The Social Dilemma

“You’re nearly a real treat
All tight lips and cold feet
And do you feel abused?
You got to stem the evil tide
And keep it all on the inside.” — Roger Waters

Occasionally, the world of sports gives us an interesting parallel to the real world. After all, we are talking big bucks here. Any time you have a business that makes billions with a capital B you are talking big business. What people do and what people say matters. Kevin Mather learned that lesson the hard way this past week.

Mather was the president/CEO of the Seattle Mariners. The emphasis is on the word was. He resigned this past week after public pressure from fans, the baseball community, and the organization itself. This followed some unfortunate comments that were shared with the Rotary Club. It was a bizarre situation since it wasn’t in a press conference setting. He shared these thoughts with no pressure on him. He volunteered if you will.

Going into the comments themselves gets us a little too far into the weeds for those that don’t follow baseball much. He said what people know to be true out loud for everyone to hear. Those out loud parts weren’t supposed to be out loud. What brought the story out of the baseball world and into regular society were his comments about certain players and their ability to speak English. Apparently, a multi 100 million per year company resented paying an interpreter $75,000 a year for one of their pitchers turned coach.

The opinions are not the story for me. The story for me is always the reaction. The resignation was predictable and probably the only place this story could go. Yet, it was the commentary from those observing outside the organization that seemed most fascinating. No one was really defending his rights to free speech. At least that part was refreshing.

The debate was over what mistake was actually made. Some argued that believing these things was fine, but uttering them out loud was the huge blunder. Others pointed out that believing these things in the first place is what is most horrifying. There is a lot to unpack here as we dive into the so-called maze of political correctness and cancel culture.

The odd thing about political correctness is that it implies that people know what polite society deems acceptable and what polite society deems out of bounds. It’s odd because if I know that people don’t want to hear my opinions on issue X then wouldn’t I also know that my opinions on issue X were wrong? In other words, if stating an opinion makes me sound like a bigot then wouldn’t I be a bigot whether I voiced that opinion out loud or not?

Therefore, if we are to tie a bow around the Mather situation, the question comes down to whether it is worse that he said those things or worse that he actually believes them? Naturally, the Mariners threw out one of those obligatory “the opinions expressed by Mr. Mather do not reflect….” but is that really the case? How can you have a CEO/President that has wildly different views than everyone working under him or her?

I’ve maintained throughout most of these posts that if cancel culture is in fact a thing, it is certainly not a new thing. Public shaming and ostracization is a common tactic that has been employed for hundreds if not thousands of years. The only shift that occurs is what exactly you get shamed or ostracized for. Certainly, the societal goal (I don’t think this has ever really been about governments or official laws) is to help everyone understand what is in bounds and what is out of bounds.

The trouble has always been that we don’t necessarily learn the lesson. Some of us use these opportunities to grow and change for the better. Certainly, I can attest to the fact that my attitudes about these issues and others has changed over the years. Whether that’s an improvement is certainly open to everyone’s individual interpretation. Still, we can say without hesitation that a lot of people still carry those beliefs. They have just learned not to say them out loud.

That brings us back to the original question. Is it worse to say those things out loud or is it worse to believe them in the first place? Can you be a good person and believe horrible things? I think it’s worse to believe horrible things, but what do we do with that? It’s impossible to change everyone’s mind, but I think we have to try.

One thing we can do is punish those in public life that believe these things by withdrawing our support. We can also withdraw our support from those that are willing to feed that beast even if they don’t believe it. At the end of the day, there really is no different between a racist, sexist, homophobe, or xenophobe and someone that isn’t but makes their bones courting their support. Ultimately, isolation is probably the best path forward for those that believe horrible things. Critics can call it cancel culture if they want, but it has been a part of our culture forever and a day.

Oh the Humanity

“I’m only human
Of flesh and blood I’m made
Born to make mistakes.” — Philip Oakley

Conservatism and Liberalism is one thing. We can certainly debate the effectiveness and merits of ideology for years. What I’m looking for is some basic humanity. I don’t ask a lot of my elected officials, but that is the bare minimum of my expectation. When something goes wrong you acknowledge it and do the best you can to fix it.

Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick failed this test in a big way when he was commenting about the power situation. Before I address the full depravity of these comments I should lay the groundwork first, so that everyone outside of Texas has a full idea of what is going down.

