Friday, February 19, 2021

Cold Weather Disaster in Texas

The following four pictures were taken 1-10-2021 at 3 PM,  showing a 3 inch snowfall on the family farm here in central Texas.  This was big snowflake stuff,  with the wetness and cohesion to make good snowballs. 

Figure 1 -- Out front door,  looking a bit leftward

Figure 2 -- Out front door,  looking a bit rightward

Figure 3 -- Out the dining room window into the back yard,  looking a bit leftward

Figure 4 -- Out the dining room window into the back yard,  looking a bit rightward

On the average,  we near Waco,  Texas,  get around 1 significant icing event per winter.  This winter has been very different:  first a real snow storm in January,  then shortly after in February,  a big polar vortex failure brought us 3 events in rapid succession,  starting with an ice storm 2-11-2021,  then another snow storm 2-14-2021,  then yet another ice storm 2-17-2021.

Figure 5 -- Out the front door and leftward,  ice storm event 2-11-21 that closed roads

Figure 6 -- Out the front door slightly rightward,  ice storm event 2-11-21

Figure 7 -- Out the front door strongly rightward,  ice storm event 2-11-21

Figure 8 -- Ice only partly melted Sat 2-13-21 from the Thursday ice storm event

There was no big thaw after this ice storm;  temperatures remained continuously below freezing.  The previous snow was big flakes.  The next was fine powder rarely seen in Teas at all.  It fell atop the unmelted ice from the ice storm.  Temperatures started out in the 20’s for this snow,  falling rapidly into the teens by dark.  

Figure 9 -- Sun 2-14-21 Valentine’s Day snow begins on top of unmelted ice

We got about 3 inches of powder snow from this event.  Then it turned very cold indeed,  almost setting all-time records.  Monday 15th was clear and cold,  with a morning low near 4 F.  Tuesday 16th was clear but cold (about 0 F AM then stayed in the 20’s PM;  Waco Regional airport recorded -1 F for the low).  We had been continuously below freezing around the clock for some 5 days by this time. 


Figure 10 -- Mon 2-15-21: 3 inches of very fine powder-type snow covers the ice

We got hit with another ice storm Tuesday night into Wednesday 17th.  This was not a lot of ice,  but it formed a crust atop the 3 inches of powder snow.  Temperatures did not get above freezing until Friday afternoon 2-19-21 (9 days continuously below freezing,  unprecedented in Texas).

Figure 11 -- Wednesday 2-17-21:  Results of ice storm on top of unmelted snow

The January snow was one weather system,  and the 3 February events (ice/snow/ice) were one “polar vortex” failure with 3 small systems sweeping across it.  We in Texas set historic records for snowfall and cold during the two systems (4 events in all).  That includes the unprecedented 9 days continuously below freezing,  around the clock. 

Many people suffered disastrous and expensive failures because of the sustained cold and the widespread blackouts.  We out here on the farm did not,  fortunately.  The slick roads caused major problems,  and loss of life as well.  Having spent two record-setting winters in Minnesota a quarter century ago,  I had no troubles with the cold or the roads.  (But I learned how to drive on this stuff in the school of hard knocks,  long before ever going to Minnesota.  That’s another story for some other time.) 

The long-duration sustained cold is the real reason why the Texas energy grid came very near to total collapse,  with people dying or near-fatally endangered in the cold without power.  Many of the natural gas plants went off-line for lack of fuel,  because the gas well infrastructure and transmission pipelines were not robust enough to resist the sustained and very severe cold.  There may or may not have been troubles at coal plants,  that seems not to be very clear in most of the news reports. 

But natural gas dominates Texas generation,  with coal second,  wind third,  and then nuclear.  One nuclear plant had one unit shut down for a bad sensor.  There were several “frozen” wind turbines that went off line (whatever “frozen” actually means),  but ERCOT’s own data says the wind farms were still producing about twice what was actually expected of them this time of year.  The bulk of the problem was fuel delivery interruptions at the gas plants that are the bulk of the Texas generating capacity,  pure and simple.

ERCOT did not cause this crisis with its rolling blackouts,  but nothing ERCOT can do could fix it,  either!  Simply put,  the return of warmer weather,  allowing gas production and transmission to resume,  was what corrected it.  The problem was one of management at many levels (not just ERCOT) not learning the lessons of prior cold weather experience here in Texas,  and elsewhere. 

We here in Texas have had grid capacity troubles with polar vortex events at least once before,  and other grids in colder parts of the country also have good lessons to teach about cold weather operation.  Baldly stated,  ERCOT,  the big utilities,  and the Texas government chose not to learn those lessons to reduce expenses!  Which is really why we have had a disaster,  that killed and threatened people. 

Meanwhile,  there is a photo/video that has gone viral,  claimed to be of a helicopter spraying de-icing fluid on a frozen Texas windmill generator.   Except that it is not a Texas windmill!  Both Reuters and Associated Press (and many others) have debunked this claim.  The photo is really of a Swedish windmill being deiced,  during the winter of 2014-2015,  some 6 years ago.  Plus,  the “deicing fluid” is simple hot water,  although it is heated with an oil burner (you simply use what you have at hand,  to get the job done). 

Figure 12 -- This was the viral photo falsely claimed to be a frozen Texas wind generator

Based on what I have seen from multiple sources,  about half the windmills in the west Texas wind farms were indeed shut down for cold weather problems.  Even so,  according to ERCOT’s own data,  the remainder was generating about twice what ERCOT expected from the wind farms.  But even if all of them had been generating,  it wouldn’t have been enough:  wind is but 20-25% of Texas’s capacity.  We were short more than 30% of Texas’s generating capacity. 

The real problem is that over half our Texas generating capacity is natural gas plants,  and about half of those got shut down for lack of fuel.  When you add in a few coal plants that had cooling water lines break in the cold,  and one nuclear unit shut down for a bad sensor,  plus some windmills frozen,  you get exactly what we saw happen!

