What is the government for?


I had a phone conversation with my son, who currently lives in San Antonio, Texas, about the current situation there. They’re having rolling blackouts to deal with the cold and power failures, and oh boy, did his wife give us an earful. She’s disgusted with Texas — she’s from South Korea, and they’d never allow this kind of collapse of services in Korea. They spent a few hours standing in line to get food and water, and today they’re going to the Army base to try and take showers, since they haven’t had any running water for several days.

Meanwhile, Senator Ted Cruz fled the state to vacation in Cancun, Mexico. I’m surprised that Mexico would allow such riff-raff to cross their border. I am not surprised that Chickenshit Cruz would run away.

And (ex)-Mayor Tim Boyd of Colorado City, Texas, posted an amazing rant on Facebook that is so beautifully representative of how Republicans think.

The mayor of Colorado City, Texas has resigned after sparking outrage with a Facebook post where he told residents complaining of power outages during an unprecedented cold snap to “get off your ass and take care of your own family.” Tim Boyd, who announced his resignation Tuesday, also wrote that “if you don’t have electricity, you step up and come up with a game plan to keep your family warm and safe.” “No one owes you or your family anything; nor is it the local governments responsibility to support you during trying times like this! Sink or swim, it’s your choice!” he wrote. The town, with a population of about 4,000, is located in Mitchell County, where many were left without power as record-setting cold weather batters much of the state. In a subsequent post, Boyd apologized, writing, “I was only making the statement that those folks that are too lazy to get up and fend for themselves but are capable should not be dealt a handout.”

Uh, what, exactly, is local government for? When I elect a mayor, or a city council, or a state representative, what I want is a good steward of the resources of my region, who will take responsibility and use those resources to help every citizen. Did this mayor regard his position as a sinecure, or an opportunity to bleed off what he could into his pocket? Maintaining the services that all of those people paid taxes for is not a handout! Even if a citizen did not pay taxes for reasons of poverty or disability, that does not mean you get to deny a responsibility to them. Even Boyd’s “apology” is an insult and a failure to recognize his mayoral obligations.

My daughter-in-law is correct. We should try to be more like South Korea, where the civic infrastructure is taken seriously.


Texans are screaming in outrage, so ol’ Chickenshit Ted is cutting his inappropriate vacation short. But of course he’s got to squeeze out a little extra chickenshittery: he’s asking for the Houston police to protect him from his constituents!

Comments

  1. cartomancer says

    If I were living in Texas, I’d be tempted to reply “well we did get off our arses and do something. We set up state and national power systems, and water systems, and food distribution systems. Which we funded with a portion of our incomes. Then we elected people to look after them and run them properly. If you’re not going do the job we chose you for then off you fuck and we’d like every last penny of your salary back please”.

  2. cartomancer says

    Mind you, if I found myself living in Texas then something would have gone seriously wrong. I’d take anywhere short of the Gaza Strip before there.

  3. says

    Uh, what, exactly, is local government for? When I elect a mayor, or a city council, or a state representative, what I want is a good steward of the resources of my region, who will take responsibility and use those resources to help every citizen. Did this mayor regard his position as a sinecure, or an opportunity to bleed off what he could into his pocket?

    If his job has little or nothing to do with providing services, what does that leave?

  4. davidc1 says

    Just saw something about the situation in Austin ,a woman was found frozen on the pavement (sidewalk to you Americans ) .
    Texas is starting to sound like the siege of Leningrad during WW2 .
    Plus some people are blaming the wind turbines having frozen up ,while some say it was the gas supply that failed .
    And it seems TX is not part of the US National grid .

  5. mnb0 says

    “We should try to be more like South Korea, where the civic infrastructure is taken seriously.”
    Crowing that 2021 looks so much better ‘cuz Donald the Clown is not in the White House anymore is not much of a try, is it?

  6. jrkrideau says

    @ davidc1
    some people are blaming the wind turbines having frozen up ,while some say it was the gas supply that failed .

    All of the above though the frozen turbines seem a relatively minor issue.. There are the frozen water intakes on the nuclear reactors, frozen instrumentation and valves for gas, and so on. Essentially, it looks like a near total failure of a wildly unregulated industry to to plan for (known) adverse events.

