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Wed, 15 Oct 2014 01:27:00 +0000

Infrastructure

Wed, 02 Jul 2014 10:00:00 +0000

The infrastructure of the United States is in dire straights, not excluding Colorado.  Our water systems, roads, and energy grid are all on the verge of being in shambles, and waiting will only prove to be more disastrous and expensive.  

"Infrastructure is the physical framework upon which the U.S. economy operates.  Everything depends on this framework, including transporting goods, powering factories, heating and cooling office buildings, and enjoying a glass of clean water.” ASCE - http://www.asce.org/uploadedFiles/Infrastructure/Failure_to_Act/Failure_to_Act_Report.pdf

The eroded water systems cause millions of dollars in damages every year from property damages due to main breaks to health care costs such as the 2008 salmonella influx in Colorado.  The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has published numerous reports on our failing infrastructure.  In one study, it is estimated that 7 billion gallons of water are lost due to leaks in our water infrastructure.  Yet in forums such as the South Platte River Basin Implementation Plan when discussing water conservation and usage throughout Colorado our failing infrastructure is not even mentioned.  Water is a top priority in Colorado, especially in the Fourth Congressional District, and working to improve our water infrastructure should be a top priority within that.

ASCE has also done extensive research on the condition of the roads in Colorado and estimates that the failing roads in Colorado cost motorists $1.034 billion a year from vehicle repairs and operating costs.  They also rate that 70% of the roads in Colorado are in poor or mediocre condition.  This was all prior to damages caused by this year and last year’s flooding which has crippled our road infrastructure more. Few in Colorado and the Fourth Congressional District are exempt from experiencing the issues of our road network.  Including those from Grover through Greeley, Longmont, and Castle Rock all the way to those in the Southeastern part of Colorado.  We are all affected by our depleting roads.

As with the previous two portions to infrastructure, the energy grid is also not up to par with where it should be to sustain the demand that has been place upon it, nor will it work for the continued increase in demand that will be placed on it.  United States infrastructure upgrades must not only include updates to the power grid, but must include a plan for energy storage.  There are many up and coming energy sources that are being developed in the United States and beyond, but energy storage is paramount for progress with our energy network.

Infrastructure is the foundation to our economic development among many others, and the longer we put of improving it the more and more detrimental it will be when they systems can no longer support our needs.  This is why our infrastructure should be a top priority for the United States.

Net Neutrality

Thu, 26 Jun 2014 02:09:00 +0000

Net neutrality is not a top priority to many in the United States, Colorado, and the 4th Congressional District especially when up against the many other issues we face in the United States such as our non functioning congress, our failing infrastructure, and our climbing national debt.  However, it is an issue that could have a significant impact on our economy, education, and rights in the future.

Net neutrality is the idea that internet service providers (ISPs) should allow access to the internet at the same speed regardless of content and that there should be no preference given to any websites over any other.  An example of where net neutrality has allegedly been abused is Comcast restricting the use of Netflix and required Netflix to pay for better access.

Some argue that ISPs should not be required to provide the same access to all website when many website demand much more bandwidth and infrastructure, and that the Federal Government should not regulate ISPs.  On the flip side is is argued that if a user pays for a certain speed of internet service they should get that regardless of what sites they visit.  Both are great arguments and the validity for both could definitely be argued.  One of the greatest things about the internet is that it is one of the only level playing fields for all companies regardless of how big or small of a company they are.

The main question really is should internet users have access to the entirety of the internet regardless of the website with the same speeds and access they have to every other website or should ISPs have the ability to regulate speeds and access to various sites based on their sole discretion?  There are great arguments for and against both sides to this.  An open market not overseen by the government in theory makes a ton of sense.  It can help push innovation and competition, however where it starts to fall down is due to greed..."for the love of money is the root of all evil."  Government regulations often do go too far, but are intended to protect the citizens and consumers. This is why advertisements for prescription drugs include a list of side effects to help inform and protect consumers.

The internet and the free flow of information is probably the greatest revolution since the industrial revolution.  Like the industrial revolution, the internet has completely transformed the United States and has launched us into an age of abundant information.  Much of our economy relies on the internet and the future of our education system will likely lean heavily on this resource as well.  The internet is a great and powerful tool and resource that is often taken for granted, but one of the major reasons the internet is so great is due to the even playing field it provides to everyone.  Allowing ISPs to regulate service based on demand or even their own competition could hinder future economic growth and our education system.  At an extreme level allowing ISPs to regulate content through bandwidth would allow your ISP to regulate/censure your First Amendment right as an American.  This is unacceptable to me.

Here are a few varying sites on net neutrality with various takes:
The Net Neutrality Debate in 3 Minutes
Internet Citizens: Defend Net Neutrality
Here's How Net Neutrality Can Still Survive
FCC Comcast/Verizon and Netflix Investigation
Leave Net Neutrality to Antitrust Agencies

Immigration

Thu, 12 Jun 2014 02:11:00 +0000

When addressing immigration issues, one must ask what the overall purpose for immigration reform is.  What is failing in our current system, how do we want it to look, and fundamentally what is the root purpose.  When immigration was moved under the Department of Homeland Security under the George W. Bush administration, it became clear that the primary focus of our immigration system would be the security of the United States, first and foremost.  One bill that was passed last year to address the immigration system here in the United States was Senate Bill 744 which was put together by a bipartisan group of republicans and democrats.  Though the bill was not passed on a very bipartisan vote, I felt that the “Statement of Congressional Findings” was, for the most part, well put together.  Their findings were:

(1) The passage of this Act recognizes that the primary tenets of its success depend on securing the sovereignty of the United States of America and establishing a coherent and just system for integrating those who seek to join American society.

(2) We have a right, and duty, to maintain and secure our borders, and to keep our country safe and prosperous. As a Nation founded, built and sustained by immigrants we also have a responsibility to harness the power of that tradition in a balanced way that secures a more prosperous future for America.