This could not correct itself until the frozen well heads and transmission pipelines unfroze.  That simply required warmer temperatures.  It will happen again next time the polar vortex fails in a big way like this,  unless “we” harden the natural gas system against long-duration cold weather.   That technology is well-known,  but was NOT required in Texas.  In hindsight,  it should have been required

There were and still are two fundamental changes needed for the way Texas manages its electric grid.  One is to add an incentive for the addition of generating capacity,  not just the sale of electricity from existing capacity.  That would also help with the perennial summer capacity vs demand troubles,  as well.  The second is far more important:  make the voluntary best practices for cold weather robustness into mandatory regulatory requirements.  Had that already been in place,  the 2021 polar vortex event would very likely not have been the disaster that it was!

I suggest very strongly that you consider that ugly little fact,  before re-electing the same politicians that let this happen to you.

Update 2-21-21:

Much of the ice had melted during the Friday afternoon (2-19-21) above freezing.  Most of the remaining ice melted during Saturday and Saturday night,  both above freezing.  Today (Sunday) things look normal again,  only traces remain.  

What's all over the media are the CYA ("cover your ass") lies about who is responsible for the cold weather grid disaster.  There are those who persist in trying to pin the blame on the wind farms,  even though the truth about the real problem has already been exposed. And that is exactly what I described in the article:  frozen natural gas supply sources and transmission lines account for at least 30% of the 40% of Texas's generating capacity that shut down,  for lack of fuel.

That's the proximate cause of the grid disaster,  but ultimately the source of this traces to improper regulatory requirements management by the state government.  And by "government",  I mean ERCOT,  the PUC,  the governor's office,  and the legislature.  Plenty of blame to go around.  

The free market is the most powerful engine of creation yet devised by humans,  but it devolves into piracy and slavery if there are no enforced rules to constrain it to serve the public interest.  We humans have known that for some millennia now,  political lies and ideology favoring an absolutely-unregulated market notwithstanding. 

You are already seeing hints of the piracy aspect in the price-gouging on utility bills and for natural gas prices.  There will be more.  That money is going into executive's pockets,  not into correcting the problems we faced. You are also seeing it in the arguments over exactly who is going to pay for all the plumbing and water damage caused by the extended power outages. And nobody has yet brought up responsibility for the lives lost and injuries suffered.  

I suggest you remember this disaster next election.  The politicians you have been re-electing,  and their appointees,  are the ones who ultimately caused this. It should be painfully apparent to anyone,  that it is way past time to try somebody else for a while.  

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Hallmark Missed a Bet

My wife created this and posted it on her Facebook page.  It’s just too good not to re-publish here. 

Yesterday,  the morning low was about 4 F.  This morning,  Waco airport reported -1 F,  a record-setting number for these parts.  We have had about 3 inches of snowfall up to this point,  with some sort of ice storm predicted tonight. 

Our personal experiences a quarter century ago,  during two hundred-year-record-setting winters in Minnesota,  had us better prepared than most of our neighbors,  I suppose.  Nothing in the farm shop froze.  I had hot lights and a heater running in there,  plus faucets dripping and a toilet drained.

On the house,  we had one grey water outfall freeze up,  which I thawed today with pots of hot water,  followed by seriously abusing the wife’s hair dryer.  I wanted to use my little propane torch,  but that had been cold-soaked to about 0 F,  and so the propane bottle had no vapor pressure:  nothing came out when I opened the valve,  at all.  

The tap on my beer keg refrigerator in the garage also froze.  I thawed it today,  too,  after several hours’ exposure to the heat from an old-time incandescent light bulb. 

The Texas power grid seems to have had a serious problem.  Grid demand got close to grid generating capacity,  so ERCOT ordered the utilities to do rolling blackouts to reduce demand.  These were supposed to be power outages of 15-45 minutes’ duration,  at any given location.

It didn’t work out that way.  The rolling blackouts,  rather than preventing a crisis,  seem to have precipitated one. 

The evidence is that multiple power plants have gone off-line,  reducing grid generating capacity very significantly,  and forcing the blackouts to be lengthy and widespread.  No one seems to have a believable answer for why this happened.

There was a lot of talk about frozen wind turbines out on the wind farms in west Texas,  but when I searched,  the answer was the opposite.  Despite some windmills shut down for icing,  the actual output from those wind farms seems to be about twice what anybody had expected.

Then talk seemed to shift to frozen natural gas lines stopping fuel flow to the power plants.  That seems to be a real issue with the natural gas-fed plants,  but it does not explain the stoppages at coal plants,  and one nuclear plant that shut down.

It is possible for the feed pipeline to a natural gas power plant to freeze up,  but not the natural gas pipe to a residence.  If somebody offers you that excuse,  they are lying to you.  Residences have natural gas pipes that operate at very low pressures.  Power plant pipelines operate at several hundreds to a few thousand psi.  That makes a huge difference to what can,  and cannot,  happen.

Natural gas is not just methane,  there is also significant ethane,  propane,  butane,  water,  carbon dioxide,  nitrogen,  and often even some sulfur compounds.  Natural gas that is fit to be used as fuel has been processed to be just methane with some ethane,  and only the merest trace of water.  The rest has been removed.  Crummy fuel is cheaper,  but has water in it.  That water content makes a difference!

For gas transported at high pressures,  any obstruction causes a pressure drop,  and the corresponding temperature drop can be quite significant when that happens.  That temperature drop causes ice to form from the water content,  which can obstruct the pipe further,  or even completely.  It takes a lot of heat to melt that ice,  once it has formed.  If you have ever thawed a frozen pipe yourself,  you know that statement to be true.   And,  the bigger the pipe,  the tougher it is to deal with.

Making things even worse,  the water can combine with the ethane,  propane,  and butane content to form things called “clathrates”.  These can freeze to an ice-like substance,  even easier than water can freeze to ice.  The cheaper and crummier your natural gas,  the more likely these contaminants will cause trouble during extreme cold weather.  That’s just physics and chemistry.  You can’t fight it. 

While all of this has been going on,  fossil fuel prices have surged higher,  especially natural gas prices.  What was about $3 per million BTU has suddenly surged as high as $600 per million BTU.  Whether any of this is price gouging,  or illegal speculation,  I do not know.  But that possibility is real!

All in all,  I smell a rat here somewhere.  There are many questions that need to be asked of ERCOT,  and of the utility giants.  We will see if anybody we elected actually asks.  It is their sworn job,  you know?