Everyone is more than aware of the power failures last week. The death toll is up to 80 as some people literally froze to death in their homes or had other health issues related to not having power for as many as five days at a time. In most cases, those homes also did not have running water and even the ones that did could not consume that water without boiling it first.

Most people that read the news or watch the news know that much. What they may not know are some of the other effects of deregulation. When the power grid was deregulated it turned into the wild west in terms of energy. For years, we had a choice between HL&P and HL&P. If we had a wild march hare we could even go with HL&P. You get the idea.

Suddenly, dozens of companies cropped up with their own plans and charging their own rates. Of course, these companies didn’t actually supply the energy. They just sold it. Competition is usually a good thing until it isn’t. One of the tricks these companies used was the idea of the floating rate. When their rate went down then your rate went down. That was appealing to a lot of people. Of course, over the past month the reverse has happened.

So imagine your surprise if you were one of those people that has a floating rate and you see a bill that maybe was normally between 60 and 100 bucks in a month turn into 500 or 1000 dollars. This is true for many families that were doing good to afford the power when they were paying 100. Also keep in mind that these folks are paying a 1000 dollar bill for power they could not get last week when they needed it. It would be like the movie theatre fumbling through the film, stopping midway through, and then demanding 100 bucks as you walked out the door.

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick told Texans that should have “read the fine print” when they were signing up for their electricity. That’s so on brand. That seems to be an equivalent response to anyone that criticizes people in California for living next to a fault line or poking fun at people that live at or below sea level following a hurricane.

Some people might say that and many others might be thinking it, but we expect more out of our elected officials. Saying something like this adds insult to injury and generally falls under the category of not helpful. Certainly, as someone living in Texas, I could offer up bits of advice for people if they ever deal with this again. We keep a hurricane kit that has things we can use if we lose power or suddenly cannot use our water.

Yet, anyone with a heart knows those words will fall on deaf ears right now. Most people right now want to hear two things. They want to hear that you understand that you are going through tough times. They also want to know that you are going to be there to try to fix the situation. Most of us are adult enough to know that some situations can’t be fixed completely. Consumers make mistakes all the time that can’t completely be rectified and probably shouldn’t be.

We expect some humanity along the way. Of course, this is the same guy that said that our parents would be willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of the economy during Covid. I love it when politicians speak for me. I don’t want myself or my parents to be sacrificed for anything. I also certainly didn’t ask the power grid to be deregulated or the energy sector to turn into the wild west. However, we see what Patrick values.

The General Will

“On our first trip I tried so hard to rearrange your mind
But after a while I realized you were disarranging mine.” –Mick Jagger/Keith Richards

Anyone that studies political science at all eventually must take a course or two in political philosophy. One of the more fascinating concepts that came out of that was Jean Jacque Rousseau’s “general will.” The idea behind the general will is that it would govern whatever representatives do on behalf of the people. Apparently, he was under the impression that there were certain ideas and principles that the vast majority of the population agreed with.

This was all part of his book “The Social Contract” which was one of the inspirations for the Declaration of Independence and constitution. The concept of a general will has always been fascinating to me. Society seems to be so divided that it’s hard to imagine many things that we would all agree on.

Of course, I’m not really sure how divided we really are. There are market forces on both sides of the political spectrum that make a whole lot of hay by subdividing us into stratified groups. The proof (if you need any) is to look at how moderates are labeled by both sides. It’s almost become a dirty word to be labeled reasonable.

The trick behind the general will is to focus on the first word. One of the ways that partisan hacks get us is they focus on the minutia. For instance, Tucker Carlson honed in on Merrick Garland’s confirmation hearing testimony where he said some of the insurrectionists at the Capital were white supremacists. This is a documented fact. Some of them openly admitted to being white supremacists. Yet, he got into a diatribe about how Garland called all of the people that stormed the capital white supremacists.

So, then the back and forth machine gets moving. We go into a huge debate over what percentage of the crowd are racist. Then, we extrapolate that to the overall population and we are getting into an argument over exactly who is deplorable and who isn’t.

A few days (and a whole news cycle) later we are no closer to anything of substance than we were before. The question for Garland is what he thinks should be done about those who participated. Is he going to continue to pursue those that haven’t been charged yet? What kind of resources will he allocate to this end? Will he stop at just those that actually participated in the physical attack or will he go after those in the past administration that helped plan it? Whether a quarter, half, or most of those that stormed the capital were racists is immaterial to any of those questions.

