Eclectic commentary from a progressive voice in the red state

Saturday, January 29, 2022

More of Greg Abbott's lies: This time it's the grid

 The Dallas Morning News watchdog writer Dave Lieber’s Jan. 27, 2022 column is an important read for all Texans. The column relies on facts and fact-checking, citing the work of Ed Hirs, an energy scholar at the University of Houston. Hirs’ Jan. 21 white paper is a 17-page, meticulously sourced and documented condemnation of the Texas Energy grid, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas and Gov. Greg Abbott and his right-wing, radical henchmen. “A Decade of Deliberate Inaction: Root Causes and Fallout from the Deadly Texas Power Failure of 2021” puts Hirs’ findings against Abbott’s rhetoric, the presentations at some town halls by ERCOT CEO and president Brad Jones and statements by state Sen. Kelly Hancock, a Republican from North Richmond Hills. Basically, Abbott, Jones and Hancock are liars — flat out liars.

 Here’s the bottom-line on all this: The Texas stand-alone grid is an abject failure of the promises of a competitive market to benefit consumers with lower prices; and, at times a deadly failure in the delivery of services In fact, Hirs proves the competitive model has done the exactly the opposite of those promises. It is neither delivering lower prices to consumers nor is it reliable at times of electrical stress on the grid. If you don’t believe that, go back to last year’s deadly freeze that stole the lives of at least 240 Texans and possibly as many as 700 innocent people. (Talk about right to life.) In fact, the failure of the grid has long been known and here’s the key paragraph in Hirs’ paper:

 “Generators failed during the winter storm in February 2021 with many of ‘the freeze-related outages occurring at temperatures above the unit’s stated ambient design temperature.’ Stripping away everything else, the system operated by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, ERCOT, failed because generator companies did not invest in weatherization practices after a similar failure in 2011. For eight of the 10 years prior to 2021, the average wholesale price of electricity in ERCOT was too low for generator companies to earn returns on capital. Consequently, they had every incentive not to invest in weatherization. The ERCOT market rewarded volatility at the expense of reliability, despite a decade of warning.”

Like many Americans and fellow Texans, I wonder how conservatives — especially the “Christian” conservatives — reconcile their tenets of faith with their politics and actions. I am not only talking about the protect-the-rich and screw-the-poor politics, although that’s certainly bad enough; but I am also talking about something far more basic. I am talking about their lack character.

 Over and over, the teachings of churches, religions and catechisms mandate the true believer be honest; be a truth-teller and not knowingly lie. And yet, Abbott, and indeed the Republican Party, continue to lie and deceive the public by word and deed. And, a point that applies more specifically to Greg Abbott. Lawyers are held to a higher standard of honesty and conduct. That’s according to the Texas Bar Association’s Code of Ethics, which buries that in Rule 4.01. But a rule it is.

 So, when Abbott is on the hustings, all that talk about books, the border and the reliability of the electrical grid are pretty much lies. Of course, we have a way to understand the lies and the entire “competitive” or “market model.” But to do so, one has to be familiar with the work of James McGill Buchanan and his public choice theory. I’ve discussed it before when I’ve written about “Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America,” by Award winning Duke University historian Nancy MacLean. 

Texans deserve better. The State Bar deserves someone on its rolls better than Greg Abbott. I doubt it will happen, but at least I know what’s going on. I pray the long arc of history will bring justice and accountability will prevail.

Friday, January 7, 2022

The Coup Continues

 MacLean was interviewed on Democracy Now! about four years ago. Here is that interview with Amy Goodman.

As we pass through the anniversary of the January 6 Trump-fomented insurrection, we continue to see warnings that the coup continues. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., posts to Facebook daily that the Republicans in the United States House talk about stealing the 2022 mid-term elections. This is a real threat given that more than 30 states have passed voter suppression laws already.

Democracy in Chains proves that economist James McGill Buchanan’s “public choice theory” was born of the anti-integration racism of the 1950s and notion that no one should take money from those who have it to offer public services to those who need it. To do so, the political system and the United States Constitution must, at all costs, protect property rights. Thus, Buchanan developed a weapon for the capitalist/billionaire class to destroy the United States’ middle class. Words like “freedom,” “liberty” and “libertarian” were redefined and weaponized. They now apply to the capitalists and wealthy who would eliminate all public services except for law enforcement and the military. And, how convenient that would be when the population finally realizes too late that peaceful solutions would no longer work.

While Professor MacLean’s book got a fair bit of publicity in 2017, as my previous posts pointed out, the public knows little about these plans, in large part distracted by the hot-button socials issues like gay rights and abortion. The Buchananites really don’t care about these things, but they are useful wedge issues while the right-wing forces march on to their goals. After years of infiltrating the state legislatures and the judiciary, we are now closer to the denouement. With Texans like Ted Cruz, Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick and others leading the charge, a Convention of the States is poised to convene to radically change the Constitution. Once that’s done, so are we as a true democracy. Look to the Pinochet regime in Chile for where the United States will be.