Potholes in Indianapolis

I am going to go off my normal vague book, concept script and talk about something very specific today. The nightmare that is the pothole crisis of Indianapolis. I am not just going to bitch about them though. I am going to offer real solutions.

First we need a primer.

Every city in USDA growing zone 5 and 6 has this problem. Our temperature range and variation is such that water alternatively runs off and freezes over and over throughout the winter.

Cities such as Indianapolis that are on the edge of those two bands, also get more erratic weather. For example, 4 different times this winter alone we have seen temperature ranges of 50 degrees or more within 48 hours, with the low being below freezing.

I am not going to take the time to explain the physics of that and why it is bad for concrete…you can look that up if you doubt the following statement. Going from freezing to 50 degrees and back to freezing within that short a period of time is tragic for road life.

So we have the problem….so do the surrounding counties. Why is it so bad in Indianapolis.

Three reasons the road conditions in Indianapolis are so bad.

  1. The previous city administration sold off road maintenance assets to make the budget look good. It worked, but the roads didn’t get the maintenance they needed.
  2. Twice a day 140,000 people commute into and out of this city. They pay NOTHING in taxes towards the roads they use to do so. Their taxes go to their home counties.
  3. Marion County has 30% of all the road miles serviced by funds from fuel and excise taxes, but gets less than 8% of that repair and maintenance budget.

How to fix the problem.

Obviously we cannot do anything about the maintenance assets being sold off. We just have to play catch up.

As for those commuters. We need a commuter tax. City County Council is supportive of that, but under Indiana’s tax laws, we need the State House’s permission. Call your state Representative, State Senator, and the Governor. Write them as well. This needs done, yesterday.

The third issue is another phone call and letter to the State House officials. I don’t know how they determine that formula exactly but it is not fair, and it is not productive.

Why should the State house care?

Simple. This is the capital city of Indiana. It should be a point of Hoosier Pride that our roads are at least in decent condition.

If they don’t have pride, they should consider the economics. Indiana’s GDP is about $360Billion. Indianapolis’ GDP is about $118Billion. At almost 33% of the states GDP, the conditions of our roads matter. Especially given the large percentage of that that comes from shipping and convention dollars.

At any rate, that is my view. It seems pretty simple. The Statehouse needs to get realistic about what is good for our state as a whole. Call them and remind them.

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The cost of war.

Every time a politic discussion gets remotely heated…or even gets to a likely impasse, some moron in the back of the proverbial room shouts:

Civil War!

like they have 50,000 troops standing by to invade the backyard of whomever they happen to be disagreeing with at the moment.

Lets be real. First off, there honestly isn’t an issue currently being discussed that reaches anywhere near that magnitude of a response.

But lets pretend that there is something that big on the horizon. Even then, I would tell you to think long and hard before taking that route.

Its not enough that war would destroy our countries infrastructure. The famine, disease, and poverty that would follow are unimaginable.

Americans aren’t self sufficient anymore. Stores and warehouses seldom have more than a 7 day supply of food on hand because our shipping systems are so efficient. Starvation in the cities would be almost instant.

Our water supply and electrical grid are strained even without sabotage and bombing. Can you imagine most peoples response to not having power for months? Hell better than half the country has electric heat…They would freeze to death before they could even starve.

Anyway, I didn’t do much prep on this (obviously). It is just  thought that occurred when that bullshit flew across my screen in a more or less civil debate. And I thought I would throw this out there.

Maybe someone will read it and reconsider their hyperbole.

Maybe they will read it and start thinking about how to fix our infrastructure, or how to make the country more resilient.

Who knows?

Posted in Government, politics, US Politics | Comments Off on The cost of war.

A wide open primary season.

With the Presidential primary field wide open for Democrats this year…it is certainly going to be an interesting political season.

One of the really interesting things about this season to me, is that after Hillary Clintons loss, followed by a democrat resurgence in the mid terms… we are just now going to find out what the dems want to stand for a national level.

I mean look at the field. Old, young, black, white, super liberal, corporate Dem, and every bit of the lefts spectrum is represented. We should really get to see a wide variety of ideas thrown out…and without an early favorite…they should all get a little bit of air.

I hope that is what happens at least.

