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Appeals Court Rules Honking Is Not Protected Free Speech; Are The EPA's Aggressive Rules To Push Electric Cars Realistic? U.S. Secrets Leaked Via Online Platform Popular With Gamers; The "Wackadoddle" Email About Baseless Claims Of Election Fraud. Aired 9- 10a ET
Aired April 15, 2023 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: No guardrails. I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. Two dozen young men united by an interest in guns and gear and God hanging out on the discord server in a group they call Thug Shaker Central.
According to The New York Times, it started as a place where young men and teenage boys could gather amid the isolation of the pandemic and bond. About half of them, according to The Washington Post playing video games in their basements.
For leadership, they look to the OG, the original gangster. A 21-year- old Air National Guardsmen his motivation, said to have been to inform and to impress, allegedly revealing state secrets that became his stock and trade, and when his transcriptions of classified information no longer held the interest of the group, he shifted to photographic materials that should never have seen the public light of day.
On video, he's reportedly shown shouting racist and antisemitic slurs before firing rifle and said to be wrought over government action at Ruby Ridge and Waco. After being arrested on Thursday, suspect Jack Teixeira was charged Friday with unauthorized retention and transmission of national defense information, as well as unauthorized removal of classified information and defense materials.
It was described by a classmate to CNN as a loner, and having a fascination with Warren guns. The more that I've read about the big picture, the more that I've been thinking about NYU Professor Scott Galloway, who was among the first here to speak about the subject of our failing young men. December of 2021, Professor Galloway told me this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT GALLOWAY, PROFESSOR OF MARKETING, NYU STERN SCHOOL OF BUSINESS: The issue is, when you have a group of men, the lower half of attractiveness of men and online dating, which is doubled. Now it's about half of relationships. And the top 20 percent of men in terms of attractiveness, get about 60 percent of the interest, you end up with a group of men that are more prone to conspiracy, theory more prone to misogynistic content, more prone to believe, not believe in climate change.
So this is the American story, if it's written with a pen whose ink is failing young men, does not end well. This is an existential crisis failing young men.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Don't misunderstand. None of this is in defense of the alleged actions of the Massachusetts man or his acolytes. Rather, it's an effort to understand what gave rise to the behavior, so as to prevent it from happening again.
Yesterday, I tracked down Professor Galloway, he was in Japan. I wanted to ask him about this breach of national security. He told me his hunch is that we're going to find that this guy made a series of bad decisions. He said that when he reads the initial accounts, he doesn't feel angry, as much as he feels upset that it's part of a growing problem in America, where we're no longer looking out for one another.
Where one in seven men have no longer a single friend, where the number of young people who see their friends every day, has been cut in half in the last 10 years. And it all circles back to the same thing, the digital version of anything, is an inferior analog to its offline counterpart. Or as I have explained here, we've self-sorted.
With the aid of the internet, we've isolated ourselves into narrowly defined political and social associations where we aren't in the physical presence of one another. Consequently, bad behavior isn't policed in the same way that it would be if we were face to face. Nobody is standing there, as they would be in church or in the workplace, or maybe at the bowling league to say, hey, you can't say that, or, hey, you shouldn't do that.
In short, there are no guardrails online. Extremism isn't shunned the way that it would be we hope in person instead, it breeds and it multiplies. Alliances are forged, regardless of proximity among those who would otherwise be unknown to one another. Again, if convicted, this young man needs to be punished harshly, but the situation will repeat itself until we address what drives it.
A lack of faith in institutions, distrust in government joblessness, social isolation, lack of romantic interests, and real relationships. My next guest gets it. I have watched and recommend his TED Talk. It is called where the alt right came from. Dale Beran is a lecturer at Morgan State University. He's the author of, "It Came From Something Awful: How A Toxic Troll Army Accidentally Mean Donald Trump Into Office."
Dale, thank you for being here. My radio listeners have cautioned me all week not to go blaming an entire platform. But to me it seems like a pretty familiar story, young man, they're isolated, they're banding online in this case over guns and gear and God. What do you see?
DALE BERAN, AUTHOR, "IT CAME FROM SOMETHING AWFUL": Sure. Thank you for having me. I think your analysis is pretty correct that, indeed the larger sort of sociological problems that created this environment, so things just being difficult for young people that they have a difficult time economically or just sort of getting out of their parents' house or getting a foothold in life, combined with sort of ever expanding a warring online world.
