2016 Texas Republican Platform - Part 13, Misc / Weird
This entry is part of a series taking a look at the latest Texas Republican Party Platform. For a list of all entries in this series, go to the Introduction. This entry covers weird and other miscellaneous planks that didn't fit in any of the other categories I discussed.
Texas Electric Grid - We urge that the Texas Legislature pass legislation to harden the Texas Electric Grid against: 1. Cyber attacks on the grid's computerized command and control system. 2. Physical attacks on substations and major high voltage transformers. 3. Geomagnetic storms created by solar flares from the sun. 4. Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP)
Wow. That's a really good one that I'm surprised to see. Here are two articles from Bad Astronomy about solar flares and coronal mass ejections, The 2012 Solar Disaster That Almost Was and When the Sun Went Medieval on Our Planet. A 'small' solar storm in 1989 caused a blackout in Quebec. A huge coronal mass ejection 2012 went off in a direction from the Sun away from Earth, but it would have been really bad if it had hit us - probably causing somewhere around $2 trillion in damage, and putting some regions into power blackouts for months until all the equipment could be repaired, not to mention knocking out a bunch of communication and other satellites. The White House at least has a plan for a warning system that would give us a few hours to prepare and start shutting down certain systems to protect them in such an event in the future, but upgrading all the hardware to protect against that type of event is a good idea (ScienceAlert.com - The White House is prepping for a huge solar storm that could kick us back into the Dark Ages).
Smart Meters- The Republican Party of Texas supports a no-cost opt out for all Texas PUC customers and the phase out of Smart Meters aka Advanced Meter Infrastructure to be replaced with mechanical, non-transmitting analog meters when software upgrades are required or the computer smart meters require replacement due to mechanical failure or model upgrade requirements.
This plank may seem merely odd at first blush, but it's really strange if you remember the platform from two years ago. In 2014, they said "Our opposition [to smart meters] is based upon security, property damage, energy inefficiencies, privacy, health issues, and the use of Smart Meters to ration electricity." And if you browse around the site, TexansAgainstSmartMeters.com, you'll find concerns like "harmful and illegal programs which attempt to force you to accept dangerous policies such as vaccinations and spying/transmitting utility meters". The motivation for this planks is well into conspiracy theory territory.
Except for non-citizens, we further oppose any national ID program, including the Real ID Act and the use of Radio Frequency Identification Chips (RFID) on humans.
I'm not shocked by this now only because I've seen it in their past platforms. To repeat what I've written previously - Is it something to do with the urban legend about the Affordable Care Act requiring RFID chips, or some crazy Mark of the Beast conspiracy theory? It seems like the type of warning you'd get from a crazy street corner preacher.
Raw Milk and Dairy Products- We support legislation confirming local dairy farmers' rights to produce and sell natural milk and dairy products within the State of Texas.
I have mixed feelings on this. On the one hand, I think people should be able to engage in any risky behaviors they want, so long as they understand the risks. We let people play football, go skydiving, go rock climbing, drive motorcycles, etc. Why should risky eating be any different? On the other hand, food is much more universal. I like being able to go into a grocery store and know that whatever I buy there is safe to consume, free from pathogens and poisons. I also worry about parents buying unprocessed milk and feeding it to their children, exposing their children to Listeria or other pathogens. Like I've said before, children shouldn't suffer because of the recklessness of their parents.
I guess I could compromise on this. If dairy farmers tested every batch of raw milk for contamination before selling it, that would probably be okay. Or, if they sold raw milk without testing, maybe put warning labels on the bottles and only sell to people over 18 (kind of like tobacco).
Direct Sales- We support allowing consumers in Texas to be able to purchase cars directly from manufacturers.
Is this really a thing? Oh, I guess it is - Car and Driver - Why Do We Keep Buying Vehicles at Dealerships?. So, I guess thanks, Texas Republicans, for actually teaching me something.
Benghazi- We call upon the United States House of Representatives to continue the select committee and appoint a special prosecutor in order to subpoena testimony to fully investigate all aspects of the Benghazi debacle.
Because 10 congressional committees, 33 public hearings, 4 public hearings, and 13 reports just wasn't enough (source). I mean, she just must be guilty of something, right? It's not like this is a witch hunt or anything.
Here's one of the better discussions of Benghazi I've read, Christopher Knox's Quora Answer to Why is Hillary Clinton blamed for Benghazi attacks? Is she responsible for the security failure and the deaths?. It really covers the whole thing quite well, putting the attack into perspective without trivializing it. Here's one of the more interesting graphs he used.
Again, this isn't to trivialize what happened, but to put it in perspective. Attacks on U.S. diplomatic targets are, unfortunately, a reality. And while the nation should try to learn from each of them to improve safety in the future, it seems wildly out of proportion to spend so much time and expend so much effort on this one attack, in particular. Like I already wrote, it seems much more like a witch hunt than a sincere effort to learn any lessons.
Social Security- We support an immediate and orderly transition, with minimal or no impact to those at or near retirement, to a system of private pensions based on the concept of individual retirement accounts, and gradually phasing out the Social Security tax.
I'm not going to go into detail on this one other than to reference this report by the Brookings Institution, Privatizing Social Security: The Troubling Trade-Offs.