.  Pro-life conservatives are “pro-life” – up to the time that baby is born.  Once it pops out of the placental oven, it’s pretty much on its own.

Known as the “fetal heartbeat” bill, it is the most ardent assault upon reproductive freedom since the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.  It bans abortions no matter the circumstance (including rape, incest and danger to the mother’s life) after the sixth week of pregnancy, which is usually before most women learn they’re pregnant.  It bears that moniker because an embryonic heartbeat allegedly can be detected at the sixth week.  In reality, the heart hasn’t developed by that point; only the muscles that eventually will become the heart have formed.  The term is misleading.  The sound of a heartbeat is generated by the opening and closing of the heart valves.  Those valves haven’t formed yet at 6 weeks.  When someone detects this so-called “fetal heartbeat”, it’s the sound generated by the ultrasound machine.  But self-righteous conservatives in the Texas State Legislature don’t see it that way.  It doesn’t conform to their narrow view of reality.  In other words, a group of (mostly male) politicians have decided they know more about human development and reproductive health care than actual medical professionals.

But the “fetal heartbeat” law goes even further – allowing anyone who assists in an abortion after that sixth week to be held liable as a criminal accessory and sued for up to $10,000.  This isn’t aimed strictly at those in the medical industry.  Giving a woman a ride to an abortion clinic, for example, opens them to criminal charges under this law; which means cab drivers are subject.  Perhaps comforting a woman after the abortion could be considered criminal.  Would a plumber who repairs water pipes in a women’s health clinic be deemed a criminal?  It’s not the state that would bring the charges; the $10,000 penalty is for any individual who files suit under the law.  Thus, if someone is upset (gets their feelings hurt) because of an abortion, they’re entitled for up to $10,000 compensation.

I’m upset there’s so much stupidity in the world.  Where’s my financial compensation?

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a blow to abortion rights when it refused to take up the new Texas law for consideration.  Previously, it’s overturned similar laws passed by other states.  But for the past few years, conservatives have been pushing these draconian measures for the mere sake of having the High Court review the Roe v. Wade decision and ultimately overturn it.  The Court’s refusal to examine this Texas law is a blatant nod to right-wing extremists who feel divinely appointed to control other people’s lives.

The other new law gaining notoriety is Senate Bill 1, which targets the voting process.  SB 1 limits the early voting period and bans 24-hour and drive-through voting.  The drive-through voting idea was proposed last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 elections.  Perhaps the most alarming feature of this law is that it allows poll watchers greater access.  Voter intimidation is not just rude; it’s felonious.  But don’t tell that to Abbott and the rest of the Republican mafia in Texas who symbolize ongoing efforts by conservatives nationwide to undermine the right to vote – the very genesis of democratic societies.  It’s something we’ve tried to instill in other countries, such as…well, Iraq and Afghanistan.  But, just like the World War II generation moved Heaven and Earth to stop fascism in Europe, yet did nothing to end it here in the U.S., conservatives want people in developing nations to be able to vote in clean and fair elections – without putting the same amount of effort at home.

Like most of the nation, Texas is still in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic with a resurgence of infections and increasing hospitalizations.  This past February the Texas power grid system almost completely collapsed with the onset of Winter Storm Uri.  Scores of people died.  Much of the rest of the state’s infrastructure – mostly roads and bridges – are in dire need of repair or replacement.  And, of course, all those children in Texas and across the nation who are uninsured…doesn’t pro-life also mean taking care of them?

The new gaggle of laws has a few other gems – good and bad.  HB 1535 allows people to utilize marijuana for medicinal purposes.  SB 224 simplifies access to the Supplemental Assistance Program for older and disabled citizens; individuals can forgo the normally required interviews and have a shortened application process.  Now this measure is what I would deem pro-life!

On the other hand, we have HB 2497, which establishes an “1836 Project” committee produce educational materials dedicated to Texas history.  In 1836, the Battle of the Alamo launched Texas’ separation from México.  It’s in contrast to the “1619 Project”, which examines U.S. history from the arrival of enslaved Africans.

Moreover, HB 3979 limits teachers from discussing current events and systemic racism in class.  The bill also prevents students from receiving class credit for participating in civic engagement and – wait for it – bans teaching of the aforementioned “1619 Project”.

I attribute these social studies bills as efforts by White conservatives to undermine the true history of the United States; that Native Americans were more civilized and intellectual than many realize; that the “founding fathers” weren’t devout Christians; and that the Civil War really was about keeping an entire race of people enslaved and not states’ rights.  Like the presidency of Donald Trump, it’s a strike back against decades of progressive thought and ambition.

I never know what to think of these right-wing fools in elected office.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to put up that sign on my front lawn offering free rides to abortion clinics.

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We Could Have Had Beto

Texas, we could have had Beto O’Rourke as U.S. Senator.  Instead, a slight majority voted to keep Ted Cruz in office in 2018.  I emphasize “slight majority” because – unlike his 2012 victory over Paul Sadler – Cruz didn’t well…cruise to a reelection win.

