Feb 24 2021

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news media and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Karen Tumulty: The people concerned about Neera Tanden’s incivility sure didn’t seem to mind the Trump era’s

Senators should think about how this could affect a future GOP president’s nominees.

It has become a rite of the modern presidential transition: The gods of politics demand a human sacrifice, the Senate torpedoes a nomination, the new administration takes a hit, and everyone moves on.

But the case of Neera Tanden, President Biden’s embattled choice to direct the Office of Management and Budget, presents a new twist.

Tanden is amply qualified for the job. She is not accused of failing to pay her taxes or hiring an undocumented household worker. She is not on the ideological fringes. There has been no scandal in her personal life.

Her supposedly unpardonable sin is . . . incivility. Specifically, she used intemperate language on Twitter. [..]

The sanctimony of Republican senators is newfound and rich, given how unstirred they were by the most powerful social media bully on earth leading their party from the White House for the past four years. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), who has declared Tanden “radioactive,” said last June, after Donald Trump tweeted one of his egregiously false conspiracy theories: “You know a lot of this stuff just goes over my head.”

Manchin’s calculation here is a little less obvious. It may be that, coming from one of the reddest states, he feels the need to show some independence from the Biden administration.

But his stated reason, the “toxic and detrimental impact” of Tanden’s “overtly partisan statements,” is hard to take at face value.

Jennifer Rubin: How Merrick Garland should decide whether to prosecute Trump

The incoming attorney general should follow Justice Department guidelines.

Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland reiterated at his confirmation hearing Monday that he will not take direction from the White House on prosecutorial decisions. “I would not have taken this job if I thought that politics would have any influence over prosecutions and investigations,” he said. At another point, he emphasized, “The president made abundantly clear in every public statement . . . that decisions about investigation and prosecutions will be left to the Justice Department.”

And so we should consider how he will go about deciding to prosecute the former disgraced president. President Biden will not tell him, and Garland has vowed to ignore public pressure. Fortunately, he will enter an office with a literal manual. [..]

In sum, the decision to prosecute the ex-president for the Capitol attack might be controversial but not difficult. Once elements of the various crimes are established, there is indisputably a federal interest. Likewise, for the events leading to the Capitol attack, there is no alternative jurisdiction or remedy available for the Jan. 6 crimes. Whether it is good or bad to convict former presidents should not enter into Garland’s considerations. (If Biden thinks prosecution would be detrimental to the country, he could choose to pardon the ex-president, although he has said he has no plans to do so.)

If Garland goes by the “book” and decides to prosecute, his stature as an independent, esteemed former judge makes him precisely the right person for the job.

Paul Waldman: Moderate Democrats are unwittingly proving why the filibuster must go

The negotiation over the covid relief bill — which isn’t subject to the filibuster — is just the kind of legislating they say they want.

Supporting the filibuster is no easy task. To do it you have to be willing to set aside not only principles of democracy, majority rule and accountable governance, but also probably your connection to reality itself.

And if you’re a Democrat, you have to be willing to tell your constituents that no issue they care about — not health care or workers’ rights or inequality or immigration or anything else — is as important as maintaining in its current form a Senate procedure that has mostly been used to stop progressive change.

The question of the filibuster is momentarily on the back burner as Congress considers a covid relief bill, which will be passed through reconciliation — a limited, once-yearly tool the majority can use to move certain kinds of legislation. But that question will hang over everything that happens in Congress during Joe Biden’s presidency.

And right now, the very senators who cling most ardently to the filibuster are demonstrating what legislating could be like without it. The post-filibuster future they’re fighting against is, in fact, their own ideal: a situation in which they have tremendous influence, which they use to move legislation in a moderate direction and make bipartisanship possible.

Greg Sargent: How Republicans will sabotage a full accounting of Trump’s insurrection

No amount of magical “bipartisanship” will get Republicans to willingly reckon with their party’s role.

Let’s state this at the outset. If you think the chief obstacle to a full accounting of the mob assault on the Capitol is generalized partisanship, rather than the ongoing radicalization of the Republican Party, then you’re utterly clueless about the reality of this political moment.

