Yet another blog for spewing. This one may end up with a lot of religious and social content.


Transit's Cold Equations

Many people whine that Americans are "too attached to their cars". We put in bus lines, and then wonder why they don't a) make money, or b) get ridden at all. They wail "but it's cheaper than driving!". The problem is, it isn't - when you use the real rider's calculations.

The true cost of transportation isn't just gas or fares - it's time, gas, and fares. Now, some say "but time is free, it doesn't have a cost!". These people need to try hiring a lawyer - they charge by the minute. And just as legal services have a dollar value, so does transit time, when it comes to the total cost of transportation.

Buses are slow. Transfers often involve long waiting. For a low income individual, the "value" of their time spent waiting and riding, plus the fares, are far less than a driving a car would cost them. Same with people who are on disability, social security or a retirement pension.

Now look at an urban professional. Suddenly, spending an hour to go 5 miles for a $2.50 fare is ridiculous, compared to 30 minutes and $5.00 in gas, insurance and upkeep (GIU). Note: the current federal mileage reimbursement rate is only $0.505/mile, so I'm actually putting it higher, $1/mile, than the feds, for realism. Sure the apparent cost of $5.00 is twice that of transit, but the time is 1/2! To figure the real cost, take the following equation:
   $Total_cost = $fare(s) + $GIU + ($rate/hour x time_hours)

For the first case - base level wage
   $2.50 + $0 + ($10.00 x 1.0) = $12.50 by transit
   $0 + $5.00 + ($10.00 x 0.5) = $15.00 by car

For the second case - low level professional
   $2.50 + $0 + ($40.00 x 1.0) = $42.50 by transit
   $0 + $5.00 + ($40.00 x 0.5) = $25.00 by car

That's bad. Now, make the trip longer: 20 miles, 2.5 hours by bus, 1 hour by car
For the first case - base level wage
   $2.50 + $0 + ($10.00 x 2.5) = $27.50 by transit
   $0 + $20.00 + ($10.00 x 1.0) = $30.00 by car

For the second case - low level professional
   $2.50 + $0 + ($40.00 x 2.5) = $102.50 by transit
   $0 + $20.00 + ($40.00 x 1.0) = $60.00 by car

Now, take a fast train system - dedicated right of way, well spaced stops. Both subjects drive to the station 2 miles away and park (15 min), the destination is 20 miles away - 30 minutes train time. Fare is $10.
For the first case - base level wage
   $10 + $2 + ($10.00 x 0.75) = $19.50 by transit
   $0 + $22.00 + ($10.00 x 1.25) = $34.50 by car

For the second case - low level professional
   $10 + $2 + ($40.00 x 0.75) = $42.00 by transit
   $0 + $22.00 + ($40.00 x 1.25) = $72.00 by car

See where the tipping point is? The plain fact shown by this type of analysis is that unless transit is time competitive with driving, the only people who will use it are those whose time is of low value.


Race, Identity

OK, I'll throw out some thoughts on the whole race, religion and Obama thing. BTW, I'm white.

When I see a black person on the street, no matter how "dark", I think "American". When I see oriental, east Indian, or hispanic, I think "immigrant", or "child of immigrant". Yep, profiling. But I live in Silicon Valley, California, and these stereotypes have a root in fact, unfortunately.

Now, when I look at that person, I notice how they're dressed. My judgement breaks along the lines of "trash" or "ordinary folks" when looking at a black person. Now, when I look at a white person, I tend to have the same type of classifications: "trash", "ordinary" or "snooty". When either opens their mouth and speaks, it further classifies them.

So, when I look at Obama, and listen, essentially I see/hear "ordinary American professional". When I hear his pastor, Rev. Wright, I hear "trash", not "ordinary American". Too bad. When I hear Rush Limbaugh or Anne Coulter, I think "trash", not "ordinary American".

Just as you can't judge all whites by Limbaugh and Coulter, we can't judge all blacks by Rev Wright. Because they aren't ordinary Americans.


Bottom Feeders

What would you think if a guy came to you and said "Hey, I've got a great idea for a business! Let's go to Vegas, drop max bet into a row of slot machines, and sue the machine for contract violation if it doesn't pay out 100:1! It's a sure thing! After all, they are supposed to pay out!"