Update 2-19-21 the funny above is not meant to minimize the disaster that unfolded in Texas.  See the discussion of that disaster in the second half of the 2-19-21 article just above this one.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Rocket Vehicle Performance Spreadsheet

I created a more generalized spreadsheet model for a rocket vehicle or stage that conducts up to 3 burns.  This is for one mission. 

It uses as inputs delta-vee (dV) data for up to 3 burns,  that have been factored-up (as appropriate) to cover things like gravity losses,  drag losses,  and hover/divert/maneuver requirements for propulsive landings.  Units of dV are km/s.

It uses a simple model of the vehicle or stage weight statement,  that includes inert (non-propulsive) structural mass,  loaded payload mass,  the max propellant mass capacity of the vehicle or stage,  and the actual loaded propellant mass (which can be less than capacity,  but never greater).  For a model of a lower stage,  the sum of all upper stages is the payload of a lower stage.  The inert mass includes the masses of the engines.  Units of mass are metric tons.

It uses as inputs up to 3 different rocket engine performance models,  to cover multiple choices of engine type and operation.  One of these could be the vacuum performance of an engine with a vacuum bell design,  another could be the sea level performance of an engine with a sea level bell design,  and the third could be the vacuum performance of a sea level engine.

Each of these engine performance models comprises a name,  the thrust and specific impulse of the engine configuration at maximum chamber pressure,  and at minimum chamber pressure (representing the effects of throttling).   Variation of performance between these extremes is done by linear interpolation.  The user inputs a pressure percentage of maximum pressure,  and the spreadsheet automatically generates estimated performance at that throttle setting.  Specific impulse is automatically converted to the more useful exhaust velocity concept,  as well. 

In the three-burn calculation block,  the user inputs the appropriate name,  thrust per engine,  and exhaust velocity for each burn,  plus the number of such engines to be operating.  The spreadsheet totals up the thrust automatically.  Bear in mind that there is no refilling between any of the burns.

Units of thrust are MN,  units of specific impulse are s,  and units of exhaust velocity (Vex) are km/s.  Units of the thrust setting are percent,  and refer to chamber pressure,  not thrust magnitude. 

There is one other user input,  appropriate only for vertical flight against the local gravity.  This is the local surface gravity measured in Earth-standard gees.  That would be the local acceleration of gravity in m/s2 divided by the Earth-standard acceleration of gravity:  9.80667 m/s2.  Is US customary units,  this would be the local surface gravity in ft/s2 divided by the Earth-standard value 32.174 ft/s2. 

All user inputs are highlighted yellow.  Significant values are highlighted blue or green.  As illustrated in Figure 1 for the default example case,  all the user inputs save two are grouped in blocks across the top of the page:  the dV inputs,  the weight statement inputs,  and the engine performance models.  It is intended that the user make his thrust setting selection before proceeding to the burn calculation block,  which extends all the way across the page.  

The burn name and dV data load automatically from the inputs above.  The engine model must be manually input as engine name,  number of engines,  thrust per engine,  and effective exhaust velocity,  with all but number of engines copied from the engine data blocks that are appropriate.  The spreadsheet automatically calculates total thrust for the number of engines that has been input. 

Figure 1 – Image of the Full Default Example Worksheet

I have drawn lines upon the worksheet image in Figure 1 that indicate the mass variation calculations that are made.  The initial (ignition) mass of the vehicle for the first burn is the sum of user inputs for inert mass,  payload mass,  and actual loaded propellant mass.  (The user is responsible for seeing that his loaded propellant mass does not exceed the input for capacity.) 

The mass ratio required of the burn is calculated from the reverse of the rocket equation:  MR = exp(dV/Vex),  where “exp” refers to the base-e exponential function.  The mass of the vehicle at end of burn is the initial mass divided by that required mass ratio.  The change in vehicle mass during the burn dM is the difference between initial and final mass.  For the second and third burns,  the initial vehicle mass is the final mass from the previous burn,  as indicated by the slanted lines. 

The initial propellant mass for the first burn is literally the actual load of propellant as input by the user,  as that slanted line indicates.  The final propellant mass at end-of-burn is the initial minus the vehicle change-in-mass dM,  which of course is the propellant that was burned.  For the second and third burns,  the initial propellant mass is the previous burn’s final propellant mass,  as the slanted lines indicate.

The next group is vehicle kinematics evaluations,  and there are two portions,  figured at initial mass and final mass for that burn.  Lines were drawn connecting the initial and final mass tabulations to the appropriate calculation blocks.  Earth weights are computed in units of MN as (mass, metric ton)*9.80667/1000 for the initial mass and the final mass.  Included here in the initial group are the local gravity in gees inputs,  highlighted yellow.  The vehicle thrust/(Earth) weight (T/W) gets computed,  which is the capability for acceleration in gees in the absence of gravity. 

The outputs labeled “net vert g’s” are vehicle T/W minus the local gravity in gees,  and are appropriate for vertically oriented takeoffs and landings.  The default example is for a Spacex Starship going to Mars,  with Earth departure the first burn,  course corrections the second burn,  and the propulsive landing the third burn.  The local gravity only applies to the landing,  so zeroes were input for burns 1 and 2. 

There are notes just to the right of these calculations,  making the recommendation of at least 0.5 gee net vertical acceleration capability for takeoff and landing burns.  That is how acceptable motion kinematics can be obtained (if net 0,  you can at most only hover).  That 0.5 gee net value is only a rule-of-thumb.  If there are other difficulties involved,  a higher value may be needed to surmount them.

I added multiple lines of text to the worksheet,  below all the calculations,  in two blocks.  The block on the left provides information about the specific example in this default worksheet.  The block on the right is literally the procedural steps the user should take to successfully and reliably use the worksheet.  

What I recommend is that the user simply copy this worksheet to a blank worksheet,  rename that,  and do his model there.  That preserves the default example for future reference.  When copying,  the user need not copy all these text lines,  only the actual input and calculation blocks.  That leaves room below the calculations for the user to insert any explanatory text that he desires.

