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Social Media Dump June 16-30 (2021)

See  June 1-15 and July 1-16  (View All)

Governor Abbott has mostly been driven by ideology and he’s overreached several times over the past year — even for a conservative-leaning state. I’m expecting at least a mild Democratic bounceback in 2022 and 2024. In contrast to 2018 (where TX Dems made significant inroads and Beto increased enthusiasm) , in 2020 Republicans kept their majority in the Texas legislature, and even made gains in congressional races. During COVID and the February blackouts, the governor basically was the problem, while county and local officials were earning respect from everybody. The part time TX legislature has been consumed with ideological bills — they are out of sync with what Texas has been going through.

When the subfreezing power outages occurred in February, Abbott immediately blamed the renewable energy industry. He has overruled cities and counties on practical issues related to COVID. He and Attorney General Paxton have joined several lawsuits against the federal government and Democrats, most of which he has lost. Abbott has passed laws restricting abortion, complicating voter rights and making it easy to carry guns, made countless executive orders and sided with right-wing crazies way too many times. Frankly, I lose track of all the awful things Abbott and his group have done. Now it appears that Abbott wants to spend $250 million on a Texas border wall. (Or maybe we don’t have the budget for that?)

Jon Schwarz: The GOP is the party of ideas, with two strong intellectual currents. The first is that Social Security and Medicare will inevitably lead to Stalinism, and the second is that Social Security and Medicare are Stalinism. (A later tweet says This tweet is actually out of date, the strongest intellectual current in the GOP today is that Social Security and Medicare are space lizard plots to steal your children and harvest their adrenochrome. (Googling, I see that adrenochrome is one of the Qanon talking points).

JOYCE CAROL OATES: that heart-sinking sensation when you type in your old faithful password & are told: “invalid.” worse yet, the stunning message: “you are locked out.” — poor Kafka, in all his paranoia, had not a clue what awaited in 2021.(Tweet)

For the record, I don’t like to embed tweets or even link to them.

RIP Ned Beatty. This American actor starred in the fantastic & hilarious Irish comic-biopic HEAR MY SONG about the long-missing Irish singer Josef Locke. You can rent it for $4 on Amazon. Amazingly, Beatty sang all the Locke songs in the movie -one of my alltime favorite movies! (I cued it to one of his songs). Here’s a clip of Beatty singing a Locke song. Favorite throwaway line: I’d rather be in jail than in love again…

John Oliver does a lowdown about summer heat in prisons. Apparently 70% of Texas prisons do not have AC — and Texas has already spent millions defending lawsuits. This is a scandal I’ve known about for a while. I have a family member in prison and he tells horror stories. Apparently even if the state spends money on fans on alternate ways to cool — these alternate methods don’t actually reduce temperature but merely reduce the perception of heat. For aging populations sustained period of raised temperature can aggravate chronic conditions.

Aside, I’m currently working on a new website for my publishing venture Personville Press. I’ve learned that WordPress has grown into a big monster. I’m actually changing my mind about whether to do WordPress and go back to installing Drupal (which has always been a big monster).

Study: The February power outages in Texas were primarily caused by failures in the fossil fuel infrastructure and specifically in one coal/natural gas plant within 20 miles of where I live. The study reports:

.. all major fuel sources except solar failed to meet ERCOT’s expectations during the February freeze, but natural gas was “responsible for nearly two-thirds of the total (electricity) deficit.”

“Cascading risks: Understanding the 2021 winter blackout in Texas,” 

In a 2020 piece by the environmental advocacy group Public Citizen, the WA Parish plant — the one which went completely offline in February is owned by NRG and is considered one of the largest polluters in Texas among stationary sources. This pollution is calculated to cost 178 deaths per year — making it among the deadliest industrial facilities in the US.

Brian Strasert, Su Chen Teh & Daniel S. Cohan (2018): “Air quality and health
benefits from potential coal power plant closures in Texas,” Journal of the Air & Waste Management (Link)

As it happens, another Fort Bend project, ACCIONA will provide 750 MW of renewable capacity in Texas. This is compared to 2700 MW total capacity of all the Parish power plants (Further proof that the primary problem isn’t fossil fuels that we aren’t building renewable energy plants fast enough!)

Here’s a different study analyzing the February outages with a summary table below:

Comments about this table:

  1. It really is striking how little renewable energy was being generated at that time — compared to Gas and Coal.
  2. Solar production more than doubled — although that may statistical noise.
  3. In terms of actual generation, it’s clear that gas and coal underperformed, although that may simply be plant-dependent.
  4. Coal and gas is said to be more reliable, but in fact, coal plants are frequently offline for maintenance during winter months. Natural gas is more likely to be on, but bad planning and weatherization probably was the major culprit.

Texans have already read that the entire Texas power grid was minutes away from a complete shutdown.

Katharine Hayhoe on how individuals avoid thinking about climate change.

We humans are really good at psychologically distancing ourselves from things that we think will matter in the future, but not now, from how much money we save for retirement, or how much we exercise, or don’t, or what we eat and what we shouldn’t.

And it’s same with climate change. It turns out, in the U.S., almost three-quarters of the people would say, oh, yes, climate change is real, it will affect future generations, it will affect plants and animals, it will affect people who live in countries far away.

But when you say, do you think it will affect you, the number drops precipitously to just over 40 percent. That gap is our biggest problem, not the gap of people who say it isn’t real, the gap of those of us who say is real, but we don’t think it matters.

PBS Newshour

Austin vs. Houston revisited in 2021 (by Evan Mitz). I enjoy these kinds of articles (and I wrote an Austin sucks piece a long ago). I know a lot about this subject. Here are my 2021 takes:

  1. Houston restaurants are 10x better than Austin’s. No comparison. Austin’s are overpriced, limited and too crowded.
  2. Houston’s traffic is just abominable. At least with Austin, there’s a decent chance you’re not going to be stuck in traffic on a particular day.
  3. Houston still is run and supported by the fossil fuel industry. Sure, there’s the medical field, but mostly there are dying dinosaur industries which inhabit the skyscrapers.
  4. Houston’s downtown culture is lively, but it takes forever to reach it.
  5. Finding a job in Houston is way easier than finding one in Austin — just be prepared to drive 45-60 minutes to get to it.
  6. Houston has a much better music scene, mainly because of its population. Anyone at SXSW or Austin City Limits eventually hits Houston. Miller Theatre has a lot of free outdoor shows, and you can catch some amazing things.
  7. Houston is a lot more vulnerable to hurricanes and heat waves (and power outages). On the other hand, our water supply is in much better shape than Central Texas.
  8. It is theoretically possible to rely mainly on public transit in Houston (though not easy). The new trains inside the loop have really revolutionized things. By contrast, Austin has bus coverage in several areas, but nothing like the extensive park and rides of Houston.
  9. In terms of education and universities, University of Houston has been growing in overall reputation, and there are still distinguished graduate and professional programs (at Rice, UH, UT Health Science, Baylor, South Texas College of Law). UT-Austin might rank better nationally, but Rice has a better music school, UH has a better creative writing program.
  10. Houston museums are fantastic and world-class.
  11. Unlike Austin, Houston is still a place where you can make a decent living (and the work force is much more varied). The main challenge is that job sites are all over the map, and you’re constantly tempted by jobs which are 60 minutes away by car and 2 hours by bus. Houston has 669 square miles, while Austin is 271.

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