Sunday, September 27, 2015

Who Pays The Toll?

Paid toll solutions are popping up on the freeways and bridges all around the greater Seattle area these days.  This weekend I-405, the thoroughfare that moves traffic along the east side of Lake Washington, was closed from Friday evening to midday today to re-stripe the roadway.  The new arrangement will have paid toll lanes in both directions.

Paid toll lanes on a public freeway seems a curious solution for a Progressive place like Seattle.  If you want access to the fastest path on the road, you must pay, a-la-carte.  The fees that you pay will vary based on an algorithm... potentially varying every 5 minutes.  Hard to budget that kind of a cost.

Isn't this discrimination, by the state, of those who happen to live at the lower end of the economic spectrum?  People with the spare cash to (a) pay the bill and (b) absorb whatever that fee might happen to be are able to get where they are going faster and with less stress than those without the same economic resources... but everyone paid for that road to be built in the first place.

Seems this would also set up a perverse incentive for the government, too.  Building less efficiency into the non-toll lanes would drive more usage of the toll lanes.  Increased congestion in the toll lanes would allow the algorithm to bump up the usage fees.

Would be curious to hear thoughts on how these tolls actually promote equality...

** Update **

One wonders how long before a city/state/federal program starts to subsidize the cost of GoodToGo passes for those with qualifying incomes...

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Shut It Down

All of a sudden the "government shut down" issue is showing up in commentaries across the blogosphere again.  One would think the lesson of the past efforts had been learned: nothing is accomplished but gaining publicity for some cause... for a few brief moments before everything is restored, back pay is settled, and the media takes control of the message again.

Wish the politicians would try something that, if it happened to work, would be more impactful.  Like shutting down the federal Department of Education, or maybe the EPA.

A guy can dream...

Monday, September 21, 2015

So... Why Not Try Freedom?

China, having failed to successfully achieve the communist dream-state, some time ago decided to start pursuing gross materialism, adopting many of the tenets of capitalism while avoiding any of the complicated morals that might complicate authoritarian rule.

Apparently that isn't working out.  So now China is trying to re-introduce the traditional culture and values the communist party worked so very hard to wipe out: WSJ: Why China is Turning Back to Confucius. ... while again working to maintain authoritarian rule by a small minority.

Anything but freedom and liberal democratic principles...

Friday, December 12, 2014

'Tis the Season...

When we fired up the car this afternoon to run some errands the radio came on with a Planned Parenthood commercial playing... on the pop music station that has converted to an all-holiday music format for the season.

Nothing like celebrating the birth of the baby Jesus by promoting abortion services...

Friday, October 31, 2014

Tim Cook... iAssassination Dream?

Yesterday Tim Cook spoke up, publishing a statement where he proudly promoted himself from the title of "CEO" to the more descriptive and meaningful title of "Gay CEO".  Rumors concerning Cook's sexual orientation have bubbled up from time-to-time, so the news is not necessarily a surprise, although the announcement seems noteworthy.

The piece is remarkably focused on the self.  6.7% of the words in the piece (54 of 801) are "I", "me", "myself" or similar.  Over of 75% of the sentences (31 of 41) are self-referential, and all 10 of the paragraphs contain a reference to the writer.  This would be expected, since the piece is about Cook's own sexual orientation, but it does seem to contrast with the moral reasons he includes for writing this piece, and for publishing it at this time, which he states is to follow Dr. Martin Luther King's challenge of "What are you doing for others?"  Cook appears to be writing this for himself.

The nod to MLK would be in keeping with the Apple branding campaign "Think Different."  This campaign is referenced again in the final paragraph, as Cook pairs MLK with RFK, adding in Robert F. Kennedy and making reference to the posters of both men that adorn the office space at Apple's headquarters.  Cook doesn't "pretend that writing this puts [him] in their league."

What league are these two prominent public figures both members of?

Well... not only were the lives of both MLK and RFK stopped short by the bullet of an assassin, but the period between these two tragic events includes a memorable eulogy of Dr. Luther's life given by Robert Kennedy shortly after the first of these two murders.

Assassination is arguably the most prominent connector between the lives of these two men in the public's memory of them.  Search for "dr martin luther king AND robert f kennedy" on Google.  On the first page of results the word that appears most often (after filtering out their names) is "assassination".