And as you say, that environment breeds antisocial behavior is sort of a substitute for loneliness, substitute for companionship, but not -- doesn't actually provide the real thing. So spending a lot of time online, ends up being bad for your mental health. So you have a lot of young men radicalizing or being more extreme than they would because they're spending all their time dropped out online. And that's -- that is sort of one of the backgrounds to what's happening in this story.
SMERCONISH: Still so much that we don't know about these two dozen, and we could have a separate conversation as to what level of culpability they bear. But based on what I heard you say in your TED talk, if this is similar to other online activity and conversations, they are self-perceived losers, who derive strength from being in numbers, right? Isn't that a large part of it?
BERAN: Right, so this -- my TED talk was related to fortune (ph), which is the third or fourth place these leaks appear that seem to be connected to these communities, at least culturally. So the larger set of discords that these these leaks appeared in and then finally, in fortune, also to share culture have dropped out idle young men, who don't really have a lot of prospects in life, or at least trying to kind of figure things out.
But as they found the internet, as you said, they sort of end up getting a very distorted picture of reality of politics as they're trying to sort of process these ideas through memes or whatever. So what ends up happening is that they feel like oh, they have some sort of place where they can get an unvarnished truth.
And what ends up happening is they get a distorted picture of the truth. So they end up believing in conspiracy theories, or sort of radical ideas. And they do indeed, glom together in a coalition. They feel like, oh, we have a set of shared values. And that has produced political movements in the past like the alt right.
Here, though, it seems to be a kind of sort of connected with a vaguely disenchanted right leaning group of young men. That's sort of the way to sort of characterize this vaguely political or cultural movement that is sort of online. And sometimes that reflects itself in a political action. But here, it was sort of like a little bit of an accident of a messy situation where he had these extreme beliefs, and he didn't mean to make do something overtly political.
SMERCONISH: The takeaway, I'm hoping to leave with viewers is that there's a bigger issue lurking here than just one guy who's a 20-year- old -- 21-year-old Massachusetts Air National Guardsmen, there's a much deeper seated problem that we need to come to terms with. I hope people watch your TED Talk and read your book. And I thank you.
BERAN: Sure. Thank you.
SMERCONISH: My next guest knows all too well the dangers of extreme anti-government and far right groups. Sara Sweet, is the daughter of an operations supervisor for the Social Security Administration who was killed during the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. By the way, next Wednesday is the 28th anniversary of that tragic day.
Steven Williams was only 42 years old when Timothy McVeigh set off explosives outside of the federal building where Williams worked. Sara carries on his legacy through advocacy work, and as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum.
Sara, thank you so much for being here. What are you thinking when you're hearing that the leaker in this case was drawing inspiration from Waco and Ruby Ridge?
SARA SWEET, FATHER WAS KILLED IN OKLAHOMA CITY BOMBING: Thank you for having me. It's honestly for me, Michael, it just takes me right back to 1995 when we first found out who had committed the bombing, what his motivation was, and just honestly, still, after 28 years, just the shock of it.
SMERCONISH: And McVeigh didn't have the benefit, if that's the right word of chat rooms, right. I mean, to have the kind of conversation and interaction that's so readily available today is something that he would not have had at his disposal.
SWEET: Well, you're absolutely right. I go down to the memorial and speak to school groups. And it's really one of the challenges I have is to try to get them to understand how out different the world was in terms of communication and connectedness and, you know, know very few people in 1995 at least in Oklahoma, had cell phones.
And we certainly didn't have this online community where it makes it so, so easy to meet people who you just can easily help you become indoctrinated into something that is -- can be very frightening, potentially.
SMERCONISH: So what's the message when you're trying to reach young minds, based on the hard lesson that you learned and knowing what you know about Ruby Ridge, Waco, and how it's become this twisted source of inspiration? What do you tell them?
SWEET: Well, you know, I tell kids that I remind them, first of all, that they have a tremendous amount of power. You know, I tell them, there were people, a couple of people in Timothy McVeigh's life who could have spoken up, who could have tried to convince him that he -- this was an evil act, they could have contacted law enforcement. There were so many things they could have done, but they chose not to.
And, you know, I tell kids, that's a choice that they made. There's the other choice could have been to contact someone, to tell someone to try and intervene and stop him. Because I do think that I tried to empower kids, when I go down and talk at the memorial. And it gets me, Michael.
