Is the legend true?
I attended a meeting of the North-East PAChyderm Coalition last week. The PAChyderms were hosting a forum for the Republican candidates for Corporation Commission. The new candidates on the republican slate are former Senate President Bob Burns and former Scottsdale Councilwoman and CAP Chair Susan Bitter Smith. I have a little history with both, so I thought it might be interesting to attend.
The PAChyderm Coalition bills itself as a “Reagan Republican organization.” This particular chapter seems rather small, but they may have been up-staged by the fact that two of the republican candidates for President of the United States were making appearances in the Valley at the same time.
The meeting was headed by a guy named Howard Levine. Howard seems like a likeable, sincere guy, eager to “make a difference” in government. Howard also seems intelligent, but definitely has a bad case of what I call “Dogmaticia Extremicus” (extreme dogma). This affliction makes people blow things up way out of proportion, and seems to cause irrational fear–similar to the legend of the elephant and the mouse.
Howard is incented by the mandate that requires that 15% of APS and SRP power be generated from renewable sources by 2025. None of the candidates endorsed the policy; they all called it an “experiment.” They all agreed that the mandate should not be enlarged, but they also felt it was too late to roll the mandate back.
Howard disagreed. He kept pushing the panel for a “repeal” date.
Now remember, these are all really conservative candidates. Although I wasn’t familiar with the incumbent, Commissioner Bob Stump (great name though!), I would say that all three seemed ideologically aligned. From my past history with Bob (Burns) and Susan, I am sure they would make wise and fair judges for the Commission.
But that wasn’t enough for Howard. He kept pressing. You could tell the panel was uncomfortable, if for no other reason than not wanting to boil highly complicated (and boring) regulatory matters down into neat little sound bites. Finally after much prodding they agreed that the only date certain was 2025. Howard seemed to lose sight of the fact that the mandate actually sunsets in 2025. Still he seemed satisfied: “Maybe then we can throw away our solar panels, and rates will go down.”
Howard’s questioning bore little resemblance to the complicated spreadsheets commissioners must wade through. Never mind such pesky things as capital outlays, depreciation and revenue streams.
What does all this mean? Here is an example of smart guy trying to make a complicated issue fit into a tidy, somewhat over-simplified vision of the world. Why? I can only assume because it makes Howard feel better.
Now I’m not saying that some of his concerns are baseless, but isn’t the complexity of utility regulation the reason why we elect commissioners? It was if he was trying to prove that a pair of pants is really a shoe.
For the record, the RINO Dude is actually for the 15% mandate. I think it withstood early and withering conservative skepticism and has really emerged a winner for the state. I am not; however, interested in raising the mandate to a higher percentage.
In an earlier post entitled “A Closer Look at the Clowns in the Cockpit,” I detailed how in 1990 NASA had determined that 65% of all airline accidents stemmed from pilot error, and that such errors came from the pilot’s own “godlike certainty” (their words not mine).
History is full of “group-think” mistakes carried out by people with “godlike certainty”. Howard Levine is a nice, well-meaning man—but even well-meaning people can lose their moral compass when they think they have all the answers.
I know this put me at odds with the current mind-set within my party. But it is a condition that, in my opinion, is not only consuming our party, but it is paralyzing our country.
Apparently I am also at odds with the Ronald Reagan quote featured on the PAChyderm website:
“A political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs, which must not be compromised to political expediency or simply to swell its numbers…. And if there are those who cannot subscribe to these conservative principles, then let them go their own way” (emphasis added).
What can I say? Those are strong words meant to lead the true believer. But quotes can be taken out of context. Here’s another quote from a pretty famous republican: nothing is right 100% of the time. And another, this one from scripture, which says: there is a time and a place for everything under the sun. This is why I cringe every time I hear from people so filled with certainty. And, with all due respect, by definition, a political party certainly is many things to many people–that is the nature of the big tent (another circus allusion, see how tidy that is!).
For an interesting “Myth Buster” on the elephant vs. mouse legend watch here: