Thursday, March 4, 2021

A Full Decade


Ten years ago today I pressed click and posted my first blog. I’ve been writing the blog for a full decade now. This is number 1198—so in another week we’ll hit a full 2000. Thank you or reading whatever portion of those you’ve read.

Not every post makes it obvious what this blog’s purpose is. It is to share the concepts of the Spherical Model by discussing things related to the three spheres: political (freedom), economic (prosperity), and social (civilization).

I’m on a personal crusade to change the vocabulary from the right-left model to this more accurate three-dimensional model. It makes moot any discussions about whether some fringe group is right-wing or left-wing extremist; if they go against the northern hemisphere principles that lead to freedom, prosperity, and civilization, then they are southern hemisphere, leading to tyranny, poverty, and savagery. Degrees (distance south) may differ. Lateral direction toward chaotic tyranny or statist tyranny may differ. But if they’re southern hemisphere, that’s bad.

The Spherical Model is a way to move from “What party is proposing this?” toward “Does this idea/policy follow the principles that lead north?”

We’re not talking earth-north and south; we’re talking about the directions on the Spherical Model. (For a full description of the model, see the resources below.)

The Political, Economic, and Social Spheres of the Spherical Model

The three spheres each have some questions or principles you can consider, to determine whether a policy will lead north or south.

Political Sphere: Questions to Ask

1.     Is the policy being debated something that an individual has the right to do, and therefore has the right to delegate to his/her government? 

2.     Does the policy infringe in any way on our God-given rights, including but not limited to those enumerated in the Bill of Rights?

3.     Is the idea being debated a proper role of government, some aspect of protection (including defense, protection from interstate crime, enabling international and interstate commerce, standardized weights and measures and currency, the judiciary that guarantees the protective laws), as enumerated in the Constitution?

Economic Sphere: Question to Ask

·       Who decides what will be done with the fruits of your labors? Someone always makes these basic economic decisions. Should it be the person who did the work to make the profit (north), or should it be some far distant wielder of power (south)? If you go north, you find prosperity; if you go south, you reach poverty.

Social Sphere: Principles of Civilization

1.     Not all religious societies are civilized (according to my definition, which differs from the archaeological definition), but every civilized society is a religious society. This absolutely does not mean state-sponsored religion or lack of religious freedom; in fact, the opposite is true. Freedom of religion is essential, and the flourishing of religion in general must be encouraged.

2.     The family is the basic unit of civilized society. Whatever threatens the family threatens civilization. So preserving and protecting the family is paramount in laws and social expectations in a civilized society.

 

Example

The three spheres interrelate. But it's probably easiest to see things in the political sphere, so let’s take a look at those three political sphere questions and apply them, for example, to the national $15 minimum wage, being proposed right now. 

With question one, do you have the right to force your neighbor to pay a particular wage to his employees? You can suggest. You can use peer pressure. But you don’t have that right. Nor does he have the right to impose that on you. So we, the people, do not have that power to grant to the government.

And the second question, do you have a God-given right to make an exchange with your neighbor for goods and services? Yes, assuming the exchange does not break a duly legal law (written by the legislature, signed into law, and not breaking the overriding law of the Constitution, which supports our natural rights). Do you have the right to prevent such a free exchange between your neighbor and someone else? No. Even when you think your interference is for someone’s own good? No. Nor does he have the right to prevent you from making an exchange of your choice. The exchange is a representation of the work you have done—the wealth you have created. Money is just an easy way of exchanging that representation of your spent life. To interfere with a free exchange is to interfere with your life, your liberty, and your property. 

And the third question, does the government protect your life, liberty, and/or property by either limiting or forcing an exchange against the will of the participants? No, it interferes or limits those things. Government's job is to protect those things, not infringe on them.

Here’s something we say here often:

Whenever government attempts something beyond the proper role of government (protection of life, liberty, and property), it causes unintended consequences—usually exactly opposite to the stated goals of the interference.

So, if the goal of a minimum wage is to prevent people from being taken advantage of and give them a minimum living amount in exchange for their work, let’s see if it does that.

A business exists to create wealth. It does this by providing goods and services that others are willing to pay for. The price is set by the market—by the customers’ willingness to pay. If the cost is too high, the customer won’t pay it. If the cost is too low, there may be too much buying and the supply won’t keep up. So the business owner isn't setting the price; the market is.

If the market sets a particular price for, say, a sandwich at a fast-food restaurant, and the revenue brings in enough for the business to pay a worker $8.50 an hour, but not $15.00 and hour, what happens when the minimum wage is imposed? The business cannot afford to pay the workers that. The alternative is to let go any workers who cannot bring in the needed revenue to meet their $15.00/hour pay and hope the remaining employees can work even harder than they've been doing. In other words, entry-level workers, who are building up their skills, are not legal to hire. They can’t gain the experience needed to get a $15.00/hour job. Instead, they get no pay. They are worse off.

The law has not only made it illegal for a business to pay less than $15.00 and hour; it has made it illegal for a worker to work for less than $15.00 an hour even when it’s to his advantage to do so.