In a similar way, the debate over government involvement in the economy and our lives is a necessary one, but we often skip a few steps. If you asked most people, they would agree that there should be some government regulation of the economy. I often call these public and private goods. Public goods are those goods either provided by the state or heavily regulated. Private goods are considerably freer and less prone to regulation.

Obviously, the disagreement comes in the specifics. The way I interpret the general will is that the vast majority of people agree on general principles. There are a few that think the government should control nothing. There are a few that think the government should control everything. We leave those people in the wilderness and let the adults make grown up decisions.

The term Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative, progressive and reactionary are rarely helpful. The definition of each one is fluid and no one fits perfectly into any box. Instead of arguing over generic points of view, it is much more productive to find places of agreement. For instance, both parties want infrastructure updates and expansion. Let’s do it.

When we get together with friends we don’t dwell on those things we disagree on. What is the fun in that? We talk about fun times we’ve had and try to do things we all enjoy doing. Excessive arguing over issues we know we don’t agree on is only productive for those that want to divide. They make plenty of money and garner undue power by doing that.

Hidden Costs

“As a song in search of a voice that is silent
And the one God will make for your day.” — Neil Diamond

Yesterday, the nation hit a milestone no one thought possible a year ago. We hit 500,000 deaths due to the novel corona virus. Naturally, that number will be scrutinized by some. Some deny the severity of the virus while others think the number is far too low. This isn’t really about that.

The direct human costs are in your face. It is those other costs that end up taking a toll. It might be that lost graduation or senior prom. It could be a vacation that had to be cancelled or youth sports events that had to be postponed or cancelled outright. All of us lost events where we could visit with extended family. The list goes on and on.

The one that occurs to me off and on is the absence of mass. Like anything else, it sometimes fades in and out depending on the other crises we might be dealing with at the time. We get into habits and staying home on Sunday has become a new norm. However, it hit me like a ton of bricks this past week for what will become an obvious reason.

Today’s post takes a bit of a different direction. Hopefully, it provides those that don’t know me so well with a window to my soul. Better yet, it affords all of us the opportunity to take a break from bashing others. As many of you know, I am a fairly devout Catholic. It’s hard to call yourself that when you’ve missed mass for as long as we have. I can only hope God understands.

There have been any number of moments in my life when that faith has been shaken. Usually, that has involved people. People constantly let you down. God never does. What always brings me back are the key differences between Catholicism and the other denominations. The Eucharist is obviously the main one and I could go on about that, but the other is the opportunity for introspection.

Most people know that Lent is the most important time of year for any Catholic culminating in Easter which is the most important day for any Christian. It officially begins on Ash Wednesday. That was last Wednesday. Due to the Covid and the icepocalypse we didn’t have Ash Wednesday. It was the first time that has happened in my 47 years. Missing that day is one of those jarring events that brings things back into focus.

As everyone knows, the pandemic really got in full swing around Spring Break last year. School was cancelled after that, so we got in the beginning of Lent but ended up missing Easter Sunday. Unless a miracle happens that will be the case this year as well.

Lent is the main time for introspection. One of the hard things to reconcile is watching other denominations spend so much time and energy preaching. It has always made me uncomfortable. It becomes easier to see the flaws we all have when putting yourself out there like that. It becomes that much more difficult to ignore them when someone is busting out their holier than thou.

Lent gives us the opportunity to take a step back, pray independently, and work on ourselves. Most people are familiar with the concept of giving something up for Lent. It doesn’t have to be that way. You can also add something worthwhile. It’s really about forcing self-improvement. The family has taken up walking at night. We walk maybe a mile and it gives us an opportunity to get our butt off the couch.

As independent an endeavor as Lent can be, not being able to be there on Sunday is a blow. It is one of the many hidden blows we have all had to deal with during this pandemic. One of the troubles with milestones is that it gives people the opportunity to go directly into blame mode. It’s the same thing we saw this past week with the power problem. There’s a time for blame and a time for action. In this case, there is a time for reflection.

We focus on the loss of life and the loss of jobs and or businesses. Those things are very real and obviously important. The loss of those other things are no less important even if they are hidden. It may not be life itself, but it is what makes life worth living. We live for Sunday mornings. We live for those life events we used to take for granted. We live for those rituals that seem arcane until we miss them. I missed Ash Wednesday and I can’t get it back…at least not this year.

