Monday, October 21, 2019

The Future We Want

Thanks to Mayor Adler and his appointment of me to be a Special Envoy for the City, Dr. D and I found ourselves on a 777 headed for Paris in early October.  We were ultimately headed for Copenhagen which would be the site of the World Mayor's Summit, a C 40 event dealing with climate change.

We decided to spend several days in Paris, mostly to see my pal Jim Haynes.  Jim has been my anchor in Paris for over 30 years ever since he spent the night at one of my apartments in Austin in the late 80s while he was on a book tour.

Jim Haynes is the guy in Paris who has a Sunday night dinner at his house in the 14th arr. every Sunday, and he has been doing that for decades.  This from Wikipedia :

In 1966 Haynes relocated to London in the middle of the "swinging 60s". He became deeply involved in the underground cultural scene, co-founding the alternative paper International Times, known as "I.T.", together with Barry Miles, John Hopkins, and others.[1]
In September 1967 Haynes co-founded the Drury Lane Arts Lab space for mixed-media; it closed in late 1969. That year he co-launched with William Levy, Germaine Greer and Heathcote Williams Suck newspaper in Amsterdam to promote sexual freedom; it was also distributed in the United Kingdom. The first issue contained a long and unrestrainedly descriptive erotic poem attributed to W. H. Auden and an explicit photo of Germaine Greer.
In 1968 he co-founded Videoheads with Jack Henry Moore in London.
In 1969 Haynes moved to Paris, where he taught Media Studies and Sexual Politics for 30 years at the University of Paris. He frequently held open house dinner parties on Sundays in Paris, and published an irregular newsletter about his life and times. In addition he has written an autobiographical memoir, titled Thanks for Coming."
We were pleased to learn that Jim was still holding his dinners but now just the first Sunday of the month.  We had learned from other mutual friends who had just come back from Paris that Jim had a serious health event  that had knocked him off his feet for several months, but that he was on the mend.  (He was born in 1933)

We elected to take the Uber deluxe down to his place in Alesia.  It's hard for me to say something nice about Uber, but in this case it is easy.  They were fast, efficient, and reasonable.

Jim is such a good and genuine human being.  He loves people.  And he has touched perhaps a half a million lives in his soon to be 86 years. His autobiography is worth the read.  And the documentary of his life entitled Meeting Jim  should soon see distribution.

In one of my favorite escapades, Jim once developed and printed up an Earth Passport.

As he said, "I got into a little trouble for that"

By Tuesday, we were on our way to Copenhagen for the Summit.  We arrived a few days early so we could see and walk the city.  I had been told that the city employed bicycle transportation extensively but you have to see it to believe it.  Fully 50% of all trips are made on bicycles of every stripe. Whether it is raining, you have children, or you are an executive, Copenhagen loves their bikes.

At the C 40 Summit, the production values were really strong.  Bloomberg does it right.  The curved screen behind the speakers was at least 100 feet wide.  It was a strong backdrop for great speeches from Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris, from Eric Garcetti, the Mayor of LA, for Al Gore, for the Secretary General of the UN, for the Mayor of Rome, and for the Mayors from every continent.

When I bumped into one Mayor, I asked how big is Karachi?  "Guess?" he said.  "A lot!" I responded.

He responded 30,000,000.  I said if he was a state in the US he would be the 2nd most populous.

He liked that.

The closing speech was delivered  by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and it was a hum-dinger.  Inside the naturally lit, tree covered conference hall, once empty seats were now taken.  She spoke passionately of a Global New Green Deal.  The standing ovation she received agreed.  And the new Chairman of C40, Eric Garcetti is on board with that direction.

The 100 Mayors attending represented 25% of World production and population.  Inside that Summit, the future we want not only seemed possible, it became an imminent reality.  For two days I lived in a bubble of hope that we just don't get to feel in the US.

Now that bubble must harden into a crystal ball of prophesies and actions that will transform the entirety of our little blue ball so it will once again become a suitable habitat for all of life.

The Future we Want,

Must become the Future we Demand.