If you’re looking at fairness as the goal, do you think it’s fair to enforce a $15.00/hour minimum on a small town in the Midwest—where that’s about the median income and can get you a decent home—and also in Los Angeles where it might buy your groceries but wouldn’t begin to make a dent in the rent on a one-bedroom apartment? Such a law actually imposes unfairness.

You can see how the political and economic spheres are interconnected here. We know what the northern prosperity zone would look like: healthy, prosperous economy, with each worker benefiting from his own labors, and having the opportunities to meet his financial needs and build up wealth. There would be no guarantees of the success of every single person, but there would be better opportunities than in any other system in any country at any time in history.

Maybe you can also picture how the economic sphere ties into the social sphere: wherever there are needs that a person cannot meet with their own efforts, caring people step in to fill the need. If it’s an economic need, they do that by charitable giving, or philanthropy.

However, when government takes from one person to give to another, the government isn’t charitable or generous. It is simply thieving. That’s a southern hemisphere policy, and it makes for tyranny, poverty, and savagery. An honest look at data bears that out.


While the Spherical Model is new—and still obscure a decade later—the principles are what our founders tried to design our US Constitution to adhere to. What I believe we’d find, if we had an honest look at the historical data, is that every time the principles are met, we get the desired outcomes of freedom, prosperity, and civilization. But mostly we have experienced people in power insisting they’re “helping” us by limiting our freedom, limiting our use of the fruits of our labors, and leading us away from a thriving civilization—and then saying they’re there to solve those problems for us if we just turn over power to them.

I’m hoping the Spherical Model gives us a better way to think about ideas, and a better way to talk about them.

 

Resources

If you’d like a better look at the Spherical Model concept, here are some resources:

The long version is at the website SphericalModel.com. This contains an introduction and four longish articles:

 

·         The Political World Is Round

·         The Economic World: Free Enterprise vs. Controlled Economy

·         Civilized vs. Savage

o   The Family Is the Basic Unit of Civilization

 

The short version is available in print form in this blog:

 

·         The Political Sphere Is Round. December 29, 2014

·         Spherical Model Review, December 31, 2015 

·         What the Spherical Model Is All About, December 31, 2020. 

 

Since the concept is three dimensional, maybe you’ll understand it better visually, with this very low-tech video of me explaining it in under ten minutes:


 


 

Monday, March 1, 2021

We Are All Enlisted

At our Tea Party meeting on Saturday, we were, as always, stirred up to action. The people who take a couple of hours out of a Saturday to learn about issues and find ways to take action are a particular breed to begin with. But we were also chastised for not doing enough. There was a Harris County election fraud issue we were presented with a couple of weeks ago (it's example 2 in this post), to pressure the Attorney General’s office to act on. Six hundred or more were given the information and the how-to for making that contact. Only 12 acted. (I was one, I believe, although mine so far was to contact only by email; I haven’t yet followed up by phone.) If we all see voter fraud as an important issue, then why don’t more of us take a simple action when it’s placed before us?

Texas State Capitol, 2018

 

What to Take Action On

One man said he accepted the chastisement, but then pointed out how, even at these meetings, there are so many things to take action on, we feel overwhelmed. Even in getting an answer to that comment, he got a list of six or seven important things to do. And he said, that’s his point. Life is full of these injustices and issues. How do we know where to spend our limited time?

The simple answer is, wherever you feel a passion, enough to learn the issue to speak intelligently on it, so you can share that with your circle of influence, and with your representatives.

I’ve been doing that for quite a number of years now. Decades. There’s not a lot of payoff. There are places I can see my work has been useful. But there are many more where I don’t feel I have the energy to do one more thing, and I hope others step up.

Here are some of the issues I’ve worked on over the years:

Defense of Marriage. I lobbied the state legislature in 2003, which worked, but was almost immediately overturned by the US Supreme Court. Continual work was eventually done in by the Supreme Court in Obergefell, and even the most effective advocates have gone silent. (See my Defense of Marriage collection.)

School Choice and Parental Rights. School failures consist of failure to teach what is needed and also teaching what is subversive to civilization. It is a basic God-given right for parents to see to the care and upbringing of their children. That’s why these two issues are closely related. We’re losing ground, because of teachers’ unions and international anti-family pressures. School choice is only a tiny effort to whittle away at the problem. I’m on a committee working on this issue for the current legislative session. We have yet to get a good school choice bill, despite promises from some of our best elected officials. This is in a state where the vast majority of parents would like school choice and probably 90% would say parents need to have the final say. I don’t know that public education is solvable. We need market solutions, with parents taking on the main decision-making for their own children. For a good overview of the parental rights problem, I recommend this video: “Overruled: Government Invasion of Your Parental Rights.” (H/T to Janice for passing this along to me.)

Abortion. There are always those who have been more activist than I am on this. I trusted them to do this important work while I work on other issues. But I have written on it, and lobbied for it, and worked for appropriate wording in the state platform. There is greater willingness from the public for abolishing abortion (with exception for life of the mother and, among some, in cases of rape). Meanwhile the minority opposition is more starkly contrasting—favoring abortion up until the moment of birth, or maybe beyond. We have passed a no dismemberment abortion bill, and a 20-week bill. Some states have passed heartbeat bills. But these all accept the assumption that we get to decide when it’s OK to kill a developing human baby. Even as we gain traction in the society on this issue, we make very little legal progress.