Buzzword Bingo

“Every lad and every lassie
hanging out at the shore
looking smart and looking classy
ever learning the score.” — Donna Loren

I’m not the kind of person to spread rumors. I try to verify these things before I spread them around here. There is a letter going around Facebook that supposedly came from the Ted Cruz campaign where he is asking for money to combat the “cancel culture” and “socialists” that want to limit where he can travel to.

As you might imagine, left-wing social media folks blew up at this one. The funny thing is that is saying this letter doesn’t really exist. At least, it didn’t come from the Cruz campaign. One of the things with modern political news is that there are numerous pitfalls. People create stuff out of whole cloth that looks official enough. You could even imagine Cruz saying something like this. All effective satire is based on some kernel of truth.

However, the two terms above are terms I am sick and tired of. There are numerous sites online that will make bingo cards for you on spec. I have half a mind to make one of conservative buzzwords and phrases that we can pick off while watching someone like Cruz or networks like Fox. We should probably include the Green New Deal, AOC, the squad, and Nancy Pelosi for good measure.

The difficulty is that when you throw out terms like cancel culture and socialism you come to find that very few people actually have a handle on what they mean. They just know its something bad because the audience has been conditioned to believe they are something bad. Therefore, their definition can constantly shift to meet the coming situation.

Watch social media publicly shame Ted Cruz into returning to Texas? Yup, that’s cancel culture. Want the government to exercise more oversight on the power grid? Yup, that’s socialism. Shame has been used for over a millennia to alter behavior. Mothers have perfected it. The concept of public shame has also been around for hundreds of years.

What do these people think the stocks were all about? So, when you ask for an acceptable definition of cancel culture and you find it sounds an awful lot like public shaming. We certainly can debate individual instances and whether public shaming is warranted, but the concept of shaming has nothing to do with free speech. It has nothing to do with any socialist conspiracy to limit travel. No one told Ted Cruz that he HAD to return from Mexico. You didn’t HAVE to help your mother in the kitchen or with the laundry either.

Cancel culture if it is a thing at all is simply the notion private businesses and entities have the right to decide who they allow to hold the megaphone. That also has been happening for years, but its different now because it is the conservative voices that have been silenced. Progressives are well aware of this tactic because it has been done to them for decades. Now, the shoe is on the other foot.

This has nothing to do with socialism. It is somewhat related to political correctness, but it is more or less the simple fact that companies, universities, and platforms get to decide the limits and scope of the speech they allow to be broadcast on their networks or with their name in the background. What we are seeing is not a creation of cancel culture but simply a shift in what polite society is willing to accept.

Even that might be overblown. Donald Trump opened the door for people to feel emboldened enough to say what they are really feeling. Are we surprised there is pushback on that? The beauty of free speech is the freedom for give and take on the exchange. If Twitter bans the ex-president and that pisses you off then you are free to leave Twitter or simply voice your displeasure. If you feel bad about Cruz being publicly shamed about his trip then you are free to voice that opinion.

Nobody is infringing on your free speech. You don’t get to say your piece without any negative reaction. That happens on the left and right. Just ask the Dixie Chicks how that works out. You can throw out all of the scary sounding terms you like and you’ll fool some of the people some of the time. This is nothing new though. Just ask your mother.

The Rorschach Test

“An in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” — Paul McCartney

I usually write in the mornings. I’ve also used the line above before. I try not to do that, but there is no other line I can find that’s appropriate. I could have waited until the morning to write this as well, but inspiration hit me. It isn’t even so much that I know exactly what I want to say. It’s funny how I don’t take the advice we give to our students.

We give our students so many graphic organizers and mnemonic devices that are designed to plan out an essay almost word for word. I usually wing it. I don’t know if it comes out that way. Some people love my writing and some people hate it. That’s usually the way these things go.

I read a post on Facebook from someone I graduated high school with talk glowingly about Rush Limbaugh following his death. They came just short of calling him an American hero and I had one of those visceral reactions where I had to say something. I didn’t say anything there. It was an echo chamber where my words would have fallen on deaf ears. Plus, there was no way to say something short and pithy that would encompass it all.

Limbaugh’s death is a tragedy in the sense that any loss of human life is a tragedy. It’s a tragedy just like if someone in prison dies after a lifetime behind bars. I would never root for someone to die no matter how much I disliked him or her. I don’t know anyone personally that has reacted with glee, but I know a ton that have reacted with an absence of mourning.

