Guaranteed City Services

The power went off about 2am while I was having a soak in the tub before heading to bed. I grumbled and then rinsed and dried myself off in the dark and climbed up out of the tub to get dressed again so that I could go find the flashlights and the hurricane candles and make sure the house was set up for several hours of life without electricity in the middle of a nearly unprecedented winter storm.

This is the second time in a month that the power has gone off here at the house. It’s off at the school across the street too which has never happened before, and that bothers me. The school is on a seperate grid set aside for essential services. Most Texas schools were built to be shelters for harsh weather as well as their main purpose as schools, and they are largely self-sufficient architecture if properly maintained. The power being out there was a signal that this was not the ordinary squirrel chewing on transformer wires kind of problem.

The power stayed off until 4:38am. It came back on while I was washing dishes by candlelight. Weirdly that is the same thing I was doing the last time there was a power outage. The power stayed on for ten whole minutes and then it went back off again. I’m going to start a fire in the fireplace soon and start cleaning the shotgun in preparation for the zombie hordes that should be milling about by the time everything thaws in a week. I hope all of you have your zombie plans ready.

This is getting to be a too frequent problem. If I wanted to be on my own for power I would live out in the country. I don’t live in the country because I want services from the city to work when I need them too. I’d like to not have to buy solar cells, a battery backup and a generator just because I as a homeowner can’t rely on the city to keep the power on. This is why we pay taxes. We pay through the nose so that the services we need are there when we need them.

Yes, this is unprecedented weather, a never-before seen type of winter storm for this area. I get that. But this is the second time in a month, and that time the weather was normal and the power was still off all day. The city needs to start making sure that basic services stay on all the time, and just FYI that also includes the internet in this day and age. It’s time for a rethink, as the saying goes. Let’s start getting the city to pay attention to what is really important to us as citizens. What is that?

  • Shelter for everyone.
  • Clean water for everyone.
  • Food for everyone.
  • Electricity for everyone.
  • Healthcare for everyone.
  • Information services for everyone.

When it became clear to me that climate change was a thing some time around 2010, I started thinking that the municipalities and states needed to start making plans to deal with unexpected weather conditions in the future, because we really don’t know what will happen as the planet warms up. Winter storms stalling out in the Southern regions of the United States are perhaps a completely unlikely event to contemplate, but that is what the word unexpected means, and that is also why they changed the nomenclature from global warming to climate change, because the net effect may have been hotter temperatures worldwide, but the individual weather patterns will include things like what we are seeing right now. We need to be planning for this kind of event in the future, and we should have started these plans twenty years ago or even earlier.

We’ve waited too long and now it is time to play catch up, and we’d better start doing the planning in earnest or we’ll be seeing rolling blackouts all summer and winter in the years to come. People dying to unforeseen climate events is something that we should not just be accepting blythely like we are doing right now. How many homeless will freeze to death tonight? How many of them have died so far this year?

In a year marred by uncertainty and loss, homeless Austinites and advocates gathered Sunday morning to remember and read the names of the 256 homeless Austinites who died in 2020 – an increase of more than 70 deaths compared to last year.

Along Auditorium Shores, dog tags representing each life lost were nailed to a memorial live oak on the banks of Lady Bird Lake. The silver tags fluttered and jangled with each gust of wind on the blustery morning, while Austinites on the Roy and Ann Butler Hike and Bike Trail went about their Sunday exercises largely unphased.

kut.org

Will it top 400 in 2021? 500? When will we say enough?

February 18, 2021 – I wrote the original portion of this article Sunday night, early Monday morning, by copying parts of text that I had written on Facebook and Nextdoor earlier in the day Sunday. I was using my phone as a hotspot while typing on my laptop and it was the only connection to the outside world that we had in the house at that time. Not too long after my 5 am post, the phone and then the laptop went dead, and I had no power to charge either of them (other than sitting out in the SUV we borrowed from a friend due to the terrorist squirrels attack on our car. I’ll be writing that article shortly, I’m sure. If the power stays on) until Wednesday afternoon when we were woken up from the pretty poor sleep we were getting without our cpap machines, woken up by the sound of the high temp alarm going off on the chest freezer that sits just the other side of the wall from our bedroom. So that makes just under four full days without power for us here in Austin.

Most of the food in the chest freezer will be of questionable safety and will have to be thrown out, and that goes double for the contents of the refrigerator. We moved most items that we needed to keep edible to the porch, which remains colder than the refrigerator even today, Thursday the 18th.

