Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Empire Strikes Back (Actually just the conservatives ...)

The latest chapter in the electric bike saga, I was going to call the company last night, but I had an errand to run right when I got home, so I didn’t get to the phone until 7:00pm. No problem, their manual say they are open nine to five pacific and I could swear that’s what their recording said, when I called before.

Uh-uh, their recording said their offices were now closed, their hours are nine to four. Mind you, this is a company that also shuts its customer service down at noon (pacific), for training and lunch. Impressive.

So I wrote yesterday about how I thought newspapers were trying to get us to accept not just European policies, they were trying to force a European lifestyle down our throats. But our government(s) also struck blows yesterday, blows for … well against progress. Actually, the state legislature passed a smoking ban, so I can’t complain about that.

But in the city, our Mayor veto’d Bill Peduto’s campaign finance reform bill, and the council was unable to over-ride the veto. Ravenstahl’s reasons, as enumerated in an incomprehensible statement and several confusing interviews, include the lack of statewide limits on contributions, that city wide offices are treated the same as council district offices, a statement that union PACs are somehow disadvantaged by being treated the same as other PACs, and the infamous millionaire argument. Of those, only the city wide versus council argument might have some merit (there’s some sense to the statewide argument, but its like saying gun sales should not be limited, because gun collectors might be affected, as opposed to the criminals the law is aimed at). Saying that no reform should be allowed because it doesn’t restrict millionaires and doesn’t give unions special status is saying nothing should be done until it is in perfect form (not to mention that both those actions, limiting a person’s personal spending on his/her campaign and granting one group status over others for no reason would invite courts to strike the law down). There’s more to say about campaign reform, but the Burgh Report is tossing around a lot of ideas, I'll leave it here for now here.

On the other end of things government, the Senate took giant steps backward in the middle of our energy crisis. Senate Republicans did not allow a bill containing credits for the solar and wind power industries for research and development to come to a floor vote, effectively killing it for the time being. They also blocked a tax on the Oil industries, on “windfall” profits, saying it would just be passed on to the consumer. Now, six months ago, when gas was $3 or a year ago when it was $2.50, I would have said ok, we don’t absolutely need such a tax. But now, at $4 a gallon and rising, we could use the extra incentive to cut back. The Democrats were talking about using the money to help the poor with their energy bills. We know some oil companies are vertically integrated, owning the wells, refineries and franchising the stations (and setting their price). So in fact their actual price per barrel is much less than other refineries and stations. But for them to use that price would be to throw the domestic gas market into a funny sort chaos, beneficial in the short run but ultimately detrimental. But a tax might extract some of those excess profits, and redirect them back to a segment of the consumer market.

Of course, the democrats had their day too. They blocked a Republican sponsored measure to repeal a twenty five year measure banning new drilling in coastal areas. Besides the fact that we don’t want to encourage demand by lowering prices, shouldn’t hold on to the oil we have, in view of our special status as biggest user per capita?

Really, the Senate is proving that American politics is still pretty reactionary, cmpared to those oddly behaving but still progressive Europeans.


Char said...

Luke's city-wide vs district argument is as senseless as he is. Yea, it takes more money to reach everyone in the city vs just those in a single district. But Luke is overlooking the fact that A (number of potential contributors) times B (per person contribution cap) equals C (total campaign contributions).

If Luke nees more C, he has a larger universe of A's to draw from. And if city A's are not enough, he can (and has) moved on to the suburbs. And if the suburbs don't pony up enough .... he can always run on out to Oregon.

EdHeath said...

Well, my view on this is still evolving. As the risk of being Robert Webber in 12 Angry Men, I think you make a pretty good point. Cetainly people from the East End could contribute to Bruce Kraus running in the South Side district, and might even have a reason to, but mostly we don't care about other districts.

Of course a lot of this was payback, Peduto was hurt a bit in the sense strangers would see a defeat. Anyone familiar with the issue/city has already taken a side and sees what they want to see (Cognitive Dissonance, remember?).