One of the commenters called him a titan of journalism and a pioneer in talk radio. I’m not sure if journalism is how I would label Limbaugh and his ilk. I would classify them more as entertainers and if we are to credit him for being a pioneer in talk radio, I’m not so sure that’s a great thing. It would be like honoring the scientists that took part in the Manhattan project. Yes, nuclear weapons were a significant invention, but they may not have been a good one morally, ethically, or in any humanitarian sense.

Of course, Donald Trump felt it necessary to give Limbaugh the Medal of Freedom. He began giving those away like they were prizes on the bottom of a box of Cracker Jacks. If we grade those on the value of those that received them then they may not have been worth much more than that. I could flood this piece with dozen of hateful Limbaugh quotes showing off how racist, chauvinistic, and cruel he really was.

Yet, the governor of Florida felt it necessary to put the state flags at half mast in his honor. Honor. That’s an interesting term. I saw nothing honorable in him. I saw nothing related to journalism in him. He spread hate, bile, and misinformation for over 30 years on the airways. All of that had a dramatic effect on our society and collective psyche. It may not have single-handedly divided us, but he was certainly a lot more responsible than the last president.

Still, I will challenge anyone celebrating his death. Death is nothing to celebrate. I will also challenge anyone wanting to celebrate his life. I find nothing worth celebrating here. He was a hateful man that spread hate on the airwaves for most of our lifetimes. In the end, you get what you put in. I personally think it is sad if any significant segment of the population celebrates your death. In my mind you’re doing something wrong.

However, it is hard to deny that are a number of people celebrating his life anyway. He was their spirit animal. His words were their words. His hate was their hate. He gave them and others the courage to spew their bile for multitudes to see and hear. He beget Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, and Laura Ingraham. He also begat others on the airwaves like Glenn Beck. Maybe that’s something to celebrate for some. Just don’t count me as one of them.

It would be so nice

“Vacation, all I ever wanted
Vacation, had to get away
Vacation, meant to be spent alone.” — Belinda Carlisle

Ted Cruz has the greatest timing in the world. I vividly remember an ad released by a Republican running against Rick Perry in the primary. Her ad said, “every four years we vote for Rick Perry and in between we ask ourselves why we did it.” In this case its six years. We all know what Ted Cruz is. Even his fellow Republicans know what he is.

So, the latest “scandal” had Cruz and his family flee to Cancun during the power problem this last week in Texas. He left to take his kids down there and was going to come right back according to him. If you believe him, the idea was that his daughters (10 and 12) wanted to spend time with friends in Cancun and he was just dropping them off with his wife and then was going to come right back to be with his fellow Texans.

This is where we can look at the facts and ask ourselves how much we are really supposed to care. The facts are that his return ticket was originally for Saturday, but he suddenly reserved an earlier ticket when he was found out. What we also know is that Centerpoint announced yesterday that the rolling blackouts were coming to an end. Almost every home has power now. So, he returns after the crisis. That’s leadership.

Far be it from me to announce what we should and shouldn’t care about, but I will offer my two cents and let you decide. One of the things politicians love to do is convince people (or try to) that they are just like them. Cruz’s cover story was that the girls had school cancelled, so they decided to take a trip to Cancun. How many of us could do that? Even as a teacher with a wife that’s an engineer, we couldn’t afford to just uproot in the middle of the year and head down to Mexico. Our vacations are meticulously planned in advance and we barely afford one a year if that.

So, it’s awfully hard to convince yourself that you are just like us. Combine this with the comments from the small town mayor yesterday and that of former Governor Rick Perry who wanted us to all sacrifice in homage to deregulation and you see a common theme here. People who have no idea how most people live are trying to convince us they are in it for us. They come off sounding like Marie Antoinette and her so-called “let them eat cake.” The cruel joke is that many historians now believe that statement never happened and yet these modern day aristocrats make equally cringeworthy statements on a daily basis.

The second point that should be made is that even if we take Cruz at his word (I wouldn’t trust him if his tongue came notarized) what kind of example is he setting for his children? Every time the tough get going we leave for greener pastures? When my neighbors are struggling we should take the first red eye out of town for the nearest beach we can find.

We can take this in it together thing so far. Some people chip in and some people don’t necessarily. However, there is some solidarity with fending for yourself at the same time your neighbors are. Your power is off. Their power is off. You truly know how they feel because you also feel it.

The truest takeaway is the fact that Ted Cruz is really only it for Ted Cruz. If you go back to the last election between Cruz and O’Rourke you saw one of the criticisms that stuck was that Cruz had not really done anything for Texas. He had done plenty for Ted Cruz. He was running for president and spent most of his time as senator running for president. One imagines the same happening in 2024.

