The Great Debate

Today I want to back away from political views…and talk a little more about exchanging them.

I mean, if we didn’t all have different views, politics would not exist at all right?

But somehow, we have been convinced that discussing politics was a no-no. Not a place for polite company. Frankly, I think that is why we have reached the messy political point we are at today. Because of that attitude, most people are shy about discussing their opinions. In addition to that, when they do discuss them, they don’t know how to communicate a difference of opinion without attacking the other party, nor receive a different point without feeling attacked.

I think it is high time that we throw that idealism off and start sincerely having these discussions. Why throw the baby out with the bath water.
One can discuss anything in polite company, if one simply chooses to do so politely.

And that is our big challenge in the near term. If we are going to get over this national split… and work together to rebuild our great nation, then we are going to have to learn to be polite again.

And we have to do that. The world, and our nation especially are at a bit of a nexus.

We have big problems.

We have big potential.

And we have an abundance of both of those things.

We are going to have a lot of debates.

So lets get back in practice.

Lets talk about our differences, and lets do it without being dicks to each other.

Lets have the great debate so we can build a great society.

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Political Base.

Today I just want to talk a little about the way politics in a two party system work.

It came to me that this was a useful conversation because in a political conversation a friend told me that we could never get rid of candidate A, because their base wasn’t going to change their collective minds.

I almost gave up right then and there. Why bother even thinking about it then, right? Let alone trying to express points based on my values and ideas. Its a total waste of time.

Except it is not. The thing is, public perception and thought are in constant flux and the sharing of ideas that we have is part of the gift of humanity and it is how we have come so far in the time since we left the tree tops and caves.

That our system works on two party politics, and one base being stalwart in its views doesn’t change that. In fact, I think that both bases are pretty consistent in their make up, and that neither controls the outcome very frequently…and when they do the pendulum usually comes back the other way hard and fast.

Here is why.

Everything exists on a spectrum. In politics you tend to have one side that is conservative (simply defined as those resistant to change for simplicity today) and another that is progressive (the polar opposite. Early adapters and people who want to try things good and bad).

Just like any other bell curve, the vast majority of people exist somewhere in the middle, with the greatest concentration being in the center.

The core base of each side adopts new issues as time moves on, but it does not move from its own archetype. That center moves with public perception. That perception is guided by world events, their own experiences, and the influence of thought leaders all along the spectrum.

Currently the situation is this. The power resides with what is considered the conservative side, but the momentum of public thought is pulling towards the progressive.

The hand wringing is because the conservative thought leader du jour has a very strong cult of personality surrounding him, and the progressives can’t seem to break his grip on the masses.

I hold the idea that the hand wringing is not necessary, because that grip doesn’t need to be broken to win, and will let go once he loses power.

The reason the super conservative grip doesn’t need to be broken for progressives to win, is that it is an impressive (and depressing when you consider the current values conservatives are holding onto) 30% or so…. and NOT a majority. They are not the minds that need changed in order to bring the country back onto a more progressive path. No the major groups whose minds have to be changed are the top 10 to 15 percent of progressives at the end of the spectrum, and the 40 percent or people who find themselves making different votes in most elections…the swing voters as it were.

First we look at the 10 to 15 percent on the tip of the progressive spear. The understanding that they need to reach, is that while they are absolutely pulling the country in (what I think is) the right direction…they are miles ahead of the curve, and in order to achieve their long term goals of bettering the country they will need to vote a little below their aspirations. Sure, it would be nice if our system were an Athenian dreamland where we all lived our best lives and we were focused on expressing ourselves and the development of our society. We all know that we are a long way off from that. In order to get there, we have to move in stages. That means voting for 75% or better candidates. Voting third party, not voting, or voting for the current leader in protest will retard the progress we collectively are trying to make. And frankly we cannot afford that.

