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Tag: texas winter storm

What Are You Drinking?

A mechanical marvel of human ingenuity was plopped down on Mars by NASA last February. Its name, Perseverance, fits the Mars rover perfectly, for the robotic vehicle embodies a feat of scientific know-how, long-term dedication to public purpose, and a tight focus on teamwork. Think about the 20-year span of institutional tenacity required for myriad scientists and others to imagine, design, plan, construct, test and otherwise develop the project. And then they hurled this extraordinarily complex machine on a seven-month, 300-million-mile journey through space, navigating to a pinpoint landing in Jezero Crater, a 3.6-billion-year-old, dried-up Martian lakebed. Now Perseverance is probing the Red Planet's watery past for evidence of primordial life.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, during the same week of this WOW! achievement on Mars, millions of people in NASA's home city of Houston were also probing dried-up waterways: the faucets in their homes, businesses, and schools. On Valentine's Day, an Arctic cold front ripped through the state, and suddenly, basic infrastructure failed, and tap water in this sprawling metro became nonexistent or contaminated. Houstonians were left scrambling for essential, life-sustaining H2O.

They were not alone. Nearly 1,300 water systems across Texas were sputtering and failing at the same time. Worse, this calamitous crisis stemmed directly from the even bigger failure of another essential piece of modern infrastructure: the electric grid. During the weeklong deep freeze, almost all the Lone Star State's jury-rigged network of corporate-owned and -run power systems failed, leaving 4.5 million homes and businesses without electricity. In turn, this fiasco caused the pumps, pipes and pressure controls of hundreds of local water networks to freeze up and break down, cutting off potable water for days.

Gov. Greg Abbott, a GOP mediocrity who grossly mismanaged Texas' COVID-19 response (his slogan seems to be, "Failure is not an option; it's a promise") tried at first to blame Mother Nature. Well, it surely was a big winter storm ... but lots of states regularly maintain electricity and water through much deeper freezes.

What hit Texans was not nature, but an ongoing unnatural disaster. It was the state's reward for turning its government over to incompetents and right-wing ideologues who persistently disdain investment in public resources and community needs. For 25 years, a series of money-corrupted, corporate-coddling Texas governors and legislators have recoiled from even such minimal measures as requiring energy profiteers to weatherize people's crucial infrastructure. (This sort of corporate butt-kissing is what governors really mean when they puff themselves up and bluster that their state is "business-friendly.")

And their obsequious surrender of the public interest to moneyed powers pays off handsomely to them ... in bales of campaign cash they rake in from the profiteers. For example, the oil and gas giants that fuel the electric grid rewarded Abbott's six years of servility with a whopping $26 million in "thank-you" donations. The public's reward was hundreds of Texans killed in that one week of the grid crash and some $130 billion in economic losses from business shutdowns and homes flooded by burst pipes.

How embarrassing is it that the techno-advanced, engineering powerhouse of America has a growing crisis of water quality and delivery usually associated with impoverished nations? And the infrastructure collapse is not just in Texas. From our biggest cities like New York to isolated rural communities like those in the sprawling Navajo Nation, millions of us endure raw sewage, industrial chemicals, lead pipes, burst water mains, price gouging, cut-offs, boil emergencies, and other water disasters.

In March, Consumer Reports and The Guardian issued findings from a nine-month investigation of drinking water systems serving 19 million Americans. Of 120 systems analyzed, 118 had serious levels of toxic chemicals including lead, arsenic, and/or PFAS (a group of synthetic toxins) at dangerous levels. PFAS compounds are in our clothing, carpets, nonstick cookware, food containers, and thousands of other products. And now they're also in our water, seeping in from chemical factories and landfills. They are linked to a range of human health horrors including thyroid disease, cancers, and possibly learning delays in children. The Environmental Protection Agency sets no enforceable limit on PFAS in drinking water and suggests voluntary caps for a few chemicals — even as the compounds contaminate drinking water in more than 2,300 communities in 49 states. To learn more and see what's in your drinking water, go to EWG.org/tapwater/.

