Warren’s Missing Items

Senator Elizabeth Warren is running for President and a campaign survey appeared in my twitter feed. So, I took a look. It’s an honest attempt to get input on what people in the country care about as their priorities. Here’s the list of options:

Campaign Finance Reform

Corporate Accountability

Disability Rights

Ending Washington Corruption

Climate Change and the Environment

Green New Deal

Gun Violence Prevention

Health Care




Jobs, Wages, and the Economy

K-12 Education and Teacher Pay

LGBTQ+ Equality


Medicare and Medicaid

National Security

Nuclear Non-proliferation

Opioid Crisis

Pay Equity

Prescription Drug Costs

Puerto Rico Recovery

Racial Justice

Reproductive Rights

Social Security

Student Loans and College Affordability

Taxing the Wealthy

Universal Child Care

Veterans and Military Families

Voting Rights

Wall Street Reform

No national debt? Huh.

This is going to be an interesting future.

I predict that an element will emerge in the mid-terms to address spending, but doubt it will emerge as an issue during this year.

Will that element come from the right and look similar to the fiscal plans of the tea-party movement? Or will it look like the occupy protests? The fact that both parts of the spectrum have a history of advocating for fiscal policies is an indicator that the subject should be a part of the Presidential race, but I think most candidates will avoid the subject this go-around.

When it does come up again we might end up with an interesting coalition. Let’s watch, but not too closely. The government shouldn’t have enough power that we have to keep an eye on it too much. It’s supposed to be small so we can live our lives as we see fit.

What else do you think is missing from this list?

This is not what freedom looks like

The next time you hear the song Proud to Be an American please remember this photo.

This is America.

I’m not sure how freedom looks like razor wire and a school bus that limits a student’s ability to go to a non-geographically assigned government oriented educational facility.

I totally agree with those who will say America has more freedoms than other countries. No argument there, but should we be comparing ourselves to other countries? Isn’t there something better and more grand for us to compare ourselves to?

Rethink Recycling

Lets pause for a moment and notice how pervasive the marketing campaigns are for us to change our behavior about where we put our trash. The campaigns are in our kids schools, sitcoms, and the labels on the bins at every residence and office. That marketing presents recycling as the number 1 cure for solving large scale environmental problems. In most cases the marketing focuses on influencing our behavior, not telling the whole story of what happens next.

Photo by mali maeder on Pexels.com

In some cities recycling isn’t just another bin that’s provided for you. It’s a mandatory practice. When we were living in Germany it was mandatory.

I don’t mind things that are mandatory.

I do mind things that are mandatory by force.

If something is a good idea, then I don’t believe that force (or the threat of force) should be an influence in the decision making. Avoiding certain substances isn’t something I choose to do because there is a law. It’s something I choose to do because it makes sense to me. Similarly, choosing to do something is better done when compelled not by fear, but by anything other than fear.

Returning to the marketing campaign on recycle. It’s pervasive and persuasive, but does recycling even make sense?

great information, but only part of the story

In the sense of reusing and re-purposing what you have to give it the longest life possible, yes. Recycling makes sense. You’re not going to get an argument from me against being frugal and using what you have.

Just because recycling in general makes sense doesn’t mean our recycling programs make sense.

Let me explain. Boise is big on being a town that tries to take care of the environment, but as I understand it their recycling program is far from it. Items put in the recycling bin have to be sorted. From there some of the trash is sent to the landfill. Some of it is sent to Salt Lake City to be turned into Diesel fuel, and some of it is sent to the west coast and shipped thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean.

When KTVB did a story on recycling in 2018 it wasn’t about does this program make environmental/economic sense. It focused on if people knew where to put the trash. That’s a pretty big miss on a good question in my book, but it’s totally understandable about how that happens. Because the marketing is so pervasive we take for granted that recycling is doing something good.

Here’s a good question to look at, if the goal is to go green then why does going green involve significantly increasing carbon output?

In my home I reuse what I can, and I also chose to put as much as I can in the trash. The town doesn’t yet have the infrastructure to properly reuse the materials and the way it processes them can be seen as actively damaging the environment.

I also believe that maybe it’s time to clean up the way we talk about recycling. Update the marketing and tell us where things are really going so we can make an informed decision about not which bin or bag to put our stuff in, but whether or not it makes economic/environmental sense to put it anywhere else but a modern landfill.

Incentive Based Solutions

I prefer solutions that enable people who have the most investment in the success of the solution to be in the position to influence that success. Right now it’s easy to see the problems created by systems that put disinterested parties–or just the wrong parties–in charge of various activities. Here’s a list of some of these areas and brief solutions.

  • Generals don’t sign for property and therefore none of them get fired when they massively fail an audit. :: Make generals accountable for all the property under their care.
  • The DMV doesn’t care about you being safe (your test weighs all traffic violations the same regardless of their catastrophic consequences). :: Let your insurance company be in charge of issuing drivers licenses.
  • The DMV doesn’t care if your car is safe to drive on the road, but your insurance company does. :: Let the insurance company issue vehicle licenses–and include lower rates for vehicles that are tested safe.
  • The VA doesn’t care about veterans. :: Let veterans own stock in the VA–being realistic, they’ve kind of earned it., right?

