An executive order on affordable housing.

So our President slipped something across his desk nice and quite about two weeks ago during a bunch of hub bub.

The surprise of it, is this is something I think needs to be done.

He followed the SOP though, he is doing it wrong and for all the wrong reasons.
So what he did was sign an executive order forming a white house council on affordable housing… much needed right?

But he doesn’t blame material costs (inflated by tariffs) or falling wages for the working class (largest wage gap since the depression). No he wants to deregulate. What types of regulations?

  • Rent controls (you know laws that keep rent low. (not sure that helps)
  • Building and rehabilitation codes (You know the laws that require a certain level of foundation strength, material quality and standardization of buildings that make them safer to live in)
  • Energy and water efficiency mandates. (probably will reduce cost…but a problem of a higher magnitude will be worsened)
  • Wetland or environmental regulations (are you surprised. Housing issues aren’t caused by a lack of space and we need greenspace)
  • Manufactured-housing regulations and restrictions (more shoddily produced trailers are not a positive solution for anyone but shoddy trailer producers)
  • Complex labor requirements (You know, requiring that plumber plumbs, and a licensed electrician wires the house…this stuff is done wrong too much with licensees.)

That’s what I mean by wrong. Instead of identifying the root causes of affordability…stagnant wages and artificially high material costs, he wants to do things that will result in housing that is:

  • less safe
  • a worse investment for buyers
  • degenerative to the environment
  • will further lower wage levels (by pushing out licensed contractors)
  • and erase rent controls that by definition keep rent low.

How can you support that? And this is one of the best things he has done.

 

Obligatory link to the executive order itself.

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Immigration

So during last nights Democratic Presidential debates, it was pointed out that many illegal immigrants pay into SSI and they pay property taxes.

While the SSI thing is just as true as the property tax thing, I don’t understand the hustle there as well so I am just going to talk about the property tax side.

Anyway, one of my Realtor friends had a real problem with the notion that they paid property taxes. I was not overly clear if he doubted the statement or was just mad that it happened…so I approached it as though he doubted it.

Basically what happens is the illegal alien works under the table and lives in what is essentially a group home with other illegal families. When they have saved enough cash to BUY A HOUSE OUTRIGHT, they have one of their friends who is here legally (either a citizen or someone on a visa) purchase the home for them. Sometime they even take the extra step of making it look like they are making the purchase for them legally and put their name on the house as a foreign investor, but usually the house stays in the name of the person making the straw purchase.

Here is the neat part. They don’t want noticed. All they want to do is raise their children and live a decent life. So they pay their taxes. They take care of their homes. On top of that, they tend to buy up run down neighborhoods and build up the businesses. This is why you see clusters of Hispanic restaurants, bakeries, churches and groceries all over town.

So now we have this thriving community in areas that used to be impoverished shit holes, with thriving businesses and a growing tax base.

Besides the fact that I believe in natural rights (in the sense that Jefferson spoke of them, not the BS people are chucking around now) and think that people have the right to travel freely and choose their own nations, the benefits of these new neighbors FAR outweighs any burdens that come with them.

The value they bring to the community earns their ticket, if the hardship they suffered to get here isn’t enough.

It won’t be long at all before they are accepted like every other group that was vilified on arrival. So lets get ahead of the curve and create real paths to citizenship and get back to building a great nation.

 

Or at least that is how I see it. Chew on it some and see what you come up with.

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An Open Letter to Congress

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Hill:

I write to you today, to offer you encouragement on a couple of ways that I believe you can most efficiently do you work and improve our nation.

I will begin with the Senate.

Senator McConnell. You could start by just doing your job, and release the over 100 bills that the House of Representatives have sent to the upper chamber and allow them to be debated or even voted on. Sure, it is the Majority Leader’s job to set the agenda…but you aren’t doing that. You are doing the same thing you have done since you first lifted the gavel. That is to say you are doing nothing. You are an obstructing force in government that prevents anything from happening. Well unless you or your family can profit from it. If you are not willing to participate, and perform the duties you were elected (by your constituents and your party), then you should resign.

The Senate Democrats. Speak on this every day. Every chance you get to be on the floor speaking, call the Majority Leader on his bullshit and demand that bills are brought to the floor for debate. When you aren’t able to do that, keep writing bills and doing the work you do.

The Senate Republicans. If you want to keep your seats…fire Mitch McConnell. The graft he is receiving is well known. He has basically made himself an accessory to Trumps misdeeds and history will remember him for that. Do you want to go down with them? What they are doing does not represent conservative ideals. It is past time for them to go. And when you pick a new leader…make it someone who will do the job. I am sure you guys would rather have a vigorous debate over the issues than pretend nothing can be done, and spend your time and efforts covering up a gross criminal conspiracy.

As for the House of Representatives.

Nancy Pelosi. I am not a fan, but I see your long game. Even knowing that Impeachment is not a realistic option with the Senate taking the low road these days, you recognize that the slow burn of constant investigation will damage Trump badly. Keep it up. Also, I love that your Congress continues to churn out bills that are progressive in nature and for the benefit of the people. Just be sure to start talking about them (and listing/detailing them so the people know what Mitch is stopping) in time to help in the general election.

The House Republicans. Guys, you sound like dipshits during every hearing. There are legitimate ways you can challenge these investigations….but trying to make every single witness against the President sound like they are the problem will eventually come back to bite you. I ask you how you want history to remember you just like I ask your Senate colleagues. Also, while you aren’t dong as much of it as I would like to see….the fact that there is some bipartisan work still coming out of the House is beautiful to me. Our nation benefits most when our laws are balanced…and we can’t have that if everyone doesn’t work together some.

The House Democrats. I know you feel like everything you do is futile right now. You are investigating a crime that will likely never be prosecuted in Congress, and you are writing and passing Bills which will probably never see the Senate floor. Keep doing both. Those two actions are going to do more to determine this nations near term fate than pretty much anything else you can do. So keep your heads up and keep doing what you are doing.

Bonus round for the 23 odd Democrats running for President. If you are not polling 5% or better 3 days after the debates this week, it is time to leave this race. AND PLEASE, I BEG YOU TO RUN FOR SENATE IN YOUR HOME STATE.

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Universal Basic Income / College Debt

So I am going to make some assumptions in order to launch into my idea for the day.

The first is that the reader understands that college debt is a major issue, that a well educated population is of great benefit to our nation and its growth, and that publicly funded education is a positive thing.

The second assumption is that the reader recognizes that with continued automation and population growth, universal basic income of some sort is going to be needed, if nothing else as a means of regulating the distribution of the basic needs of a society which may or may not continue to have enough paying work for people to support themselves.

So here we are. We need to find a solution to those two things.

The biggest REAL problem with UBI, is that humans have shown over and over that they need something productive to do…if for no other reason that to support their self worth. It is a genuine human need to support the ego by supporting oneself. When we fail to fill that need, people tend to end up depressed and spiral into their worst selves.

So what if instead of just delivering UBI to the masses, they were paid to learn?

In my head the solves a wide host of problems.

The first being that sense of self worth we were just talking about.

And then we also satisfy the less real issue of people feeling like my tax dollars are being given to people for nothing… by making them go to something that has a real tangible benefit to society.

Obviously, this removes the student debt issue, as we would be paying students to go to school instead of them borrowing money to get an education.

Then you have the trade school aspect…because we wouldn’t just pay people for college. Rather we would pay people to seek educations that filled gaps we needed filled. When our country needs skilled welders, why wouldn’t we pay workers to go to welding school and learn to do it?

The ramifications of this in practice could be huge. Imagine the cultural and scientific growth our nation would have if we really valued continuing education enough to fund it? How much more research would get done if every lead professor/researcher had teams of paid students learning under them and moving their research further? What would happen if we had enough tradesmen in every field to keep costs low and ensure that the most talented people in each field were not limited by their financial backgrounds?

I have no doubt that like a lot of social programs, this would be expensive…but the value add to our nation should outweigh that by a mile. I mean if nothing else, money is nothing but a mutually agreed upon lie that’s purpose is to regulate the exchange of goods and services. If the banks can manipulate it to make themselves ridiculously rich, we should be able to manipulate them to make the world a better place.

What are your thoughts on this? Even if you totally disagree, roll it around in your head and see what comes out.

 

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Post Pride Thoughts

So Pride came and went without the wrath of an angry Judean God. There wasn’t too much ideocracy action, and what there was has been thoroughly mocked, as it should be.

What I find troubling is the one place in my line of sight was from a couple people who I know to be good people generally, that fall into another oppressed minority group… but felt it necessary to shit on the whole Pride celebration as “forcing gayness on them”.

It doesn’t force gayness on you any more than any other cultural celebration. I have had gay friends pretty much my entire adult life and it hasn’t changed my sexuality one iota.

That’s not how it works.

What is in you is in you…and as long as you aren’t hurting anyone else you should be able to experience yourself fully, without worrying about whether or not someone else is going to be shitty to you over it.

And in that direct line of thought, Pride is about exactly that. LBGTQ people have just as much right to be visible and safe in our society as anyone else.

Disagree with the “lifestyle” (in quotes because it is not a lifestyle…it is who they are)? Great you are free to do so. Is it against your religion? Great don’t participate and feel free to pray for them (not at them). I could go on in this vein but I think that is clear enough.

Just let them be who they are and treat them like anyone else.

Because just like you…that is really all they want. Just to be treated as people just like you and I. It is what everyone wants.

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Reforming jury selection

Lets start with full disclosure.

I am really annoyed right now because I may be stuck on a jury for a week, during the busiest time of the year in my business. To make matters worse, I am independent and have no employees. Which means I basically have to shut down for the week. On top of that I am in my first year as an independent brokerage and the business is strapped for cash. This was going to be improved as I am working with half a dozen active clients…but in this market, I will likely lose them to other agents if I shut down for the week

In other words, serving on this jury may cost me a business that I gave up federal employment and took a huge risk to start.

It is important to also note that I take this responsibility very seriously. I have always reported when called. The other four times I have been in a pool I would carefully word my answers on the questionnaires in an attempt to get on the jury, but I was denied all four times.

Needless to say this has me thinking about how we select juries and how they are compensated… and long story short, I think it needs some serious reform.

Lets start with the jury pool. Why don’t we have a standing paid jury pool to draw from? I mean our system calls for a jury of your peers. It doesn’t say that they have to be random people ripped from their daily lives to come to the courthouse and be annoyed.

So why not have a preselected and hired pool of jurors who are on standby. Their terms could be fitted around their lives even. For example teachers may join the pool during the summer and leave it in the fall. Construction workers could join it over the winter rather than leaving state to find work. People could join the pool after lay off or rather than draw unemployment. Some people would make a career of it.

This would certainly be better than taking 500 people downtown to get 120 jurors every week…and then randomly disrupting their lives based on the length or subject of the trial.

The toughest thing about this would be to figure out what to pay them. And the $45 a day (if you serve, its only $15 if you don’t get on a jury) is not it. If nothing else, that rate is only $5.63 per hour which is under the current and too low federal minimum wage of $7.25.

This is especially ridiculous because this only compensates the jury pool for their time. It does nothing to make them whole for whatever losses they may have incurred by disrupting their lives.

It gets even uglier when you compare it to the pay received by the people who WANT to be there. And lets be honest, for the most part the only person who wants to be in court less than the jury is the defendant.

  • Judges average $138,000 or $552 per day
  • Defense Attorneys average $78,500 or $314 per day
  • Prosecutors Average $62,000 or $248 per day
  • Court Stenographers $35640 or $143 per day

And the Jury gets $45 per day to disrupt their life and be there against their will.

Now I don’t think that jurors need to be paid in line with Judges (and I don’t think they or anyone else in the system is overpaid) or even the stenographer. But the pay should be minimum wage at the very least…and truthfully it should be better.