(3) We have always welcomed newcomers to the United States and will continue to do so. But in order to qualify for the honor and privilege of eventual citizenship, our laws must be followed. The world depends on America to be strong—economically, militarily and ethically. The establishment of a stable, just, and efficient immigration system only supports those goals. As a Nation, we have the right and responsibility to make our borders safe, to establish clear and just rules for seeking citizenship, to control the flow of legal immigration, and to eliminate illegal immigration, which in some cases has become a threat to our national security.

(4) All parts of this Act are premised on the right and need of the United States to achieve these goals, and to protect its borders and maintain its sovereignty.

As stated, I believe that these findings did an overall great job outlining the purpose for immigration reform.  The bill has since stalled out in the House due to complaints from both sides.  Though the arguments from both sides have some validity, the bipartisan nature of this bill stemming from four republicans and three democrats including many from border states immediately impacted by immigration is a great step forward towards resolution.

There is No Lost Vote

Sun, 04 May 2014 18:01:00 +0000

Getting to office, as you may already know, is not an easy task for any candidates.  There are many factors that make the race for the 4th Congressional District a difficult one for all candidates.  It is no secret that running affiliated with a party is an “easier” path for candidates, but there are those who wish to represent the people and not just a party.

My name is Grant Doherty and with the letdown the American people have received in recent history from their representatives in Washington I have decided to step-up and run for US House in the 4th Congressional District.  I find that running unaffiliated allows me to truly represent the 4th Congressional District as a whole and not just the Democrat or Republican sectors of the district.  Though running as an unaffiliated makes an already difficult campaign much more insurmountable, I believe it is the only way to restore the government to the representative government it is intended to be.

There are many major issues out there including education, defense, infrastructure, and the national debt.  However, none of these issues can be effectively addressed with the turmoil we currently have in Washington DC.  The first issue that must be addressed is our failing and ineffective government and unifying our country for the greater good of all.  This is not something that can be done by people who support their party agendas over supporting those who elected them into office.  The best solutions are most often those agreed upon by the majority of both sides, and rarely come when one side pushes their agenda through.  One example of this is our national debt, the national debt will not be solved by raising taxes or cutting programs alone.  The best solution is one that will balance both spending and revenue, and even above raising taxes or cutting programs, we should be looking at the waste and inefficiencies in our Federal system to make the taxes we all pay more effective.  Putting in place methods of saving the tax payers money without harming our programs should be what we are all looking to first.  Methods such as changing typical text styles, using PDFs more effectively, reducing paper, removing bureaucratic red tape, or even potentially eliminating the penny are all proposed methods working towards a balanced budget without raised taxes or cutting programs.

Many great people and even more great presidents have agreed that it is important to move aside the affiliations and instead focus on what is needed.  John Kennedy said that it is not about “finding the Republican or Democratic answer but the right one.”  Voting for the right candidate is not about voting Republican or Democrat; it is about voting for the person that you find can best represent you and your values.

In the past few months it has been close to impossible to get any type of media to acknowledge that an unaffiliated candidate is running in this race.  Repeatedly the Doherty for US House campaign and supports have contacted various agencies when the campaign has been overlooked in the story of who is running for the 4th Congressional District.  Most often the reply is “until after the primaries we are only interested in party candidates.”  What is not take under consideration by doing that is that party candidates are then given more opportunity to voice their candidacy and platform than the unaffiliated candidate(s).  Is it fair and equitable to the voting public?  Shouldn't the voter have every opportunity to hear every candidate’s point of view?

Voting unaffiliated may sometimes seem to be a hard decision to make, but if you find yourself agreeing more with a person instead of a party then there is nothing to be worried about when reaching your decision.  In honor of another great man’s recent birthday, Thomas Jefferson says:
I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever, in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else, where I was capable of thinking for myself.  Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent.  If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all.
 If you find that your values are better represented by voting for an unaffiliated candidate as compared to a party then there is nothing left to stop you from doing so other than your mental attitude?

You should know, that as your representative, I vow to represent the 4th Congressional District as a while and to the very best of my ability.  Let me assure you that unlike the majority of those in congress and many of those running I realize that as a House Representative it is my job to represent all the people of my district regardless of what party affiliation they may be.  The residents of the 4th Congressional District are the employer of their representative and it is long past time to get the representation back to the people and make Washington work for us again.  I ask you all for your support in the coming months and most importantly, your support come November.

Please visit DohertyForUSHouse.com to help support the effort to get America back in the hands of the people. 



It is an uphill Battle for Unaffiliated Candidates

Wed, 23 Apr 2014 03:02:00 +0000

The Doherty for US House campaign would like to ask everyone for their support this coming November as well as in the months leading up to this election. Many are tired of the same nightmare that is Washington politics, and it is not exclusive to either party. Party politics have gotten out of hand and have become too far from the government of, for, and by the people it should be. This is why I ask for your support for the upcoming election.

Running a successful campaign is not an easy undertaking, especially when you consider what each candidate must do to earn the votes of the public. This campaign is no different but does also face unique challenges in the race to represent the people.

While campaign finance is always a big topic for debate in campaigns, it is definitely a difficult issue to overcome for us.  Many candidates will either take time off from work to run their campaign or are wealth enough on their own to support their campaign financially.  This is not the case for me.  I currently work during the week as a structural engineer as well as run the campaign.  I am not independently wealth and though this is a large hurdle I feel that it does bring me close to constituents of the 4th Congressional District.

Finances are an even bigger issue when one considers that I am running not affiliated with a party.  This can be very difficult due to the lack of organized support and funding.  Though running as an underdog does have its difficulties it really gives me the freedom I had hoped for when I decided to run for office and run unaffiliated.  By this I am able to fully represent the people, instead of just a specific party.  However, this does also bring the difficulties that lie with gaining unaffiliated votes.   To that, John Quincy Adams once said, “Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost."

