Friday, August 23, 2019

A personal apology from The New York Crank to Mette Frederiksen, Prime Minister of Denmark

Maybe his diaper was wet
Dear Prime Minister Frederiksen,

Back in 1959, as a still-adolescent college student, I spent some time in Europe. The student bible for European travel in those days was called “Europe on $5 a Day,” and believe it or not, two students splitting hotel rooms really could travel around the Continent for five bucks a day — $35 a week — back then.

On the recommendation of the same guidebook, I signed up for a program called “Meet the Danes” when I got to Copenhagen. Just for showing up, a Danish family would invite you into their home for coffee, cake, and conversation. Free!

My traveling buddy and I ended up in a nice house on the outskirts of Copenhagen where what seemed like a terribly old couple (they must have been in their mid-thirties) sat us down at their dining table. I can still see them. She was wearing a Channel suit. He was wearing a double-breasted blue blazer and a striped rep tie and looked a bit like Prince Philip of England. 

The cake was delicious. Their home was inviting and of course furnished in Danish Modern. The conversation? Well, let’s just say the age gap between two dazed nineteen-year-olds and two fully adult 30-somethings was a bit too wide. I think they were relieved when we were finally gone, so that they didn’t have to keep trying to think of something to say that would get us talking.

All the same, I was, and to this day still am, impressed by the kindliness, hospitality, and warmth of the people I met in Denmark, exemplified by that lovely couple who invited a couple of bratty American kids into their home for some coffee and cake just to be nice.

Which brings me to Donald Trump.

One morning this week, Trump woke up and decided to buy Greenland. Never mind that it wasn’t on the market. Honestly, I checked the real estate ads. Couldn’t find Greenland anywhere.

Never mind that he forgot to ask the citizens of Greenland if they were up to getting sold like a blighted corner lot or a bankrupt Trump casino in Atlantic City. Or even whether Denmark has the authority to sell it, much less the interest. 

Never mind that if Denmark had come to Trump and asked to buy New York City, where I live (Oh, how I wish! I could have Danish medical care, retirement benefits, and terrific pastries....) Trump would have laughed them off his Twitter feed.

You, Madame Prime Minister the good sense to call an absurdity an absurdity. As Trump's followers would say, you told it like it is. Whereupon Trump had one of his infantile hissy fits, cancelled the visit to Denmark that he had invited himself to take, and called you “nasty.”

However, don’t regard his name calling too seriously. He called you nasty because he only knows two adjectives, okay maybe three, and none of the others was adequate to reflect his disappointment that you wouldn’t indulge his whim du jour. 

Not to worry. By today he was off Denmark and back onto crashing the American  stock market yet another time. Unlike purchasing Greenland, he actually was able to crash the market by tweeting a bunch of orders that he has no power to singlehandedly impose  under law — such as ordering U.S. manufacturers out of China, telling the Federal reserve again to cut the discount rate, and generally putting on his best impression ever of a six year old having a foaming-at-the-mouth temper tantrum. 

This means, Mme. Prime Minister, that you’re off the hook today. And tomorrow, too, since he’s undoubtedly going to spend tomorrow, and of course tonight, finding other people to blame for the stock market’s 623 point avalanche of losses.

He’ll no doubt blame Chairman Powell of the Fed. Maybe he’ll throw a rock at Apple Computer for making its IPhones in China. Maybe he’ll demand that Congress eliminate all taxes so that the economy can be more overstimulated and drive the market back up again  Maybe he’ll decide that somehow it’s Hillary Clinton’s fault, or Obama’s. I’m not sure how, but Donald is a very imaginative child — in fact, a "genius" according to him — so don’t put it past him.

With so many people he can target, it’s highly doubtful that he’ll blame you for the crash, although actually, with Trump you never know.

Anyway, as somebody who has experienced, just a tiny bit, the charm and goodwill of the Danes, I did want to apologize to you for our very, very, very badly behaved enfant terrible.