Say what you want about O’Rourke and people have. Maybe he didn’t have the experience to be a good senator. Maybe his politics on gun control was too extreme for some Texans. Maybe he was more sizzle than steak. I don’t know how much of that I agree with, but we will leave that aside for now. When this whole thing went down he was at home in El Paso pitching in as much as he could to help his neighbors. That’s what Texans do.

They don’t flee to Cancun to lie in the sun while their neighbors freeze to death. They don’t shield their kids from tough times so they can grow up as entitled brats. They don’t gaslight during a crisis. The sad thing is that in three years when his campaign for senator begins all of this likely will be forgotten. We spend every six years voting for Ted Cruz and the years in between asking ourselves why we did it. Let’s not do that again.

A Changing of the Guard

“In this present crisis, government is not the solution to the problem. Government is the problem.” — Ronald Reagan

No single quote encapsulates the last forty years of American politics than the one from Ronald Reagan above. As much as some would like to deny it, the last forty years have been dominated by Reagan and conservatism. Sure, we had eight years of Clinton, but Clinton wasn’t much more than a liberal Republican or conservative Democrat in terms of regulation.

For all of the histrionics over Barack Obama, he didn’t really govern as a liberal outside of the Affordable Care Act. Even when you consider that act, it didn’t come with a public option. It was simply further regulation of the private insurance industry. Believe me, they didn’t come away that unhappy in the bargain.

State politics have been dominated by the Republican party and the conservative movement. When you step away you might see some additional individual liberties as it pertains to marijuana use and LGTBQ rights, but those are consistent with classical conservatism. The last forty years has been the age of conservatism. It’s high time we take stock in how things are going.

Political scientists call it partisan realignments. One happened in 1932 when FDR and the Democrats not only took over the White House and Congress, but the nature of the Democratic party changed forever. We have seen the same happen since 1980. The Republicans have sometimes controlled Congress beginning in 1994, but the nature of the Republican party has definitely changed since Reagan took the White House.

Obviously, Texas has now dealt with two major crises in the past year. Colorado City mayor Tim Boyd left a huge Facebook post that served his holy Waterloo moment. It should be read in its entirety, but the nuts and bolts of it are included below for your enjoyment.

No one owes you [or] your family anything; nor is it the local government’s responsibility to support you during trying times like this!” he said. “Sink or swim it’s your choice! The City and County, along with power providers or any other service owes you NOTHING! I’m sick and tired of people looking for a damn handout.” 

Greg Abbott is certainly not this craven. He has a little more polish than that, but his reaction to this crisis and the pandemic is proof that the results are really not all that different. In one of the episodes of the Simpson’s, Ned Flanders is given a glimpse of his past. We see his mother utter the now famous line, :”We’ve tried nothing and we’re all out of ideas.” That line might as well be the mantra for the Texas Republican party.

The governor attempted to gaslight the nation by saying that the current power crisis was the fault of failed wind energy and proof that the Green New Deal would be a disaster. It was a failure of epic proportions. A state that has been utterly dominated by Republicans since the 1980s was somehow taken over by AOC and a brand of liberals in the energy sector. It would be a real knee-slapper if so many people weren’t in their homes shivering and waiting for water.

The lie was overwhelming on two levels. The first level was the common sense level. More than half of the state was without power at one point or another. This somehow was the fault of wind power. Wind and solar power accounts for about ten percent of the state’s energy even according to the governor. So, even if every bit of that energy failed (which it did not) then we would have seen a ten percent dip in energy. How does that effect over half of the state?

The truth is that wind energy hasn’t really had a dip as it has outproduced projections in the past year. Yet, conservatives have seized on this moment to pull one over on their supporters. Windmills. That’s what’s to blame. It wasn’t the fact that we are one of the few states to deregulate from the national grid. That couldn’t be it.

The second layer of this situation is the further proof that modern conservatism is incapable of managing a crisis. Abbot has had two cracks at this as governor. He’s failed miserably in both shots. He didn’t fail as spectacularly as that small town mayor. He at least says the right things about being concerned, but what exactly has he done? He has told ErDot to fix everything, but he has actually done nothing and he’s all out of ideas.

His response to the pandemic was eerily similar. He wanted to leave everything up to the local authorities but then criticized them whenever they were active in combatting the virus. Get in front or get out of the way. Meanwhile, since the early days of the virus, Texas has been at the forefront of positivity and death rates. Yay for us.

