Mass Transit in Seattle: The Greatest Example in Modern Times of Government Corruption

Many transit systems in the US are born out of the same weird “conglomerate” government approach.

Without getting into the same legal drivel they would like to hide behind, the basic idea is as follows:  municipal governments in a concentrated area reach a conclusion that mass transit is something they need to pursue together.  In order do that, they need plans, operations, and administration that is centralized.  But, local governments, when merely sharing a land border, have many different laws and governance between each other, how do they streamline efforts so they are not affected by a litany of differences?  In comes the idea of quasi-government:  Local governments sign agreements to financially support a centralized body that is not governed by them directly, and is not elected by citizens.  Instead, they appoint people to the board of this organization, and their job is to formulate the organization.

Now, the idea of centralizing such an effort makes sense.  It’s most efficient, makes the mission specific, and of course, unburdens their government  bodies from more layers of bureaucracy.

There is a couple of serious problems with this:  the main point is that this is an organization that acts like a government, by proposing and lobbying for taxes, and because they are the chosen experts in their field, it’s hard for the governments they lobby for tax funding to argue with their logic.  But even beyond this simple conundrum, there’s the issue of taxpayers not being able to scrutinize those that are controlling their tax dollars, their infrastructure, and their potentially their lifestyle.

This is wrong.  Our Constitution says it’s wrong (Taxation without Representation), all State’s have laws, or their own constitutions that outlaw the practice, and yet this idea of public mass transit becoming a sort-of/kind-of government agency, with no real oversight is being born around the country, because it fixes jurisdictional issues, centralizes services, and makes the project actually ‘work,’ when evaluating results.

Washington, DC, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the State of Maryland have done this with Metro.  The entire Dallas Metroplex has done it with DART.  San Francisco, Oakland, Alameda, San Jose, and every other city in the Bay Area did it with BART.

These highly regional models work in areas where they answer highly regional problems.  Congestion, a lack of land to re-work to efficiency, and layers of planning, that complicate land use.

But where sea and air ports are controlled by State agencies, somehow no one thought that public transit on a mass scale should also be a State issue.

Some would say that the highly concentrated areas of population represent a certain set of problems the rest of the State doesn’t have, and that they shouldn’t be laying the same burden down.  Logically it makes sense.  If the ranch land doesn’t need a train, why should pay for one?

However, what is happening with Sound Transit hits on a whole new level.  They are arguing for State taxes, and city taxes, and county taxes, and on it goes.  They can’t get what they want in this jurisdiction, so they find it somewhere else.  Cost overruns, meh the tax payers will bank roll it.  If that’s not enough, they absolutely do not take no for an answer.

Recently, it came to light that Sound Transit willingly misled the Washington State Senate, on a tax bill that authorized $15 billion to be earmarked for Sound Transit.  What they didn’t discuss in the bill, and what was not clear, was that Sound Transit had not put an expiration date on the tax bill.  So, when time came to close down the funding, they argued there was no expiration, and ended up collecting $54 billion.

This would literally be criminal, for any other entity to deceive government in this manner, and yet, no charges have been filed.  Why is the State government being taken to task by a regional government?  This would literally not happen in any other relationship, and yet, when we look at history, public transportation organizations, like Sound Transit, use language as a weapon when going after tax funding.  They are their own maker, and thus, have a duty to protect themselves.  If they appropriately positioned in State government, we know this wouldn’t happen, because they would have a chain of command to explain themselves, or their funding could be halted immediately.

The fact is that quasi-government doesn’t work, and that’s why our forefathers outlawed it.  They faced similar groups in their day, but they were known as something else, “tax collectors.”

That’s not to say that tax collection is wrong, because it’s not.  However, the tax collectors they dealt with were people empowered to extort money out of common people, keeping a percentage for themselves, and passing the rest on to the King.

This is the problem with quasi-government.  No matter how it’s structured, no matter how it’s “monitored,” it will always find a way around, for it’s own version of survival.

Mass transit is a needed function in our society – it should be housed directly in State government.

Friday Night Opinion: Gun Control is Not as Easy as You’re Being Told

The absolute terrible events that occurred in Las Vegas have perpetuated a very touchy, and stale, argument that carries on in the halls of Congress.  They also carry on in the halls of State and local governments, particularly government regulatory agencies .