Oh, and at long last, thank you Denmark for the coffee and cake.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

We shouldn’t buy Greenland — but maybe Greenland should buy the United States. Or to put it another way, Vi skulle ikke købe Grønland - men måske skal Grønland købe USA

Yup, that's what Greenland looks like
So there’s Greenland, population under 60,000, on what’s been billed as the world’s largest Island, way up there in the North Atlantic. It’s part of sort of, the Kingdom of Denmark. It has gorgeous scenery, glaciers melting at a disastrously fast pace, some strategic value if you get it in your head to bomb Russia, alleged and unspecified mineral deposits of great alleged value, and a population that’s part Innuit and part Danish.

Donald Trump seems to have plans to go there in September. And he seems to want to do a real estate deal and buy the place.

Hey, we’ve a national deficit that’s expected to reach $1.1 trillion by 2020, and it’s climbing. Our infrastructure is crumbling. Our government is short staffed to the point of incompetence. To give you one tiny example, Federal prisons are so understaffed that they couldn’t afford fresh, full-time guards to keep an eye on prisoner Jeffrey Epstein who less than a month before had tried to hang himself.

But we can go buy Greenland. Maybe Trump thinks he can get a deal. That’s very scary. If Trump goes to a closing, can a bankruptcy be far behind? Just off the top of my head he either went bankrupt or lost millions on the Plaza Hotel, Trump Atlantic City Hotel and Casino, Trump Airlines. And I’m sure I’m leaving something out here, or maybe several things.

But wouldn’t it be a great deal for us if Greenland bought the United States? As citizens of Greenland we’d automatically have medical care for all. We’d have far more generous vacations and pensions.We’d have so much peace of mind that we probably wouldn’t mind all that much learning Danish.

Also, there’s a good argument for Greenland annexing the United States, with or without paying for us. Seems that Leif Erickson set foot in America a good bit before Christopher Columbus. So perhaps his descendants in Denmark and Iceland have a prior claim to the USA. Ja?

I’m so glad Donald brought the matter up.


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Hate to say I told ya so but....

The stock market recovered a little after I accused Trump of crashing it last week. But nothing recovers fully from The Trumpster, and most especially, nothing financial.

The Dow lost over 800 points today. Because he's still doing his thing, even when he says he takes back his thing.

Please, please be careful not to walk past any tall buildings, and to look out for falling bodies if you must walk past tall buildings.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

So far, Walmart stands behind your Second Amendment rights. First Amendment? Not so much.

No longer for sale on the Walmart website
The Walmarts of America are among the few places on the planet where you can enjoy the convenience, in a single shopping trip, of picking up a box of crackers, a jug of peanut butter, a six pack of something wet, a sniper scope, and, oh, say 500 rounds of ammo for your AK-47, all at the same store.

I mean, if you’re planning to hunker down in some well protected vantage point and pick ‘em off as they pass, while remaining well fed and happily hydrated, there can’t be a better place to enjoy one stop shopping. 

And after all, didn’t God give us the Second Amendment just so we can stay armed and blow away people who are — you know — asking for it?

But if you’re planning to advertise your fondness for guns, perhaps you’d better shop somewhere else.

On the Walmart website, where you can buy lots of shooting accessories but not guns, probably owing to variances in state laws that are too difficult for an Internet sales bot to interpret, you could still, until recently, buy a T-shirt  that advertised that you liked guns expressly because they could shoot genuine people.

Not that the T-shirts were actually encouraging you to go out and do some random killing. It’s just that one T-shirt, which had a check box for “GUN OWNER” and another for “VICTIM” with a check in the owner’s box made it perfectly clear what your firearm is for.

Another T-shirt, expressing an attitude more than an application, bore an image of a set of crosshairs with the legend, “Gun control is being able to hit your target.”

Notice I’m using the past participle when I talk about the T-shirts.

According to Advertising Age, the T-shirts were offered on the Walmart website by third party vendors, but taken down after Walmart faced some, uh, incoming fire from critics.

Walmart has also taken down a third-party offering of a T-shirt that advertises, “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required.”

