Tag Archives: idiocy

I Think We’re Doomed

Every morning, I scan the headlines of the various news sites I consult, and it is a rare day when I don’t shake my head in disbelief over some crazy measure introduced in some state legislature. These bills are generally introduced by elected officials who clearly didn’t run touting their superior policy chops. (Don’t get me started on the intellects of those who voted for them…).

For the past decade or so, the vast majority of these brainiacs have been Republicans.

Allow me to share a recent example, picked up by the liberal site Daily Kos.

Lawmakers in North Carolina have introduced a bill to eliminate free charging stations for electric vehicles. Why? One of the sponsors tweeted his rationale:”Taxpayers should not be footing the bill for ‘free’ electric vehicle charging stations on state and local government property unless the same locations offer gasoline or diesel fuel at no charge. We need to do more to increase American energy production.”

I’d like to ask him whether taxpayers should be footing the bill for free streets and highways, since citizens using public transportation have to pay for that method of transport…

The bill–sponsored entirely by Republicans in the North Carolina legislature–is a mishmash of odd provisions. As the author of the article writes,

I’m having a hard time getting through HB 1049, the North Carolina House Bill that basically demonizes electric vehicle charging stations because consumers aren’t getting free fossil fuels alongside them. The bill was sponsored entirely by Republicans: Reps. Keith Kidwell, Mark Brody, George Cleveland, Donnie Loftis, and Ben Moss. It requires businesses to disclose the percentage of what they’re charging customers that is “the result of the business providing electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at no charge.” Businesses more than likely would be handing customers receipts showing 0%, given the Energy Department’s estimate that it costs just $6 for an EV with a 200-mile range and a 54kWh battery that is fully depleted to be completely recharged.

The bill also requires publicly-funded EV charging stations on state-leased or state-owned property to come with free gas and diesel pumps. The same goes for county and city property. And if anyone in those groups with EV charging stations on their property can’t adhere to those terms, the bill requires the Department of Transit to develop a system to disperse $50,000 for the sole purpose of using that money to dismantle EV charging stations. Make it make sense.

Making that measure “make sense” is probably beyond the capacity of rational folks.

The electricity provided by charging stations is produced using fossil fuels, so they aren’t a panacea for the environment–but their availability encourages people to purchase electric vehicles. You’d think getting internal combustion engines off the roads–an environmental plus– is something government should encourage.

That said, even climate change deniers would have trouble making sense of this bill, and it has come in for its share of snark. As Ezra Dyer wrote in Car and Driver, 

Politicians have to run on some kind of platform, and Ben Moss—my incoming state House representative here in North Carolina’s District 52—decided that his animating principle is Being Mad at Electricity. To prove his animosity toward this invisible menace, he’s sponsoring House Bill 1049, which would allocate $50,000 to destroy free public car chargers. It contains some other enlightened ideas, but that’s the main theme: We’ve simply got to do something about these free public chargers, even if it costs us $50,000! Those things cost tens of cents per hour, when they’re being used.

Of course, there’s a caveat here. Moss isn’t saying that free public Level 2 chargers—of which there are three in my town, with plans in the works to convert to paid kiosks—definitely need to get crushed by a monster truck. That rule only comes into play if a town refuses to build free gas and diesel pumps next to the EV chargers. So anyway, warm up El Toro Loco, we’re smashin’ some car zappers!

The last time I checked, this wacko bill had passed first reading, so I assume the North Carolina legislature has a GOP majority.

Measures like these are what happens when people running for office are utterly unserious (not to mention unknowledgeable) about governing. I don’t know what “floats the boat” of the sponsors of this particular bill, but far too many aspirants to public office are either culture warriors uninterested in the mundane nuts and bolts of governing, or empty suits wanting to “be someone.” And these days, in the GOP, “being someone” requires peddling beliefs like the Big Lie, QAnon, Christian Nationalism and a grab-bag of other irrational and illogical “alternative facts.” it sure doesn’t require expertise or common sense.

I think America is screwed…..

 

 

Speaking Of America’s Decline…

As long as we’re talking about the decline of America’s political life, let’s talk about Herschel Walker– a human representation of that decline.

Walker–for those unfamiliar with him, as I happily was until recently–is the Republican candidate for Senate in Georgia. His nomination owes much to America’s obsessions with both sports and celebrity; he was evidently once a good football player.