    I live in Ontario and we have been getting -20c (-4F) temps here. Not a hiccup from the wind-farms, the nuclear reactors, or the gas supply that I have heard of. It would be unreasonable to expect Texas to build to our energy standards but a few precautions would make sense.

  7. hillaryrettig says

    Americans really are becoming more and more like the caricature of medieval peasants, grateful for any crumbs from the ruling class, and ready at all times to justify and revel in their oppression.

    We’ve been sliding for a while, but it’s obviously accelerating, largely (but not entirely) due to climate change.

    2020 was the year we hit some kind of tipping point – the year that I had friends in multiple countries ask after me, their voices full of pity for me because I’m living in such a dysfunctional failed state.

  8. brucej says

    Funny how the “power providers and any other service” that the people ARE PAYING FOR, somehow “Owe them nothing!”

  9. dean56 says

    “And it seems TX is not part of the US National grid .”

    It isn’t. It has it’s own grid — to “avoid government interference”.

  10. says

    This is far worse than the 2001 blackouts in California. Without the cold, it wasn’t potentially life threatening, but it was absolutely unavoidable and caused by greed.

    Eighty five people died in Taiwan’s cold wave of January 2016. But that was an exceptional winter, the first in almost 50 years, not a once in a decade like Texas. Failed infrastructure wasn’t to blame; here they build for earthquakes and typhoons, not cold. When it did hit, there was a concerted effort to help the poorest who were least able to cope or lacked resources. A concerted effort by businesses as much as by government (e.g. organized collection of blankets and heaters).

  11. consciousness razor says

    The government is for guarding supermarket dumpsters full of discarded food from people who hope to survive a winter storm and a raging pandemic, in the socialist paradise/hellscape that is Portland … food which ended up there because of mismanagement by our energy monopolist overlords, who only care about their own wealth, power and status.

    Everybody knows that. Didn’t you learn anything in your civics classes?

  12. Reginald Selkirk says

    Uh, what, exactly, is local government for?

    Remember, Republicans are the “party of small government.” They want to prove government doesn’t work by governing badly. This is logically stupid; like me trying to prove soccer is a boring game by playing as I do.

  13. robro says

    consciousness razor @ #12 — Civics classes? I had them back in the early 60s but I gather those have been passe for a long time, probably since the civil rights movement and the rise of the “Southern Strategy”.

  14. says

    @12 razor
    The Portland Police Bureau fails again. PPB is NOT underfunded because they’re in a “blue libral” state. They are over funded and incompetent. Really makes me wonder what my tax dollars pay for.
    Sorry that made me so mad I’m starting to sound like a libertarian.

  15. PaulBC says

    CR@12

    The government is for guarding supermarket dumpsters full of discarded food from people who hope to survive a winter storm and a raging pandemic

    I thought that was the job of “well-regulated militias” with such stalwarts as Kyle Rittenhouse who know that the most important job in a democracy is to “guard businesses” from the rabble when they take to the streets with their dirty political messages.

  16. consciousness razor says

    robro, #14: A fair point … sort of dating myself with that, I guess.

    Didn’t you learn anything in your Trump University post-graduate seminars on asset management and wealth creation?

  17. consciousness razor says

    I thought that was the job of “well-regulated militias” with such stalwarts as Kyle Rittenhouse who know that the most important job in a democracy is to “guard businesses” from the rabble when they take to the streets with their dirty political messages.

    Well, ordinarily, the cops can handle it. Perhaps these specific people weren’t black enough to warrant that kind of response.

  18. says

    The Dumpster Dive story reminds me of something I’ve seen way too often. The owners too often trash what THEY can’t use. Maybe it’s my decades of role playing games, but I see value in everything. When I was in high school I worked for Pizza Hut and threw out 55gal of overproofed dough every other night. Straight to the landfill to rot. I saw a cargo container’s worth of broken pallets cut up and shipped to a landfill in a dumpster to rot. Now this…

  19. daved says

    It’s now coming out that Texas knew ten years ago that they needed to do a better job of winterizing their power generation infrastructure. But that costs money, and it’s against GOP principles to make companies spend money. You’ll note that in the next state north, Oklahoma, they are not having these problems. Also, the wind turbines and the solar farms are holding up better than the frozen fossil fuel power plants. The governor of Texas is busily claiming he isn’t blame for any of this, even though he is.