That is 59 hours without power thanks to the Texas electric grid manager’s (ERCOT) unwillingness to provide or find additional power to keep the electricity on for most Texans. The death toll from freezing will not be known for some time, and the cost of life among the homeless population may not ever be known. Nor is this winter storm over. I noticed flakes of snow falling again today as I washed dishes in my freshly boiled tap water this morning.

Boiled tap water? The boil water notice was instituted yesterday as the assessments of the damage that the lack of electricity for four days has had on our local infrastructure revealed that the power had been turned off at Austin’s largest water treatment plant, and that water pressure remains under low pressure conditions. Low water pressure means that contaminants can be siphoned off of toilet tanks or leaks in cracked water lines, rendering the once potable water in the lines potentially life-threatening. The boil water notice will probably remain in effect here for several days.

I’m still no more confident the power will stay on than I was when it came back on the last time. It may be still on now, but how long will it be before ERCOT once again screws up and Texas is subjected to blackouts because of it? This has happened several times, pretty much every time that the weather goes below freezing for long enough for the non weatherized portions of the electricity grid to freeze and then fail to provide power.

When I wrote about this issue on Nextdoor several people displayed a complete lack of knowledge about the subject of the electric power grid in Texas. People like this guy:

So you’d like Texas to invest hundreds of millions (or possibly billions?) of taxpayer dollars to expand capacity to meet the power needs created by a single day of once in a century weather?

The problem is not capacity that needs to be built into the system. The problem is weatherization. Weatherization that has been pointed out as being needed before, but that Texas’ electricity council has never done anything to address:

Morning Edition – What Went Wrong With The Electric Grid In Texas? – February 17, 2021

So this is a very frustrating narrative, and largely because it is true that some of the solar and wind farms were producing less than you might have expected because of the extreme cold, but a lot of them were actually overperforming expectations as well. Simultaneously, almost an order of magnitude or almost 10 times as much of the thermal system – so coal, gas and nuclear – actually shut down because of the extreme cold, due to things like instruments freezing, et cetera. So I think the overall point here is all of the fuels were really, really struggling. And as the governor mentions, renewables being about 10% of the grid, the other 90% of the grid was not available in the way that we expected to, either, and in a way that was very, very far outside of what we expected to see fail.

NPR.org

The weatherization issue is a known problem and it is an old problem. In 1989 Texas faced power outages due to freezing weather impairing the electrical grid. It happened once again in the 1990’s and in 2011. Now it is happening again because ERCOT and it’s member corporations have still not complied with suggestions made by the national electrical regulating body more than a decade ago.

As another commenter pointed out on that thread on Nextdoor, this is because ERCOT was set up specifically to allow Texas to avoid federal regulation. This is possible because all of ERCOT’s activities are inside Texas, which means its activities are not interstate commerce and thusly cannot be regulated by federal authorities. ERCOT passed on the recommendations from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) to their participating electrical power generators, but few if any of them were followed:

Moreover, some of the same equipment, the report noted, had failed during previous cold snaps. One in December 1989 prompted the state’s grid operator to resort to system-wide rolling blackouts for the first time.

“Many generators failed to adequately apply and institutionalize knowledge and recommendations from previous severe winter weather events, especially as to winterization of generation and plant auxiliary equipment,” the 2011 report said.

The failures have already spurred a tangle of finger-pointing, with Texas Governor Greg Abbott calling on leaders of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the state’s grid operator, to resign.

bloomberg.com

The wikipedia page I linked under the acronym ERCOT above appears to have been written from press releases and from ERCOT’s own website. It is pretty hard to find any information on this obscure agency that isn’t filtered through their own internal lens. A local news station has just recently published a story that claims that several board members don’t live in Texas and one board member purportedly lives in Canada:

A KXAN analysis of ERCOT’s board revealed a total of five members do not live in Texas. Along with Telberg and Cramton, board members Vanessa Anesetti-Parra, Terry Bulger and Raymond Hepper do not appear to live in the Lone Star State.

Anesetti-Parra’s professional social media account shows her location as Canada, Bulger’s ERCOT biography lists his home as Wheaton, Illinois and a University of Pennsylvania law school biography shows Hepper calls Maine home.

kxan.com

What is clear is that ERCOT has proven that it can’t manage Texas’s electrical generating grid with any reliability and needs to be scrapped and replaced with another organization that is mandated with ensuring that power stays on for the average Texan even when inclement weather is affecting the region.

This is not a big ask. This is not asking the government to invest billions of dollars providing excess capacity, although re-investing the millions of dollars of profit that these corporations have taken out of Texas in the future of Texas and in Texas’ ability to sustain the necessary systems for power generation and delivery would be a completely justifiable demand.