Presumably, you can still go into Walmart and buy a rope. For all I know, you might even be able to buy a tree there. Just as in various states, you can still buy your firearms, ammo and  accessories  in Walmart.


Walmart doesn’t care, just so long as you don’t go all talky with your First Amendment rights and begin shooting off your mouth or your T-shirt about it.


Saturday, August 10, 2019

Jeffrey Epstein's revenge

Jeffrey Epstein's mugshot. (Public domain)
So New York woke up this morning to the news that Jeffrey Epstein, accused procurer of adolescent girls to the rich and politically connected, was dead, evidently of suicide.

Somehow — despite a previous suicide attempt, despite reports that he was severely depressed, despite his irreplaceable value as a potential witness in the statutory rape and child abuse trials of others —Epstein managed to hang himself.

Or so we’re told.

By some bizarre coincidence, despite his suicide attempt only days before, he was not under suicide watch, according to a report by the New York Times. And even if he was under suicide watch, the watch wasn’t particularly attentive.

Either way this smacks, at the very least, of gross negligence by the people who administer the Metropolitan Correctional Center. But it is almost a guarantee that for weeks, years, decades after Epstein’s death, conspiracy theorists will be having a field day. There’s a rich lode of questions they can ask, and conspiracies they can imply.

Was taking him off suicide watch a deliberate attempt to make certain his suicide happened?

Is it a coverup for a forced murder-by-hanging, in attempt to silence Epstein before he could reveal whom, among his storied “friends” and clients, he had provided with nubile 14 and 15-year-olds?

Are the prison system and the government now so corrupt that they are can be instructed by somebody at the very top to permit a suicide, or commit a murder?

Whether Epstein’s suicide was real, or simply encouraged, or faked by murderers, it is the worst thing that could happen to people who were in his various social circles in Florida, New York, the Caribbean, and Paris.

Charges might never have been brought against some of these men. Or charges might have been brought but refuted, in some cases. But rumors fueled by conspiracy theories never die. 

Fifty-six years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, theories and beliefs in a hidden hand behind Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin, still circulate. Fifty years after Epstein’s death, there will still be whispers about whom Epstein supplied with teen-agers, and in particular about Donald Trump.

So if somebody very powerful did arrange for Epstein’s death, that person made a grave mistake.

No doubt, some low- or mid-level functionary at the New York Metropolitan Correction Center will be found, scapegoated, and punished for the sins of the rich and powerful. Or simply for the incompetence of the prison system. No doubt, somebody will declare that’s the end of it, even as civil suits get launched against some — but not all — of the powerful predators.

And no doubt that fifty years from today, there will still be theories, books, accusations, and panel discussions about who really did what in the case of Jeffrey Epstein.

Which means that, although he is dead, he will not go away. He will never go away. His ghost is hungry for revenge, and that hunger never can be satisfied.

Some very uncomfortable men may have simply wished for the death of Jeffrey Epstein.

As the old maxim goes, be careful what you wish for.


Monday, August 05, 2019

Very stable genius Trump crashes the stock market


Is the guy holding the sign actually Donald Trump? Just wondering.
Photo credit: Nicholas Roberts.AFP/Getty Images
Not so long ago, Donald Trump made the bizarre announcement that if he doesn’t get re-elected in 2020, the stock market will crash.

He, uh, forgot about what might happen if he started screwing around with tariffs on Chinese made goods. 

I sat down to write this Monday, August 5th, shortly after a headline from the Reuters business news service flashed across my screen. The headline:


See. The Donald, very stable genius that he is, told us that tariffs are easy. He should know. After all, he pulled that brilliant thought out of his own precious rectum.

But the Trump Easy-Peasy Theory of Tariffs failed to account for the fact that if you slam China with  tariffs, China might find a way to slam you back.

And so, the Dow on Monday posted its biggest percentage drop of the year, according to Reuters, chalking up a loss of three quarters of a trillion — that’s trillion — dollars.

I’m certain that as I write this, Steve Mnuchin and whoever else in the White House has any financial sense, if anybody,  are frantically scrambling to walk back the tariffs, at least part way. Or to find some other fix that will make today’s crash look less disastrous.