  20. says

    Leaders who can’t protect the group are not leaders. Leaders who won’t protect the group are something else. That something depends on if the leader is deliberately deceptive about it.
    I think bigots know this instinctively but selectively avoid it in political conflicts due to culture.

  21. billyum says

    Let’s not forget the racism in this. Utah and West Virginia are ruby red states, but they take care of their own. They do not have much ethnic diversity. What’s the line from “Blood Simple”?

    “Now, in Russia, they got it mapped out so that everyone pulls for everyone else… that’s the theory, anyway. But what I know about is Texas, an’ down here… you’re on your own.”

  22. chigau (違う) says

    They voted for him.
    “You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know… morons.”

  23. gddiver says

    “ We should try to be more like South Korea, where the civic infrastructure is taken seriously.”

    Hell, for Texas it sounds like North Korea would be a step up. I heard that El Paso is fine. Turns out they are not part of the Texas power grid.

  24. Bruce says

    Some progressives once wrote a bit called The Declaration of Independence. It answers the question:
    … among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men …
    That’s what government is for, even if Abbott, Perry, and Cruz don’t get it.
    Ted Cruz is the only Canadian in the world who doesn’t understand the US Declaration of Independence.

  25. whheydt says

    Re: davidc1 @#4…
    No, Texas power system isn’t connected to either of the major national power grids. It’s deliberate. Texas didn’t want to have to comply with Federal regulations that come with the interconnects. Then they neglected their infrastructure.

    As the old quip has it…”If I owned Hell and Texas, I’d live in Hell and rent out Texas.”

  26. blf says

    I heard that El Paso is fine. Turns out they are not part of the Texas power grid.

    Yes. They are part of the Western Interconnect, which shares power in the “West” of the States. The other national power-sharing scheme is the Eastern Interconnect. Excluding Alaska and Hawaii, Texas is the only state not connected to either Interconnect. And that non-connection is deliberate. To avoid federal regulations. And also to avoid common sense (a very rare creature in Texas), along with maximizing profit$ (a very common fiend in Texa$).

  27. PaulBC says

    Bruce@28 There’s also the part in the Constitution about promoting the “general welfare”, which I think would include not freezing to death in a rare weather emergency. And Tim Boyd at a bare minimum “owes” something to the taxpayers who cover his salary. Where does he think that comes from?

  28. PaulBC says

    “the weak will parish”? I’m not familiar with Our Lady of Weak Will, but it’s good know there’s a church for everyone.

  29. anat says

    robro @14: Civics classes are back, at least in Washington state – it has been a graduation requirement since 2016.

  30. PaulBC says

    anat@33 My son took AP government and politics last Fall. It’s a half-year class, and it sounds like it should cover something like civics, but I’m not sure. It’s elective though. I had US history in high school in the early 80s, but I did not have a civics course. It was a private school and I don’t know what public schools did.

    (I told him everything he was learning might turn out to be obsolete depending on the result of the election. I don’t think that was an unreasonable concern, though even then I stupidly expected an election outcome to be definitive.)

  31. PaulBC says

    davidc1@4

    And it seems TX is not part of the US National grid .

    I’ve lived in California for over 20 years, so I remember when our “grid problems” were a big national issue in 2000-2001. In fact, it was later established (as most of us believed here) that the state was the victim of intentional manipulation by power companies (notoriously but not exclusively Enron). The “crisis” was entirely fabricated. Former governor Pete Wilson “deregulated” electric power supposedly to lower costs and increase flexibility of where you buy power. As a result, California purchased power on a “spot market” based on prices that could be changed by conveniently removing generators from the grid at critical times (sometimes by literally breaking hard-to-replace parts, other times just by “scheduled maintenance”).

    This went on for about a year as I recall, and national media covered it as “Them silly granolaheads don’t know they need to burn coal.” Eventually the current (later recalled governor) Gray Davis worked up a deal with longterm contracts, paying extra to lock in prices that might be higher than the spot market. Magically, all the grid problems went away when prices were no longer subject to manipulation.

