Blog

Unreality Check #21: Texas is Fun! – Pt. 2

Texas do-nothing-but-grandstand Republican Senator Ted Cruz is at it again, holding up more than a dozen State Department nominees over a pipeline in a foreign land that’s going to finish being built regardless of what the US does or doesn’t ‘do’ about it. The Biden Administration, in a nod to reality and an acknowledgment that sovereign nations can make deals with one another, last month waived sanctions against companies involved in building the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline.

Nord Stream 2 runs through the Baltic Sea next to the already long-operating Nord Stream pipeline and would deliver Russian natural gas to Germany under terms negotiated between the two countries. It is also more than 90% built and both Germany and Russia remain eager to finish the job. The notion that US sanctions were going to prevent them from doing so was laughable from the jump. But they were put in place by Trump Administration anyway.

The cabinet positions being held up include posts as high as undersecretary and assistant secretary, and though Trump and his cronies were all about purging the government of anybody who knew what they were actually doing, it’s not really the best way to run a country. Then again, Teo’s gotta score points however he can and has never let the good of the country stop him before.

Abbott and power

Meanwhile, Gov. Greg Abbott, who recently convened a special session of the Texas legislature to take on social issues that evidently weren’t addressed adequately the first time around, has decided that renewable energy is responsible for the state’s recent power grid troubles despite data showing that this is simply not true.

“Electric generators are expected to provide enough power to meet the needs of all Texans. When they fail to do so, those generators should shoulder the costs of that failure,” Abbott wrote to the state’s Public Utility Commission (PUC), referring to wind and solar generators. But these weren’t the plants that went down back in February. Those were nuclear, coal, and gas-fired plants.

The same thing happened in May, when more gas-fired plants went offline for maintenance than had been expected and warnings regarding the gird were once again issued. And it’s all the more ridiculous given the strides Texas has made establishing itself as a leader in the wind and solar industries.

Now Abbott is asking the PUC to fine wind and solar generators if they can’t provide power all the time, while offering reliability-based incentives to plants using gas or coal resources. And fixing the grid itself, weatherizing, etc.? Not even on the special session’s agenda.

But why would it be? Natural gas sellers made $11 billion during the freeze.

…of both kinds

Even ignoring science to pander to business interests while calling a special session to prevent voter fraud that didn’t happen, fight “censorship” by social media platforms, and stop the teaching of accurate history, however, hasn’t been enough to save Greg from a party that wants more. No less than three GOP primary challengers have emerged.

Joining former state Senator Don Huffines and Blaze TV personality Chad Prather in the battle to take down Gov. Abbott from within, is Republican Party of Texas (RPT) Chair Allen West. West served as a US Representative from Florida as recently as 2013 and is a retired Army officer, having been allowed to end his service in good standing despite admitting to holding an Iraqi police officer captive, punching him in the face, and staging his mock execution.

Texas Republicans love him because he sends all the right signals, no matter how misguided; like coopting then keeping, RPT’s “We Are The Storm” motto from QAnon. He also appeals to the state’s delusions of nationalist grandeur, telling would-be volunteers that “Together, we will defend the Texas Republic!”

Procedure is fun too!

Texas Democrats bailed on the special session last week, fleeing to Washington, DC, to prevent a quorum and thereby passage of proposed voter suppression laws. Greg says they’ll be arrested upon their return. He and other Republicans have also been whining a lot about how the Dems have committed some sort of dereliction of duty by their actions. It amuses me exactly how butthurt the GOP can become how quickly when procedural techniques are used against them. Live by sword, die by the sword, brothers.

Unreality Check #20: Hellfire is real! Hellfire is here!

Houston independent filmmaker Jeremy Sumrall is making his biggest, bestest, bustiest, booziest, movie yet: ‘HELLFIRE’, a grindhouse action flick. This one’s been bubbling in his mind for a while now and when Sumrall finally decided to pull the trigger and bring it into existence, he did it the only way he knows how, with maximum impact.

What else would you expect from the man behind such indie horror classics as ‘Sweatshop,’ ‘Possum Walk,’ and ‘Pickaxe’? Dude ran around one of them smashing shiny ravers to bits with the biggest sledgehammer you ever saw!

In doubt? Have a look at the Indiegogo campaign video. And while you’re there, contribute to making it happen.

