Category: Politics and Government

Ohio House Bill 62

Letter sent to my Ohio State Representative and Senator:

I’m writing in reference to House Bill 62.

Pertaining to the definition of “Plug-in electric motor vehicle” and “Hybrid motor vehicle” (Sect 4501.01 DDD and EEE) and their additional respective registration fees, the wording in the bill as I read it leaves some ambiguity to a third segment: the “Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle” or PHEV. These are vehicles that will both plug into an external source to charge for a modest electric range AND use the gasoline engine in a typical hybrid configuration when the charge is depleted. These vehicles are NOT designed to run indefinitely on electricity alone. My concern is that the current wording classifies certain PHEV’s as Plug-in electric motor vehicles. PHEV’s will still pay the gasoline tax, similar to hybrids, when they fill up at the pump *and* be charged a 200$ registration fee. Examples of vehicles in this category are the Chevy Volt, Toyota Prius Prime, Chrysler Pacifica PHEV, Kia Niro PHEV, Honda Clarity, and the Ford Fusion Energi. I would like to see the law amended to ensure PHEV owners, who generally pay some gasoline tax just like “Hybrid motor vehicle” owners, are not subject to the higher registration fee.

Beyond the classification of PHEVs, the gasoline tax is consumption and usage based. Heavier vehicles tend to have lower mpg ratings, thus their drivers accrue more tax. Individuals who drive a lot accrue more tax. The new registration fee is a fixed amount that has no bearing on an individual’s actual vehicle usage. I will be assessed the 200$ fee, and I drive maybe 2,500 miles a year. Someone with a pure electric Tesla who drives 300 miles a day pays the same 200$ fee but drives 75,000 miles in a year. If I convert an F-350 to a plug-in electric motor vehicle, that 7,000 pound truck is going to be assessed the same 200$ fee as my 3,800 pound PHEV.

I don’t have a problem being asked to pay for *my* usage of the roads. I wouldn’t complain about per-mile fee for electric and hybrid vehicles or an additional tax on electrical consumption to fund road repairs. I’d be less upset if the petrol tax were scrapped and everyone charge a registration fee based on the vehicle’s weight so infrequent drivers universally subsidize frequent drivers. But I vehemently object to being uniquely, financially penalized for low-milage usage of a PHEV.

In an emergency … build a wall??

Efficacy and waste of money aside, the best thing would have been to give him the cash. If Congress can pass one-off legislation on end of life care for a single individual, they could have one-off’d letting the GoFundMe buy a wall. And then the dude could have absolutely failed at building a wall because, well, he runs the government *just like* he runs his awful businesses. Hell, he *builds* the wall and we still have people overstaying visas, meth cooks out in Illinois, murders, and traffic accidents — bad PR for the wall, that.

This is the martyr path — no wall means no stats to show how ineffective it was, he can keep crowing about how amazing he is at building all sorts of things, we’ll be treated to endless bitching about how no other president has had to deal with this judicial intrusion into their agenda, the case becomes a rallying point for the base and yet another justification for activist judges. I was shocked he didn’t go national emergency before the shutdown — strategically, it really seems like the best solution (a priori assumption: everyone from the administration knows the wall is a heap of theater thus knows theater with no tangible artifacts is an improvement)

I’ve seen the future …

This will go totally meta — he’s going to deny having denied that he denied denying collusion. At some point, dude is going to deny having been Trump’s attorney / spokesperson / lacky. Then we’ll meander our way into a whole “je pense, donc je suis” discussion because maybe we don’t even exist at all. Bad debate tactic, but I’m coming to see Trump’s approach to public discourse like the guerilla warfare American Revolution approach to European combat tactics. Considered terrible form at the time, but effective as anything. Which, sadly, dictates that we’ll *all* be debating substantive topics by throwing baseless attacks, making shit up, and derailing the conversation with a heap of crazy.

Maths: The Wall

I think the wall is a completely stupid idea — based on emotion rather than statistics about the source of immigration violations, not an effective solution even if the problem were people sneaking across the border. But I am seeing a way to get this whole debacle sorted within the Executive branch (which may not be legal, because government budgeting isn’t quite the same as corporate budgeting). When we’ve got projects that are under-budget, the extra money can get moved over to some other purpose. Well, if we can shut down the government for no good reason during budget negotiations … what if the Executive branch shut down all those “non-essential” services for a while to free up money that can be transferred over to DHS? How long would the government need to be shut down?

 

For a five billion dollar wall (again, HA!) … since the FY2019 budget is like 4.4 trillion dollars, we spend 12 billion a day. Say 90% of that is essential. Five days of shutdown would fund the wall. Which doesn’t make the wall a good idea. Or mean Congress should just approve it to get the whole debacle over with. But it certainly says something about government spending that the wall is half of a day worth of spending. And it certainly says something about our government that it gets shut down over half a day worth of spending.

 

 $         5,000,000,000.00 The wall
 $ 4,407,000,000,000.00 FY2019 budget
 $       12,073,972,602.74 Daily spending
 $         1,207,397,260.27 10%
4.141139097 shutdown days

The Military Industrial Complex

Will withdrawing from Syria and Afghanistan be move that swings Senate Republicans against Trump? Matt Taibbi speculates exactly this. I’ve wondered why Republicans stand by Trump so relentlessly — it’s not like Pence *wouldn’t* deregulate environmental and financial industries, create refugee crises at the border, and cut taxes without a care to deficit spending. Figure it’s got to be the 30 percent (or whatever) of the voters who actually think Trump is doing the right thing. Say the country is split pretty evenly between the two parties — and that the 50% on the Democratic side aren’t likely to be talked into voting Republican … that means Trump’s deplorables *are* the majority of the Republican voters. Now a historically successful (not to mention reasonable) ploy is to adjust your platform to appeal to more voters … but evidently no one wants to walk that path. Motivate your voters or put the other guy’s voters off works too — but the circus act that is the Trump campaign is about the pinnacle of motivating voters, and no one is sure who is running next cycle to dissuade people from fully supporting the individual. So they’re sticking by Trump … unless. Could the military industrial complex — and all of that money — be the thing that turns them?

