Texas Home Electric Bill: $16,000

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After a week of electricity blackouts, heat failures, and frozen water pipes, many Texans now face thousands of dollars in unexpected electric bills. The reason: a conscienceless rip-off by an unregulated electric utility. For Texans who have an auto-pay arrangement, that means bank accounts emptied or thousands of dollars already charged to their credit cards. 

Ripple effects of the Texas disaster will reach almost every Minnesotan. Demand for natural gas, in Minnesota and across the country, was higher than normal because of February’s subzero temperatures. Supply was dramatically smaller than normal because the irresponsible inaction of Texas natural gas producers and public utilities led to failure of production and delivery systems. When supply is low and demand is high, producers can and do hike their prices. 

Texas produces huge quantities of natural gas for the national market. Texan natural gas and public utilities largely ignored warnings from 2011 and failed to winterize natural gas production and distribution facilities. They froze up, leaving Texans out in the cold, literally freezing to death. When Texas natural gas producers froze up, national natural gas prices shot up—as much as 100 times the pre-freeze level. The cost to Minnesotans for the February price spike is estimated at $300 to $400 per household. 

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Finding Some Good News From Texas

New York Times, February 19, 2021

Power failures, burst water pipes, carbon monoxide poisoning, car crashes, drownings, house fires and hypothermia: look anywhere and you see that Texas is a deadly mess this week. But tragic stories and political failures are not the only story. Amazing grace, generosity, and goodness also deserve recognition. 

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Time to act on COVID vaccination disparities

Black Minnesotans, Asian Minnesotans, American Indians, and Latino Minnesotans are far more likely than White Minnesotans to become infected, to be hospitalized, to suffer severe cases, and to die of COVID. That is the grim truth reported by the Minnesota Department of Health in its weekly COVID report. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that this disparity exists across the country, with Black and Latino Americans nearly three times as likely to die from COVID as White Americans.

Originally published in Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

That might suggest that Black, Latino, Native American, and Asian Minnesotans should be a priority for COVID vaccination. That is not happening. In fact, the way that vaccines are targeted—both in Minnesota and across the country—suggests that the opposite could be true.

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Abolish the Filibuster

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The filibuster is a long and undemocratic Senate tradition that needs to end. Using the filibuster, a small minority can block Senate passage of legislation that is supported by a bi-partisan majority. 

Historically, filibusters blocked civil rights and voting rights legislation. Filibusters blocked anti-lynching bills in 1922 and 1935. In 1957, Senator Strom Thurmond spoke for 24 hours and 18 minutes in opposition to the 1957 Civil Rights Act. The filibuster against 1964 Civil Rights Act ran on for 60 days, with Southern Senators holding the bill hostage despite majority support. Finally, a bi-partisan coalition mustered enough votes to end the filibuster, and the Civil Rights Act passed by a vote of 73 to 27. 

President Obama called the filibuster “a Jim Crow relic.” In 2010, that relic killed the Dream Act. A majority of Senators supported the Dream Act, but they could not get it to a vote. In order to stop the filibuster, they needed 60 votes: they had only 55.

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Keeping Up With Joe Biden

President Joe Biden has proven to be anything but “sleepy,” filling his first week with a pile of proclamations, plans, and executive orders. I’m finding it hard to keep up with the news—but in a good way. So here’s my recap of recent developments:  

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Biden’s Coronavirus Plan

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Coronavirus from Wikimedia Commons

“What we’re inheriting is so much worse than we could have imagined,” says Jeff Zients, President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 response coordinator. Basically, some Biden administration officials say, there was no plan. Now there is.

President Biden characterizes his plan as “a full-scale war-time effort.” The 200-page National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness outlines seven goals: Continue reading

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Ten Days and Counting

Ten days after the insurrection that trashed the U.S. Capitol and killed five people, here’s a brief recap:

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Which Side Are You On?

I know a lot of people who don’t want to take sides. They don’t like reading the news. They claim that all politicians or parties are alike, so they don’t want to be involved with any of them. They want to be neutral, uninvolved. If you are one of my friends or relatives who have tried to avoid taking sides or reading the news, this is a message to you. 

Neutrality is not an option today. Being neutral means acquiescing in the rampant white racism and violence that threatens to destroy our country.  

Taking sides today does not mean choosing between Democrats and Republicans. Taking sides today means choosing between our elected government and violent white nationalists who are trying to overthrow it. Taking sides means rejecting lies and supporting democracy.  

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Yes, Plotting Continues. No, I Won’t Repost Parler. Here’s Why.

This is part of an amazing series created and generously shared by Ricardo Levins Morales for this time of crisis. Check out the whole series on his Facebook page and at his studio https://www.rlmartstudio.com

The motley coalition of white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and other Trump loyalists continues to pose a real and present danger to the country. They plan armed actions next Sunday and on January 20, Inauguration Day. They have organized actions in Washington, DC and in state capitols across the country. They want nothing less than to overthrow the U.S. Constitution and government. 

You can see their posters and videos and calls to armed action on the alternative social media sites they have set up. I will not repost them here. I will not repost them anywhere. Many (but not all) of their accounts, including the accounts of their Führer, have rightly been banned from Facebook and Twitter. Their poisonous plotting and propaganda carry real danger. Words and images have power. 

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Insurrection and White Privilege

Photo by Rosa Pineda, May 2020, DC, Creative Commons license

The biggest threats to the United States come from within: from right-wing terrorists, from white nationalists, from the Proud Boys and Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis among us. These are the people who stormed the U.S. Capitol yesterday, who smashed their way through locked doors, trashed offices, waved Confederate flags, took down the U.S. flag and replaced it with a Trump flag, urinated in a Congressman’s officestole computers with classified information, and left without being arrested, vowing to return another day. After they left, law enforcement found pipe bombs and other weapons. 

Yesterday’s attempt to overthrow the government should surprise no one. This was an insurrection, a violent rebellion against constitutional government.

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