In the summer of 2018, O’Rourke, then a U.S. House Representative, shocked the Texas Republican Party and political observers alike when he raised several million dollars in a very short time.  It was no minor feat; accomplished by literally cold-calling people and pounding the pavement all over the state, gathering small amount donations from average citizens.  O’Rourke also did something no other Texas candidate for the U.S. Senate had done: he visited every single county in the state.  Some residents were stunned upon his arrival, as their county had no record of such a candidate stopping by.  Again, this was no minor task.  Texas boasts 267 counties in roughly 268,597 square miles (695,663 sq. km).  It’s half the size of Alaska and as big as some of Europe’s largest countries, such as Spain and France.  So, O’Rourke disturbed the evangelical conservative force that’s dominated Texas politics for generations; first as Democrats and now as Republicans.

For many Texas Hispanics – especially someone like me whose ancestry in this state goes back before there was a United States – Cruz’s win in 2012 was a distinct insult.  Cruz, a Canadian-born Cuban-Italian, was lauded as the state’s first Hispanic senator.  Cruz is to Hispanics what I am to Nigerians.

More significantly, though, Cruz is known for his antagonistic approach to political navigations once he got to Washington, as well as his failed 2016 presidential bid.  He and Donald Trump ended up battling for the final nomination.  In what I considered a case of choosing the lesser of two evils, Cruz would have been that lesser one.  But, I’ve only voted Republican once in my life and have let myself live to regret it; thus I don’t know what shenanigans rumbled through the brains of Trump acolytes.  The animosity between Cruz and Trump became even more palpable during the 2016 Republican National Convention, when the Texan gave his speech and did everything he could NOT to say the name Donald Trump, as the crowd booed and jeered.  The tension was so high that Secret Service agents removed Cruz’s wife, Heidi, from the convention floor.

By 2018, though, Cruz had done little to advance a pro-citizen agenda.  In all fairness, O’Rourke had no significant legislative achievements during his tenure either.  I guess I was mistaken in believing we elect people to such prestigious positions to actually…you know, do something.  I must be a damn fool!  But that year I eagerly jumped on the O’Rourke train, donating money and proudly voting for him.

Alas, it was for naught.  Cruz squeezed into another term, sweating and hyperventilating all the way.  It was enough to upset that right-wing force in Texas politics, but Cruz made it back to Washington anyway.

Then came the ice.  Like a herd of Central American immigrants carrying loads of bananas stuffed with cocaine (a conservative’s second worst nightmare after queer marriage), Winter Storm Uri ambushed Texas.  Meteorologists had warned state and energy industry officials about its strength.  When most Texans think of hurricanes, they conjure images of Katrina and Harvey, not a snow-laden monstrosity from the Pacific or (hah-ha) Canada.

As millions of Texans found themselves without power – and, in some cases, water – state leaders began blaming liberals and their green energy ideas for the catastrophe.  And Ted Cruz left his comfortable Houston abode to jet to Cancun because his 2 daughters wanted to go.  He was there for all of one day before the angry heat from his constituents melted his margarita and his resolve and he scurried back to Houston; hoping no one would notice.

We noticed.  We also noticed that at least 80 Texans died last week directly as a result of the ice storm.

Cruz hopscotched across the stage of excuses to explain his sudden departure and miraculous return.  Meanwhile, Beto O’Rourke began raising money for Texans stranded in their darkened homes and even made calls to some of them.  He got help from one of the most demonized figures among conservatives in American politics: New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Now, as Texas state leaders continue blaming everyone else for the catastrophe, Ted Cruz left Texas again and headed for Orlando, Florida to attend the annual conference of the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC).  In summation it’s a yearly festival where right-wingers trash anyone even slightly to the left of their narrow-minded ideology.  At this year’s escapade, a gold-colored figure of Trump has taken center stage.

And so has Cruz.  Making light of his Cancun trip, he quipped: “I’ve got to say, Orlando is awesome.  It’s not as nice as Cancun, but it’s nice.”

Oh, ha-ha!  HURK!

Fuck you, Cruz.  Fuck you and your conservative philosophies.  Fuck you and the Texas Republican “leaders” who can’t admit their pro-business, anti-regulation antics over the past decades put us into this quagmire.  People suffered and people died during this mess!  One of the wealthiest states in the richest nation on Earth in the third decade of the 21st century should not have experienced such a calamity!

But I’m just venting.  Texas, we could’ve had Beto.

Image: Mike Luckovich

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Tweet of the Week – February 20, 2021

Beto O’Rourke

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“Get a Rope” Quotes of the Week – February 20, 2021

“Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business.”

Rick Perry, Texas Governor 2001-2015, on the Texas ice storm

Downtown Colorado City, Texas

“No one owes you or your family anything; nor is it the local governments responsibility to support you during trying times like this!  Sink or swim, it’s your choice! … Only the strong will survive and the week will perish.”