While attempting to bring both parties together as an unaffiliated representative, as well as working full-time during the week, I with the help of many others have built this campaign.  Though it will be quite difficult it is not one that I plan to give up on. With all the difficulties and setbacks to the campaign our determination and drive only prove my desire to represent the people of the 4th district. As a typical Colorado resident I hope to represent other typical Colorado residents and not the interests of the large political parties or interests groups.

There are many issues that are important to the diverse 4th Congressional District, issues such as water conservation, the farm bill, and current energy policy. These are all very important issues, but the one issue that impacts everyone across the United States is the ineffectiveness and polarization of Congress. Albert Einstein is often credited with the quote “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” In November, we hope to break this trend of voting Democrat or Republican, which allows them to push their own agendas, by instead electing a candidate that will represent the 4th Congressional District and not a party agenda. I believe I am this candidate and believe I would do the best job in representing the people of the 4th Congressional District.

If you are interested in supporting the campaign please contact us by following on twitter @gdoherty2014, Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/DohertyForUSHouse, our website dohertyforushouse.com, or emailing the candidate at grant.doherty@dohertyforushouse.com

Unaffiliated but United

Tue, 25 Feb 2014 03:06:00 +0000

As there are in every election cycle, there are many important issues to address when it comes to electing our next session of congress.  The list is a lengthy one and includes crucial issues such as education, national debt, water rights, the farm bill, the 2nd Amendment, and more.  The list of issues goes on and on as we approach another election, but in my opinion there is no greater issue facing voters at this time than the voters need to deal with the ineffective congress that we have today and have had for several years.
It’s not the Democrat’s fault that congress is ineffective, nor is it the Republicans.  The trend that congress has gotten into of voting the straight party line a majority of the time is a major contributor to the ineffectiveness of congress and this is only exacerbated by electors doing the same thing, and it is occurring on both sides of the aisle.

Regardless of what side of the political fence you are all on, we are all Americans and want what is best for the country.  The notion that one side is more correct than the other is a fantasy.  When people say that we have gotten away from the roots of our forefathers they are right, but not in the way most think when making that statement.  Our nation’s forefathers had just as many differing opinions and ideas as we do today, which is one of the things that makes this country so great.  The difference is that at the end of the day they were able to come together and compromise (I know, “compromise,” the new four letter word) for the greater good, not just for the parties’ or special interests’ good.

If we seriously want things to improve in this country it is not going to happen by citizens continuing to vote the same way we always do.  It is time to vote for new ideas and the notions of community and unity, as we are the United States.  All across the country there are many new unaffiliated voters and candidates for this election, myself included, who are asking people for their support in this paralysis-breaking effort.

Many say that the largest thing to overcome for an independent is the finances of a campaign.  Though this is unquestionably a great hurdle, it is not, in my opinion, the biggest hurdle.  The biggest hurdle for an unaffiliated/independent candidate is getting the votes.  The first contributing element to this is that neither party is putting forth candidates best qualified for and seriously interested in representing the people themselves.  Because of this we have become entrenched in having to vote against the party nominated candidate we don’t want to win, rather than voting for the candidate whose views best reflect our own and that we most want to support.  The second major contributing factor are those citizens who go in and vote based simply on the letter behind a candidate’s name.  For congress to be different, that decision must be different and that is purely up to the voters.

Though campaign finance reform would do wonders for campaigns and elections, removing party affiliation from ballots could fundamentally change how people are elected, although with Google it would not be a foolproof method of vanquishing the parties.

So when it is time for you to vote in this election and every election to come, please remember that we should all vote for the person we most want to represent us and just not for the “lesser of two evils.”

With all of this I will leave you all with two quotations to consider:
"Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost" - John Quincy Adams
"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results" - Albert Einstein

Come November I hope everyone keeps these two men’s statements in mind when they vote, and I thank everyone for their continued support of our campaign.

The 2nd Amendment, Schools, and More

Fri, 10 Jan 2014 13:24:00 +0000

As has happened after most of the recent school shootings, many of us ask why and wonder how it could have been prevented.  After Sandy Hook last year there was a large out-pour for resolution, and tons of proposed solutions, most of which were reactionary.


This past shooting at Arapahoe hit a little closer to home being in Colorado as well as through some connections, and it really got me thinking on really how we can do our best to try and prevent this from happening.  I agree that with as many schools as there are, school shootings are a pretty atypical occurrence, but I do not feel that is a good enough answer when it comes to kids being killed or injured.

The two biggest recommendations that I have heard from each side, some of which have been implemented, are gun restrictions and putting more guns in schools.  Restricting guns very rarely works, though there is evidence to both support (Dunblane School Shooting) and dispute its effectiveness, and it really does start to encroach on the ratified interpretation of the 2nd amendment.  The idea of more guns in schools also does not seem like the best solution.  For one, if an armed community guaranteed this, there would not be military base shootings, which do happen.  It is also difficult for me to play these scenarios through my head, person comes in to school with a gun, people notice and draw weapons as well, so how do I know who is with the intruder and who is trying to prevent?  This solution just seems like it would potentially lead to more chaos.

From what I have heard, it does seem as though one proposed solution works, and that is having an armed security guard at the school.  This does bring up other issues such as how this person is going to be paid, especially when so many are opposed to increased taxes.  However, this solution has seemed to work in the past and is probably the best solution that has been tried so far.  This measure is a preventative one, but does not really address the underlying issue.  At some point what really needs to be addressed is the why, and focusing on the root cause.  Many of the people that caused these acts needed help and did not get it or did not get enough of it.  We should look at how we can provide people the help they need to deal with the issues that drive some to these awful acts as well as working on reducing the stigma towards asking for help.