You’ll notice that this brief list is directed at government activities. That’s because the government can use force to create systems that serve political realities not the reality the rest of us live in. In addition there are control measures outside of the government to correct poor systems. Wells Fargo created some bad incentives that led to a system of corruption. Their stock prices and customer base responded by taking their business elsewhere.

Each of these systems and their failures really comes down to their isolated measurements. The DMV doesn’t care about safe driving because they’re shielded from the consequences of an accident.  The VA doesn’t care about veteran’s health because it doesn’t get measured on basic things like veteran’s treated.  It has measurements about wait times.  If they applied Little’s Law they might just realize how broken they are.

If people don’t want their tax payer dollars funding projects that don’t have to demonstrate any measurement of success such as $43,000,000,000 gas stations, then maybe it’s time for a change.  Instead of complaining about politics operating the way they do it’s a good idea to understand what were the incentives that led to the outcome and look for ways to change those.

What solutions leave you with the short of the stick?  What incentives created that outcome?  What can you do to change those incentives?


A Test on Drinking and Driving

I recently had to get a new drivers license and since I happened to be physically located in an area with different arbitrary boundaries than the previous set of arbitrary boundaries where I lived.  Therefore I had to take test on the rules for operating a motor vehicle in this new geographical area.

There are a lot of odd things about this test.  For example each question was weighted equally despite the potential negative consequences.  The question about how to turn your wheels in case the transmission’s park and the parking break systems on your car failed (an unlikely scenario which if done wrong would result in your car disrupting traffic) is treated the same as if you had run a red light and t-boned someone killing the occupants. 

Clearly there are problems with the way this test is constructed.  Isn’t it interesting how you can miss the most deadly 20% of the questions and still get your license?

The area that irked me the most were the questions about alcohol.  These bothered me quite a bit.  I found 16 alcohol related questions from a sample test for the way alcohol impacts driving within my current arbitrarily defined boundaries.

  • If you are over 21 years old, BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) of _____ or higher is illegal
  • Alcohol can:
  • Prescription or over the counter drug can:
  • What is a chemical test used to measure:
  • Which of the following can affect your driving ability?
  • On average, 12 ounces of beer could be cleared in your body in about:
  • After drinking, you should:
  • How many alcoholic drinks does it take to affect your driving?
  • When alcohol and drugs are combined in your blood:
  • When you are driving in the States, you have consented to:
  • How long does it take to clear three beers in your system?
  • What should you do before driving if you are taking a non-prescription drug?
  • What is the effect of drinking coffee after drinking alcohol?
  • What is the only way to “sober up” before you drive?
  • Alcohol is a:
  • Which of the following does Blood alcohol content (BAC) not depend on?

Where’s the “I don’t drink” option? Seriously. I used to have to know this stuff because how it impacted my job in the Army. When you’re in charge of Soldiers it’s a good idea to know about alcohol consumption and how it impacts the body and what legal limits are. Since this was my first test after leaving the Army those things didn’t seem to matter anymore… I don’t need to know how much to advise someone to drink. I don’t need to know techniques for taking someone keys. I don’t need to know this stuff because my life is now alcohol free! I’m no longer required to go to events where alcohol is served and I am responsible for those consuming it. So, why was I getting asked the questions?

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

This is another good example of where governments fail. In most of our lives we enjoy personalized experiences even with some of the largest corporations the world has ever known. Amazon is a great example of this. Huge corporation with massive warehouses and infrastructure, yet your relationship with it is highly personalized. I’ve never once had Amazon suggest kitty litter (because I don’t own a cat) or alcohol related products (because I don’t drink).

Governments have a difficult problem going forward because they offer very limited choices. There’s only one test for driving inside of the arbitrarily drawn boundaries and it’s designed for people who drink or plan on drinking at some point in their lives.

I’m happy that there’s likely going to come a day when my children’s generation who are so used to hyper focused experiences meet with government experiences like this and just wonder why it couldn’t be more personalized especially when they see the price tag we’ve left them for such one-size-fits-all experiences.

Yes, there is a solution to this. Let insurance companies issue both driver’s licenses and license plates. The insurance company has the greatest incentive to keep you safe on the road–not the government. A state could easily license insurance companies and the equipment for them to issue plates and licenses to drivers. They would be more likely to respond to market forces like the booming population increase in Boise/Ada County Idaho. I know it sounds controversial, but a driver’s license is way less complex than putting objects in orbit and since Space-X (a private company) is now doing just that for NASA. Oh, and the rocket analogy has even more application since rocket technology are considered ballistic missiles and have to be heavily licensed. If we can figure it out how to license ballistic missile technology going to space and landing again why can’t we figure it out how to put those invested in our greatest success on the road in a position where they could innovate?