To find out more about Jim Hightower and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com

Poll: Public Rejects Blaming Clean Energy For Texas Power Failure

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

A poll released this weekend by the progressive strategy firm Data for Progress found the American public did not buy into a relentless propaganda campaign from right-wing media, which attempted to blame the Texas blackouts on renewable energy sources.

Instead, the public understood the reality of what went on: All power sources in the state had failed, including the state's primary fossil fuels.

The poll asked respondents which of the following options caused the power outages in Texas:

  1. Unusually cold winter weather conditions caused Texas power plants, including coal, natural gas, nuclear, and renewable energy sources, to go offline. This caused power outages across the state.
  2. Texas invested too much in renewable energy like wind and solar energy. Wind turbines froze because of the cold weather which led to power outages across the state.

In response, 64 percent of surveyed people correctly picked the first option, compared to only 28 percent who thought that Texas had over-invested itself in wind turbines. Even 50 percent of self-identified Republicans chose the correct answer, while 41 percent blamed renewable energy. The poll was conducted from February 19 to 22, surveying likely voters nationally via web panels.

poll graphs

Among self-identified Republicans who watch Fox News, the percentage was slightly lower: 47 percent picked the correct option. Finally, Republicans who watch Fox's far-right competitors Newsmax and One America News were even more divorced from reality — with an actual majority believing that the blackouts were because of wind turbines.

poll graphs

An earlier Media Matters study had found that Fox programming lied 128 times over less than 48 hours, falsely attributing the power outages to failures in renewable energy sources such as wind turbines.

For example, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott told Fox host Sean Hannity that his state's catastrophe "shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America." (Of course, the Green New Deal is not currently the law in Texas.) Meanwhile, Abbott had admitted in other settings that the state's natural gas and coal infrastructure had also frozen over.

Other right-wing media outlets pushing this campaign included Fox's corporate cousin The Wall Street Journal and the Sinclair Broadcast Group and its local TV stations across the country.

By contrast, local media in Texas widely debunked the misinformation, explaining that natural gas infrastructure was freezing over and more to blame than wind power, and that the root problem was from the state's failure to require utilities to winterize.

#EndorseThis: Daily Show Unveils New Texas Energy Source, Powered By Hate

How ridiculous are Texas Republicans? Facing a disastrous winter storm and a power outage that left millions frozen, the GOP responds by falsely blaming the Green New Deal. At a dire moment when leaders are needed, they play partisan politics -- topping with a helping of Big Lie.

The Daily Show brilliantly satirizes their despicable attitude in this (fictional) Texas power company ad. Powered by the hatred of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), the Green New Dealer who raised $5 million to help Texas, this outfit's energy source is abundant in Texas and evidently renewable.

Click! You'll laugh!

How Many Texans Died In Power Disaster Won’t Be Known For Weeks

By Shawn Mulcahy, The Texas Tribune


As snow blanketed much of Texas on Sunday, an 11-year-old boy in the Houston area gleefully played outside. Seeing the snow was a first for the boy, who came to the U.S. from Honduras two years ago with his mother, she told the Houston Chronicle.

Less than 24 hours later, as temperatures plunged to near single digits and homes across the state lost power, the boy died.

Early that same morning, a San Antonio man left his house for a dialysis appointment — but he never arrived. His wife found him unresponsive nearly two hours later in the frigid weather, according to KSAT. Local authorities said the man's death could have been from exposure to the cold.

In Abilene, first responders found a 60-year-old man dead in his home on Wednesday. His wife, who was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment, said they hadn't had power for three days. Fire department members told KTXS that it felt as cold inside the home as outside.

Across Texas, deaths related to the winter storm continued to mount this week amid freezing temperatures, widespread power outages and a scarcity of clean water. While there have been reports that dozens of deaths are tied to the storm in Texas, experts say the death toll is likely far larger. And it could be weeks or months before the true magnitude is known.