That failing, or China failing to respond positively, watch for Donald to demand that the Fed cut the interest rate again. Which in fact they might have to do to save the United States from Very Stable Genius's latest financial catastrophe. It was bad enough when he was bankrupting his investors. Now he just might bankrupt the United States.

I can’t tell you what the market will do tomorrow, next week, or next year. Or whether it can recover. Or whether the recovery will take a a day, a year, or a decade. The best financial prediction I ever heard came from the late banker, J.P. Morgan. When reporters asked him what the market would do next, he announced gravely, “The stock market will fluctuate.”

But I do want to take this opportunity to congratulate our Very Stable Genius.

You’re doing a helluva job, Donny.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

There’s nothing the least bit radical about one of the “radical” ideas of Sanders and Warren. If anything, it’s a bit old-fashioned.



Probable Trump voters. (Just sayin'.) Photo swiped from
PeopleOfWalmart.com. This has nothing to do with the
comments below. I just needed a picture of something.
Below, a three-paragraphs-long list of some high-achieving Americans, both living and deceased. Glance at all the names and then — quickly — figure out what they all had in common: 

General and former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Inventor of the polio vaccine Jonas Salk. Actor Tony Curtis. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Composer Yip Harburg. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. Composer Ira Gershwin. Author Henry Miller. Photographer Alfred Stieglitz. Keep reading, because there’s more: 
Composer Frank Loesser. Theoretical physicist Julian Schwinger. Author Upton Sinclair, Jr. Millionaire investor Bernard Baruch. Actor Jud Hirsch. Congress of Racial Equality Chairman Roy Innis. Internet Protocol inventor Robert E. Kahn. Trade unionist A. Philip Randolph. Author Lewis Mumford. Keep going, because there’s still more.
 Pulitzer prizewinning playwright Wendy Wasserstein. Artist Ben Shahn. United States Senator Robert F. Wagner. Psychiatrist Albert Ellis. Newscaster and reporter Daniel Schorr. Author of The Godfather Mario Puzo. Semiconductor entrepreneur Andrew Gove. Actor Zero Mostel. Nobel Prize-winning physicist and astronomer Arno Allan Penzias.
Figured it out yet?
Before I give you the answer, let me mention that this is just a partial list of famous high achievers who had this thing in common. But okay, I’ve probably kept at least a few of my readers in suspense long enough.

They were all graduates of the City College of New York — CCNY as it’s called locally — when it was free. You can find a fuller list here.

And remember, CCNY was only one of the free city colleges. There was also Brooklyn College (Frank McCourt, David Geffen, Dominic Chianese, Barbara Boxer, Alan Dershowitz, Bernie Sanders, and many others.) 

And Queens College (Jerry Seinfeld, Paul Simon, Joy Behar, Gary Ackerman, Carole King, Marvin Hamlisch, Robert Moog. And many others.)

Free education is 
cost-effective education

Before the squeeze-‘em’-till-they-bleed Conservatives began to choke off the funding, CCNY alone was known as “the poor man’s Harvard.” And judging from all their distinguished alumni, they produced contributors to America’s prosperity, leadership, and scientific advancement far more cost-effectively than Harvard, Princeton or Yale.

Each time the city’s colleges turned out another alumnus, they helped to improve the economy, and scientific advancement of the United States.

These days, their funding strangled directly and indirectly by ever-increasing tax cuts for the obscenely rich, these institutions are forced to charge tuition. It’s still modest tuition by the standard of most private colleges, but the cost nevertheless prevents an unknown number of future potential contributors to America's greatness from getting a college education .

Nor was the concept of free or cheap college limited to New York City. The great land grant colleges and universities — places like Texas A&M, Cornell, Ohio State, Purdue, and Iowa State, among many others — were founded on pretty much the same idea. When Americans yearn for the time when America was “great” they are yearning, in fact, for a time when a college education for most could be free, or at least so dirt cheap that nobody had to go into debt for it.

