Friday, May 20, 2005

The Devil Evolves

No one talks about playwright William Inge anymore. George Lucas is the story teller of the current generation and in the Lucas mythology the hero always triumphs.

Not so much with Inge.

The Inge protagonist can hardly be called a “hero” and most often they do not triumph, but always they learn something and come away different than they were. I am supposing it was Inge’s Midwest upbringing that made him shy away from the Lucas signature final scenes of people cheering and dancing to great musical scores that would have made Wagner proud. Inge just oozed with constant angst because he knew something true, something an Anglican priest of the same name knew, that the Devil is always evolving.

Early on in my dance with politics I learned you shouldn’t demonize your opponents. It makes you lose perspective and it compromises your ability to defeat them. But I don’t know that you can call what is going on in Texas anything less than evil. The Bell Boys have been defeated here and there, right and left, in their insatiable quest for indulgence, but they have managed to put up one heck of a fight in Texas. It looks like they are on the verge of gutting the ability of cities to regulate the use of their rights-of-way through Senate Bill 408 which will give the Public Utilities Commission control over franchising.

Their champion du jour is a man who claims high morale character of the sort he’d make a TV preacher proud, Representative Phil King. It doesn’t take much scratching to find King’s dubious side, what with reports of fancy affairs paid for by telecom lobbyists at $4 million dollar homes. This “Man of G_d” plans to re-introduce his deregulation legislation that will strip Texas cities of millions of dollars of revenue on the Christian Sabbath, which has opponents crying foul since they won’t see the legislation until Saturday when nobody is at the Capitol and they will only have 12 hours to get their changes in. Yes…the Devil is always evolving.

And the Devil is in the details. It’s not just about who gets to stick it to the phone companies, it comes down to giving a free ride, welfare checks you might say, to corporations who already make more money than the law should allow. Meanwhile that lost revenue has to be made up somewhere, like the public schools or police departments or job training programs. As I remember it “greed” is one of the seven deadly sins. While I am all for capitalism, I am not for thievery and you can’t call SB 408 anything less than that.

The folks in Texas have been doing a stellar job. The Texas Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, the Texas Municipal League and Common Cause have mobilized, faxed and phoned until their fingers are blue.

But my heart is full of angst of the Midwest William Inge kind. Sometimes good does not triumph over evil and there are no orchestrated celebrations to carry you off into the sunset. Sometimes you just end up coming away a little sadder and a lot wiser.

I’m hoping not. I’m hoping Texas is able to defeat this legislation, because if they do they will provide an example for the entire country. So if you know anybody in Texas give them a call or write them an email and tell them to get to their state legislators asap.

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