Every time I go down and share my story it chips away a little bit. It's very hard to revisit all of that. But I do it because I am convinced that and I'm dedicated to trying to tell my story to, you know, to any group where I might be able to reach at least one person or make a difference.
SMERCONISH: Yes, that goes, whether they're in your company, or whether it's someone that you maybe even never met, but you are an acquaintance online.
Sara, will be thinking about you on Wednesday. By the way, I've had the privilege of visiting the memorial and the museum, and highly recommended. It's worth a trip to Oklahoma City for that purpose. Thank you for being here.
SWEET: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Hit me up on social media. I'll read some responses throughout the course of the program. What do we have? From the world of Twitter. "COVID was a catalyst to a lot of things such as remote work. Unfortunately, it also exacerbated this concept of trying to foster relationships behind a keyboard with an avatar, which seems to be detrimental to mental." Betatesting, there's no doubt that's what's driving a lot of this.
And I think that it's not the COVID was the cause, but rather, it was the accelerant of a lot of trends that were already underway. But I mean, as Scott Galloway is fond of saying that nothing they're getting online, is a replacement, or can equal the experience of that which takes place in the real world. We're not Luddites, everybody loves being online for the benefits, but there are a lot of liabilities.
Up ahead, wackadoodle, wackadoodle. That's how the writer of an email making baseless election fraud claims describe some of her own ramblings. And yet Trump affiliated lawyer Sidney Powell repeated those theories multiple times on Fox News, despite many of the network not believing them. It's a key part of the $1.6 billion defamation suit against Fox News. But should you be rooting for a particular outcome? We'll visit that in a moment.
Plus, I love it. My favorite story of the week. A California woman honked her horn 14 times in support of a political protest outside of a congressman's office was then ticketed for misuse of a vehicle horn. She brought a civil suit, claiming that state law infringed on her First Amendment right. Do you think she's right?
I want to know what you think. Go to smerconish.com and answer this week's poll question. "Should honking a car horn be protected speech under the First Amendment?"
SMERCONISH: Wackadoodle. That's how the woman who loved the theory about Dominion voting machines being rigged, described some of what she was saying in the very same email in which she was making the accusations, wackadoodle. But some of her theories made it on air at Fox News and are part of Dominions defamation lawsuit, with opening statements scheduled for Monday.
Of all the texts and the emails and the deposition testimony that is now in the public domain from this case, this email is for me, the most stunning piece of evidence. Let me put it in some context. Saturday, November 7 2020, the presidential election was finally called for Joe Biden.
Later that same day, as Exhibit 259 in the Dominion lawsuit reveals, it's 5:07 p.m. a woman who's an artist with no election expertise from Minnesota sends an email to Sidney Powell, a lawyer associated with Donald Trump, Tom Fitton, the head of the conservative activist group Judicial Watch and then Fox Business host Lou Dobbs.
The email launches by tying false claims of voting irregularities in multiple states with Dominions equipment. It claims that a piece of code was inserted in the software that, quote, "Once ballots were fed into the database for tabulation, up to 3 percent of votes for Mr. Trump would automatically switch to Mr. Biden."
Why 3 percent? Well, the email author says, well, because that's what American Express charges as a merchant, and it's also the cut that Jared Kushner receives from all donations to the GOP. Really?
Then she tosses in as an aside, that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was actually murdered at the Bohemian Grove retreat. OK, so wouldn't you want to know who is this person sending me this? She said that she has spent most of her career as a successful technology analyst who was, quote, superbly accurate with my forecasts and ideas.
She writes "I've had the strangest dreams since I was a little girl. Most were just odd, others were clearly predictions." "When I'm awake, I see what others don't see, and I hear what others don't hear."
She mentions having been in a car accident in 1982, when she was, quote, internally decapitated. And yet I live, I breathe, I shop, I laugh, I get old, I walk the earth.
After citing a scene from a movie called "Thunderheart" in which a Native American Sheriff advises to listen to the wind, she writes, "The wind tells me I'm a ghost, but I don't believe it. Although it appears that I was shot in the back shortly after submitting a tip to the FBI two years ago. At the same time, I thought I had just tripped and fell."
And then comes the admission, "while the last bit is pretty wackadoodle, it's irrelevant," she writes. Now, you would think that the contents of this letter would have sent it straight to the trash bin. Instead, it garnered a television appearance the very next day.
