Sunday, February 28, 2021

Deregulation always benefits -- somebody

           Class, who can tell me what the Telecommunications Act of 1996 did to radio?

            I teach a college media class, so my students know. But I doubt a percent of a percent of Americans does.

            Spawned in a laboratory of a Republican Congress but given the electric jolt of life by Bill Clinton's pen, the law lifted limits on ownership of radio stations.

            It resulted in behemoths like Clear Channel (now named iHeart Media) and Cumulus gathering up stations like so many truffles.

            Today iHeart Media owns 855 stations. Cumulus has 445.

            In other words, deregulation fed radio to the hogs.

            It resulted in massive monopolies, homogenization, the decimation of broadcasting jobs, and the loss of the local nature of radio with programming piped in from afar.

            That piece of free-market folly came to mind as Texans endured the frozen fruits of electric deregulation.

            First the blackouts. Then crippled water systems. Now unconscionable electric bills. Oh, and the excuses.

            There really is no excuse -- not even with a near-unprecedented freeze in Texas. A similar event happened in 2011, with the requisite mumble-fest about it not happening again.

            However, what came to mind had nothing to do with once-every-decade winter calamities. It had to do with every-month electric bills in Texas.

            A Wall Street Journal analysis finds that in 20-plus years of deregulated power, Texas customers paid $28 billion more than they would have in states with regulated electricity.

            As one who resided in Texas and moved to a regulated market, I can affirm it. When I got my first power bill in Colorado, I had to rub my eyes. At first it looked like what I experienced in Texas, a sizable August bill. Unbelievably to me, what I assumed was my bill for electricity alone was actually for electricity AND natural gas.

            Compared to my Texas energy bills, one for electricity, one for natural gas, I was getting natural gas for free.

            Few who experienced deregulation in Texas could claim it saved them money or that the system was easy to understand and compare plans. The reason is clear. The breaking up of regulated utilities simply resulted in a few behemoths, aka monopolies, cornering the market.

            And so, class: Deregulation equals monopolies. Monopolies don't benefit consumers. But they do benefit – somebody.

            We know those somebodies to be investors, boards of directors, CEOs, corporate consumers.

            That's how deregulation works. That's how it always works. Deregulation awards the big and penalizes the small. It awards sameness and penalizes difference.

            The power of deregulation is just something in which certain factions want to believe. Facts be damned.

            Like tax cuts paying for themselves.

            Like climate change being a hoax.

            Like COVID-19 being overblown.

            Like Donald Trump being a visionary, not a grifter.

            Like calling NPR and network news and print newspapers fake news.

            Like the free market being our savior, no matter the task.

            Deregulation saves nothing, particularly when dealing with the most crucial of human needs – air, power, water, medical care.

            It's one thing to deregulate airlines as was done in 1978. Not everyone flies. But everyone needs electricity and water. Everyone needs health care and life-saving drugs.

            The thing is that often deregulation and privatization aren't even done for the reasons purported – to do the job better at less cost to taxpayers.

            Back in the previous decade, under the Rick Perry regime, Texas privatized mental health services. I sought to find out how much this was saving the taxpayers, and to what end. The answers: Private bidders weren't expected to outperform state services, cost-wise. The privatization was the thing.

            This is called putting the cart before the horse, or in the case of deregulation, the truffles before the swine.

            Why? Because the ideologues in charge believe in all of these things, especially for their pals.

            Back to radio and deregulation: The punch line about the battlefield spoils gained by media giants is that with ad revenue shrinking and having over-extended itself, iHeart Media sought the government's shelter in obtaining Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Hmm. Just like business genius Donald Trump.

            Who will protect Texans whose electric service went to the hogs?

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Governing? Or deflecting it down the fairway?

           It seems we need another economic indicator to gauge successful governing.

            Here we obsessively focus on the CPI, the GNP, the GDP, when we should be tracking LE – life expectancy.

            Unbelievably – or too believably – Americans' life expectancy declined by a full year in the first half of 2020.

            More stunning, black Americans lost three years LE, Latinos almost two.

            It's called Making America Grim Again.

            Put a cork in all that blather about stock market gains. If Americans are dying at the highest rate since the 1940s, that's bad governing.

            As we slide past a horrific marker -- 500,000 Americans dead from COVID-19 -- we hear in the course of defending the last regime, "There's nothing we coulda done about it."

            Medical journal Lancet begs to differ. Its analysis finds that the last regime "caused tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths" with its antipathy toward science and an attitude toward the pandemic which ranged from half-hearted to flat-out mocking.