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Monday, September 30, 2019

Our 130th Birthday Party

I turned 70 years old this September.  And my partner turned 60 in late August.  So we decided to have a 130 year celebration on the Equinox. We did it at the big house.  It's not that big, but by using the outside courtyard in back and the large front porch, we can entertain about 125 people.  And we had that plus some.  Since it was a UT football game night, we were nervous about the parking so we urged everyone to Uber/Lift over and quite a few did.

We like throwing big parties.  For the most part, we produce them.  That means we do most of the work like renting the tables and linens, the plates and the silverware, putting up the tents, and giving the house and outside areas a good 3 year cleaning. We could not have done it without Ted and Kevin, and a host of others, including my grandson Lex and his pal Will.

It all starts of course with a good invitation.  Then we have to line up the entertainment.  We were lucky to get Kimmie Rhodes, an old friend and prolific song writer.  She brought along her son Gabe, who is one of the better guitar players in Austin these days. We also got Beth Lee and the Breakups for after dinner.  After many years of hard work, she may be on the verge of a break out herself.

With all that talent, we of course had to have really good sound for our two stages. That includes stage monitors and sound checks.  My experience from the old Armadillo days seems to always pay off in wonderful ways.

As for food, we brought in food with our favorite dishes from our favorite restaurants.  We had food from 34th street, Asti, Utchico, Santa Rita, and Quatro Gatti. We served our favorite wines and our house specialty drink was  the Moscow Mitch, basically a Moscow Mule with a little bitch in it.

I planned some smart seventy year old stuff to say and I think I said some of it:

"Thank you all for coming…I want to offer an apology for the heat.  I spent most of my adult career fighting climate change and pretty clearly even with all the great battles we have won over these years, I fear we are losing the war.

I also want to apologize for the lack of parking. The connection to the previous sentences should not be lost on us.

Many of you know how I often talk about how being human is a struggle between being in your Buddha Mind or your Bubba Brain, and somewhere in-between.  And how being the best of who “you are” is what matters in life.  Not the best of who “you think you should be”, but the best of who you really are... that we should be kind,  be thoughtful, and be respectful as Steve says, of place, others, and self.

In short, most of us try to not be an asshole.  But we also need to be courageous, to be smart, to be focused, and in some cases cunning.

I told Cousin Lisa that when I was pretty young,  I made a vow to peak in my sixties…And in many ways I was successful.  Seventy seemed like a really long way away back then.  As the invitation said, I thought it would take a lot longer to get old 

Later in the evening,  Mayor Adler came by and made the announcement that he had appointed me to be Special Envoy to the World Mayor's Summit in Copenhagen.  This event is a C40 event primarily sponsored and funded by Mike Bloomberg.  In my view, C40 is now the most important governmental organization dealing with Climate Change.  

After the Mayor's announcement I read out of one of my favorite little books called "Spiritual Notes to Myself" by Hugh Prather.

"One man drinks beer, watches television, wildly cheers for his team at games, and sometimes says, Pull my finger"  Another man reads books, attends meetings on spiritual subjects, and at games, takes no sides.  We say the second man is more spiritual than the first. Yet the first man may be a very loving father, a devoted spouse, and a good friend, whereas the second man may be righteous, rigid and uncaring.  We all know relationships in which one partner attends the meetings and talks the talk, and yet his or her spiritually illiterate partner clearly is a better human being.  Even most little kids are better human beings than the adults around them-and young children can't even grasp a spiritual concept! 
As we awake, our actions will change.  But we can't awake by changing our actions."
We awake through the Heart. We grow in the Buddha Mind.  And the Decades, they run like a River.

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Friday, August 16, 2019

Frank Alan Osborne

Frank Alan Osborne  1946-2019

About three weeks ago, I got a call from my brother's son.  He asked me if I knew about my older brother Frank.  I responded that I had just talked with him on Friday, but tell me what's happening.

Apparently, Frank was rushed to the hospital there in Dallas on Tuesday morning after a really bad night.  It was now Thursday, so I booked a ticket for an evening flight to Dallas and rearranged my schedule to make it happen.  I called Frank and he answered sounding a little out of breath but basically more or less OK.  I wondered if maybe his son was a little over reacting to talk about DNR's with the doctors.

