Unreality Check #16: Insurrection Commission

It’s nice to move on. And slowly but surely most people seem to be doing so, both from COVID-19 and a more-painful-than-usual election cycle. But it’s also important to figure out why bad things like pandemics and insurrections happen, the better to avoid them in the future.

In this spirit, the US House of Representatives voted yesterday to establish a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The vote was 252-175, with 35 Republicans joining Democrats in deciding that it’s important to figure out what happened and why.

I’m particularly happy about five of the GOP congressmen. Two were from my natural habitat, two from my chosen home, and one is a wildcard.

From southwest Michigan, both Peter Meijer and Fred Upton voted to have a look at the day’s events. Meijer took office just this year, is 33 years old, and part of the Meijer grocery family. An 8-year Army Reservist, he was deployed for two years in Iraq and holds an MBA from NYU. Meijer has purchased body armor and adopted a varied schedule due to threats against his life following his vote to impeach Pres. Donald Trump in the insurrection’s wake.

His West Michigan counterpart (and counterpoint) is Fred Upton, who’s been in Congress since 1987 and is 68 years old. He voted both to impeach Pres. Bill Clinton in 1998 and Trump after the insurrection. Upton holds a BA in journalism from the University of Michigan.

Van Taylor and Tony Gonzalez are the two Republicans from Texas. Taylor is from Plano, north of Dallas. He took office in 2019, is a Marine combat veteran of Iraq, and holds an MBA from Harvard University. Gonzalez is a freshman congressman representing far-west Texas (excluding El Paso). He was elected in this long-purple part of the state when his six-year predecessor, fellow Republican Will Hurd, chose not to run again. The region’s new rep is a 10-year Navy veteran and has a Ph.D. in international development and security studies.

Gonzalez also shares the frustration felt by anyone who goes by Chris Smith of having someone else lock out the first page of Google results for the name. In his case it’s a Hall of Fame Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons tight end. In mine, it’s a 68-year old Republican New Jersey congressman (with help from a recent UCLA point guard).

But Smith did vote to establish the commission, doing the tens of thousands of us who share the name proud!

Unreality Check #13: Conspiracy Generator

The need to be victimized is apparently limitless. The 2020 Census resulted, as designed, in the reapportionment of some seats in the US House of Representatives. Most of the states that gained seats lean Red, most that lost, Blue. And yet somehow conspiracy theories have emerged (yet again) that the fix was in on the part of the Democrats.

The speed with which each new event generates its own wave of misinformation designed to reinforce the idea that something was stolen during the last election stretches the limits of credulity. It’s almost as if the stories are generated by design.

In the event they were, who could benefit from reminding the disaffected as frequently as possible that they’d been wronged?  Republicans? Russia? The Media Elites? Let’s look at the size of benefit for each. The people who run media companies could make more money, and then use that money to attempt to force their artist-waged employees to execute the bigwigs’ evil agenda. The GOP could retake control of the executive and legislative branches of the United States government, a bigger prize by far. But Russia…Russia could succeed in destabilizing the greatest defender of freedom the world has ever known. Now, THAT’s a prize!

Uh oh. I think I might have just done it myself.

The moral of this story? Rabbit holes, even when you build them yourself, are dangerous. Best to spend most of your time taking things at face value. That’s almost always what reflects reality anyway.

Here’s a fun graph looking at how motorsports fans break vs. the general population in terms of how likely they are to buy an electric vehicle. As both an avid motorsports fan and an F1 fan, it looks like I’d better starting planning for higher electric bills!

Unreality Check #10: Beisbol, Lt. Dan, and record stores

In case you didn’t notice, Republicans are trying to cancel Major League Baseball because they object to its position on voting rights. And they’re carrying on as if they think they have a chance of doing so (#GetWokeGoBroke?…puhleaze).

That didn’t work so well with the kneeling and the NFL did it? Games are still selling out. TV contracts are still getting signed. When will they realize they’re outnumbered?

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Newly ‘blonde’ Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is a ridiculous snowflake.

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If you’re starting to get out into the world for the first time in…a long time, plan a trip to your local independent record store. Not only will you come home with something you’re happy you bought, but the visit will do wonders for your reorientation (nostalgia being the powerful drug it is), and you’ll help a business that (if it’s lucky) is only just now starting to emerge from a 12-month winter.

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American oilfield services and equipment sector employment rose by more than 23,000 jobs in March, according to preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Higher crude prices are good for the industry and adding to payrolls to this degree is one of the clearest indicators yet that the industry is starting to feel like they’re going to stick around.

And in a win for the environment (and therefore all we creatures who live in it) the DC Circuit granted the Biden administration’s request Monday to vacate a rule left over from the Trump cabal that would have prevented the EPA from setting standards to reduce greenhouse gas pollution produced by so-called stationary sources, such as refineries.