At least he was good at something…

I can’t describe Walker any better than The New Republic.which headlined the linked story with a question: Is Herschel Walker Running to be the Senate’s Dumbest Liar?

Last month, the two-time All-Pro running back from the University of Georgia won the Peach State’s Republican Senate primary. A rabid right-winger, Walker has fully backed Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen, going as far as to say that Joe Biden didn’t get “50 million votes.” (Biden received more than 80 million.) He has urged revotes in a number of close states, including Arizona, Pennsylvania, and his home state. In chilling fashion, he called on Trump to conduct a “cleansing” of the country in the days leading up to Biden’s inauguration.

Walker is, even by recent GOP standards, an absolute firehose of lies. He’s also, to put it bluntly, absolutely godawful at lying. His deceptions seem to arrive in the news pre-collapsed—they are easily uncovered and incredibly numerous; his falsehoods have been repeatedly revealed over the last several months. At this point the “False Statements” section of his Wikipedia page is longer than the one recounting his ongoing campaign to be Georgia’s next senator.

The article enumerates a number of the lies Walker has peddled. For example, he has boasted that he was proprietor of a food service business that was a “mini–Tyson Foods,” claiming that it employed more than 100 people and generated nearly $100 million in sales. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the company’s profits were less than $2 million; that Walker didn’t own or run it, but had simply licensed his name to the business; and it had only eight employees.

In February, meanwhile, Walker boasted that “I still have about 250 people that sew drapery and bedspreads for me.” That sounds impressive! There’s just one problem: It isn’t. While Walker has claimed on his website that “[Herschel Walker Enterprises] and Renaissance Hospitality provides major hotels, restaurants and hospitals with custom fabric bedding, drapery and window treatments,” the truth is that Renaissance Hospitality doesn’t exist anymore—it dissolved a year ago. Moreover, Walker didn’t even own the business—a friend did.

There’s lots more. On several occasions, Walker claimed to have worked in law enforcement, although he never did. He has repeatedly railed against single-parent families, especially absent Black fathers.  Small  problem: The Daily Beast initially revealed that Walker has a son, now 10 years old, whom he never sees, and subsequently found others–there are (at least) three children for whom Walker is an absentee father

The portrait that emerges is a pretty simple one: The guy is a liar and a dummy. Walker spouts off in interviews and the campaign trail, inflates his successes, and makes bold claims that are comically easy to disprove. His campaign occasionally acknowledges them or tries to walk them back—it acknowledged the parentage of his son, for instance—but Walker has managed, either by wit or by accident, to keep following the Trump North Star, charging forward, headlong into the next incident. This candidacy is ultimately a test of how much Trump broke our politics—and how much a lesser facsimile of the former president can lie again and again and still succeed in American politics. Perhaps our politics are sturdy enough to survive it. It’s still no fun watching voters have to stomach this sort of stupidity and deceit.

If Walker was just a one-off, that would be dispiriting enough; he is, after all, the nominee of a major party for the Senate of the United States. But he has lots of company. (And let’s be clear, virtually all of the bumbling, moronic, ego-driven narcissists who embarrass America daily come from the once-Grand Old Party. Marjorie Taylor Green, Louie Gohmert, Paul Gosar, Lauren Boebert…In the Senate, you have Tommy Tuberville (who didn’t know there were three branches of government), James Inhofe…and those are just the ones who come immediately to mind.)

Dick Lugar is spinning in his grave.

How did American politics descend from debates over the common good and sound policy–from issues of governance–to today’s version of “let’s make a deal.”? When did celebrity come to be more important than competence, anger and bile more important than intellect, self-aggrandizing bluster more important than verifiable truth?

For those of us who are worried that the country is in decline, the rise of the idiocracy is compelling–albeit depressing– evidence.

 

 

 

 

Games Indiana’s GOP Plays…

Oh, Indiana!

Ours is a state so gerrymandered that control of our legislature remains firmly in the hands of a Republican super-majority. To say that the lack of competition has given us state lawmakers who reflect the party’s ideological extremes would be an understatement.

So what is the “World’s Worst Legislature” (h/t to the late Harrison Ullmann) doing this year?