HELLFIRE is coming. Don’t miss your chance to live forever…in flames!!

Tucker vs. the NSA

Tucker Carlson evidently hasn’t learned anything ever. No, not the ADL/Fox News battle. His hate credentials are already well-established. I’m talking about the foolhardiness of taking on this country’s intelligence agencies.

Whether you’re Ed Snowden or Tuck’s personal tongue cozy, Donald Trump, the outcome is the same. You do it, you lose. A once promising time horizon is yanked away from you and replaced by never-ending torment, exile, or worse. Look at what happened to Nixon! Or, if you want to go full conspiracy-theory, JFK.

Think about when things really went wrong for Donnie. He was stumbling along, ruffling some feathers but otherwise still pretty much intact. He was less than one month away from getting sworn in as President and decided to pick a fight with the CIA regarding alleged Russian interference in the election. And the rest is history. His term was done before Kellyanne Conway even said the words “alternative facts.”

Crenshaw vs. Team USA

You know what you’re free to do in this country? Well, lots of things. But among them is fly the American flag, or not. Salute the flag, or not. Wear American flag shirts, or not. The freedoms we have regarding what we do or don’t do with regards to flag or truly boundless. It’s that way by design.

You know where they practice forced patriotism? North Korea. No wonder Donnie loved that place so much! Burma seems like another place where you’d be better off doing whatever’s required of you if the flag goes past. Hell, let’s throw Turkmenistan into the hopper as well.

Are these the kinds of places the greatest country on earth should be emulating? Not according to most. But count Congressman Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) as among those who think the answer is a resounding YES!

Gwen Berry, an athlete, evidently insulted Crenshaw, a veteran, when she turned her back on the flag during a medal ceremony that was part of the US Olympic Trials. He thinks she should be kicked off the team. It would be hilarious in its wrong-headedness if it weren’t so disgusting.

“We don’t need any more activist athletes. She should be removed from the team,” Crenshaw said. Exactly how many activist athletes are too many, Dan? Should they just shut up and play? Where do they, and we, live again?

Way to fight for freedom. Keep up the great work!

Unreality Check #19: Cool guys, clowns, and CRT

If you’re in Houston Thursday night this is going to be fun. REHAB on the Bayou, 1618 Enid, 8 p.m., $5

Congressman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) thinks “big tech” is out to get conservatives. If this is the case, maybe it’s because conservatives have spent years trying to convince the American people that “big tech” is out to get them, the people (and big tech’s customers). Or because conservatives somehow throw all their “businesses are people too and can run their affairs however they want because…FREEDOM!!!” out the window when “big tech” is involved. I guess a baker can choose who they sell cupcakes to, but Facebook can’t choose who gets to use its platform?

In any event, it’s definitely in conservatives’ best interests to play the victim in this instance. It helps obscure reality: that they are the roaches and “big tech” the flood light.

Jordan says the Republican position on big tech is simple: Don’t censor political speech. He casts this as virtuous in comparison with what he sees as the Democrats’ parsing of which tech companies are good and which bad. He and former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows are even pushing the theory that tech-focused bipartisan legislation making its way through Congress will cede control of the industry to Biden himself.

These are ridiculous positions to take. Corporations have been censoring political speech for as long as both have existed. You don’t have any more right to stand in my bar and spew political nonsense than I do to go to your church on Sunday and do the same. Either entity can bounce you at will. Tech companies are the same. They’re not a public service. They’ve never even positioned themselves as one. The only body prohibited from censoring our political speech is the government.

But if your only way to get votes is through fear, you need to invent a new boogeyman almost continuously. Yesterday it was cancel-culture. Today it’s big tech. Tomorrow…?

This guy is a clown. If he were really interested in solving the problem, he’d get involved with the legislative process. But no. He’d rather use his energy terrorizing voters.

And all this while there’re actual problems that need our attention.

Teaching students that World War II veterans were given GI Bill benefits to help them is teaching history. Also teaching them that the bill was structured in such a way as to deliberately exclude black vets is teaching history while applying critical race theory.

Why shouldn’t this be done?

And why hasn’t Melania divorced Trump yet?

Unreality Check #18: Texas is fun!

This is the hardest pure procrastination has bitten me in a while. Missed the presale. Never got around to buying this round.

It’s OK though. I feel more embarrassed than anything.