I’ll start simple. I’d like the state to stop denying that climate change is real. It’s all around us and affecting us more and more each day. Stop pretending that science is political. Science is real and climate change is real and we are just going to have to learn how to deal with this new reality that we have created. I would like a task force to be set up to spitball and then solve similar issues to this one we are living through now, and then they need to set up preparations to deal with similar crisis in the future.

There will be another crisis this summer from the heat and there will likely be one next winter from the cold. Once in a century storms seem to happen every other season these days. It is time to get off of our collective asses and go about setting up the systems we will need to survive this new and rapidly changing climate we find ourselves in. Austin should probably increase their investment in the South Texas Nuclear Generating Station, and possibly start backing current plans to expand that station to generate more power. That would be a good place to start. On the other end of the spectrum Austin and Texas should allow and/or encourage households and businesses to install battery backup systems for their solar power systems, so that households and businesses can draw on their own power during peak demand cycles. Completely the opposite direction from where Governor Abbott is currently agitating energy to go, demanding a reinvestment in oil and natural gas.

Beau of the Fifth ColumnLet’s talk about windmills in Texas and cars on Mars – Feb 17, 2021 (I’d like to thank Facebook for making it so buttfucking hard to link videos inside Facebook that they’ve forced me to go out and subscribe to Beau’s Youtube Channel that I didn’t even know he had in order to get a working link to this video that I originally found on Facebook. Facebook video, a major driver of video subscriptions for Youtube. Google should be paying you. -Ed.)

In the meantime we still don’t have running water. Luckily we started having drinking water delivered a few years ago because Austin tap water had started tasting weird and didn’t look to be improving anytime soon. At least I could still wash dishes and clothes in it, as well as cook with it, while it was running. I really miss water at the taps that we could drink as well as do all those other things we need water to do in the average human home. Looking forward to the time when we can once again take basic necessities for granted as being guaranteed by the governments we elect to make sure we have what we need to survive.

If you elect people who hate and fear government to run government, you get bad government.

Bad government has consequences. Bad government can’t handle a crisis, won’t help its citizens (not can’t help its citizens, won’t), and can only blame others for its endless failure.

And you don’t have to look any further than what’s happening in Texas right now to see it.

facebook.com/Stonekettle

We made the Rachel Maddow Show and The Last Word on MSNBC Feb. 18th & 19th . A clip from Rachel’s show is the featured image. Here are some links to the screenshots (Instagram link 1 and link 2) I took from the Thursday Feb. 18, 2021 show.

Governor Abbott’s Voter Suppression Effort

Local officials in Texas say they plan to fight a new order from Gov. Greg Abbott to limit the number of places where voters can hand deliver mail-in ballots.

Abbott announced the order Thursday, the same day local election officials opened the drop-off sites.

NPR.org

I’ve been of the opinion for decades now that the governor’s office has overstepped its constitutional bounds. It started with Pointy Boots, err, Rick Perry, but Abbott has stretched the areas that the office was intended to govern into areas that are far beyond constitutional intents. I know that interfering in city and county business was exactly what the writers of the Texas constitution were trying to prevent, and yet Abbott has done this routinely over the last few years with the legislature’s help.

Local officials, both county and city, should call his bluff this time. Tell him that he can either get the Secretary of State to issue a guideline that makes that limitation on balloting official (but still questionable) or he can drag the legislature back into session to make the voting changes he calls for a legislative directive that is demonstrably constitutional. Otherwise, tough. The counties make those kinds of decisions and the counties have already made their decisions.

Greg Abbott is not the dictator of Texas, he’s just the governor. His job is to look pretty, sign bills and cut ribbons. That is the extent of his power. That he can only do two of those things is not our problem.

Facebook

The district court was wrong to rewrite Texas law. But the distinguished judge who did so was simply following in the Governor’s footsteps,” Ho wrote. “It is surely just as offensive to the Constitution to rewrite Texas election law by executive fiat as it is to do so by judicial fiat. Yet that is what occurred here.

statesman.com

Face Covering

Facebook – Austin Mayor Steve Adler

I resisted wearing face covering for as long as I could. I did this not just because I have a hard time reading faces and so want to make myself more easily read by people I might talk to, but also because I have a hard enough time breathing while out on a walk or doing any strenuous activity without having a barrier between me and the air I so desperately need. Austin made face covering mandatory, so I finally gave in and started wearing something to cover my mouth and nose.

