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Texas was 'seconds and minutes' away from catastrophic months-long blackouts: officials

February 18, 2021 in Blogs

By The Texas Tribune

Texas was “seconds and minutes” away from catastrophic monthslong blackouts, officials say” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Texas’ power grid was “seconds and minutes” away from a catastrophic failure that could have left Texans in the dark for months, officials with the entity that operates the grid said Thursday.

As millions of customers throughout the state begin to have power restored after days of massive blackouts, officials with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which operates the power grid that covers most of the state, said Texas was dangerously close to a worst-case scenario: uncontrolled blackouts across the state.

The quick decision that grid operators made in the early hours of Monday morning to begin what was intended to be rolling blackouts — but lasted days for millions of Texans — occurred because operators were seeing warning signs that massive amounts of energy supply was dropping off the grid.

As natural gas fired plants, utility scale wind power and coal plants tripped offline due to the extreme cold brought by the winter storm, the amount of power supplied to the grid to be distributed across the state fell rapidly. At the same time, demand was increasing as consumers and businesses turned up the heat and stayed inside to avoid the weather.

“It needed to be addressed immediately,” said Bill Magness, president of ERCOT. “It was seconds and minutes [from possible failure] given the amount of generation that was coming off the system.”

Grid operators had to act quickly to cut the amount of power distributed, Magness said, because if they had waited, “then what happens in that next minute might be that three more [power generation] units come offline, and then you’re sunk.”

Magness said on Wednesday that if operators had not acted in that moment, the state could have suffered blackouts that “could have occurred for months,” and left Texas in an “indeterminately long” crisis.

The worst case scenario: Demand for power overwhelms the supply of power generation available on the grid, causing equipment to catch fire, substations to blow and power lines to go down.

If the grid had gone totally offline, the physical damage to power infrastructure from overwhelming the grid …read more


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'I don’t want to eat our own': Senate Republicans fret over Trump-McConnell rift

February 18, 2021 in Blogs

By Daily Kos

When Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell first saw Donald Trump’s pointed screed skewering him as a “dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack,” he laughed, according to CNN.

That’s certainly the image McConnell’s allies want to project, as they assure reporters in multiple stories the the Minority Leader is moving on from Trump, likely won’t ever speak to him again, and remains laser-focused on one thing only: retaking control of the Senate in 2022. In essence, Trump is riffraff and canny McConnell doesn’t have time for it.

What is undoubtedly true in all that projection is the fact that McConnell’s every waking moment is devoted to reclaiming power over the upper chamber. Power is everything to McConnell and it’s only fitting that it’s the legacy issue he cares about most. “Mr. McConnell needs to be returned to his top role after the 2022 elections to become the longest-serving Senate leader in history in 2023, a goal the legacy-minded Kentuckian would no doubt like to achieve,” writes The New York Times. The Times also reports that one GOP senator said McConnell might have triggered a rebellion if he had voted to convict—which is exactly why he didn’t. But think about that—McConnell, worshipper of raw power, didn’t have the political juice to lead his caucus and so he once again fumbled the opportunity to navigate a way out of Trump’s wilderness.

Whatever McConnell wants everyone to believe about his cool, cunning strategery, 42 members of his caucus voted to acquit Trump and several of them are openly losing their minds about the Trump-McConnell schism.

Trump’s chief sycophant, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, is beside himself trying to find enough adjectives to convey how invaluable Dear not-Leader remains to the party. Since the acquittal vote, Graham has cast Trump as the most “vibrant,” “consequential,” and “potent force” of the Republican party in various interviews. Oh, and don’t forget, daughter-in-law Lara Trump is “the future of the Republican Party.” (Talk about single-handedly killing your own credibility.)

Anyway, Graham fretted about the internecine warfare Tuesday on Fox News, saying, “I’m more worried about 2022 than I’ve ever been … I don’t want to eat our own.” Graham said that if McConnell didn’t understand how essential Trump is, “he’s missing a …read more


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Why Labor Unions Declined in the 1920s

February 18, 2021 in History

By Christopher Klein

Stripped of wartime protections and branded as anti-American, labor unions languished in the Roaring Twenties.

