Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

SMART (and Mass Transit in Metro Detroit As A Whole) as It Is Right Now Does Not Work But The RTA Millage Would Go a Long Way to Helping It Get There

So Mark Hackel and L. Brooks Patterson's solution to regional transit is to essentially expand the SMART BUS system, which on its face doesn't sound like a bad idea except ... SMART is kind of broken. It's not the institution's fault. From where I sit a lot of the problems associated with SMART are caused the by the opt-outs and the lack of resources that those opt-outs cause which these two fellows are absolutely stuck on.

All the same, I can't get behind the idea that SMART as exists right now works. That is that it does its job of efficiently and cheaply getting people from place to place in a timely manner, which by the way is something that I consider essential.  We have to make this work. We can't just keep shrugging and dusting it's failings under the rug.  Don't get me wrong it's better than nothing but if we really wanted to (i.e. supported the RTA) we could do better.

So here is a list of long-standing gripes big and small I have with SMART many of which, though not all, the RTA plan explicitly seeks to fix





P.S. As it is the RTA plan is dependant on SMART. So we actually need both SMART and RTA millages to pass in order to actually enact that plan. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Case Against L. Brooks Patterson

So if you haven't guessed already I am in favor of Warren Evans' transportation plan as I was also in favor of the original 2016 RTA plan.

Right now the main obstacle from keeping it from happening isn't so much that people are against it, though they very well might be but rather that Macomb and Oakland County executives Mark Hackel and L. Brooks Patterson via their representatives on the RTA Board of Directors essentially have veto power over any attempts to even put it on the ballot.

Which is to say I kind of hate those guys right now.

I don't know Mark Hackel but not counting college I've lived in Oakland County my whole life. L. Brooks Patterson is my guy and has been since childhood. And that thought makes me want to bang my head on a desk.

Despite that and my own personal fortunes, I have to admit Oakland County as a whole is in a state of relative prosperity.

But I would also argue that a lot of that prosperity is the direct result of white flight from the City of Detroit which Patterson directly encouraged. Which is one of the most frustrating things to me about this.

Patterson's rationale for not "giving" "Detroit" (for the record those are irony quotes, the money the RTA millage would raise would in no way be under his stewardship except maybe via his representative on the board of directors and the REGIONAL Transportation Authority as its name suggests is a regional body that encompasses not only Detroit but also Oakland County and as mentioned I for one as a resident of Oakland County would very much like a functional mass transit system which right now we do not have.) is that the city is politically dysfunctional but from where I sit at least some of that dysfunction though admittedly not all of it is his fault.

P.S. I also have beef because he continuously advocates for the widening and expansion of highways which have historically, especially before his time, been to the detriment to the neighborhoods of the city.

Oh. And the bus integration thing... WHY IS THIS GUY STILL IN CHARGE!?

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

I am The Darkest Fear of Grover Norquist and the Koch Brothers... A Tax and Spend Marxist



So this year there are a lot of local millages coming up in the Detroit metro area. Part of me wants to talk about the importance of taxes and my hatred of the current anti-tax environment both nationally and statewide but after some thought, I realize I might have the blinders on. The past two, if I'm being honest eight years of my life, both politically and personally has been a laundry list of things I want and need not getting done because the money isn't there so I have a natural bias towards the shiny new policy proposal that could change my world save for the lack of funding.

Indeed, it is easier to tell people what would make me oppose a tax rather than what would make me support it because supporting taxes is my default position. My baseline is that the government does a lot of important stuff and in order for it to keep doing all that important stuff, it needs money. "Starving the beast" is a very bad no good horrible idea.

Accountability
I know everything I just said. But taxes are still essentially "the people's" money regardless of how necessary I think they are. There are lots of reasons Donald Trump bugs the hell out of me but this is one of them. Even if you think the amount of graft in the administration is negligible compared to the size of the actual federal budget, which it is, the graft degrades trust that tax dollars will actually be spent on the missions of their departments which is something citizens are absolutely in the right to expect and be upset about when it does not happen. That graft is making every conservative right when they complain about the inefficiency of the federal government. And I hate it. 