I’ll get in. Turn invisible. After market. Who knows?

This isn’t until April 2022, y’all!! It is great to see metal doing so well though. And getting this festival off the ground has been a labor of love for the promoters, so I’m super happy for them.

Just…ggaaahhhhh!!

MORE INBOX GOOD TIMES! [notations mine]:

From January 2017 to January 2021, the 45th President of the United States presided over [and created] an especially intense period for the United States of America.  

From the pandemic that killed hundreds of thousands [while Trump ignored it], to the speedy development of the vaccine, to the rise of the economy, to the global challenge from China, Donald Trump was the dominant decision-maker and the most powerful person in the world.

In a series of live conversations across the country [Florida + Texas = across the country now?], Mr. Trump and Historian/Journalist Bill O’Reilly will discuss exactly how things were accomplished, as well as challenges, both good and bad!  

Dubbed “The History Tour,” President Trump will provide a never before heard inside view of his administration – which will be historical in and of itself.  

“These will be wonderful but hard-hitting sessions where we’ll talk about the real problems happening in the U.S., those that the Fake News Media never mention. I will be focusing on greatness for our Country, something seldom discussed in political dialogue. If we don’t make our Country great again, we will soon no longer have a Country! [wow! this guy’s tune NEVER changes. I thought he already did this.] I look forward to working with Bill, who right now has the #1 bestselling book, to openly discuss the real problems of our Country, and how to solve them. Additionally, it will be fun, fun, fun, for everyone who attends!” President Trump said.

“My job as a historian/journalist is to get important things on the record in a fact-based way.  These conversations with the 45th President will not be boring,” [you gonna talk about the good ol’ pussy-grabbin’ days then, Bill?] Mr. O’Reilly said.

The tour opens Dec. 11, 2021, in Sunrise, FL, at the BB&T Center and continues Dec 12, then in Houston, TX, Dec. 18, and Dallas, TX, Dec. 19.   

Do-nothing Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced his 2022 reelection bid last week and Republicans and Democrats alike were suitably repulsed. GOP Rep. Cody Vasut said “I frankly think we need new leadership in the Texas Senate. I do not support Dan Patrick for reelection — I think he needs to go, I think we need somebody else in there, somebody who’s actually committed to being a productive member.”

The Lieutenant Governor presides over the Senate in Texas.

His Democratic challenger, Mike Collier, offered the following: “Time and time again, Texans have called out to Patrick for help. We’ve asked him to fix our grid, ensure a smooth and efficient vaccine rollout, expand Medicaid…Instead, we’ve gotten a corrupt and inefficient leader who dabbles heavily in conspiracy theories that are beneath the dignity of the offices he was elected to represent.”

“I believe in efficiency and I believe in fact over fiction, good governance over nonsense, and light over darkness. In this race for Lieutenant Governor, light will prevail over darkness and Dan Patrick’s time as Lieutenant Governor will come to an end. I’m going to retire Dan Patrick.”

Then there’s this guy, elected into asking somebody testifying during a Congressional hearing if we could maybe change the moon’s or the Earth’s orbit as a way of addressing climate change…

And finally, fuck ERCOT and fuck the Texas Legislature. There’re people who still haven’t gotten repairs completed in the wake of the last great avoidable power outage, and now you’re sending out system advisories again? What about all the hand-wringing assurances that things were going to be done right this time?

Unreality Check #17: Some want your money, others…?

I got an email today with the subject line ‘List of corporations that support the “Equality” Act’. It was from Ralph Reed, FFC. I wasn’t familiar with either his name or what FFC meant, but the quotes around “Equality” suggested that it was probably from someone who didn’t believe in the term. In any event, I was curious to see which companies would be listed, so I opened it.

Sure enough, the salutation was “Dear Fellow Conservative.” According to Mr. Reed the act is “an attack on religious liberty in all forms.” Passing it would mean “opening women’s bathrooms and changing areas to biological men.” It would also, Reed said, force “adoption agencies that operate under a biblical understanding of family…to violate their beliefs or shut down adoption services.”

There’s a lot to unpack even in these few selected excerpts but suffice to say the following: the idea of Reed, or evangelical Christians in general, giving a hoot about religious liberty “in all forms” is laughable; biological men have been doing the things described above for centuries, with or without legislation such as this; and the stuff about adoption agencies is just nonsense.

What I want to talk about is how the fine folks at Faith & Freedom Coalition (FFC!) apparently feel they have to trick even their supposed supporters into opening their fundraising emails. There was no list of companies, not even a mention of one. The only thing inside the email was a bunch of words designed to terrorize the feeble minded, surrounded by a bunch of links to send FFC your money.

The Satanic Temple, by contrast, has a straightforward approach to addressing actual issues. In light of the renewed assault on women’s freedoms, it is sending out simple instructions as to how to become a member, noting that as one “your rights to abortion will be protected by religious freedom.”

I don’t purport to know the accuracy of that statement one way or the other. But it makes me wonder. Which do you suppose is the better recruiting technique? Tricking your audience into opening your message and then shaking them down for money? Or providing a straightforward solution to rapidly escalating problem?

Not to worry…Mr. Reed is ready to defend religious liberty in all forms! Right, Mr. Reed?

Mr. Reed? Oh well. He was kind of a bummer anyway.

Unreality Check #16: Insurrection Commission

It’s nice to move on. And slowly but surely most people seem to be doing so, both from COVID-19 and a more-painful-than-usual election cycle. But it’s also important to figure out why bad things like pandemics and insurrections happen, the better to avoid them in the future.

In this spirit, the US House of Representatives voted yesterday to establish a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The vote was 252-175, with 35 Republicans joining Democrats in deciding that it’s important to figure out what happened and why.

I’m particularly happy about five of the GOP congressmen. Two were from my natural habitat, two from my chosen home, and one is a wildcard.

From southwest Michigan, both Peter Meijer and Fred Upton voted to have a look at the day’s events. Meijer took office just this year, is 33 years old, and part of the Meijer grocery family. An 8-year Army Reservist, he was deployed for two years in Iraq and holds an MBA from NYU. Meijer has purchased body armor and adopted a varied schedule due to threats against his life following his vote to impeach Pres. Donald Trump in the insurrection’s wake.

His West Michigan counterpart (and counterpoint) is Fred Upton, who’s been in Congress since 1987 and is 68 years old. He voted both to impeach Pres. Bill Clinton in 1998 and Trump after the insurrection. Upton holds a BA in journalism from the University of Michigan.

Van Taylor and Tony Gonzalez are the two Republicans from Texas. Taylor is from Plano, north of Dallas. He took office in 2019, is a Marine combat veteran of Iraq, and holds an MBA from Harvard University. Gonzalez is a freshman congressman representing far-west Texas (excluding El Paso). He was elected in this long-purple part of the state when his six-year predecessor, fellow Republican Will Hurd, chose not to run again. The region’s new rep is a 10-year Navy veteran and has a Ph.D. in international development and security studies.

Gonzalez also shares the frustration felt by anyone who goes by Chris Smith of having someone else lock out the first page of Google results for the name. In his case it’s a Hall of Fame Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons tight end. In mine, it’s a 68-year old Republican New Jersey congressman (with help from a recent UCLA point guard).

But Smith did vote to establish the commission, doing the tens of thousands of us who share the name proud!

Unreality Check #15: Humans Are Funny

From Morning Consult. Nearly 3 in 5 unvaccinated adults say $1,000 would sway them to get a COVID-19 shot. What about their moral objections? Or the “fact” that it’s “unsafe” or will even “kill you?” Or “butt out government!” Maybe these people are the 40%. Either way, sheeesh. Maybe just go get vaccinated?


From the Inbox:

“My name is Adam Chodikoff, and I am an Associate Producer with “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah” – this may shock you, but none of us in the late night comedy world are required to be pipeline experts, so I wanted to turn to experts to fact check this statement: considering how fast the pipeline operations were restored, the sole reason for the shortages over the past few days was panic buying. Some sources seem to be saying that – wanted to check with you guys to see if that’s true. Thanks!”

I told Adam that, yes, Trevor could safely say the shortages were consumer created. it was a planned shutdown initiated by the company to ensure the pipeline itself actually was secure. they could have started flows again at any point once that determination was made and as it was did so two days earlier than they had initially thought might be required.

Or, as the New Yorker put it…

Come on! We need to go wait hours in line to buy gas before the price goes back down!

Unreality Check #14: Universal Suffrage

Every US citizen should be able to vote in every election. This is a fact and it should orient our views regarding the issue.