My insurance company would know I don’t drink. I could opt out of the questions or chose to take them in exchange for lowering my rate. One day I hope to have the freedom to do that.

Government Overreach

The recognition of free speech originally proposed by Thomas Moore has generally led to many happy consequences.  One of which is we now have years of documentation regarding government incompetence and overreach.  Alice in Wonderland anyone? 

My favorite modern catalogue of government overreach is currently Reason.com but I became aware of my favorite incident of government overreach from XKCD.

Courtesy of XKCD.com

No government should ever have enough authority to ban sliced bread again! 

Protect your rights!

I’d prefer theocracy

Around here we’ve been getting our news from the internet. It’s been a bit of a transition from the TV. Sure when I eat breakfast at the dinning facility I generally watch a bit of the news. With the politics alive and active I’m finding the news very entertaining these days.

This leads me to the topic of discussion for this blog. I will now delve its readers into the taboo subject at family reunions and discuss POLITICS as I see them.

One of my favorite things about politics is how they completely ignore contexts. One thing the press likes to do is take unflattering photos and make them the primary ones used during a piece. It doesn’t matter what the news source is, if the editors think that their audience wont like what he’s saying they use an unflattering photo.

Getting a good photo is hard. I’ve been trying to take pictures of Chrissy for a while now. She’s looking great! (always has). Even though our camera doesn’t have any shutter lag something will happen when I try to click the button and instead of ending up with a photo that captures how awesome she is I get something that’s blurry, and usually cuts off a part of her head or something. It’s one thing when I do that at home. It’s another thing when a professional photographer does it and gets paid for it.

Now this has made politics something worth looking at. I love the self described moose hunting hockey mom. Gov. Palin’s got spunk. She’s one of those rare individuals who does a good job hiding having bad days. My favorite thing so far is that she’s been using her “mom” look with the press. Take a look at this section of the interview between her and Charles Gibson. (Watch Here).

Remember growing up when you did something knowingly bad and mom had to pull you aside and talk with you? You remember that look right before she took a wooden spoon to your butt? You remember that look when you were a teenager doing something totally wrong? It’s the I love you and I hate to do this, but I’m-a-mom-and-it’s-my-job-to-set-you-straight-look. She pulls that look on Charles Gibson when pressed about earmarks in the state of Alaska.

I’d also like to publicly express that I’m more likely to consider her a worthy candidate because her family seems to have real problems. Her oldest daughter being pregnant is a reality of today’s society. It’s got to have been something very difficult for them to deal with as a family. Life will be even more difficult when the baby comes. Could you imagine being pregnant at 17 and the person you want to go through for baby advice (mom) being busy with her political office? Women are the original multi-taskers in society. I don’t doubt that their family can do it, but what a load it is! They are a modern American family.

Politics are for me entertaining. I’ve realized that no one running can do so without being hungry for power. Sure we hear talk about the candidates championing some righteous cause on both sides of the aisle. I disagree with public health care–but that doesn’t make the idea any less important. In order to be in an office you have to want the power of the office. It doesn’t come to you–despite what the Disneyish movies say–you have to desperately go out and seek it.

Sometimes I think our best choice for candidate isn’t someone with the greatest campaigning skills, because campaigning takes so much energy, effort, and time the best person might be the one who can shift gears the quickest. I need someone to stop campaigning while they’re president and get some work done. Our election process doesn’t fit the responsibilities of the office. It’s like being interviewed for a job that has nothing to do with what you’re going to be doing. All senators involved, while on the trail, can’t effectively do their jobs. What good are they to their state? If we prepped high school students for the SATs this way no one would pass.

I’d prefer theocracy. Let’s think about it. You know who’s going to be in charge. Moses did a great job with some rather stubborn people. It’s also going to be the government during the millennium. So I don’t mind getting ready for it now.

Let’s think about this. Each year our politics get more and more vicious, and more of it is presented as “normal.” I think they get worse. The mudslinging goes both ways, shows up earlier, and is more vile then it ever has been. Where’s it going? When will it end? Whatever it evolves to over the next few years it will be something that our society considers ‘business as normal.’ Across the world all of the political processes (even dictatorship) that appear ‘business as normal.’ will need to get wiped away. That process will not be a pleasant one. It’s described in the book of revelation as the greatest calamities our world societies will face. At the end of it, the Savior comes and issues in the millennium. If you noticed how Hurricane Gustav nearly changed the republican national convention–imagine stuff like that to the point where no one even considers having a political party.

Well, that’s my opinion and it’s worth what it is. Who am I voting for? I don’t know yet. I don’t make that decisions until right before the election. Chrissy isn’t a citizen and so the blood of patriots that has given me the right to vote rests on my shoulders. My vote represents my family. I have to make sure that I do right by them. That’s why when it’s my turn to vote I’ll lay out a sigh, because I’ prefer theocracy.