Why were the 1920s such a tough time for America’s labor unions?

Call it a backlash against their growing strength. After expanding power during the Progressive Era in the first two decades of the 20th century, organized labor strengthened further during World War I. The U.S. government took a more conciliatory approach toward labor unions to prevent work stoppages that could disrupt the war effort. In return for a moratorium on strikes, unions received shorter workdays, greater collective bargaining rights and seats of power in federal wartime agencies such as the National War Labor Board, which mediated labor disputes. As a result, membership in the American Federation of Labor (AFL), the country’s largest labor union, surged by 50 percent between 1917 and 1919.

After World War I, however, the labor movement lost ground. The National War Labor Board disbanded, and American businesses sought to regain power over the unions. “As soon as the armistice was signed in November 1918, their pushback against workers’ gains began,” says Georgetown University labor historian Joseph McCartin. “Meanwhile, workers’ expectations had risen as a result of wartime gains, and they were not in a mood to give up those gains. This set the stage for a titanic struggle in 1919, the biggest eruption of labor unrest to that point in history.”

PHOTOS: These Appalling Images Exposed Child Labor in America

Labor Strikes Rocked America in 1919

Steel strikers holding bulletins concerning a nationwide strike, at the Illinois Steel Mills, Chicago, September 22, 1919.

Inflation eroded American workers’ purchasing power in the months after the war. Food prices more than doubled and clothing prices more than tripled between 1915 and 1920. But most businesses refused to boost wages accordingly.

In response, over 3,500 work stoppages involving more than 4 million workers occurred in 1919. That February, labor unions across Seattle halted work in solidarity with 35,000 shipyard workers who had walked off the job in the first general (or cross-industry) strike in American history. That fall, nearly 400,000 members of the United Mine Workers of America went on strike, as did 365,000 steelworkers across the Midwest who attempted to unionize.

Striking workers, however, won few concessions. Having endured rationings and shortages during the war and the 1918-19 Spanish flu pandemic, an exhausted American public felt little solidarity with …read more


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New report reveals Ron DeSantis is manipulating COVID-19 stats to push his agenda

February 18, 2021 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, promoting his decision to reopen public schools for in-person classes, has claimed that the COVID-19 infection rates among Florida schoolchildren are impressively low. But according to WTJV Channel 6, the NBC television affiliate in Miami, DeSantis has neglected to mention how those infection rates actually compare to other states.

NBC 6 reporter Tony Pipitone explains, “This week, the NBC 6 Investigators found, he twice misled the public about how Florida stacks up to other states when it comes to infection rates among school-age children. During comments Monday lambasting Democrats for, he claimed, putting teachers’ unions ‘ahead of the well-being of our children,’ he touted how well Florida protected school children from the virus, compared to other states.”

DeSantis bragged, “We’ve been in-person (learning) as much as anybody in the country. And yet, we’re 34th out of 50 states and (Washington) D.C. for COVID-19 cases on a per capita basis for children.”

But according to Pipitone, that statement fails to take into account “more than 50,000 children over the age of 14 who contracted the virus.”

“By using a statistic for children under 15, he effectively removed high school students from the data he cited twice this week to validate his decision to offer in-person classes to all public schools students,” Pipitone notes. “The states DeSantis was comparing Florida to do, in fact, include those older students.”

NBC 6, according to Pipitone, analyzed Florida Department of Health and U.S. Census Bureau data and concluded that “when states reporting cases among children under 18 are compared to Florida’s rate for the same age group, Florida ranks ninth, not 34th.”

DeSantis tweeted:

Pipitone notes, “To emphasize the point, he attached a graph purporting to show Florida’s ‘rate of pediatric cases’ to those of Ohio, Illinois and California, which has nearly twice the population of Florida. But the rate he assigned to Florida — 3794 cases per 100,000 — excluded anyone over 14. The numbers for Ohio and Illinois included anyone under 20, and California’s anyone under 18.”