            That hands-thrown-in-the-air response to all the suffering should feel familiar to Texas residents who spent a week literally trying to stay alive.

            In response to their cries: a symphony of deflection from Republican office-holders. Who knew Alexandria Ocasio Cortez controlled the Texas grid?

            After a week of no water, who's with Rick Perry on his sword-in-the-sand call against a federal role in making sure things like this never happen again?

            The term is "public servant." Who meets the criteria these days? Well, Beto O'Rourke and Kacey Musgraves are civilians, but they have done more to ease the suffering than many Texas elected leaders. Et tu, Ted?

            By the way, AOC just raised $3 million for Texans, and she doesn't even represent them.

            The clear difference is that she acts on her concern about her fellow human beings when too many Republican leaders care mainly about their brand, the Trump brand.

            What did Ted Cruz come to Washington to do, anyway? To make public schools, highways, water systems, parks systems and international relations better? No, he came to blast away at and disable government.

            He came mainly to offer himself as the face and voice of a culture war.

            Little did he expect that someone – Donald Trump -- would employ destructive language even better and ace him out in his quest to reach Republican Valhalla.

            But of course, little of what Trump said or did could be translated to governing, not to managing a pandemic or addressing just about any other challenge of governing.            

            Posturing is not governing. Governing is doing. Governing is leading.

            Has anybody seen what Joe Biden has been doing? Just about everything imaginable to get this nation out of its hole, in addition to helping victims of the great freeze-out.

            The administration's daily White House briefings have been the best thing since FDR beamed his voice into America's living rooms. The message: We are not just talking. We are acting.

            What was Trump doing in the last month of his presidency? Oh, yes: He was promoting the Big Lie about an election he lost bigly, and cradling his nine-iron.

           As he lied, people died, observed the Lancet authors in their denunciation of him, Trump "exploited low- and middle-income white people's anger over their deteriorating life prospects to mobilize racial animus and xenophobia and enlist their support for policies that benefit high-income people ad corporations and threaten health."

            Those people never imagined that "deteriorating life prospects" would mean some would die from a virus once derided as a hoax, or thousands would beg for drinking water in a state where a go-it-alone gospel left them dangling like icicles on a ceiling fan.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Wanted: jurors who aren't accomplices

            Someday, under an actual oath, before an actual jury, he'll face actual questions to explain what he actually did.

            One from me:

            Mr. Ex-President, when you told the mob, "I'll be right there with you," why weren't you?

            Forget your baseball bat? Body armor two sizes too small?

            Along with a vast swath of Americans, I look forward to the day when Donald Trump appears before a real, lawful, sworn-in tribunal, and not a jury of his accomplices.

            Considering the high bar to convict via impeachment, the fact that the man came 10 votes short of being rubbed out as a political figure is a stunning statement.

            Call it acquittal, sure, but as Mitch McConnell says, in this matter it doesn't really matter that Trump did it, which he did.

            Summoned mob. Assembled mob. Lit match.

            For Liz Cheney to be the one censured -- oh, Mama.

            The night of Day 1, I happened upon a documentary of this sort of justice, just not set in this century.

            On trial were the two men who killed 14-year-old Emmett Till, only to be acquitted by a jury of their Mississippi peers.

            In grainy black and white, with a stone-faced, all-white jury, impaneled before a bleached audience, no one could assume any other result.

            Observing this with today's events in mind, I could assign names to all: Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Mitch McConnell, Tommy Tuberville, Mike Lee, so on.

            In the 1955 footage from the sweltering courtroom you could make out the kind of crowd expecting the very result they got from a stacked deck. It made me think of some other players in our national drama.

            There in white shirt-sleeves – was that Kevin McCarthy? Why, yes. There, Louie Gohmert; John Carter; Paul Gosar; Mo Brooks -- all good ol' boys devoted to something other than justice.

            Emmett Till didn't have a chance when a towns-woman accused him of looking at her lustily.

            Her husband and another assailant took him in the night and battered him beyond recognition, shooting him for good measure.

            Indeed, when found in the Tallahatchie River, the boy's face was gone.

            Did I say Trump justice? Though evidence was as plentiful as motive, the Emmett Till jury relied on a technicality to get on down the road.

            The victim was so disfigured, ruled the jury, who could be sure it was him?

            And anyway, like the 43 Republican hold-outs in today's Senate, these jurors weren't interested in litigating the facts. They were interested in ruling for their kind.

            So here we are in 2021, and that imperative has prevailed on Trump's behalf, as with all that stirs today's GOP.

