The Third Inauguration

When I flew out of Portland International Airport before 2023, I usually stayed the night before at an airport hotel that provided free long-term parking and a shuttle to the terminal. It was a good deal and reduced stress.

But that was before Oregon had to pay for its share of the new Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia. When the old bridge collapsed, the loss of commerce and reputation hurt the Portland / Vancouver area pretty badly. Truly Exalted said the federal government would help with 20 percent of the replacement cost, but only if Oregon and Washington came up with a “terrific” plan to pay the other 80 percent.

Washington added one percent to their sales tax. Oregon sold the airport to Koch Industries.

When I tried to reserve a room at one of the airport hotels just after Third Inauguration 2025, the Hotel Ivanka was booked for a Mary Kay convention promoting a perfume called “Melania.” Hotel Donald had tripled its rates except for corporate clients, who received a 70 percent discount. Hotel Eric was under extensive renovation after receiving a tax credit for coming out of bankruptcy.

So I was stuck with driving for five hours and long-term parking provided at Koch International for my old Taser, the first electric car I could afford. It’s not luxurious, but it’s real quick and I was able to hack the software so I can drive it myself some of the time, at least in rural areas where the Insurance Central Safety signal is still weak.

For the month I planned to be gone, the price for a space in “Blue Safe and Secure Parking” was more than my plane ticket, so I opted to take a shuttle from a space about two miles away in “Brown Open Park.” At least the shuttle waiting room was a Starbucks.

I bought a Coffee Mega and waited in line to buy a shuttle ticket. I had three choices. Actually, I had six. Each of the three shuttle companies had two levels of service, but it was like they had agreed on what they would offer. The fastest of each took about five minutes to the airport, but it cost $75V in Visa currency guaranteed against inflation. The slowest took more than an hour and cost $10V.

At&T’s shuttle kiosk was red, Verizon’s was white, and Comcast’s was blue. I couldn’t afford the faster service, so it really came down to whether I wanted to watch Disney, which Comcast broadcast to passengers through seat-back screen, Fox Real News on Verizon, or an abridged movie on the AT&T shuttle. It was a tough decision and took me a while.

“I don’t understand why we have to pay so much to get to the airport in a reasonable amount of time,” I muttered to the man waiting behind me wearing a red “We’re Still Great Again” hat left over from the Third Inaugeration.

“You have a choice,” he snarled. “Why don’t you make yours so I can make mine, commie libtard?”

“I’m not a communist. I was just wondering…”

“Shove it,” he said, pointing at my Lock Him Up t-shirt, and went over to the Comcast line.

“I heard your question and I have the answer,” said a very pretty young woman who looked like she was dressed for a beauty pageant in red, white and blue. She must have been employed by all three carriers.

“The prices are what they need to be so we can invest in infrastructure and keep shuttles running on smooth roads,” she said.

“Aren’t these public roads?”

“Well, yes, but we have an exclusive license to use them, and we own those licenses. We also have to paint lines on the road to separate the fast and the slow lanes.”

“So if you didn’t have to paint the lines, it wouldn’t cost so much? And why does the slow shuttle take so long?”

“I don’t think it works like that,” she said with a look of concern. “The slow shuttle needs to make up for its lower cost to you by carrying municipal passengers to their destinations all over town. It’s just the free market. You believe in the free market, don’t you?” The look of concern now furrowed the thin space between perfectly plucked and painted eyebrows.

“Okay, but why is the fast shuttle so expensive?”

“You just answered your own question!! It’s expensive so it can be fast! But the best thing is, you have a choice!” She laughed, flashed a brilliant smile, and gave me a coupon for free coffee sugar.

I finally bought a ride on AT&T Slow Red and got another coffee so I could use the free sugar coupon. I was looking for a place to sit when a man with an umbrella made eye contact and nodded at an empty chair at his table. When I sat, he moved the umbrella off of a ragged newspaper.

“Is that a newspaper? A real one?”

“Yeah,” he smiled. “From 2019.”

“May I look?”

“You know, that’s probably not such a good idea. It makes a lot of people uncomfortable these days. I like to keep it kind of out of sight.”

“You let me see it.”

“Yeah, but I heard your conversation with those two, and figured you were safe. It’s not illegal to own a newspaper, they just make people uneasy and that can lead to awkward situations. By the way, would you like to get to the airport a little sooner?”


