Thursday, August 25, 2011

Erika Smith, IndyGo Reporter

It seems like every time I see an article in the Star penned by Erika Smith, it shills for IndyGo or light rail, which I suppose would become an extension of IndyGo. It makes me wonder: Is she on the Star's payroll, or on IndyGo's? Or, is there a difference?
In Smith's latest ad, er, column, she points out something I point out about IndyGo with regularity- the combination of taxes and fares fails to cover the operating budget.

Another year, another shortfall.

This is IndyGo's story.

(Wait! Wait! Let's put on our surprised faces. Ready? OK, cool.)

This time around, the transit agency says it expects its budget to come up $6.4 million short in 2012. That's twice as big as the hole that IndyGo predicted and narrowly skirted last year.

Without an infusion of cash, possibly from a tax increase, fares could go up, bus routes could be eliminated and the frequency of service might be reduced.

Smith then does two things I don't do.

1. She promotes a tax hike
2. She fails to point out that taxes already make up about 80% of the IndyGo budget.

It would be nice if the officials who say they support building a robust regional transit system would prove it by voting for a tax increase, but I'm not holding my breath. That solution is too logical.

So instead, I've come up with some -- shall we say? -- out-of-the-box solutions to IndyGo's funding woes. When logic fails, it's time for the ludicrous.

My solution is to raise fares. The riders should pay for the service they use. Making those who do not ride pay to subsidize those who do ride is simply unjust. Now, THAT is too logical, I'm sure. It's the American Way anymore, to take from the majority and give to a small segment of the population. We wonder why we're in an economic freefall. To what extent is the fare a gift? Double it, and you still haven't reduced the operating ratio to half.

It would be nice if the promoters of mass transit were honest enough to read a balance sheet and to disclose how heavily subsidized it already is, rather than making it sound like the riders are bearing the huge burden of paying full fare, while the taxpayers stand by and admire the buses.

I've written many times on this subject. Here is a link to those many, wonderful, redundant posts- many of which have links to IndyGo balance sheets.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Email From Lugar

When the debt ceiling votes were before us, I emailed Senator Dick Lugar to ask him to vote against raising it, and to cut spending dramatically, primarily by ending the wars. Here's his response:
Dear Mr. Kole:

Thank you for contacting me. Under President Obama and the Democratic Party controlled Senate, our federal debt has ballooned from $10.6 trillion to more than $14.3 trillion. This spending is unsustainable and unacceptable.

I have voted against numerous policies promoted by the Obama Administration which contributed directly to high deficits, including the so-called stimulus bill, the health care bill, the annual spending bills, and the bureaucratic financial regulatory reform bill.

I have cosponsored, supported, and voted for numerous Republican proposals to rein in spending including the Cut, Cap and Balance Plan and a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. I likewise supported the Ryan Budget and the Toomey Budget plans. I have supported and will continue to support efforts to overhaul, repeal, or restrain out of control spending policies.

On August 2, 2011, I voted for the Budget Control Act of 2011, the final default avoidance plan that substantially reduces government spending by at least $2.4 trillion and does not raise taxes. The legislation also advances the cause of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, a measure I have supported 16 times since my election to the U.S. Senate. The passage of this legislation is a step toward long term spending reform, while also preventing a default on our nation's debts. Thank you, again, for contacting me.


Richard G. Lugar
United States Senator

Obviously the US Senator isn't going to address me personally. I know that I have to expect a form response, since I haven't given him five figures lately. Or, ever. In fact, not even one figure. Still, this is a pretty lame response. What I was hoping for was a response that read, "Yes, Mr. Kole. I will vote against increasing the debt ceiling." Or, "Yes, I will vote to reduce the spending". Well, that would have required a timely response. Barring that, I would have settled for, "Mr. Kole, I voted against raising the debt ceiling".

Can you tell he's thinking ahead to the primary election, still some 9 months away? He blames the Democrats and President Obama, and brags on how he voted against Democratic legislation. Clearly, he is hoping I'll read this and remember it as I go to the Republican primary... something I would never do, being that I am not a partisan Republican. But, he voted to raise the debt ceiling! This, of course, is conveniently left out of his email, as were all of his votes supporting the Republican bloating of the debt during the Bush years.

