Rollin‘ Coal

By Erik Dolson

“Watch this,” I said to Dani as we waited for the light to change.

“What?”

“Out your side mirror.”

When the light turned green, I put the accelerator down just enough to put the Prius in the lane next to us about ten feet behind my exhaust pipe. Then I hit the switch and the pushed the accelerator to the floor. A huge black cloud of unburnt diesel blew out of my Ram pickup and wrapped the Prius like a blanket.

He must have hit his brakes, because he was a quarter mile back before I saw him nose out of the soot.

“Ha! Look at that sorry sucker! Buried him!”

“Why’d you do that?” Dani asked, and I knew right then this conversation wasn’t one I wanted to have. That said, I got a right to my opinion, and what with everything that’s been happening, I was ready to stand up for it.

“Because he was a liberal. Didn’t you see the bumper sticker?”

“An American, just like you.”

“Not a very good one.”

“Who made you the judge of that?”

“Okay, look. I was just trying to have a little fun. What’s wrong with that?” I hoped a change of subject would get us back on track. Usually these trips into town are a good time. We did spend a little more money at Costco than we budgeted, though, and the place we usually have lunch that’s a lot better than what we can find between the bluffs three hours out where we live was closed because of the COVID bullshit.

“Pollutes the air.”

“There’s plenty more where that comes from.”

“Until there isn’t. Then what?”

Dani isn’t usually like that, but she does get a little up on her high horse when her sister comes back to town. Sandy’d been at home for almost two weeks, because of Christmas. I’d kinda hoped that she’d stay in Eugene this year, because of the bullshit COVID scare and all.

“Aw, Dani. Look in your mirror. You can’t even see the smoke any more. Much.” I couldn’t help it, I grinned a little. Rolling coal on liberals does that for me. Danielle heard the smile in my voice. She knows me pretty well.

“The atmosphere where most things live is ony three miles thick,” Dani said.

“Oh, yeah, I forgot Sandy’s back in town,” I said, pretty clear about where I thought Dani had gotten her information.

“You don’t think I can have my own opinions?”

“I didn’t say that. Don’t be putting words in my mouth.”

“That was the thought in your head.”

I would have been better off just denying that, or keeping quiet, but Sandy coming home and disrupting things rankles me a bit.

“I just think Sandy doesn’t understand the world as it really is.”

“She’s seen more of it than you have.”

“Partly on my nickel, too.”

Doesn’t matter to me if Sandy was the best student in our high school when she graduated, or that she’s smarter than me, or that she got a full scholarship to college. It’s partly on my money after all, being a state school. But of course, I don’t get any say in how it’s spent, otherwise Sandy would have a very different view of the world, I’ll tell you that.

Dani just started looking out her window. It was going to be a long drive home. In the mirrors I checked the tarp that covered the groceries in back, the ShopVac and supplies I got at Home Depot for the shed that Glen is helping me build. It was all secure, I know how to tie a proper trucker’s knot.

It wasn’t just the Biden/Harris bumper sticker on the Prius, and I didn’t tell Dani the whole truth when I said I rolled the coal just for fun. I listen to the radio when I go out to feed in the morning. This morning some smart-ass from the city was saying that increasing the price of fuel was one way to slow down global warming.

He has no effing idea what that would do to me. It would mean a higher price to run my equipment, it would cost more to drive into town to spend my money that I’d have less of, cost more to drive into the hills for a beautiful sunset, or down to the Crooked River to fish.

This is my life! Doesn’t matter to him, he lives in some city and takes the bus. He doesn’t pay any part of the price. That’s the thing. He don’t pay the price.

Same with that guy driving the Prius, or that Musk who is building all those electric cars. I can’t do my work out of a Tesla. They say people will charge it at home, and that most people don’t drive more than 30 miles a day.

Maybe if you live in the city, but hell, I have to drive 30 miles just to buy the diesel fuel to put in my truck, and if I’m hauling feed or mending fence, I make that trip three times a week and it already costs me more than $100 every time.

That’s why me and a few of the guys went down to Love’s truck stop just outside of town last week, and parked our trucks in the recharging spots saved for those electrics. Then we piled into Fred’s truck and went to the 86 Corral, played some pool and had a few beers.

Man, those Tesla people were just all besides themselves when we got back, it was the funniest thing I’ve seen since high school when we boxed in Fred’s truck with ours so he couldn’t pick up Lynette for their date. Man, he was pissed for two weeks!

When the price of fuel came down, it was good for us, our families. And America went from being at the mercy of those sand dog Arabs to shipping oil everywhere after fracking unleashed the flow. Kept our prices low and made America great. What could be wrong with that?

Besides, global warming is just another hoax, like the damn COVID virus. Well, they’re real and all, but global warming isn’t caused by people. We’ve had warm spells before, then they’re followed by ice ages! And the COVID is just like a cold. My friend Glen, guy helping me with the shed, is a builder. He had three guys out last week and said they were feeling great after two days and would’ve been back at work but have to stay out 14 days because of the quarantine stupidity.

Glen said the price of lumber is up four times, he heard it’s because liberals want to pay guys at the mill not to work!

That’s a hell of a solution. Men who can work miss out, lose out on wages, those who don’t want to work don’t have to, and Glen has to run his own backhoe setting forms for a new foundation.