“I’ve got a ride out there in the parking lot. We can be there in fifteen minutes and it will only cost you $25V.”

“I already paid for the slow shuttle.”

“And you can wait for it, and maybe you won’t miss your plane. The slow shuttles aren’t very dependable, you know. Sometimes they just stop, and they’re never on time. The carriers says its because of congestion, but I think they slow shuttles down so they can sell more tickets on the fast lane.”

“I don’t know. Is it legal to go with you?”

“Mostly. If we get hit by Curbies, just say we’re friends and I’m dropping you off.”


“Guys looking for curb bounties. They get a cut of every fine. They’re real good at recognizing cars they’ve seen before, but the Jeep I got now is pretty new, at least to me. It should be okay for a while, then I’ll get it painted again.”

“Okay,” I said at last, and pulled out my credit card to give him $25V.

“Oh, dude, I can’t take those. It’s not like I’ve got a sign on my door.”

“Yeah, I suppose,” I said and pulled two worn $20 bills out of my wallet. “Got change?”

“Um, you know, those might not be worth $25V by the time we get you to the gate. You got any Bitcoin on you?”

Broadband Bandits

Great journalism has finally uncovered evidence that a lack of competition for Internet access has led to price gouging by AT&T, Verizon, Qwest (dba Century Link?) Comcast (xfinity? Really, Comcast?) and the rest of the oligopolists.

This came from the New York Times? Chicago Tribune? Boston Globe? Fox News?

Please. U.S. Media was neutered a decade ago. The story was published by… the British Broadcasting  Corporation. Read it here.

But the report on which the story was based is homegrown, and was produced by the New America Foundation. See the report here. While you still can, before those who control your access to your radio waves and monitor your information requests for profit, and the NSA, prevent you from doing so.

And, apparently, while charging you more than three times for slower Internet than what  those in other nations pay for the privilege. 

No, I am not joking.

By the way, Verizon reported a third-quarter (that’s three months) profit of $2.2 billion in October. AT&T, the second-largest American carrier after Verizon, reported profit of $3.8 billion in the third quarter, up from $3.6 billion  a year ago.

We need to stop the damage these monsters are doing to our America, with the aid of their paid flacks in Washington D.C.

Rep. Greg Walden, have you scurried yet to set up your golden parachute to the telecoms or pharmaceutical industries, or some lobbying firm they hire? Or is it just “understood” wink, wink, nod, nod, that they owe you sooo much?

Freeing the free markets

The weird thing is, I believe in the “free market.” I believe that removing consequences for bad behavior encourages that behavior. I don’t believe “inequality” per se, is a bad thing, as long as we ensure opportunity. In short, I am a conservative.

From about 1965.

Of course government is inefficient. The sky is blue. But government’s role is not to be efficient. Government needs to be the referee, mark the playing field, protect free markets and provide services under the law that we would not entrust to our neighbors without guidelines, or that need to be done to avoid loss of our humanity.

But we don’t have “free markets,” we have market manipulation by oligopolists who collude with corrupt politicians and fight transparency.

The only folks facing consequences are the poor—the leaders of Goldman Sachs, ATT, and Pfizer don’t face consequences for their greed, regardless of the damage they do to our country.

Ownership of our money by big banks has caused irreparable harm, first in the Great Depression, which was followed by bank laws, then in the Great Recession that followed repeal of those same laws. Some of those working in the largest banks hurt far more people than John Dillinger. Increase capital requirements, so they face the consequences of their failure, or break ’em up, so if they fail, it is shareholders and not farmers and teachers and gas station workers who are out of a job.

There should be vigorous price competition between cell phone networks. No, there’s not. We need to make sure that no one company or four companies can grab all of our radio spectrum, nor limit our choice of phones, nor throttle in any way our access to the Internet. The ‘Net is now too important, and every citizen should have a wide-open pipe, buying what they want, paying for what they use.

There should be vigorous market competition in the drug industry. It should be illegal for one company to pay another, in collusion, to keep generics off the market. Patent law should be changed so that new generics are available much, much more quickly. Consumers should have the right to buy their drugs from wherever they please. Drug prices, and hospital equipment prices, should be published, not hidden. The market needs information to operate efficiently.

