Category: Politics

Local Politics

I’ve had a few reminders recently that civic engagement is more than focus on national politics. Bonus: local Trustees, School Board members … even state Reps and Senators … hear from far fewer people (e.g. I get personal responses from these folks and a form “thanks for your opinion” messages back from my federal officials).

Ohioans can find their state Rep and Senator at


I am writing to express my vehement objection to GA133 HB-164

I appreciate the desire to allow students to express religious beliefs in their school-work. Allowing a student to select the Torah for their book report is one thing, but this legislation seems to have the unintended consequence of allowing religious-based beliefs to inform “correct” answers. While it is factual to say “scientists believe X, and some people do not concur due to religious beliefs”, and it is useful to teach our children this truth, how can a science class be taught when scientific answers are discounted? And what constitutes a valid religious belief? Something like 18 USC § 1093 is so vague that we’ll find a new “religion” that strongly believes that division by zero equals five. Or that vowels are an abomination which must be struck from the language.

Even restricting “religious expression” to religions with a large, arbitrary number members creates issues. The proposed legislation will put schools in the difficult position of either telling students their purported religious beliefs do not “count” or allowing offensive and subversive content to be expressed. Where I attended school, some individuals ran for school board on the platform of pushing religious issues — primarily allowing high school students to read a prayer as part of the morning announcements. These individuals assumed this meant we would all hear a Christian prayer each morning. While I was certain there were some high school students eager to read the expected content, I was equally certain there would be some high school students eager to read a Druid/Buddhist/Scientologist prayer in the morning. At which point the school administration either needed to prohibit those students from reading unwanted content (and the risk of litigation such a prohibition entailed), telling kids that they’re not actually Raelian and thus need to wear a shirt to school (and how exactly do you prove or disprove one’s affiliation with a religion?!), or allowing the expression of religious beliefs by anyone who wanted to purport a religious belief. I was quite confident that the Board members who were pushing to allow a morning prayer would be horrified to have their kids listening to Satanic invocations. Were there enough students ready to read a ‘mainstream’ prayer that the school could just claim the time was all booked up? This legislation seems to suffer the same problem — except without the possibility that all of the “religious expression slots” will be taken by the “right” type of expression. The new Board members withdrew their proposal after I questioned how it would actually work, and I hope you will vote against this bill should it come to the floor.

(Not) Another Brick In The Wall

I find myself in the ironic position of being disappointed that a federal judge says Trump’s national non-emergency to redirect military funding to his wall is illegal. Not because I want him to built a massive monument to his racism and narcissism — I’d just as soon not have my tax money wasted on an ineffective reaction to an actual problem. But because I see the judicial precedent this would set — Bernie Sanders’ first day in office involves not ceremonial signing ceremonies for legislation but rather the issuance of several national emergency declarations. Unhealthy conscripts hinder troop readiness, so there’s the Medicare for All national emergency. Uneducated conscripts hinder troop readiness, so there’s the tuition-free state University national emergency. The military has published studies about how climate change impacts troop readiness, but also our reliance on foreign energy sources (fuel for military vehicles) and foreign manufacturing (who is making the electronic components in military equipment, networks, communication devices, etc) … there’s the New Green Deal national emergency and the domestic manufacturing national emergency. Look at Egypt, Greece, etc — underemployment is a national emergency unto itself. And suddenly the near 700 billion dollar military budget is redirected to Sanders’ platform.

On the climate

I liked the format of CNN’s climate town hall event. The successful way of allowing candidates to convey a lot of information was basically an accident of the DNC’s stubbornness — they didn’t want to host a debate on climate change (why?!?!), and they own any situation where more than one candidate appears on a stage and talks (or something like that). So the only option available was to provide each candidate a chunk of time — *not* a debate. Sucks that it wasn’t freely available like the debates were, but we signed up for a free trial of YouTube TV to watch it. And we’ll get a free trial of something else for MSNBC’s climate debate later this month (Weld is supposed to be on the schedule).

I’m glad CNN had large time blocks for each candidate — they could have given everyone ten minutes and not had time for follow-up. And it was interesting to see Buttigieg use another approach to the question of why environmentalism is important — because ‘existential threat’ is not likely to convert any minds. But couching it in terms of our stewardship of God’s creations — that actually has potential to appeal to people who don’t care about species going extinct, habitat loss, clean air, clean water, their kids future. What does God think of how you are treating his creations? I cannot imagine that sort of digression coming into a debate format. There were a few forays into a nuclear discussion too — Yang’s liquid fluoride thorium reactor investment, Sanders assertion that we’ve got enough radioactive waste already. I’d have liked to see someone offering to invest in reactors fueled with used rods — not as part of our overall energy strategy, but because *something* needs to be done with the existing waste.

Possibly due to the origin of the event, possibly just demographics … but they had some good questions too. I loved seeing food policy repeatedly brought up as a component of climate change mitigation. And some realization that it’s not as easy as picking up a guy from a Gulf oil rig, sending him to classes for a few weeks, and dropping him off at his job on the solar farm. People get their identities tied up in their job — “what they do” — and that’s just as important as addressing the training and logistics of training people for new jobs.