Last year, Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, of King County Public Health made an impassioned argument that local government should add their own gun controls since Congress has been less enforcement-oriented then the numbers he deals with in the Greater Seattle area suggest; he claimed that the numbers of gun deaths surpass those deaths attributed to traffic collisions in King County, and then argued that nationally and locally lots was done to curb traffic deaths, which is still the in the top five of causes of death nationally, still surpassing gun-related deaths on that scale.

From a local perspective, it would make sense that this argument would come forth; in that we look at the biggest causes of death locally, and act to limit, or hopefully eliminate those causes.

Here is the major problem to this ‘local’ argument: Dr. Duchin highlight, but failed to go into detail, that those gun deaths he was talking about, included suicide, which attributed two-thirds of that total.  If you remove suicide from this gun death total, the number of gun deaths in King County are far below those caused by traffic collisions.  Here is why that matters:  No one in King County, as of today, has killed themselves in a traffic collision as a means to commit suicide.

Yes, suicide is terrible.  We know that suicide is in someway related to crisis, acute, or even long-term mental illness suffered by the person committing it.  Mental illness remains to be a serious problem in our society, from local to national levels, that needs to be addressed.

However, enacting public health ordinances, regulation, or similar structures ‘to combat gun deaths’ is a rather sophomoric response to the all too serious state of mental illness in our country, and speaks to agenda, rather than real solution building.

Believe it or not, the NRA has requested democrats to get serious about mental health checks being tied to background checks for firearms purchases.  The problem is that democrats routinely won’t agree, because the proposed legislation would also loosen restrictions on what sane people can buy.  The NRA is not asking for citizens to have the right to buy automatic firearms, or more serious military-grade weaponry.  Instead, the NRA has been since this issue of mental illness and firearms first came up nationally in the mid-90’s, that those that pass the instant background checks provided by the FBI needs to be given greater latitude to access rights through ATF regulated firearms rights, and to remove antiquated bans from legislative efforts permanently, especially those involving media-induced fabrications about certain firearms and accessories.

Gun control measures are not as easy as you’re told they will be, because those that are proposed are rarely based on logic and thought of the problem.  Democrats would rather placate the mentally ill, and allow them to interact in life unchecked by professionals, than actually tackle neurosis that threaten neighbors, families, and innocent bystanders.  Mental illness treatment however, even in it’s smallest form, can have a much greater impact than any gun control effort ever could.  And yet, efforts to address mental illness are continually thumbed down, not just by Congress, but local leaders who continue to claim they don’t have enough resources to enact them.

Democrats, including Dr. Duchin, don’t want to give up the “tool” of gun control tactics for their efforts.  They would rather work citizens into a hot lather about how this one accessory, or this one gun is the problem, and that banning it can save the day.  One need look no further than Chicago to see that bans don’t work.

And whether we like it or not, people like Dontray Mills, who admitted to perpetrating gang violence through illegal gun purchases, who get a reduced plea agreement that leads to no jail time, make it clear that those who actually perpetrate gun violence visited upon others are not getting the justice they so rightly deserve.  Instead, we have democrats who make a mockery of mental illness, cloaked in their government and medical credentials as some sort of expert, but then use the pain of those who don’t receive resources they actually need as a reason to stop everyone else from owning a firearm.  We don’t call it political grandstanding because in our eyes, they’re an appointed “expert,” but they are simply a politician who isn’t subject to election.  A local-level cabinet members expanding an agenda through a filtering of statistics and data.  It’s not a service to the citizens, it’s a weak attempt at shaping discussion and outcomes.  You should be outraged at the level of patronizing that goes on from offices such as those occupied by Dr. Duchin.

To sum it up: it’s a disgusting, dystopian take on life and pursuit of liberty.  It’s unfortunate that this particular issue does split along party lines, because I’ve yet to run into anyone who denies the need for mental health treatment to be expanded when needs are identified, but no one with temporary power will accept that, and in turn accept that law abiding citizens can own firearms without incident.

