Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come when you do call for them?
— Wm. Shakespeare, Henry IV Part I, III:1
From time to time, I have posted here about some of the more exotic efforts of some US state legislatures, such as the statute in South Carolina (since repealed) that required subversive organizations to pay a $5 fee to register with the state, or the Louisiana legislation which would require additional penalties if a crime involved the use of maps. It sometimes seems that at least some of these legislative bodies are engaged in a contest to see which can produce the most ridiculous legislation. Of course, Indiana has long had a strong position in this contest, with its attempt in 1897 to set the value of the mathematical constant, pi [π], by legislation.
Blog posts at The Economist‘s site report a couple of new entries to the contest. The first entry, reported on the “Babbage” science and technology blog, is from North Carolina. It seems that a state scientific commission released a report saying that, based on climate change predictions, the sea level at the state’s Atlantic coast might rise by more than three feet.
Aghast at a state commission’s scientific findings about the local sea level rising 39 inches (or one metre, as it is known to the rest of the world) by 2100, coastal business leaders and property developers pressured the state’s legislators into banning all sea-level projections based on climate-change data. As a result, House Bill 819 would require future projections to use only historical data.
Now it is certainly true that a one-meter rise in sea level would have a grave economic effect on the state. It derives a good deal of tourism income from vacationers that visit the coast, especially along the chain of barrier islands called the Outer Banks. (The Wright brothers made their famous first flight there, near Kitty Hawk.) I’ve visited there; it is a very pleasant place, and there is no doubt that a good deal of it would be decidedly damp if the sea level rose by three feet. I guess the legislature can forbid the state’s agencies from publishing studies. But do they think that they can legislate a higher sea level out of existence?
The second entry, from the “Democracy in America” blog, is from Georgia. It seems that the state’s voters are to be asked to approve an increase in the sales tax, in order to fund transportation projects.
On July 31st, Georgia’s voters will decide whether to impose upon themselves a one-cent sales tax for the next ten years to fund transportation projects. Voters in each of Georgia’s 12 regions will have seen (or at least, will have had the opportunity to see) the list of projects their tax will fund; money collected in that region will be spent in that region.
There are, as one might expect, a variety of projects that are proposed under this initiative; there is also debate about the merits of the various proposals. Most of this debate is relatively rational, but unfortunately some of it is not.
It also raises an insane question: are Atlanta’s Democratic mayor, Kasim Reed, and Republican attorney-general, Sam Olens, both agents of the United Nations determined to advance the cause of one-world government and outlaw private property?
The issue apparently arises because some of the proposed plans include provision of paths for pedestrians and cyclists alongside highways. According to some local politicians, this is the thin edge of the wedge for an attempt, known as Agenda 21, by the United Nations to take away Georgians’ freedoms.
That’s Agenda 21. Bicycles and pedestrian traffic as an alternative form of transportation to the automobile.
The scope of this UN conspiracy is breathtaking. Just think, back when our distant ancestors first walked upright on the African savannah, they were preparing for this dastardly plot. And everyone knows that people who ride bicycles are bound to be socialist atheist terrorists. (There might even be a connection with the events in North Carolina. After all, the Wright brothers were bicycle mechanics — what more do you want?)
My grandfather was fond of saying, “Most people are dumber than average.” I am beginning to be convinced that he was right.