The Electric Grid. It became more than apparent a couple of weeks ago that we don’t do well without electricity. A freeze in Texas is going to be brief. But even from that 2-3 days without power, there were dozens of lives lost, and people are going to spend months dealing with the mess caused by frozen pipes. And everyone is casting blame. I’m more concerned about a longer and more extensive loss of power such as would come from a solar flare or an EMP strike. Loss of life, from starvation or disease mainly, could be beyond something we’ve seen since medieval plague times. We did finally this past week get a bill in the legislature that we think might address it. It’s relatively inexpensive and doable. But for reasons I don’t fully understand, there has been huge resistance (no pun intended) by the electric providers to get it done, even when the cost is not placed on them.

For the sake of brevity, but not for lack of importance, I’ll just add Religious Freedom and Healthcare Choice, without comment.

 

The Frustration

I do what I can on these issues, fitting my little bits of activism into and around a pretty full schedule of just living my life. I don’t know how to tell when an issue becomes so urgent that it requires setting everything else aside for a time until it is resolved—because some of these things don’t get resolved in a normal human lifetime.

Let’s add to this, we’re living in times when the odds are stacked against the side of freedom, prosperity, and civilization.

I was listening to the Viva & Barnes Sunday Night Livestream, and they were discussing particularly the Pennsylvania case dismissed by the Supreme Court last week. Robert Barnes was skeptical of Justice Amy Coney Barrett from the outset, and now is saying something like, “I told you so,” since her vote would have been sufficient for cert (only 4 of 9 are needed to take on a case). But the Court is saying there isn’t a time they will take up a case on this issue. Justice Thomas, in his dissent, called them out on this.

Robert Barnes offers them these seasonal excuses when they're determined not to take a case [around 28 minutes—the fuller discussion starting around 18 minutes]:

It’s not ripe in spring,

It’s no standing in summer,

It’s laches by fall,

And it’s moot by winter.

There’s a rule that should apply to whether a case can be considered moot. If it’s capable of repetition, —in order to set down rules for future similar situations—and if it’s likely to evade Supreme Court review—because it will be beyond remedy by the time it reaches the Supreme Court. If those two things are present, then the case is not moot. For that reason, election disputes should never be considered moot, and historically for decades have not been. Justice Thomas was right in his dissent. The Democrat appointees and three of the Republican appointees, including two appointed by President Trump, were simply wrong and have done harm to our Constitutional Republic.

So, we have an expectation of justice. We have laws. We have rules. We have precedent. But we do not get justice.

We elect officials to represent our views and defend the Constitution of the United States, yet so often they fail to do so.

We pressure them—taking time from our lives to force them to do their job—and only sluggishly, and only on occasion do they even listen to us.

Frustration builds up.

That is why, when you get a chance to hear from the former President who was elected four years ago because he would stand up to this frustration, you listen.

President Trump spoke at CPAC yesterday, which was more highly anticipated that anything Biden has said since inauguration. The crowd was ready and willing to support him in whatever he said. It wasn’t, certifiably, his best speech. It wasn’t polished. It probably wasn’t cleaned up and shortened enough. But he did say we would carry on. He was still in the fight (politically speaking).


President Trump giving speech at CPAC 2021, February 28, 2021
screenshot from here

He would have nothing to do with starting any new party; why do that and divide the Republican Party, which he owns from the grassroots up at this point? He told us we’ll work on election reform at the local and state levels. We’ll win things back in 2022. And he hinted that he might run again in 2024. “Maybe I’ll beat them a third time,” is how he put it, since this crowd knows he won the vote in November. He did suggest going to his website and contributing. There’s speculation this is part of a move to build up a new and separate—and uncensored—communications alternative, which will be necessary to reach people.

I don’t see how we can last up to and through another election cycle with the totalitarian dictators making the moves they’re making now. It’s not like past eras of even a decade ago. We can’t stand for this.

But how do we stand against it?

Supporting a champion for our side has been useful the past several years. It has helped clarify things. But I think we can see that no single champion is going to be enough. We have to keep soldiering on, in the face of apparent overwhelming odds. I think, instead of assuming continuing to do that is insanity, we must assume that, as we do all we can, God will fight our battles for us.

 

All We Can Do[i]

It’s that question of “all we can do” that occupies my thoughts. I don’t know how to tell when my contribution is enough. But I do believe that, if I trust God to guide me, I must act when prompted. And that will be enough. If all of us act when we’re prompted to act, we will collectively be the champions we need. We won’t each cover all the causes that are worthy. But enough of us will cover each one that we’ll represent the pressure out here from a freedom-loving people.