On Sunday, Sidney Powell, one of the recipients of the email was on air with Fox News, Maria Bartiromo, repeating some of its accusations about election fraud. Fox told The Washington Post that Bartiromo's interview questions were based on a prior conversation with Powell and not in the email. But it was the first of a dozen appearances that Powell will then make on the network over the next month, even after a Fox senior VP privately begged the White House to disavow.
As the Washington Post reported, Fox's Raj Shah wrote his bosses on November 23rd, and said, "We encouraged several sources within the administration to tell reporters that Powell offered no evidence for her claims and didn't speak for the President."
That was a day after Trump lawyers had issued statements saying that Powell was not a member of their team. And yet, the next day, she was back on the air with Lou Dobbs continuing the false narrative. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the hosts and the executives were all discussing Powell in withering terms.
In one set of messages revealed in the court filing, Tucker Carlson told Laura Ingraham that Powell was lying, and that he had caught her so. Ingraham responded that "Sidney is a complete nut. No one will work with her. Ditto for Rudy."
In private, it seemed they knew. However, in public, the narrative continued. Dominion needs in this case, to meet the very high bar of actual malice. That means that Fox had knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard for the truth, but from the outside looking in, this seems like a case where that high bar might actually be met.
Joining me now is Jane Kirtley, a former executive director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. And she teaches Media Law at the University of Minnesota. Jane, thank you so much for being here. You're one of the few, I think, who's hoping for a settlement if I'm right. How come?
JANE KIRTLEY, PROFESSOR OF MEDIA ETHICS & LAW, UNIVERSITY. OF MINNESOTA: I am hoping for a settlement. And I'll tell you simply why. Nothing good will come of this case going to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is what I'm afraid is going to happen, no matter who wins or who loses.
And frankly, I would expect a split verdict on this case. The reason for this is we know that there are at least two Supreme Court justices that are eager to reexamine New York Times versus Sullivan. I don't want to give them that opportunity.
SMERCONISH: To me this case speaks to the strength and wisdom of New York Times versus Sullivan. I know that that's probably a minority view, among many who are in the the political landscape. There's a very high bar here that needs to be met, because Dominion is a public plaintiff. So it's not a negligence standard. It's actual malice. Why wouldn't this perhaps be an affirmation of the wisdom of Times versus Sullivan? KIRTLEY: Well, I know a lot of people, media lawyers, and others are saying this is the case that beats the actual malice standard. I'm not entirely sure of that as a whole. I think that is true for many of the allegations that Dominion has made. I'm not sure that the judge's direction to them that all these statements are false would survive on appellate appeal of ruling.
But I will say this, it is a very high standard, it can be met. What it requires is meticulous examination of the editorial judgment and decisions of news organizations. I have to tell you, as somebody who has represented the media in many contexts for many years, many news organizations would not withstand the degree of scrutiny that fox will be subjected to here.
If this becomes the norm going forward. I think I'm a lot of news organizations that many people consider reliable and credible are going to suffer from at the very least nuisance libel suits going forward.
That we had a spate of these back in the 1980s and 90s. I don't want to have to go back to that.
SMERCONISH: Well, but maybe there's a good policing value here. I mean, if I'm privately telling my colleagues here at CNN, that person's a liar. And that person is saying things that we know not to be true. And the network, meanwhile, is putting whomever that might be forward. Well, dammit, we deserve to be punished, don't we?
KIRTLEY: Now, let me say two things about that. First of all, unlike lawyers and doctors, journalists are not licensed by anybody. They're not subjected to a generally accepted canon of ethics, trying to decide what is competent journalistic behavior is very difficult to do. And what I know for sure is I don't want judges and juries deciding that.
That is one step away from government deciding not only who can be a journalist, but what is the truth. I don't know about you, but I don't like the idea that we're having effectively truth tribunals here, that are declaring whether the press is telling the truth or not. And I just remind you that it wasn't that many years ago that Donald Trump was declaring all kinds of news media as fake news, saying they were telling lies.
Someday he or his supporters may be back in power. Do you want to give them that ability to regulate the media in that way?
SMERCONISH: I'm going to parrot Churchill and say that the jury system is the worst possible means of resolving disputes except for all the others. I rather like the idea that 12 people plus 12 alternates are right now being gathered in Delaware. They're going to represent we hope, all walks of life, and we're going to let them sort it out. Quickly, you get the final word.