The Education System & Teacher's Unions

Sun, 17 Nov 2013 20:24:00 +0000

A good friend of mine recently sent me a voice mail from a teacher (Sally) that talked about the current state of the education system and how the teacher's unions have affected it.  Given that both of my parents have given their lives to education, I am generally one to stand up for teachers.  Due to this, I have long understood the premise of teacher's unions because, at least in theory, they help give a voice to our educators.  Unfortunately, as is often the case, there are abusers to this system which give the unions and the other teachers a bad name. As a result these unions are often seen as protectors of bad teachers rather than protectors of good ones.

After the I-35 bridge failure in Minnesota a few years ago, one of my professors talked to our class about the Engineering Code of Ethics and why he felt that this collapse caused such a media frenzy.  He said that there were really about three different highly respected and highly regarded professions in the United States: engineers, teachers, and clergy.  However, with this high level of respect, comes high levels of scrutiny when things go wrong.  When looking at these three professions, there is one thing that make teaching slightly different and is where many problems occur...professionalism.

Teacher's unions in the United States do often fight for the bad teachers and for job security rather than fighting for a higher professional standard.  From my understanding, there is not much a teacher can do to lose their license to teach, and though the detriment of a bad teacher may not be as blunt as that of a bad engineer they should be no less accepted.  Sally states that the fate of society rests on a well educated population, which I fully agree with, and is why the teaching profession needs to start holding themselves to a higher standard of professionalism.  Many professions such as engineers, lawyers, doctors, and clergy have a code of ethics which these communities hold in high regard and are a requirement for licensure.  If education had a similar, rigidly adhered to, code it could help the teaching community as well.

Education is such a fundamental building block to a good economy and has recently, because of highly publicized teachers who preform poorly in the class room or have bad ethical judgement , been looked down upon due to a sense of an "entrenched mediocrity" in the system.  The education system should not harbor those who failed to meet industry standards and should hold themselves and their peers to a much higher standard of professionalism than is done currently.  Doing this would help protect the majority of teachers that do need a voice and protection, and weed out those who are a drain on the system, and would ultimately protect the students leading to a better educational system.

Budget Savings: Without program cuts or increased taxes - Part 4

Sat, 09 Nov 2013 14:59:00 +0000

In 2011 the federal government owned and operated over 900,000 buildings across the United States according to a New York Times article.  The federal government also builds numerous projects every year as well, and though the large majority of the cost of a building is in operations and maintenance not in construction, today we will talk about the design and construction phase of a building.

The design and construction industry has gone through a large change over the past 10-15 years in computing technology, contract types, as well as the process.  All three of these changes are integral with each other and can play a major factor in the cost of construction.  In the past Computer Aided Design (and Drafting) (CAD or CADD) was developed to replace hand drafting and allowed for reduced rework with design changes and also offered a safer, more reliable, and less costly way of keeping records of buildings.  In the past decade and a half or so a new technology and process called Building Information Modeling (BIM) has been on the rise, and has taken a foot hold in much of the industry.  As stated, BIM is both a technology and a process and has not always been the most easily defined.  To me, BIM is the thought and process of having an intelligent virtual building model as well as being the collaboration between teams from design and construction.

Building Information Modeling offers many perks to owners over CAD, many of which provide a building life time cost savings.  A few of these perks include:

  • BIM allows for better coordination between disciplines that provides opportunities for design conflicts that are typically caught in the field to be caught in the office.  Design fixes that are caught and addressed during the design are typically much more cost efficient than when caught in the field, when it is often too late for the best solution.
  • BIM provides a platform for intelligent information to be shared between the design and construction teams such as material quantities, schedule coordination, and cost information.
  • It also helps promote and facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration.  Though CAD does have the ability to help facilitate collaboration between the trades it is typically a very manual and time consuming (costly) process.
  • More recently BIM tools have been in development to further use these models past that of the design and construction to also be use for facilities management.  This allows building owners and managers to better understand and maintain their buildings as well as harvesting this information down the road in building remodels, expansions, sells, or demolition.

The major impediment is the Federal Government's CAD deliverable requirement.  Though many design teams will still use BIM through a project due to internal cost savings and advantages, it is often required the turn these models in to CAD files at the end of the project.  Once recent estimate was that this process can cost over $500 per page to convert, and on lager projects this cost can add up quickly.  This requirement also keeps the Federal Government from leveraging the advantages that BIM has over CAD, as discussed earlier, each of which can have a significant impact on cost.

Candidacy Announcement, The Shutdown, and More

Fri, 25 Oct 2013 18:51:00 +0000

As many of you have hopefully heard, I am planning on publicly announcing my candidacy for US House on Monday (October 28th, 2013).  At this announcement I will first talk briefly about who I am, my background, and why I am running.  I feel that especially running unaffiliated that it is important to get to know the voters and for the voters to get to know me at a higher level than typical, and really an elected position is similar to any other job, the only difference is that we have many more people to persuade to hire us.

The second portion that I would like to talk about Monday is the current state of politics in Washington. Though I do not believe that we are any more divided that we have been in the past even though it often seems that way, I do believe we are much more reluctant to come together.  As I have said before, there is always talk about how un-American one side is or the other, and how things are so much different than our forefathers.  However, the difference isn't really in our overall goals for the United States or even in our policy, it is in the fact that we no longer seem to have the ability to come together for the greater good and actually get things done.  The truth is, there are many differing views in the United States, way more than the two silos we try and put everyone into, and really neither side is any more right or wrong than the other, they are just different.  The recent shutdown as well as the other inefficiencies in our government currently is because of this reluctance to compromise.

It has been nearly 50 years since Kennedy was assassinated but he once said:

Let us not despair but act. Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past - let us accept our own responsibility for the future

Welfare Drug Testing

Mon, 02 Sep 2013 02:06:00 +0000

Drug testing for those on welfare seems to becoming more and more common throughout the United States.  As of April, there were around eight states that have legislation that encompass some sort of drug testing for public assistance and around twenty-nine that have proposed legislation.  Some require this of all applicants and others try and use judgment, requiring only those believed to use drugs.