Become a Heritage Action Sentinel

If you need some guidance on where to get info, I suggest—well, several things. But let’s start with this one: become a Heritage Action Sentinel. When you’re in this national group, you’re tied in to what’s happening each week in Washington. There’s a weekly half-hour call. You can listen on your phone, or live on Facebook. Or the recording. Or get the call notes in your email inbox. When it’s time to act, they let you know and help you with what to say to your elected officials. They also encourage state and local work on similar issues. You can of course contribute money, but none is required to be a Sentinel. 

Become a Precinct Chair or Party Volunteer

Another way is to be a precinct chair or volunteer for the Republican Party. I’m not all about party loyalty; I’m about loyalty to our Constitution. Right now there’s none of that to be found in the Democrat Party (although you may find it among individual Democrats). Whatever part of it you could get in the Libertarian Party, you can get among Republicans, so that’s just a better place for your efforts, I think.

Right now, in my general vicinity (the area covering my church congregation, for example) there are five precinct chair vacancies. That means no one in the 2-3,000 people living in that precinct has stepped up to do the basics of running elections and attending a quarterly meeting to do party business. I’d say, if you become aware of this need in your area, and you’ve been looking for a way to take action, this assignment is for you. Look up your county party website and find out how to sign up. (Harris County info is here.) 

 

New precinct chairs being sworn in at our meeting January 25, 2021

If you have an active precinct chair, let them know you’re available to help. That might mean doing some block walking to identify like-minded people in your precinct, and helping get them connected to good information ahead of any future elections. Maybe it will be working on a committee, like outreach, or vetting candidates for local elections.

Join Clubs and Groups

There are clubs to help get people informed and activated. My local Cypress Texas Tea Party is one. We meet the fourth Saturday of the month at a barbecue place. I’ve been attending since 2010, very shortly after it began. Last month we had standing room only. This month was a more normal full room. There are groups for women, for college students, for Hispanics. Find a group of like-minded people meeting in your area. This will get you informed and connected—so the promptings to act will show up as you’re needed.

Become an Election Worker

You could step up to work elections. Presiding judge, alternate judge, and clerk are all paid positions. Poll watchers are unpaid but also essential. If you do the numbers, we need either a presiding or alternate judge plus one clerk and one poll watcher per polling place; in our county, that’s around 800 workers and 1200 poll watchers on election day. Plus there are the people who do the ballot counting—and the observing of the ballot counting. It takes a brigade to run a free and fair election.

Alan Vera, who has been our soldier in command in the election integrity fight, told us at a recent meeting, his sons have served deployments, a year at a time in Afghanistan and Iraq, to preserve our freedoms. Alan is a retired Army Ranger (and, really, they never retire). And I believe he said his father and grandfather had also served. So look at your life, he said, and see if maybe you can deploy for just a day.

 

These are not peace times. There is a war ongoing against our Constitution—and with it our freedoms of life, liberty, property—and our culture. We are all enlisted[ii].



[i] In the Book of Mormon, in 2 Nephi 25:23,  we read, “for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”

[ii] This is the title of a hymn, text anonymous, music by William B. Bradbury

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Book Burning

Ryan T. Anderson
photo from Wikipedia
Three years ago Ryan T. Anderson wrote a book. It was on a controversial topic, but sensitively presented and extremely well documented. It received praise from all sides. Well, not all. But all reasonable sides.

That book was recently removed from the Amazon online marketplace. For violating community standards. The author wasn’t informed or warned. The book had previously topped at least two of Amazon’s bestseller lists. It received high praise from experts in the field, and even from those with opposing views. It would be hard to find any more informative and sensitively written work on the subject. Amazon holds an 80% market share for booksellers.

The book is When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment. You can still purchase a copy at this other online site.

image from here

Ryan Anderson is President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He spent time working at the Heritage Foundation and the Wotherspoon Institute before taking this most recent position. As a graduate student, in 2012, he co-wrote “What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense” for the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy along with mentor Robert George and fellow student Sherif Girgis. Besides many journal articles, he has also written Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom, in 2015; and Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination (co-written with Sherif Girgis and John Corvino), in 2017.  When Harry Met Sally was his most recent book, from 2018.

I’ve referred to his works numerous times here on this blog. Here are a few:

·         Bigness, April 16, 2015 

·         Path Forward for Us Dissidents, July 20, 2015 

·         Duty to Resist, September 7, 2015 

·         SOGI Laws Discriminate Against Religious People, February 22, 2019 

He is only this year turning 40. All this is to say, he is an extremely impressive young man, and a serious voice that deserves to be heard.

In a piece about his book being banned, Ryan Anderson mentioned the inaptly titled legislation currently before Congress:

It’s an abuse of our civil rights law when we add all these different protected classes and when we treat reasonable disagreements as if they’re discriminatory. We’ve done it on the gay marriage debate; we’re now doing it on the transgender debate. And the Equality Act would just make this worse.

And in a piece he wrote this week, Anderson says, 

[F]irst, a caveat: If you fear what Big Tech can do if you dissent from gender ideology, just wait to see what Big Government will do if the so-called Equality Act becomes law. Second, a lesson: If you fear Big Government, don’t turn a blind eye to Big Tech. Conservatives need to get over the misguided belief that private businesses can do whatever they want. That isn’t true. And it’s never been the American law on the issue. Nor is it what the natural law supports.