    At that time I remember Texas being held up as a great example of a robust grid that could supply as much power as needed to everyone. I have never been a fan of Texas, but I accepted this at face value. I also assumed that this was part of a larger national grid that could redirect power to Texas when needed. The whole point of a modern power grid is that you’re supposed to be able to trade power from where there is a surplus to where it is needed most. The people suffering from Texas’s mistake right now are not the ones to blame for it, but it does sound like their great “very unlike California’s” grid was not so robust after all.

  32. oddie says

    Texas should try to be more like El Paso, no need to look for example outside the country, or even the state for that matter.

  33. damien75 says

    It feels that I have been reading pharyngula for ever now, but unlike, for instance, what I read in newspapers, what I find here never stops amazing me. What gives ? Not only is there no shortage of outrageous supidity or malevolence, or lunatics, batshit crazy evangelicals, but any level of the aforementioned always gets surpassed sooner or later.

    When I think nothing can surprise me anymore, that I’ve been accustomed to things, I soon find I was wrong.

    I understand Pr Myers reports these things on purpose, makes sense, but how can it be always worse ? Most of the time, the “shocking”, so to say, comes from the US, which is reminiscent of the “Florida man” phenomenon that I imagine everybody here has heard about. If any of you can direct me to a website (or a book) that would give me the CliffNotes on that aspect of the US, I’d be grateful.

    “We should try to be more like South Korea”, well, like any other country in the developed world to my understanding.

    I now I am repeating what everybody is saying, but I need to get it off my chest : if “No one owes you are your family anything”, what is the point of a mayor (and of grammar check) ? What was he paid for ? Couldn’t citizens do away with mayors, then ?

    About Florida man : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_Man

  34. robro says

    PaulBC @ #35 — As I understand it, even with “deregulation” California remained part of the Western Interconnection of the national grid. Texas opted many years ago (30s I think) to set up a separate “Texas Interconnection” so the Fed couldn’t regulate their system. Very independent minded of them, but it means that most of Texas as no other energy resource to draw on except other parts of the state. This storm has affected most of Texas, so they’re in a tough spot. The one exception is west Texas around El Paso, as oddie noted. That area is a member of the Western Interconnection.

  35. publicola says

    If it looks like a snake, hisses like a snake, and slithers like a snake, it’s probably a conservative Republican.

  36. birgerjohansson says

    If you wonder about the purpose of government, a good start would be “making sure people don’t get eaten by bears”.
    Let me explain. There is a book titled “A Libertarian Walks Into A Bear “, the true story about how libetarians took over a town in New Hampshire and tried to make a libertarian utopia. You know, no taxes.
    It is as if the radio speech by John Galt in Atlas Shrugged ended with him getting eaten by a bear.
    You see, garbage pickup requires taxes, which libertarians don’t like. And leftover garbage attracts bears from the surrounding forests.
    You can probably guess what happened. The Darwin Award as political ideology?

  37. says

    finding a frozen person in a 30 million state is pretty far from siege of Leningrad. dozens of people die each year in winter in countries that are used to winter conditions.

    It doesn’t make what happen in Texas look any better.
    That’s the role of government to enforce regulations to prevent cutting corners and prepare for emergency.
    That’s the role of capitalism, to cut corners and do minimum you can to get by, hoping that whenever shit hits the fan it will be government who will clean it up.

  38. whheydt says

    Re: Gorzki @ #42…
    Actually….the capitalist doesn’t really care if the government cleans it up or not (though said capitalist would probably be interested in doing the clean up if he got the contract for it). The capitalist just wants to make sure that the shit hits the fan on somebody else’s “shift”.

  39. John Morales says

    It’s damn simple. Profit motive.

    Fixing the odd problem and paying out the odd penalty is still more profitable than preventing those problems.

    (My view is that essential and infrastructure services should be not-for-profit, the which does not entail inefficiency compared to for-profit services. And Goverment should make it so)

    Or, that to which birgerjohansson alluded.