On the surface this seems like a great idea.  The tax payers are in essence helping support those on welfare and would like to know that their contributions are not being abused.  The issue with it is who is paying for these drug tests?  The tax payers, and they can be costly.  When such legislation was proposed in Virginia it was shot down due to research suggesting it would cost nearly $1.5 million to save less than $500,000.  This is only one study, but many others including those in Florida and Michigan have gone to show that the costs of this type of program far outweigh the savings.  This is not to say that the issue should be ignored, but more of asking if drug testing is really the best and most economical solution?

Personally I do not feel that this is the best and most economical solution. It really just another example of waste and inefficiencies in the government, many of which could potentially be addressed with technology.  One proposed solution has really already been widely implemented but under utilized for advantages, and this is the welfare debit card system.  

Here are a few advantages that I feel that we could better utilizes with welfare debit cards:
  • Issuing a card and refilling it electronically every month can save on paper costs, mailing costs, and employee costs
  • They could help substantially help address welfare check fraud
  • Limit/restrict the withdraw of cash by requiring applicants to further apply to be able to access cash from the card when needed for things such as rent. This could partially help the drug buying issue as I suspect that most drug dealers don't take canned corn for payment.
  • Always require ID for use of card (Also helping to address drug buying)
  • Monitor expenses from cards
  • Restrict usage of cards.  Especially with all the advances in card readers for phones and tablets, restricting the usage of cards in some form could also help prevent abuse
These are just a few of the ways that using welfare debit cards more effectively could help address many of the various abuses of the welfare system including drug usage, all with little to no extra cost to the tax payers, and even potentially a cost savings.

NCSL
Think Progress (Utah)
Washington Post
Think Progress (Kansas)

Budget Savings: Without program cuts or increased taxes - Part 3

Sat, 20 Jul 2013 21:55:00 +0000

In one of the prior posts I talked about my fascination with YouTube and some of the interesting information that you can find on there.   A while back I stumbled across a video that talks about US currency and the cost of making it.  Up until recently I didn't think this there was much discussion on the issue or it even being a topic worthy of lobbying in either direction. To my surprise there are actually are many out there that have strong arguments for and against getting rid of some US currency such as the penny.  Personally, I am not a big fan of having change roll around in my pocket, and am also a person that likes nice neat round numbers.  Neither of these reasons, though valid ones, are logic based reasons similar to wanting to keep the penny because of it having Lincoln on it, so we won't discuss these further.

First, let us discuss the impact of eliminating the penny and the nickel.  It is felt by many that this would have a significant negative impact on the US economy since it is believed that eliminating these would cause an increase in prices due to the rounding need.  However, when the half cent was retired in 1857 (US Mint) it had more buying power than today's dime, and the effect of this on prices was negligible.  Some prices were rounded up and some prices were rounded down, having almost no net effect.

On the flip side it is argued that because the cost of creating the penny ranges from 2 to 5 times the actual value of the penny it seems to be a major waste.  It is argued that this reasoning is flawed because it discounts how much usage a penny receives during its life, which if we look at the life span of a penny significantly reduces the impact of the initial cost of the penny.  This is until we might figure that 90% of a penny's life span is spent at the bottom of a jewelry box, penny jar, or a vehicle's cup holder.

In the recently released treasury budget it is outlined that the US Government spent $3.1 billion in 2012 on the materials, administrative costs, and investments for US change currency, a budgeted $3.5 billion in 2013, and $2.9 billion budgeted for 2014.  As stated above, these budgets are purely for US change currency (coins).  In each of these, the costs are overwhelming due to material costs.

This leads into the second part.  Let's say it is decided not to retire the penny, nickel, or other US coins.  That's fine, but lets still try and at least address the cost.  The materials that go into manufacturing US coins are: copper, zinc, nickel, and manganese all of which are all metals.  To me, metals equate to expensive, so why not look at alternatives such as silicon, ceramic, or hard plastic?  These other options might reduce the manufacturing cost of our coins while still being just as durable.

Either of these choices, retiring of coin currency or switching to alternative less expensive materials, seem to be another legitimate way of reducing the budget without program cuts or increased taxes.

Resources:
2014 US Treasury Budget
Federal Reserve FAQ
US Mint FAQ


Ron Paul, the NSA, The Patriot Act, and the 4th Amendment

Sat, 29 Jun 2013 04:48:00 +0000


I came across this YouTube clip with Ron Paul and felt that it deserved sharing.  Ron Paul has to be one of the most constitutionally intelligent people, especially if you were to put him against others that have ran for US President in the past decade or so.  Though I do not really see eye to eye with Paul on many issues such as how to go about education reform or his thoughts on the legalization of many illegal drugs, I do have to give him credit when it comes down to knowing his stuff.

Below, Paul is taking about the recent headline with the NSA allegations.  I find this entire things to be interesting because I am stunned with how this all of a sudden came to a head as if it was so unheard of.  If the allegations are true that the NSA has been collecting data from personal phone calls of US citizens, it most definitely treads on the Constitution as Paul says.  However, to think this is all that new is where I am confused, did nobody read through the Patriot Act?  Let us not throw the NSA and the current administration under the bus as if this is all a new thing, because in reality this has been going on for years, and on both sides of the political fence.





Here is another example of the 4th Amendment being ignored, in my opinion.

The Education System - Part 2

Thu, 13 Jun 2013 01:46:00 +0000

Most people, when they get home from work try to find relaxing things to do before bed. Many read, talk with their spouse, listen to music, or watch TV.  However, for myself I love going on to YouTube and browsing the different videos and by far my favorite are informative and educational videos.  Even when I wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep I will often turn on my YouTube channel on my tablet and browse around.  Recently, I came across a user CGPGrey and have watched the majority of his videos.  Two of those videos had ideas on educational changes, and even though I have not really taken these videos in and processed them to come up with my conclusions and opinions yet, I did find them intriguing and thought I would share them.