Corporations are not people. If a corporation has broken the law, someone in that corporation did the breaking. They should do time if they did harm. It’s not just marijuana users who are a threat to society. In fact, I don’t think pot smokers are any threat at all, and we should leave them alone to face the consequences of their behavior.

But maybe that’s just me, being a conservative.


If ATT, Verizon, Comcast, XFinity (really, Qwest?) had the tools to “sniff” the content of emails, blog posts, news articles, as they were posted to the internet, it would be their legal obligation to minimize access to criticism. It would be a violation of their fiduciary responsibility not to do whatever is legal to preserve their reputations and protect their business plans. Whatever is legal.

But as far as the Internet goes, the law sits about ten generations behind the technology, and the social consequences, of this whole new paradigm of human interaction. Of course these companies, which collude with the National Security Agency, know the content of our communication. The Oligopolists of Communication are about two generations ahead, technologically and legally. They write the laws and then get lickspittle congressmen, like Oregon’s Greg Walden, to introduce them.

Using words like  “freedom” and “progress” and “market” and “innovation,” and bribes in the form of campaign contribtuions, they keep at bay the only force, the definition of “what’s legal,” that could reign in their slurping and sucking and hoarding of the life blood of our librerty: information.

You have no privacy. You have no rights. You have no power. They have won, and if you oppose them, you will be rendered either deaf, or mute. We have no mouth, and we must scream.

Turn it off, Part III

Whoa. The phone companies have been keeping records of all our calls! They have employees embedded with the Drug Enforcement Administration to comb information! And because it’s a company, not the government, that stores all these records, it’s legal!

May I be forgiven an “I told you so?” May I be forgiven for repeating, again, that we don’t know the half of it?

Think back to the beginning of our nation, when we learned hard lessons that economic power was as corrupting as political power. The East India Company was the target of the Tea Party, as much as the Crown. Railroads were broken up because they strangled the nation. Oil companies were broken up for the same.

A few decades ago, the phone company, Ma Bell, was dismantled. Wire taps had to be court approved. But we don’t use wires anymore! The Baby Bells have morphed into a technocorp, an oligarchy extending tentacles ever deeper into our lives. The lifeblood of our nation flows through portals of the internet, and they tap all communication with only a passing nod to courts protecting the Bill of Rights.

When oligarchs take control of vital services, corruption inevitably follows.

I was stupid when ranting on these “pages” about why there isn’t greater effort to promote competition in the telecomm industry. The government doesn’t want an effective “market!”  The oligopoly serves the government interest. It is easier to collude with four companies than a dozen.

A friend calls the government/corporate beast “Leviathan.”  2,000 years ago, Plato warned against the power of “Oligarchs.” The enemy is within the gates, and we have failed to defend ourselves.

We must not be stampeded into servitude by fears of terrorism or concerns about drug-fueled chaos. Privacy laws must be updated, and made ferociously effective.

Turn it off, Part II

I have renamed my “cell phone.” It is now my “Link.” Not just because it links me to the world via communication and information. But also because it is one link in the chain that binds me to their intent.

Cell phones, Internet. Visa Cards. All this noise about the NSA and cell phones: Does anyone really believe, once they have spent four minutes thinking about it, that the NSA has not compromised your (easily revoked) VISA card, your Master’sCard? In exchange for the ability of card companies to condition you into spending more than your limits, or missing payments, so they can charge rates that once were considered usury?

Is anyone so naive to think that VISA, MasterCard, AMEX and the rest don’t slurp your data? And share what they learn with the NSA, and their corporate “partners” (i.e., those willing to purchase the info)? Read the fine print.

Have you ever bought a gift card? Have you received one that represents a corporate “refund” (talking about you, T-Mobile)? Did you know your “money” on that card can evaporate? Read the fine print. And then realize that a percentage of those cards never get redeemed.

Where did that money go?

When in hell did banks take ownership of our money? Our transactions? And how do they get to rent it back to us at discounted value? It’s too late to do anything about it, because they own too many political waterboys like Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, and many others, but it’s good to think about once in a while. Next time you buy something, ask if there’s a cash discount equal to the highest rate your retailer pays for you to use the credit card.