I also think the juror should have recourse to recover losses incurred because of the summons. My own example may cost me the 6 clients I am helping find houses. Finding a way to recover that income will be the difference between me being in business next year (Real Estate pays its bills off of summer production, winter production is profit) or not.

At any rate, I am sure these ideas are imperfect as they are what I came up with while annoyed at my situation…but that makes this article perfect for relevant irreverence. My writing is supposed to make you think, not give you answers. So what do you think?

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Schools and standardized tests.

While I was reading about the success and failure rates of public, charter, and private schools; I noticed a huge debate about testing.

What it comes down to is roughly this.

How can we accurately measure the success of an education system. Our typical answer has been standardized testing.

This of course leads to a bunch of hand wringing about how that is not a measure of intelligence, individual worth, and a bunch of other touchy feely things.

Those statements are of course true. However, none of those are the reasons for standardized tests. They serve two purposes, and two purposes only.

  1. To check to see if an individual child is where he or she should be educationally.
  2. To take a broad view of schools and districts to see if they are performing adequately.

Personally, I not only think that standardized tests should be expanded to every grade level, I also think they should be the sole arbiter of whether a student moves to the next grade level or not.

But there is a lot more to that.

First off, the tests should not be “end of year” things…and they should not be whole day (and definitely whole week) things. There should be a standardized test for each level of the core subjects of study.

For example I will use Math (because it is the easiest to break into sections). It would start with number relationships. You know counting, and understanding the difference between 1’s, 10’s, 100’s, and so on. Test. Pass or start over. Then you move on to addition. Test. Pass or start over. Then subtraction. Pass or start over.

In the past, this approach wasn’t an option because you had to keep all the kids at the same level and teach them together. Thanks to technology, that is no longer true. The classes can be almost completely pre programmed like video games (and should use similar graphics/marketing/approaches) with the teachers (of the age group, not the class level) standing by to help children who have questions or that are lagging far behind.

If we adopt this method of teaching….kids who struggle with math but excel at word skills, can spend more time on the math side to catch up, and work ahead to their level with the word skills. We will no longer be educating to the lowest common denominator and limiting our students potential.

Will this approach make our kids more successful in life? Only if they have an appropriate life balance besides their education…but the point here is for the schools to do what they are supposed to do. And that is teach, and to provide skill sets.

Imagine students getting all their basic “readin’ ritin’ n rythmatik” and moving on to learning how to balance a checkbook, do their taxes, or any of the other basic functions that our parents and schools are doing such a bad job of doing now (we still help our adult children with their taxes and finances too).

The really neat thing about this is that this method could be incorporated all the way through high school…and could be used by employers and government agencies post school to continue educating people on any subject, because once the format was cleaned up and systematized… it would be readily adaptable to most skill sets.

At any rate that is my view. We need to stop being mad about standardized tests and start using them more effectively….and start using the tech we have readily available to educate our future.

What do you think?

 

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The failure of charter schools.

So from the title, you can probably figure out that I am not in the pro charter school camp. It’s nothing personal, and even if they were more successful I would be against them.

Why?

Simply because they take funds intended for already underfunded schools with the express purpose of undermining the public school system. Further, I personally I think that they are being used to force a pro religious agenda (around the separation of church and state) and to find loop holes that will allow segregated schools.

But that isn’t what I am writing about today.

Todays article is about the overwhelming evidence that charter schools (on the whole) do not out perform regular public schools when their metrics are measured in like circumstances.

And it all comes down to something very simple.

Kids who aren’t stressed by poverty factors, like unstable households, malnutrition, high neighborhood crime rates and the like do better in school than kids who are under those stresses.

Its what the numbers say now, its what they said before, and if we analyze the education system in another 20 years it will say the same again.

So how do we fix it?

Well, for starters we pull the for profit charter school systems stop cord and shut that bullshit down right now. It isn’t helping and it is causing serious damage to the public school system.

The next thing we do is start attacking the wealth gap in this country so we don’t have so many disproportionately poor children.

Then we focus on repairing the public school infrastructure, upgrading it with useful technologies, and I would suggest do away with age based progression entirely as tech will allow a much wider diversity of teaching per classroom than ever before.