Tim Boyd, former Mayor of Colorado City, Texas, on the Texas ice storm

Boyd resigned his position shortly after he made this comment.

“Get a Rope”

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Best Quotes of the Week – February 20, 2021

“This is what you get when people who don’t believe in government are running your government. . . . They’d like to spend more time on Hannity talking about the Green New Deal and wind turbines than they would in trying to help those who desperately need it right now.”

Beto O’Rourke, on this week’s ice storms in Texas

“Just put it in people’s arms.  We don’t want any doses to go to waste. Period.”

Dr. Hasan Gokal, a Houston doctor with the Harris County Public Health Department who was charged with stealing ten doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for rushing to administer them before expiration

“It’s essentially a question of how much insurance you want to buy.  What makes this problem even harder is that we’re now in a world where, especially with climate change, the past is no longer a good guide to the future.  We have to get much better at preparing for the unexpected.”

Jesse Jenkins, an energy systems engineer at Princeton University, on the Texas ice storm crisis

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The Texas state capital building in Austin

The memo was clear.  Everyone should make a concerted effort to get into the office, no matter what the weather is like.  That included winter storms.  It was the mid-1990s, and the manager of the department where I worked in a bank in downtown Dallas insisted that business was paramount.  This was seemingly light years before the Internet and telecommuting became dependable and functional.  And every time ice and snow paralyzed the Dallas / Fort Worth metropolitan area I managed to make it into work.  One week day I awoke to sleet falling outside of my apartment bedroom window; it was about 4 in the morning.  I knew the weather would only worsen, so I shut off my alarm clock and readied for work.  Travel time from my far North Dallas abode into downtown took almost 2 hours by navigating ice-laden streets.  When I arrived just before 8 a.m., I literally had to turn on the lights in the department.

When I went to work for an engineering company shortly after the turn of the century, I ended up back in downtown Dallas, laboring on a contract for a government agency.  I learned quickly the federal outfit had a phobia of snow and ice.  They’d literally shut down when snow began descending upon the city.  As contractors, my colleagues and I had to vacate the premises as well.  One afternoon a monstrous rainstorm attacked, and – in a faux frenzy – I asked loudly if we had to leave the building.  Rain, I declared, was just liquid snow.  No such luck.  We had to continue laboring over our strained keyboards.  Everyone laughed.

Last weekend Winter Storm Uri catapulted into North America from the Pacific, generating ice storms that blanketed the state of Texas this week and inducing an even more paralyzing effect: our power grid shut down.  Literally millions of people have lived without power (and in some cases, without water) since this past weekend.  As of this moment, most homes have their power back.  But a lack of water is now the problem.  Meanwhile, the number of deaths in Texas related to the event has risenDallas-Fort Worth International Airport led the world in the number of flight cancellations this week.

This has been a cataclysm of unimaginable proportions.  I have experienced a slew of serious weather events and witnessed plenty of incidents of government incompetence, but I have NEVER seen anything like this!

What has occurred here in Texas this week is a prime example of the ineptness of conservative ideology and intense deregulation.  Texas is an energy island; producing its own energy and relying upon no one else.  The exception is far West Texas, where El Paso and its immediate surrounding communities experienced the same weather event, yet had no power outages.  That strong sense of independence and individual reliability looks great in political campaigns, but doesn’t always turn out well in real life.  Since the mid-1990s, Texas has had the habit of electing the biggest morons to public office.  And they’ve come to dominate state government.  Texas conservatives have done more to protect gun rights than basic human rights.

Now many of those same conservatives who always espouse the concept of personal responsibility are pointing their gnarly fingers at everyone and everything except themselves and their own disjointed attitudes.  Even though President Joe Biden approved emergency relief for Texas, some Republicans are accusing him of indifference.  They somehow missed Ted Cruz running off to Cancun, México this week because his kids wanted to go.  Governor Greg Abbott has blamed green energy and the Green New Deal for the crisis.  Green energy, however, only makes up about 10% of energy sources in Texas, and the Green New Deal hasn’t even gone into effect yet.  But they’re liberal programs, so of course, Republicans consider them demonic and will trash their mere presence whenever they get the chance.  Abbott also blames the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) for mishandling the event, but still hasn’t looked in the mirror.

A ceiling fan in a Dallas apartment building sprouted icicles.

This debacle points to the vulnerability of modern societies that have come to rely upon optic fibers and wires; a weakness that would both appall and humor our hardy ancestors.  In March of 1888, a massive winter storm assaulted the Northeastern U.S., downing power lines and disabling even modest commutes in the region’s largest cities.  People in rural areas, however, lived through the storm and its effects without much trouble.  They were accustomed to such weather anyway and prepared for it.

Preparedness – the word of 2021.

Consider this irony.  Earlier on Thursday, the 18th, NASA was able to land a vehicle on Mars.  The endeavor cost millions of dollars and is an epic triumph in the name of science and technology.  But we can’t get power and water to millions of human beings here in Texas – on planet Earth – for several days.

That’s not just sad; it’s unbelievably outrageous.

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