I wear a bandanna tied in the classic bandit style to go along with my straw hat and tinted prescription glasses. I’m sure I strike a menacing appearance in this getup, or would if it wasn’t for the bright blue sweatpants and bright yellow walking shoes. The bandanna does seem to reduce the amount of pollen that I am exposed to, even if it doesn’t remove all of it, so I may have to keep wearing the damn thing on high allergy days even after all this coronavirus madness is nothing more than an almost forgotten nightmare.

Me and my new walking buddy getting ready to sally forth.

I don’t care what Governor Abbott or his lunatic Lieutenant Governor, Dan Patrick, think about anything. They are taking marching orders from the madman in the White House, and so consequently what they might say or do is pretty much irrelevant if not downright harmful or possibly fatal in the long run. Don’t listen to the madman in the White House. That is the best advice I can offer to anyone. I have no idea why anyone does listen to him anymore.

I’ll continue wearing my bandit mask for as long as it suits me. If they make me go physically to the polls during the runoffs and then in November, I will go there wearing the thing as well. I will wear the mask and vote all of them out of office. This is proof positive that real criminals don’t wear bandannas and straw hats. Real criminals wear business suits and ties and they lie right to your face with not a hint of insincerity. “I have a great deal for you!” Sure you do.


I have been experiencing some deep depression lately. It came to me last night what this depression probably stems from. I don’t know what to write about in this time of coronavirus that isn’t somehow related to the coronavirus. All of my podcasts are going full-on coverage of the subject, and most of the news is also about it.

I’ve been deleting most news podcasts for weeks months. Over the last week I have finished two books on tape rather than listen to any of the podcasts that I usually spend time listening to. I have no use for more news about this disease. I know what I need to know to stay healthy, and most of what is being said is correction of the misinformation that the President (OHM) has been spreading about the disease on a nightly basis, with the help of the media that can’t seem to stop spreading his lies for him. The WaPo ran a piece today title Trump has played the media like a puppet. Ya think? I’ve only been trying to say this for four years now. Nice that you’ve finally noticed that you are being used. Maybe you should fix that problem before it gets out of hand.

The Wife came to me today and said she had a revelation. “The blame game is about to start.” I tried to be patient with her, but this really isn’t a revelation to me. The OHM has been engaging in the blame game for four years now. He and his cronies are clearly gearing up to start blaming the Democrats for cracking down on the populations under their control, imposing restrictions that the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (Covid-19) did not require. They’ll say people aren’t dying at greater rates than previously. The cities and states will point to the elevated numbers of deaths. The OHM will say those aren’t coronavirus deaths. The cities and states will say they were coronavirus deaths. The OHM will say they weren’t because they weren’t tested for coronavirus. The cities and states will object and point out that there aren’t enough tests to test all the dead people. The OHM will shrug and go back to golfing. Just like he has always done.

ALL IN – Trump hits 108 days at his own golf properties – April 20, 2018

It’s important to remember that this guy complained bitterly about all the time that Barack Obama spent on the golf course. What he hates most about Barack Obama on the golf course (other than he is a black man on a golf course that isn’t a caddy) is that Obama is a better golfer than he is, and Barack Obama spent less time getting there than the OHM has already spent on the golf course during his joke of a presidency.

Donald Trump wants to open the country back up so he can get back to golfing and get back to charging people to golf with him. It hasn’t got anything to do with the deaths and the suffering, or how much worse it will all be after we end social distancing. He just wants to keep doing what he has always done. Screw people and steal their money.

This is par for the course. This is how every single embarrassing event has been played since Trump blundered onto the political stage and demonstrated that he has no capacity to feel shame for his shameful behavior. There is a fly in this ointment though. There are records of his malfeasance.

For weeks, the PDB — as the report is known — traced the virus’s spread around the globe, made clear that China was suppressing information about the contagion’s transmissibility and lethal toll, and raised the prospect of dire political and economic consequences.

But the alarms appear to have failed to register with the president, who routinely skips reading the PDB and has at times shown little patience even for the oral summary he now takes two or three times per week, according to the officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified material.

The advisories being relayed by U.S. spy agencies were part of a broader collection of worrisome signals that came during a period now regarded by many public health officials and other experts as a squandered opportunity to contain the outbreak.

The Washington Post

The OHM was ignoring all the signs that COVID-19 was going to be a problem until he couldn’t ignore it anymore. Then he blamed the CDC, the WHO and the Chinese government for the things he had every right to have known months previously if he had only bothered to pay attention.

He tried to blame the Democrats for not giving him the funds that he needed to combat the disease until Nancy Pelosi handed him a check for two trillion dollars. A check that the OHM then promptly put in his and his closest buddies pockets. That bit of malfeasance will be coming back to bite him right about the time elections roll around in November.