But will rich people
get a "free ride?"

Some, I suppose. However, I don’t hear either Warren or Sanders promising to send your kid on a free four year excursion through the Ivy League. They’re talking about the public and land grant colleges and universities. So if, say, some future Trump kid can’t make it into Harvard or even Haverford, I suppose they can make a stab at Podunk State, and sail through tuition free if any Trump has the brains to survive. But so what?

We’ve had free elementary and secondary education in America for two or more centuries now. So far I haven’t heard anybody complain that Chauncey (“Chip”) Chizzlewit the Third went to public school free, from kindergarten through high school, and didn’t pay a nickel of tuition. It’ll be largely the taxes the rich will pay that will finance free public education anyway, so if they want to take advantage of it, fine. 

Come to think of it, maybe mixing with the likes of thee and me will teach the spoiled rich a thing or two about tolerance. And perhaps they’ll all figure out that they’re not all Very Special Stable Geniuses after all.

The point is, free college education isn’t a radical idea. Preventing free college education is what’s really radical. Harmfully radical, reducing America's competitiveness in the world.

And the so-called middle-of-the-road Democrats who oppose free higher education are so far off to the right, they’re helping the Republicans run this country into a ditch.


Thursday, July 25, 2019

“But Hitler wasn’t all bad. He built the autobahns.” Plus: How to know if you too are a very stable genius.

Back in the day, Ogilvy turned out
classy ads like these for classy 
clients. Today, alas, not so much.
Keep reading for the Hitler part.
If you follow the advertising trade press — or pass your time reading Buzzfeed — you may already be aware of the brouhaha that’s been kicked up at the advertising agency, Ogilvy.

The agency was founded in 1947 by the late, utterly charming, and brilliant advertising great, David Ogilvy. One of its founding principles was flat out integrity. “The consumer is not a moron, she is your wife,” Ogilvy thundered. 

Another of the agency’s principles had to do with quality and class. Perhaps the only thing David Ogilvy ever stole was his agency’s motto. And Ogilvy, with disarming honesty, admitted outright that he stole it. He lifted it from, of all people, the banker J.P. Morgan. “Only first class business, and that in a first class way.”

Alas, the definitions of what is first class, what is business, and even what advertising is all about, have changed since then. There are many forces at work, from the merciless advance of technology, to the greedy consolidation of ad agencies back in the 1990s that switched the focus at most ad agencies from doing great work for great clients, to making damn sure management hits its financial targets, no matter what else you have to do to get there.

The commotion
about Ogilvy

Which brings us to the sort of semi-scandal brewing around Ogilvy today. Long gone are Rolls Royce, Hathaway Shirts, Schweppes, and some of the other accounts that made the agency famous. In its place are clients like — God! I hate even to write the name — U.S. Customs and Border Protection. You know. Immigrants fleeing persecution getting busted and handcuffed  Kids ripped from their parents' arms and stuffed into cages. Adults in lockups squeezed so closely together they can’t sit down or lie down. Cool stuff like that.

Some of the folks who actually do the work, in Ogilvy’s Eleventh Avenue boiler room in a repurposed Manhattan chocolate factory, and around the world, balked. Buzzfeed got hold of the story and initially did some fairly egregious misreporting, ranging from the age of the agency (It was founded in 1947, not 1850), to the notion that Ogilvy was handling the PR for the border guards. They’re not. Ogilvy’s assignment is to do ads recruiting more people to the border patrol's ranks. For some reason — I can’t imagine what it might be — Trump’s government seems to be having a problem doing this.

Nevertheless, the report kicked up such a hullaballoo that on July 9th, Ogilvy’s CEO, John Seifert, decided to calm the roiling waters by holding a company meeting in New York, with people in remote offices plugged into the conversation.

Early on in the meeting, Seifert pleaded for “confidentiality” and asked that no one record the conference. So of course, somebody made sure to do just that , and then turned the recording over to Buzzfeed, which printed a transcript of it. If you have some time to read it all, it’s worth a perusal. But for me, two points stand out.

