February 16, 2021
History was in the news today in three very different ways.
First up is the deep freeze in Texas, which overwhelmed the power grid and knocked out electricity for more than 3.5 million people, leaving them without heat. It has taken the lives of at least 23 people.
Most of Texas is on its own power grid, a decision made in the 1930s to keep it clear of federal regulation. This means both that it avoids federal regulation and that it cannot import more electricity during periods of high demand. Apparently, as temperatures began to drop, people turned up electric heaters and needed more power than engineers had been told to design for, just as the ice shut down gas-fired plants and wind turbines froze. Demand for natural gas spiked and created a shortage.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) told Sean Hannity that the disaster “shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal” for the United States, but Dan Woodfin, a senior director for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the organization in charge of the state’s power grid, told Bloomberg that the frozen wind turbines were the smallest factor in the crisis. They supply only about 10% of the state’s power in the winter.
Frozen instruments at gas, coal, and nuclear plants, as well as shortages of natural gas, were the major culprits. To keep electricity prices low, ERCOT had not prepared for such a crisis. El Paso, which is not part of ERCOT but is instead linked to a larger grid that includes other states and thus is regulated, did, in fact, weatherize their equipment. Its customers lost power only briefly.
With climate change expected to intensify extremes of weather, the crisis in Texas indicates that our infrastructure will need to be reinforced to meet conditions it was not designed for.
Second, there was an interesting development today with regard to the January 6 insurrection. Representative Bennie Thompson (D-MS), in his personal capacity, not as a member of Congress, sued Donald Trump—in his personal capacity—Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani; Proud Boys International, LLC; and Oath Keepers. The lawsuit is backed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and argues that these four people or entities each “intended to prevent, and ultimately delayed, members of Congress from discharging their duty commanded by the United States Constitution to approve the results of the Electoral College in order to elect the next President and Vice President of the United States.”
That language is significant. While the lawsuit lays out in detail the actions of the former president and Giuliani and the domestic terrorists in the lead-up to January 6, as well as the events of that day (making its 32 pages an excellent synopsis of the material the House impeachment managers laid out in the Senate trial), Thompson is making a very specific claim.
Thompson accuses the four defendants of “conspiring to prevent him and other Members of Congress from discharging… official duties.” This puts them afoul of the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act, designed to break that deadly organization in the years after the Civil War when its members were intimidating and assaulting Black and white Republicans in the South. The law makes anyone who has “conspire[d] to prevent, by force, intimidation, or threat, any person from… discharging any duties [of an officer of the United States]” “liable to the party injured.”
Thompson points out that he is 72, within the age group hardest hit by the coronavirus, and the lockdown precautions put his health at risk. This speaks to the part of the law that calls out perpetrators who “injure [an officer] in his person or property on account of his lawful discharge of the duties of his office, or while engaged in the lawful discharge thereof… so as to molest, interrupt, hinder, or impede him in the discharge of his official duties.”
The law allows a successful plaintiff to claim money not only to make up for the damages the perpetrators caused, but also to punish the perpetrators and to try to warn others against trying anything similar. And that is what Thompson has asked for.
Thompson appears to be trying to defang the insurrectionists by going after their bank accounts. Bleeding white supremacist gangs dry through lawsuits has proved surprisingly effective in the past. In 1999, a lawsuit bankrupted the Idaho Aryan Nations white supremacists; in 2008, the Southern Poverty Law Center sued a Ku Klux Klan group in Kentucky and won a $2.5 million settlement. Going after Trump, Giuliani, and the organizations central to the January 6 insurrection by taking their money would likely make insurrectionists think twice before they tried such a thing again.
Third, President Joe Biden held a televised town hall tonight to sell the idea of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. He answered in detail questions about domestic insurrection, the minimum wage, white supremacy, coronavirus, and vaccines. But what stood out was an exchange between the president and the mother of a young man with health issues who cannot get on a list in Wisconsin to get the coronavirus vaccine. Biden told the woman that he could make recommendations to the states, but the order in which they chose to administer the vaccine was up to them.
“But here’s what I’d like to do,” he continued. ”If you’re willing, I’ll stay around after this is over and maybe we can talk a few minutes and see if I can get you some help.”
This is a powerful echo of an exchange President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had with a Black Mississippi farmer, Sylvester Harris, in 1934. In the depths of the Great Depression, Harris was about to lose his cotton farm because he couldn’t make the mortgage payments. In desperation, he traveled a dozen miles into town, picked up a telephone, and called the White House. News stories told readers that Harris had reached FDR, who had promised to stop the impending foreclosure of Harris’s mortgage, and within days, the bank gave him an extension.