When I got to Dallas,  I called again after checking into the Melrose Hotel.  He was tired so I caught some dinner.  The next day, I got to his room just in time to watch a covey of white coats come into the room.  The head doctor asked if she could be frank with me in the room.  Frank made a joke, then corrected his tongue in cheek response.  As she was getting into to her speech about how grave his condition was, Frank interrupted, "Now let's not be so pessimistic, I intend to be out of here by Saturday or so."

Frank had been a successful businessman for 45 years and he was not about to be told he was going to pass.

Later that afternoon, after spending 4 or 5 hours of quality time together, I left thinking I would catch the flight back to Austin so I wouldn't miss a dinner engagement with friends.  When I got in the hotel car, I began to sob, and I realized what a dumb plan that was.  I went back to the Hotel and called my Dr. partner and asked her to fly up to Dallas too.  We spent the next 2 days with Frank and his wife and family.

When we left, he said, "I'm going to make your 70th Birthday party in September."

For the next week, I called him everyday and listened as his voice grew weaker and his need for oxygen increased.  His lungs were basically shot.  Then he went into intensive care.  Then he got a Tracheotomy.  The Staff infection in his lungs was on its way to another morbid victory.

Frank was three years older than me.  Once, when I was four, while living in Amarillo, a bully named Craig, pulled us both in our little red wagon out into the large sticker laden vacant lot that would someday be Wolflin Village.  Craig then left us in the sticker patch barefooted.  I remember Craig laughing as he walked away.  Frank pulled us both to safety, he doing the pulling, me doing the crying.

As a young man Frank was credited with saving the life of the foreman of the Chambers Ranch as a sand bank collapsed burying the crew.  Frank was a trained Eagle Scout and his quick response and mouth to mouth resucitation brought Mr Schaef back from apparent death.

When he was three years old, he found a picture of Jesus and asked Aunt Francie who is this?  Francie said, "that's Jesus Christ".  Frank responded, "well it's a good picture of him".

Thus began Frank's long life of opinion.

When I graduated from high school, we went to Europe together for three months. We traveled to Rome, to Paris, to London, to Munich, and all over in our $450.00 red Volkswagon.  Frank accidentally hit a bicyclist in Italy which almost got problematic.

Frank and I were business partners in conjunction with our mother. We bought real estate in Austin, fed cattle in the panhandle, and bought oil deals in Oklahoma.  And even though we had been room mates in college, and I had been his best man in his marriage, we pretty much  drifted apart in the eighties.  And it wasn't until about 10 years ago, that we found each other again.

That came about for several reasons; one, my therapist brought me to understand that hating your brother for his political beliefs wasn't that smart, and two, Frank joined AA.  Also, our mother passed.

On Saturday August 10th, I once again headed for Dallas thinking that we were somewhere between the beginning of the end and the end of the end.  It was the latter.

Frank passed at 7:09 there in the Clements Southwestern Hospital.  He was surrounded by his wife, son, daughter, grandson, daughters in law, son in law, a former business partner, and his younger brother who knew him longer than any of them.  But they knew him better.

Here is their version that they posted as his obituary:

