Reason Derangement Syndrome

Think Progress reported yesterday that the painfully unaware State Rep. Dennis Hedke has introduced a bill that would prohibit public funds from promoting sustainable development. An interesting story, and a great example of rightwing hypocrisy and nincompoopery. But I also think it overlooks the real story.

The article points out that Hedke is so blissfully ignorant of his own actions that he can’t see why anyone would question a connection between his day job and his latest bill. This is interesting, since his day job is contract geophysicist for some 30 local oil and gas companies. Conflict of interest? Certainly not!

“I can’t see why,” Hedke said. “I didn’t think about that. It really never crossed my mind. I’d probably just say no.”

Now granted, to anyone with more sense than a sponge (clearly most republicans are out of the running already) that might look like outright bullshit. But in Hedke’s defense he also part of a group that just introduced a bill that would legally require teachers to lie to students about climate change. I guess what I am saying is that in this case ignorance really is the best defense.

But while this stunning level of ignorance and hypocrisy is always fun to point to and laugh at, it misses a wider issue.

The bill, HB 2366, prohibits public funds from being used “either directly or indirectly, to promote, support, mandate, require, order, incentivize, advocate, plan for, participate in or implement sustainable development” which it defines as “a mode of human development in which resource use aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for generations to come, but not to include the idea, principle or practice of conservation or conservationism.”

In other words, no money spent on sustainable development in any way shape or form. What is the argument here exactly?

Hedke (and we have to assume his puppet masters, can you say Kock brothers?) seems to take offense at the very idea of sustainable. Why? Imagine that an engineer is discussing plans to produce energy for the local city, and you ask for all the possibilities. He submits a study with several different proposals and points out the pros and cons of each. What would make you say to him or her, “hang on, before I look at this list, are any of these sustainable? Because we don’t want that.”

Because that is essentially what this bill would do. Forget climate change. Forget parks. Forget open space. Ignore the possibility that we might even for a second care about the next generation. This bill asks you only consider development if it chews up, destroys, and spits out any and all things it touches. Conserve things? Yeah, ok, that is fine. But if we are going to consider using an area at all, it cannot in any way shape or form be sustainable.

This bill, if passed, can easily be interpreted to mean that if MIT announced a break through this summer that PV Solar cells could now be made for mere pennies that ran at 99% efficiency and we could therefore easily power all the worlds needs from a very small, inexpensive, easily manufactured and extremely cheap collection of simple panels, Kansas couldn’t spend a single dollar to put a panel on the governors mansion. Even though at that efficiency rate covering all the state buildings in Kansas would pretty much supply more power than that entire area could use. Why?

Is the argument that sustainable power is bad? Despite the fact that a recent set of renewable energy standards brought jobs and money to the state? Is the argument that the government shouldn’t support any power generation and despite the huge subsidies it gives to oil and gas we just thought starting with wind was the way to go? Is the argument that the government shouldn’t be picking “winners and losers” and the rightwing meme was there for awhile, even though clearly Hedke is doing his best to pick? What the hell is the argument for this bill, assuming it isn’t a conflict of interest?

Because in order to get this bill passed, other people will indeed have to vote on it. Surely even Hedke knows this. What is the argument he needs to make in order to sway other reps?

Amazingly, he doesn’t even need one. The current rightwing mindset is so far removed from reality that it has become gospel truth among the wingnuts that “sustainable development” is a code for a plan by the UN to take over America and depopulate the planet. Spend 10 minutes reading the total dribble that floats around many a wingnut site under the term “agenda 21″ and you will be amazed that you aren’t seeing white rabbits and talking playing cards. It is amazing how far removed from sane some people are…

The problem is that agenda 21 has become the new conspiracy de jour and the average rightwing mind seems to consist of nothing more than fear, a need to be told what to think, and the pin to their ATM card so they can donate to the latest Karl Rove plan to make the scary blackman/feminists/people who want to be able to breath clean air/scientists go away. It has been observed that much of the right now operates under “Obama derangement syndrome” where any and all things that might be related to the president in any way shape or form must therefore be horrible things. Even when he proposes their own plans back at them, anything he utters is deeply wrong and totally suspect. (If he had suggested that the response to recent gun deaths should have been increased gun ownership and armed guards in every school the tea-party would have turned America from the most heavily armed country to the country with the least guns per capita in a mere 2 weeks) But I think that is not the real heart of the problem.

The problem is that the rightwing has become so anti-intellectual, anti-science, anti-fact, and anti-reason, that they now have a kind of reverse common sense, whereby if they hear something that strikes the intellect or intuition as reasonable, it immediately rockets past consideration, zooms past suspicion, and nearly instantly becomes clearly and unarguably wrong.

Consider the conservapedia definition of the theory of relativity. Recall the “unskewed” polls. Witness the believers in the confidence fairy. Behold austerity economics. There are so very many more examples…

Each of those examples though have one thing in common. They are rightwing memes that exist not because outside data backed them up even though they proved to be terrible ideas, but rather they exist because they are terrible ideas, that no data ever supported, and there is a breed of person for whom the very lack of logic and reason and facts is a selling point. This is the “logic” of the believer in faith. The bread and butter of the professional cognitive dissonant. The “reasoning” of the person who knows it is so not despite the evidence, but because of evidence that only makes sense to them.

And we have to work with them. We have to pass legislation with them, or more likely despite them. This is the thing that the founding fathers didn’t foresee. They created a system of checks and balances because they assumed that even though reasonable people would often disagree, at least those things that would be agreed upon could be enacted. The system was slow, difficult, even painful. But it meant that only the things we were most sure of would become law. They didn’t foresee that a small percentage of people would take the very reasons they saw as causing that small amount of agreement they were counting on, and turn those into the “proof” that such ideas are wrong.

What we have today is the political equivalent of a crazy person (with teabags stapled to their hat) standing at Newtons demonstration of his laws of gravity and yelling that he has proof that objects actually repeal each other and thus we are clearly inside a hollow earth and being forced out from the center.

The problem is that we have treated them like adults, and clearly they are not.

If I go over to my nephews house, and he runs up to the door (as a small child might) with his arms out, yelling “I am an airplane I am an airplane!” I can deal with it in one of three ways. I can lecture him about the nature of airplanes and explain that he is a person. We have been doing this with the right wingers for some time now, and the result is much the same, in that they stomp their feet and yell “No! Huah not!” and scream louder.

We could also simply ignore them, the difficulty being that other children in the room seriously consider the possibility that little tommy is not a boy but rather a 747.

Or, we could look them in the eye, smile, and say “cool! I am a helicopter! Go make a large cargo pickup in the bedroom!”

…but while they are making imaginary runs to brazil for a load of avocados, we have to make sure they aren’t allowed to decide that the family budget should be spent on jet fuel. It really is past time we stopped letting the kids have a say in the family budget.

  1. #1 by Richard Warnick on February 22, 2013 - 11:26 am

    I was under the impression that most, if not the vast majority, of state legislators are there to look out for their special interests. That’s the problem with an “unpaid” (except for expenses) legislature. The taxpayers end up paying for them one way or another.

    You can’t lecture them on conflict of interest. It’s like the guy who says: “I don’t have a drinking problem. I drink, get drunk, and fall down. No problem.”

  2. #2 by Shane Smith on February 22, 2013 - 11:36 am

    True Richard, it doesn’t help that the same people who claim government doesn’t work are so good at making it work for themselves. I wish I knew how to teach an idea of service, but is suspect that the problem you are pointing to also ended the ancient greeks, and every other democratic civilization before and since…

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