It would really make me happy to see a political season dominated by talking about ideas instead of mudslinging, name calling, and the like.

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Populism, LEAN management, and the Scientific Process.

For those of you who don’t know, LEAN management is a organizational method which relies heavily on team building, group decision making, and making sure all parts of a process have input and accountability in that process. My opinion of it is that when it is implemented correctly, it can be very effective in certain circumstances.

That said, that really isn’t what this article is about…but rather it defines an argument that annoyed me recently.

A fellow I know, (who is a bright guy and a great person- but we have fundamental differences in our natures) posted a meme which basically said that the problem with science, and scientific knowledge is that it is a top down process that doesn’t allow group think to make decisions.

This is not only incorrect, it misunderstands every single concept of the scientific process.

To start, let’s take a look at my friends argument. Sure, a random person making a statement is not treated equally to the statement of a scientist. So on the surface, what he is saying is true. But we have to dig a little deeper.

What is a scientist?

All a scientist is, is a person who conducts experiments using a scientific process. This just means they start with a hypothesis (an idea), bounce it around in their head (and against previously PROVEN scientific facts) to form a theory, and then conduct a regimented experiment to test that theory. Then publish your findings for peer review. If they are repeatable, they are accepted as fact. If they are not, the findings are discredited.

Do that, and BOOM!, you are a scientist.

Understanding that alone, shows science not a top down process. Anyone can perform any step in the process. Its only true authority lies in regimented experimentation and peer review which makes it a fairly solid LEAN process in and of itself.

I mean, anyone can theorize, conduct experiments, publish, or verify others experiments. Science is a wholly populist activity.

But what about the random guy. Why aren’t we listening to what he says?

The answer to this is harsh, but real. It is because he is not known to be speaking from a fact based position.

It isn’t even saying he is wrong.

It is saying that we have no idea where his words fall on the spectrum of right and wrong.

Unless he is stating facts from a peer reviewed study, everything he says has an unquantifiable value. I don’t know about you, but my personal preference is that when we make decisions about how to function in the world, and what we teach children is true….so that they can build on that knowledge, function in the world, and make it better for their children just like WE ALL want to do; well, I want those decisions to be made based on hard, quantifiable, provable facts. Not opinions.

TL:DR LEAN is a great process, but when we are making big decisions, I will place my trust in the scientific process every time. It is the only sensible way to approach important decision making.

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Fixing the Electoral College

That title alone will start fights with both sides of the aisle. The right of course declaring that nothing is wrong with the Electoral College and the left pointing out that for the fifth time in American history we have a sitting President that lost the popular vote. And this time by a few million votes.

I am going to start of with the premise that the Electoral College is superior to direct democracy in that the college at least purports to prevent a totally unqualified candidate from getting elected President. I say purports because I obviously don’t think our current President is in any way qualified for he job.

Clearly it failed this time, and I will get back to why I think that happened in a moment. For now, I offer the fact that Donald Trump who is at best a brilliant charlatan came within less than a percentage point of winning the popular vote as evidence that having the Presidency decided by a popularity contest is absolutely insane. Even his supporters have nothing to offer in his defense other than they hate Hillary Clinton and President Obama. He is unredeemable.

Now on to why the electoral college failed us. Two primary reasons. The empty spacious (also the tiny) states with no population have too much voting power, and the college themselves have no check or balance to incentivize them to consider the outcome of their vote.

As for the low population states having too much power. Consider this. In Wyoming and the District of Columbia they get roughly half an electoral vote for every 100,000 people. The next ten low population states get between 1/3 and 1/2 an electoral vote per 100,000 people.

On the other end the three highest population states (California, Texas, and Florida) get 1/7th of an electoral vote for every hundred thousand people, and 20 states get 1/5 of a vote or less for every 100,000 people who reside there.

This is a serious imbalance, and it gives rural voters more voting power than they are due.

Here is where my friends on the left jump up and scream “Direct democracy! One man, one vote!”. In principle I agree. But still, hold that thought and we will get back to it. I promise.

That was the explanation for the first half of the first half of WHY I think the electoral college failed. Fixing it is later.