Besides, it would be a whole lot better if we all just caught the virus and got better, became immune, and it would have been a whole lot less expensive. I bet we’d have a real Christmas this year if we’d all had the virus by the 4th of July.

Don’t even get me started about my guns. They can’t have them, and they’ll make me into a criminal if they say I have to register them. I believe in the Constitution, and I have my rights.

See, that’s really the thing that started this talk with Dani. The Constitution. Those socialist slime balls stole the election. They’ve been planning it for a lot of years, and are using COVID and global warming to weaken America. It’s a plot, and the Russians and the Chines are involved. They took our jobs, and now they’re taking what’s left.

They’re taking away the America that we built and giving it to people in cities who don’t want to work, I won’t say who but you know who I mean, and to Mexicans who just come in to our country to get better health care than where they come from, and send all their babies to our tax-funded schools.

Why is it that what my grandfather and father and me built, our mothers too of course, is being given away to people who don’t deserve it? It’s more than not fair, it’s illegal.

That’s how they stole the election, too. What happened in the cities. The Latinos. Trump had more votes than Obama ever did, more than that bitch Hillary if you just count legal votes, and Trump lost? Explain that to me. They stole it, and have been working on this since Trump was elected in 2016! Socialists and the deep state have been hatching a plan to steal the election, and to cover it up so perfectly that even Trump judges would be forced to go along!

So that’s really why I put that Prius in a cloud of American-made diesel smoke. Because that S.O.B. liberal thinks he won, and it’s my job to show him that this isn’t over, not by a long shot!

At the end of our one-mile driveway, Danielle and I pulled up to the house. We’d gone to Costco last, so groceries were in the far back of the truck so we could unload those before the building supplies.

“Hey, I’m going to help you unload the truck and then head on over to Mom’s,” Danielle said.

“You going to spend the night over there?”

“Yeah, Sandy’s headed back to school pretty soon, and I’d like to spend some time before she leaves.”

“You coming back afterwards?” I hated that I couldn’t help myself from asking. I hated that it took Dani too long to answer, even though she said all the right things.

“Yep. Because you’re you, and for all that, I love you anyways and probably always will. I’ll be back tomorrow sometime after church.”

“It’s just not the same, Dani. It’s not the same as it used to be.”

“No, it’s not. But it never really was.”

She kissed me on the cheek, then slid out her side of the Dodge. We took the groceries into the kitchen together without saying much, and she put them away while I unloaded the rest of the supplies down where I was building the shed.

Selling Priceless Spectrum

By Erik Dolson

The auction of my airwaves started today. I’m upset.

Actually, the auction was of “spectrum,” that is, the radio frequencies needed mostly for new 5G cell phone networks. And it’s actually a sale of the right to “use” bits of this spectrum, also known as the “C” band.

It will surprise no one that the main bidders will be AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and with Comcast and Charter Communications teaming up. There are others, but those are the main players and are expected to bid between $30 billion and $51 billion.

So what’s my problem, anyway, with such a lucrative deal?

Well, to begin with, it’s been heavily pushed by FCC chair Ajit Pai, once a lawyer for Verizon and who has announced his retirement in January when Biden takes office (to go back to work for Verizon?).  This is the same man who opposed “net neutrality” laws guaranteeing everyone equal access to all information. He’s led other, anti-consumer efforts that favor big business.

Secondly, I’m not getting enough for my share of the spectrum being sold. I figure that if the spectrum goes for, say, $40 billion, I’m entitled to about $108. That’s about two months of cell phone bills. And yet, the companies buying that spectrum get to keep it forever!

That’s the problem with selling pieces of “the commons.” It’s a little like selling the right to have clean air, or not charging those who pollute our drinking water, or denying us the right to know what they put in our food, or flooding the oceans with Koch Companies ferilizer, which of course no one would think were good … ideas … Okay, wait. Those weren’t good examples.

If the sale brings $40 billion, that’s about 1% of the last Trump annual budget. We all know how fast federal budget dollars disappear. I hate to think that AT&T will be able to reach into my pocket forever because my spectrum was sold to them for money I’ll never see.

Because I’m a capitalist, and believe in competition, I think the federal government should have licensed my spectrum, instead of selling it, preserving my capital investment. Maybe a ten year license if it’s exclusive to one company, or even better, let any company pay to use my spectrum but set standards so they don’t interfere with each other. Sort of like how Mobile Virtual Network Operators (like US Cellular) pay AT&T now to set up a network.

Cell phone service has gone from a luxury to a neccessity, and with 5G it may become our primary means of communication, of receiving information. Like electricity or public water or sewer, and like phone lines used to be, cell phones are now a “utility,” and should be regulated as such and not subject to monopolistic manipulation or collusion between a few large players.

My spectrum should be regarded as a “pipe,” just like the pipes that bring water to our homes. Companies that manage the pipe should not have a special advantage, should not decide what water goes where, nor be able to charge whatever they want because they have the only pipe to my door. Those were my pipes, dammit, at least before they were sold.

But despite my objections, the auction that started today will go forward. Why? Because I forgot to pay off my favorite Republican senator this year, and my Republican Rep. Greg Walden is retiring from the House of Representatives to get a job with AT&T. Or maybe he’ll form a lobbying firm with Ajit Pai.

It’s far too late, so don’t bother to call. I have no voice, anyway, and neither do you.