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One of the things those afraid of “socialized medicine” wave around most frequently is the plethora of choices and lack of waiting our current system provides us. What a crock. I called to make my daughter a virtual appointment after school with her OB/GYN. Even on a remote basis they weren’t going to be able to get her in for 2 months with that timing. So now it’s tomorrow at 1:30. In the middle of the school day. Guess WE have to figure that out. While paying several thousand dollars/year in premiums. To be part of a network I didn’t choose. And then pay the doctor anyway to meet the deductible.

Unreality Check (#5)

Photo from studentenergy.org

It looks like there might be some wiggle room on energy in the both the new administration and Congress. Congressional Democrats, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), have made a series of proposals intended to modify the terms under which oil and gas leasing can occur on federal lands rather than banning it outright. They’re also trying to get President Biden on board. Grassley called on Congress to increase royalty rates, describing the current system (in place since the 1920s) as “corporate welfare.”

Yes, Grassley represents the state that produces far more ethanol than any other, but sometimes you take help where you can get it.

Democrats likewise want to raise royalties paid to the government and are also pushing for remediation of abandoned wells, tougher regulation of methane emissions, and increased public input into the process. Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), chair of the energy and mineral resources subcommittee, described Congress’s actions as an effort to provide Biden with ways to fix a broken system rather than simply throwing it out.

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Republicans in the Texas legislature are keeping the pedal to the metal, putting forward a bill that would ban all abortions from the moment of fertilization. The bill would charge women who have abortions and doctors that perform them with murder. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) on Mar. 9 signed a bill into law banning abortions for any reason except saving the life of the mother.

Unreality Check (#4)

Agencies shall consider ways to expand citizens’ opportunities to register to vote and to obtain information about, and participate in, the electoral process. 200-day deadline from Mar. 7. Includes modernization of websites and digital services.

The above summarizes some of the key points of an executive order issued Mar. 7 by Joe Biden. I’d heard about this one, but in general it’s been so quiet, relative to recent times, that I’d kind of lost track of what he’d been doing.

The following are some of other things that happened in just the first seven days of this month:

• The Senate passed the $1.9-trillion American Rescue Plan Act.

• The February jobs report showed 379,000 jobs added to the economy.

• The Defense Production Act was engaged to make enough vaccines to supply every American by the end of May 2021.

• Biden met with President of Mexico Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to discuss immigration, COVID-19, and economic and security cooperation.

• Biden spoke with the Guatemalan president to discuss immigration and regional security.

• Secretaries of Commerce and Education were sworn in.

• Biden assessed the mental acuity of the governors of Texas and Mississippi.

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Introducing George Floyd’s drug use as a defense strategy is no different than pointing out “provocative dress” on the part of the victim during a rape trial

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Instead of pushing this rapid reopening, why don’t GOP governors just tell everyone to work harder. I mean, that’s all poor people have to do, right?

Unreality Check (#1)

The University of Michigan is playing great basketball right now (notwithstanding what just happened against Illinois!). Testament to the value of recruiting to build a team rather than win individual matchups. Four-year seniors (present and future) and one great grad transfer. Bring on the tournament! Go Blue!!

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How is maritime piracy of commercial-scale vessels still a thing? In fact, still so much of a thing that the chief of staff of the Nigerian Navy has publicly accused security consultants Dryad Global of trying to embarrass it via continuous coverage of events. A free press holds people accountable. Everywhere.

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Texas congressmen have introduced legislation empowering state governors to nominate offshore areas for oil and gas development. So now state’s rights are a thing again? Got it. And it’s a ‘bipartisan’ effort to boot. Who do you think Kevin Brady and Henry Cuellar are working for?

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Microsoft has this thing in Outlook called Cortana. It’s supposed to give a morning inbox reminder of things one needs to remember to follow up on. Nine days out of 10 its top message is that my company’s firewall asked me to “Please verify that you trust this sender…” #useless

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The Big Lie is alive and well. Millions still believe the 2020 US election was stolen. At this point political parties are immaterial. You are either for democracy or you are not. Feel free to let me know which camp is yours.

To be clear, Mike Lee (R-UT), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Tom Cotton (R-AR), John Kennedy (R-LA), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), need not check in. Your anti-democracy positions have already been established.

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Gov. Greg Abbott just lifted the mask mandate in Texas and reopened business at 100% capacity effective Mar. 10. I guess he thought it would a cool way to mark Texas Independence Day. Hoping for the best. Expecting an absolute calamity. At least I’m vaxxed. #FromThePeopleWhoBroughtUsWinterBlackout2021