Eligibility to vote should be the default condition. As a US citizen, once you turn 18 you should automatically be added to the voting rolls and issued a voter ID. Adult immigrants would be issued their ID as part of their citizenship.

If there is a statutorily prescribed reason to remove your right to vote, it should be removed and your voter ID deactivated. Such statutes would ideally be limited, but ultimately would be decided by the people of the times, as is fit and proper.

Voting is a right, and US citizens should not be disenfranchised without agreed upon reason. Which means you should vote in every election to make sure not just the President but the people climbing the political ladder agree with your views on the topic.

—–

Voting Rights Part 2: “Own the libs” edition

—–

The Office of the Comptroller of Currency (OCC) is a branch of the U.S. Department of the Treasury that charters, regulates, and supervises all national banks and federal savings associations as well as federal branches and agencies of foreign banks. It issued a rule in December 2020 allowing predatory lenders to evade state interest rate laws by putting a bank’s name on the paperwork. It seems unlikely that this rule was designed to benefit or protect the average citizen.

In a 52-47 vote tonight, the US Senate voted to overturn the OCC’s “fake lender” rule via S.J. Res. 15 introduced by Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH). Rep. “Chuy” García introduced a parallel resolution, H.J. Res. 35, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Now that the Senate approved the resolution, the House has until the end of this legislative session to vote on it.

Advocates applauded the Senate vote and urged the House to act quickly to prevent a massive expansion of predatory lending through “rent-a-bank” schemes in all 50 states. Republican Senators Cynthia Lumis (R-WY), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined with Democrats in voting to overturn the rule.

—–

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is sending out fundraiser texts that read: “We can’t allow Dr. Fauci to continue this political theater. Chip in now if you want to FIRE FAUCI: bit.ly/FauciTheater

Way to stay focused on the issues, Rand.

Unreality Check #13: Conspiracy Generator

The need to be victimized is apparently limitless. The 2020 Census resulted, as designed, in the reapportionment of some seats in the US House of Representatives. Most of the states that gained seats lean Red, most that lost, Blue. And yet somehow conspiracy theories have emerged (yet again) that the fix was in on the part of the Democrats.

The speed with which each new event generates its own wave of misinformation designed to reinforce the idea that something was stolen during the last election stretches the limits of credulity. It’s almost as if the stories are generated by design.

In the event they were, who could benefit from reminding the disaffected as frequently as possible that they’d been wronged?  Republicans? Russia? The Media Elites? Let’s look at the size of benefit for each. The people who run media companies could make more money, and then use that money to attempt to force their artist-waged employees to execute the bigwigs’ evil agenda. The GOP could retake control of the executive and legislative branches of the United States government, a bigger prize by far. But Russia…Russia could succeed in destabilizing the greatest defender of freedom the world has ever known. Now, THAT’s a prize!

Uh oh. I think I might have just done it myself.

The moral of this story? Rabbit holes, even when you build them yourself, are dangerous. Best to spend most of your time taking things at face value. That’s almost always what reflects reality anyway.

Here’s a fun graph looking at how motorsports fans break vs. the general population in terms of how likely they are to buy an electric vehicle. As both an avid motorsports fan and an F1 fan, it looks like I’d better starting planning for higher electric bills!

Unreality Check #12: The Second Playlist

As I continue querying (is anybody out there?) I spend time between letters putting together a ‘soundtrack’ for ‘Unreality.’ I’m happy at this point to unveil the second of four I plan to complete. This list was inspired by the second quarter of the book, in which the stage has already been set and the madness ahead begins to reveal itself.

Some of the selections are based on the narrative, so playing it in order makes sense. But ALL are based on the tone and themes and I’ve found that shuffle also creates an enjoyable ride.

This list starts with Humble Pie (also featured on the first…can you really have too much ’Pie!?) and ends with early-2000s Sacramento metalcore heroes Catherine. Artists tickling your ears in between range from DNCE to Slayer, with Anderson .Paak, Biggie (x2), DJ Shadow w/Run The Jewels, Ministry, and many more pouring out of your speakers before the ride is over.

At 50 songs (~3.5 hrs) long it’s perfect for your next house cleaning, poker game, pool party, barbecue, or smoke sesh. Listen today. Listen again tomorrow!