Texas may open back up on Friday or Monday. Austin won’t be following the governor’s direction. Neither will Houston, Dallas or any other city that understands what the real problem is here. The real problem is that these Republican morons think they can bluff a virus. That they can lie to mother nature and she won’t punish them for it.

I feel bad for those people who can’t afford to stay home any longer. Those people who have purposely been kept poor by the system they are part of in some ill-gotten belief that you have to keep people hungry, homeless or on the edge of homelessness, in order to get them to work. We have all be stolen from over the course of our lives by these people in suits and ties who think they are better than we are because they have money and we don’t. They don’t understand, any more than the poor do, that they are rich because the system allows them to be rich.

The system could be adjusted so that everyone is at least comfortable with some pretty minor tweaks. The two trillion dollar coronavirus rescue package? The country’s entire population could be granted a guaranteed minimum income for an entire year for that amount of money (Andrew Yang’s Freedom Dividend) What are the benefactors of most of that money doing with it right now? Driving the stock markets up with all this extra cash they just stumbled into. Pretty much the same thing they were doing before the pandemic hit with all that free money that Trump gave them in his tax bill.

So instead of making sure that no one has to work that isn’t constitutionally set up for the kind of risky work that is required right now, instead of making sure that no Americans are homeless and have enough food to eat, we’ve given billionaires even more money to play around with. Now the poor feel compelled to return to work having burned through the $1200.00 pittance that was allowed to them.

People are going to die. Most likely a lot of people are going to die. I’m going to do my best to not be one of them. I’m not planning on going anywhere (other than to vote as I noted previously) until right about January the 20th of 2021. I might not even go out then other than to abandon this hellhole that we’ve made, heading for greener pastures if there are any of those left by then. We’ll just have to see whether the tide turns or not.


Editor’s note: July 4, 2020. Governor Abbott swerved to miss the oncoming train today. He has reinstated the statewide requirement for masks, with several very large exceptions. Too large, according to Mayor Adler. Weirdly, I never stopped wearing a mask outdoors even though I didn’t have to wear one and still don’t have to since I won’t go into a crowded public space so long as the pandemic rages. Hopefully I will get my ballots by mail as I requested. Hopefully there will be people present at the vote counting that will ensure that mail-in ballots are not simply thrown in the trash. There are some very thin shoe-strings of hope weaving the future of the country together. That is not a reassuring thought.

Editor’s note: October 29, 2020. I’m still wearing a mask outdoors to walk. I have made a total of three forays outside the house that were more than just taking a walk, all of those were to go to a doctor’s visit or to get my flu shot (Get your flu shots) I have worn a mask every time I have met anyone at a distance of less than six feet anywhere that I meet people who are not my immediate family. My ballot did show up early, and it was mailed back early. Fingers crossed that they clerk has it already and that it avoided being delayed by Donald Trump’s perversion of the Post Office. Just another impeachable act in a near-infinite list of impeachable acts committed by Donald Trump while in office.

Mayor Adler has become my own personal Mr. Rogers. I listen to him whenever I feel stressed and need to calm down. He is the spiritual opposite of the poisonous snake that currently inhabits 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Despite Mayor Adler’s best efforts, Austin has never gotten a low enough case count for life here to return to something akin to normal. This is the new normal. Hiding in our houses. Wearing masks when we go out. No bars or clubs (not that I went to those anymore anyway) Restaurants all but completely closed, takeout the normal way that you get food you don’t prepare yourself now.

Wearing a burqa seems sane now. Biometric identification seems necessary now. How can you trust a photo ID when you can’t see someone’s whole face? The backlash against even the minimal health requirements that have been put in place says to me that there will be blood spilled over the subject of complying with health standards soon. There will be blood spilled because we’re going to have to get serious to beat this bug and the other bugs that we have been ignoring at our own peril for decades. Don’t get me started on the subject of Antimicrobial resistance. Solving that medical problem is going to also take the kinds of controls that Americans in general will not be ready to embrace.

Essential Services?

Governor Greg Abbott has fumbled the ball again.

Turner and others did express concern about Abbott’s decision to include religious worship as an essential service, leaving open the possibility of large gatherings at churches. At the news conference, Abbott encouraged churches to conduct their services remotely but said that if they must meet in person, they should follow the federal social-distancing guidelines.

“I’m unaware of a church that would want its constituents, its parishioners, to be exposed to COVID-19, and I think there’s enough public information right now for them to be aware of the practices that are needed to make sure that their members don’t contract COVID-19,” Abbott said in the interview.

There has been controversy, particularly in the Houston area, over church closures in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Pastors are in court challenging a stay-at-home order that Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced a week ago that restricts churches to online-only services.