First, well into the lengthy meeting, Seifert in effect said that if you don’t like the way things are, leave.
Seifert: Let me give you a separate view. If your line is no company, whether it's product defect, whether it's breakdown of operational safety, whether it's a formulation that didn't serve a particular constituency, if your line is we should not work for clients at that risk level, then you shouldn't be here. Because the fact is we cannot hold that line of expectation and assume that we'll work for anybody.
Which isn’t all that different, when you think about it, from Donald Trump telling the Congressional squad of women of color to leave and fix the countries “they came from” if they don't like it here. Never mind that three of the four come from the United States.

Second, there was a vague echo from a line in the old movie Judgment at Nuremberg, about the post WWII Nazi war crimes trials. An old German woman tells an American judge, played by Spencer Tracy  “I won’t say that Hitler was all bad. He built the autobahns.”

Here’s Seifert:
Seifert: What I'm saying is that as an employee of the company, you can look at this all on a spectrum. Right now, we as a company have made the choice to work with a variety of government agencies, that we believe, in the main, they have the intention, a mission, a commitment to do the right thing. You have one aspect of this particular agency that is absolutely overwhelmed and failing to deliver on what most of us would agree, they should be, a standard they should be trying to live up to.
See, they’re not all bad. I mean, sure, they have this little thing about busting up families and turning little kids into virtual orphans, and imprisoning people in crowded, filthy spaces, and chattering about it approvingly on social media. But I won't say they're all bad. They have a commitment to do the right thing.

Listen, without going into details, I’ve met Seifert. He comes across as a nice guy. In most respects not pertaining to this matter, he is a nice guy. And given that his own survival and that of many of his employees, in part depends on his turning over to his parent conglomerate, WPP, the income that Ogilvy makes from the border cops, he’s got a real problem. Whether inadvertently or not, he got his dick stuck in a wringer. And now he can’t seem to get it out.

David Ogilvy's not-so-secret
secret confession

 David Ogilvy must be turning in his grave. Late in his life, in 1994, he gave an "off the-record talk" to his company's board of directors at Touffou, the medieval castle in France that he bought with some of the proceeds from taking his company public. Like just about every secret off-the-record talk, the record has leaked out. I happen to have a copy of it. 

Ogilvy was nearing the end of his life, almost certainly knew it, and felt the need to do some confessing. Here's one of his confessions: 

"I made a terrible mistake in going public." (Underlining his own.)

It was from that mistake that all other tragedies at the ad agency sprung — from the hostile takeover of his company by WPP, to the necessity of bedding down with clients controlled by the Trumpistas.

Were he still living, Ogilvy might abandon his First Class Business motto for another:

Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas.

But I won’t leave you
on that grim note.
So instead, Donald Trump.

No doubt many people who’ve listened to and watched Donald Trump have wondered how they, too, could become very stable geniuses.

Like everything else Donald Trump does, it’s easy. Take real estate transactions, for example.

As the shopworn maxim about real estate goes, they’re not making any more of it. So most of the time, if you buy a piece of real estate, and just hold on to it, you’re almost certain to make money when you sell. Ask nearly any American who’s bought and some years later sold a house or a condo.

What's more, if the real estate in question is an iconic landmark that also happens to be a hotel where people will pay top dollar to stay, who knows how many millions of dollars you could make?

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Great New York City Blackout of 2019. Was there more to it that didn’t meet the eye?

Con Edison already sticks its cost of doing business to its customers. 
What else have they stuck to you?
This is about bills, and corporate greed, and the July 13th blackout that demonstrated just how dependent New Yorkers are on a company that, like nearly all corporate enterprises these days, puts profits first. And it may be about possible ulterior motives. But let’s start with the bills.

My June bill from New York City’s utility company, Con Edison, charged me $8.94 for the electricity I had used.  

No, that wasn’t the amount of  my monthly bill. That was just for the electricity I actually consumed. The bill itself came to $41.48 because it included charges I would have had to pay even if I hadn’t consumed a single watt of power.