Why cite all of this year's failed bills that he supported, when the thing that mattered- the item he voted for that passed into law- did the opposite of what I asked for? Simple: He's trying to bullshit me. A deception.

There really wasn't much chance that I was going to vote for Lugar if he makes it to the general election in November of 2012. Now there is no chance whatsoever.

If I didn't get this load of BS, I probably wouldn't have posted at all about my email exchange with the Senator's office. But since I did get a steaming load...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Ed Coleman's Big Weekend

Ed Coleman is an Indianapolis City-County Councilman. He won election four years ago as a Republican running at-large, but before long, he grew very disenchanted with the Republican Party and the dictatorial leadership on the Council that wanted him to vote contrary to his principles and conscience, and toe the line. So, he defected to the Libertarian Party.

Ed is now running for re-election, as a Libertarian candidate, but this time running only for his district. The difference is gigantic, as an at-large candidate has to appeal to the entire city's voters, while a district candidate can focus attention within the boundaries.

This weekend, the Libertarian National Committee (LNC) made a significant contribution to Ed's campaign: $50,000. From the Libertarian Party of Indiana:

The Libertarian National Committee has voted to make a significant contribution to Re-election of Indianapolis City-County Councilor Ed Coleman. The LNC will contribute $50,000 to the highest ranking Libertarian official in the United States seeking to stay on the Council. Coleman was elected in 2007 to office as a Republican to an At-Large seat on the council, and switched after his punishment by the party for standing on libertarian principles.

“This is not just a game-changer for my race, but also for the entire Libertarian Party,” said Councilor Ed Coleman. “We hope this serves as a signal to all elected Republicans and Democrats that standing on principle doesn’t mean campaigning alone. The party of principle will work to help elect and re-elect Libertarians to make true change in the political arena. I would like to thank the LNC for recognizing this opportunity, and stepping up to keep the libertarian message moving forward.”

Coleman will use the additional funds to increase the footprint of his campaign. This is the most money that the national party has donated to a single candidate for their race.

“I am thrilled to see the LNC donate to the re-election of Ed,” said Sam Goldstein, Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Indiana. “I truly believe that this will become a watershed moment for the Libertarian Party in Indianapolis, Indiana, and on the national stage. Our party has made a statement that we are fully committed to electing and re-electing Libertarians to partisan office.”

This is a watershed moment of the second kind for me. The first goes back a few years to Andy Horning's run for US House in Indiana's 7th District, as a Republican.

Horning had been the face of the LPIN for many years, having run for Indy Mayor, Governor, and the same House seat as a Libertarian candidate before deciding that he'd had enough single digit returns, and he'd throw in with the GOP. His defection was a tough blow to take at the time. I thought the LP was in real trouble. If he won his race, the signal would be sent to any small-l libertarian: Run as a Republican. It's the way to win. I like Andy, and would have been thrilled it he had won, so I can't say 'Fortunately, he lost'. What I can say is, fortunately the GOP bungled that. They promised him support and didn't give it. They didn't give him money, didn't give him staffing, didn't work behind the scenes for him. Nothing. So that's what every small-l libertarian in Indiana learned. DON'T DRINK THE REPUBLICAN KOOL-AID!

Now this weekend stands in contrast. Ed Coleman wasn't promised a thing by the LNC. He wasn't promised anything by the LPIN or by then-County Chair Tim Maguire. If anything, Libertarian leadership warned Ed prior to jumping ship that life would be getting harder for him. But, when the moment of truth arrived, the LNC recognized the political landscape for what it is. Ed Coleman is the highest ranking elected Libertarian in the USA. So, the LNC put big money in his accounts.

Win or lose, the LNC sent a very different signal to small-l libertarians. Run as a Republican, you get the Andy Horning (or Ron Paul, Gary Johnson, etc) treatment. Run as a Libertarian, and you'll get serious backing.

This is a big deal for me. For years and years, I have been a part of an intra-party struggle to push the LNC towards being a serious, election-focused party. Since its inception, there had been elements with this attitude, but larger elements more interested in the endless fine point arguments that aren't ever going to get anyone elected.

