Friday, June 21, 2024

Bits 'n pieces from east, west and beyond

| May 28, 2021 7:00 AM

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. A recent sampling:

“Range anxiety.” That’s the term for worrying about how far an electric vehicle can go on one charge. But as a reader wrote to Sierra magazine, range anxiety is overblown for commuters and second-car owners. The Maryland reader says his EV (a Chevrolet Spark) has an 82-mile range. He drives it 150 miles a week and recharges it overnight for three days out of the week, for a monthly cost of $15. Along with the low fuel cost, he said that there’s no tailpipe and no motor oil to buy. As a bonus, it always smells clean.

Albert Watkins, the attorney for several defendants accused of rioting Jan. 6 at the Capitol (the QAnon shaman is one client), told Talking Points Memo that “a lot of these defendants … are people with brain damage … these aren’t bad people... they were subjected to four-plus years of goddamn propaganda the likes of which we haven’t seen since … Hitler.”

One of Watkins clients, a member of the Proud Boys, is requesting a separate trial due to the comments. The defendant objects to what appears as Watkins’ strategy: portraying his clients as mentally deficient, according to Business Insider.

The Government Accountability Office produced a report exploring the connection between big corporations and their employees’ need for federal assistance like Medicaid and food stamp benefits. The GAO found the nation’s largest big box store topped the list for employees needing such help, The Seattle Times said. The nation’s top burger flipper, also on the list, defended their low wages as being above the federal minimum of $7.25. Another corporation argued that, without their employment, more people would need federal help. Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) described corporate welfare as when corporations benefit from employees being paid “starvation wages” that leave workers turning to federal aid.

There’s a fresh take on wage stagnation in a new report issued by the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive think tank. It once was thought that technology had flattened wages, but the report blames government policy decisions. Those decisions include trade deals that pit domestic workers against cheaper foreign labor, toleration of high unemployment levels, depressed wages stemming from the decline of unions and employment contracts that make it difficult for workers to find new jobs.

The New York Times said the report showed that from the 1940s to the 1970s hourly pay typically grew as quickly as productivity. The EPI paper states that a typical worker earning $23.15 an hour in 2017 would take home $33.10 in 2021 had compensation kept up with productivity growth. A few economists have found fault with the report, particularly with how it dismisses market forces.

In the House last week, 35 Republicans joined Democrats in a 252-175 vote in favor of creating a bipartisan and independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. USA Today reported that it is modeled after the 9/11 Commission. The proposed commission could call witnesses and would deliver a report by Dec. 31.

Along with analyzing what provoked mob actions, it would also explore how to prevent such attacks.

The next step for gaining approval is the Senate, where House Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-ky.) has indicated he will vote against the bill. Republicans are expected to mimic his lead. Sen. Angus King, Jr. (I-Maine) commented that, “When people start moving heaven and earth to block an investigation, I have to wonder if there is something to hide.” U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the Republican House Minority Leader, has refused to say whether members of his caucus engaged in communication with rioters.

In January, when arguing against impeachment of former President Donald Trump for his role in Jan. 6 insurrection, several Republicans, including McConnell, argued that there should first be a fact-finding commission. Now they are arguing against it.

More children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border under the previous administration are being reunited with their families, Forbes reported. There were 5,500 children taken away in 2017 and 2018, which prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to sue the government. Currently, about 1,000 children remain separated from their families. The ACLU expects more parents to come forward after learning the new president has offered to help reunite families.

A year after George Floyd’s May 25 killing by then-police officer Derek Chauvin (convicted of murder charges), the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed in the House, is now hung up in the Senate. The police reform bill is designed to address police misconduct, excessive force and racial bias.

Blast from the past: McConnell recently said, “100 percent of my focus is on stopping this new administration.” It was reminiscent of 2010, when Republicans planned to do “everything we can do to kill [the Obama agenda]...” The goal was to “make Obama a one-term president,” McConnell said then. Obama said he remained committed to trying to work across the aisle to put people back to work after the Great Recession, arguing that “you can’t just focus on the next election. You’ve got to focus on the next generation.”