In 2019 books by researcher Joseph Nicolosi were removed from Amazon, as his son explains, “not because science dictates their removal, but because LGBT ideology has shouted down sound science.” Joseph Nicolosi, Sr., was a longtime, well-respected researcher. He wasn’t into the undefined and unregulated “conversion therapy” maligned in media depictions. He was a serious psychologist and researcher/ who developed methods that helped resolve issues for those seeking that resolution. I cited his works many times in my writings on the defense of marriage.

Note that Mein Kampf is still available. It does not violate Amazon’s community standards.

What are the false ideas so dangerous that they should not be allowed to be read—in books, in articles—or heard in recordings, speeches, or lectures? It’s SOGI issues (i.e., sexual orientation and gender issues), but also more:

·       There are two sexes of humans: male and female.

·       Permanently disfiguring a child to pretend they are something other than their biological sex is child abuse.

·       Sexual orientation is not immutable; treating with reintegrative therapy can help resolve issues for those who seek that help.

·       Covid-19 can be successfully treated with such inexpensive and widely available therapies as hydroxycholoroquine with zinc and azithromycin.

·       There is significant evidence of election fraud.

·       Race relations don’t get better when you insist on viewing everything in terms of race instead of character and ability.

You can probably think of a few to add to that list. But those are some things that will get you in trouble on social media and many other places—except maybe the HCQ treatment, which suddenly became acceptable news after being labeled dangerously false for most of a year.

There’s this sort of frenzy, among the dictators of what is allowed to be said, that posits there’s too much misinformation and disinformation being spread—and that is a danger to our democracy and must be stopped.

Tucker Carlson did an excellent monologue on February 23rd, on the mixture of censorship, misinformation/disinformation, and truth. He noted that the MSM use the word “norms” a lot. Supposedly these so-called “norms” are violated when people say things they don’t like. And violating norms, they claim, destroys democracy. His montage was pretty amusing.


Tucker Carlson, screenshot from his February 23rd show

But then he notes, more seriously, that there are real consequences to people getting the wrong information. An example he uses is the mismatch between public views and the real statistics on police killing unarmed black men. People on the street were wildly overestimating the problem. Who is doing the misinforming? is a legitimate question. He says:

A lot of Americans are completely and utterly misinformed, and that has consequences. Public policy can change dramatically on the basis of things people think they know but don’t actually know. And we have seen that a lot. Entire police departments got defunded.

So it’s worth finding out where the public is getting all this false information, this disinformation, as we’ll call it. So we checked. We spent all day trying to locate the famous QAnon, which in the end we learned is not even a website. If it’s out there, we could not find it. Then we checked Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Twitter feed, because we have heard she traffics in disinformation—CNN told us—but nothing there. Next we called our many friends in the tight-knit intel community. Could Vladimir Putin be putting this stuff out there? The Proud Boys? Alex Jones?

Who is lying to America in ways that are certain to make us hate each other and certain to destroy our core institutions? Well, none of the above, actually. It wasn’t Marjorie Taylor Greene; it was cable news. It was politicians talking on TV. They’re the ones spreading disinformation to America.

By the way, a couple of months ago I also tried to track down Q, or QAnon if you’d rather. Just so I could see actual posts, or drops, rather than what various people said Q had said. I literally couldn’t find a way to sign up to get Q drops. If it’s intended to spread, the spreader sure does make it hard. (I hope I didn’t accidentally get on some government list, just because I was trying to do due diligence.)

The odd thing, then, is that those who are so upset about the spread of wrong ideas are the ones spreading falsehoods.

This might be intentional.

Joshua Philipp of The Epoch Times was giving a talk in Texas earlier this month in which he said this: 

If you go back and read the Communist Manifesto, what does it say? “Communism abolishes eternal truths.” And what is eternal truth, right?

It says, “Communism abolishes all religion and all morality.” We think it’s an economic theory. You go back to the 1930s, it was never an economic theory; it was a metaphysical theory, meaning it is a belief. And it’s a belief of a cult of man. And that you can only create that cult of man by destroying God and everything that God created in man. It is a system to re-create society in the image of man and not in the image of God.

And so everything they do is to make you abandon your faith. Everything they do is to undermine your morals, to destroy your traditions, to destroy your family values, to destroy everything that your country and your culture and your character is based upon. And it is only through that, if they can achieve it, that they can achieve their goals.

And so, at Epoch Times, we of course have our slogan: Truth and Tradition—meant to speak the truth and uphold traditions. This is something we’re going to be doing into the distant, distant future. And we will never be silent.

Truth and tradition are very different from “our truth” and “our norms.” I certainly don’t want someone with a Marxist ideology—or really any other ideology—dictating what I’m allowed to say or read.


Hitler Youth burning books, 1938
Alamy stock photo found here
How do you know, at the beginning of a discussion, before both sides lay out their evidence and persuasive points, which side holds objective truth? Or even which side is most persuasive? You need to be able to express things that might not turn out to be true.

If there’s going to be some rule about what you can say, because it may not be true, then you have to ask, who is the arbiter of truth?

