Thursday, February 18th, 2021


Texas Freezes, Ted Cruzes

For years I've been waiting for the moment when we could stop talking about politics and go back to talking about the weather. We're not quite there, but we're getting closer. We're talking about the politics of weather. Of course the Texas freeze is about both issues, and I fear we're gonna continue to turn these power outages into political warfare instead of realizing it's gonna take all of us to fight this battle. Covid didn't care about politics. Neither does climate change. The call to turn Texas Blue was meant politically not in terms of skin temperature. The number of customers without power in Texas has thankfully dropped from 3 million to 500,000. But there are other issues that still remain. "Texas officials ordered 7 million people — a quarter of the population of the nation's second-largest state — to boil tap water before drinking it, following days of record low temperatures that damaged infrastructure and froze pipes."

+ "The state's independent network of utilities was devised with the goal of avoiding federal regulation; by not crossing state lines, Texas's power grid could sidestep national utility guidelines—and energy companies could profit under the guise of individualism and 'self-reliance.'" The New Yorker: Texans in the Midst of Another Avoidable Catastrophe.

+ NBC: Texas water shortage adds to power crisis as new winter storm moves in.

+ Bloomberg: It's So Cold on the Plains That Calves' Ears Are Falling Off.

+ Shell Shocked: Volunteers in Texas are Saving Thousands of Cold-Stunned Sea Turtles from the Storm.

+ And in the midst of this Texas-sized crisis, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas decided to take the family on a nice trip to Cancun. Cruz couldn't go any lower ethically, so he went lower geographically. (In fairness, this week, Cancun resorts are offering free continental breakfasts to seditionists.)


What to Expect About Life Expectancy

"Deaths from COVID-19 are the main factor in the overall drop in U.S. life expectancy between January and June 2020, the CDC says. But it's not the only one: A surge in drug overdose deaths are a part of the decline, too." American Life Expectancy Dropped By A Full Year In The First Half Of 2020.


Southern Exposure

"Scientists will meet on Thursday to advise South Africa's government on its next steps after a study suggested the dominant local coronavirus variant may reduce antibody protection from Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine by two-thirds." Pfizer study deals new blow to South Africa's vaccine hopes.

+ A Nature survey shows many scientists expect the virus that causes COVID-19 to become endemic, but it could pose less danger over time. The coronavirus is here to stay — here's what that means.

+ "The Senate's measures, which could be voted on as soon as next week, underscore the deepening division between Mr. Cuomo and state lawmakers since the governor admitted to intentionally withholding critical data on virus-related deaths from the Legislature." Cuomo Faces Revolt After Handling of Nursing Home Deaths. (It turns out giving good 'rona press conference is not enough.)


Gas Peddlers

"Suddenly, the industry finds itself defending against electrification initiatives nationwide. And the behind-the-scenes lobbying is only one part of its massive anti-electrification crusade. Gas companies have launched an unusually effective stealth campaign of direct-to-consumer marketing to capture the loyalty and imaginations of the public." MoJo with an interesting look at How the Fossil Fuel Industry Convinced Americans to Love Gas Stoves.


Rush: To Judgment

"As a proponent of conservatism in America, Limbaugh was a failure who in his later years abandoned the project of advancing a positive agenda, culminating in his alignment with the vulgar style and populist anti-leftism of Donald Trump. Character no longer mattered. Budget deficits no longer mattered. Free trade no longer mattered. Nepotism no longer mattered. Lavishing praise on foreign dictators no longer mattered." The Atlantic: Rush Limbaugh's Rise and Conservatism's Fall. (Rush knew it was a bad sign when they were playing NPR in purgatory.)


Out with the Wall, in with the Street

"Mainly the bill takes an expansive approach: It promotes integration of immigrants and refugees, reduces years-long backlogs to immigrate to the United States, and creates two major pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants." WaPo: Democrats to formally introduce Biden's citizenship bill.


Mic Drop

"Don't worry, it's going to be fine: Perseverance, which will explore martian geology and search for evidence of ancient microbial life there, is using known landing strategies, many from the 2012 Curiosity mission. What is new, though, is that earthlings will be able to hear much of the seven-minute drama. Embedded on the rover is a small microphone that, if all goes well, will record the sounds of the descent and, later, the martian environment itself, something no Mars probe has yet achieved." Wired: The LA Musician Who Helped Design a Microphone for Mars.

+ Watch the landing live, here.


Misogyny Jerk Reaction

"For the defense secretary at the time, Mark T. Esper, and Gen. Mark A. Milley, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the tricky part was that both of the accomplished officers were women. In 2020 America under President Donald J. Trump, the two Pentagon leaders feared that any candidates other than white men for jobs mostly held by white men might run into turmoil once their nominations reached the White House." NYT: Promotions for Female Generals Were Delayed Over Fears of Trump's Reaction. (He was pure garbage.)


Light of My Life, Fire of My Coins

"It's not printed like cash. It's not a physical object like a gold bar. It's not stored on a piece of plastic like a debit card. It just exists somewhere in a vast digital expanse until it's excavated into circulation by a so-called bitcoin miner. In this illustrated guide, we'll cover the following: How bitcoin is created (a process called mining). How the economics of mining have changed over time. The effects this process has on power consumption." The Hustle with an illustrated guide: How are bitcoin created?


Bottom of the News

Here's a look at forty pics showing how Texans are dealing with the cold.

+ And just in case it wasn't clear that this is a winter of biblical proportions, here's a shot of if snowing in Jerusalem.