In the exchange, Americans saw a president who cared, and a government that finally, after its previous leaders had told them to get out of a terrible catastrophe on their own, responded to their needs.
The Germans have made more progress in one lifetime than American society seems to have made since the 1880s.
The Civil War went underground, it just became a Cold War. 35-40% of the US adores Trump because he says and does what they can’t. Racist, sexist and homophobic values right out there in public.
The reason they created the myth that they won the election is because four years of Trump is their dream come true, and they want to keep living the dream. They want to live in their racist and sexist and homophobic bubble as long as possible, and the Capitol Riot was their attack on the democratic egalitarian society that is leaving them behind. The Big Lie is wishful thinking: “Can’t we always live openly as racists and sexists? We didn’t lose the election. Racism and sexism forever!!”
White supremacy does not mean loving the KKK. White supremacy is every Republican and every Trump voter who wants males to have it better than females, whites to have it better than everybody else, and straights to have it better than non-straights. Every Trump voter is racist, sexist, anti-gay, or anti-Jew or some combination.
It’s ugly, but that’s the Civil War we are in. A “civil war” is a war in society. The old civil society versus the new civil society. Red versus blue. Trump versus the future. That is a civil war. That is OUR civil war.
A more nuanced statement about Trump voters and Republicans
All my life I’ve wondered what’s the difference between the two parties. Silly me, being an intellectual, I thought that there was some ideological distinction.
Conservatives like the word tradition. When you want to do marketing and commercial outreach to conservatives, you use words like “heritage,“ “tradition,“ and “history.“
Now I understand why.
They prefer to live in the past, in the days of the old social order, maybe not back to slavery, but certainly back to when whites and men and straights had most of the authority.
Nobody is going to agree if you call them a racist or a sexist or a homophobe. Those are dirty words.
However, what draws those people together is what Prince Harry calls their “unconscious bias.“ American conservatives by and large are not very self-aware. They are not aware of their unconscious biases. A person who is unconsciously biased towards whites and males and straights might not even admit it to themselves. So obviously they would be incapable of admitting it to anybody else.
Maybe it sounds harsh when I say “every Trump voter is racist, sexist, anti-gay or anti-Jew or a combination.”
But like it or not, that’s what the January 6 Trump Rioters and Republican senators and Republican congressman and congresswomen and your average country club conservatives have in common: they are all biased in favor of whites, males, straights, and Christians and against the other groups and classes. That includes all those sicko Q people.
And that’s why I said white supremacy does not necessarily mean having a favorable opinion of the KKK. That’s the lame excuse that closet racists and sexists and homophobes use to justify and cover up the fact that they are social lepers. If you have a problem with the team of Stacey Plaskett, Jamie Raskin (a Jew), Nancy Pelosi who is 3rd in line for the presidency behind Kamala who is 2nd in line, et al, it’s because you are racist and sexist even if you can’t see it.
You get uncomfortable with women in their power. You get uncomfortable with non-Christians and non-whites. You don’t have the guts or the integrity to admit it to yourself, so you just go along with the Republican crowd and find words that are (pseudo) politically correct. Using a word like “nasty“ to describe a black or Latina woman in her power telling you to shove your racism and sexism up your ass. Questioning our black President’s heritage. Telling non-white congresswomen to go back where they came from. etc etc
If you vote for the person who says all that, it’s because you agree. You’re too much of a stinking wimp to come right out in public and say those things yourself, but you admire the man who does.
The Christians who are on the wrong side of history, like Mike Pence, are over there because they are attached to the pre-1960s model of one man one woman + children everyone straight man-has-more-power outdated Hallmark Channel family model. He is just as white supremacist and misogynistic as the sewer rats from January 6, he just puts a glossy coat of paint over it.
After reading this long argument, please reflect. Please don’t say Trump is going to go away. Please stop hoping that this problem will disappear. Please don’t put your head in the sand. The Christians who are attached to the old family model are not going to disappear. Racism and sexism and misogyny and homophobia and anti-Semitism are not disappearing, even if they are being slowly replaced. Ignorant people are subject to those illnesses. Stupid people continue to choose to believe them and act on them. Get used to it.
And without hesitancy or a divisive comment, President Biden approved Texas’ emergency declaration. How wonderfully refreshing.