This second video is a Q&A with Grey, and one of the questions asked was about how he would change the educational system.  You can find this portion of the clip at around 1:08.



As I said, I have not really processed my thoughts on these yet, but I found them to be interesting and having good points.  Hope you like.

Other YouTube channels that I really like that I have came across are:

Religion and Prayer In School

Tue, 11 Jun 2013 03:36:00 +0000

Today I read a news story about a valedictorian that was told that the graduation ceremony would not be allowed a prayer session.  As a reaction to this decision the student recited the Lord's Prayer as part of his valedictorian speech.  I must commend the student for standing up for his beliefs and his religion, but we should also take a minute to take a look at the other side.  What would have happened if rather than the Lord's Prayer the student recited a passage from the Torah or Koran?  I would venture to say that the student would not have been praised, and, most likely would have been ridiculed.

Religion in public school is an extremely volatile subject, as it seems as though there may not be a great way to please everyone.  The key to this is to respect everyone's First Amendment right to the freedom of religion without treading on another's rights to freedom of religion.  Personally, I am all in agreement with Thomas Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists on the matter:

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties." (Library Of Congress)
Many take this too far, however, and we have started to not allow prayer or the reading of religious materials in schools at all.  This control still steps on the rights of people and, in the way that I interpret the US Constitution, is unconstitutional in keeping the wall of separation.  The government should not facilitate the restriction of religion in school, nor should they promote religion in school.  There are two primary issues when it comes to this, the first, prayer in school, and the second, reading religious materials in school, such as The Bible.  Here is one proposal for both:

First, towards prayer.  Public schools should be set up to have a 30 minute class during the day that is set up as a time for the students.  In this time students may choose to take a nap (considerable research shows that a nap during the day can significantly improve performance), pray, read (whatever they like), do homework, or even do a Sudoku.  As said, this time is purely for the students to have time during the day to unwind, to relax, and/or to reflect.  One caveat with this is that whatever the student chooses to do, it may not affect another's use of his or her chosen time.

Second, towards the reading of religious materials in school.  At least when I was a public school student (my ten year high school reunion is next year, time sure has flown) the schools had a program called Accelerated Reader or similar.  With these programs students should be allowed a wide array of publications including the Torah, Koran, New Testament, Old Testament, and be able to apply this as part of their requirement for this program.

In summary I do feel that this issue can be fairly straightforward.  Schools should neither restrict nor promote the practice of religion, but if students would like to exercise this right then it needs to be done in a manner that is respectful and not disruptive to other potential views and opinions and does not tread on the rights of others either.



North Colorado - The 51st State?

Sat, 08 Jun 2013 14:19:00 +0000

This past week an article game out in the Greeley (Colorado) Tribune with statements from prominent political figures from the northern part of Colorado proposing to split from Colorado and form a new state "North Colorado."  I am hopeful that this is more of a political ploy than a serious thought, because if serious it shows a lack of judgment and a lack of knowledge of Statehood requirements.

The reasoning behind seceding from Colorado is because a few northern rural counties feel left out, a second thought to the state.  The largest issue that I have with this premise is that nearly every state that has both urban and rural areas deals with this problem.  Political views are frequently closely related to population density; the higher the population density the more liberal the area often is, the more rural an area is, the more conservative they tend to be  Though most see California as a powerful liberal state, the truth is that by land area, the majority of the state is fairly conservative, especially in the far north and in Orange County, and this trend follows pretty well with the majority of states.  That having been said, the feelings that these northern Colorado counties are feeling are not exclusive to them nor to Colorado.

Education is huge to me, as discussed in the previous post, and so I sympathize with school districts that believe that they are not receiving adequate funding for their school.  However, I would venture to say that a large majority of schools feel that they do not receive adequate funding, and most of them are probably right. 

I also understand the frustrations of the lack of funding for road maintenance such as that for I-76, (I drive on it nearly every day to work).  Again, the amount of roads that need funding and attention far exceed the amount of funding given.  (Most want better schools and roads, but don't want raised taxes...)  To divide up where money goes for roads the government should look at severity and usage, and since much of our roadways are in shambles, we then look to usage.  There is a lot of traffic on I-76, but on my way to work I travel on I-76, I-270, and I-70 across Denver and occasionally I-25 (if I can't avoid it), and I would speculate that the amount of traffic that travels on I-70 and I-25 between 6:00am and 9:00am during the week more than likely far exceeds the amount of traffic that travels on I-76 the entire day.  I understand the need to improve major infrastructure such as I-76, but can also understand that areas of higher traffic will typically be improved over those with lower traffic volumes.

The premise of North Colorado forming it's own state is equivalent to recall elections due to political disagreement, the threat of seceding from the US (Texas), and the threat of moving to another country due to presidential election results.  Every few years the political pendulum swings and a different set of people are unhappy with how things are done, and given how our political system is set up, somewhere around 50% of citizens are always going to be unhappy.  However, this is not because of how polarized we have became, but because of how unwilling each side is to compromise and come together as a collective to find agreement as they have done in the past.

Greeley Tribune

The Education System - Part 1

Fri, 31 May 2013 01:13:00 +0000

As someone who was raised in a family of educators (my father, mother, grandfather, grandmother), I feel that through my upbringing I was exposed to the inner workings of the educational system.  From this I feel I was given the opportunity to really see the system from the point of view of the administrators and teachers, and also from the students' point of view.

Personally, if I were to line up all of the departments of government and choose which one I feel should get the largest focus and backing it would be education, with the one possible exception of the Defense Department.  A good education is paramount and would single-handedly address and curb many issues facing this country such as drugs, violence, outsourcing, the economy, and probably many other issues we face here in the United States.