Democrats and Republicans are battling over the makeup of a commission that is supposed to examine the Jan. 6 attack. Congressional leaders — led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — are now haggling over what the legislation creating it will look like.

This has caused some hand-wringing about whether a “bipartisan” accounting into the attack is possible, one similar to that produced by the 9/11 Commission, the model for this one.

But it’s hard to see how a bipartisan accounting on the insurrection is possible, especially if it is going to include a full reckoning with Donald Trump’s role in it.

I’ve got new detail on what’s at issue in the argument over the commission, and it appears to involve the scope of what will be examined.

Amanda Marcotte: GOP is still gaslighting about the Capitol riot: Trump’s allies claim coup and QAnon never happened

After the riot comes the gaslighting

Donald Trump’s insurrection failed. While historians will likely debate for decades how close he really came to succeeding, one thing is for certain: His failure has put his most prominent defenders in a tough spot. Instead of lining up to sing the praises of President-for-Life Donald Trump, which is where they want to be, his sycophants are stuck trying to make excuses for, minimize, or deflect attention from Trump’s failure.

First, they tried to minimize Trump’s responsibility for the insurrection. That tactic fell apart after an impeachment trial where the prosecutors made such an airtight case for Trump’s guilt that even people who voted to acquit him pretended it was on a legal technicality, rather than try to argue for his innocence. Now, some folks on the right are trying a new tactic, one you might call the “go big or go home” strategy. Trump’s loudest defenders are now outright denying that the nation saw what we all clearly saw on January 6. [..]

Denying the sky is blue breaks the will of their opponents to argue back. It frees them to spread this lie unchecked until it becomes the received wisdom of the Republican base. Soon, we can expect drunk uncles around the nation to count on their own stubborn unwillingness to admit evidence to “win” arguments over whether the insurrection is real. Who needs facts when you have lies that work by exhausting your opposition?

Feb 24 2021

Cartnoon

ek hornbeck and I traveled through Nova Scotia twice and spent several days in its capital Halifax. The city has a large maritime museum that houses artifacts from the Titanic, which sank in April if 1912 and cemetery where some of the victims are buried but that is just some of the city’s history. On a tour of a two hundred year old brewery, we learned that Halifax has another tragedy that destroyed much of the city killing approximately 2,000 people and injuring over 9000 when two ships, one laden with high explosives collided and exploded in the harbor. The blast was the largest human-made explosion at the time, releasing the equivalent energy of roughly 2.9 kilotons of TNT, one of the largest non-nuclear ever to take place.

Mont-Blanc was under orders from the French government to carry her cargo from New York City via Halifax to Bordeaux, France. At roughly 8:45 am, she collided at low speed, approximately one knot (1.2 mph or 1.9 km/h), with the unladen Imo, chartered by the Commission for Relief in Belgium to pick up a cargo of relief supplies in New York. On the Mont-Blanc, the impact damaged benzol barrels stored on deck, leaking vapours which were ignited by sparks from the collision, setting off a fire on board that quickly grew out of control. Approximately 20 minutes later at 9:04:35 am, the Mont-Blanc exploded.

Nearly all structures within an 800-metre (half-mile) radius, including the community of Richmond, were obliterated.[4] A pressure wave snapped trees, bent iron rails, demolished buildings, grounded vessels (including Imo, which was washed ashore by the ensuing tsunami), and scattered fragments of Mont-Blanc for kilometres. Across the harbour, in Dartmouth, there was also widespread damage.[1] A tsunami created by the blast wiped out the community of the Mi’kmaq First Nation who had lived in the Tufts Cove area for generations.

Relief efforts began almost immediately, and hospitals quickly became full. Rescue trains began arriving the day of the explosion from across Nova Scotia and New Brunswick while other trains from central Canada and the northeastern United States were impeded by blizzards. Construction of temporary shelters to house the many people left homeless began soon after the disaster. The initial judicial inquiry found Mont-Blanc to have been responsible for the disaster, but a later appeal determined that both vessels were to blame. In the North End, there are several memorials to the victims of the explosion.

The people of Nova Scotia are warm friendly and welcoming. It’s a great place to visit after the pandemic is under control.