Boil it all down to one word and you can boil it down to deregulation. Let the free market determine all. The free market left us untethered to the federal energy grid. The free market dictated that the new energy grid not weatherize its infrastructure. The free market dictated that those savings went to stockholders and company profits. That’s the way the private sector works. Regulation is the concept that the private sector must do certain things and that especially true when the general public relies on those services. Regulation seems unsavory until you are on the business end of rolling blackouts.

Sadly, the worst problem is that people will forget these moments the next time Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick are on the ballot. They will forget about the lack of leadership and the sacrificing of grandma to the economic gods. They will forget about the gaslighting and finger pointing when the time calls for leadership. They will forget that four decades of deregulation have brought us to this moment. They will forget that a party has disdained government involvement to the point where those in government don’t know what the hell they are doing. Don’t forget this. Keep this memory locked away. We elect leaders to be there for us when crisis hits. We don’t want them pointing fingers at imaginary windmills. We want governors and lieutenant governors and not Don Quixote.

Real Life Interruptions

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” — John Lennon

I had naturally assumed my next piece would cover the final vote in the Senate on impeachment. I’ll get to that in due time. Last night I had a run in with local law enforcement that was equal parts scary, eye opening, and absolutely enraging. I delayed writing this so that I could collect my thoughts and come off as dispassionately as I possibly could. It will be difficult.

Our daughter went out with a friend to go skating at a local roller skating rink. I went out at nine to go pick her up. It had already been a long day as the three of us (her mother, her, and I) drove early in the morning to participate in a 5K on the beach. Yes, we are that stupid. So, her mother and I spent most of the afternoon resting.

As I walked in, the officer on duty asked me if I had seen anyone bending down and hiding behind cars and looking inside of them. I said I hadn’t and walked inside. At this point I made the only mistake I’ll own up to. I walked through an open door to go collect my child and go home. I was tired and wanted to go home. Apparently, I bypassed the front ticket counter. I was only going to be there for maybe five minutes anyway.

The same officer approached me at the back of the facility as I was trying to find my daughter. He asked me why I was hiding behind cars and looking inside of them. I obviously wasn’t. I was just there to pick up my daughter. He then grabbed me by the arm and forcibly walked me out of the premises. We walked by my daughter and her friend on the way out. We confirmed that I was there for her.

He proceeded to take my license to ostensibly look me up to get my extensive criminal record (I have none). After he confirmed that I was not a criminal and that I was there to pick up my daughter he escorted both of us to my car. Then, he pulled me around to give me a field sobriety test. I failed a rapid eye test and one of those gymnastic challenges where you are supposed to walk heel/toe on a line in 35 degree weather and a 20 MPH wind.

He refused to return my license until my wife drove the 20 minutes in the cold to come pick up my daughter. I offered to take a breathilizer and he could not accommodate that. I explained to him that I am diabetic and don’t drink (I may have an occasional beer but never more than one and I hadn’t had anything yesterday). He finally relented and let me drive home when my wife also explained to him that I normally have horrible balance. I’ve had horrible balance going back to my childhood days.

Reflecting on the night, you always try to reflect on what you could have done differently. I obviously could have gone to the ticket counter to explain to them that I was there to pick up my child. Maybe things would have happened differently. However, I can’t help but think I wasn’t the one that escalated the situation.

The officer could have asked me to walk with him outside to answer his questions. He could have simply asked me to leave and wait for my daughter to come out. There was no reason for him to put his hands on me. There was no reason to forcibly walk me out in front of my child, her friend, and numerous other witnesses. I had no committed a crime at this point. The only evidence he had was that someone said that someone was outside looking in vehicles.

It’s easy to imagine this situation turning out much worse than it was. I was wearing sweatpants and a hoodie because it was cold and we had worn those clothes to go to our race earlier. I didn’t exactly look like a captain of industry at that point. What if I had resisted when he grabbed me by the arm? What if I had raised my voice to him when he accused me of stealing? What if I didn’t look like how I look?

I come away from this situation with a lot of realizations that I knew academically and anecdotally but that I had never experienced first hand. It is so easy to have a situation go sideways through no real fault of your own. The expression goes that when you are a hammer you see every problem like a nail. The police are trained to use violent/forceful means to get things done. I understand it on some level, but a situation that could have been resolved in five minutes took over an hour.

