Friday, November 11, 2011

Finally On The Right Street

I was in Chicago one week ago, taking a fun day trip with my 3-year-old son Ethan, doing 'ooh ahh' touristy stuff.

It was a concise little route to begin the day, arriving at Chicago Union Station via Amtrak. We walked across the south branch of the Chicago River on Jackson Street to the Willis Tower. After looking out over the city in those glass balconies, we had Chicago style pizza at Giordano's, which is just a block east on Jackson, across Franklin. After lunch, we walked towards the Lake along Jackson Street as I looked for a cab to hail. Before I could find one looking for a fare, we arrived at the intersection of LaSalle & Jackson. One the northeast corner, I saw the Occupy Wall Street protesters- outside the Bank of America building.
The thing that immediately struck me was that nobody was protesting on the northwest corner of LaSalle & Jackson. This is the location of the Federal Reserve of Chicago.What struck me next was that there were protesters carrying anti-war signs. They were protesting Bank of America, for funding wars.

Looking at the protester-free Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. Protesters at the Bank of America, to the right, and this well-intentioned man, on the wrong side of the street.

I didn't want to have a political day. I was there with my 3-year-old, who is fascinated with trains, tall buildings, pizza, and fish. I wanted to get him to the Shedd Aquarium, post haste, and not get involved in protracted political discussions. That would have bored the crap out of him.

But damn! At least OWS is on one of the right streets now. They're just on the wrong side of the street. Is it possible, really, that people who one might suspect are politically aware, could be so ignorant to not know that it is the Federal Reserve, with its printing of money out of thin air, that funds these wars? That, if we were on a gold standard, and not able to deem ourselves able to spend massive gobs of money on war machinery, we simply couldn't do it?

The Fed! That is where you should be protesting! If I accept that the protesters are politically aware, my only possible conclusion is willful ignorance- that blind adherence to anti-corporate rhetoric comes long before striking at one of the roots of the problem. I'm not fan of corporatism, but corporatism is enabled by fiat currency and politicians who don't mind to direct the printers to whip up more cash, and who want to thump their chests as the World's Cop.

So yeah- protest at the White House and at Capital Hill, too. OWS is still largely at the wrong street. Protest at the Fed. This is all the more pertinent on this Veterans Day.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Incoming! Boondoggle!

Portland Oregon's light rail is routinely held up as the prime example of a delightfully working urban passenger rail system. I always find it worthwhile to look at the financial reports put out by the operators, just to see how wonderfully they work.

In the case of Portland, the operating budget shakes out like this for 2011 (Their fiscal year ends June 30):

24% of its operating budget came from passenger fares
8% from other transportation revenues
68% came from a variety of subsidies

Info from TriMet's website and balance sheet.

That's just to say that it doesn't work. They show you that with plain facts on their own site. It has nothing to do with the perspective that it's wrong besides. The transfer of wealth from those who don't ride to those who do is unjust.

Indy's newly re-elected Republican Mayor Greg Ballard wants to repeat this mistake.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Republicans, Defenders of Economic Liberty

The Indianapolis City-County Council saw a change in its makeup last night, as voters elected enough Democrats to give that party a new majority on the Council. Three at-large seats shifted from Republicans to Democrats. There were 4 Libertarian candidates, 3 of which gained a total greater than the margin of victory for the three Democrats over the next three Republicans.

In the wake of this, I was treated to usual blathering about how Libertarians 'steal votes' from Republicans, and - get this - caused Democrats to win control.

First fallacy there is that anyone 'steals votes' from anyone. No party owns the votes. The Voters own the votes, and they decide to whom they shall cast them. So, if today you are one of those folks disappointed at Democrats taking control of the City County Council, go kick the ass of one or three of the Republicans. They failed to adequately compete.

Second fallacy is that the Libertarian voter would cast for Republicans by default, if only the Libertarians were off the ballot. Well, it is argued, Libertarians and Republicans sound alike on economic issues.

Oh, I beg your pardon while I call bullshit! Ok, conceded- the two may sound the same. Rhetoric is meaningless to me. Actions matter. So, less than 24 hours after winning re-election, Republican Mayor Ballard announced his plan for getting the light rail boondoggle going. From the Indy Star:

Only hours after clinching his re-election as Indianapolis mayor, Greg Ballard went to the Statehouse to kick off his next campaign: Landing a mass transit system for central Indiana.

Ballard, a Republican, met at 11:30 a.m. today with Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, to discuss his top priority in the legislative session that begins Jan. 4.

"Certainly coming into the session we want to try to figure out a way to enhance mass transit in the city of Indianapolis and the region," Ballard said.

The Republican defender of economic liberty has this as his top legislative priority.

Egad. 'Republican defender of economic liberty'? I just threw up in my mouth a little.

So, I don't really want to hear it about the city, region, state, or country being screwed over by Libertarians, essentially causing Democrats to be elected. I fail to see the difference on anything apart from scale- and that's only occasionally. Ballard has bought in 100%.

During the campaign both Ballard and his Democratic opponent, Melina Kennedy, said they support the concept of transit but insisted they needed more details before championing the Indy Connect proposal by the Central Indiana Task Force for increased IndyGo bus service and rail lines to the suburbs.

The biggest stumbling block: Cost. The task force's proposal was estimated to cost about $2.4 billion, evenly split between local government and federal funds.

So, what's the difference? I don't see any. I see two halves of the same one. So, I have no sympathy whatsoever.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Today's Voting In Fishers

What a difference a year makes. Last year, I was a candidate for County Council, and stood freezing outside my home polling place. There were Republican candidate supporters handing out literature at least during the peak hours. The traffic was moderate at best during the peaks, and flat the rest of the day.

Today, there were only three contested races, and no Libertarians on the ballot. Although the weather is delightfully warm, only one candidate had supporters handing out literature. I was the only voter in the building when I showed up to vote today. Two others showed up as I was ready to leave. I voted for Democrat Joe Weingarten, for Fishers Clerk-Treasurer. If he wins, he would provide some measure of check & balance on the Town Council, which has long been a little Republican clique.

Today's was a fairly unsatisfying ballot, especially since there weren't any Libertarian candidates. I don't know why suburban Libertarians are so loathe to run for office, but they are. My only conclusion after many years of involvement here is that life isn't so disagreeable as to inspire challenges to the status quo. On the other hand, the Democrats only fielded two candidates out of a possible eight, so maybe it's a sense of futility in trying to unseat Republicans, or just plain apathy.

Local races seem not to be sexy enough for most folks. We never have any shortage of people considering runs for Congress. Even the state level races are challenging to find candidates for. I've never had a Libertarian candidate to vote for in either the Indiana Senate or House. I could have run for House on three occasions, and Senate on one, but I was on the ballot for other seats in two of those House years, and in the Senate year.

Next year's ballot should be sexy, being the fullest ballot of the 4-year election cycle- everything from President on down. I know there will be Libertarians for President, US House & US Senate, but I really would like to see candidates for the Indiana House & Senate. There's a lot we can contribute to the discourse in the run-up to the election, and even more if we're elected. But first, we need to run.