Oh and part of that public school infrastructure is human capital. Start paying teachers what they are worth. They are doing important work.

So those are my thoughts on charter schools…what are yours?

 

P.S. – There is another reason private schools do better than public or charter schools (besides the wealth gap) and that is that they have no mandate to teach every kid. Public schools don’t get to snatch the smart kids out of neighboring districts, or kick out problem students, or even worse label less intelligent children as problem children and then kick them out.

I wonder what things would look like if people would stop trying to divide and started working together to make things better for everyone.

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Public defense.

Todays thought experiment was brought to you by Kamala Harris’s plan to expand pay for public defenders to equal what prosecutors are paid.

Now I am sure that a portion of the people who stumble across this little blog of mine will read the headline and immediately revert to something along the lines of, “Fuck em, if they didn’t do the crime they wouldn’t need defending…why should I pay for it” or something to that effect.

To those people I am just going to say get out. Not just out of my blog, but out of the country. On of the core tenets of this land was fair trials, and one cannot get a fair trial without adequate representation. And given that the legal profession has created a wall between working people and the profession that is virtually impenetrable (through degree requirements and such), lawyers have become such an elite profession that only those with significant means can afford them.

It is sad enough that working people cannot get or afford adequate legal counsel in civil court … for the state not to provide legal counsel in criminal court is unconscionable.

Now that I have that out of the way…lets get on to the thought experiment.

Being that most prosecutors and public defenders do not go into the field for pay, but rather an opportunity to get some political legs to run on or to spring board into a lucrative for profit criminal defense career… it stands to reason that while the pay should be commensurate with the industry, it need not be extraordinary. However, it should absolutely be equal.

In an effort to improve the system, I would suggest another change. As they are arguing criminal law on both sides…and this is SUPPOSED to be done without passion or prejudice… why not have them work out of the same pool, and promote them based on their performance.

For example. The pay level and rank of an attorney in the pool would be based on the level of cases they adjudicated.

  • Level 1- Traffic Court
  • Level 2- Infractions
  • Level 3- Misdemeanors
  • Level 4- Wobblers
  • Level 5- 3rd and 4th Degree Felonies
  • Level 6- 2nd Degree Felonies
  • Level 7- 1st Degree Felonies and Capital Crimes

Every Attorney entering this pool would start at level 1 and have serve a prescribed time at each level to advance. In addition to that, they will have to have a respectable W/L record in order to move forward. I would also require attorneys to “second chair” for a period between each level with an attorney who was successful and preparing to move to the next level themselves.

Whenever the elected prosecutor decides that a case will be charged, a prosecutor and defense attorney will both be drawn from the pool (by some sort of rotation) appropriate to the level of charges.

In my head at least, this would ensure that both sides of the case received adequate representation that was fair, impartial, and properly trained to try the cases in front of them.

So what do you think…..is this something that could work?

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That was close.

So I sat down here today, and started to write about abortion. The reason for it is that three states passed rather draconian anti abortion laws in hopes that the newly conservative supreme court would kill Roe V Wade.

Fortunately, as I started hashing out my arguments… I remembered that it isn’t my decision.

Yep that is the whole of it.

The fucked up part of that is emotionally and ethically I am against abortion.

I think it is wrong.

But the core of my ethos… and especially when it comes to government… is that self rule is the ultimate goal and everyone has the right to live their life as they choose up to the point that their choices affect another’s ability to do the same.

The only ones affected in that sense are the pregnant woman and the fetus… and the fetus does not have the ability (let alone the right- because the right to do something that is not a possibility is a farce at best) to survive without interfering with the woman’s right to live as she choses until about halfway through the third trimester.

So once I remove my emotions (which law is ALWAYS supposed to do), the matter is simple.

Up until the child is viable outside the womb, there is no place for government or anyone else in making for her or interfering in a pregnant woman’s decision as to whether she chooses to terminate that pregnancy or not.

After that point, there is a lot more to talk about… but I will leave that to you to debate.

 

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