Frank Alan Osborne, faithful husband, devoted father, and beloved grandfather, peacefully passed into the Kingdom of God on Saturday, August 10, 2019. He was in the loving presence of his wife and family. Frank was born in Amarillo, Texas, on June 27, 1946. The firstborn son of Joan Chambers Osborne of Canadian, Texas, and Jack Harold Osborne of Miami, Texas, Frank spent his youth earning his Eagle Scout badge, learning to ranch and wrestling up trouble on the wide-open ranch lands of the Texas Panhandle.
Outside of school, ranch work and play, one of his favorite pass-times was smoking cigarettes, a hobby he took up at the age of 14. Hours before Frank’s passing, he asked, please write in my obituary that I died from lung cancer, pulmonary embolism, pneumonia, and emphysema. We expect he wanted this written as a public service announcement against smoking.
In his early college career, Frank attended the University of Arizona in Tucson, where he joined the Kappa Sigma fraternity. He finished his studies at the University of Texas at Austin graduating with a BBA from the College of Business Administration in the Spring of 1969.
Frank met the love of his life, Jane Anne Osborne, his senior year of college. He hastily proposed to this beautiful woman from high school. Knowing she was way out of his league, he married her within the year. Frank and Janie would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this November, a feat Frank boasted proudly to all who would listen.
The young couple began their life together and started a family in Lubbock, Texas, where Frank had a successful banking career. Yet being a family man was Frank’s most important ambition, so after 15-years of banking, he and his young family returned to their childhood home of Pampa, Texas, to raise their kids with extended family.
Until retirement, Frank served as the Chief Financial Officer of the family-owned and operated oil and gas business. A devout Christian, Frank served on the vestry and as treasurer at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church. He loved to coach his son’s soccer games and sleep through his daughter’s dance recitals. When his children moved to Dallas to attend college, Frank and Janie soon followed. Family always first. Frank’s life is characterized by three pillars of dedication – his faith, his family, and Alcoholics Anonymous. Frank had a zeal for the Lord and an insatiable appetite to grow in understanding his calling as a child of God. Both his home and office bookshelves overflow in theological texts and personal journals on his spiritual musings.
To his last breath, Frank wanted nothing more than to be there for and to be with his family. His wife, children, and grandkids felt likewise. Frank’s calling as a Christian servant was fulfilled in his passion and commitment to the men and women of Alcoholics Anonymous, where he brought both leadership and compassion to his multi-level involvement. His thoughtful, articulate manner of expressing himself was an inspiration to all who knew him and his leadership on The Adult Rehabilitation Ministry Executive Board was an excellent example of how he put servanthood to others above his personal needs.
Loved ones who will miss Frank until we meet again are his wife Janie Osborne, daughter Erin Osborne Schmerbeck, son Ryan Osborne, son-in-law Vic Schmerbeck, daughter-in-law Susanne Osborne, grandchildren Sarah Kate Farmer, James Farmer, Estee Piccagli, Reese Osborne, and Sydney Osborne, brother Michael James Osborne, sister-in-law, Dana Sprute, and brother-in-law Rick Leverich. A memorial service will be held in the chapel at Saint Michael and All Angels Church, 8011 Douglas Avenue, Dallas, Texas 75225 on Tuesday, August 13, 2019, at 3:00 PM. A celebration of Frank’s life will follow at Dallas Country Club from 4:00-6:00 PM. In lieu of flowers, Frank would be blessed by a contribution to Alcoholics Anonymous – 

Frank was a pretty rich man.  His house at 3900 Stonebridge in Dallas earned him an internet posting as the "King of Turtle Creek".  For the last year, He and Janie lived high up in the Ritz Carlton in a big residence with a huge covered patio and outside areas on three sides.

But like many successful men who are looking at their mortal end, Frank grew more and more spiritual in his later years.  In one of our last talks alone, he talked about the writings of some Jesuit Priest that he liked a lot.  As he talked about the writings, I interrupted and said,  "Do you mean Pierre Teilhard de Chardin?  He is one of my favorites."

"Yes", he said.

We had reached our own Omega Point in our own Noosphere.

And there was no place left to go.

So long cowboy, Vaya con Dios.


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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Mendacities of Madness

The press doesn't seem to know how to handle the amazing river of mendacity that flows from DJT's mouth or wherever.  But with the R's, its been going on for decades.

Here is a piece I wrote in 2006. (some of the links are dead)

The Liars Paradox


Here is Jon Stewart on the recent Politburo elections.

Wow, why do all of these guys look like car salesmen?

Actually, I'm rather fond of car salesman.

They are equal opportunity opportunists who will full pop their


and then brag about it.

They have transcended right and wrong.

Many many years ago when I was a young ad man,

I decided to work for Car Dealers,

because I knew where I stood with them,

(they were liars)

Then one afternoon, one of them told me,

"You know Max, car dealers always lie."

I was stopped in my tracks.

I knew I had heard a modern day version of the Creton paradox.

The Creton Paradox is a bipolar paradox

Bipolar paradoxes are meta statements (statements that refer to themselves) that result in a self contradiction. The classic bipolar paradox statement is “All Cretons are liars” voiced by a Creton. If the statement is true, then, when applied to the statement, we conclude the Creton lied and, hence, all Cretons are not liars – a clear paradox. "

Statements like,

I am lying now.