Our founders made this clear in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” and then listed the God-given unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and then declared government’s purpose to defend these rights, “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

But, in Obama’s book The Audacity of Hope, he misconstrues that clarity this way:

Implicit in [the Constitution’s] structure, in the very idea of ordered liberty, was a rejection of absolute truth, the infallibility of any idea or ideology or theology or “ism,” any tyrannical consistency that might lock future generations into a single, unalterable course.

As I mentioned some years ago,  you can’t get from that point A, the Declaration and Constitution, to that point B, rejection of absolute truth; there is no such path. As Dr. Larry Arnn puts the question, “How did Barack Obama come to believe something so foreign to America’s heritage as the idea that in the name of liberty we must reject absolute truths—which necessarily includes rejecting those truths I just quoted from the Declaration?”

Who, then, gets to be the arbiter of truth, if not God? There are a great many people I would absolutely not want to grant that power to.

Here's the irony: the self-appointed arbiters of truth reject absolute truth. But if there is no objective, perceivable truth, then why is “their truth” so right that any other “truth” must be censored—not only as simply untrue but harmful enough to be considered subversive?   

Book burning is never about protecting the unsuspecting public from false ideas; it is about protecting the power elites from dissent.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Surviving the Snowpocalypse in Texas

It was 72˚ today. A week ago the high was the inversion of that: 27˚. Texas is fickle that way.

Last week’s freak winter storm (it was named Uri, by the way) was something like a 150-year event. In other words, the last time we faced extended freezing temperatures down into the teens, most Texans were used to getting by without electricity. So there wasn’t a “last time” to learn from, to know how to prepare for this one.


Mr. Spherical Model took this photo early Monday, Feb. 15, early morning. We got a 
bit more snow, and it stayed in patches until Saturday. When he posted this, he said: 
Question: What's unusual about this picture?
Answer: * My house is in Houston.
    * It's 14˚F.
    *RealFeel is -10˚F (It's what my phone says, but doesn't feel like it to me).
    * I have power. At least for now. Over 375,000 in Houston area do not have power.
    * I do not have water. No water pressure at all. And it's not caused by frozen pipes 
       in my house. It's a regional problem.
    * By Sunday we'll have a high in the 70's.


One thing I've noticed about life in the Gulf Coast: there will be natural disasters. Usually they're hurricanes, floods, or tornadoes. In some areas, wildfires. This weeklong deep freeze was a new scenario to living Texans. But, as with the others, Texans are reminded who to rely on. We need to rely on God. And we need to rely on one another for help through the acute situation.

If government, or a utility company, is who you rely on—your god—you’re going to be let down.

I’m hesitant to criticize the frontline workers, who have to work to repair and restore power during the worst weather conditions—while the rest of us are hunkering down in our homes, where at least we have blankets and food. They are the heroes.

But the people in distant offices, making decisions that affect our lives—they’re fair game for criticism, and for getting our crowd-sourced suggestions on how to learn from this one so we’re better prepared for the next 150-year event—which, who knows, might show up next year.

Image from Chad Prather on Facebook
I’m not likely to ever be an expert on energy, enough to know what happened. But I’ve compiled some resources below. I’ll do a brief timeline summary. Then I’m going to share son Political Sphere’s assessment of what happened. I haven’t had him write a guest post in a long time. It’s a short one, so I’ll embed it in the middle, and then add a few comments.

 

Basic Timeline

·       There was an executive order on about day one of this presidency. It required adherence to “green energy” standards, which were not going to be useful during a polar vortex in Texas.

·       A week ahead of the polar vortex, ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas—it manages the electric grid covering most of Texas) requested permission to temporarily exceed emission standards in order to provide power to Texans during freezing weather.

·       The federal government refused; they suggested Texas buy energy from out of state, rather than exceed standards (although nearby states would also be suffering from freezing weather—even Mexico faced this problem). ERCOT wrote a letter dated February 14 to explain that they had exhausted all other avenues, and that the temporary permission to exceed emission standards was necessary; the Feds responded that day, 8:00 PM, that it would be OK, as long as they did as much as possible not to exceed, and it was temporary. 

·       This was the day of the arrival of the storm. Cold temperatures arrived before the additional capacity was brought online. It would have taken less energy, and been less stressful on the system overall, if the permission had been granted so additional capacity could be brought online during warmer temperatures.

·       ERCOT workers saw that need was rising quickly, and supply was falling short. Fearing catastrophic failures (fires that would destroy capacitors, as I understand it), they turned off some capacity—shedding they call it—and started rolling blackouts.

·       People began losing power on Sunday afternoon, February 14—Happy Valentine’s Day!

·       Rolling blackouts didn’t go as planned, at least in my area (Houston). They couldn’t easily switch, once an area was switched off. So areas that lost power Sunday stayed blacked out until Wednesday or even Thursday. My area was without power for only 31 hours between Monday night and Wednesday afternoon; we are a mile from a fire station, which may have helped.

·       Power was prioritized for hospitals and fire stations. It was not prioritized for gas suppliers to energy plants, which meant loss of fuel sources, making the situation worse.