If only for an hour, turn it off. Use cash for your next transaction, at least while you can. They won’t know where you are for that period of time. Until they get the cameras up, or satellites start recognizing cars and addresses… oh, crap. Drones. Too late.

It won’t be long  before there is no “money.”  It’s good for you, it’ll help you keep track of all your expenses. And it’s good for them, they won’t have to pay to print all those $5, $10, $20 and $100 bills. Or keep track of them.

Or lose track of you.

Turn it off.

Turn off the Security-Technology Complex

On January 17, 1961, when President Dwight Eisenhower delivered his farewell address, he warned the country about the “military-industrial complex.”

Acknowledging the need for a strong military during the Cold War (Eisenhower was a five-star general leading troops in World War II and Supreme Commander of allied forces in Europe), he cautioned against the loss of liberty if Congress, the military, and industry colluded to hijack the public interest (emphasis mine):

“Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.

It’s been nearly three generations since that speech. During that time, we have unwittingly initiated the greatest experiments in the history of our species on what it means to be mankind, and society. Television. Cell phones. The internet.

But Eisenhower’s warning is not only relevant today, it is more important than ever before. The phrase “military-industrial complex” sounds nearly quaint. But its spawn, the “security-technology complex,” is not only alive but very active, very aware of itself, and very sophisticated in its manipulation of information and abuse of power.

It’s not just politics, or the illusions of freedom. Hiding behind false facades built of threats and promises, they analyze what you buy, what you read, what you drive, where you live and where you go. They use sophisticated tools to learn what you think, then tailor information you receive to create perceived threats and solutions that serve their interests, not yours.

They manage you. They herd you behind fences of fear, corral you with a tight focus on “message,” follow you and quickly respond if you get out of line. They feast on the heart of what our founding fathers worked so hard to achieve.

It may be too late, but there is one response they can’t control.

Turn it off.


Okay, I drank way, way too much ice tea last night, and am cruising into this lovely Sunday morning on far too little sleep. But still…

Public garbage cans in London have screens that display advertisements.

Those same garbage cans can recognize smart phones of people walking by.

And if the garbage can sees you going into a different coffee shop than usual, it can flash a “loyalty” message as you walk by.

Who told Ridley Scott and Terry Gilliam they were in charge?

In the past, I loved the future. My first favorite books were science fiction: Assimov, Heinlein, Bradbury, then on to Phillip K. Dick , William Gibson and Samuel R. Delany. There was something liberating about the future, not quite chaotic, not anarchistic, nor autarchistic, but a place… unbound, I guess.

Perhaps the only thing unbound was my imagination. I’ve heard that before. There was, of course, the threat of Orwell, but 1984 came and went and big brother had not arrived.

But now, maybe it has: The NSA. Black boxes under your dashboard record every stop and go, in your car or on your computer. Your cell phone broadcasts a constant stream of who you are, where you are, what you are doing and when. Drones. Verizon. Xfinity. CenturyLink. AT&T.

Yes, I fear corporate snooping more than government snooping, primarily because corporations are better at it and they own our lawmakers. But it doesn’t matter who is perched on my shoulder. Laws protecting privacy are in serious need of review. Because what we feel and what we do can be modified by those who anticipate our behavior through study of the habits of people just like us.

We are losing control not only of our freedom, but of what we think. And it may already be too late.

Controlling the Internet

Last weekend in Seattle, fellow racer Rick Korn said I should focus on social commentary rather than my literary efforts. Rick and I were having a conversation about publishing, crowd-sourcing, and how the Internet has become an essential utility for commerce and communication, the major information artery of our society. It carries blood, not iced tea.

And it is controlled by a few oligarchs who have increasing power to dictate what we see, and when we see it, through ownership of the access points. The uproar about the National Security Agency collection of “meta-data” is really only the tip of the iceberg.

While no one “owns” the Internet, how we get there is owned by ATT, Verizon, Comcast (Xfinity?) and a handful of others. Those access points have sniffers and filters by which they take our personal information. So, not only do they charge us for access, they turn around and sell the information they sniff out to others, or give it to the government. They have the power to examine every place we visit, analyze wherever we go for information, filter what we see, and wrap it in ads.

