July 19, 2006

Politics: Morning, Glories!

Last year, I as the Significant Other and I were in the garden, I saw some beautiful flowers: bone white trumpets on a burgundy vine with deep green leaves. The SO was less enthusiastic about them, but let me keep them in place because I thought the flowers were gorgeous. That was last summer.

It's summer once again, so I was picking various and sundry berries in my back yard today, and found a fascinating thing: half the raspberries were quite a lot smaller than the others. As you may have guessed, the smaller lot had one thing in common: a morning glory vine growing right over top of them, blocking out sunlight from many of the raspberries' leaves. Clearly, these two would not survive in the same space, so the question was which would I let survive, the beautiful flower or the fruit?

"The bitch gotta go," I muttered to myself as I shredded my arms yanking morning glory vines out from around the raspberry's thorns. Something can look as pretty as anything, but if it doesn't give me what I want, out it comes. And what I wanted more than pretty blossoms was food. The SO knew exactly what would happen, and since she knows me quite well, she knew what my reaction would be, too. But it certainly served as a lesson I'll be remembering longer than if she had simply told me: "Look, those are morning glories and they're incredibly obnoxious weeds that you should kill now." Lesson learned, weeds torn up, and I'll be keeping an eye on other such encroachments in the future.

On a totally unrelated subject, Ken Lay died on July 5th of a heart attack, the surprise there being the discovery that he did in fact have a heart. For those who don't recall, he was one of the folks behing the incredible scam that was Enron (Jeffery Skilling being the other); but he was really oh, so much more than that...

In 1992, George of Herbert decided to deregulate the power companies while he was on his way out of office. Two years later, Prince George, still Governor of Texas, was asked by "Kenny-Boy" to appoint a fellow by the name of Pat Wood to the Public Utility Commission. That was in a Christmas card, and George was in a giving mood: the CEO of Enron got the man he wanted in charge of regulating the energy monopolies of Texas. He worked tirelessly for the destruction of Roosevelt's Public Utility Holding Company Act, which demanded (among other things) three things from the power monopolies: the companies were told how much profit they could make, what rates they could charge, and *ahem* how much they had to invest in improving and maintaining supply lines.

With those limits gone, and deregulation quickly becoming the norm, can you guess what happened after that? Here's a hint: it's why there's a moderate Republican Gropenator in the Governor's mansion of California. The telephone recordings and email exchanges between employees of Enron laughing about the engineered California power shortages are shocking in their indifference to civillians. For instance, this little gem about a plan called (I kid you not) "Death Star":

"The net effect of these transactions is that Enron gets paid for moving energy to relieve congestion without actually moving any energy or relieving any congestion," the company's own lawyers said in an internal memo released in 2002 by federal investigators.

And who can forget "Grandma Millie"?

Employee 1: "All the money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers in California?
Employee 2: "Yeah, Grandma Millie man.
Employee 1: "Yeah, now she wants her f-----g money back for all the power you've charged right up, jammed right up her a—for f-----g $250 a megawatt hour."

Clinton's response was to ban Enron from trading power, but he had served his 8 years and was on his way out. Bush the Second, now president, responded to the crisis as a true free-market crusader would:

"We will not take any action that makes California's problems worse and that's why I oppose price caps," said Mr. Bush on May 29, 2001.

With deregulated energy firms (Entergy) supplying power to New Orleans, when Hurricane Katrina hit it was decided that it made more economic sense for the company to simply turn off the lights and call their regional subsidiary bankrupt. Entergy reported an earnings leap of 23% for the third quarter of 2005. As for the fourth quarter? Don't ask.

And this is where we came in. The deregualtion of things every one needs to use, like energy or medicine, looks pretty; and there are a lot of pretty sound bites that it comes with. But when it doesn't work, and hasn't worked, in giving the people what they need, then it's time to tear it out before it kills off what does.


posted by Thursday at 7:52 pm


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