Friday, February 24, 2017

Questions for a town hall: Climate Change

My zipcode is 84103 and nobody paid me to say this.

#TownhallHatch - website
#TownhallLee - website
#TownhallStewart - website

Nice windmill!
Gentlemen, I've been going over your websites, and in your "issues" sections, I don't see any positions about the environment, and in particular, nothing about what many perceive to be the greatest existential threat to the United States and the world. That seems a little short-sighted.  Thank you, Representative Stewart, for at least acknowledging alternative energy and putting a picture of a windmill on there.

Searching through your websites for "climate change" did turn up some information: 

  1. Thank you, Senator Hatch, for pushing for the advancement of nuclear energy - I agree with you that it's a logical thing to do.  
  2. Y'all are worried that what we do in the U.S. isn't enough to make a difference.  I agree - the Paris Climate Agreement is probably a good start, eh?  Just because Obama signed it doesn't mean it's bad, right?
  3. What about China?  We have that bilateral agreement.  Can we stick to that?
  4. Y'all don't seem to like cap-and-trade.  It's market-based!  Mike Leavitt likes it!
Trying to figure out if you believe that humans contribute to climate change led me to these articles that say you don't.  If that's not the case any more, feel free to correct me.  If people don't change their minds when presented with new information we'd be in a sorry state.

If you don't believe the scientific consensus, then how about insurance companies? How about the U.S. military? How about Exxon

Question 1:
What would it take for you to agree that climate change is real, humans contribute to it, and we'd better react to it?

 Yes, we have coal and oil in Utah, and those things will become more profitable as the world runs out of them. We can use fracking and maybe more extreme methods in the future to get at those resources - at the cost of earthquakes like in Oklahoma and environmental damage. You seem determined to pin Utah and America’s future on this. Wouldn’t it make more sense to encourage solar and wind and maybe nuclear as an energy source? There’s still a market for petroleum products - plastics and other things. There are lots of jobs in alternative energy, and there’s lots of room for innovation and infrastructure building. How about that?

You say it’s not the government’s job to pick winners and losers. You’re right - they shouldn’t arbitrarily pick industries and declare them winners or losers. On the other hand, it should be your job to make America a winner - not just for the next election cycle, but for when you and I are dead and gone and our kids and their kids are running the place. And making us 'winners' doesn’t have to mean that the rest of the world loses.

Question 2:  

Describe what you think Utah, the U.S., and the world looks like in a hundred years if we stick with fossil fuels versus going big on alternative energy.

Questions for a town hall: Trump and Russia

My zipcode is 84103 and nobody paid me to say this.

I read in the “real news” that all of our intelligence agencies are positive that Russia attempted to influence our presidential election.  It’s very easy to believe that our president has a tremendous financial motive for altering U.S. policy to favor Russia.  Given that our president, among other things, has bragged on camera about grabbing women by the genitals, you should understand that it’s easy to believe that Russia has compromising material to hold over him.  In a recent interview, our president said that the U.S. and Russia had a moral equivalence, specifically in terms of killing people.  

I’m your constituent, and I think the U.S. is not morally equivalent to Russia, and that you, the congress, have an obligation to investigate and prosecute corruption no matter what the political affiliation of the perpetrator, in this case, the sitting president and his campaign and administration.  If you set up an independent investigation empowered with everything it needs to find out the truth, you might be able to restore some faith in the presidency, congress, and our democracy.  If you don’t, you’re going to go down in history for throwing democracy under the bus.

So here’s the question:  
Would you support an independent investigation of these issues and if not, why?

While you’re at it, can you make it a requirement that future presidential candidates disclose their taxes?

Also, Trump claims he doesn’t have to step away from his business by putting it in a blind trust.  If that’s so, then please change things so that future presidents have to.  If it’s not, then go ahead and impeach him - from what I read, Mike Pence was not a particularly good governor of Indiana, but at least he’d be a more stable President.


Questions for a town hall: Deconstruction of the Administrative State

At CPAC just the other day, Steve Bannon said, “the deconstruction of the administrative state” has just begun.  You can see it in Trump’s appointments - he’s putting in people who hate the agencies they run - the EPA, Department of Education, and Department of Energy.

The Johnsonville plant
I’m a Utahn by marriage who moved here in 1991, but I grew up in rural Tennessee in a community that was blessed to have the world’s largest titanium dioxide plant.  The processes they used produced large amounts of toxic waste, including dioxins.  When they started out in the 1960’s, they got rid of that by dumping it in the Tennessee river.  That didn’t change until the EPA came into being.  

They’ve worked over time to find a good solution to that toxic waste, but these things don't go away immediately - my home county and the neighboring one have the top 2 out of 3 cancer rates in the state.  My mom has Parkinson’s.  That’s been linked to dioxins - just ask the Marines about Agent Orange.  

I, for one, want a federal government that protects our air and water.  If anything, I’d just like them to get better at their jobs - give them proper funding and make sure they have the right tools.

I remember what the smog was like in the 80’s in L.A. - I couldn’t spend 10 minutes outdoors without getting a headache and an asthmatic cough -- it’s a lot like that in Salt Lake during the inversion.  I have to keep my two sons from playing outdoors on yellow and red days.

When my Uncle Ben was 17, he spent a summer blowing asbestos insulation into ceilings in a TVA power plant near Paducah.  Yes, he died from mesothelioma about the age I am today.  I remember Love Canal and Times Beach.   Go google “thalidomide” and tell me you don’t want to have an effective FDA.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but rivers don’t stop at state boundaries and neither does the air.  Ensuring clean air and water is something we need the federal government to do.  

Human beings have found or invented over 50 million unique chemicals, the vast majority in the past few decades.  A new substance is isolated or synthesized every few seconds, day and night, seven days a week somewhere in the world.  Those things go into consumer products, food, industrial processes, and some of those things are going to be very bad for people - we won’t know until they're tested.  We used to put lead in our gasoline to get better performance.  Go look up the effects of lead on a developing brain.  Now, nobody’s going to want to put lead back in gasoline, but what’s the next “lead” or "thalidomide"?

It’s a big job, but somebody’s got to regulate this stuff.  States aren’t going to - Utah’s not... Tennessee’s know New Jersey’s not.

I hear y’all complaining about regulations.  Trump wants to get rid of 2 regulations for every new one.  That’s a dumb way to go about it.  If federal regulations are getting in the way of business, you should be encouraging innovation, communication, and automation, not sending in a wrecking crew.

From my representative’s website:

"Anything we can do to reduce the power and influence of the federal government will strengthen our economy and help us reclaim the American dream."

Anything?  Really?  Chris Stewart, could you clarify that? Maybe walk it back a little?

The gist of my question is:

How are you all going to prevent the next tragedy when you’re hamstringing the people whose job that is?  


Oh yeah - my zipcode is 84103 and nobody paid me to say this.

(I didn’t even talk about global warming)