            The great poser for those who love their guns more than their country, for those who can recite Bible verses but lose their voices at the sight of rampant corruption, bloody insurrections and brown children ripped from their parents.

            He's the "pro-life" hero with barely a word to say about the deaths in a pandemic he pooh-poohed, much less those killed or maimed in his very own riot.

            What's the deal, Mr. Ex-President? Twitter got your tongue?

            It's going to be fascinating when he is ordered to swear on a Bible before an actual jury that wants the truth and nothing but.

            It's true that he did that once upon a time in another venue. Four years later a solid majority of voters deemed that among his many lies was his pledge to preserve, protect and defend the document that awarded him his post.

            If there was any doubt about this, for his final act, he incited a mob, snuck away to watch, did nothing to stop the mob, and refused to answer questions about it.

            He knew that he could trust his good ol' boys to go to bat for him.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

 

 

Sunday, February 7, 2021

A concerto of conceit -- and deceit

            It's not something commonly seen on curricula vitae, but Sarah Huckabee Sanders' chief qualification for the career move she now pursues is having been spokesperson for serial fabricator.

            Curious claim, yes. Reportedly, however, it is more than sufficient to be governor of Arkansas.

            Depending on the zip code, apparently, a good falsehood still sells.

            That doesn't mean the press has to sell out on these matters. It should call a lie what it is.

            Calling a lie by its real name apparently was a problem back in 2017. I recall early that year a panel discussion among journalists, the subject of which now seems spectacularly quaint:

            How to report Trump's dismemberment of the truth? Should reporters call it lying or something else? Should Kellyanne Conway's newly christened "alternate facts" suffice?

            The general sentiment of the panel, wanting to be above the fray and charitable to the new leader of the free world, seemed to be in sync with the editor of the Wall Street Journal. He said reporters should find words other than "lies" though they knew that's exactly what was coming out of Trump's mouth.

            Let us now say a large segment of the industry is so over that.

            Consider the recent exhaustive report by The New York Times on Trump's effort to overturn the 2020 election. In 8,488 words, the account uses "lie" 36 times.

            As in: "a lie Trump had been grooming for years."

            As in this from the Washington Post: "Trump's lie that the election was stolen has cost $519 million (and counting)."

            And not just a spur-of-the-moment claim: Per the Times investigation, "stolen election" was a pretext concocted long before Trump came up with a tale he could freshen sufficiently so that his faithful would don horns and ram Capitol doors.

            The thing about "Stop the steal" is that it didn't emerge as a thought bubble on election night when Trump suddenly came to believe he'd been robbed.

            He telegraphed his intentions -- to refuse to acknowledge his defeat -- many times before November.

            When American voters spoke, resoundingly rejecting him, the Times reports, "a highly organized campaign stepped into the breach to turn his demagogic fury into a movement of its own, reminding key lawmakers at key times of the cost of denying the will of the president and his followers."

            In other words, when all those Republicans in Congress voted to contest the electoral vote, they were doing it under duress. They were poultry in a storm.

            Then came the Jan. 6 rally and the "Save America March" which barged its way into a select group including 9/11 and Pearl Harbor forever to be classified among the darkest moments in American history.

            Wrote the Times reporters, "For Trump, the rally was to be the percussion line in the symphony of subversion he was composing from the Oval Office" when he was browbeating officials in swing states to negate the verdict of their citizens.

            A symphony of subversion. A concerto of conceit. Deafening deceit. Signing off with one tremendous, stupendous, very big lie.

            People died because of this lie, but that's nothing new. The "new" is a president who lied gratuitously, the sycophants around him who enabled his behavior, and the cult that followed unquestioningly.

            People died in this pandemic and will die in the months to come because he hid the truth and wouldn't face up to the reality of it all, including basic prevention.


            Google "Trump lied, people died" and you'll get 112,000,000 hits. That's called having the wrong kind of previous occupation on your resume.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

One-way ticket for a super weasel

            It all depends on which side you're on.

            Historian Michael Beschloss' choice is clear on the insurrection Donald Trump incited.

            "Did we treat Jefferson Davis as some honored citizen?" he asked on MSNBC. "No. He was in disgrace, and he was punished."

            A whole bunch of historians have chosen that side.

            Eight hundred and seventy-eight of them, including Pulitzer-winners Garry Wills, Ron Chernow, Jon Meacham and Stacy Schiff, signed a joint letter calling Trump "a clear and present danger to American democracy" and saying he shouldn't be allowed to run for office again.