The question makes me think of Trent Lott. Who had all sorts of faults, but public opinion turned on him when he said “I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over the years, either.” Which … anyone who bothered to find out could have known Lott liked Thurmond. It’s like Capone going down on tax evasion — yeah, I’m glad the dude got put in prison (or resigned from office, or thrown out) but over that?!?

The Secret Plan!

Good news, we know know Trump’s secret plan to defeat ISIS — have Erdogan do it! Now I don’t think we’ve got much business in the Middle East (or Afghanistan). And “have countries in the region – Syria, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan – sort it” isn’t exactly a novel approach. But it is especially ironic for someone who touted their secret plan to subsequently say anyone else told him they’d take care of it.

All and all, it’s just another brick in the wall

Good news — at this rate, they’ll have collected enough money for “the wall” sometime before the fourth millennium.


The wall costs 5 bill (ha!). They raised 6 mil between 16 Dec and 3PM today — which I’m calling three and a half days because today isn’t over & maybe he created it at 23:58 on the 16th. A five billion dollar wall would be fully funded in a mere 8 years — or the year 2026. But there’s also the half billion a year to maintain the wall — failing to maintain the thing creates a dilapidated monument to Trump’s … oh, wait, that’s fitting. Their daily contribution rate exceeds the estimated operating run rate, so they’ll need to keep raising funds until they’ve got a trust to cover the wall’s expenses. 

And the whole thing is pointless since there’s a GoFundMe to buy ladders too 🙂 

In all seriousness, *this* is the only way I’d be OK building the wall. In fact, I think government services should move into a new non-profit category where donations are exempted from AMT and offset tax dollars owed. I could give 10k to the EPA (provided they’re actually enforcing regulations to, ya know, protect the environment) and owe nothing else in taxes. Otherwise I’ll fund arts, broadcasting, WIC, civil rights … I’ll find some agency Trump doesn’t know exists to ruin.

Heads I win, tails you lose

From one way of looking at it, legislative moves to limit the power of incoming administrations are brilliant (I mean, it sucks beyond the telling of things but still). I’m losing the majority, dump money into local races and gain the power to reorganize voting districts so I still win. I *still* manage to lose even in my gerrymandered districts, redefine what the elected government can actually do while I’m still in power. You can find yourself screwed over by your own rules — see: Scott Walker but if you’re losing voters … it’s a decent gambit.


It also, short term, addresses a concern I see because compromise is no longer a thing. If we cannot agree on some middle ground, regulations are going to vacillate between extremes as the side in power flips. So we get 4 years of fuck the environment, who needs to publicize accounting nonsense we know your books are right, drill baby drill, hey food producers – inspect yourselves and fill out this form if you find a violation otherwise we’ll assume it’s all good man. Followed by four years of umm, I wanted to breathe that air, remember Enron. How about Deep Water Horizon? Upton Sinclair? How was that hospital visit after your last bowl of romaine? It’s expensive for companies to change processes and re-engineer to meet the new laws on short time-frames like that. So I get rid of all of those pesky regulations, then legislatively change it so the next dude cannot change those regulations without a 2/3 majority vote during a full solar eclipse. Boon to business, since they can actually change their processes/products without fearing a complete rework two years out.


Problem I see, though, is that these moves are predicated on the a priori assumption that Americans will keep playing the game no matter how many dirty moves each team makes. My daughter likes to play games I call “Anya wins” — where the rules of the game change during play to ensure whatever she did beats me. Even knowing that she’s a five year old kid and having fun … it’s not a lot of fun to play Anya wins unless you get to be the Anya. How long can we sustain a peaceful transfer of power when those leaving play ‘we win, you lose’?

Off Label Use: Git

I store a lot of code in Git-based systems, and I read through parts of my state’s Revised Code on occasion. But it never occurred to me to store the Revised Code in a Git-based system

Imagine being able to comment on a pull request and have your commentary considered during the public hearings for the proposed change. Sure, there’s elitism to assuming everyone’s got a computer and time to peruse proposed changes. But not more than assuming everyone’s got an hour to head over to Town Hall and attend the public hearing. 

And the storage system retains history for you — a pull request created by government officials due to newly enacted laws could reference the law itself. If you’re convinced the auxiliary building was totally in compliance of zoning regs when you built it … you could run through the history and identify exactly when the setback requirements changed. 

Fact-free discourse

The migrant caravan illegally invading the United States has been a gigantic heap of “alternative facts” — or, for the old fashioned, inaccuracies and lies. Is there anything to gain from proving individual tenants of Trump’s argument to be the abject falsehoods that they are? People walking from Southern Mexico are not at the US border. 5,800 US military personnel, *they* are at the border in what I am sure is a fairly expensive political stunt. But people hiking across Mexico have a few weeks of walking ahead of them.

And what exactly are they doing that is wrong?? How many people know step #1 of the asylum process? Here it is — from the US Department of Homeland Security website. To apply for asylum, you need to be physically present in the US or seeking entry into the US at a port of entry. So … people who want to request asylum in the US that head to a port of entry are, wait, following the legal process.

But while there are a bevy of proximal arguments being made, the distal complaint is essentially “we don’t like other, keep them out”. So I wonder about the efficacy of of providing actual facts to counter the litany of alternative ones. Are there people rooting for militarization of the border who will change their mind when they realize asylum seekers showing up at a port of entry are following the proper process? Or will they come up with some new “fact” to heap on the pile.