"It's a slow process. We may have preliminary information in weeks, not days," said Chris Van Deusen, a Texas Department of State Health Services spokesperson. A statewide survey of deaths caused by the storm is underway, he said. But the state won't have a good indication until death certificates are filed.

A spokesperson for The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences, which conducts autopsies, could not provide the total number of deaths associated with the storm on Thursday, and had no idea when that information would be available.

Likewise in Travis County, a spokesperson estimated a tally of storm-related deaths could be available in 30 to 90 days.

The Houston Chronicle reports that more than two dozen people in Harris County alone have died from events related to this week's icy weather. And the threat is far from over. Thousands of Texans are still without electricity, food and clean water.

As with any natural disaster, this week's storms have left a "disproportionate effect" on homeless people, said Eric Samuels, president of the Texas Homeless Network. He urged Texans with the means to provide help to support local shelters and advocacy groups, which have already been stretched thin by the coronavirus pandemic.

"Unfortunately, in a lot of our communities, [local organizations] are ones who take the lion's share of the responsibility and the burden of assisting people during these times," he said.

Officials reported an uptick in hypothermia as power outages meant people lived for days in below-freezing temperatures. A handful of deaths have already been attributed to hypothermia, including three people who died in their Harris County homes, the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences said on Thursday.

Hypothermia is caused by prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, when a person's body loses more heat than it produces. The low body temperature affects a person's brain and can lead to confusion, memory loss or death.

Public officials are also warning Texans about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning, citing an alarming spike in emergency room visits due to the dangerous, scentless gas.

Most cases were caused by the indoor use of heating sources like charcoal barbecues and gas-powered generators. These machines release carbon monoxide that, if not used in a well-ventilated area, can be fatal in minutes.

Two people in Houston died, and another two were rushed to the hospital, after the family ran their car for warmth inside a closed garage, NPR reported.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo called the spike in cases of carbon monoxide poisoning "a disaster within a disaster."

Dr. Justin Fairless, a board member of the Texas College of Emergency Physicians, also cautioned that the transmission of COVID-19 remains a real threat as people gather in shelters and at the homes of friends and family. He urged Texans to continue taking precautions like wearing masks and socially distancing when interacting with people outside your household or when in large gatherings, such as water distribution sites.

Above all, Fairless warned Texans not to delay seeking treatment if they feel ill.

"If you think you have something going on medically, don't just sit at home and hope it passes," he said. "Get medical care."

Disclosure: The Texas College of Emergency Physicians has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune, a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy.

A Republican Mayor Blurts The Hideous Truth About GOP Ideology

As Texas battles a severe snowstorm and mass power outages this winter, Tim Boyd, the now-former Republican mayor of Colorado City, revealed his party's plan for the deadly extreme temperatures linked to climate change. In a lengthy Facebook post that was deleted soon after it went viral, then-Mayor Boyd told his residents that they were entirely on their own as the brutal winter weather caused mayhem and deaths across the Lone Star state.

His honesty was like catching a glimpse of a rare animal in the wild. "Sink or swim it's your choice!" he wrote, without bothering to couch his words in euphemisms. Boyd added, "The City and County, along with power providers or any other service owes you NOTHING!" For such an exhortation to come from the elected leader of a city—a man literally chosen by his people to ensure that local government works for them—was shocking.

Just as they pay their mayor, Colorado City's residents also pay authorities to provide them with basic necessities like electricity and water. But apparently, Boyd thought an expectation of services was out of line. He conjectured, "If you don't have electricity you step up and come up with a game plan to keep your family warm and safe." Many Texans have tried to do just that, running their car engine in their garage to warm their homes. So far in Harris County, there have been at least 50 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning and several people have died.