·       Wind and solar, often unreliable, were unable to provide their expected allotment of power. Wind turbines froze. They were not hardened for the weather, because it was not considered cost-effective to do so in an area that hadn’t seen such low temperatures in a century.

·       Nuclear power (there is one plant in the Houston region and two others in the state) is typically reliable; however, a sensor froze, and the system interpreted that as a problem requiring shutdown. Once resolved, this source was brought back online.

·       Residents were requested to lower the heat to 68 or below (66 or below later on) to lower power needs. But once power was lost to homes, indoor temperatures dropped dramatically. We kept our home no lower than 59˚, using a gas fireplace. Other homes—particularly those that lost power on Sunday (we didn’t lose ours until late Monday night)—went as low as 42˚ for several days.

·       Pipes froze. If this happened with water in them, the water expanded and broke the pipes. Once they thawed, this caused indoor flooding. (We didn’t suffer as much cold; plus our pipes were not on outdoor walls. We were among the lucky.)

·       Water service failed in many areas, because of frozen pipes and water mains. In many areas, even with water pressure restored, most of the county was under a boil water order. Many areas got this order lifted on Sunday, February 21, but our area continues.

 

photo from Texas Scorecard

Thermal vs. Renewable Energy Sources

A couple of days into the disaster, we started hearing about blame and mismanagement. Up until then (with no internet or much other access to news), I was assuming it was just an overwhelming natural disaster—like Hurricane Harvey, or Ike, or the Tax Day Flood, or…. And, in the end, it is a natural disaster. But Tucker Carlson offered this rather obvious opinion: 

Running out of energy in Texas is like starving to death at the grocery store: You can only do it on purpose, and Texas did.

More GW (gigawatts) were lost to fossil fuels than to wind. Because a larger percentage is provided by fossil fuels. But enough of wind power was down that, by percentage of expectation, wind was definitely a failure.

Here is Political Sphere’s take on it:

The numbers are not adding up. I am hearing from several sources that it is the fossil fuels, not the renewable energy, that has created our problems in Texas this week. A good example of this opinion journalism was published by the Texas Tribune under the headline “No, frozen wind turbines aren’t the main culprit for Texas’ power outages.” It opens noting that renewable energy sources were only expected to make up approximately 20% of the approximately 83.5 GW total capacity expected to be available this winter. This means renewable energy sources were expected to provide 16.5 GW of power (of that 16.5 GW only 6 GW was expected to come from wind).

16.5 Gigawatts is an interesting number. ERCOT, the agency responsible for ensuring the Texas grid, does suffer cascading power failures as other major grids across the US have done (think the Northeast power failure of 2003 that left 55 million people in the northeast United States and Canada without power for 2 full weeks during August of that year), reported that at its peak on Monday they were instructing service providers to shed 16,500 Megawatts (16.5 GW).

It is true, as pointed out in that Tribune article, that at its worst 45 GW of capacity was unattainable. Approximately 28 GW was from thermal sources (which would include both fossil fuels and nuclear) and 18 GW was from renewable energy sources according to the ERCOT officials cited in the article. The article and others use this to say that, see, a larger number of GW were lost overall from thermal sources than renewable, meaning that blaming it on renewables is wrong as the fossil fuel sources were a bigger problem. But this is a clear oversimplification, failing to take into account how much of a percentage of expected energy that is for each type. Going to our numbers above, we can see that we lost greater than 100% of the total expected capacity from renewable energy sources while only 42% of the expected capacity was lost from the thermal energy sources.

This is not to say that there were not some significant problems with the fossil fuel and nuclear energy sources; there clearly were. There will be an investigation find all the causes for the 4 million plus without power this week, and I am sure the investigation will discover there were many failures that led to such a massive inability to deal with this extreme event, but it appears that you cannot expect renewables to produce any energy during major crises and should prepare to have a hardened and ready replacement for every Gigawatt they are calculated to produce when energy production really counts.

 

Energy source

Expected

Unattainable

% Failure

Renewable (wind, solar)

16.5 GW

(6 GW from wind)

18 GW

100%+

Thermal (oil, natural gas, nuclear)

67 GW

28 GW

42%

Total

83.5 GW

45 GW

54%

 

Political Sphere shared an analogy with me, about what the federal government was asking of Texas. Say you’re on the brink of a hurricane and need to hunker down very soon. But you need to resupply your bottled water, in case you don’t have water for several days. But the store says, “Before you can buy water here, you need to have tried buying water in a neighboring city at price gouging rates. Do that first.” So you do all you’re able. You find that the asking price is 83 times higher than your normal rates—if the neighboring cities had it to sell at that rate. But you find that water isn’t to be had in the neighboring cities either, because they’re facing the same likely natural disaster. [All states but Florida were hit with this polar vortex, and so was Mexico.] So then the store says, “OK, but only just enough to sustain life for a couple of days. Because we really don’t want you producing too much plastic waste, you know.” Yeah, plastic waste is the least of your worries during a hurricane. 

What needed to happen was, Texas should have gone ahead and added supply—assuming the permission would come. Because a small temporary increase in carbon dioxide was the least of our concerns when people were about to die of hypothermia inside their icy, flooded homes.

