Episode 75: Stone Cold Austin

In the seventy-fifth episode of The Latest, we try to determine if the winter storm in Texas, Ted Cruz’s Cancun vacation, the death of Rush Limbaugh, and the second impeachment acquittal of Donald Trump constitutes a slow news week. Connecticut Public Radio’s Colin McEnroe, the host of “Pardon Me: Another Damn Impeachment Show?” and “The Colin McEnroe Show,” joins the program for this week’s O.J. Simpson Twitter Update.

The Latest with Greg Ott
The Latest with Greg Ott
Episode 75: Stone Cold Austin


Those voices are discussing Texas, a business-friendly, property-rich player who declined to invest in either the Water Works or the Electric Company. 

As residents continue to grasp with massive infrastructure failure that’s left more than a dozen dead, hundreds of thousands without power, and millions without drinkable water, many within the Lone Star state are beginning to ask themselves the same question: do they say don’t mess with Texas because they’re not good at putting it back together?

For those who didn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day on Sunday, Mother Nature decided to give people another opportunity to feel alone, icy, and powerless. 

A series of extreme winter weather events descended upon vast swaths of the country, from snowlyamorous states like Vermont to snow-curious locales like Louisiana, which only flirted with three-to-six inches that one time in college.

The result was an historic and unprecedented winter storm that’s affected tens of millions of Americans — but in spite of the chaos, countless acts of destruction, and multiple confirmed deaths, 43 Senators have still concluded that it’s not guilty. 

Appropriately, as many continue to salt the Earth in response to the blanket of white, Congress announced a plan on Monday to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol., in wake of the second impeachment acquittal of future three-time divorcee Donald Trump.

They’ll be modeling the group on the 9/11 Commission, which was formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. They won’t even need to update the title. 

The 9/11 Commission should service as a perfect model, considering its  experience probing a criminal mastermind with financial ties to Saudi Arabia and a nepotistic tree of useless children who’s on track to be found lifelessly tethered to a dialysis machine. 

Axios, the Greek word for “bullet point,” has characterized our inability to confront major challenges as America’s Can’t Do Spirit.

From managing COVID-19 to overseeing what’s plugged into federal power strip, the only place where the American Spirit seems to be embodied is whichever first-world, third-world airline terminal that’s saddled with those two carriers: destitute, backwards, run-down, tacky, dreadful, logistically complex, and grounded somewhere in Florida.

And I can’t help but think that many of the seemingly disconnected events of this week are, in fact, closely linked together, in the same kind of Butterfly Effect scenario that leads a character on That 70s Show to become a venture capitalist who invests in smart thermostats. 

In the late 80s, the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine ushered an era of unbalanced political commentary from the unbalanced Rush Limbaugh, whose addiction to spreading racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-scientific, and false equivalency-laden invective was only outmatched by his addiction to OxyContin, and leaves behind a corpse that, once cremated, will cement a legacy of having permanently polluted our airwaves.

Tucker Carlson, Alex Jones, and others who define journalism as the  verbatim reading of the questionable contents of a forwarded email, metastasized beyond the radio to the very smartphone in your hand that they claim to be giving you and yours hand cancer. 

Audiences largely sympathetic to a center-right point of view inevitably get pulled further into the maniac vortex, which ultimately taints the voting public with water more dangerous than the stuff coming out of Houston’s taps. 

It should come as no surprise, then, when those ushered into power purely on cynicism, whataboutism, and a highly-profitable right-wing media complex not only feel like they’re doing the right thing by exonerating a guy they don’t like for ransacking the symbol of our democracy as if January 6 was Black Friday at Best Buy, but they have the gall to book an early spring break to the Ritz-Carlton in Cancun because Ted Cruz’s United Club miles were about to expire in his fridge. 

I’m not surprised that a public servant like Ted Cruz would skip town in the middle of a crisis without giving it a second thought, because that implies he had a first one to begin with. 

Texas is so allergic to the prying hands of the federal government that it maintains its own power grid, preferring blown transformers over the anaphylactic shock caused by cooperation over common interests. 

Governor Greg Abbott even pretends that the state’s failed power grid is the logical result of the Green New Deal, which is not a law, but rather a series of proposals suggesting that eating McDoubles on a daily basis isn’t good for humanity — especially whoever you’re sharing a bed with. 

President Biden wants to pass comprehensive infrastructure reform by the Fourth of July, a date barely four months away where the snow will be long gone and Armie Hammer will be having his friends over for a barbecue. 

But if we want our bridges rebuilt, the power kept on, and our water free from brain-eating amoebas that led to an outbreak of people who enjoyed The Flight Attendant, we need to pull the circuit breaker on the likes of Mr. Cruz and Mr. Carlson to restore a national sense of utility.