And if we look a smaller community, like Grays Harbor County, also in Washington State, we see that causes of death attributed to gun violence in Table C1 and C2 are well below the top ten threshold.  It stands to reason how a county with a more isolated  population with less resources is able to report these numbers, and King County sees an increase.  Guns aren’t the problem.  The high-stress that comes with trying to sustain a life in Seattle and King County are to blame.  More people in King County find the need to escape their reality through drug and alcohol abuse, sex addictions, and number of other behaviors that increase mortality risk.  To be fair, these are behaviors we see everywhere in the country, it’s not exclusive to King County.  However, they are increasing in King County, and the reason is that the government in place is making it tougher and tougher for ‘regular joe’ citizens to succeed personally.  Surely, they are not intending this, but it is a consequence of overreach and draconian thinking that was originally banned from the US-lexicon.

Whether Dr. Duchin and people like him realize it, regulations aren’t going to stop people from committing suicide: help is.  Actual help for those people in those situations.  The type of help that defrays stress and pressure on individuals, so they can dream, and work, and fail, and succeed.

One last thing to consider:  Washington State has legalized assisted suicide, making it possible for terminally ill people to seek help in ending their own lives, when they feel they can no longer take the pain of living in their condition.  If this is the ideal that Washington State wants to live by, why attempt to criminalize suicide by other means?  Has no one considered that those who are suffering mental crisis are too in pain?

For such a “progressive” outlook, it certainly seems short-sighted.  If you live in King County, you need to be asking that if such a high tax rate is necessary, why are those funds not being directed towards true mental health resources that provide results.  Because if you visit King County Public Health’s website, you’ll find they are thick on studies and research, and thin on direct efforts.  Maybe if Dr. Duchin spent more time in the field, working to expand mental treatment for the wide array of people in need, and empowering County Designated Mental Health Practitioners with multiple methods of addressing mental crisis, rather than solely three day involuntary hospital stays, instead of writing position papers, we’d have a government that was achieving an end to some problems, rather than tracking increases, with little to show for the effort.

If you know of someone contemplating suicide, please give them the following: 1-800-273-8255.  And continue to check in with them, you make actually be the difference in their world.

Go Cubs Go! NLDS Game 5

Game 5 was a wilder, out of control version of the first four games all rolled into one.  When the dust settled, Wade Davis controlled the game from the Bottom of the 7th to close, in about the best possible way we could expect.

Washington is not a slouch of team, despite their clear lack of offense had suggested through the first four games.  Our side was not nearly as good when it came to the bats, and several costly errors paved our way.  It’s nice to win, it’s a character building exercise.  It’s not awesome building this kind of character in the playoffs.  It’s a bit concerning in fact.

The better team, but not by much, and only because the other team enabled them far too much, and paid for that.

There’s really nothing else to say about it, critiques from the first four games still apply.

Another Loss: NLDS Game 4

This really should not have happened.  It did.  The way the Cubs played they certainly deserved the loss, but it should not have happened.

Most likely you watched if you’re a baseball fan, but to recap, two things happened:

  1.  No offense ever got started for the Cubs
  2. Carl Edwards, Jr. had another meltdown

A third was that Wade Davis pitched into a grand slam by Michael Taylor, something he has never done before, but that was not the issue.

This series has proven a couple of things about the Cubs current roster:  Javier Baez, Carl Edwards, Jr., Ben Zobrist, and Jason Heyward are expendible.

To their credit, Zobrist and Heyward actually produced some hits in this game, but it’s too little and way too late.  Both players cost way too much for the little they provide, and Heyward dropped a catch that would be difficult for most, but seeing as he’s a defensive dynamo it should have been routine.  The ball was in foul territory so it didn’t hurt, but if he’s not going to snag everything he attempts, then his value becomes less and less.

Javier Baez had an at-bat, I can’t remember now if it was in the 7th or 8th, where he faced six pitches, all outside of the strike zone, he managed to reach a 3-2 count, placing the sixth pitch into play for an out……to say he lacks plate discipline is to greatly understate his problem.  He’s suppose to be part of the future of this club, but he needs something we apparently don’t offer him, and I’d rather take my chances with free agent infielders than continue with someone who can’t buckle down and hit when it counts.

While I will concede the three players above could have arguments for their overall play, there can be no doubt that the experiment of Carl Edwards, Jr., a prospect picked up in the Matt Garza trade, is over after this season, preferably now.  It’s one thing to find a steal on the open market, and surely he’s had great moments on the mound.

That said, he’s folding to the Nationals.  They are a competitive team, in a division of non-competitive teams.  If you can’t find a way to defeat their batters, who spend half the season facing lackluster clubs, then you are on the wrong team.

Perhaps it makes me a non-believer in Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer’s team build, but only of a small fraction of it.  And while the four players highlighted have more or less done their jobs up to series, they’ve floundered before, and it appears they are floundering more so than usual.

Later today Game 5 will take place.  Let’s hope for some Harry Caray magic out at the DC Navy Yard.

Cubs Win!: NLDS Game 3

This was another nail biter.  And it’s great to see that the Cubs are still perennial winners in the categories of small ball tactics and tie games.  But the offensive effort needs to improve drastically, especially if there’s any hope of advancing, and winning in the NLCS.

Both Quintana and Scherzer pitched strong games, striking out a boatload.  To put in perspective, there was 56 total at-bats in tonight’s game, and together they struck out 14.  Of the five innings that both pitchers were not part of, there were only three strikeouts.  Neither pitcher reached seven innings, but both were brilliant, as was expected.

The Cubs bullpen was anchored by great showings by Pedro Strop and Wade Davis.  Edwards Jr was back out for an inning plus, and he too got the job down efficiently.

The game came down to what it came down to in Game 1, the difference being that it was an even thinner win margin, Tommy La Stella came in as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 8th for Edwards Jr, who’s night was done.  La Stella took a walk, at which point Leonys Martin took over as a pinch runner.  In similar fashion to his performance in Games 1 and 2, Rizzo took his stance at the plate, and belted a hit to center field that dropped in, giving Martin the needed time to sprint the bases, scoring the Cubs’ second run of the game, which led into a defensive hold in the top of 9th, securing the win.

Similarly, in the bottom of the 7th, Zobrist punched a single, and when he was aboard, Albert Almora Jr pinch hit for Kyle Schwarber, and he too singled to center, leading to Zobrist crossing the plate.  I’m telling this action backwards of course, but the point is that pinch hitters made the difference for the Cubs.  It’s nice to have these options, but it would be better to see some offensive production within the starting lineup.  Rizzo has been a difference maker in the series.  But he can’t do this alone, even if he has done most of it thus far.  Bryant needs to get cracking, though he has a .273 batting average through Game 3.  Zobrist did get a hit tonight, but to my count has two hits in 11 at-bats.  Addison Russell has two hits in 10 at-bats.  Javier Baez has zero.  Jason Heyward, who’s turned into offensive albatross since being signed has one hit.  These four need to get going if the Cubs are going to sustain any momentum in the playoffs.  Almora Jr and Jon Jay also have low batting averages, but since much of their action comes in pinch hitting situations, it’s to be expected that they are not hitting for average from appearance to appearance.

Speaking of Jon Jay, when he’s been in the field, his defense has been brilliant.  I’m starting to wonder what the value in Jason Heyward is defensively too, since that is the other thing he’s evaluated on in terms of why he’s on the roster.  If Jay keeps making snags in the field, I’ll put up with his offensive, because at least he has a chance of being productive on both sides of the ball.

That said, Game 4 is going to be interesting.  The Nationals are down to an under-performing Tanner Roark, facing the sharp Jake Arrieta, who’s just coming back for the first time after recovering from a hamstring injury.  If Arrieta can dial in 70 percent of his typical effort, I do believe we may have this series wrapped.

EAMUS CATULI!

Cubs Implode: NLDS Game 2

The game was clinched by the 8th.  There was no reason to worry.

Except that Lester’s performance was lackluster, the hitting that did come was just enough to be better than the Nats, and up to this point the bullpen was having it’s way with the Nats.

And then Carl Edwards Jr unraveled.  Edwards is one of the many pitching projects the Cubs have invested in over the last few years.  And by all accounts, he’s the future of the bullpen.  That might be, but you can’t hang your pitches in the zone like they are drywall.  That’s exactly what he did though, with Bryce Harper, with one on board.

Maddon did the thing that we all would do quickly, and that’s put Mike Montgomery in.  That worked out just as bad.  Montgomery walked into the Nats high on momentum, and then handed them a three run watermelon to clinch Game 2.

Much of the Cubs bullpen is projects of the current management, and while it’s nice to develop relief pitchers in a league that is thin on relief talent, and both Montgomery and Edwards have been great additions.  But this is a problem.

One night off is not a big deal, but it’s well known that the projects of the northside have more than their fair share of bad nights.  It just so happens that Wade Davis, our closer, bails them out of problems.  But when multiple guys are failing, there’s only so much he can do.

Davis pitched last night in the Game 1 win, and my guess is that Maddon wanted him to rest.  These projects have to start taking it on the chin and accept their results of their failures.  Hopefully a two-game stand in Chicago rejuvenates the bullpen.  I don’t want the Nats finally cutting their playoff teeth on us.

And big picture, this bullpen needs to be re-evaluated.  We can’t have guys that every seven or eight games can locate their pitches.

CUBS WIN! CUBS WIN! NLDS GAME 1

In true Harry fashion, I shout it loud and proud, but know that it takes a couple more to make it count.

Tonight’s 3-0 game in our Nation’s Capital makes it clear that the Nats are going to have to play tight defense if they intend to stop the Cubs.

Strasburg was completely dominant all night.  He did allow three hits and had two unearned runs over seven, but he also struck out ten, he was definitely hitting all the corners.

However, like most playoff baseball, winning comes down to three moments in the game where momentum plays a major factor.

When Rendon missed a play to first in the sixth inning, it setup a minor rally that notched two runs.  This was the inning that clearly blew out the game plan for Nationals Manager Dusty Baker.

He yanked Strasburg out after this inning, despite the fact that these runs were not on his stats, and the hits were mostly standard fare from both Rizzo and Bryant, two all-stars that hit in the .300’s in October.  Strasburg threw 81 pitches over his seven innings, 60 being strikes.  He was near perfect.  True, he has a sorted injury past, and all things being equal it would make sense to pull him before he risked his arm, if there was a lead.

However, the Nats needed his arm to keep the Cubs at bay.  The way Baker took him out was equally embarrassing, from a managerial standpoint. He put veteran infielder, and clutch contact hitter, Howie Kendrick in as a pinch hitter to try and stretch Michael Taylor from first base, and drive him in.  Taylor didn’t steal second, he didn’t advance on a bad pitch, nor did Kendrick hit in the clutch, and thus Strasburg’s night was over, and the Nats continued to be shut out.

Jon Jay pinch hit in the 8th, bringing Kyle Hendricks’ night to an end, he too pitched well.  Jay’s lone at-bat was a double, and it was big.  It setup Rizzo to knock him in, bringing the Cubs to a 3-0 lead, which was inevitably the final tally.  Carl Edwards, Jr and Wade Davis took the 8th and the 9th to shutdown the Nats for the rest of the game, and it was history.

This was supposed to be the ‘Do or Die’ Nats.  The team they have now is in it’s swan song, because much of their core is in final contract years, and it’s going to be difficult to keep everyone, with their undoubtedly higher price tags.

I have to say, they’re already falling apart.  In the 8th, Ryan Zimmerman was a put-out, and half the reason was because he ran the inside base path, which led to him being beaned, rather than tagged for the out.  It’s a rule violation, though rarely called, and unfortunately for him, the first base umpire had a clear view of it, and called.  Jayson Werth, a notorious under-performer that the Nats employ, and has also called this year his own swan song lost his mind with the umpire.  For a guy who said he was humbled by weekend jail terms he had to serve for driving like banshee in Fairfax County, he sure displayed it in that moment.

Hendricks pitched a solid outing, but he’s supposedly the weak pitcher in the Cubs rotation now.  That was Game 1.  Game 2 the Nats are facing Jon Lester, and Game 3 they are facing Jake Arrieta, who’s recovering from that end of season hamstring injury, but is also dying to throw some heat now in October.

The Nats aren’t going to have any easier day at the plate than what they just had.  And their defensive play squandered it, but more importantly, their weak batting played an even bigger, more silent role.

For me, it’s full sails, and we’re cruising to the NLCS, go Cubs!

For the Nats, it may be time to forget this team, and to continue finding a way to actually win in the playoffs.

EAMUS CATULI!