            Unless you are using the QAnon Service App in the pandemic, this should be a no-brainer.

            However, if possible, for a moment set aside the impeachment of now -- the images of terrorists bashing in Capitol windows and spidering up its walls with "Trump" banners -- and know this:

            Trump should have been forever exiled in Year Three of his presidency. He tried to extort Ukraine with our defense dollars to knee-cap the man who would cut him down to size in 2020.

            It wasn't a "perfect phone call," not a moment's whim. It was a months-long plot that blew up in his scorched-caramel face.

            Then again, this:

             He'd have been gone by Year Two had he not exerted all of his super-weasel powers to evade accountability in Robert Mueller's Russia probe.

            Andrew Weissmann, one of Mueller's top lieutenants, makes that case in his book, "Where Law Ends," about the special counsel's investigation and Trump's efforts to obstruct justice when Russia – with Trump's clear blessing because, heck, it aided him – sabotaged our democracy.

            Weissmann writes, "We were attacked, repeatedly, and in a way that is as pernicious as anything we faced in World War II or on 9/11."

            If you're counting, that's one presidency, two concerted attacks on our country on Donald Trump's behalf.

            Russian operatives did far more than hack emails from the Democratic National Committee. They nosed into state elections systems. They engaged in voter suppression by using social media for deep-data profiling of voters.

            Played the patsy by Vladimir Putin, Trump did nothing about any of this, much as when on 1/6 Trump scurried off to the White House to tune in to what his red-capped windup goons did at the Capitol.

            Robert Mueller told Congress the Russians weren't through. And what do you know? They had just begun.

            Trump obstructed the Mueller probe at every turn – firing the FBI director for not kowtowing to him, intimidating Justice Department officials and ordering the White House counsel to fire Mueller. He must have had a lot to hide.

             "A brazen effort to undermine the rule of law," Weissmann calls it.

            Brazen. What an understatement.

            Trump's effort to evade accountability was abetted by the whitewash of the Mueller report by Attorney General William Barr which allowed Republicans to say Trump had been "cleared."

            In fact, Mueller cited and Weissmann affirms a handful of acts for which Trump could be indicted, but which Justice Department policy prevented Mueller from pursuing.

            Maybe those indictments are yet to come.

            Possibly most egregious was the bartering of Trump's pardon power when associates like Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Mike Flynn were being convicted for varied crimes, including lying to federal prosecutors.

            Now they've been let off the hook by he who thus far has skated from accountability.

            The title of Weissmann's book comes from John Locke: "Where-ever law ends, tyranny begins" -- words displayed at the very Justice Department Barr defiled by playing Trump's toady.

            The historians are right. Trump should never be in public office again. He doesn't care about the law. He cares only about himself and bolstering his cult.

            Let him establish his own personal Guyana where he is king, Kool-Aid at the ready.

            Let's then resume a democratic republic, a more perfect union where the law applies to all of us.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Conned by you-know-Q

            "The fact is we won the election. We won it big."

            Believe that? Then believe this: On Inauguration Day, with members of Congress, former presidents and spouses assembled and Joe Biden about to be sworn in, Donald Trump arose from the sandstone, had all executed, and took survivors for sno-cones.

            Or: Refusing to concede -- as he vowed he would never do – Trump stood his ground and pardoned all the goons who bravely risked all that broken glass to ransack the Capitol.

            Since none of these things happened, not A, B or C, it means that QAnon, which expected the executions, and the Proud Boys, who expected the pardons, can join the rest of us who know we were conned by you-know-Q.

            Those who still don't believe they were conned will say that Donald Trump never pretended to be Q, the messiah of a sect of people whose brains had turned to bat guano.

            No, Trump just patronized and profited from the believers, which is what con men do. Or what's a Jim Jones for?

            Listen to the dis-delusioned, as the BBC reported in these online comments from QAnon believers:

            "It is done and we were played."

            "I want to throw up. I'm so sick of the disinformation and false hope."

            Another word for that is "lies."

            Listen to Proud Boys' morning-after-inauguration online confessions courtesy of the New York Times.

            Trump's response to the assault on the Capitol was "very weak and flaccid," and he proved he was "not the same guy that ran in 2015."

            Good point. The tough guy didn't even accompany his precious mob on its march to the Capitol as he said he would.

            "Trump will go down as a total failure," said another of the Boys in the flock.

            "Total" is a strong word. Let's say he's been a success in harvesting dollars for his purposes.

            Back in 2016 I remember a guy saying he'd vote for the man because Trump could finance his own campaign.