KIRTLEY: I believe in the jury system too. But I think it's important to remember that this case can easily become a surrogate for political viewpoints, the integrity of the election, all kinds of things that ultimately have very little to do with Fox's actual malice. I suspect, if this case goes against Fox, we're definitely going to see an appeal and very possibly some reversals at the appellate process.
SMERCONISH: Well, thank you so much for your expertise. I appreciate it.
KIRTLEY: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Please make sure you're going to smerconish.com this hour and voting on the poll question. It's my favorite story of the week. I hope you're into it. "Should honking a car horn -- you boop, boop, boop, as you drive by a protest, maybe? Is that protected speech under the First Amendment?
We're going to dive into what the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled about this and we'll do that in just a moment. Plus, the President's aggressive push to roll out more electric cars on the road by 2032. Is that feasible?
SMERCONISH: Here's my favorite story of the week. Is honking your car horn in protest a protected First Amendment, right? Well, not according to the ruling in a recent federal California court case.
Here are the facts. Soon after the election of President Trump, there were weekly protests outside the office of Republican Congressman Darrell Issa in Vista, California. It's about 40 miles north of San Diego. And they went on for more than a year.
The plaintiff in the case, Susan Porter, attended several of these protests and at one of them, October 17, 2017, several San Diego County sheriff's deputies arrived and started putting parking tickets on cars. So, she decides to move her car and as she drove past her fellow protesters, she honks the horn. In fact, she honks the horn 14 times.
She was pulled over by a sheriff's deputy who wrote her a ticket for misuse of a vehicle horn. It turns out that Section 27001 of the state vehicular code states that, "The driver of a motor vehicle when reasonably necessary to insure safe operation shall give audible warning with his horn." And, "The horn shall not otherwise be used, except as a theft alarm system."
Porter citation was dismissed because the deputy failed to show up in court, but she then sues about the underlying issue, and she claimed that enforcement of the law chilled her from exercising her right to free speech. For instance, if she wanted to honk in support when she drove past a banner saying, support our veterans.
In February of 2021, a judge ruled against her at the trial level. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals then heard her case in March of 2022, last week upheld the lower court's decision two to one. Judge Michelle Friedland wrote for the majority and said, while it may be that Section 27001 prohibits some expressive conduct, the primary distinction the statute makes does not depend on the message that might be conveyed.
Section 21007 does not single out for differential treatment, for example, political honking, ideological honking, celebratory honking, or honking to summon a carpool rider. Instead, the law applies evenhandedly to all who wish to use the horn and a safety hazard is not present.
In the dissent, Judge Marsha Berzon wrote that political protest -- quote -- "has always rested on the highest rung of the hierarchy of the First Amendment values." And there is no evidence in the record or anywhere else as far as I can determine that such political expressive horn use jeopardizes safety or frustrates noise control. Berzon concludes that by prohibiting core expressive conduct the law is unconstitutional.
Joining me now is Gautam Hans, who wrote an amicus brief in support of Susan Porter in the case. He's associate clinical professor of law at Cornell Law School where he is associate director of its First Amendment Clinic.
Professor, thanks for being here. It is my favorite story of the week. So the majority said, yes, some honking is expressive under the First Amendment, but it applies evenhandedly and it's narrowly tailored. What do you think?
GAUTAM HANS, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, FIRST AMENDMENT CLINIC, CORNELL LAW SCHOOL: Thank you for having me. I agree with Judge Berzon's dissent. I wrote in support of Susan Porter's case because of the concern I have about political expression and how honking of horns is central to that particularly during the COVID epidemic when this case was being litigated.
SMERCONISH: You remember, I'm sure, in the 2020 election when COVID was much more on the brain, and while Donald Trump was barnstorming the nation at these enormous rallies, Joe Biden, much more cautiously was appearing at drive-ins -- and I'm going to show you some tape.
So, the only way they were able to express themselves was honking the horn. Now, if I want to be technical, I guess, I have to say that under 21007 in California, they were not on the highway and the statute wouldn't apply.
HANS: Yes, but you can certainly imagine all sorts of contacts similar to what Susan Porter had engaged in that would be covered by the law. And I remember when I was working on this project one of my colleagues said, are you really going to make a constitutional case about horn honking?
And I understand that it's a little -- maybe not what we think of when we think of protocol protests but, you know, it's so central and I think that the COVID protests that you mentioned are a great example of how political expression takes all sorts of forms, and this is one that's very long standing.