TMC for ek hornbeck

Feb 24 2021

The Breakfast Club (Don’t Fear The Truth)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

This Day in History

President Andrew Johnson impeached; The Nazi Party holds its first major meeting; Manila liberated during World War II; Britain’s Prince Charles, Lady Diana Spencer engaged; Lauryn Hill’s Grammy feat.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

As long as the people don’t fear the truth, there is hope. For once they fear it, the one who tells it doesn’t stand a chance. And today, truth is still beautiful… but so frightening.

Alice Walker

Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 23 2021

Late Night Today

Late Night Today is for our readers who can’t stay awake to watch the shows. Everyone deserves a good laugh.

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

Ted Cruz Already Made It To His Next Vacation Spot

In a statement, the Senator insisted he was just dropping his daughters off on Mars for a quick vacation.

Ted Cruz’s Favorite President Could Face Jail Time For Tax Fraud

Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court will allow state investigators access to the former president’s tax returns, potentially setting up felony charges against the former leader and his family.

Quarantinewhile… Twitch Dubs Over Metallica

Quarantinewhile… Friends of the show Metallica tore the virtual roof off their performance at BlizzCon over the weekend, but some fans streaming on Twitch didn’t get to hear it.

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

Ted Cruz’s Photo Op & Texans’ Extreme Electric Bills

Senator Ted Cruz hands out water for a photo op, electricity bills across Texas spike, and Cruz changes his tune on government regulation.

US Hits 500K COVID Deaths & People Will Do Anything for a Vaccine

The U.S. surpasses 500,000 coronavirus deaths, a 90-year-old Seattle woman walks six miles in the snow for her vaccine, and two Florida women dress up as grannies to cut the vaccination line

Who Rigged New Zealand’s Bird of the Year Election?

Election fraud is something we’ve come to expect from America, but not beautiful, COVID-free New Zealand. Michael Kosta reports on a rigged election that ruffled the country’s feathers: the Bird of the Year competition.

Late Night with Seth Meyers

Fox News Lies About the Texas Blackouts as GOP Lies About the Election: A Closer Look

Seth takes a closer look at the Republican Party lying about the Green New Deal and the 2020 election as the U.S. passes a grim coronavirus milestone and Texas experiences an unprecedented power crisis.

Jimmy Kimmel Live

Ted Cruz’s Desperate Damage Control, Trump Boys Point Fingers & Daddy Donny’s Tax Returns

The weather has been crazy across the country, on Saturday debris from a United flight headed to Honolulu landed outside of Denver, Ted Cruz continues to do damage control after his stupid trip to Mexico, members of Trump Incorporated are looking to point the finger of blame for the mess in Texas, Greg Kelly of Newsmax devoted a full segment of his show this weekend to Biden’s German Shepherd, fan accounts for the President’s dogs are posting tweets from their point of view, Diamond and Silk have a show on Newsmax where they cover “important” topics, we are one step closer to maybe getting a look at Trump’s tax returns and Don Jr. was sure to comment on it, MyPillow Mike Lindell is being sued by Dominion Voting Systems for more than $1.3 billion for falsely claiming that their voting machines were rigged, and Jimmy and Guillermo try the new signature greeting from “The Bachelor.”

The Late Late Show with James Corden

Tax Time Came Early for Trump This Year

After a week off, James Corden is excited to be back in the studio with the team — even though he’s short a drummer for a minute. And James looks at the headlines, including Donald Trump learning he has to hand over his taxes to New York investigators and Dr. Fauci sharing he thinks we’ll be wearing masks for quite a while.

Honest Headlines

James takes a moment to look at some recent actual headlines and what the headline was really trying to say. And James tries to decide how he feels about “Sex and the City” reboot.

Feb 23 2021

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news media and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: Et Tu, Ted? Why Deregulation Failed

Even Senator Cruz realizes kilowatt-hours aren’t like avocados.

Nobody is ever fully prepared for natural disaster. When hurricanes, blizzards or tsunamis strike they always reveal weaknesses — failure to plan, failure to invest in precautions.

The disaster in Texas, however, was different. The collapse of the Texas power grid didn’t just reveal a few shortcomings. It showed that the entire philosophy behind the state’s energy policy is wrong. And it also showed that the state is run by people who will resort to blatant lies rather than admit their mistakes. [..]