This statement is false.

They all fall in the same category.

So, if all Republicans are liars,

Let's hope that we do not hear a Republican say it,

For then it will be a bipolar paradox,

instead of the truth.

And then they will be just like the car dealers.

Now, if a Republican is also a car dealer,

we get into some serious metaphysicalities.

It's like trying to figure out if its a worse sin when a priest

uses a rubber.

But the paradox with Republicans is even deeper.

Why would these conservatives be liberal with our finite resources?

Why would these lovers of individual rights support warrentless spying?

Why would these fiscal conservatives be fiscally irresponsible?

Why would they protect life in the womb

and destroy it everywhere else?

Why would they come to Washington to bring integrity,

and instead bring corruption?

Perhaps Bertand Russell has the answer.

Here is the end of his Nobel prize address.

"Much that passes as idealism is disguised hatred or disguised love of power. When you see large masses of men swayed by what appear to be noble motives, it is as well to look below the surface and ask yourself what it is that makes these motives effective. "

For as Lord Acton said,

"Power tends to corrupt, and

absolute power corrupts absolutely."

That may be a paradox,

but it's no lie.

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art courtesy of Sergey Kryshtapovitch
posted by oZ @ 12:07 PM

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Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Real Bad Guy

We went to the mountains of Mexico towards the end of June.  While in the Austin airport, we bought a copy of the Washington Post version of the Mueller Report.  As usual, as is the case at the beginning of the rainy season in the Sierra Catorces, the days have been rainy and cool; perfect days for reading this 2 1/2 inch, 729 page bible-like edition.

So now, I can finally say that I have read the Mueller Report.  I have also read the indictments of the main characters, the responses of DJT to the OSC's questions, and some other background history gems provided by the Post's authors.

It's a reference book that will be part of World History for generations.

One of the more telling stories is the piece by Mark Fisher and Sari Horwtiz. It's a comparison of how both DJT and Robert Mueller were both born to wealth, raised to lead, and then took sharply different paths in life.

For example, DJT grew up in a 23 room manse in the Queens, a faux Southern plantation house with a Cadillac limousine in the driveway.  In the second grade, he said, "he punched his music teacher in the face." He got into trouble often.  His real estate developing father thus sent him to New York Military Academy where except for being demoted his senior year and relieved of duty as Captain of the barracks, DJT actually thrived for 5 years.

Mueller was born to a social rank that barely exists anymore.  His father was an executive at Dupont. He went to St. Paul's Episcopal school where the Astor, Vanderbilt and Mellon families educated their own boys. Here, Mueller epitomized the Christian strong boy who embodied the values of kindness, respect, and integrity.

When Mueller graduated from Princeton, he enlisted in the Marine Corps.  DJT,  while at the University of Pennsylvania, paid little attention to his course work as he benefited from five draft deferments between 1964 and 1968.  The last one was a 1Y medical deferment for a questionable bone spur.

After Princeton,  Mueller became a war hero. He then spent the next two decades putting bad guys in jail.

After college, DJT perfected the Art of the Deal as he learned to beat the system in his constant craving for power and wealth.  He changed his party registration seven times between 1999 and 2012; he was a democrat twice, a Republican three times and an independent in 2000.

Mueller became the quintessential G Man 

DJT became the ultimate Con-man.

Mueller's report on the behavior of DJT is worthy of a full read.  It allows the reader to get their hands around the serial mendacity and cavalier disregard for truth that permeates this administration. It also makes it clear that the Russian government helped him win the election.

It chooses not to find Conspiracy in the Campaign's behavior, not because they didn't cooperate and accept assistance, but because the Office of Special Counsel feared they could not get a conviction because D.T. Jr. was possibly truly ignorant of the laws regarding foreign influence in our election.

It states that proving  conspiracy was hindered by a lack of cooperation with the OSC.  Many critical documents and emails were not handed over, often because they were auto-deleted.

Read the last 20 pages of Volume I starting at page 180.