Transparency
Part of that accountability is having a clear, understandable, and accessible purpose for each dollar the government spends. And honestly, I do think government budgets are a bit too complicated. Not so much that the government itself should be paired down but in how they are prepared in presented to both lawmakers and the public.  Budgets are more than a bunch of numbers but practical records and mission statements of the priorities of their organizations. If you want to know what the government actually does rather than what it says it does look at the budget

Progressiveness
Notice I didn't say tax and spend liberal in the title. I have drunken from the fount of Engels and Marx. Capitalism is inherently exploitative but we have so oriented our society around that system of production that replacing it would require radical revolution: cultural, economic, and political.

... But Communist revolutions don't exactly have a great track record of advancing the interests of the proletariat. 

Apart from throwing off the oppressive yoke of the bourgeoisie, ... a progressive tax along with services aimed towards helping poor and middle-class people (and maybe universal basic income)  is about the fairest and most practical means of the wealth re-distribution needed to create a more equitable and egalitarian society short of the alternative.

Which is to say I am tired of hearing rich bastards bitching about taxes while gutting worker pensions and arguing against raising the minimum wageI do not like the republican party right now.

And  I wish they would knock it off before I give up the pretense of respecting property rights and show them what a real pinko commie bastard would look like rather than the limp center-left policy advocates that pass for socialists/communists in their heads.

I have family that works for the local energy company. Seizing power plants would go down great at the family barbecue.

(For the record that was sarcasm. Seizing power plants is a very very bad idea that I do not support. It was just an idea of something a hard-line old school commie would want that nobody is seriously suggesting. The mainstream left is pretty far from out-right communism or even socialism right now, despite the fever dreams of Fox News, Breitbart and whatever crazy Youtube talk show host is in my suggestions this week.)

Saturday, April 28, 2018

April 26, 2018 RTA Detroit Community Meeting




On April 26 2018, the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan held a community meeting at the Detroit Historical Museum to educate the public about the Connect Southeast Michigan plan.

Friday, April 27, 2018

April 25, 2018 RTA Birmingham Community Meeting


On April 25, 2018, the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan held a community meeting at the Baldwin Public Library in Birmingham Michigan to educate the public about the Connect Southeast Michigan plan.


More information about the plan can be found at http://www.connectsoutheastmichigan.org.

Southfield April 24, 2018 Board of Education Meeting



An agenda and related documents can be found here.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Opioid Town Hall



On April 11, 2018, a town hall meeting was held on the Opioid Crisis at the Southfield Public Library in Michigan.



The town hall featured remarks from:

  • 46th District Court Judge, Debra Nance
  • State Representative, Jeremy Moss
  • Oakland County Commissioner Janet Jackson
  • Oakland County Sheriff, Michael Bouchard
  • Southfield Police Chief, Eric Hawkins
  • Fire Chief, Johnny Menefee
  • Oakland County Health Network, Christina Nicholas
  • Attorney, Mark Bernstein


Also, the presentation included a clip from a speech from Sam Quinones, Author of Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Let's Talk About Digital Labor

So two things happened at relatively the same time making it hard to talk about one without the other but also the importance of each also overshadows the other to the point it's nearly impossible to talk about both at the same time.

YouTube Headquarters just got shot up by a disgruntled vlogger. And before I continue I want to apologize to them. I want to start a broader discussion about digital media, labor and yes monetization, but the moment somebody chooses to try to have that discussion with violence it ceases being a discussion and turns into a threat whether I want it to or not. And believe me I don't want it to be. That's not how society is supposed to work. And I don't just mean that regarding this issue. I don't care if somebody has a perfunctory line in their "manifesto" I agree with. Murder is murder and attempted murder is attempted murder.

That being said something else happened last week that makes it more difficult for me to wait until the dust settles to have this discussion.

Former Channel Awesome Producer released a Google Doc of long-standing complaints they had against the company. While Channel Awesome didn't start on YouTube they were and a lot of their producers still are pioneers of the current web video landscape. I want acknowledge that that Gooogle doc was also mostly written by disgruntled ex-employees of the company, but I'm also inclined to believe them.

Why?

Because there are plenty of other online media companies that have been under fire for similar scandals to the point where I have to wonder, is this just want it means to work in online media. If it is that's a problem we need to fix because it means the internet and the economics behind it are fundamentally broken. Digital media as it exists right now is inherently exploitative. And considering it's ubiquity that's a big damn deal.

New Yorker article that came close to trying to make sense of YouTube producer issues in the context of the shooting but I felt missed mark. Later I found an Ars Technica article that describes those issues better but I also understand how it could be seen as glorifying the shooter.

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