The theory was that no such regulation was necessary, because the magic of the market would take care of everything. After all, a surge in demand or a disruption of supply — both of which happened in the deep freeze — will lead to high prices, and hence to big profits for any power supplier that manages to keep operating. So there should be incentives to invest in robust systems, precisely to take advantage of events like those Texas just experienced.

Texas energy policy was based on the idea that you can treat electricity like avocados. Do people remember the great avocado shortage of 2019? Surging demand and a bad crop in California led to spiking prices; but nobody called for a special inquest and new regulations on avocado producers.

In fact, some people see nothing wrong with what happened in Texas in the past week. William Hogan, the Harvard professor widely considered the architect of the Texas system, asserted that drastic price increases, while “not convenient,” were how the system was supposed to work.

But kilowatt-hours aren’t avocados, and there are at least three big reasons pretending that they are is a recipe for disaster.

Eugene Robinson: We’ve lost 500,000 Americans to covid-19. We can prevent the loss of 500,000 more.

It’s hard to struggle on in the face of such loss, and when the end seems near. But we must.

This is a moment of terrible tension. We are reaching an unspeakable milestone: the deaths of half a million Americans from covid-19. At the same time, there is unambiguous good news in the fight against the virus. It is possible, finally, to imagine a day when this devastating pandemic is brought to an end. The progress we’ve made toward defeating covid-19 should sharpen our grief, making it clear how many lives we might have saved had we been unified in our response. But even as we mourn, we cannot despair: There are people who will live if we keep up the hard, lonely work still before us.

Since peaking in early January, the daily tally of new cases in this country has plummeted by more than two-thirds. Hospitalizations, an even more reliable measure of the pandemic since they reflect the number of people suffering from serious disease, are falling, too: Fewer than 60,000 people are hospitalized today with covid-19, as opposed to more than 130,000 for several days last month.

Deaths are a lagging indicator, but those, too, have fallen sharply. On Saturday, according to The Post’s tally, the seven-day daily average of deaths was 1,932 — the first time that figure had fallen below 2,000 since Dec. 4. [..]

But however exhausting it might be, we all have dreary, routine work left to do to combat the virus and to protect ourselves and our fellow citizens. It helps that the federal government now sends a consistent message on the need for the simple measures that are known to prevent transmission of the coronavirus: mask-wearing, hand-washing and social distancing.

Amanda Marcotte: 500,000 dead Americans: One year of COVID exposes the rot of GOP ideology

Half a million dead and Texas in shambles — Democrats have a real chance to destroy “small government” arguments

The U.S. is expected to cross a grim milestone on Monday that was unimagined by even the worst projections from the beginning of the pandemic nearly one year ago: Half a million dead from COVID-19. And those are just the direct deaths from recorded instances of the disease. Excess mortality rates show that for every two official COVID-19 deaths, there’s another excess death, likely due to myriad related causes, from increased rates of poverty to strains on the health care system to undiagnosed cases. What is clear, however, is that the past year has exposed the rot of GOP ideology that led to such excess death and despair.

While Republicans love to quibble to muddy the waters around pandemic failure assessment, there is no denying that Donald Trump’s approach to the coronavirus — do as little as possible, push for premature re-openings, hide the evidence by discouraging testing — led to hundreds of thousands more dead Americans than we would have seen under a competent administration.

Yet, as tempting as it might be for some to attribute those failures to Trump’s unique combination of laziness and malice towards the public, the situation in Texas is a cold reminder of how well his failures fit with the larger GOP approach to policy. The state is in shambles, laid flat because the power and water systems — poorly managed due to the Republican mania for low regulation — were no match for the kinds of extreme winter storm events that climate change is making more common. Texas’s situation illustrates how Trump’s approach to the pandemic is just one aspect of the Republican approach to everything, which is to say, to neglect government duties in favor of pandering to wealthy interests and to deflect and deny when the consequences inevitably occur. Democrats must now do more to seize the moment.

Jamelle Bouie: How Not to Be at the Mercy of a Trumpified G.O.P.