A stone cold sober self managed to fail a field sobriety test. I had not had any medication in over eight hours or any alcohol that day. Imagine how easy it would be for others to find themselves in the same situation. Imagine how easy it would be for others to find themselves in a worse situation. I’m as easy going a guy as there is. It takes a lot to make me angry and while I was certainly annoyed and probably sounded annoyed, I was not angry.

Still, the end result was that my daughter, her friend, and countless others thought I had done something wrong. They either thought I was some pervert, or the guy trying to steal stuff out people’s cars. Maybe there was someone doing that. In wasting his time on me, the officer lost the opportunity to catch the guy in addition to embarassing me and my child uselessly.

I have always been in favor of police reform, but now I see the definite need for it. One can only imagine the extremely negative events that can happen when cops come in like their Rambo into any situation no matter what it calls for. I can definitely now empathize with people that have their lives ruined forever because of how police mishandle a situation and overreact when they don’t have to.

I’m not necessarily smart enough to know whether defunding the police is the answer or if they could be trained to handle situations differently. I do think we have to be more careful about who we give the honor of being a police officer. I would say the same thing about who we make a teacher. Once someone becomes a cop or a teacher it is increasingly difficult to move on from them because of the protections that unions and teacher associations have fought long and hard for. Most if not all of those gains are well-deserved.

I didn’t get this particular officer’s name and badge number because I want to leave well enough alone. I also don’t want him fired or even officially reprimanded necessarily. What I want is for him to understand that there was an easier way to ascertain who I was and why I was there. I want him to understand that his actions could have led to a horrible event that could have endangered my life, the lives of everyone there, and his own had I not reacted the way I did.

If a normal person had grabbed me by the arm without warning I don’t know that I would have reacted the same way. There are numerous people I know that wouldn’t have even if it was an officer. What is equally painful is realizing how many people face this kind of treatment on a regular basis. How many people live in fear of interactions like that or worse? How many people would have found themselves in jail following a sequence of events similar to mine? Like I said before, it is something I always understood academically, but until you experience it you really can’t know completely.

Psychological Differences

“We run like a river
Runs to the sea
We run like a river
To the sea.”– Adam Clayton/David Evans

Anyone that has done a cursory study of psychology has run into Erickson’s stages of development. It came after Freud’s stages and was revolutionary because it included stages for later in life. Proving his mind might have been in the gutter, Freud somehow stopped at puberty and completely ignored the crises that occur later in life.

Those in my age group are in the generativity vs. stagnation stage. We either have families and good paying jobs or we don’t. However, I don’t think that’s really the crisis behind the stage. Hollywood and creative writers do a much better job of capturing what goes on in the mind than a psychologist with a cookie cutter theory.

Time may move forward at a steady pace, but our minds do not. We move forward for years at a time without incident and then suddenly stop to dwell on the past. What would have happened if I had taken a different path? What if I would have chased a dream here or made a different decision there? Would I be the same person?

Memory is a fluid kind of thing. Events that happened 30 years ago seemingly happened yesterday in our minds. Fortunately or unfortunately, we cannot play the game of life like a choose your own adventure book. Maybe it would be better if we could dog ear those pages and choose both options just to satisfy our curiosities.

We are coming to the memories stage of the pandemic. This whole thing started nearly one year ago and when you get to a calendar year the mind starts to chronicle where it has been. For many of us, we can look at every major holiday and normal life event and list the numbers of activities and experiences we have lost forever.

Many will focus on the loss of life and health and for good reason. We can never trivialize the loss of life in any context. However, millions have lost something very meaningful even if they haven’t lost anyone close to them. They’ve lost experiences they will never get back and there is no alternate timeline where we can see what we missed.

Of course, the flip side is that if you’ve never experienced those things then you don’t know what you’re missing. Psychologists talk about stages of grief and those are well-documented and established, but most if not all of them target the loss of a loved one in our lives. What does grief look like for those experiences that we miss? Acceptance is the last stage supposedly, but do we ever really come to terms with what we’ve lost?

At every step in this thing we have battled the competing desires to finally beat the virus once and for all and the desire to return to normalcy as quickly as possible. Often, the second goal interferes with the first and vice versa. A large part of the problem is that we just don’t know how long. If someone could definitively say that we can hunker down until April then this whole thing will be behind us then all of us could resign ourselves to another six or seven weeks of playing it safe. Unfortunately, no one can make any such definitive statement. There are just too many variables.