To that end, Abbott’s latest executive order overrides “any conflicting order issued by local officials,” including those related to religious services. At the news conference, Abbott said local officials “still have flexibility to impose standards that they consider to be more strict” — as long as they do not conflict with his latest executive order.

There are at least 3,266 coronavirus cases in Texas, including 41 deaths, according to the most recent figures from the Texas Department of State Health Services. The cases are spread across 122 of the state’s 254 counties.

There have been 42,992 tests done in Texas, according to the latest numbers.

Texasstandard.org

Churches are essential services when schools are not? This conclusion says more about Texas than most thinking Texans are going to be comfortable admitting. It also says a lot about Gov. Abbott’s ability to be an effective leader; that he is more afraid of the religious right than he is of the plague that is sweeping across the country. He also continues down the path that he has set himself on, thinking his state government is more understanding of what Houston, Austin and Dallas citizens need than the governments we have put in place to govern our cities.

If Harris county leadership says the churches are closed, then the churches are closed in Harris county. Look to see that provision of the order reversed, along with a lot of the bullshit his Republican legislature has passed over the last year hamstringing local governments. It won’t happen soon enough to stop the landslide of coronavirus cases that will stem from letting people gather in churches because church services are essential.

The number of tests conducted in the state are pathetic. 42k? The number of asymptomatic carriers that will be at church spreading the disease to other parishioners will ensure that the wildfire of COVID-19 will continue to burn out of control in Texas until hopefully the summer months bring it to an end. If we are lucky.

…also. Women’s health is an essential service. This means that abortion services are essential services. Pretending that the procedures you don’t like are not essential and then banning its practice during this crisis is the essence of making something that shouldn’t be political, political. I want this on the record for the next time that Abbott and his Christianist cronies start tearing their hair and pretending that they want to avoid making this crisis political. Pot, meet kettle. Kettle, meet pot.

Women’s Health in Texas is Still Under Attack

The plight of women’s health in Texas has always been a concern of mine. One of my earliest memories involves sitting in a car outside an abortion clinic in Dallas waiting for my mother to come back out of the clinic so that we could drive back home to Sweetwater. From that day to this one, women’s health has figured highly in my thoughts because my mother forbid me or the rest of the children from ever admitting that the trip had even happened. It was that verboten as a subject in Texas. You simply were not allowed to discuss it in polite company.

We had to drive to Dallas because there was no clinic closer to us in Sweetwater than the clinic four hours away in Dallas. Women’s health has only gotten harder to address since that time in the early eighties when we made that road trip.

When the Abortion Barbie, the Texas Republican male’s label for Wendy Davis, stood up and filibustered the latest restrictions on abortion to be proposed by the troglodytes that run our state in 2013, I was one of her greatest supporters. I went out and proudly cast my vote for her in the governor’s race the next year. Anyone who was brave enough to stand up and talk about how essential women’s health is, and how much of women’s health is being made illegal in Texas, was the kind of straight talker I wanted to run my state government.

But she lost, of course. The attacks on women’s health continued unabated. The Republican legislature passed the bill that Wendy Davis had filibustered in the next session of the legislature. Then in 2017 they passed SB8. Slowly, one by one, the remaining women’s health clinics in Texas are closing.

On the Media – “Shmashmortion” – January 4, 2018

The Planned Parenthood clinic in San Angelo, Texas has closed.

KUT – For Supporters Of Abortion Access, Troubling Trends In Texas – November 18, 2019

Planned Parenthood was the only place in the region that a woman could go to get birth control pills at a reduced cost. To get mammograms and pap smears done. The only place that poor women could go to see to their basic health needs. I know this because The Wife and I relied on that clinic when we lived in San Angelo. Now that clinic is closed and those women who are still in San Angelo have nowhere else to go.

The promise that Conservative Christianists made, that women’s health would not suffer in Texas because of their war on Planned Parenthood, was an outright lie.

Texas Standard – January 25, 2018

They don’t care about women’s health, they only care about maintaining male control over the female’s reproductive system. That is the beginning, the middle and the end of the story when it comes to why they hate Planned Parenthood.

It is the same reason why the founder of Planned Parenthood was reviled when she started this movement to care for women’s health first and foremost. She was liberating women from their reliance on men, and men don’t like that. It would be nice if this liars were better at telling the lies they tell. At least you could be comfortable in the lies that way.

RAnt(hony)-ings
RAnt(hony)-ings

Keep Austin Weird

I ran across some click-baity article on Facebook in one of the groups I’m a member of. The click-bait worked, because I clicked on the article and learned more than I wanted to about the website and the oversized beer packaging that they said proved the new slogan Keep Austin Weird was right on par.