Volume II is worth a full read.  It details the mind and thinking of DJT as he fights to get out of another jam. Each of the major accounts of obstruction  follow a prosecutorial discussion of (1) the obstructive act, (2) a nexus to an official proceeding, and (3) intent.  To any non-biased observer, these are slam dunks for any prosecutor appealing to a jury of peers.

Start at page 156 if you must, but don't miss the conclusion on page 182.  "If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state"

In a few weeks, Robert Swan Mueller will testify before two committees in the House.  DJT and his Republican cohorts will do their best to make him look like a bad guy.

But we know who the real bad guy is.

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Friday, May 31, 2019

Our Next Horizon

This May, I stepped down from the Electric Utility Commission and from the Joint Sustainability Committee, thus ending my formal 20 year involvement as a city official and a wonk in local energy policy making.

Twenty years ago or so, I got a call from a City Council member of my fair city.  He asked me if I would be interested in serving on a city board or commission.  My public appointments at this time had been statewide appointments, having served under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Under Governor Richards, I served on the steering committee of the State of Texas Energy Policy Partnership. I chaired the Renewable Energy subcommittee. Based on our recommendations, Governor Richards created the Sustainable Energy Development Council by executive order. Our job at the SEDC was to craft a strategic plan to develop the vast Texas Renewable Energy  resource.  From the Council's work, a vast network of power lines capable of moving energy from our vast west Texas lands to the population centers in the center of the State was recommended.

These transmission lines became the backbone of a renewable energy industry that would grow to be the largest in the United States.

Under Governor Bush, I served on the Texas Energy Coordination Council.  Part of our work was to see that the recommendations of the SEDC were realized. We also coordinated with the major Universities.

So in 1998, I became a city official serving on the Resource Management Commission.  In a year or so, I became the Chairman.  It was here that the politics and power of water rights for a fast growing city on a river became a critical debate.

By 2002, I had joined the electric utility of the City as a result of a grant from DOE and the State Energy Conservation office.  My job was to write a long term comprehensive energy plan for the City of Austin.  It was published as the book "Silver in the Mine".  For  the next dozen or so years, I worked at the Utility trying to make that plan a reality. As Special Assistant to the General Manager of Energy Development, part of my job was to develop a portfolio of 35% renewable energy.

When that was achieved, I left the Utility to serve on a City Council appointed Generation Task Force to forge an even larger commitment than the one the City adopted in the original climate plan. Out of that plan we determined that 55% renewable energy was achievable and affordable.  We also called for 600 MWs of utility solar which would replace the need for a new gas plant.

I  was then appointed to the Electric Utility Commission and elected as it's Chairman.  It was from the EUC that the recommendations of the Generation Task Force were considered and to a large part adopted and built.  Two years later,  another generation planning group, as a working group of the EUC, moved the renewable goal to 65% with 75% to be considered if affordable.

And here in Texas, it is affordable.  Wind prices hover below 2 cents a Kwh.  Utility solar has gone below 3 cents a Kwh.  No coal plant can compete with that.  And no gas plant can compete unless natural gas prices fall to 2 dollars /MCF.

And now the 8th largest Public Utility in the Nation is on course to be 85% to 95% carbon free within the next 7 years.  And that is quite an accomplishment.

Here is my letter to the current Chairman of the EUC:

May 10th, 2019

Chairman Cary Ferchill,
Electric Utility Commission
City of Austin

Dear Cary,

I write to inform you that as of May 15th I will step down from the Electric Utility Commission.

For the last 20 years, I have been active in local government serving as Chairs of the RMC, the EUC, and the Austin Generation Resource Task Force. During my time at Austin Energy, I wrote a Long Term Comprehensive Energy Plan for the City of Austin ultimately serving as Special Assistant to the General Manager for Energy Development.  During these decades, Austin Energy has grown from 10 MWs of wind and a few MWs of landfill gas, to a leader in the Utility Industry.

In the last resource generation planning group, we adopted a goal of 65% renewable energy by 2027, the closure of both Decker Steam plants by late 2021 and the closing of our share of the Fayette Coal plant beginning in 2022.

We should all be proud of our accomplishments up to now and to come.