Amont the items Con Edison tacked on to my bill, there was a “merchant function charge.” 

what? 

According to the bill that’s a “Charge associated with procuring electricity, credit and collection related activities and uncollectible accounts.” In other words, unlike your neighborhood cheese merchant, if Con Ed gets stiffed, they simply stick the loss caused by the deadbeat to their other customers.

It's all very weird —
and vaguely crooked

Suppose your next door neighbor stiffs the plumber. Can the plumber demand the unpaid $300 from you?

My bill also included a $12.33 charges for “maintaining the system through which Con Edison delivers electricity to you.” Right, and why shouldn’t the beer company charge me not only for the case of beer, but also for the broken axel it had to repair on the beer truck after hitting that pothole on Main Street, which is part of the system through which they bring me my beer? Not to mention the price of washing the truck.

There was also a “Basic service charge.” That, says the utility, was for “basic system infrastructure and customer-related services, including customer accounting and metering services."

Sure I’ll tell you what you owe me.
But there’s a charge for that.

So they charge me to read the meter so they can tell me how much money they want from me! I’m not sure what a “customer accounting” service is because they also charge me for depositing the check I send them every month.  Specifically, “A billing and payment charge of $1.20 which may be avoided by switching to an energy services company (ESCO), is also included.” 

How nice of them not to charge me for paying bills I’ve incurred with another company!

The list goes on with several other items. Not least infuriating is the charge for taxes that Con Ed gets charged on their gross receipts. So — if you can follow this — if they charge their customers more, they'll also charge us for charging  more, since their gross receipts will increase.

Now I know that similar charges are hidden in everything from the price of my corn flakes to what the doctor charges me for thumping my chest, before he goes off to pay his malpractice insurance. But at least just about every other business in the world has the decency to charge proportionately to what I consume. Keeping beer trucks up to snuff may be included in the cost of my beer, but if I drink less beer, I pay less for maintaining the trucks. If I visit the doctor only once, I pay less of his malpractice insurance. than if I visit him twice Not so with Con Ed.

Guess what, blackout victims:
You're screwed again.

During the blackout, the thousands and thousands of Con Ed customers who sweltered without air conditioning, stumbled around in the dangerous dark, and found the milk in their unrefrigerated refrigerators going bad, consumed less electricity. 

So yes, they’ll be charged for a piffling few less kilowatt hours. But remember, that’s often a very small part of their bills. They’ll still pay Con Ed’s charge for other people being deadbeats in full. As well as the billing and accounting charges. As well as all the other outrageous charges that most companies consider to be the cost of doing business.

The infrastructure charge is particularly galling, since it was the inadequate or badly maintained infrastructure that caused the blackout in the first place. Imagine if I didn’t deliver the case of beer you ordered because my truck broke down, and then billed you the price of a new truck.

Meanwhile, Con Edison is seeking a rate increase that would put an additional $1.6 billion a year into its own coffers. According to AARP, which is attempting to marshal opposition to the increase, “Next year alone, that would mean a 9% increase in the average customer electric delivery bill, and a 15% increase for gas delivery.”

Was the blackout an accident?

All this makes me wonder if that blackout on July 13th was nothing more than a little accidental-on-purpose demonstration of what’s going to happen to you if Con Edison doesn’t get the $1.6 billion it’s demanding.

The AARP recommends that New Yorkers protest Con Ed reaching deeper into your pockets by calling 1-844-354-6881 toll free. That’ll give you an opportunity to leave a message for the Public Service Commission.The AARP proposes you follow this script:
“Hello, my name is [name]. I’m calling to urge you to reject Con Edison electric and gas utility hikes, cases 19-E-0065 and 19-G-0066. Con Edison’s plan would send rates sky high, as well as increase my already excessive customer service charge. Please give ratepayers a break.”

Come to think of it, pick up the phone and do that right now. It’ll only take you a few minutes. It might save you hundreds of dollars over the long run, if the Public Service Commission actually listens. And better you get get a break than those greedy goons at Con Ed, right?