It was great to see Booker acknowledging that he doesn’t know much about geoengineering and would have to research it before having an opinion. That’s a reasonable order of things. And I liked that Yang brought up geoengineering as a component of the solution — geoengineering is something I’d researched from the ML / data modeling side, and it was good to see it put forth as something other than nuc’ing hurricanes. I’d have liked to see the problems with capitalist enterprise being the source of technological solutions (although Yang touches on the issue in ditching GDP as the sole measurement of economic success).

Biden’s whole performance was expectedly underwhelming. I’m not sure where he got his rep as a great people-person politician … because WTF is the point of arguing about whose state is getting it worse? Biden’s digression into base readiness is something I wish had follow-up. He started down a path, then drew back saying something like “I cannot get into that”. Which made me wonder what exactly *that* was. He might have been talking about the DoD Climate Report from Jan 2019 and not wanted to get into it as a digression wasting his free airtime. But my mind went down the path … a VP’s got high level clearance. Does he keep it after leaving office? Can he still request briefings from DNI? Can he *not* get into it?

Cooper had a card about Andrew Goldman because they knew the question was going to be asked — it was basically a “gotcha” setup. But the exchange highlighted how Biden is the embodiment of what people hate about politicians. The “depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is” legal technicality dodge. My takeaway is that Biden knew the guy had been a co-founder of a natural gas extraction company and runs a hedge fund with diversified investments. But the dude *isn’t* the CEO or active board member of a 100% fossil fuel company, so I’m following the letter of the agreement. How’d he make his first million? How’d he make his subsequent hundreds of millions? Not relevant. The alternative is that Biden’s campaign is inept, and they don’t do background research on people hosting high-dollar fundraising events. I believe that about as much as I believe a former model didn’t put any thought into the words on the back of the jacket she was wearing.

Other candidates did better jobs answering ‘gotcha’ questions. Sanders refused to pledge that no taxpayer will shoulder the 16 trillion dollar burden for his environmental plan (and I love the idea of TVA’ing renewable energy production, which I hadn’t heard before) because *some* taxpayers WILL pay more. Yang’s response about electric cars was great – it would have been a great place to talk about Porsche’s Taycan (another pure electric car with sub three-second 0-60 time) event earlier in the day. But telling people that they’re going to LOVE driving an electric car is spot on. Warren won’t take the light-bulb bait and wants to focus on the oil industry, the electric power industry and the building industry (although it would have been nice if *she* had enumerated them)

Some didn’t seem well prepared for obvious gotcha’s. Booker gets a bit cornered by the “taking away my burgers” question … because he’s a vegan and doesn’t want to seem like one of *those* vegans? Klobuchar doesn’t have a good response about the dairy or cattle industry because she may need to run again in Minnesota. But the Biden exchange seemed like an ambush in that it wasn’t an obvious question. Cooper returning to the Goldman topic for a closing clarification was bad for Biden too. The last impression you got of Biden was him being defensive about possibly taking money from an LNG guy. Which at least gives the appearance that Biden is losing his de facto choice status. Could you have seen CNN going after Clinton like that last time around?

The whole thing got me thinking that the next president has a chance of making some progress in spite of Moscow Mitch. Piece-meal some of it through budget reconciliation. There’s SCOTUS precedent that the Executive branch can take money from one place and allocate it elsewhere for something that has been intentionally not funded by Congress (yet another point where Trump probably doesn’t even understand the ramifications of his short-term ‘win’). Withhold subsidies from one place (fossil fuels, meat, dairy) and use that money toward other initiatives (increased solar/wind rebates, increased veggie subsidies, electric car rebates). Adjust dietary guidelines and national school lunch requirements (it’s be a huge uproar, but imagine the impact of schools doing meatless Monday). Sue the companies that have internal documents from *decades* ago indicating that they knew burning fossil fuels was environmentally destructive. It’s no different than the tobacco companies — well, it’s worse because even if you lived on a remote island for your entire life and never encountered anyone who bought anything from ExxonMobile … you’re impacted by their products — so why *don’t* we have trillion dollar settlements from them funding the public solar/wind power company?

On Greenland

Trump wants to buy Greenland … which, yeah, it’s been suggested before. Way before, like 1946. And it wasn’t well received by the Danes at the time, so not exactly a stellar argument there. But Greenland isn’t a colony in the 1800’s style. A decade ago, the Act on Greenland Self-Government was granted. Which made Greenland’s parliament on par with the Danish parliament. Now, foreign policy and international agreements are still under Danish control, and there have been some power struggles in the intervening decade. But I don’t think anyone could buy Greenland from Denmark.

Followup – Straws as a Marketing Stunt

Well, I wasn’t wrong 🙂 Plastic straws + free media attention were a great combination for the Trump campaign. 140k straws at 15$ a pack is over 2 million dollars. They cleared 200k on that, which isn’t bad for a week or two of fundraising. And half of the purchasers were new donors — which means a lot of new contact information to solicit future donations and to target “get out the vote” efforts. And it’s pretty easy to figure out what message will entice this demographic.

Straws as a Marketing Stunt

As a campaign/marketing stunt, the Trump campaign’s plastic straws are brilliant. It is a solid component of the “troll the liberals” campaign plank. Garnered a lot of attention (not *good* attention, but that seemingly doesn’t matter). Sure, major news outlet aren’t exactly saying “go shop the Trump reelection store!!!”, but media outlets are still providing free advertising for Trump.

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)