Barack Obama asked Democrats to kill the filibuster and pass a voting rights bill because it was the right thing to do. There’s a stronger argument.

Obama asked Democrats to kill the filibuster and pass a voting rights bill because it was the right thing to do. But there’s a stronger argument: that if Democrats don’t do this, they’ll be at the mercy of a Trumpified Republican Party that has radicalized against democracy itself. [..]

Devoted to Trump, and committed to his fictions about the election, Republicans are doing everything they can to keep voters from holding them and their leaders accountable. They will restrict the vote. They will continue to gerrymander themselves into near-permanent majorities. A Republican in Arizona has even proposed a legislative veto over the popular vote in presidential elections, under the dubious theory that state legislatures have unconditional, unlimited and unrestricted power to allocate electoral votes.

The good news is that Democrats in Congress have it in their power to stop a lot of this nonsense, to pre-emptively weaken the rising tide of voter suppression. All it takes is a simple vote to make the Senate work according to majority rule, as the founding fathers intended.

The alternative is to allow the supermajority requirement to stand, to allow endless stagnation, to abdicate the authority of Congress to govern the country and tackle its problems, to deny the party of collective action the ability to act for the public good and to give the party of plutocrats and demagogues free rein to twist the institutions of the American republic against its values.

Jennifer Rubin: Can we have unity when Republicans thrive on alienation?

One party is checking out of the American experience.

President Biden issued a plea for national unity in his remarks on Monday commemorating the 500,000 deaths from covid-19. “It’s not Democrats and Republicans who are dying from the virus. It’s our fellow Americans,” he said. “It’s our neighbors and our friends — our mothers, our fathers, our sons, our daughters, husbands, wives. We have to fight this together, as one people, as the United States of America.” [..]

Biden, unlike most other presidents faced with tragedy, confronts a peculiar challenge: One party is fueled by alienation, resentment, paranoia and bigotry. The Republican Party — as evidenced by its response to Texas’s energy crisis, its implacable opposition to a substantial rescue plan, its disinterest in rooting out violent White supremacists and its celebration of the Confederacy (the embodiment of anti-union sentiment) — thrives when its base feels animosity toward “elites” (e.g., urbanites, experts, civil rights activists) and is convinced the rest of the country has contempt for them. If they come to believe that the federal government has not “stolen” something from them but rather wants to extend a helping hand the entire ethos of the GOP crumbles.

Feb 23 2021

Cartnoon

500,000

TMC for ek hornbeck

Feb 23 2021

The Breakfast Club (Teach Life)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

This Day in History

Iconic photo captured in Iwo Jima; Persian Gulf War begins in Kuwait; Scottish scientists clone first mammal; Stan Laurel dies; Carlos Santana wins 8 Grammy awards.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Education must not simply teach work – it must teach Life.

W. E. B. Du Bois

Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 22 2021

Late Night Today

Late Night Today is for our readers who can’t stay awake to watch the shows. Everyone deserves a good laugh.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Meatpacking

The pandemic has thrown into high relief some of the longstanding issues surrounding working conditions in meatpacking facilities. John Oliver explains why greater oversight is needed, and how we can go about getting it.

Texas

Saturday Night Live

Britney Spears Cold Open

A talk show hosted by Britney Spears (Chloe Fineman) features guests Ted Cruz (Aidy Bryant), Governor Andrew Cuomo (Pete Davidson) and Gina Carano (Cecily Strong).

Weekend Update: Ted Cruz Goes to Cancun

Weekend Update anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che tackle the week’s biggest news, like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plans to legalize marijuana.

Weekend Update: Jessie Raunch on Food Insecurity

Jessie Raunch (Heidi Gardner) stops by Weekend Update to talk about food insecurity and her mutual aid organization.

Weekend Update: Pete Davidson on Valentine’s Day

Pete Davidson stops by Weekend Update to discuss celebrating Valentine’s Day during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Feb 22 2021

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news media and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Robert Reich: Texas freeze shows a chilling truth – how the rich use climate change to divide us

The Lone Star State is aptly named. If you’re not part of the Republican oil elite with Cruz and Abbott, you’re on your own

Texas has long represented a wild west individualism that elevates personal freedom – this week, the freedom to freeze – above all else.