You might be surprised that some of these cases have been litigated in other parts of the country for years. And so, I do think it is actually quite important for us to ensure that people can protest in the ways that they are supposed to be able to under the First Amendment.
SMERCONISH: You know that the majority opinion in this case -- by the way, interesting that that one was Obama appointed and the other was Clinton appointed and they disagreed. You know that in the majority of you they said, she had alternatives. She could have parked her car and, you know, foisted a sign. She could have given a thumbs up. She could have given a wave. There are a lot of things that she could have done to express herself shy of boop, boop, boop.
HANS: Yes. Although, I don't agree with the majority's view on that for a couple of reasons, one of which is that, you know, there are safety issues, right? There are all sorts of situations in which you're driving down the freeway, and people might be standing over an overpass and you're not going to drive under the shoulder and, you know, wave your hand, right?
And I think the COVID dynamic sort of belies some of the obvious alternatives that the majority wants to support. You know, there were safety concerns about protesting. And for many people, this was the only way that they would be able to express their support and certainly, if you can imagine, other situations in the future akin to that.
SMERCONISH: Professor Hans, I want to show some social media reaction. I'll read it aloud in case you can't see it. We will respond together. Here it comes.
If corporations can be people, a horn can be a voice. Your thought?
HANS: You know, I think that it demonstrates how broad First Amendment expression covers from the Citizens United case which I think the comments that -- referring to to this one. First Amendment expression takes all kinds of forms and should in a constitutional democracy.
SMERCONISH: We shall see the way the poll question turns out. I know how you're voting. Thank you for your time.
HANS: Absolutely. Have a great day.
SMERCONISH: Make sure you go to Smerconish.com right now. Answer this week's poll question. We set a record last week with voting. I'm not sure what will happen this week.
Should honking a car horn be protected speech under the First Amendment? While you're there registered for the free daily newsletter. It is great.
Still to come, what the road ahead looks like for combating climate change? Are American drivers ready to shift gears to electric vehicles, wait for it, by 2032?
SMERCONISH: Is getting America to embrace electric vehicles an ambitious plan or an unrealistic fantasy? Just this week, a poll found that just four in 10 Americans say it's at least somewhat likely their next car will be electric. And then, one day later, the Biden administration rolled out an aggressive plan that would require two- thirds of all new passenger cars and a quarter of new heavy trucks to be electric by 2032. It's just nine years away.
The "New York Times" called this a quantum leap, noting that just 5.8 percent of new cars were electric last year. Trucks even fewer, less than two percent were electric. There's no question that something needs to be done to address the climate crisis, transportation, the largest source of greenhouse gasses created by the U.S.
A 2021 report by the International Energy Agency found that countries would have to stop selling new gas cars by 2035 to keep the average global temperature from rising by 1.5 degrees Celsius, the threshold when the effects of climate change would be catastrophic. The Earth's temperature has already risen by 1.1 degrees Celsius.
But how would this EV plan work? Is the electric grid even ready to handle the surge in demand? Here to discuss is Gil Tal. He's the director at the Electric Vehicle Research Center at the University of California Davis. Dr. Tal, thanks for being here.
Is it realistic within nine years they're going to be able to get this done?
GIL TAL, DIRECTOR, THE ELECTRIC VEHICLE RESEARCH CENTER, UC DAVIS: It is realistic. It's hard. It's a tall order, but it's absolutely realistic. We are talking about the new car sales, not all the cars on the road.
So, in nine years from now, if we will meet the goal, still about three out of four cars will be regular gas cars.
SMERCONISH: Can the grid sustain that?
TAL: The grid will be able to sustain it. We will need to update and upgrade the grid but we are doing it anyway. In a way electric cars and cleaning the grid are the only two silver bullets we have for reducing greenhouse gasses.
We don't need to change your behavior, not by any much, you know, change. And it's going to save us money in the long run. So it's kind of a no-brainer --
SMERCONISH: I know that a lot of -- I know that a lot of --
TAL: -- if we think about it this way. Sorry. Go ahead.
SMERCONISH: Yes. Look, I know some of my cynicism is seeping in. I'm all for it. I drive an electric vehicle and I love it. But I'm just dubious as to being able to meet this goal, recognizing that I hear from radio listeners all week long who have range anxiety, you know, maybe they're willing to buy a car but they don't know how far they're going to go. And there just aren't enough charging stations right now.
