The Weekly Watch

Out with the Old, and In with the New?

Open Thread image.jpg

I started this piece early last week as a gardening reference, but as the week has progressed I've begun to think about the odd juxtaposition of the collapse of the Texas power grid (Houston we have a problem) with achievement of landing a rover on Mars....old and new indeed. Like much of the country we had some cold weather (teens) this week. None the less, we kept a few crops growing mostly under covers. Many folks (even locals) are amazed that we keep a garden going most of the year. This year of COVID has particularly focused our attention on the garden and homestead. It has been nice to have a productive project during these odd times. Thought I would include some photos of the old (soon to be harvested) and new (soon to be planted) crops. We'll also look at the weeks news and see what we can find of interest. Jump in below the fold and add anything on your mind in the comments.

I must admit to being intrigued with the Mars landing and the complexity of the rover. It really is an example of outstanding engineering and a wonderful planetary science event. To my mind it confirms human ability to solve difficult problems. At the same time, the failure of the unregulated (by choice) Texas grid makes me think of our misplaced priorities. We can achieve incredible things, but choose instead to focus on profit. The ills of US run away capitalism are blatant and obvious....from the homeless crisis to the lack of health care in a pandemic to the utter failure to help our citizens prevent COVID to endless wars to slave wages for the working class compared to billions in profit for the elite.

The Perseverance landing is a powerful demonstration of human cognition, science and reason. It is a powerful rebuke to the incessant contemporary glorification of irrationalism and a mighty vindication of the materialist understanding of the world. There are, in fact, objective laws of nature that humans can comprehend and act upon.

The significance of the achievement stands in stark contrast to the social disaster in the US and throughout the world. Two days before the rover touched down, an 11-year-old boy froze to death in Texas during a snowstorm that has collapsed the heating and electrical infrastructure of virtually the entire state.

Rick Wolff discusses the Texas power grid situation...(8 min)

Prof. Wolff talks about the failure of the electrical industry in Texas to respond to the extreme weather that has led to the suffering of so many Texans. Wolff argues that key social institutions and protections like energy and public health should not be left in the hands of private interests who are only motivated by profits.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the grid, said Thursday the state was “seconds and minutes” away from a catastrophic failure that could have led to a months-long blackout. This week’s power outages also led to big delays in COVID-19 vaccine distribution and soaring fuel prices.

During an earnings call Wednesday, executive Roland Burns of the natural gas producer Comstock Resources celebrated the winter weather disaster.

Roland Burns: “This week is like hitting the jackpot, you know, with some of these incredible prices. I mean, you know, frankly, we were able to sell at super premium prices for a material amount of production.”

On Thursday, Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador called on Mexicans to ration electricity, after Texas shut off exports of natural gas amid the crisis.

Ted Cruz got caught headed to warm sunny Cancun...

Sen. Ted Cruz: “Yesterday, my daughters asked if they could take a trip with some friends, and Heidi and I agreed, so I flew down with them last night, dropped them off here, and now I’m headed back to Texas and back continuing to work to try to get the power on.”

Senator Cruz was initially booked to stay in Mexico until Saturday. He was met by protesters calling for his resignation at Houston’s airport — and in the bitter cold outside his home

To add insult to injury, many Texans are getting outrageous electric bills...

The combination of insufficient capacity and the temperature-induced crippling of power stations led to a complete collapse of the power grid. As power plants and natural gas pipelines froze, the market price of electrical power in Texas soared from a seasonal average of $50 to $9,000 per Megawatt.

Texans on variable rate electricity plans have seen electricity bills for tens of thousands of dollars. According to KHOU 11, Dallas resident Ty Williams owes more than $17,000 for his house, guest home and office.

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The "hyper-individualist" mindset runs rampant in capitalist nations, especially the US, where it's praised as "hard work" and "common sense." In this episode, we take a look at why the individualist mindset is counterproductive and an utterly absurd way to view the world.

Chris and code pink discuss US aggression toward China (34 min)

The U.S. is increasing pressure on Iran by surrounding it with NATO troops.

Jimmy also spoke with Chris this week...
The entire interview 45 min
America Has The Tinder To IGNITE Social Uprising - Chris Hedges
And shorter edits if you don't have the time for the whole enchilada.
Biden Will Shut Down Left Voices w/Chris Hedges (19 min)
Will Americans RISE UP? w/Chris Hedges (4.5 min)

Rick Wolff discusses third parties with Jimmy
America Needs Third Parties w/Professor Richard Wolff (13 min)

Change is difficult when there is a non-stop propaganda machine shouting lies...
As usual Caity nails it...

If the majority of a troubled population believes their political system is operating in a way that is demonstrably very different from the way it actually operates, then that population doesn’t have a political problem, it has a propaganda problem.

Berners watched the mass media actively sabotage the Sanders campaign day after day in two consecutive elections, and went “The problem is not enough progressives in government!” No, the problem is the billionaire media are constantly lying to everyone. Create a truth-based information ecosystem and politics will move toward health by itself.

She continues the theme in her next article...

The managers of empire do not work to crush and silence all dissent like a conventional totalitarian regime would do. They are much more clever than that.