The Internet is too essential to allow corporations to control the on-ramps and off-ramps in any way. ATT, Verizon, Comcast, Google, Apple and the others are not to be trusted. Not because of obvious malfeasance, though there is evidence of that, but because the past has shown that control of an essential commodity or service will be abused. See the history of oil companies, or railroads.

Here are my suggestions: Every effort should be made to maximize competition in every identified market at every level of integration. We should be allowed to buy any phone we want and use it on any compatible carrier. Their blather about compatibility and security is just a smoke screen.

Usage should be charged on an actual metered basis. A friend of mine pays $50 per month for data. She was charged an additional $10 one month because she went over her 5 gig limit. But she had not used any service the previous month, nor any the month after, and paid $50 for each of those. So the total was $160 for less than six gigs.

This is like buying water by the barrel, delivered every month. It’s one thing to charge if you order another bucket, but how many of us would stand for it if the water we had paid for but not used was engineered to evaporate on the 10th of every month?

The law has lagged so far behind the technology, and often been written by the oligarchs themselves, that it no longer serves the interest of those of us who own the spectrum.

A toll road is a freeway where you pay someone to get on or get off. It’s one thing to pay to get on. It is another when the owner of the toll booth tracks where you go, and maybe sells that info later, or blackmails you with it, or gives it to an agency that pulls you in for an interrogation even though all you did was drive past a mosque or synagogue or a pro-peace rally.

Ownership of all personal information should belong to the person about whom the information is about, not to those collecting the information. Any attempt to collect information without a court order must be disclosed, and approved of, with the ability to say “no” as easy it is to say “yes.”

One final point: these are very conservative, Republican concepts. They are offered in the spirit of the real Boston Tea Party, where the East India Company, in collusion with the English monarchy, was taking advantage of their control over transport of tea to the colonies.  That not only led to a declaration of independence, it’s why there are so many Starbucks in Seattle.

Thank you, Rick.

Oligarchs own America

It’s too late. They won.

Revelations about the National Security Agency spying on citizens by collecting phone records and Facebook messages, snooping on us via the Internet, finally brought the issue to light.

But the real story is exposed by connecting the dots. Edward J. Snowden, the man who leaked the NSA spying, didn’t work for the NSA. He worked for a corporation, Booz Allen Hamilton, whose vice-chairman was a former head of the NSA. Like using mercenaries in Iraq, our government has subcontracted security, and gives corporations powers greater than those of any individual citizen.

Corporations doing the work of government can be as pernicious as government trying to manage outcomes in the market place. Perhaps more so, because our government, at least in theory, serves at the will of its citizens.

Corporations have, and should have, as their primary obligation the maximisation of their own influence, power and profit. When corporations do the work of government, whether providing mercenaries or performing data collection, the lines of accountability become tangled.

Booz Allen wasn’t spying via telescopes or listening devices: They had other corporations hand over records of who we were calling, and when. They claim legitimacy, and deny they recorded our phone calls or messages, and that may be partially true. But we have very little privacy in this new digital world where the collection of data by government or corporations is of high interest and great value.

If you search for a car, for months you will see car ads online. Search for a vacuum in February, and you will see ads for those from March until May. This is no coincidence. They read what you are reading, they are looking over your shoulder and collecting this information. And they have the capacity to manipulate that information at will.

The biggest threat to democracy in America does not come directly from government. It comes from AT&T and Verizon. Not only do these behemoths increasingly control how we communicate with each other, they control the very information we depend on to make decisions. Yes, Google and Apple, too.

If one wants to research abuses by cell phone companies, it is increasingly likely the search results will contain pages of sponsored ads, or stories about cell phone contracts instead of real information. AT&T and Verizon, working alone or in collusion with other corporate partners such as Comcast,  have that capacity to manage what we see.

Given that these corporations now own the politicians of America, with congressmen like Oregon’s Rep. Greg Walden doing their bidding, the game is essentially over.

Despite warnings from President Eisenhower about the “military-industrial complex,”  despite the 1960s, despite mountains of evidence of market manipulation and collusion and outright lies by these voracious corporate gluttons, despite the vast transfer of wealth from the middle class to the 1/10 of one percent, despite all that and because of all that, they won.

They won because there now is one primary vehicle of information and communication, the lifeblood of any democracy, and they own it. They listen to what we are saying, they let us see what they allow. With that, they stunt our ideas and muffle our speech.