Also, tearing down 75% candidates because they will not buy you ice cream… is a good way to not get dinner, because the 25 percent candidate that the other side is offering wants to starve you. (mostly figuratively…but arguments can be made for literally as well)

Then we have the 40 percent in the middle. On any given day, you can safely assume that they are split down the middle in their beliefs, and their interest level and commitment are the same. However, those three things do not necessarily intersect.

The goal of every progressive should be to share our ideas with the people who fall into this category. We should share them politely and without hostility. We should emphasize the advantages of our ideas over  more conservative viewpoints. We should speak to them from their perspectives, and about their problems and how our ideas solve them….or at least improve the situation rather than the status quo of making it worse.

We should also be pointing out how each and every move the current administration is making completely screws the country. Facts are on our side, so don’t get sensational. Just tell the truth. From his trade policies to his disrespect of the rule of law to immigration to the fact he doesn’t even have a functional cabinet at this point….everything this leader is doing is trashing our nation. Tell people.

That doesn’t mean follow every sensational story about who he humps, or his hair, or any of the noise. Talk about the substance of what he is doing and how it is hurting the person you are talking to. It will work over time, and we have a year and a half to make people see what we see.

Totaling the numbers. He starts with 30% because he has a really solid base. We start with 15-20 % because the  progressive base is a little looser (with broader views). If we capture the full 10-15% of the “edge lords” of the progressive party, we start with the same 30% as him.

That just leaves the 40% in play.

But because we have a electoral college, we not only need to take more than half +1 of that… we need it to be the RIGHT half +5 or so.

That means, we have to spread liberal ideas around the Midwest…and in small towns.

Here is the good news there. Single payer health care is intensely popular. It enjoys not only being the correct way to solve our medical problems in this country, but people get it….and they want it. We have to sell it harder than what the insurance companies are selling. Because they are basically selling a repackaged “fuck you pay me or die” system, this shouldn’t be too hard. But we need to be talking about Medicare for all incessantly. Bore yourself with it.

Other strong issues are education reform (with or without free college), infrastructure repairs, climate change (with every weather event), breaking up the big banks/investment firms, trade policies, economic justice (without making it about race when possible), equality under the law (this is about race and other diversities and we should be loud about it), and immigration reform (with a plan).

The great news is that the current leader is doing a terrible job at all of these. its not hard to compare and contrast.

Two things to shut the fuck up about.

Guns and abortions. It is time to just shut up about both of these. I know they matter and everyone has strong (visceral even) emotions about them. Here is the reality.

The balance of the courts is still not completely fucked and the conservatives are not going to make headway against Roe V Wade until they are. If you give them another 4 years in the Presidency, THAT WILL CHANGE. That is the only reason we are seeing this flurry of laws raging against abortion. They want to make it a campaign issue so the people who are morally opposed to abortion will vote against all of their other interests in order to keep others from making their own decisions. If you keep the conversation about abortion a significant portion of the 40 percent (especially in those midwestern towns where we need votes) will stay home, or vote for the other side.

As for guns, most people agree that we need some serious common sense reforms, but not enough to sway the election. Talking about it now will not speed up the opportunity to make it happen. Talking about it now  will cost votes. That issue alone costs Dems more midwestern votes than anything else said…. so leave it alone. It is that simple.

So lets win on the issues that work….and leave those that don’t.

We will get to Athens over time….just not tomorrow.

I know I went off course, but I am going to leave it. My strategizing for the Democratic party illustrates what I was trying to say about the two party system and how to play the numbers to make progress. And why the 30 percent base the other side controls really doesn’t matter. It is very beatable.

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Finish Unigov Already.

This is going to be a bit more of a rant than a well thought out article…but you are used to that with me by now.

Once upon a time, Marion County contained 17 different towns and municipalities. They were: Indianapolis, Clermont, Crows Nest, Homecroft, Meridian Hills, North Crows Nest, Rocky Ripple, Spring Hill, Warren Park, Irvington, Williams Creek, Cumberland (half), Wynnedale, Beech Grove, Lawrence, Southport, and Speedway.