In a society that maintains the illusion of freedom in order to prevent outrage and revolution, it does not serve rulers to stifle all dissent. Just the opposite in fact: their interests are served by having a small number of dissidents hanging around the fringes of society creating the illusion of freedom. If Johnny Hempshirt over there is allowed to stand on a soapbox and criticize the US war machine, then the US must be a free country.

So they don’t work to silence all dissent. What they do is work to make sure that dissent never hits a critical mass and goes mainstream.

Jimmy and Graham discuss the ways we are kept divided... (6 min)

Jimmy talks with Matt Stoller about big tech's media censorship (36 min)

Jimmy has been editing and re-posting earlier interviews. I liked this one when Jimmy tells the story of how he learned racism is a way to manipulate us as a kid. (7 min)

Any of your friends (like some of mine) refuse to let go of russiagate? Here's a great interview to send them...Aaron Mate' on Matt and Katie's show debunks russiagate and the Syrian gas attacks. It is about an hour long.

Glenn takes an honest look at the Capitol riot...

... none of that justifies lying about what happened that day, especially by the news media. Condemning that riot does not allow, let alone require, echoing false claims in order to render the event more menacing and serious than it actually was. There is no circumstance or motive that justifies the dissemination of false claims by journalists. The more consequential the event, the less justified, and more harmful, serial journalistic falsehoods are.

Yet this is exactly what has happened, and continues to happen, since that riot almost seven weeks ago. And anyone who tries to correct these falsehoods is instantly attacked with the cynical accusation that if you want only truthful reporting about what happened, then you’re trying to “minimize” what happened and are likely an apologist for if not a full-fledged supporter of the protesters themselves.


What about the garden?

Here's a clip I described earlier (but couldn't find again till now) about using polycarbonate coldframes. (8 min in)

Well, our garden is still producing...It is an under cover operation.
Mustard greens


Cabbage and Kale

Off with its head!

And outer leaves into a pan...

So much for the old, what about the new?

We use an old shelf re-purposed as a seed growing station.

I take them out when weather allows, and next week I'll harden them off under cover in the garden...

Gardening is a constant circle of old and new...a strong reminder of the cycle of life.

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Last week I planted two more American Chestnut trees. From here on out I'll take cuttings from the few trees I have and continue to spread what was once the dominant tree in our forests. The world keeps spinning and climate chaos continues its bizarre variations. And still the garden grows. Somehow it is satisfying despite the challenges. You don't have to garden to get in touch with nature, but it grounds me in the natural patterns and flows. Here's hoping you are able to get out and enjoy natural world. I look forward to your stories and ideas below!

20 users have voted.


Lookout's picture

Jim is an excellent gardener. I've picked up lots of tips over the years from him...
27 min

9 users have voted.

“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Jen's picture

I would never pay a $17,000 electric bill. Even if I had that kind of money I would never pay it. If I had that kind of money, I would instead invest in some solar panels and maybe a windmill too. I wonder how many solar panels you could buy and have installed for $17,000?

7 users have voted.

Is it great yet?

Lookout's picture


and even a tesla powerwall.

Greg Palast posted a piece about the background of TX electrical situation.

Until 1992, the USA had just about the lowest electricity prices in the world and the most reliable system.

For a century, power companies had been limited by law to recovering their provable costs plus a “reasonable,” i.e. small, profit. But in 1992, George H. W. Bush, in the last gasps of his failed presidency, began to deregulate the industry.
Bush’s son “Shrub,” Texas Gov. George W. Bush, signed a law in 1999 forcing the state’s hapless customers to accept any price the “free” market dictated. Enron’s CEO Ken Lay showed his appreciation by becoming Baby Bush’s number one donor for Dubya’s presidential ambitions.

This week, wholesale electric prices in Texas, normally $50 per megawatt-hour, busted over $9,000/MWHR. Again. It happens with every cold snap and heat wave. One shop owner, Akilah Scott-Amos, showed the Daily Beast her electric bills which blew up from $34 per month to $450 for a single day.

Sure makes me grateful for our government (TVA) power which is very inexpensive.

Hope you and yours are doing well. Hope the grand is growing and learning!

13 users have voted.

“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”


The tricky bit is to go 'off grid' and have the panels charge a large battery bank. Wire it into inverters, so if the grid goes down, you still have power.
Panels ~ $10K
Batteries ~ $3K
Inverters ~ $2K
Switching, Regulators, Wiring ~ $2K
Labor ?? ~ DIY $0
Electricians, Permits, Etc. ~ $3K
State / Fed Rebates ~ 20%

Most people get talked into having the solar array to feed the grid which
cuts down on the install $ (no batteries, less for inverters) and gives you
undervalued credits toward the electrical bill. Problem is, when the grid
goes down, you have nothing. The electrical utilities are not given incentives
to maintain the grid, only to repair damaged transformers and broken lines.

Best guess, you could power your house (depending on loads) for less than $17K.
YMMV. Have been building a stand alone system for years now, cash allowing.
Passive solar water heating should be considered as part of the design, IMO.
Can also be used as heat.

Good luck!

10 users have voted.
Lookout's picture


but that's our only solar...well do have a DIY solar oven.

Our power is cheap TVA through an rural electric coop. Never made $ence to go with PVs

I've got a back up gas generator, but would like to get a portable backup battery generator for the house and to also use camping and at the camp house. Saw this recently as an option for camping...
Since I already have ryobi drills and such.

Stay warm up yonder!

6 users have voted.

“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Raggedy Ann's picture

@QMS . We had solar in our home that my husband hooked up himself. Our goal was not to tie into the grid for the reasons you cite. I plan to put solar on the house I'm purchasing - I do not trust the grid anywhere. Battery capacity is the key. Batteries are cheaper than ever.

7 users have voted.

"The “jumpers” reminded us that one day we will all face only one choice and that is how we will die, not how we will live." Chris Hedges on 9/11

@Raggedy Ann

hiring the locals
our own personal waiter

5 users have voted.


5 users have voted.

It is scary to see how the news is being focused on the terrible news coming out of Texas and things that are happening on the world stage are being glossed over or not even being reported in the news.

Am currently still in Texas and have gotten to deal first hand with this man made disaster here. Am staying with sister in law and her husband and we lost electricity on Sunday night and it did not return until Wednesday early in the morning. Luckily, they have a gas stove and we had running water at that time so just keeping warm was our challenge but did have some small propane heaters and added candles to the “new emergency kit” supplies. When the electricity came back on, we did all indulge in a hot shower and noticed the pressure was down and immediately begin to draw up water and then the “boil water” notice came on and had to boil the water as well. By Wednesday afternoon, the water was off at their house and now conserving water was the issue. Thankfully, all the camping I have down served me well on how to wash dishes with minimal amounts of water. My sister in law did realize that there was some misuse of water at their house so hopefully this lesson will change some people’s attitudes toward their water usage. Their son had water at his house and we went over there and got several gallons to be able to have drinking and cooking water after we boiled it.

Water came back on this morning but still under “boil notice” and still limited usage. I hope this will help make some changes in the way things are done in Texas but there is a steep uphill battle ahead of us. There are a lot of politicians making noise but “politics as usual” will lead to little or no change. All of the changes/improvements are going to raise taxes and this of course is one of the issues that is raised every time there is an election but one can be hopeful.

Enough from me, need to read more of the clips you have posted. Love the pictures from your garden and glad for your bountiful harvest. Reading more of what you have posted and making decisions on what my future should look like and a garden is really a part of that plan.

Have a good week and thanks for all the hard work you put into this!

12 users have voted.

Life is what you make it, so make it something worthwhile.

This ain't no dress rehearsal!

@jakkalbessie My out with the old, in with the new, is to replace the plumbing in my home. All of it. Correct every mistake every plumber ever made. Every mistake produced a burst pipe. I haven't had water in a week, might be another week before the plumber can get here with the materials. Materials are very hard to find.
I am hauling water from the house next door, and taking a shower at my office.
Every other truck that has passed by this morning is loaded with PVC pipe. I am one of many without water.
Oh, well...the finished product will be an upgrade.

8 users have voted.

"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false." ---- William Casey, CIA Director, 1981

Lookout's picture

@on the cusp

pipe instead of PVC. Sorry you're having to endure a plumbing rehab!

However there are disadvantages (as with all plumbing materials).

There are 3 types of PEX (A, B, and C), but type B is the only one that doesn’t appear to have the leaching problem. The research is still incomplete on this matter, but if you want to use PEX, you may want to choose type B.

Best of luck with the speed and quality of your project!

6 users have voted.

“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

@Lookout material. The north winds blows under my home, always has, always will. If this type of weather event is going to become a regular event, the PEX might help in the future.

5 users have voted.

"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false." ---- William Casey, CIA Director, 1981

@on the cusp

I use Qest, made for motor homes and boats.
Same expansion qualities. Same type of quick dis-
connect. The point is to make a drain at the lowest
point. I do this every year for my boats.
House is copper, with drains and valves.

Good luck!

6 users have voted.
enhydra lutris's picture

@on the cusp @on the cusp

plumbing seems to always need changes of some sort or another, repairs and whatnot, and pex is really sweet to work with, do it yourself, or save labor costs big time if you have it done.

be well and have a good one

3 users have voted.

That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

@on the cusp

I use Qest, made for motor homes and boats.
Same expansion qualities. Same type of quick dis-
connect. The point is to make a drain at the lowest
point. I do this every year for my boats.
House is copper, with drains and valves.

Good luck!

2 users have voted.
Lookout's picture

@on the cusp

We played several parties for Bobby Lee...he always paid well. Lots of stories about him. One you may like was his cigar trick. Before testimony by a damning witness, he would put a wire down his cigar so he could maintain a long ash. Said the jury wouldn't focus on the testimony but just watch the ever growing ash. Obviously a trick from back in the day...

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When Bobby Lee Cook passed away on Friday morning, Chattooga County began mourning the famed lawyer.

Bobby Lee Cook was born in Lyerly, Georgia in 1927 and grew up there. He later attended a military school and later joined the Navy. After that he studied law at Vanderbilt Un