"If you have no water you deal without and think outside of the box to survive and supply water to your family," posited Boyd, expecting Texans who were searching for ways to provide their own electricity to also deal with a lack of water as pipes froze in the plummeting temperatures.

Boyd's diatribe veered into familiar Republican territory as he blamed residents for their own plight by saying, "If you are sitting at home in the cold because you have no power and are sitting there waiting for someone to come rescue you because your (sic) lazy [it] is [a] direct result of your raising." It is a long-simmering idea among conservatives that Americans who depend on their government are simply lazy.

Generally, white conservatives have reserved the word "lazy" for people of color who are victims of systemic racial discrimination. Indeed, the weather-related blackouts in Texas impacted the residents of minority neighborhoods disproportionately. Boyd and those who share his views would likely assume this must have been a direct result of their laziness.

Hours after writing his screed, Boyd announced his resignation and apologized. But he qualified his apology by saying that he never meant to imply that the helpless elderly were the lazy ones—just everyone else. "I was only making the statement that those folks that are too lazy to get up and fend for themselves but are capable should not be dealt a handout," he wrote in a manner that suggested he was "sorry, not sorry."

Most Republicans are not as overt as Boyd in their faith in social Darwinism. Take Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who instead of openly blaming Texans for their own suffering instead decided to blame climate-mitigating policies and renewable energy programs like wind power. Speaking on Fox News, Abbott railed against the "Green New Deal," claiming that a reliance on wind turbines was disastrous because the state's wind-generated power "thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power on a statewide basis." For good measure, he added, "It just shows that fossil fuel is necessary."

The conservative Wall Street Journal, which has long been hostile to tackling climate change through renewable energy, repeated this claim in an editorial blaming "stricter emissions regulation" and the loss of coal-powered plants for widespread misery in the snow-blanketed South.

In fact, millions of Texans are going without power because of the Republican emphasis on cheap power over reliable power. Seeing electricity generation as a profit-making enterprise rather than the fulfillment of a public need, GOP policies in Texas have made the state vulnerable to such mass outages. Moreover, plenty of wintry areas successfully run wind turbines when properly prepared to do so. And, Abbott did not see fit to point out that harsh winter temperatures lead to frozen natural gas pipelines—the real culprit in the outages.

Even as a majority of Texans now believe that climate change is really happening, their governor in late January vowed to "protect the oil and gas industry from any type of hostile attack from Washington." Apparently protecting Texans from the ravages of the fossil fuel industry is not in his purview. This is hardly surprising given how much fossil fuel industry contributions have ensured Abbott's loyalty to oil and gas interests.

The conservative mindset can be counted on to prioritize private over public interests. In a Republican utopia, the rich are noble and deserving of basic necessities, comforts, and life itself. If they have rigged the system to benefit themselves, it means they are smart, not conniving. In the future that Republicans promise, "Only the strong will survive and the weak will parish (sic)," as per Boyd's post. In other words, our lives are expendable, and if we die, it is because we deserve it and were simply not smart enough to survive.

This was utterly predictable. Republicans have used this same approach on health care—think of all the Republican governors who backed lawsuits against the Affordable Care Act and opted their states out of the federal government's Medicaid program even though a majority of Americans support Obamacare. Even more Americans support the government nationalizing health care, but Republicans warn that if the program is expanded from Medicare for those over 65 to all Americans, it will suddenly become "socialism" and thus "evil." Their solution for health care is the status quo of a deregulated "Wild West" private insurance market.

Republicans have offered a similar approach to the coronavirus pandemic where any public safety standards set by the government are anathema to "personal freedoms," even though a majority of Americans support such precautions. It is also how Republicans have approached poverty and rising inequality: by opposing a federal government increase to the minimum wage even though most Americans want a floor of $15 an hour.

Interestingly, Republicans believe strongly in the idea of "big government" when it comes to regulating their pet social issues such as harsh anti-immigrant measures and attacks on abortion. (Meanwhile, most Americans support a pathway to legalization for the undocumented and a majority supports reproductive choice.)