The next big carbon goal for the city, our state, all of us, is to tackle the transportation sector.  This electrical transportation transformation will be good for our health, our pocketbooks, and our children. I am pleased to see the recent action of the Council on this.  Consequently, in founding the Texas Electric Transportation Resources Alliance, I have made a decision to shepherd my own resources to that effort.

Since I also serve as the EUC’s representative to the Joint Sustainability Committee, the Commission will need to designate another representative to that important nexus of city commissioners.

The Commission will be facing many challenges in the next five years and I am confident that this EUC will meet those challenges with integrity and skill.


Michael J Osborne

As the letter says, the work ahead is now in the transportation sector.

If you don't drive electric now, you should.  And in five years, you will.

Just like Texans developed the farm to market road system to bring our foods to market, and we developed an energy delivery system to bring affordable clean energy to our fast growing cities, we will also need to create an  energy delivery system to electrify our transportation system.

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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Americans

It wasn't until its last season that I started watching the Americans.  In an age where the actual president is being investigated as a possible asset of a foreign power, watching the escapades of two Russian spies living just outside of Washington with their two kids chumming it up with the FBI agent who lives across the street seemed more than just plausible. I watched all 75 episodes in less than 2 months.

Set in the early eighties during the Reagan Administration, the series focuses on the personal and professional lives of the Jennings family, two deep cover Soviet agents placed in the DC area almost 20 years before.  According to one of the producers, the series works different levels of reality: the fictional world of the marriage between Philip and Elizabeth, and the brutal spy world that the characters live in.

Both characters are marvelously capable of changing their appearance with simple wigs and clothing.  Even though both are committed communists, Elizabeth has the most revulsion of the American capitalist system.  Philip on the other hand, likes driving his hot muscle car and playing racket ball at the health club with his FBI neighbor.  It's not important TV but it is somehow relevant in our present world.

First, Philip and Elizabeth are truly afraid that Reagan will annihilate their countrymen.  They are keenly aware that Reagan was trading arms with the contras while illegally dealing with the Iranians, and that the Americans (with a few exceptions) are often liars and untrustworthy.

Second, they really believe that their system is better for the world, that the ideas behind their revolution are better ideas than the ideas of pure unfettered capitalism.

Today, we have a government that is even more corrupt than the Reagan era.  It is erasing gains in the environment, in social justice, and in consumer protections.  It doesn't seem to recognize that Congress is an equal branch of government.  It is  contorting and abusing the Judicial system by appointing judges that cannot garner 60 votes in the Senate, so they are confirmed with bare majorities.

And like the Reagan era, they have little relationship with the Truth.  According to the Washington Post, they have spun over 10,000 lies in less than a 1000 days. And most importantly, they have spun the Mueller Report as an exoneration of their acceptance and use of Russian aid, all the while overtly subverting the investigation.

They argue that since there was not enough evidence of conspiracy to get a conviction, then there could not possibly be the crime of obstruction because there was no underlying crime.  I would argue that exactly the opposite is true.  If you read the Mueller Report, it is clear that not only was there purposeful obstruction and lack of cooperation by the administration, the obstruction was clearly successful in  minimizing and obfuscating their many acts of cooperation with the Russians.

One could argue that they cooperated more with the Russians than they did with Mueller.

The Soviet Union that Philip and Elizabeth risked their lives to defend passed away by the early nineties, the day after Christmas in 1991.  On the previous day, December 25th, Soviet President Mikhael Gorbachev, the 8th and final leader of the USSR resigned, declared his office extinct and handed over its powers, including the  launch codes, to the new Russian President Boris Yeltsin.  That evening at 7:32 pm, the Soviet flag was lowered from the Kremlin for the last time and replaced with the pre-revolutionary Russian flag.

Everyone was giddy.  The Berlin wall fell.  The Americans had won the Cold War.

Democracy was alive in Russia.

But within a few years, it became clear that Yeltsin was not just an alcoholic, he was a boorish clown.  And a young KGB spy named Putin rose up to create a new Kleptocracy.

And in the 2016 election, the Pluto-Kleptocracies became one. And the same attorney general who got pardons for the Reagan administration is back defending his boss instead of the country.

And, we are  The Americans.

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