            I wonder what the guy said when it was revealed that Trump is $421 million in debt, or that Trump has been shaking down supporters for funds ostensibly to support his challenge to the 2020 results.

            The fine print on the appeal for the $495 million raised is that only a sliver of the money went to the election challenge. The lion's share goes to a PAC formed by Trump to do mostly what he wishes.

            Yep. It was all a con – like "drain the swamp." Trump not only made Washington a greater haven for influence peddlers, he helped pump dollars into his properties.

            And look at one of his last actions as president: Revoking the five-year ban on lobbying by administration staffers he had established at the start of his presidency, along with a lifetime prohibition on their lobbying for foreign governments.

            The last thing Trump wanted was clean or ethical government. He wanted power, allegiance and the riches attendant.

            Trump, naturally, talks about returning as America's savior in 2024. If he's lost QAnon and the Proud Boys, however, that's starting out in a hole.

            Trump's disgraceful fall sadly calls into question the future of QAnon, described by one news report as intent on crushing a massive ring run by Satan-worshipping Democrats "devoted to the abduction, trafficking, torture, sexual abuse and cannibalization of children."

            Combatting this seems like a modest cause for a former president.

            Recall that O.J. Simpson vowed to search the ends of the earth to find the killer of his former wife and her friend. Maybe on some Florida tee box, he and Trump can compare strategies.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Camo or no, traitors clearly visible

            Apparently I have extra-keen perceptual powers.

            Analyzing an Associated Press photo from last week of armed protesters stalking the Kentucky statehouse, I clearly made them out through their camouflage.

            The camo might have fooled any deer in the area, but surely not anyone upright on two legs.

            All one had to do was see how the contours of background foliage did not keep pace with the warriors' XXXL bellies.

            They came armed to add menace to their outrage that Mitch McConnell voted to affirm Joe Biden's election – something McConnell did because that's what the Electoral College did.

            See? Our enemy is clearly visible – the enemy of the system that is ours.

            Enemies like Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Louie Gohmert, and of course the con man they would make king.

            Cruz and Hawley owe an apology to a lot of Republicans. Their comments on the Capitol floor imply that as a whole they are stupid and un-American.

            Indeed, based on the comments of the two insurrectionists, a whole lot of Republicans wear the horns of anti-democratic hysteria.

            That's just wrong. For many the horns fit. But what about the rest?

            Hawley: "74 million Americans are not going to be told that their voices don't matter." That implies that all who voted for Trump reject the election results.

            No they don't. Most Republicans can do simple math. The math says Joe Biden won by 7 million votes.

            They could have overturned the Electoral College results in Georgia – and lost.

            They could have overturned Pennsylvania – and lost.

             Arizona. Lost. Michigan. Lost. Wisconsin. Lost.

            They lost. They know it. They know Trump lied when he pronounced, "We won this election," just as he lied every time he has sidled up to a mic as president.

            If they didn't or wouldn't believe they lost, 60-plus court cases hence, and with 50 states certifying, they knew the score.

            That leaves the others – the enemy – they who reject reality, like our twice-impeached president and members of the Sedition Caucus.

            As Trump moves on, he leaves us with fanatics in red caps and camo openly speaking of kidnappings and assassinations.

            He leaves us with Qanon supporters, white nationalists or those simply off their noodles serving racist-safe districts in Congress. Gerrymandering will assure that we have more. How about it, Texas, Arizona?

            We've now seen evidence that via districts drawn to certain specifications one can be elected to Congress or the statehouse simply by virtue of brandishing an assault rifle on video.

            That doesn't make them representative of most of us, not of America, not of Republicans in general; no, they are enemies of us.

            If you voted for Trump, no assumptions here: Are you one of us, we who support a constitutional republic and can do math, or are you the enemy, wholly in support of an autocracy?

            Despite what Cruz and Hawley imply, a lot fewer Americans believe in the Big Lie about the 2021 election. A lot more believe in our system, and that the election was as fair as it could be.

            Ted Cruz said on the Senate floor that our democracy is in crisis. That is only because of a serial liar and his serial enablers. Otherwise, we just had an election and some people are violently refusing to accept the results, with Cruz and Co.'s tacit approval.

            Now we brace for acts of insurrection to follow through on those insurrectionist acts Trump and his sycophantic caddies in Congress attempted.

            We should all worry about public safety. However, it's most likely that armed traitors in red caps or camo will give us a new slang term for how to end it all: suicide by Trump.

            If a resounding majority had not voted for safe and sound leadership, our nation would be set to experience that very end.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.