Today I read an article on Huffington Post about Jeb Bush's comments and thoughts on education.  I would first like to say that I agree with J. Bush in that the educational system is broken and needs fixed. Honestly, there are many things that we agree on when it comes to education reform and here are a few of those:

  • The education system is broken
  • We must expand school choice
  • We dumb down standards
Though we agree that these are core issues in the educational system, the explanations for the problems and proposed solutions are typically further apart.  The current education system does dumb down standards, but that's not to make adults look better, its to conform to No Child Left Behind.  No Child Left Behind does not help the children who are behind progress, it holds back the students that excel.  Now rather than just ranting on how I feel that Jeb is incorrect when it comes to the education system I will give my ideas on the education system.

The first point is, unlike how we view health care, we cannot just ignore how other countries structure their education systems.  The United States is near the bottom when it comes to education in developed countries.  In a large majority of countries the premise of high school is non-existent, students are funneled based on demonstrated strengths,weakness, and interests prior to "high school" into curricula that focus and help develop the strengths of the students further while strengthening weaknesses in a way relevant to their strengths.  In the US we focus so much on making well rounded students opposed to building upon the strengths of the students to prepare them to compete with global talent. 

Recall Elections

Sun, 19 May 2013 22:16:00 +0000

In this past month I have started to learn more about a process called a Recall Election or Recall Referendum that I was unaware of.  Currently there are recall elections for both the Colorado State Senate member John Morse as well as two local city council members for my town.  Since I was unfamiliar with these I decided to do a little reading on these, and now that I have read into it, I am not sure if I really see the reasoning behind it.  The impeachment process and process of removing an elected official from office is understandable.  There needs to be a way to remove someone from office when he/she does not represent the office which they hold in a respectful and legal manner.  However, at least with the two current recall election attempts in my area, it seems as though this is used to remove people from office that you disagree with politically. 

Personally, this seems like a cancer to the democratic process. If you don't agree with someone politically, don't vote for him or her.  If one has been elected that typically shows that the majority of voters agreed politically with that person (for the most part).  The entire reason to have elections is so that the citizens choose an elected official, and having a recall election to hold another election to try and get different results is a waste of time and waste of taxpayer money.  In the US we have elections every two, four, and six years (depending on states and position) that allow for the citizens to remove elected officials, and personally I don't feel that this is exercised nearly enough.  Though it can be rough having an elected official in office that you disagree with, that is how a democracy works  As John Kennedy once said "The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all," and though these recalls are not about security the point is still valid in that we all live under the decisions of all voters whether or not we always agree with the results.

Laws: What's the Point?

Wed, 01 May 2013 23:35:00 +0000

One of the larger arguments for opposing stricter gun laws is that in all likelihood  the more restrictive laws will not keep those who plan on doing harm from doing it.  Though both sides of this argument are pretty much impossible to prove one way or another, the true is that this is most likely correct.  Harsher gun laws will most likely not keep those that premeditate acts with gun from following through.  However, the larger issue is that this is based on the reasoning that we have laws in place to restrict people from doing them, but in reality this is not really the point of most laws.

All laws probably have some impact of curving peoples actions when relating to them.  If we were to get rid of speed limits the amount of people that would go much faster than the limits are set currently would probably not go up significantly.  If drunk driving were made legal the amount of people that drive drunk would probably not go up significantly either.  This is because the majority of citizenship understand the dangers of these and wouldn't do them regardless of law, and this can be applied to almost every law in place.  On the other side of the coin, having drunk driving laws do not keep everyone from drunk driving, and nor does having a speed limit keep everyone from speeding, but this also does not mean there is not point of having these laws.

There is probably no law out there that works if we are to look at it from the standpoint of it keeping people from breaking it.  The point of nearly all law is not to keep people from doing things, but rather to give consequences and punishments to actions.  Why is it that many people involved in shootings obtain guns illegally?  It is because there are laws in place that make those actions illegal, otherwise they wouldn't be obtaining them illegally.  When asking yourself whether or not we should make a law, don't ask if the law will keep people from doing it, because more times than not, the answer is no, but ask, "Is this something people should be held accountable for and be punished for if not done safely?"

Political Experience

Tue, 30 Apr 2013 00:48:00 +0000

One of the issues brought up during the 2008 Presidential Election was experience.  I can understand that for nearly every other job out there having experience is typically a positive thing.  However,for politics, I am not really sure I understand why we would want experienced people.  First, if we were to look at average public approval ratings for all the presidents, we would see that there is little to no correlation between that and how much experience the president had prior.  To me, experience in politics should almost be a negative factor towards how I would vote for someone, most people are progressive and want the US to move forward and if we have the same ideas we have had for the past twenty years.  Electing people based on experience typically means that we are keeping the same crap we are all tired of in place.  Do we really want someone who is experienced and has all of the lobbyist ties and old age ideals?  Personally, I feel that we need fresh ideas in politics on a regular basis.  All it takes is for the citizens to get fed up enough with the same old politics we have seen for over twenty years and make a change at the polling box, though this is like many things...easier said than done.  The people cannot rely on a single candidate for change, change is really on the shoulders of the voters, will you help make it happen?

Energy Idea

Wed, 24 Apr 2013 02:00:00 +0000

First, I have to give credit where credit is due.  This idea came from one of my cousins as we were on our way back from a hunting trip in Kansas.  While I have expanded slightly from his original thought, the root idea is simple yet brilliant.

As we are all probably aware, there are many different energy sources and energy demands here in the United States.  For sources we have the organic fuels, hydro, solar, wind, nuclear, and a few others. For the energy demands there are transportation, buildings (residential, commercial, and industruial), and energy loss.  The largest consumer of energy of these three is, by far, buildings, which include energy consumption from construction, heating, cooling, and lighting.  Since buildings have the largest demand of our energy and building operational costs over the life of a building far outweigh that of construction, a significant portion of US energy policy should aim at that.