Now it's up to Ed Coleman to do something with that money. In addition to the $50,000 from the LNC, he apparently earned another $15,000. While $65k is nothing for a national or statewide race, for City-County Council, it makes Ed one of the best-heeled candidates from any party. So, he has options before him: TV ads? Radio? Social networking? A little of everything?

Best wishes to Ed and his campaign team! What they do next could lead to something historic, both short term and long!

Cost Cutting, Bargain Seeking

The Indy Star ran an article this past week about how cable TV customers are increasingly cutting the cable services and keeping the internet, with the CATV company as ISP:

Eric Thomas and his wife were looking for ways to cut expenses as they set out to tackle their credit card debt. Brandon Wilsman and his wife also were seeking a way to cut their monthly spending, saving up for a baby on the way.

Both Indianapolis-area families ended up pulling the plug on the same thing: their cable subscription.

They're not alone. Americans are canceling or passing on cable and satellite TV subscriptions in record numbers, according to an Associated Press analysis of the companies' quarterly earnings reports.

Experts say it's the combination of a difficult economy leading people to look for places to cut back and the accessibility of TV shows and movies online. But, they say, those cutting cable are in the minority.

We cut ours about 4 years ago. We were definitely in the minority then. At that point, I was extremely busy with my work- so much so that I never watched at all. My wife didn't like having it, because she tends to use TV like some use the radio, for background sound. With TV, though, you might start getting into the background to the extent that you stop doing what was in the foreground. And, with one little one, and another on the way, we just didn't want TV as the centerpiece of daily life. We even moved the TV out to the garage. That's the only one we have.

I didn't mind losing the cable at all. That was $60/month we began keeping in our pockets. For the last three years, it's another expense I was glad not to have as the work dried up.

But we discovered that you could watch an awful lot of programming online. If you don't absolutely have to watch current shows live, you could watch them two days later on the network's website. That's when I was convinced it was silly to pay for cable.

I actually got hooked on Kojak recently. This came out of seeing Telly Savalas on YouTube clips of old Dean Martin Roasts. All of the Kojak shows are available for free on Hulu. Sure, it's old stuff, but watching has been a fascinating trip down a past that seems like make-believe.

Wow, how much people smoked! Now, nobody I know of has a home where smoking is permitted inside. Then? Incredible how this has changed. Just seeing ashtrays on kitchen tables brought back a flood of memories, curiously. And the liquor! I love scenes in homes on Kojak. Whenever a man comes home, the little lady gets up to fix a drink. I only vaguely remember this kind of thing. My mom was a stay-at-home until I was 12, but my parents didn't drink. It's so foreign to today's world. I cook most of the meals. When either of us come home from a 12-hour day, the other hasn't been waiting with a meal and a cocktail for the moment we cross the threshold, and somehow we're ok with that.

The cars were HUGE. I crack up watching those early 70s boats jammed into Manhattan streets. It makes every scene look like a chase scene, and the actual car chase scenes are hilarious, with the rear-wheel drive beasts fishtailing at every turn.

The lingo is a trip, baby. So are the clothes.

Kojak has shot and killed a criminal in better than 2/3rds of the shows, and he hasn't had his gun taken away, hasn't been put on paid leave, and hasn't been directed to seek counseling. Is it just that today's cop shows add more realism? Or, was a Detective in the clear those days for a job well done?

About 10 episodes into the series, the Miranda Warnings were introduced. The Miranda case was in the late 60s, so maybe this was a late interjection of realism. I love the treatment in the first shows that included Miranda Warnings. Kojak is all old school, starts to read the rights, throws up his hands and has a younger detective or officer read them. Those damn kids!

Money is always good for a laugh. Kojak makes $20,000 for his work. A million dollars is the top heist so far after 17 or 18 episodes. A million! Every time they marvel over a million, I think of Dr. Evil. Most of the thefts are $5,000 - $10,000.

I like Savalas in the show. He has a strange collection of characteristics- old man with a hat, Greek, smoooooth with the ladies, chain smoker, wry humor, chuckling and amused, in charge.

So, who needs cable? I have this archaeological dig to enjoy.