 

Conclusion

There’s one thing this disaster showed us: we’re pretty dependent on electricity. That makes us very vulnerable. It’s one thing to have a one-week outage; it’s another thing altogether to lose power for a much more extended period of time.

We need to protect our electric grid. This is, once again, an issue I’m doing some citizen lobbying on in the state legislature. Just this past week we finally got a couple of bills addressing it. If you’re in Texas and care to call your representatives about it, these are: HB 1731  and HB 1180. Neither is adequate. They mostly just look at the situation and hope to come up with a plan. But that’s a start.

The most urgent concern is not another polar vortex, which may not happen in our lifetime. It isn’t even increased need for energy during high temperatures, which happen every summer and are planned for. The most urgent concern is an electromagnetic pulse, which can be natural or manmade (terrorist or enemy military attack) caused, and which can result in loss of power for months. Loss of life would be tremendous. All our prepping and camping supplies would run out quickly. And the prevention could be accomplished at relatively small cost, passed along to consumers without additional taxes.

After a week like we’ve just had, I’d say protecting against loss of power is a pretty high priority. And Texas ought to be doing what we know we need—regardless of some federal bureaucrat crying foul. They do not have our best interests in mind; they’ve proved that.

 

Resources

·       The Texas Power Outage Started with Bad Policy” Jason Isaac for The Cannon, Feb. 17, 2021. (This was possibly the clearest explanation I found.)

·       Could Lawmakers Have Prevented Texas’ Blackouts?” by Robert Montoya for Texas Scorecard, Feb. 17, 2021. 

·       “We are ordering an investigation into ERCOT and immediate transparency by ERCOT.” Statement by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Feb. 16, 2021. 

·       Notice of Public Hearing of the Energy Resources Committee on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, shared on Facebook  

·       The Narrative is Overshadowing Truth in the Texas Energy Crisis” Erick Erickson, Feb. 17, 2021. 

·       Did Frozen Wind Turbines Impact the Texas Freeze? Here's the Data” by Bryan Preston for PJ Media, Feb. 17, 2021. 

·       No, frozen wind turbines aren’t the main culprit for Texas’ power outages” by Erin Douglas and Ross Ramsey for The Texas Tribune, Feb. 16 (updated Feb. 17), 2021. (This is the article Political Sphere referred to.) 

·       Q&A on Texas Blackouts” Rep. Dan Crenshaw on Facebook Feb. 18, 2021 

·       Texas was ‘seconds and minutes’ away from catastrophic monthslong blackouts, officials say” by Erin Douglas for The Texas Tribune, Feb. 18, 2021. 

·       A Giant Flaw in Texas Blackouts: It Cut Power to Gas Supplies” Rachel Adams-Heard, Javier Blas, and Mark Chediak for Bloomberg, Feb. 20, 2021. 

·       Texas Spins into the Wind: An electricity grid that relies on renewables also needs nuclear or coal power” Wall Street Journal editorial board, Feb. 17, 2021. 

·       Tucker Carlson: The Texas Green Energy Disaster Is Coming to You Next” by Kipp Jones for The Western Journal, Feb. 16, 2021. 

·       Joe Biden’s Dept. of Energy Blocked Texas from Increasing Power Ahead of Enduring Storm” by Adan Salazar for [your]News, Feb. 19, 2021.  (Facebook marked this as false according to independent fact checkers, but it does seem to coincide with information on the ERCOT website for February.) 

·       Electricity Prices during the 2021 Winter Storm” Public Utility Commission of Texas winter storm price explainer 

·       As Texas deep freeze subsides, some households now face electricity bills as high as $10,000” by Leticia Miranda for NBC News, Feb. 19, 2021. 

·       Texas households face massive electricity bills, some as high as $17K, after winter storm” by Brook Seipel for The Hill, Feb. 19, 2021. 

·       Texas utilities can't stick customers with huge bills after storm: Abbott” by Linda So, Jonathan Allen for Reuters, Feb. 21, 2021. 

 

Social Media Conversations among Texans Who Know Energy

·       “Here’s another ERCOT kick in the pants...” John Boggan live on Facebook Feb. 17, 2021  (On the video he says ERCOT was cutting power to the providers that natural gas producers who were providing fuel to the power plants—because they weren’t considered essential infrastructure.)

·       So here is Biden’s dark winter… directed at us!” Christine Gagne, February 21, 2021 (near midnight, on Facebook) 

·       Bryan Preston Feb. 19, 2021 on Facebook  “One more nerdy chart and then I swear I'm done. ‘The wind turbines don't freeze in (pick your favorite very cold place) and shouldn't freeze in Texas!’ Right? Like Alaska, right?” (includes chart on Alaska’s energy sources)

·       Rolando Garcia, Feb. 17, 2021, on Facebook, passes along a Scott Friedman tweet from NBC5, suggesting ERCOT inspections were done virtually this year because of the pandemic. 

·       Mark Ramsey passes along a summary from Texas Railroad Commissioner Wayne Christian, pointing out “every natural gas plant online at the start of this crisis stayed online.”