Well, our lawmakers are no longer trying to change the value of Pi, which I suppose is progress of a sort. What they are trying to do is keep Indiana utilities from phasing out their dependence upon coal;  persisting in their efforts to elevate the rights of fertilized eggs over the rights of women; refusing to fund election security measures; and demonstrating their ignorance of the separation of powers.

There has been a bill protecting religious mental health workers who deny emergency assistance to those they consider “sinners” and another prohibiting athletes who were born male from competing against cis women in sports. Another “protective” measure would prevent employers from implanting chips in their workers (a practice not currently occurring in the state, but hey! It might happen, so let’s talk about that rather than the very real problems we face.)

The majority is also moving new legislation to create a “cross-check” bill to facilitate the purging of (certain) voters, after a previous effort to do so was struck down by the courts as blatantly unconstitutional.

And of course our legislators are continuing to divert resources from the state’s public education system in order to prop up the religious institutions that make up some 95% of “voucher” schools.

But absolutely the most consistent legislative behavior, year after year, is the General Assembly’s adamant refusal to allow cities and towns to do–well, pretty much anything— unless and until their overlords in the legislature deign to give local elected officials their official blessing. (Especially Indianapolis, which the Republicans who represent mostly rural districts irrationally resent.) It took three sessions for Indianapolis to get permission to hold a referendum on whether to tax ourselves to improve public transit, and then only on condition that we not include light rail. Why no light rail? Who knows? And this session, legislators continue to offer roadblocks to planned expansion of the city’s rapid transit lines.

The most recent–and arguably this session’s most egregious–example is the legislature’s move to foreclose Indianapolis’ effort to protect tenants from landlord abuses. Even the Indianapolis Star was offended.

Mayor Joe Hogsett’s proposal to provide more protections to Indianapolis renters now faces an uncertain future.

Indiana lawmakers added language to a bill Monday that would prevent any city from regulating landlord-tenant relations without approval by the General Assembly, including at least two key items in Hogsett’s proposal: requiring landlords to notify renters of their rights and responsibilities, and fining landlords who retaliate against renters for reporting problematic housing.

Senate Bill 340 initially moved through the Indiana Senate as a bill addressing laws about condemned properties. An amendment added at the Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee, though, would undercut a legislative priority of Hogsett, a Democrat, now in his second term as Indianapolis mayor.

The Hogsett administration saw its proposal as a way to balance the scales against unscrupulous landlords, many out of state, who take advantage of lax government oversight in Indiana to prey on desperate renters.

Any lawyer who has practiced real estate law in Indiana– I am one–is aware that Indiana law is heavily weighted in favor of landlords. (I’m sure this favoritism has nothing to do with the fact that the tenants who are disadvantaged by our legal framework are far less likely to be political contributors than their landlords.)

When this year’s (mercifully short) session comes to an end, we’ll see what passed and what didn’t. But one thing we can predict with confidence: local jurisdictions still won’t have anything that looks remotely like home rule.

 

Automakers Are More Responsible Than Trump

Trump’s war on science and the environment was recently dealt a setback in the form of an agreement between a group of American, Japanese and European automakers and the State of California.

As The Washington Post reported,

Four automakers from three continents have struck a dealwith California to produce fleets that are more fuel-efficient in coming years, undercutting one of the Trump administration’s most aggressive climate policy rollbacks.

The compromise between the California Air Resources Board and Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW of North America came after weeks of secret negotiations and could shape future U.S. vehicle production, even as White House officials aim to relax gas-mileage standards for the nation’s cars, pickups and SUVs.

California’s head air pollution regulator invited the Trump Administration to join the agreement. I don’t know whether she was being tactful or naive. To no one’s surprise, the Administration instead doubled down on its proposal to roll back mileage regulations.

Interestingly, the automobile companies approached California, not the other way around.

In a joint statement, the four automakers said their decision to hash out a deal with California was driven by a need for predictability, as well as desires to reduce compliance costs, keep vehicles affordable for customers and be good environmental stewards.

“These terms will provide our companies much-needed regulatory certainty by allowing us to meet both federal and state requirements with a single national fleet, avoiding a patchwork of regulations while continuing to ensure meaningful greenhouse gas emissions reductions,” the group said.