Wait a minute. New slogan? Clearly not written by an Austinite. Keep Austin Weird has been a saying in Austin for pretty much as long as I’ve been here. Longer ago than 2000, the date cited in this wikipedia page. That may be why the guy who claimed he invented the phrase “Keep Austin Weird” couldn’t win his lawsuit and why his competitor’s company was able to trademark the brand and sell merchandise. They could do that because the phrase was in common use before the initial claim was made. I’m not sure why everyone can’t use it. It shouldn’t be anyone’s trademark, much less someone who wants to make a few bucks selling t-shirts.

In any case, an oversized package of beer is a pretty pedestrian thing to salute as the paragon of Austin weirdness. Most Texans would go for that and it would make stocking the cooler for a barbecue easy-peasy. Just take a look at what passes for weird on the Wikipedia page and remember that those aren’t even the weirdest things in Austin, most of which can’t be captured on video to be shared in the first place since most of the weirdness happens in your head.

Other cities have now started trying to mimic Austin’s weirdness, too. The sincerest form of flattery. Here’s hoping they draw off the plague of Californians we are currently suffering under with their new advertising campaigns.

Facebook – That’s #SoAustin – December 14, 2015

The Warrior

I think I’ve found the winner for the most 80’s of 80’s music videos.

Scandal featuring Patty Smyth – The Warrior (Official Video) – Oct 26, 2013

I probably should have figured that a song whose refrain was

Shootin’ at the walls of heartache, Bang! Bang!

Would have an amazing 80’s music video associated with it. Just another moment where I’m thankful that I didn’t watch much MTV or VH1 back in the day. Radio, radio and more radio. Also Texas disco bars, lots of Texas disco bars.

Texas disco bars were nothing like disco bars anywhere else. A man wearing a cowboy hat onto a disco dancefloor anywhere else in the world could be assumed to be wearing a costume. Not in Texas. Never insult a man’s hat in Texas. It’s always a fine lookin’ hat here. You wear it with style, even when you’re dancing to a song like this one.

Weirdly, I still like this song. I’ll just avoid watching the video in the future. Youtube auto-queued Pat Benatar after Scandal. Freaking Youtube and their mind-reading queues.

The Last Man on Rainey Street

Haunting first person descriptions of the transition from low-income residential to high-priced commercial property. Right here in Austin.

StitcherATXplained – The Last Man On Rainey Street – February 14, 2019

ATXplained.org


The article on KUT’s site is here. The ATXplained podcast page doesn’t do the story justice, from a visual perspective.

“I always feel melancholy when I [think about leaving] this place. This is my home. Not only mine but mine in spirit. Hopefully you’ll understand. I’m saying this because maybe –”

Then the phone line cut out.

KUT – The Families Who Lived On Rainey Street All Left. But One Man Stayed.

June 3, 2019.

“Built in 1910 this is the last remaining residential home on Rainey St. A treasure in time ready to pass this Austin Gem over to the next steward to create their own legacy with a piece of Downtown Austin. These properties rarely go to market and awaiting your next concept, whether it be a Restaurant, Bar, Hotel or Music Venue, the options are endless with the CBD zoning.”

KUT.org – The Last Single Family Home on Rainey Street is For Sale

Forcing Allegiance Is Fascism

The Texas Standard – KEN PAXTON INTERVENES IN SUIT – September 26, 2018

Lauren McGaughey is reporting on this story for the Dallas Morning News. She says the case stems from a suit filed by parents of a student who was kicked out of school for not standing to recite the pledge. The student and her parents say the school violated her First Amendment rights with that punishment.

“Attorney General Paxton says that it’s a ‘moral good.’ He said, in a statement, that kids learn about citizenship and patriotism from saying the pledge every morning,” McGaughey says.

A First Amendment expert McGaughey talked to says he believes the Texas requirement that students recite the pledge is unconstitutional.

The Texas Standard

Ken Paxton is a Christianist. He wants to force Americans to worship his God. This is a documented fact that anyone can find out for themselves with a simple Google search. A good portion of Texas agrees with him and his fascist views concerning the Freedom of/from Religion guaranteed by the US Constitution. If evil exists, and I am agnostic on the existence of evil; but if evil exists his views and the views of his fellow Christianists are an active evil in the mind of modern America. Ken Paxton should be shunned. He should be rejected at the polls. If you vote for Paxton, you are voting for evil.