Using This Tool To Conduct Trade Studies

In the past,  using similar spreadsheet tools,  I have reverse-engineered the expected performance capabilities of the Starship/Superheavy for launch to orbit,  and for a refilled Starship to voyage beyond Earth orbit (to the moon and to Mars).  One thing to understand about those results is that I am estimating the max payload capability of a 120-ton inert/1200 ton propellant capacity Starship to low Earth orbit as 149 metric tons.  See Refs. 1 (performance to orbit) and 2 (Raptor engine estimates).  

Another thing to understand is that I always simply presumed that a fully-refilled Starship on-orbit was required to go anywhere else.  Under that assumption,  I now get payload values close to 350 metric tons deliverable to Mars,  using min-energy Hohmann transfer and better landing estimates.  That payload is a bit more than twice what the vehicle can ferry to orbit.  And,  ferrying up over 1100 tons of propellant to fully-refill the Starship requires a lot of tanker flights!  See Ref. 3 (earlier estimates to Mars).  When looking at those data,  bear in mind the earlier assumed landing dV’s were different.

I have also characterized some faster transfer orbits to Mars,  such that factored dV data are available.  Most notably,  consider the 2-year abort orbit,  such that if the Mars landing is aborted and the ship continues around that trajectory,  the Earth will actually be there when the ship arrives back at that end of its orbit.  The transfer orbit period must be an exact integer multiple of 1 Earth year for that to abort possibility to happen.  See Ref. 4 (orbital mechanics of transfer,  including faster transfers).

So,  I ran 4 cases:  (1) Hohmann transfer at max payload fully refilled on-orbit,  (2) faster transfer at max payload fully refueled on-orbit,  (3) Hohmann transfer at a nominal 150 ton payload,  partially refilled on-orbit,  and (4) faster transfer at a nominal 150 ton payload,  partially refilled on-orbit.  I found those results to be quite remarkable.  The 4 cases just listed are presented in Figures 2 through 5,  respectively.  For these analyses,  I did raise the net vertical landing gee capability to 0.7 gees.  You adjust that with the number of engines operating,  and at what throttle setting they operate.

For the max payload cases,  I always departed Earth orbit with a capacity propellant load of 1200 tons,  and iterated payload inputs to land on Mars with only a fraction of a ton of propellant remaining. The payloads I found usually exceeded what the Starship/Superheavy vehicle can ferry to low Earth orbit. Something well over 1100 tons of propellant must be ferried up in tankers to accomplish this.

For the min propellant cases,  I set payload to an assumed nominal 150 tons,  and then reduced propellant loadout until the vehicle landed on Mars with only a fractional ton of remaining propellant.  I was surprised and pleased at how much less propellant loadout is required.  The number of tanker flights needed is thus substantially reduced.

A summary of the results (masses in metric tons):

Trajectory           Payload                Propellant

Hohmann            353                       1200

Faster                  248                       1200

Hohmann            150                       686

Faster                  150                       879


Figure 2 – Hohmann Transfer With Max Payload,  Refilling to Capacity On-Orbit


Figure 3 – Faster Transfer With Max Payload,  Refilling to Capacity On-Orbit


Figure 4 – Hohmann Transfer With 150 Ton Payload,  Minimum Refill On-Orbit


Figure 5 – Faster Transfer With 150 Ton Payload,  Minimum Refill On-Orbit

 Closely-Related Articles on this Site:

#1. 5-25-20,  2020 Reverse-Engineering Estimates for Starship/Superheavy Estimates

#2. 9-26-19,  Reverse-Engineered “Raptor” Engine Performance

#3. 6-21-20,  Starship/Superheavy 2020 Estimates for Mars

#4. 11-21-19,  Interplanetary Trajectories and Requirements


Update 2-10-21:

I created 2 more worksheets to model the possibilities of return after refilling on Mars with propellants manufactured on Mars.  One was for a min-energy Hohmann return,  using a full capacity refill,  subject to all the same constraints as the prior analyses.  This one allows less than half the outbound payload capability,  under the same mission constraints,  because the Mars surface departure is more demanding than the Earth orbit departure.  That is the dominant factor,  which is true  even though the Earth landing requires less burn capability than the Mars landing.   There is latitude here to reduce the refill a little below capacity if we reduce the payload significantly further.  See Figure 6. 

The other explores mission feasibility on the faster 2-year-abort trajectory with a full capacity refill on Mars.  This option is “feasible” only with a trivial 2-ton payload and a 20% reduction in the course correction burn budget.  There are no feasible solutions for reducing payload further and reducing the propellant load.  There might be a feasible solution with a very low payload and a full capacity refill,  on a faster trajectory than Hohmann,  but not as fast as the 2-year-abort trajectory.  See Figure 7. 

Figure 6 – Hohmann Return with Full Refill on Mars

Figure 7 – Fast Return with Full Refill on Mars and Reduced Course Correction Budget


Update 2-15-21: 

I created one more worksheet labeled “flt tst SS” for the flight tests of prototype “Starships” as single stages with 3 sea level “Raptor” engines.  The 3 burns are ascent,  flip,  and touchdown.  I added little calculation blocks to estimate the mass ratio-effective dV requirements for each. 

For the ascent,  I used 1 km/s velocity at 10 km altitude,  and used a Cartesian combination to estimate the combined mechanical energy,  and convert it to velocity at zero altitude.  Because the uncertainty is enormous,  I used a factor of 2 against this speed for the mass ratio-effective value. 

For the flip,  I simply guessed a time to accomplish this at a chosen thrust level,  on two engines.  That gave a total impulse value,  which divided by specific impulse,  is a propellant mass expended for the maneuver.  Ignoring the touchdown,  I combined this propellant mass with the inert and (zero) payload masses to get a mass ratio for the flip.  That and the exhaust velocity get you a dV with the rocket equation.  It is very approximate at best,  and certainly dominated by the guess for time-to-flip.

The touchdown I figured very similarly to what I have done before:  factor up the descent rate as the mass ratio-effective dV to touch down.  I used the same factor as before:  1.5,  although one could easily argue for a 2 in experimental work.  I did add an average deceleration gee estimate and an estimate of altitude path length to decelerate,  based on V2 = 2 a s,  which should be ignored until all else is converged. 