This particular proposal looks only at the residential portion of the buildings subset, which accounts for around 22% of our energy consumption.  However, this proposal could be applied to the other building types as well.  If the US Government would offer better savings and perks to residential energy production that would allow home owners to install their own energy producing mechanisms (geothermal, solar, and wind) the tax payers would pay substantially less in the long run.  First, the home owner is fronting the majority of the cost though getting some tax breaks or other perks from the government which takes this burden from the government, and secondly, for the majority of homes, the infrastructure is already in place.  Unlike building new dams, wind turbines, or other energy sources that require infrastructure to be built up to sustain these, the infrastructure is already in place which takes an even larger burden off the government, ie the tax payers.

It is true that there are already incentives, but looking at how few houses have taken advantage of these options, it is clear that these incentives are not enough to push these goals forward.  The other issue is that these services are limited.  When I looked at installing photo voltaic (PV) panels on my house, I was limited to how many I could buy based on my previous year's consumption.  This restriction resulted in around 1/3 of my house's south facing roof being able to be covered, rather than all of the south facing roof, which is what I would have preferred.  I was told the reasoning behind this was that they did not want home owners to be "tricked" into buying more than they needed for their own consumption resulting in them paying more for the system.  However, to be honest, this sounds more bureaucratic that logical (imagine that).

We need to provide decent enough perks and savings to energy consumers such as homeowners while not limiting the amount they are allowed to contribute.  Setting forth a goal to have a larger percentage of houses have these alternate methods would not only reduce the demand on the power grid, but could also provide additional power sources at little cost to the taxpayers, while also helping reduce utility bills for home owners over the long term.

2008 Energy Consumption

Budget Savings: Without program cuts or increased taxes - Part 2

Thu, 18 Apr 2013 03:06:00 +0000

This second portion of my budget savings plan is one of many ways that the government could save by simply using technology better and more efficiently.  One of these ways is by simply reducing their paper consumption, though this does not necessarily mean going completely paperless.  Throughout the different branches and departments of the government, they all have numerous forms that are required for administrative purposes, such as hiring.  A good exampled would be paperwork such as I-9s, EEO forms, and numerous others.  These forms are typically mass ordered so when hiring takes place the department has a sufficient supply, but when these forms expire, what do they do with them?  Most of the time they are either thrown away or recycled.  What if rather than having to order reams of pre-printed forms, they were to just use a PDF?  When someone or many people are hired, the forms can be printed off in a volume corresponding directly to how many people are being hired.  Using this method, the waste is significantly reduced, if not completely eliminated.  


Now it may seem that saving money on the cost of a ream of paper (currently 14.00 for a 3 pack on Amazon) is pretty insignificant when it comes to the trillions in debt that the country is in, but think about how many different departments are part of the government.  Then think about how many forms they use during the hiring process (10-12 forms?).  At one office that I am familiar with, at the end of the calendar year the office had to recycle over 5000 I-9s because the date was for the prior year (10 reams).  This was just one document and at only one of the thousands of offices across the US.  This waste could have easily been reduced by the use of a PDF or similar.

This plan may not save billions of dollars for the US Government and ultimately the tax payers, but waste and inefficiencies such as this are all over, and each little amount adds up.

Broken Congress

Sun, 14 Apr 2013 14:10:00 +0000

For me, after having gone to a few political party meetings for my previous affiliation as well as watching parts of the below 60 minutes video, it drove home the dysfunction of the congress and how the political parties have become.  These reasons among many others are why I changed my affiliation to being an Independent.  Having gone to a few party meetings prior to this last election it became clear to me it really was not about the people, but rather about getting/keeping the party in power.  This is a problem, as Senate and House are both there to represent the people of their state and district, not their party.  In an interview on 60 Minutes with former Senator Evan Bayh, Bayh commented that even members of congress who vote party lines over 95 percent of the time are shunned by their party leaders.


There are two primary reasons for the dysfunctional congress. First, is the resistance to compromise such as Speaker Boehner's "I reject the word" compromise.  Secondly, is the amount of money and the time spent on elections.

The below clip from 60 Minutes talks about each of these.  People talk all of the time about how this country was founded and the views of the Founding Fathers as if they all got along great and agreed on everything.  This is fundamentally incorrect our Founding Fathers were just as divided as we are today, the difference is they were able to rise above and come together to compromise on what was best for the country.  We can look at the formation of the Legislative branch to see this.  We had the Virginia Plan that wanted representation based on Population, the New Jersey Plan that wanted equal representation for each state, and in the end was the Connecticut Compromise which gives the US House and the US Senate.  The entire foundation of the United States and the US Constitution is built on coming together and compromising, not just voting party line.  However, this is not possible when the majority of Congress go to Washington to represent their party rather than the people of the US.  

Budget Savings: Without program cuts or increased taxes - Part 1

Fri, 12 Apr 2013 01:47:00 +0000

One of the larger issues, at least prior to the gun debate, was our spending, deficit, and debt.  Rather than going through a dissertation on ways the government can cut spending before cutting programs or increasing taxes lets highlight them one at a time.  Here is the first idea:

  • Roadways and Transportation - The government should start doing a better job on ROI estimations when it comes to primary infrastructure.  Many states opt to have asphalt paving for major roadways over concrete, this is typically because the upfront cost of asphalt is less expensive than that of concrete.  (Please note that this can be difficult to gauge since asphalt costs fluctuate with petroleum .  However, there are many studies that show significant cost savings in the long term when utilizing concrete over asphalt as well as other advantages.

    Expanding on this, many areas with harsh weather use extremely caustic deicers such as magnesium chloride and sodium chloride.  These agents not only destroy roadways but also cause damage to vehicles.  We should be putting forth an effort to develop and research better ways to deice that is less destructive and costly (due to repairs and damage) than these caustic agents.