And something else that's a pet peeve of mine is the lack of universality of the charging stations that are out there. All this has got to get fixed regardless of whether we meet that goal in nine years.
TAL: Absolutely and that's going to be a tough one. We already see tens of billions of dollars of investment from the government, from the energy companies, utilities, car companies, the private sectors that are going into a charging infrastructure. So, the money is there. It's going to take some time.
But some of us will not drive full electric like a Tesla. Some of us will drive a plug in hybrid that we will only plug overnight or at work and we will be able to drive on gas the rest of the -- the rest of the way if we're doing a long trip. And not every place will have the same amount of electric cars 10 years from now. Some rural areas it will take a little bit longer.
SMERCONISH: Dr. Tal, is the United States going to end up again at the mercy of rogue states the way that we were with oil because now we need cobalt and we need lithium?
TAL: I think that we learn from the oil. And if you can already see how the United States is trying to get more of the production and more of the mineral coming from states that we have -- diverse states and more locations and cleaner production it's already happening now. It's happening with the IRA, the infrastructure bill, and the incentives. But it's happening early this time. That's one thing.
The other is that we keep changing the technology. So, we have much less cobalt in our batteries because cobalt is hard to get. So, these things are changing fast. And I think that in this time we will not be, you know, in the hands of other countries.
SMERCONISH: Let's do social media together. Show it to me, and I'll read it to Dr. Tal so that I can draw on his expertise.
Where can I charge an electric car if I don't own my own home? I don't have anywhere to charge it overnight, says Rebecca.
You're short answer to her would be what?
TAL: First, we will need to install many more charges in the place that you car park overnight, if it's a public garage or on the sidewalk or next to your rental home. But other than that in many states during the day while you're at work will be even better, especially if the electricity is coming from solar sources.
SMERCONISH: Right. Assuming anybody goes back to work. Dr. Tal, thank you so much for that. I appreciate it.
TAL: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Still to come, more of your best and worst social media comments. And have you voted? Come on. Don't let me down on this. I'm so psyched about this question that if the voting is weak I'm going to have egg on my face.
Go to Smerconish.com and tell me, should honking a car horn be protected speech under the First Amendment?
SMERCONISH: All right. There it is, the result of this week's poll question at Smerconish -- I'm kind of surprised. Wow. Should honking a car horn be protected speech under the First Amendment? Nearly 30,000 have voted. Thank you for that. And it's like 70-30, no, which, by the way, puts you in alignment with that opinion from the Ninth Circuit.
I think that's the right answer. Are there speech implications to this decision? There are and the majority of you acknowledge that. But I think the evenhandedness of it they're not applying it just to people who are on the left or on the right, and there's a safety issue here.
I'm only surprised by the fact that I thought the audience would be the reverse of that. It was an Obama appointee who wrote the majority opinion for the Ninth Circuit. And it was a Clinton appointee who wrote the dissent. So, thanks for playing along. That's a fun issue.
Here's some more social media reaction that came in during the course of today's program. Truck horns, going on continuously for days, was a central part of the Ottawa protest -- that's exactly right -- noise can be a form of violence.
I have a brother-in-law who was, as they say, on the job in New York for a long, long time, and he just told me about Canada Dry trucks circling New York City's city hall, and they all got written up for noise complaints.
What else came in in terms of social media? There is this.
It's more than online platforms. The younger generation tends to have distorted expectations and don't deal well with disappointment.
Ron, I think that's part of it. But the issue here is, you know, the Jean Twenge issue. It's the Jonathan Haidt issue. It's the impact of all of this technology and our youth and the rise of mental health.
It's not a correlation. It's a causation. I'm paying very close attention to the litigation that is out in Seattle, where the school system -- like they educate 50 or 60,000, and they're taking on all the big tech platforms and they're saying, we are now dealing with the burden of the mental health crisis brought on by the way in which all these algorithms have been manipulated to keep an addictive quality to the technology.
I think this story about the Massachusetts National Guardsman -- and I'm not thinking about him. I'm thinking about his two dozen followers. That's got to get dealt with or it's going to repeat. One more, real quick. I think I can do it.
How will they replace the highway tax revenue from gas taxes? Right. Well, I mean, there's going to have to be a shifting of the burden in that and it will have to be electric based.
I'm not a Debbie Downer about the standard imposed by the Biden administration. I'm just dubious as to whether they can get it done within nine years. It's obviously the direction of which we all need to go.
Thank you for watching. See you next week.