The estimates converged with 3 engines at 100% thrust for the ascent,  2 engines at 60% for the flip,  and 2 engines at 60% for the touchdown.  For 120 metric ton inert mass,  and no payload,  I’m estimating 146 tons of propellant needed to reach 1 km/s at 10 km altitude,  and then land with essentially dry tanks. 

As the takeoff vertical net accelerations show,  this vehicle could launch with more propellant,  and still have 0.5 gee net vertical capability.  So,  more ambitious test flights could be pursued.  See Figure 8.


Figure 8 – First-Cut Results for “Starship” Flight Tests Similar to S/N-8 and S/N-9

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Time For Change

Here are some cartoons related to the recent peaceful transition of power 1-20-21.  These were circulating around on Facebook,  where my wife found them.  The first one pretty much speaks for itself,  except that I think it is understated (“it’s way past time” would be closer to correct).

About the only change I would make to it,  would be to show the target somewhere in the background.  That would be the “trash heap of history”,  complete with “bad smell” wisps.  I agree with many others who are already saying that Trump will go down in history as the worst president we have ever had. 

That “worst” rating would specifically be for inciting an insurrection as an attempted coup on January 6th,  trying to stay in power after his term was supposed to be over on the 20th.  Insurrection is not technically treason under the law,  but it is very close to treason,  and the same law covers both offenses (18 USC part 1 chapter 115 sections 2381 and 2383).  What is in the House’s article of impeachment for inciting the insurrection,  is essentially language from that law’s section 2383.

You can see how much he really cares about the consequences to the followers he incited to violence:  none of the insurrectionists were pardoned,  yet he very publicly reversed himself away from the failed insurrection,  but only after it failed.  That leaving them “out to dry” is the hallmark of the “fearless leader” in most fearless leader cults.  A related article on this site discusses those (see list below).

And that incitement was not just what he said the morning of the insurrection,  but what he said every day,  from election night forward to the 6th.  Unfortunately,  he was not alone in saying those things.  More unfortunately,  the followers believed them.  And too many still do.  While Trump himself is gone,  the threat of far-right violence continues.  This is evidenced by continued warnings from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.

The next funny is just a play on words,  albeit quite the good one.  It does bring up a valid question to discuss,  though.  

That question is:  how does the Republican party live down its (in hindsight very egregious) error in letting Trump be its nominee for the 2016 election? 

Back in 2016,  a whole lot of people were bamboozled into voting for Trump,  despite having already seen exactly what kind of person he really was,  on his reality TV show.  What you saw on his show was exactly what you would get from him as president:  a total asshole.  And so he was.  For 4 long years.

After 4 years in office spreading lies and chaos,  doing far more bad than any good,  and stirring up the far-right extremists in this country,  those extremists came to dominate the Republican voter base,  and so elected fellow extremists to a fair fraction of Republican-held offices in the House and Senate. 

Most of the more conventional,  more centrist Republicans have either died or retired,  or were primaried-out for not being sufficiently extremist.  Most of the rest sold themselves out to the extremists,  just to stay in office.  When you combine that extremism with the long pre-existing “party-of-no” approach (for which you can thank Newt Gingrich,  Paul Ryan,  and Eric Cantor in 1992),  you get a very toxic brew that stops nearly all debate and compromise,  thus paralyzing Congress. 

And you get a Senate that may not convict Trump of the otherwise slam-dunk insurrection impeachment charge,  because too many of them are either rabid Trump supporters themselves,  or are extreme enough to prioritize opposing Democrats over what would be so obviously right for the country.

That extremist takeover has to go,  or it will be the end of the Republican party.  And that would be something I’d rather not see happen.  Read on.

A key diagnostic for some degree of extremism to look for is the claim that “all Democrats are far leftists,  or even just plain evil”.  That contention is patently false,  on the face of it,  and is just one of many false beliefs virulently spread on social media and the internet. 

Yes,  there are some far leftists among the Democrats,  but there are more centrists than any other classification,  or else Joe Biden would not have been their nominee for 2020!  QED.  It’s really a spectrum and a distribution of belief about how to approach government.  As it should be.  There are no new ideas if there is no diversity of ideas.   You need new ideas when the old ones no longer work. 

That’s actually true of both parties,  but the divide between the moderates and the extremists in the Republican party is far sharper,  and the moderates are in the minority,  and have been for a few years now.  Most of the estimates I have seen indicate that 50% to 75% of Republican voters believe some (or all) of the false extremist claims of the Qanon conspiracy theory.  And that’s just way too much!

The country really does need two good parties from which to choose candidates.  With the extremist takeover of the Republicans,  we do not have that choice!  We need that wide spectrum and distribution of ideas for better government,  something that two good parties was able to bring.  We need it again.

And that’s my take on it.  Before you get too upset with what I said,  remember that I am an independent.  I really do wish we had two good parties to choose from,  and I am very discouraged that we currently don’t.

As for the “change” per the title of this article,  the one I want to see most is change in the Republican party from extremist domination back to something “normal”.   We don’t really get to vote for that in the elections,  at least not directly.  So I don’t yet know how that might be accomplished.

Related Articles About the Danger of Far-Right Extremist Beliefs and Fearless-Leader Cults

1-17-21               Sometimes You Simply Must Do What Is Right

1-10-21               It Ain’t Over Yet

1-1-21                  Observations About the Mainstream Media,  And Much More

12-18-20             Q As A Threat to the US

2-13-20               Beware of Leader Cults

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Sometimes You Simply Must Do What Is Right

The events of January 6th at the Capitol were an evil that must be dealt-with.  We have long had federal laws in place that deal with insurrections (which is exactly what we saw),  as well as sedition,  and treason.  This law needs to be used to correct the dangerous behaviors we all saw.  The false beliefs that drove this are simply too widespread to ignore.  Our democracy is in serious danger,  from what amounts to a large potential number of political-extremist domestic terrorists,  inflamed by lies. 

Here is the relevant federal law for the insurrection that we all saw happen at the Capitol on the 6th:

18 USC Part 1 Crimes Chapter 115: Treason,  sedition,  and subversive activities

§ 2383. Rebellion or insurrection

Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

(June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 808; Pub. L. 103–322, title XXXIII, § 330016(1)(L), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2147.)

I suggest we apply it to many persons,  in multiple roles ---

All those “protestors” who scaled the steps and entered the Capitol building on January 6th:

“Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection” – they all would seem to be guilty in a slam-dunk case,  as evidenced by what was seen on the live TV feeds,  and the testimony of those inside the Capitol who were threatened by it. 

President Trump:

“Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection” – he would seem to be guilty in a slam-dunk case,  as he literally told the insurrectionists to go to the Capitol in his speech the morning of January 6th. This was evidenced by what was seen on the live TV feeds.

“Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection” – he would seem to be guilty in a slam-dunk case,  as he has claimed “election fraud” and “stolen election” since the night of the November 3rd election,  and claimed these things wrongly,  as the 60-some court cases and the Department of Justice investigations have determined.  These claims were used to inflame the emotions of supporters over the election result,  which is the very definition of the word “incite”.

Either of these two readings of the law are in accord with the wording of the Article of Impeachment pending against Mr. Trump,  now awaiting a Senate trial.

Congressional figures giving “reconnaissance tours” on January 5th:

“Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto” – these persons would seem to be guilty in a rather credible case,  with actual evidence to be turned up by appropriate investigation.  So far,  I have seen the names of 3 House members alleged to have done this.

Update 1-23-21 Because these names are already a matter of public record,  it cannot hurt the case for or against them, if I mention them here:  House members Andy Biggs (R-AZ),  Paul Gosar (R-AZ),  and Mo Brooks (R-AL).  There may,  or may not,  be others. 

Congressional figures communicating helpful information to the insurrectionists during the event:

“Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto” – such persons would seem to be guilty in a rather strong and very egregious case,  with evidence to be turned up by appropriate investigation.  So far,  I have seen the name of 1 House member alleged to have done this.  This behavior could very credibly be construed as not just assisting,  but actually engaging in,  the insurrection.  Such is very serious indeed!

Update 1-23-21:  Because this name is already a matter of public record,  it cannot hurt that I mention it here:  House member Lauren Boebert (R-CO),  a known Qanon follower.  There may,  or may not,  be others. 

Congressional figures persisting in claiming disproven election fraud as the basis of their electoral tally objections:

“Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto --  these persons would seem to be guilty in a fairly strong case,  evidenced by the roll call of electoral tally objection votes even after the insurrection was over,  despite the pre-insurrection proof that these claims were false! 

Update 1-23-21:  there has been filed a Senate ethics committee complaint,  for spreading the election fraud lie that inflamed the insurrection,  both before and after the insurrection.  Those named are Senate members Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (R-MO).  There may,  or may not,  be others.  

There is plenty of latitude to adjust the penalties to the severity of each case:

“shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.” – could be a fine or imprisonment,  or both.  That choice,  and the amount of the fine,  is thus left up to the judge.  Imprisonment is limited to 10 years max,  so it could be anywhere from 0 to 10 years.

Here is the part not left to the discretion of the judge:

“shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.” – this part is mandatory and it is permanent (meaning life-long),  no matter what else is done!  It has the benefit to the entire country of ridding a political party of certain proven-dangerous extremists as feasible candidate choices.

Update 1-23-21 in addition to Mr. Trump himself,  there are also close associates and family members under suspicion of inciting,  or aiding-and-abetting,  the insurrectionists.  There are also members of the Capitol police who may, or may not,  have aided-and-abetted,  or actually participated-in,  the insurrection.  The FBI is certainly pursuing the insurrectionists themselves.  We'll see what transpires as the various investigations unfold. 

As for the possible Senate impeachment trial results:

There are two stages to this,  guilt-or-acquittal,  and penalty determination if guilty.  Note that acquittal is not the same as innocence,  the definitions of those words differ!  It is my opinion that acquittal would be a serious miscarriage of justice,  but that is for the Senate to decide,  not me.  Conviction requires a 2/3 majority vote.  Determining the penalty after conviction requires only a simple majority vote.

Under impeachment,  the penalty has to be voted upon by the Senate,  but only if convicted.  I believe they will use the cited law to guide what they can and cannot do.  For insurrection per section 2383,  ineligibility to ever hold federal office again is mandatory,  but with great latitude regarding fines and no more than 10 years of imprisonment.  (Permanent ineligibility,  fines of at least $10,000 and at least 5 years of imprisonment,  or even death,  are the penalties for treason in section 2381.) 

My Own Take:

There are many people who need to be called to account for what took place at the Capitol on January 6th.  I have mentioned only some in this article.  The FBI is certainly trying to do their part to bring insurrectionists to justice.  I do worry about figures in positions of power who might not be called to account for their parts in this.  That is why I wrote this article.  We will see how that goes,  as these events continue to unfold. 

What I Suggest:

Watch closely what your Representatives and Senators actually do.  In addition to the impending impeachment trial,  they need to police their own,  as I indicated above.  Contact them frequently,  and tell them in no uncertain terms what you want done,  and that you are watching closely.

If you don’t understand that there was no fraud/steal to the 2020 election,  I sincerely urge you to re-examine not only your beliefs in light of the observed facts,  but also the credibility of the sources who convinced you of those falsehoods.  It is essentially impossible to make good decisions based on bad data.  Therefore it is incumbent on you to make sure those data you use are good.

And Another Thing:

Every federal officeholder takes a form of the same oath taken by those who enter the military (and I did,  so I know firsthand):  “to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies,  foreign and domestic”.  A very clear implication of that oath is that the good of the country takes precedence over all personal or political considerations.  Such is too often forgotten today. 

I would like to see two things done:

(1) that implied top priority of the good of the country be made explicit in these oaths of office,  and

(2) the breaking of that oath of office needs to be made a crime.  The specification of that crime should explicitly include behavior that demonstrates prioritizing personal or political advantage over the good of the country. 

That last sure would clean up a lot of Congressional misbehavior,  now,  wouldn’t it?  And maybe some misbehaviors we have seen in recent decades in the Executive branch as well.  (Doesn’t matter which party you favor,  they have both routinely misbehaved.)