The deal comes as the Trump administration is working to finalize a huge regulatory rollback that would freeze mileage requirements for cars and light trucks next fall at about 37 miles per gallon on average, rather than raising them over time to about 51 mpg for 2025 models — the level the industry and government agreed to during the Obama administration. The proposal also would revoke California’s long-standing authority to set its own rules under the Clean Air Act, a practice the federal government has backed for decades.

It is hard–no it is impossible–to defend the rollback that the Trump Administration is intent on pursuing. Requiring cars to be more fuel-efficient is self-evidently a desirable goal: it would improve public health, combat climate change and save consumers money at the gas pump, all without compromising safety or inordinately burdening manufacturers.

The companies that are party to the agreement with California represent approximately 30% of the market, but that share could grow significantly if other automakers join, as observers anticipate. The Post reports that just last month, Canada pledged to align its gas-mileage targets with California rather than with the Trump administration.

The idiocy of that administration becomes clearer every day.

The transportation sector has emerged as the single-largest source of greenhouse-gas emissions in the United States, and the future gas mileage of the auto fleet will have a profound effect on the nation’s carbon footprint. According to the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center at the New York University School of Law, the Trump administration’s plan to freeze mileage standards between 2020 and 2026 would increase greenhouse-gas emissions by between 16 million and 37 million metric tons in that period. That is the equivalent of adding between 3.4 million and 7.8 million cars on the road.

Trump officials have consistently rejected the idea that the federal government should adopt policies aimed at weaning Americans off fossil fuels. NHTSA’s own analysis of its proposed mileage freeze projected that the increased greenhouse-gas emissions from the move would not make a major difference, because the world was on track to warm by seven degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century anyway. (Emphasis supplied)

We’re dying anyway, so let’s allow our donors to make money now.

Words fail.

 

And Now, Celebrating the Plutocracy

Andy Borowitz said it best: Greed alone is destructive but greed combined with idiocy is catastrophic.

Which brings me to this recent report in the Indianapolis Business Journal.

A House panel on Thursday approved Republican-written legislation that would gut much of the Dodd-Frank law enacted by Democrats and signed by Obama in the wake of the financial crisis and the Great Recession. The party-line vote in the Republican-led House Financial Services Committee was 34-26.

House Republicans based their desire to repeal Dodd-Frank on the “costs of compliance.”

Evidently, they aren’t worried about the economic or human costs of the rampant financial misbehaviors that Dodd-Frank was enacted to control.

President Donald Trump has denounced Dodd-Frank with his usual “eloquence” (cough, cough), promising that his administration would “do a big number” on it. (I think that’s what’s called “thug speak”…)

Vox has also reported on a number of GOP efforts to once-again deregulate Wall Street; it details a bill that “would do more to deregulate the banking industry than any single piece of legislation in a generation.”

Because that worked out so well….

Republicans on the House Finance Committee have hammered away at a mammoth 593-page bill called the Financial Choice Act that the bulk of the GOP caucus is expected to get behind. The committee already moved the bill to the “markup” phase on Wednesday.

“I think this has a very good chance of passing. There are a lot of Democrats who are going to be supporting this,” Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said in an interview. “Even Democrats have bankers in their districts.”

Of course, Inhofe seems overly optimistic. Congressional Democrats are expected to march in lockstep against the banking bill, which would make it difficult for Republicans to get the 60 votes they’d need to get the Choice Act through the Senate.

Financial experts have called the measure radical.  It eliminates most of the banking oversight passed during the Obama administration, but it goes much further, “rolling back oversight in a way that could dramatically exacerbate the likelihood of another financial crisis, according to experts in financial regulation.”

The Choice Act would also gut the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, the brainchild of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). As Mike Konczal wrote for Vox, the CFPB has won millions from big corporations by suing those who use “deceptive practices” for their customers. Hensarling’s bill wouldn’t get rid of CFPB entirely, but advocates say it would effectively render the agency powerless by letting Congress control its funding, allowing the White House to fire the agency’s director at will, and, perhaps most importantly, stripping it of a broad range of rulemaking authority.

There’s much, much more. The bill would split the Federal Reserve in half and prevent it from coordinating financial regulations and monetary policy; that, according to banking experts, would make bubbles more likely — and more dangerous to the economy.

Borowitz is right. Greed and idiocy are a lethal combination.