You'd probably show him the door, at least, or request a sanity hearing if he was your investment advisor. Any sane person would.

Yet there are businesses, backed by the banks and the stock market, that do essentially that. It's called the secondary collections industry. These bottom-feeding companies buy known bad debts, and then harrass, using every legal and dubious technique in the book, and sue the original debtor - often for debts that have been re-aged or otherwise monkeyed with by a series of secondary account owners. They sue to recover the original amount, plus some farcical interest, in spite of the fact that the original debt was written off years before and that they only spend pennies on the dollar for the bad paper.

Now, 90% of the time, the debt was written off because the debtor didn't have the money to pay it! Why do these people assume that adding fees and interest will make it more likely to be paid?? Stupid, but they drive people into depression, drinking, suicide or panic attacks with their constant harassment. "Oh, it's just business" they say - the business of ruining already shaky lives.

I know someone who is going through this. A bottom feeder, LVNH, and their scum-sucking lawyers, Wolpoff and Abramson, are suing her over a long dead account - original value of less than $2000 - in full civil court. She had to do full financial disclosure (yet another humiliation) in order to have her filing fees waived by the court. Her finances already suck, and she has no work. Now she can't get any work because of the depression and anxiety. When she says to me "I want to curl up and die!", I want to commit mayhem on these bottom feeding scum. Don't say "Oh, file bankruptcy" - she can't afford the fees for that either, or for a lawyer.

Yes these scum have shareholders, and people who invest in the stock of companies like them. People are making money on other people's humiliation and misery. Great example of the American spirit ... NOT! Why don't they just invest in a betting pool on whether a person will get sick or not - oh, wait, that's the "for profit", stockholder driven health insurance industry, where the stockholder profits trump the customner's need for life and health (another rant forthcoming...)! Maybe they should all be honest and put bets on who cries out first when whipped with a cat-of-nine tails, it would be more honest!

These creeps' "business model" should be illegal - it's institutionalized gambling of the nastiest sort.


Hope, Future, and True Progressive Ideals

This country has been twisted long enough by the "every man for himself, his small-minded church, and his stock portfolio" attitude of the "movement" conservatives. They've taken our basic assumptions about what it means to be an American, and distorted them into a mean, selfish, "I've got mine, kiss my ass or do without" malaise.

Let's take a look at the real American ethic:
  • Hard Work - You get where you are going by working for it. Not by going into debt, not by giving up your basic rights in favor of some faceless, unethical, corporation, not by getting a free ride from our infrastructure - but by work a fair days work for a fair wage, contributing your effort and ingenuity to our great dream.

  • Helping Others - You help those who need a hand up, giving when they need it, helping them find when you can. You take care of those whose working life is over, through age or illness, or those who are just starting out in life.

  • Respect - You respect individuals for who they are, not who you want to force them to be. You respect the old, and the young. You respect a person's faith, without giving up yours, or selling out your reason to some snake oil salesman.

  • Stewardship - You are a steward of planet earth. You tread lightly on the earth, leaving it ready for future generations. You turn your ingenuity and creativity toward solving problems caused by the "me, me, me" movement.

  • Faith - Whatever you believe in, or nothing at all, you see that as a very personal, precious thing that should never be shoved down someone else's throat, or dragged through the mud of politics or the public square.

  • Independence - This country was founded on the principles of religious, civil, and personal independence. Independence of thought, independence of action, but respect for the independence of others. You question the dictates of those who would set themselves above you as authorities, and be ready to ask "why", rather than obeying blindly.

  • Reason - You think things through, and aren't danced around by advertisers, preachers, and others who want you to follow without question and give them your hard earned money. You apply your brains to creative solution to problems, and use the scientific method to test your ideas against reality, and refine them as needed.

  • Cooperation - You help your friends, family, neighbors, and community. You know the value of teamwork, and remember that the community barn raising is an American icon, symbolising the ability of Americans to work together toward a common good. You know that our country rose to its peak by the work of many, on infrastructure and education, and we still benefit from those thing today, and need to strengthen and maintain them for the future.

So, are there any more true American values that you can think of?