There may have actually been more, but well I am on a thought so yell at me later and I may fix it or I may ignore you.

At any rate, in 1970 that all changed and all of those came under the jurisdiction on the City of Indianapolis except Beech Grove, Speedway, Southport and Lawrence.

This created a much higher level of organization, reduced duplication and all and all was very good for the city and its growth.

Can you imagine how much more improvement could be made if we further reduced that duplication and annexed the four remaining towns inside of Marion County?

Lets look at some of the individual problems we have because they are still separate and entertain how further merger could solve them.

Schools: Right now there are 13 different PUBLIC school systems operating in Marion County. That means tax payers are funding 13 different administrations….and that is before we even consider the pillaging being done to the public school system by the advent of charter schools and private school choice voucher systems.

At an average of $148,912 per year (Per Salary.com), just the reduction from thirteen to one superintendent would reduce the education budget in the county by $1.8 Million. I wont bore us both with going through the full depth of the waste as I am certain that paints the image clearly. That money could be much better spent.

But I do want to hit on one area of expense that would be greatly reduced if we brought the 13 school systems under one umbrella…and then operated them under 9 SQUARE townships. The transportation costs of bussing would be dramatically reduced. As it currently stands, the various school district lines twist and wind around the shapes of towns that exist only on paper (and taxes) and haven’t existed geographically in a generation…and the result is children being bussed 5-10 miles from their house when a school for their age is a short walk away. This was as much a result of court ordered bussing (Indy is integrated well enough at this point to not need this any longer thankfully) as it was the incomplete version of Unigov … but either way, as we complete Unigov’s vision, we should fix it.

General government services: For most government services, I would not expect much of a change. Sure 4 Mayors and other high level town positions would be eliminated, and the primary functions of government would be absorbed into Marion County… but given the amount of city operations you can perform online at this point, the change for citizens would be minimal.

I should note here that citizens of those towns would not lose representation as I am sur the General Assembly would require our City County Council to expand to accommodate appropriate representation.

Emergency Services: This is an area that would be greatly affected in a positive way by a completed merger of Marion County government. as someone who grew up in the borderlands between Indianapolis and Lawrence (and worse yet, back then the border between IPD, The Sherriff and Lawrence PD) I can tell you there is no more dangerous place to live than the edge between two abutting towns.

Neither side wants to service you….and pockets of crime rise. Fire departments argue over who goes to that address, and your house burns. Its not that they aren’t professional. It is about budget and it hurts the people who live there.

And then we hit on the other part of the budget. 5 police chiefs. 5 Fire Chiefs. All of their staffs. IPD and the Marion County Sherriff merging was a huge boon for the city, and I think merging the last five municipalities will be just as good for the whole county.

Anyway, it is long past due. It should have been done in 1970, but as great as Richard Lugar was, he only had so much political capital. Lets finish the work he started.

 

 

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Medicare for ALL – emphasis on ALL.

Medicare for ALL

The power of amalgamation

OK. Todays rant is going to start with three assumptions. (I view them as realities, but you may disagree so please just accept the premise for now so I can make the point I am trying to make).

  • The first is that the current medical system in America is broken.
  • The second is that it is caused by inefficiencies in a free market insurance system.
  • The third is that some form of Medicare expansion is the best solution.

Based on polling, none of those should be too hard of a sell.

Once we arrive at those conclusions, as most of the country has, we have to ask how much of a Medicare expansion is appropriate. The current debate is between leaving the current system in place and allowing people to buy in to Medicare if they choose, and scrapping the current private insurance model entirely in favor of Medicare for all.

Both of these seem tenable at a glance, and on its face honestly it seems like leaving the system in place and allowing a buy in is the least painful approach and should fix the current problems.

But neither of those statements are true.

There are 3 primary reasons that scrapping the current system entirely in favor of a full Medicare for All program is a far superior option.

  1. Administrative efficiency.
  2. Removing the profit motive from insurance (while still allowing caregivers and hospitals to operate profitably and earn the living they have worked for)
  3. The power of amalgamation.