  40. unclefrogy says

    I have never understood how in a democratic society government could be seen as the problem.
    I thought the point of government was we the people are the power and authority of government.
    I thought it was because we are all in this together. It seem that to the modern conservative that is not so it has sounded like it has been in fact dog eat dog for as long as I have been living and the great god is competition winners and losers and the losers deserve nothing at all, not even life. it is what can you do for me is all that counts. it sounds like a very bleak future coming if those ideas continue.
    uncle frogy

  41. chrislawson says

    @45– Many people enjoy post-apocalyptic settings in novels, movies, and video games, because it allows us the illusion of freedom from social norms and clarity of decision-making. Modern conservatives like this idea so much they want to bring about an actual post-apocalyptic setting.

  42. says

    Texas had the same temperatures we had about two weeks ago. Which are a bit lower than (new usual) and yes, people froze to death because we’d rather let them freeze than open the completely empty hotels for them (22 too many this winter alone).
    And yeah, we had the usual “the trains aren’t running because we have weather” and some issues with large amounts of snow in certain parts. Emergency services had to bring hot tea to motorists stuck on the Autobahn because reliably the truck drivers think that just because two lanes are already blocked by a truck that can’t go further doesn’t mean that they should pull over, but that they should make sure the third lane is blocked by them.
    But apart from that, the kids were just angry that you don’t get snow days when doing distance learning. Because we have infrastructure. My house is insulated. The windows regularly have frost patterns outside while I sit in cosy 20°C. And to all those saying “ahhh, but Texans don’t usually have cold winters, they don’t need insulation” I’ll quote my grandpa who used to say: What is good against cold is good against heat. But instead people have badly insulated houses they cool down with ACs, burning the planet even faster.

  43. weylguy says

    #32 PaulBC

    “… the weak will parish” followed immediately with a note about God. Unconscious pandering?.

  44. says

    Rousseau argues that the social contract defines the relationship between people and the state. State legitimacy implies that citizens owe the state loyalty (taxes, service, non-aggression) in return for the state owing services (common good, common defense) – when that relationship fails and one side goes out of balance, you have a failed government that has no legitimacy. No citizen owes an illegitimate government fealty; it is an occupying power.

    Suck on that, Texas. You’re not freedom-loving individualists, you’re a failed state.

  45. birgerjohansson says

    Mano Singham is also adressing the Texas political failure.
    He has links to Trevor Noah and Jimmy Kimmel lambasting Ted Cruz .

  46. davidc1 says

    According to a bloke wot wrote in the Guardian today ,natural gas has a very low freezing point ,the reason it has
    frozen in the heart of Texas s because of all the impurities in it .
    To remove them takes money ,well you can guess the rest .

    Gorzki ,sorry if my comment upset you ,I meant no disrespect to the victims of the siege .
    Or to the poor homeless sods that freeze to death every year ..

  47. magistramarla says

    I feel ya, PZ!
    I’ve been in almost constant contact with my adult children and my good friends in Texas.
    My son and his family in Houston endured over 20 hours without power before it went to “rolling outages”.
    My daughter and her family, also in Houston, endured less hours with no power, but had a frozen water main.
    My BFF in San Antonio, with a very pregnant daughter-in-law in the house, also dealt with hours without power and then “rolling outages”. The young lady is from Taiwan, and she is also dismayed by Texas.
    The only family member there who was not affected was the daughter who married a Trumper, who lives in the hill country, who has a private well and whose husband set up generators.
    I am so very thankful that we now live in California! I hope that your kids are doing OK in San Antonio.

  48. KG says

    “We should try to be more like South Korea, where the civic infrastructure is taken seriously.”
    Crowing that 2021 looks so much better ‘cuz Donald the Clown is not in the White House anymore is not much of a try, is it? – mnb0@5

    What the everlasting fuck are you driveling about? You and your fellow fuckwits pretending that Biden is no improvement on Trump are really getting desperate, aren’t you?

  49. davidc1 says

    From the Guardian.
    “Reports have proliferated that some Texans whose power stayed on are now facing enormous bills, as private companies seek to capitalise. The New York Times reported one case in which a 63-year-old military veteran living on social security in the Dallas suburbs faced an electricity bill for nearly $17,000, 70 times what he would usually pay for all utilities combined.”

    Nice to see the true amurican spirit is alive and well .

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