I have a distinct opinion on the subject of forcing children to pledge allegiance, as the title of this article and the above paragraph should make abundantly clear. My qualms about the wisdom of making children pledge allegiance before they are old enough to know what words like allegiance mean go back to an early reading of The Children’s Story by James Clavell. In that story the children in a generic classroom are introduced to a new teacher sent to them by their new government. That teacher explains the intent behind the words of this pledge they’ve been forced to recite all their young lives, but the explanation she offers is a lie, and the children are too young and impressionable to know that they are being lied to by an authority figure.

These qualms came to a head when Texas passed a law requiring that children pledge allegiance to the Texas flag as well as the U.S. flag. I received a flyer amongst several other pieces of documentation sent home from school with my children the year this law went into effect, a flyer informing me that Texas law required all students to mouth the words of the United States pledge of allegiance, as well as the then newly revised Texas pledge of allegiance (HB 1034) in addition to observing a moment of silence once each day (SB 83) a practice that intended to re-introduce morning prayer into Texas public schools. The sponsor of HB 1034, when queried on the subject of religion, had this to say (source, Capitol Annex: More HB 1034 Exchanges):

BURNAM: Are you aware that Governor Perry has recently said, “Freedom of religion should not be taken as freedom from religion.” And my question is, do you agree with that statement, Ms. Riddle?
RIDDLE: I would say, Amen.

Which pretty much sums up the intent of the modification of the pledge, and the accompanying minute of silence. It also showed the utter contempt the governor and the majority of the legislature had for anyone who didn’t share their particular christian beliefs. Freedom of religion is a meaningless concept unless it includes freedom from religion; requiring someone to have a religion places constraints upon the person, negating any freedom that might be present.

The requirement to recite the two pledges has been on the books since 2003. When they changed the pledge in 2007 they felt they needed to inform parents, once again, of their children’s duty to stand and recite the pledges. This prompted me to fire off a letter to the school in response, telling them in no uncertain terms what I thought of their forced indoctrination into religion and what has become a transparent attempt to create an American theocracy.

Dictators and cult leaders require the slaves under their rule to swear allegiance to them, because power is jealous of rivals. In a free society, pledges of allegiance should not be required, because individuals are free of any allegiance other than to rational self interest. Additionally, pledges required of the public are contrary to the sentiments of the founders of the United States, as it reverses the role of the subservient state and places it above We The People.

Obviously, from the tone of this letter, you will be able to discern that I am hereby notifying you in writing that my children will be exempted from this practice. They will not be required to recite any pledges, nor will they be required to observe a minute of silence. This notice is given pro forma, because my children have abstained from reciting the pledges for the entire time that they have attended school; and they have done this without asking me or the omnipotent state for permission to do so. They have remained silent during pledges even in my presence, when I have recited the pledge autonomically; and I applaud them for their strength of will.

If it was possible, I would extend this exemption to any student of AISD, of any school district in Texas, or of any state in the United States, who wished to abstain from reciting the pledge, but lacks the permission that the state requires.

The Religious Right, the Christianist right, have simply become more strident over the years since 2007, not less.  They do not appear to have learned anything from the many battles they have engaged in and lost when it comes to the subject of making the US a christian nation against the will of the majority who like it just the way it is.

Nor is this an issue of socialism versus fascism, the author of the pledge having been a card-carrying Socialist of his timeSocialism itself is not a bad word. Socialism is another in a long list of bogeymen that really should be retired, since the mindset that inspired the pledges and Marxist Dictatorships of the twentieth century now looks as alien to us as most of the other concepts of the time do. However, it does remain fascist to force conformity to any ideology; fascism being the sole surviving ideology that holds up Authoritarianism as a benefit to society. Freedom of conscience requires that we allow people to believe what they want to believe and to act according to their own conscience. That means that allowing people to abstain from reciting the pledge is the least we can do in acknowledgement of their freedom of conscience. Imagine what it would be like if football fans could be reasoned with in this fashion.

The article that included the letter sent to AISD

Lupe Valdez Lost Her Gun?

She’s the Democratic Candidate for Governor, and she didn’t have verification that her weapon had been checked back in before she decided to run for governor? I wouldn’t rule out dirty tricks here, but I have to wonder at the ability of the Texas Democratic machine? Not having that duck properly lined up in its row? Someone should have been on that, making sure her closets were clean and there were no skeletons in them like lost weapons that might fall out and shoot the candidate. I mean, do they want her to lose?

This is that kind of political blunder, the kind that a first time candidate should have known would happen. It smacks of paybacks for her beating the Texas Democratic favorite, Mark White’s son, a respected businessman with all the right conservative connections to make it in Texas politics.