NBC 6′s …read more


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How corporations try to divide and exploit America's workers

February 18, 2021 in Blogs

By Tom Conway

Dave Dell Isola, the son and grandson of union members, grew up grateful for the family-sustaining wages and benefits that organized labor won for working people.

But he never fully grasped the might of solidarity until he and his wife, Barbara, and their two sons lost everything in an apartment fire. Dell Isola’s brothers and sisters in the United Steelworkers (USW) rushed to the couple’s side with financial assistance and other support to help them through the tragedy.

“They had me in tears,” recalled Dell Isola, now vice president of USW Local 12012, which represents hundreds of natural gas and propane industry workers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

The union bond is so powerful that corporate interests and their allies across the country desperately want to smash it.

Twenty-seven states already have falsely named right-to-work (RTW) laws on the books, and advocates of these union-busting measures now hope to enact them in New Hampshire and Montana.

In addition, corporations and their allies want to make another effort to ram the legislation through in Missouri, even though angry voters there rejected it by a landslide just a few years ago. And Republican lawmakers in Tennessee want to enshrine their anti-worker law in the state constitution, just to make it more difficult for wiser heads to repeal the legislation one day.

Working people only win fair wages, decent benefits and safe working conditions when they stand together. Solidarity also gives union members the grit to survive battles like the months-long lockout that Dell Isola and his coworkers at National Grid in Massachusetts endured during their successful fight for a fair contract.

Corporations want to rig the scales in their favor. They push RTW laws so they can divide workers—tear at the union bond—and exploit them more easily.

These laws allow workers to opt out of supporting unions while still reaping the benefits. Unions remain legally bound to represent workers regardless of whether they pay dues.

And just as corporations want, that erodes union activism and starves locals like Dell Isola’s of the resources they need to bargain with strength, enforce contracts, build solidarity and survive labor disputes.

“It snowballs into not being able to represent people,” explained Dell Isola, noting the laws’ corrosive force helps employers not only depress …read more


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The United States is visibly in an early stage of disintegration

February 18, 2021 in Blogs

By Tom Dispatch

Like Gregor Samsa, the never-to-be-forgotten character in Franz Kafka’s story “The Metamorphosis,” we awoke on January 7th to discover that we, too, were “a giant insect” with “a domelike brown belly divided into stiff arched segments” and numerous “pitifully thin” legs that “waved helplessly” before our eyes. If you prefer, though, you can just say it: we opened our eyes and found that, somehow, we had become a giant roach of a country.

Yes, I know, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are now in charge and waving their own little limbs wildly, trying to do some of what needs to be done for this sad land of the disturbed, over-armed, sick, and dying. But anyone who watched the scenes of Floridians celebrating a Super Bowl victory, largely unmasked and cheering, shoulder to shoulder in the streets of Tampa, can’t help but realize that we are now indeed a roach nation, the still-wealthiest, most pandemically unmasked one on Planet Earth.

But don’t just blame Donald Trump. Admittedly, we’ve just passed through the Senate trial and acquittal of the largest political cockroach around. I’m talking about the president who, upon discovering that his vice president was in danger of being “executed” (“Hang Mike Pence!“) and was being rushed out of the Senate as a mob bore down on him, promptly tweeted: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution.”

Just imagine. The veep who had — if you don’t mind my mixing my creature metaphors here — toadied up to the president for four endless years was then given a functional death sentence by that same man. You can’t fall much deeper into personal roachdom than that. My point here, though, is that our all-American version of roacherie was a long time in coming.

Or put another way: unimaginable as The Donald might have seemed when he descended that Trump Tower escalator in June 2015 to hail his future “great, great wall,” denounce Mexican “rapists,” and bid to make a whole country into his apprentices, he didn’t end up in the Oval Office for no reason. He was <a target=_blank href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" …read more