Closely-Related Articles on this Site:

10 January 2021              It Ain’t Over Yet

1 January 2021                 Observations About the Mainstream Media,  and Much More

18 December 2020          Q As A Threat to the US

13 February 2020            Beware of Leader Cults

You can access any of these quickly using the navigation tool at the left side of this page.  Click on the year,  then click on the month.  Then click on the title,  if more than one shows for that month. 


Keep your eyes peeled for more insurrection or related violence directed at the Inauguration on the 20th,  and around the country after that.  So says the FBI.

Keep your eyes peeled for more similar violence after the Senate impeachment trial of Mr. Trump,  especially if he is convicted.  That is my prediction,  based on the Qanon “fearless leader” cult built around him ever since the 2016 election.

If you recognize a perpetrator,  I do encourage you to turn them in to the FBI.  That is your duty as a citizen of this Republic,  especially since such violence borders on treason.  Not reporting actual treason that is known to you is also a crime,  under another section of the same law I cited.  (Go look for yourself:  it is section 2382 Misprision of treason.)  Insurrection isn’t defined as treason,  but it is very close.  That is the implication of the law I cited.

Update 1-20-2021 

The massive presence of protective troops seems to have deterred any sort of mob violence or assassination attempt at the inauguration in DC.  Similar precautions seem to have deterred problems at the state capitals.  

That's good,  but when the protection relaxes,  the risk is still there.  Those extremists are still out there,  still large in number,  and still believing the lies that motivated the insurrection on the 6th. 

The next "sore point" that may provoke further mob action will likely be the Senate trial of Mr. Trump's impeachment.  The date for that has yet to be revealed.  Keep your eyes peeled.  

Update 1-23-21 that date for the start of the Senate impeachment trial is now said to be the week of February 8. 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

It Ain’t Over Yet!

My friend and colleague Bill Whitaker did an excellent job with his column in the Waco Tribune-Herald calling out the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6th,  as the abomination that it was.  Many are now asking “why this happened”?  Here is my take on “why”.  Be warned,  many of you will not like this,  because to tell you that “why”,  I might have to challenge what you may believe.

The Trump presidency continues until noon January 20th,  unless he is removed from office earlier in some way.  What you may not yet know is that his “fearless leader” cult,  the Qanon community,  are pushing for him to declare martial law,  despite the failed coup attempt on the 6th.  This is now to be justified by the supposed presence of "Antifa terrorists" masquerading as Trump supporters. 

These ringers supposedly actually started the break-in as a false-flag operation to discredit the real Trump supporters.  I got this first hand from a youtube video from one (of many) known Qanon outlets (David Zhang's "Beyond the Noise"),  forwarded to me by a friend whom I know to be a fervent Qanon believer. 

By way of reality check,  there is no single,  or even a few,  organizations that could be called "Antifa".  That is merely a label applied to an unorganized and rather-varied class of leftist extremists.  Some of these are no doubt terrorists,  but they are more of a threat individually,  not as an organization.  So the latest ploy of blaming Antifa,  instead of Trump supporters incited to violence,  is simply untrue.

The real organized threat here is the Qanon community itself,  which is a definite (if informal) organization,  now communicating on the GAB and PARLER services,  having just been chased off Twitter and Facebook (for being a dangerous organization promoting violence.)   And,  they have been identified as a serious domestic terror threat by the FBI.  We just saw this warning come true,  with the events of the 6th. 

Here is the danger:  the only people still close to President Trump are those advisors who are known to be Qanon believers.  Those include Michael Flynn,  Sidney Powell,  and to one extent or another,  Rudy Giuliani.  Their Q-derived falsehoods are essentially all he hears!  And we know already that those falsehoods can incite violence out of people.  

As long as he holds the presidency,  Mr. Trump still has his finger on the nuclear trigger,  as well as the ability to order conventional war.


Update 14 January 2021It appears that the mob had insider help getting into the Capitol,  and insider help for locating those they intended to kidnap.  (It also appears that insider help was not just a officer or two letting them in.)  And,  I presume that the mob intended to execute their prisoners,  because I saw on the video the gallows they had set up.

Move On has published the names of 3 Republican Congressmen they accuse of participating in the planning of the attack,  with a reconnaisance tour the day before.  We will see if that accusation bears up.  And I suspect there are more instances of such treachery.  

Move On has also repeated the accusation that I heard earlier off mainstream reports that known Qanon believer Congresswoman Lauren Boebert (R-CO) was tweeting Nancy Pelosi's location to the mob during the attack.  That does not surprise me,  given the other things she has said.  

If proven to be true,  these allegations just go to prove my point about how dangerous this Qanon conspiracy really is,  when added to all the far-right extremist groups out there.

As I said,  I think more of this treachery will be revealed.  Those who did this must be held accountable,  and it's not just Trump,  that is for sure!  

We will soon see if the Senate can act for the people in Trump's second impeachment case,  under the condition that about two thirds of Republican Senators seem to be partial or total subscribers to the Qanon lies.  The first time around,  they essentially admitted that he "did it",  but they still did not choose to convict. 


Further,  the risk of more mob violence to stop the transition of power between now and January 20th is still quite serious,  precisely because there are still hordes of rabid Trump supporters unwilling to accept his election defeat,  instead sincerely believing it was stolen by fraud!  The inauguration itself will prove to be the next target.  The same kind of crowd that attacked the Capitol on the 6th is now threatening on-line to bring their guns to the inauguration.

The best estimates I can find indicate that something like half to three quarters of Republicans and Trump supporters believe at least some of the false Qanon claims about reality.  Many of them may not really know where these claims actually come from,  getting their supposed news and information from social media “echo chambers” that (until recently) were entirely unpoliced for truth. 

Qanon is a “fearless leader” cult around Trump that started in 2017,  not long after he was elected (see the Wikipedia article about Qanon for a good start at understanding this).  It has very definite fascist or authoritarian roots in its beginnings on the internet.  Almost none of those who lean Democrat are involved with this,  and apparently few of them know much about it.  However,  it is always best to understand a potential adversary,  which is why I have investigated this cult. 


My version of the list of those claims follows,  with some notes about them that are my opinions: 

#1. There is a stealthy cabal of Satan-worshipping child-traffickers that controls everything,  known as the “Deep State”,  which is composed mostly of Democrats,  plus some Republicans-in-name-only.  Mr. Trump is secretly leading the fight to overturn this cabal.  This claim dates to the beginning of the Qanon community. 