The state’s prevailing social Darwinism was expressed most succinctly by the mayor of Colorado City, who accused his constituents – trapped in near sub-zero temperatures and complaining about lack of heat, electricity and drinkable water – of being the “lazy” products of a “socialist government”, adding “I’m sick and tired of people looking for a damn handout!” and predicting “only the strong will survive and the weak will perish”. [..]

Last Wednesday, Texas’s governor, Greg Abbott, went on Fox News to proclaim, absurdly, that what happened to his state “shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States”. Abbott blamed the power failure on the fact that “wind and solar got shut down”.

Rubbish. The loss of power from frozen coal-fired and natural gas plants was six times larger than the dent caused by frozen wind turbines. Texans froze because deregulation and a profit-driven free market created an electric grid utterly unprepared for climate change.

In Texas, oil tycoons are the only winners from climate change. Everyone else is losing badly. Adapting to extreme weather is necessary but it’s no substitute for cutting emissions, which Texas is loath to do. Not even the Lone Star state should protect the freedom to freeze.

Charles M. Blow: The 4 Great Migrations

America as we have come to know it is most likely a thing of the past.

The humanitarian and infrastructure disaster that followed Texas’ winter storm illustrates that catastrophic weather events may soon become less freak occurrences and more part of an unremitting new normal.

It should also remind us of how a new era in which extreme weather is normal will push — or force — some to migrate to new locations less impacted by this weather. [..]

The United States alone — not to mention other areas around the world — is likely to see millions of climate migrants in the coming decades.

This has the potential to reshape the country, culturally, economically and politically. But it isn’t the only migration threatening to do that. There will be at least three other major migrations happening concurrently with the climate one in this country: immigration from other countries, urbanization led by younger people and the reverse migration of Black people from cities in the North and West back to the South.

Naomi Klein: Why Texas Republicans Fear the Green New Deal

Small government is no match for a crisis born of the state’s twin addictions to market fixes and fossil fuels.

Since the power went out in Texas, the state’s most prominent Republicans have tried to pin the blame for the crisis on, of all things, a sweeping progressive mobilization to fight poverty, inequality and climate change. “This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal,” Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas said Wednesday on Fox News. Pointing to snow-covered solar panels, Rick Perry, a former governor who was later an energy secretary for the Trump administration, declared in a tweet “that if we humans want to keep surviving frigid winters, we are going to have to keep burning natural gas — and lots of it — for decades to come.”

The claims are outlandish. The Green New Deal is, among other things, a plan to tightly regulate and upgrade the energy system so the United States gets 100 percent of its electricity from renewables in a decade. Texas, of course, still gets the majority of its energy from gas and coal; much of that industry’s poorly insulated infrastructure froze up last week when it collided with wild weather that prompted a huge surge in demand. (Despite the claims of many conservatives, renewable energy was not to blame.) It was the very sort of freakish weather system now increasingly common, thanks to the unearthing and burning of fossil fuels like coal and gas. While the link between global warming and rare cold fronts like the one that just slammed Texas remains an area of active research, Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University, says the increasing frequency of such events should be “a wake up call.”

But weather alone did not cause this crisis. Texans are living through the collapse of a 40-year experiment in free-market fundamentalism, one that has also stood in the way of effective climate action. Fortunately, there’s a way out — and that’s precisely what Republican politicians in the state most fear.

Paul Waldman: Nobody loves ‘cancel culture’ more than Republicans do

Both sides love to cancel, just for different reasons. But Republicans need to feed their narrative of victimization.

America, conservatives will tell you, is under siege by “cancel culture.” What they won’t tell you is that they couldn’t be happier about it, since it gives them a handy comeback to any criticism, and helps feed their supporters’ sense of victimization.

Consider the defense Donald Trump Jr. offered of Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz’s jaunt to Cancun while millions of his Texas constituents froze without power.

“The optics of that right now isn’t ideal,” Trump Jr. admitted in a video posted to social media, but “I’m not going to jump on this bandwagon of trying to cancel the guy.” Because Cruz is the real victim here.