As Americans are subject to the brutal impacts of inevitable climate change, we face a clear choice: strong government intervention to save our lives, or a "survival of the fittest" dystopia that contemporary conservatism promises. The Texas debacle is a preview of what is to come if the free-marketeers have their way while the climate changes. The nation's conservative party went from insisting that climate change does not exist (it is a "hoax!") to shrugging their shoulders and telling us, as Boyd did, that we're on our own when the consequences hit.

Sonali Kolhatkar is the founder, host and executive producer of "Rising Up With Sonali," a television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. She is a writing fellow for the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

#EndorseThis: Late Night Comics Crush "Cancun Cruz" In Medley Of Mockery

It's crazy to think that a United States Senator, even one as creepy as Ted Cruz, would hop on a plane while their constituents freeze without power after a devastating winter storm. But that's exactly what the Texan did --- and after a flurry of obvious lies, he proceeded to make a bad act even worse.

Naturally all the late night hosts chimed in, and the Washington Post put together a highlight reel that will make all you Cruz fans chortle.

What's happening in Texas is no laughing matter, but a Ted take-down will always be rewarding. Enjoy!


www.washingtonpost.com

Cruz Begs Disaster Aid For Texas -- But Denied Help To Other States

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is facing criticism and calls for resignation after he fled his home state during a deadly winter storm for a luxury vacation in Mexico. But even the little he has done to help with that crisis demonstrates his hypocrisy — seeking federal relief for Texans after opposing tens of billions in emergency aid for other states.

Before catching a Wednesday flight to Cancun and checking into the Ritz-Carlton resort, Cruz and fellow GOP Texas Sen. John Cornyn fired off a letter to President Joe Biden pleading for emergency help.

"The Governor and local officials have informed us that the severity and magnitude of the storm is beyond the response capabilities of the state and local government. Prolonged sub-freezing temperatures, strained energy capacity, and treacherous roadways are just a few of the current dangers faced by all Texans," they wrote on Sunday, noting the already widespread loss of power and water distribution problems. The pair asked Biden to approve a disaster declaration and to provide direct federal aid to all 254 Texas counties.

Biden quickly approved the request and sent generators and other supplies to the state. Cruz and his family departed for vacation as dozens of Texans died from the winter storms, millions lost power, many were left with no heat or water, and dwindling food supplies left grocery stores empty.

His latest request for federal emergency aid is a reminder of his hypocritical record on relief spending. During his time in the Senate, he has repeatedly voted against supplemental emergency relief legislation after natural disasters in other states.

According to a Center for American Progress Action Fund analysis, the Senate passed five bipartisan supplemental disaster assistance appropriations between when Cruz took office in 2013 and when President Barack Obama left office in 2017. The Texas Republican voted against all five.

These bills contained a total of $52.6 billion in disaster relief funds.

Cruz decried the largest of the five, a 2013 relief bill in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, as "unrelated pork." Fact-checkers debunked his claim that "two-thirds of that bill had nothing to do with Sandy."

Two years later, he requested federal disaster relief after floods in Texas. Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican whose New Jersey constituents bore much of Sandy's damage, accused him of "hypocrisy," complaining in June 2015, "We have Senator Cruz — who voted against Sandy relief — now he says he's got floods in Texas. He says 'Hey, we need some help down here in Texas.' It's great, right?"

When Hurricane Harvey ravaged Texas in 2017, Cruz again sought federal aid for his state and opined, "Hurricane relief and disaster relief has been a vital federal role for a long, long time and it should continue."

Asked at the time about his earlier votes against helping others, he answered, "There's time for political sniping later."

Once Donald Trump took office, Cruz suddenly started voted for relief legislation. Between 2017 and 2020, he voted for four supplemental disaster appropriations and backed a fifth (but missed the vote).

A Cruz spokesperson did not respond immediately to an inquiry for this story.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.