The second half of the equation, is that the current model of the electoral college has no incentive to vote in the nations interest. In fact, in many states, the Electors (the voters in the college) are required by law to vote as the people of their district instruct them, even if they have just cause to vote against that candidate.

So how do we fix this and make it function better AND make the system more representative of the people?

In my opinion the best fix is to have the House of Representative elect the President. This is similar to the originations of the electoral college, with the exception being that I would not allow the Senate a voice in that vote.

Here is why.

First off, the reason I would go this way instead of a direct popular vote for President is because we are a Republic. A republic is representative democracy. One of the reasons republics have fared better than democracies over time, is simply that every day people barely have time to manage their lives and keep up with their families and local communities. Even with modern communication tools a news junky and history fan like myself can barely keep up with what is happening outside of that sphere.

But in a republic, I don’t have to. Because in a republic, I elect someone to represent me at the next level, and they in turn do the same for the next level and so on. This way our interests get represented by people whose job it is, is to observe and react to the events occurring at their level of government.

This creates layers of responsibility and accountability…which we have removed from our Government.

At any rate, that is the rough in of why I don’t think we should directly elect the President. the job is too important to be a popularity contest.

Now on to why I think that the House (rather than appointed electors) should elect the President. One word. Accountability. If The House votes in a bum, they get tossed two years into his term. Also, because the President needs Congress to do anything, if they get tossed, we effectively limit the damage that the President can do until the end of his term.

But why shouldn’t the Senate get to choose? Two Reasons.

First, they are representatives of the States…see my article on repealing the 17th Amendment, and as such are not proportionate to the population….and I do believe that voting for President should be proportionate to the population rather than the soil they live on. A secondary part of that answer is that Senators longer terms make them more difficult to hold accountable for picking a bum.

The second reason I would exclude the Senate from selecting the President is because they are a significant check against his powers. The hold the rights to entreat, and hold approval over all of the Presidents appointments. I feel that separating the ability to choose the President and regulating who he hires creates an environment with much needed checks and balances that our Republic has missed for the long term.

At any rate, those are my thoughts on how to fix the electoral college. Sure get rid of it for a better version of itself, but not to go to a direct democracy….that is counter productive to this great experiment in self rule (as it has been tested previously and failed badly).

Remember, the whole point of this is thought experiment. Chew on it and see what you think. Tell other people. Be involved in your own governance.

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What is racism?

I know that a title like that is just begging for trouble.

In todays climate, it is a really effective way to piss off pretty much everyone. The thing is, in order to make progress in any space, it is imperative that we engage in some uncomfortable thoughts and discussions.

This one came up because of a social media conversation. The long and short of the conversation was someone saying that a person of color cannot be racist in America because they don’t have any power.

Because I think language is important, I disagreed.

Not with the power thing, there can be no doubt that people of color…and that is any shade darker than a light olive… are treated as second class citizens and marginalized in this country. Sure things have improved in that space over the years, but we are still a long way from our people and our systems treating all people equally regardless of race.

No my disagreement has to do with what racism means, and who can be racist.

As I frequently do, I would like to start out with a definition.

Racism noun prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior. (google search)

Merriam Webster defines racism as: : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.

You will notice that neither of those definitions require any power or authority for racism to exist.

Being racist just boils down to thinking one race is better than the other.

It is that simple.

I think that the confusion comes in, because in English we don’t have a great word to describe the systemic racism that is used to oppress minorities…so the word racism ends up being redefined. The obvious problem there being that it is needed to prevent the creation of ridiculous phrases like reverse racism, which means absolutely nothing.

We could always extend Jim Crow to define the systemic racism, but that would minimize the much more severe living conditions African Americans faced during the period between Reconstruction (1870’s) to the Civil Rights Movement’s start in the 50’s. With the lessons that should be learned there, we definitely don’t want to do that.

Apartheid is a better fit, but like Jim Crow the words origins denote a time and place where conditions were much more severe…and the word deserves to not be watered down.

I guess the only real answer is to use qualifiers. Phrases like systemic racism, and racial oppression.

Long term I think this needs its own word though. Giving something a name gives us a better chance of fighting it off…even if the optimist in me hopes that by he time we give it a good name it wont be needed any more.

 

 

 

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Political intelligence.

