scharrison's blog

Strained Trump logic: Bad mileage = people driving less = safer roads

The revolution in the evolution of fuel-efficient cars comes to a screeching halt:

The Trump administration says people would drive more and be exposed to increased risk if their cars get better gas mileage, an argument intended to justify freezing Obama-era toughening of fuel standards.

New vehicles would be cheaper — and heavier — if they don’t have to meet more stringent fuel requirements and more people would buy them, the draft says, and that would put more drivers in safer, newer vehicles that pollute less. At the same time, the draft says that people will drive less if their vehicles get fewer miles per gallon, lowering the risk of crashes.

Of course this is the propaganda tail wagging the anti-Obama dog. Or the other way around. Whatever the case, getting rid of the fuel efficiency standards was the main goal, and reasons for doing such seems to be more of an afterthought than a driving force. And it's a poorly-researched afterthought at that:

Confessions of a progressive religiophobe

Some of you may have read Leonard Pitts' column over the weekend, and there are a few good points to keep in mind: "With oozing condescension, they lament that someone otherwise so smart and perceptive – i.e., someone who agrees with them on the issues – can’t let go of faith. For them, faith and progressive politics are incompatible."

Let me state upfront that I don't want to live in a state/country/world dominated by any specific religion, or even a generic hybrid. But at the same time, I also don't want to live in a world where people are afraid to admit they hold religious beliefs. And that's not any sort of "internal conflict," that is what America is supposed to be about. You don't have to be a historical scholar or a time traveler to figure out what the Founding Fathers had in mind on this subject, because it too is self-evident. But when it comes to political discussions, whether it's campaign rhetoric or policy decisions, religious views are simply out of place. Irrelevant, patently undemocratic, and more often than not, a vehicle for abusing the trust of those who are counting on leaders to make the right choices. More on church vs state below:

Taking back the U.S. House somewhere between possible and probable

Little Donnie just might have an aneurysm:

A flurry of Republican retirements has led to 42 open seats, many of them the sort of well-entrenched incumbents in competitive districts whose retirements are the most valuable for Democrats. The Democrats have succeeded in recruiting well-funded and strong candidates in many of the battlegrounds, which has tended to lessen the advantage of incumbency even in the districts where Republicans are running for re-election. A court decision in Pennsylvania has eliminated the party’s gerrymander there.

Democrats appear highly competitive in many conservative districts. Already, there are polls showing Democrats ahead in Kentucky’s Sixth District, West Virginia’s Third, North Carolina’s Ninth, New York’s 22nd and Montana’s at-large district. Mr. Trump won each by at least 10 points.

We should issue the obligatory caution about counting chickens before they hatch and go vote, but things are looking much better than I thought they would, even as recently as a few months ago. And it looks like we're making headway in many rural districts, which is fantastic news:

From the archives: George Holding cast vote to protect family fortune

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Clearing the tracks for the gravy train:

Republican 2nd District Congressman George Holding voted for a handful of amendments two years ago to block federal funding for fair housing investigations similar to one targeting his family bank.

Congressional rules didn't forbid the votes, but ethics watchdogs said last week that Holding should have recused himself. Not doing so, "reflects poor judgment," said Paul S. Ryan, an attorney with Common Cause in Washington, D.C.

This article is almost a year old, making that particular vote three years ago. I had actually forgotten about this until I saw a Tweet referencing it, which highlights one of the more frustrating aspects of political watch-dogging. Elected officials like Holding thrive in a short attention span, fading memory environment, and usually their most egregious behaviors occur in non-election years. We can't count on mainstream media to resurrect these stories, unless some current issue calls for it. So it's up to the peanut gallery to poke those embers. Especially when they expose discriminatory practices:

Manufacturing vs. installation: A hard look at the economics of Solar energy in the U.S.

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I recently took a brief tour of a NC Solar farm under construction, and got into a conversation with one of the supervisors about Trump's 30% tariffs on imported Solar panels. I was not surprised when he spoke favorably about the resulting increase in manufacturing jobs here in the U.S. as a result of said tariffs, because it is a very common misconception by those who support renewable energy. If you raised your eyebrows at that, you definitely need to continue reading. But before I get into the explanation, here's an article from 2009 to chew on:

Wacker Chemie AG will build a $1 billion plant in southeastern Tennessee that is estimated to create 500 green collar jobs in the region to manufacture hyperpure polycrystalline silicon, primary material used in the manufacture of solar panels...With the right policies and leadership from the government this sector is poised to take off and experience a long period of very rapid growth, becoming an important contributor to our nation’s electric energy mix and providing many tens of thousands of green collar jobs across the country.

Sounds promising, doesn't it? Unfortunately, it's a heck of a lot more complicated than it sounds. Follow me below the fold to find out why.

Pay-to-play on NC's beaches

Just another day in the NC GOP's casino royale:

A North Carolina nonprofit with deep political connections received $5 million in the state budget for a beach nourishment study and design project, even though it has never done that type of work and is headquartered more than 250 miles from the coast. Lawmakers appropriated the funding to the Resource Institute, based in Winston-Salem, through a one-time “grant-in-aid” – pass-through money – from the state Division of Water Resources.

Since 2016, board members and principals of the Institute, as well as several of its contractors, have contributed $84,000 to House and Senate leadership and Republican lawmakers key to their interests, including Rep. Kyle Hall and Sen. Bill Rabon, according to campaign finance records.

Okay, aside from the stench of corruption and patronage associated with this, it also exposes another Legislative vs. Executive Branch power struggle. That $5 million might have been earmarked, but it also shows up on the bottom line of funding to DEQ. In other words, when GOP lawmakers are (rightfully) criticized for not properly funding the environmental department, and they grab a base number to dispute that, this will be included in that self-righteous rebuttal. The ugly truth is, Republicans in the Legislature *have* to co-opt Executive agencies to enrich their friends, because their branch really doesn't do much of anything in the form of actual "work" for the people of North Carolina. Call it "Purse Strings vs. Apron Strings," if you want a handy provincial illustration, but that manipulation of funding is a prime example of the GOP's irresponsible approach to doing the people's business. And of course, like many of these other sweet deals, there's a former lawmaker having a great time with the revolving door:

Note to Andrew Dunn: You're done, pack it up

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The last thing we need is another spokesbot for GOP tyrants:

The session certainly looks bad from the outside. But let’s calm down for a second and actually look at the two bills the Republican-majority legislature sent to the governor on Tuesday. The first bill is House Bill 3, which has to do with how constitutional amendments are presented to voters for approval.

In a quirk of state law, the current policy is to let a panel of three elected officials write a short “caption” to appear in front of the language of the amendment on the ballot. These captions are not necessary. Why have a politicized process to write them in the first place? The bill simply wipes these captions off the ballot. Makes sense.

It is not a "quirk" of state law, it was enacted as statute in 1983, and reinforced just two years ago, by the same people who now choose to ignore it:

Tim Moore is the poster child for campaign finance reform

Here are just a few of his generous donors:

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