Friday, October 31, 2008

If You Think This President is Bad, Pick a New One!

In a dirty gas station in Virginia, a checkout clerk had the TV tuned in to CNN. She told me she doesn’t usually watch it—it’s mostly for people commuting in to Washington. “I don’t like the president, and I don’t like to listen to him talk.” Sounded pretty fair, so I asked, “Did you vote for John Kerry?”

“No, I didn’t vote.”

Here’s the thing: You are entitled to your opinion. You can think the president is a blibbering idiot incapable of rational thought. If you didn’t vote, you don’t get to complain.

This is one of the single most irritating example of the complacency and ingratitude that plague American political culture. The irony of our beginnings to our present reality kills me. We fought a bloody, horrible war because we had no representation in the government, and now we don’t exercise our right to elect a representative? In 2000 voter turnout was a mere 53.7%. In 2004, it was 55.4%. Basically, only half of us bothered to leave the house and vote. Let’s break that down by statistics:

34% of the US population is classified as a minority race. The 15th amendment guarantees their right to vote. It was followed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prevents states from enforcing discriminatory tactics aimed at preventing minorities’ fair opportunities to participate in the voting process.

51% of the US population is women. The 19th amendment was ratified in 1919 after years of struggle and protest.

So, if only 54.5% (avg) voted, it’s as if all the women stayed home, or not one person of minority background voted. That’s a lot of time, energy, money, blood, sweat and tears wasted. Even if you’re a white male who has, for the most part, always been able to vote in the US, consider all of our ancestors came from countries that were not known for democratic outreach.

I know it can feel as if your vote doesn’t count. There’s a lot of talk about the Electoral College, the popular vote, and voter fraud. The fact is, no matter who you are, someone, somewhere, died for your right to vote. Someone, somewhere, doesn’t have the right to vote, and would die for it. So regardless of who you vote for, VOTE! Don’t waste sacrifice. Don’t waste privilege. Don’t waste responsibility.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Road to Hell is Paved With Good Intentions...What the Hell are my Roads Paved With?

During construction on an aging bridge in Nampa Monday, a 100 ft section of the bridge collapsed, sending 13 workers to the hospital. All but 2 were treated and released. Of those two still hospitalized, one was in serious condition until Wednesday afternoon. This is the pretty pass our roads have come to- they are so damaged and structurally deficient, we can't even fix them without risking death and dismemberment.

According to the Idaho Transportation Department, 20% of all the roads in Idaho are structurally deficient. That means one in every five miles is broken and in need of serious repair. 19% of our bridges have aged beyond their 50-year life span, and many more are approaching the end of their life span. Consider these facts in conjunction with this fun fact: Traffic in Idaho has increased 99% since 1978, when these bridges were already at least 20 years old. Neat.

It's hard to say what bothers me more about lousy roads. Is it that instead of paying for the upkeep of roads that are vitally important to everybody, our tax dollars were spent on protecting wolves that eat our exports? Is it that when we do fix our roads and bridges, we do it as cheaply as possible instead of doing it right so it lasts more than a year? Is it that it seems that I can't drive on I15 in the summer months without avoiding orange barrels, and it never seems to get better? I'm just going to have to divide my angst on this one between the three. Actually, if I were honest I'd have to add a fourth, less noble source of irritation: those flag guys make way more money than I do, and I also am skilled at standing around avoiding traffic-and work.

Sub-standard infrastructure has been a hot topic for a few years now, and so far all our government, both state and federal, has been able to do to address the issue is have a lot of committee meetings. We could pave a sub-standard road with the documents they've published detailing all the talking they do about the problem. Governor Otter wants to create a system that taxes the people who use the roads most. What's his implementation plan? Install taxi meters in all registered vehicles? Some like the thought of toll roads to increase revenue. This would work, except that instead of repairing the road, we'd have to build toll booths. And who is supposed to pay for all this anyway? Does the federal government pay for the interstates, and the state pays for the rest? Questions, questions, and more questions.

The fact is, we have to have safe and reliable roads. Our health depends on it, our economy depends on it, and our defense depends on it. Congress: Instead of chatting volumes about how bad the situation is, prioritize and pay for a decent infrastructure. IDOT: wise up-you get what you pay for, and I'm tired of paying for crap. Special interest groups (especially environmentalists)-when I can drive safely over my overpass that is now so deficient one lane is closed, then I'll start caring about your wolves. Until then, be quiet. Everyone else: just try to avoid the potholes. Lets not make a bad situation worse.

In the beginning...

The real reason for this blog is, I love to write, and I need to write more. Writers really aren't writers unless they, you know, write. So I hope to find one current event or news bit every day and blog about it, just to keep my essay skills fresh. Feel free to comment with corrections, additions, and your own opinions.