Let’s look at administrative efficiency.

One of the reasons things are so expensive at hospitals and care centers is purely administrative overhead. There are 35 different medical insurance providers in the United States. There are 413 hospital systems that have more than 2 facilities….there are a couple thousand if you count single hospital networks.

Each of the hospital networks and insurance companies has their own system of mark up, and documentation. Quick multiplication tells us that there is a minimum of 14,455 different ways a condition and treatment may be recorded, submitted, and billed under this system.

Suddenly every bill you have had to have resubmitted to insurance makes sense, doesn’t it.

The problem is so pervasive that trade schools have developed education programs dedicated specifically to medical coding… and it is still done incorrectly a huge amount of the time.

In short, even without errors, there is nothing efficient about the current way medical administration is performed. And the current model is rife with opportunity for error.

Going to a single payer system, will convert all of these to the already established Medicare billing system. The only new expense with be a one time transfer of existing accounts. No development needed as almost all of the hospital systems deal with Medicare on some level currently.

As for removing the profit motive from the health insurance industry.

I want to start off on the right foot here. On a spectrum, I am way more capitalist than socialist. I make my living in real estate. I have ZERO problem with what medical professionals are paid (although EMT’s and a few other caregivers deserve more than they get in my opinion). I don’t even have a problem with hospitals operating as FOR PROFIT entities, within reason.

But what is happening now, is not within the realm of reason.

Because insurance companies and hospital networks have cross bred so pervasively, we have people being charged hundreds of dollars for tissue, and even more for aspirin…. and no one but the accountants are really sure who is making the money off of it.

What we are sure of is that this is part of a larger price gouging scheme that stems directly from the existence of insurance billing systems and profiteering from healthcare and it needs to stop.

By making our insurance system publicly owned (as Medicare for All), we can eliminate this kind of profiteering completely. adding a Medicare buy in would simply maintain the status quo in this space.

Finally, the point of this article: the power of amalgamation. 

Amalgamation is just a 10 dollar word that means the pooling of resources. The old principle of things working together to achieve a greater goal than they could otherwise.

The irony of this word being the principle argument for Medicare for All vs. a mixed system….is that amalgamation is the very principle on which the insurance business model functions. Insurance is all about spreading risk and expenses out.

But with a profit motive mixed into that system what has ended up happening, is that companies have created models which limit their (the insurance companies) risk as a primary goal rather than to spread the risk amongst clients.

When you follow that to its logical conclusion you end up with the most successful companies being those with the smallest risk profile per cash intake. So for example a company that only takes on young healthy clients, will have a better profit margin than a company that takes on older clients with health problems.

So it is in the insurance companies interest to not insure older people. It is in their interest to not insure sick people (the people who NEED medical access the most). Long and short, the interests of the insurance companies are in no way aligned with healing people which is the entire purpose of medicine.

Whoa….got a little off track there.

The point of all of that is to show that if we were to adopt a Medicare buy in, what would end up happening…and what has happened already with elder insurance, is that the private healthcare industry will keep the profitable healthier customers, and shove the sick people who actually bear medical expense off onto the Medicare system.

This will cause Medicare to continue to have financial difficulties and make it look like the private sector is a superior model.

BUT. If we adopt Medicare for ALL. We amalgamate the profits from the young and healthy that are insured into the expense of the older more sickly needs (and we will ALL be there eventually)…. and create a system that is tenable and benefits everyone.

SUMMARY

One of the main reasons Medicare for ALL is superior to a Medicare buy in, is that like the successful single payer health systems of Europe, expenses are mitigated by efficiencies of a single system, and resources are amalgamated for the benefit of everyone…and there is no reason the ACTUAL medical industry can’t still make a respectable profit doing so….but the profiteers of the insurance industry need to be removed from the equation so that people can get the healthcare they need. It is literally a life and death decision for too many people.

 

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Something to live by.

“The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.” Moliere

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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?

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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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