Texas Outlaw Writers' Newsletter: Don't Look Back Edition
Was 2022 a year half full or half empty? It depends on who you ask.
Maybe you got a new or better-paying job due to the worker shortage. But runaway inflation probably ate into that raise. Just when supply chain problems started to sort themselves out, Russia invaded Ukraine. Those various supply lines are once again in disarray, and as fuel prices have come down, a cold winter and the Ukrainian invasion promise to wreak havoc on fuel supplies once again.
Covid continues to disrupt world health... new variants seem as common as wildfires, and vaccine fatigue (or fear) is making us more and more vulnerable. Other opportunistic viruses are on the rise as the flu, RSV, and the common cold are crowding hospitals and pediatric clinics.
The Supreme Court threw Roe back to the states, which means abortions in Texas have been thrown back to the alleys and underground clinics.
WNBA star Brittney Griner was arrested in Russia for a trace amount of THC in her possession, but after much international intrigue, was released in a prisoner swap in early December.
A lot of kids got back to school, and many young adults went back to in-person college classrooms. Still, others insist on continuing on-line learning. The trend to stay on-line holds true for employees that want to keep working from home. While most studies show that working and schooling from home can be productive, other experts insist that this is increasing social isolation, loneliness, depression, and for the young, an absence of social skill development. It's also tough to do collaborative work on a Zoom call. But not having a daily commute or a middle manager breathing down your neck all day does have its advantages. Childcare is still difficult to find... another reason that the work-from-home trend will continue.
Speaking of workers, the nation is still hiring, though there are signs of a slowdown on the horizon. Naysayers are still talking about a recession, and Elon Musk layed off 75% of his Twitter workforce. Sure, that's only one of the bizarre decisions that Musk has made, but as terrible as his behavior was (on so many levels) in 2022, there are a lot of tech CEOs and boards that took notice that his platform is still up with only a quarter of his employees. It's one of those things that gives bad managers even worse ideas.
In Texas, the glass unfortunately is mostly half empty. 2022 was the year of the Uvalde School slaughter, and in reality, nothing has changed. There will be another. The border crisis is still a crisis. Gov. Greg Abbott insists on political stunts like bussing immigrants up to the Vice President's lawn, rather than working with Congress to solve the problem. About 2.75 million undocumented folks have crossed the border this year. The electric grid is still under stress. During the recent holiday cold snap, ERCOT underestimated energy needs and asked for (and received) a federal order asking permission to run generators full out and above the set emission standards (they did not need to invoke the order.) Their demand forecast has been repeatedly flawed, especially in light of continued population growth.
And in one last blow for Texans in 2022... Southwest Airlines has had a near-total system meltdown for staffing and operations this Christmas. Nationwide, tens of thousands of flights have been canceled, and this week alone, five thousand more have been preemptively canceled. Passengers and luggage are stranded all over the country. While other airlines struggled with extreme weather delays and cancelations, they mostly recovered in proportion to those external factors. But SW has spiraled out of control and are struggling to get back on track. Passengers are beyond furious. Customer service employees are refusing to come to work because of that fury and their inability to solve the problems. Triple-time pay has been offered for some shifts. Management has finally admitted that their antiquated IT systems are to blame. They have known for years (and through several other breakdowns) that their systems for crew and staff scheduling, operations management, logistics, and route planning are terribly outdated and lack the capacity for the number of flights and passengers being processed. Herb Kelleher must be spinning in his grave. One of the most successful airlines ever (by several metrics) and a source of pride as a "Texas" carrier. After a lot of government money was sunk into keeping the airlines afloat (and staffed) during the pandemic, and several warnings in the form of smaller breakdowns, it will take a long time to recover the trust lost this week. It has not been a good week for their customers, long-time supporters, and especially their comms team.
So what does 2023 hold? Are you nuts? How can anyone predict what will be coming after looking at 2022? Did you figure on inflation this last year? The crazy weather? How about a major war erupting in Europe? One that was "predicted" to be an ugly but "quick" invasion? Did you predict that the Mississippi River would be almost as dry as the Colorado, and affected shipping, farming, and food prices? And who can predict what will happen at the border? Or where and when another mass shooting will occur?
Are some of these things too grim to consider? The point is... in our interconnected world, the actions of others halfway around the globe could have a major effect on our lives. Climate change is having an ever greater impact on our communities: fire, snow/ice, extreme heat, etc. And bad government policies (here and abroad) are disrupting our lives in ways we can't control. (Think: immigration, gun law, fuel and food trade.)
Maybe we should keep our expectations low. "Happy New Year?" How about, "Have a Fairly Stable New Year." "Roll with the Punches, New Year. "Not Any Worse of a New Year." Yeah, something like that.
Have an Uneventful 2023, No Worse than the Last!
Roger Gray called in sick. He started to write his "looking back at 2022" piece, and became very ill just thinking about it. When it occurred to him that Meatloaf and the Queen of England had both passed in 2022, he took to the bed. He's been pretty fragile ever since he was unable to procure Taylor Swift tickets. (He even tried the "do you know who I am?" card.) Get well, Rog. See you in 2023.
In her three-part series, "A Holiday Trinity," Myra Jolivet has paid tribute to some of the people that have made big, positive differences to the people of Texas. Most of them do good "for goodness' sake," and have probably flown under your radar. In her last installment, she wants you to focus on positive change. And not in that sort of self-help-meditative way... she lists a few things to act on... vote, volunteer, donate, start an organization to facilitate change. Work towards the greater good. "Imagine all the people, Sharing all the world..." is how John Lennon put it.
Our resident conspiracy theorist James Moore has written bits about his research into the JFK assassination before, but for your end-of-the-year reading pleasure, he has assembled a fairly detailed summary of his entire investigation. To make it even more interesting, he's put it in the form of a multi-part-movie series script treatment. Does anyone know any Netflix showrunner?
Trump may have tried to block the peaceful transfer of power, but Moore suggests that an ambitious young man from the Hill Country of Central Texas aligned himself with economic, intelligence, and military forces to kill a president in order to replace him in the White House.
In terms of making this into a TeeVee show - the narrative of this dramatic, hour-long series is a dark tale of intrigue, betrayal, and power that offers a reinterpretation of ignored facts, and points a damning finger at Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) of Texas. This story will convince viewers that LBJ was complicit in the killing of John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK) in Dealey Plaza and that America and most historians have been fools to believe the government’s version of events.