Typically,  only the true believers say much about this claim.  The politicians who merely pander to the believers among their constituents,  rarely say much about this one.

Update 1-23-21:  Why would this claim be true when the other 4 claims are false?

#2. There is supposed to be an event called ”the Storm”,  in which the “Deep State” is overthrown by Trump with the US military,  leading to mass arrests,  imprisonments in Guantanamo Bay,  military tribunals,  and mass executions.  In its most extreme form,  the secret executions have already begun.  This claim,  too,  has been around since the beginning of the Qanon cult.  However,  not much has been said about this claim since Trump’s November election loss,  to the best of my knowledge.

Again,  this one was typically mentioned only by the true believers,  and not much at all by the pandering politicians.

Update 1-23-21 Trump is out of the presidency,  and is headed for a Senate impeachment trial sometime after Feb 8.  The military is demonstrably loyal per their oaths to the Constitution,  and so to their new commander-in-chief,  President Joseph Biden,  per the inauguration on the 20th.  There was no "Storm".  There will be no "Storm".  That claim is demonstrably false.  

#3. The SARS-CoV-2/Covid-19 pandemic is an overblown hoax;  the disease really being only an ordinary influenza,  with medical entities paid by the government (the “Deep State”) to inflate disease and death figures.  Extreme forms make false claims about the purpose or safety of the Covid-19 vaccines.  Another common corollary is that wearing a mask to slow disease spread is somehow unAmerican,  or an infringement on liberty.  These claims date to 2019,  right after the disease first appeared in the US.

Both true believers,  and pandering politicians,  make this claim.  This false belief and the irresponsible behavior it engenders,  is why Trump rallies and parties have been superspreader events.  That is not to say that holiday gatherings and people gathered in bars are not also superspreader events,  because they are.

Update 1-23-21 stats say 500,000 dead by February,  which is substantially larger than those we lost during WW2.  This disease is on track to exceed the toll of the 1918 pandemic in a shorter period of time (675,000 dead in 2 years).  The claim is demonstrably false on the face of it.

#4. The November 2020 election was a ”win” for Trump,  stolen from him by massive election fraud.  Despite the lawsuit record of 60+ lawsuits thrown out by courts for a total lack of any credible evidence,  this belief persists very strongly!  It is the primary incitement motivation for the attempted insurrection at the Capitol on January 6th.  This is a very dangerous belief!

This is a very fervent belief among Qanon true believers,  and also among the many who believe only part of the Qanon claims,  and it has been widely disseminated by many Republican politicians,  who pander to the believers among their constituents.  This falsehood is the basis for the GOP Representatives and Senators who objected to the electoral vote tallies from the swing states.

Update 1-23-21 this claim was demonstrably false,  and that was known before the insurrection on the 6th!  The 60-some court cases thrown out for lack of credible evidence are rather conclusive,  not to mention all the election officials' certifications regardless of their party affiliations,  and ex-AG Barr's statement about there having been no massive fraud,  despite his prior unflinching support of Mr. Trump.  

#5. The mainstream media are “fake news”,  being controlled by the “Deep State”,  and lying to the public for them.  We have heard from Mr. Trump’s own mouth the epithet “fake news” since his original run for office.  He may,  in fact,  be where the Qanon community got this phrase,  and incorporated it into their ”Deep State controls everything” falsehood. 

This one is quoted by true Q believers,  and by the Trump supporters who do not necessarily subscribe to all the claims,  and until recently by some of the pandering politicians.  It’s not really a screening tool.  It may actually be a corollary to claim 1,  but it does predate that claim.

Update 1-23-21 events through the inauguration have unfolded exactly as reported by the supposedly-"fake news" "mainstream media",  and not at all in accordance with the Qanon claims.  Proof enough that the "mainstream media" are not "fake news" at all.  This is quite obviously a true statement when you understand that "mainstream media" means the 5 broadcast TV news outlets and their websites,  not the bullshit seen on cable TV,  or internet social media,  or heard on talk radio.  


Now you know why some folks believe strange stuff politically,  and behave the way that they do.  And you also now know how to tell who they are.  And why the very serious risk to democracy continues as long as this leader cult’s false belief system persists.  

I do think we have to do something about some of the falsehoods that spread all across the internet,  specifically those that could incite riots or worse.  Especially those that are already revealed to have caused violence. 

But we have to be very careful how exactly we do that.  The elements are (1) falsehood,  and (2) dangerous to the public safety.  It has to be both.  This is exactly like it being illegal in all 50 states to yell “fire” in a crowded theater,  when there is none.  People could be hurt or killed by that.  False plus dangerous.  See?

These many internet communication services,  big or small,  are all owned and operated by people.  Those people seem to be completely un-responsible for the damages done (or risked) by any lies told on their services.  So,  such are unpoliced. 

I suggest we make those owners and operators responsible for the damages risked or done by lies told on their various services.  Personally responsible. With big fines that their organizations cannot pay for them.  Jail time if egregious-enough a case.

It’ll take an example or two before the word gets out that we-the-people are serious about this.  But once the word does get out,  these owners and operators will police their own services for dangerous content.  And the reach of violence-inspiring conspiracy theories like Qanon will be greatly reduced.

Many will object to this,  on the basis of “restricting free speech”.  But my counter argument is that NO right is absolute!  All rights have common sense limits! 

·        My right to swing my fist ends BEFORE I strike another.  So does yours. 

·        My right to carry and use a gun ends BEFORE I shoot somebody else,  except in self defense,  and only as a last resort.  So does yours. 

·        My right to free speech does NOT include yelling “fire” in a crowded theater when there is none.  Neither does yours. 

·        Etc.

And THAT is my take on it!


Closely-related articles on this site include the following list.  Use the navigation tool on the left to find them quickly.  Click on the year,  then the month,  then the title (if necessary). 

1-1-21          Observations About the Mainstream Media,  And Much More

12-18-20      Q As A Threat to the US

2-13-20        Beware of Leader Cults

Update 1-17-2021:  add "Sometimes You Simply Must Do What Is Right"  published 1-17-2021.