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What does this mean?  The combination of the self-focused nature of the editorial and the inclusion, out of many impressive choices, of two famous persons that are persuasively linked by assassination makes it possible that Tim Cook hopes the public announcement of his sexual orientation will put him in the crosshairs of an assassin and thus earn him a spot in the vaunted ranks of revered, deceased pop-celebrities.

Perhaps this is how Cook intends to step fully out of the shadow of his predecessor...

Friday, October 24, 2014

Ensuring Government Provided Preschool

The City of Seattle has figured out a fabulous way to ensure that the city residents support and pay for publicly organized pre-school.

Our ballots for this November ask Seattle residents to vote on Propositions 1A and 1B.  Both concern providing funding for and creating regulations of pre-schools in the city.  1A was added to the ballot through the collection of signatures.  1B was added by the city council.

The city council also decided that these two initiatives were in competition.  Rather than an up-or-down vote on each initiative we have a two-question ballot:

  1. Should either of these measures be enacted into law? [Yes / No]
  2. Regardless of whether you voted yes or no above, if one of these measures is enacted, which one should it be? [Proposition 1A / Proposition 1B]

We can choose to pass 1A, pass 1B, or pass neither... and the city has stacked the deck in favor of increasing government provided preschool by reducing exposure to the idea that voters can in fact vote "No" across the board... that the third option of rejecting both is actually available to the voters.

Seattle Municipal Code lays down the guidance that the city must produce an election pamphlet prior and mail it out the city.  Regarding initiatives, SMC 2.14.010.A.1 states that the pamphlet shall contain:

For each measure, the identification by serial number, the ballot title, the text, an explanatory statement, and arguments for and against the passage of the measure;

Since the two propositions are bundled together on the ballot, the pamphlet contains the explanatory statement for 1A, the explanatory statement for 1B, statements in favor of and in opposition to 1A, and statements in favor of and in opposition to 1B.

Notice what's missing?

The pamphlet does not contain statements in favor of and in opposition to the first question on the ballot.  The "Please do not allow the city government to become more deeply involved in the provision of preschool!" viewpoint is not represented in the pamphlet.

The absence is telling.

By deciding that these two propositions are in direct competition and combining them on the ballot the city council has reduced the likelihood that the voters will consider whether either of these initiatives is worthy at all.  The conversation in the pamphlet is about choosing between 1A and 1B, (and that is likely the case in the public discussion as well), and all voters are asked to select their preferred proposition, even if their answer would otherwise be "No" to both individually if they were presented with the option.

Politics is a messy sport.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Toll of Improper Attribution

The WSJ published an interesting article Tuesday about the growing use of toll roads to enhance traffic flow in and around the major metropolitan areas in Texas.

The following paragraph purports to explain the funding issue that is leading to the choice of tolls vs. taxes to pay for the road-building:

The toll boom is taking place in part because a primary source of highway-construction funding in the U.S., a federal tax of 18.4 cents per gallon on gasoline, hasn't changed since 1993.  Many states also haven't raised state gasoline taxes for decades, including Texas, which hasn't increased its 20-cents-per-gallon tax since 1991.

Note that these statements are presented without any attribution.  No research study was referenced.  No budget documents were referenced.  No public hearings were referenced.  No politicians' statements were included in quotes.

We the reader are supposed to simply understand that toll roads would go away if only the citizens would agree to raise these specific taxes, and there are no other factors involved.

By not including some attribution, the paragraph above becomes the opinion of the authors (Miguel Bustillo and Nathan Koppel) and should be relegated to the Opinion section.  It allows the reader the opportunity to assume the authors would encourage the government to raise taxes.  It's possible the statements about fuel taxes are true and were validated by presentations at referenced public meetings, but by excluding attribution the authors deprive their readers of that truth.

The lack of attribution even proposes the possibility that the authors are engaging in a one-sided argument with the citizens impacted by the increase in toll road development, especially considering that one local man is quoted in the immediately preceding paragraph:

"We pay taxes for roads and bridges, and if that's not enough, if you can't afford it, don't build it."

News articles should be news, and the WSJ has an obligation to ensure the quality of the journalistic product of their authors.  A correction or follow-up is appropriate.