Or consider this new effort by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 2 in the Senate GOP leadership, to apply the term “cancel culture” to allies of former president Donald Trump. Thune called on them to stop attacking Republicans who condemned Trump’s incitement of the insurrection at the Capitol, in hopes of tamping down the intra-GOP war.

“If we’re going to criticize the media and the left for cancel culture, we can’t be doing that ourselves,” Thune gamely suggested. This time the victims were Republicans suffering backlash for criticizing Trump. [..]

Thune is right in one sense: Republicans who stood up against Trump have indeed received fierce attacks from within their party, everything from letters of condemnation to formal censure to death threats.

But that doesn’t mean they’ve been canceled. After all, they still have their jobs (as does Cruz). They can do TV interviews and write op-eds. And if they lose primary challenges because of the decision they made, well, that’s politics. Whether you think a failure to support Trump is a good reason to vote against a candidate, nobody has an inherent right to win their next election.

Jennifer Rubin: Americans are ready for communal investment

Americans know they need government

Another poll last week showed overwhelming support for President Biden’s pandemic rescue plan. The latest Navigator poll shows 73 percent of Americans support it, including 53 percent of Republicans.

Interestingly, Biden and Democrats are greatly favored over Republicans to handle both covid-19 and unemployment benefits (65 to 23 percent). As Biden has argued, the majority of Americans are afraid the government will do too little (64 percent) not too much (36 percent), although here a majority of Republicans feels the opposite. Biden is widely seen as more interested in helping the working and middle class than the wealthy. The White House deserves credit for its laserlike focus and communication effort, but when nearly three-quarters of Americans agree about something (anything?), the reasons bear further study. [..]

The mandate coming out of 2020 — other than “no unhinged authoritarians” — was plainly to seek a revived public sector. The Build Back Better idea is recognition that without substantial investments in public goods, we can no longer endure crises and function — even the well-off. If we are entering a new era in which public support for government action and for narrowing the divide between rich and poor is reaching new heights, it is no wonder Biden’s plan is so popular.

“Help is on the way,” the new president likes to say. Apparently, for most Americans — and even a lot of Republicans — that help cannot come fast enough.

Feb 22 2021

Cartnoon

Everyone is familiar with spice, vanilla from its distinct aroma to its taste in deserts to drinks. Vanilla is even used to enhance the flavor of chocolate in baking. It also has an interesting history.

Vanilla is a spice derived from orchids of the genus Vanilla, primarily obtained from pods of the Mexican species, flat-leaved vanilla (V. planifolia). The word vanilla, derived from vainilla, the diminutive of the Spanish word vaina (vaina itself meaning a sheath or a pod), is translated simply as “little pod”. Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican people cultivated the vine of the vanilla orchid, called tlīlxochitl by the Aztecs.

Pollination is required to make the plants produce the fruit from which the vanilla spice is obtained. In 1837, Belgian botanist Charles François Antoine Morren discovered this fact and pioneered a method of artificially pollinating the plant. The method proved financially unworkable and was not deployed commercially. In 1841, Edmond Albius, a 12-year-old slave who lived on the French island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean, discovered that the plant could be hand-pollinated. Hand-pollination allowed global cultivation of the plant.

Three major species of vanilla currently are grown globally, all of which derive from a species originally found in Mesoamerica, including parts of modern-day Mexico. They are V. planifolia (syn. V. fragrans), grown on Madagascar, Réunion, and other tropical areas along the Indian Ocean; V. tahitensis, grown in the South Pacific; and V. pompona, found in the West Indies, Central America, and South America. The majority of the world’s vanilla is the V. planifolia species, more commonly known as Bourbon vanilla (after the former name of Réunion, Île Bourbon) or Madagascar vanilla, which is produced in Madagascar and neighboring islands in the southwestern Indian Ocean, and in Indonesia. Madagascar’s and Indonesia’s cultivations produce two-thirds of the world’s supply of vanilla.

Vanilla is the second-most expensive spice after saffron because growing the vanilla seed pods is labor-intensive. Nevertheless, vanilla is widely used in both commercial and domestic baking, perfume manufacture, and aromatherapy.

TMC for ek hornbeck

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