On of the most frustrating things about being politically active in this new hyper communicative internet age, is that so many people are becoming involved in the conversation at once…after decades of people not discussing politics because it was considered rude: that the conversations get sideswiped so often by what amounts to straight up dumb shit.

Without getting to into the actual circumstances of what happened in Covington Kentucky last week…because bitching about the fact that we are having this conversation is the whole point of this article.

People are wasting political capital on the following:

  • Arguing over whether kids from a place in rural Kentucky that is 79.8% white and have been videoed in black face taunting African American kids are racist or not.
  • Arguing over whether the self professed separatists “Black Isaraelites” are a hate group. Pro tip, they are. they are registered and tracked as such, and they are basically the Black Klan.
  • Trying to decide which turd in the toilet (from any of the three groups represented at this event) stank up the room. The answer is all equally.

In the grand scheme of things. None of those things really matter. All three are pretty obvious to anyone who is being even remotely intellectually honest.

And the whole thing is a distraction from the 4 million issues that are actually affecting our country right now.

So what do you say, that we set this…and every other petty issue aside.

Then we can address the opening the government for business, border security, health care reform, whether or not our President is a Russian puppet, campaign finance reform, our crumbling infrastructure, and all the rest of the things that actually matter.

Do you think we can do that?

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Time to repeal the 17th Amendment?

Is it time to return to the State House’s appointing US Senators?

My answer is a resounding yes. I will go a step further and say that the 17th Amendment never should have happened, and is one of the biggest reasons our political system is as jacked as it is currently.

Lets start out with exactly what the 17th Amendment did. So here is it’s language.

Amendment XVII
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislatures.
When vacancies happen in the representation of any state in the Senate, the executive authority of such state shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, that the legislature of any state may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.
This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.

The big change here is how Senators would be selected. Prior to this Amendment to the Constitution, it was left to the States to appoint Senators. The reason for this is simply because the Senate was to represent the States at the federal level and the House of Representatives was to represent the people who elected them.

For a variety of reasons (mostly corruption, perceived and real) in the early 1900’s a lot of people started doubting the efficacy of doing so and in 1913, this Amendment was made.

To my mind, the biggest result of this is that people have stopped paying attention to local and state politics, and our federal elections have been reduced to money spendathons as a result of the offices being elected based on popularity contests rather than the ability of office holders to perform the function of their office.

By returning the Senators selection to the State House, politics will be forced to become more local again… and the States as a whole will be better represented at the Federal level.

But that is just my view.

A recent article that finally reminded me to talk about this is an opinion piece by John DiMaggio. Check it out here.

Mull it over. Play with the idea and pout out what you think. That is how we forma  more perfect union.

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Thought Experiment: Fixing Gerrymandering

This is a straight stream of consciousness piece….meant to throw some ideas out there while I sort through them.

The issue is gerrymandering.

It has happened pretty much the entire time we have had a Constitution.

It keeps people from being properly represented…if they even can be.

So how do we fix it?

The first thought I want to throw out is letting a computer algorithm determine the districts. No input other than population and location.

The positives of this method would be that the only way to cheat this system would be to physically relocate people…or hack the program which would be provable.

The downside is that it would probably result in similar disenfranchisement of voters to what we experience now with rural and urban voters mixed to advantaged/disadvantaged positions based on the ruling party. The difference being, no one would control the mix.

The second idea would be to have the major parties literally “pick” alternating districts, by drawing their own lines and capturing the allotted number of persons per district. 

This is function something like this. Dems control the House of Representatives, so they go first. Start in the north west corner of the state, and outline the area. The Republicans would then start at a point attached to the first point and do the same. This would go back and forth until complete.

The advantages of this system would be based on their interests, the parties would be likely to group people in a way where that individual districts interests were more homogenous than the current system allows.

It would also preserve our adversarial system, which I think is the sole reason our Republic functions as well as it does.

The negative, and this is a big one, is that districts would still be manipulated by dirt bags on both sides of the aisle.

In conclusion, I don’t really have one…other than I am not real impressed by my parties proposal for a commission, other than it at least acknowledges the problem exists.

Chew on your ideas on the matter and bounce them off people. Who knows we might just end up with a better republic.

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