X-Tra Rant Taking Myself Way Too Seriously Since 1999


[Politics, Weather] The Rise & (Potential) Fall of the Old River Control Structure

I'm going to attempt, at least every other day, to pick an item I've shared via my Google Reader account and post about it here. Get me back in the habit and maybe not make me solely reliant on annoying baby posts.

Today's link: America's Achilles' heel: the Mississippi River's Old River Control Structure by Dr. Jeff Masters at WeatherUnderground.

America has an Achilles' heel. It lies on a quiet, unpopulated stretch of the Mississippi River in Louisiana, a few miles east of the tiny town of Simmesport. Rising up from the flat, wooded west flood plain of the Mississippi River tower four massive concrete and steel structures that would make a Pharaoh envious--the Army Corps' of Engineers greatest work, the billion-dollar Old River Control Structure. This marvel of modern civil engineering has, for fifty years, done what many thought impossible--impose man's will on the Mississippi River

It's an absolutely fascinating read about one of the greatest civil engineering feats in the modern world. Over thousands of years, the Mississippi River has changed it's final course to the Gulf of Mexico multiple times. To the native peoples of North America, this wasn't an issue - but once the Europeans arrived and started setting up ports and cities and businesses where Big Muddy meets the Gulf, the location of the end of the largest river system in North America became very, very important.

From an essay by John McPhee, The Control Of Nature, excerpted by Dr. Masters

The Mississippi's main channel of three thousand years ago is now the quiet water of Bayou Teche, which mimics the shape of the Mississippi. Along Bayou Teche, on the high ground of ancient natural levees, are Jeanerette, Breaux Bridge, Broussard, Olivier--arcuate strings of Cajun towns. Eight hundred years before the birth of Christ, the channel was captured from the east. It shifted abruptly and flowed in that direction for about a thousand years. In the second century a.d., it was captured again, and taken south, by the now unprepossessing Bayou Lafourche, which, by the year 1000, was losing its hegemony to the river's present course, through the region that would be known as Plaquemines. By the nineteen-fifties, the Mississippi River had advanced so far past New Orleans and out into the Gulf that it was about to shift again, and its offspring Atchafalaya was ready to receive it.

In the late 1950's the Army Corps of Engineers stepped in and built what was to become the Old River Control Structure. This series of dams and levees and control gates was to ensure that the Mississippi River would go where WE want it to go - right through New Orleans and the ports that are so valuable to our economy. South Louisiana is the busiest port in the United States, and currently sits 12th busiest in the world. Now... move the Mississippi away from the ports... How do we get all those goods coming in and out of the United States through that port to where they need to be?

Dr. Masters' post has fascinating information about how this structure came to be, the great threat it faced from a flood in 1973 and the possibly greater threat it faces today with the record flooding along the Mississippi Basin.  It's definitely worth a read.

In my mind, where this intersects with politics is the greater problem we have as a country with our infrastructure. Our country is built on grand projects - grand OLD projects. Our power system, our highway and interstate system, our flood prevention system and the control if the Mississippi River and continued existence of its ports. All projects that are decades old. With a culture in this country that the government spending money at all (except on the military) is 'wasteful' at best or 'socialism' at worst nothing has been done to keep our infrastructure sound, let alone replace and modernize it with new technologies.

The Great Recession of 2007 -2009 was a prime opportunity to not only put much needed work and money into our infrastructure but to boost our economy at the same time. We had a chance to do a major stimulus package not built around even more tax cuts and a few projects here and there, but a package built around rebuilding the bones of the nation. A stimulus that would have been fully directed towards fixing roads, bridges, dams, power transmission systems, power generation plants and the like would have put tens or hundreds of thousands of Americans to work, and that work would have had a long lived impact on our nation's economy. In addition to rebuilding was is old or out of date, we also could have focused on building a new infrastructure for the 21st century - a national broadband backbone to not only get internet quality and speeds higher where it already exists, but to get broadband internet into communities ignored by the likes of AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and the like.

Instead we get whines about socialism, Randian utopia fantasies and a lukewarm response that only softened the landing of a recession without giving us a long term boost from the money spent.

Next time a bridge collapses, a levee breaks or  some other infrastructure disaster strikes... think about the opportunity we had and wasted because some people are so afraid of taxes that they will mortgage their future so as not to pay them.


John McCain = Matthew Lesko

Every time I hear McCain talk about how he wants to cut "everyone's" taxes (although, like a good Republican, a big majority of his cuts go to the very wealthy), I keep imagining him as Matthew Lesko, running a cheesy informercial about "Free Money!!!!!!" and how if you vote for him you can "get money for your invennnnnntion!!"

Essentially, this is "Trickle Down" Economics: Yell and holler about how everyone's gonna get money, how the government can lower taxes (and therefore its available funds) and still spend more on wars and giveaways to corporations and everyone will be swimming in money as soon as it trickles down. And somehow we're supposed to believe this won't bankrupt our government.

You'd think after years of the GOP pushing this theory onto us under Reagan/Bush I and now 8 years of Bush II trickle down, we might have learned. Especially compared to the balanced budgets under Clinton who raised taxes only on the very wealthy (the same budgets that Conservatives swore when they were passed would cause economic collapse. Economics: You Fail It.)

I would pay good money to see John McCain wear a suit like this, though.


My Run-in With A Wingnut

So on my way to work yesterday, I'm at a stoplight and there's some jackass in a beat up red pickup who has been swerving and tailgating me for a good chunk of Emerson Ave. My windows are down as it was a nice morning and I hear the guy driving the truck yell something about "terrorist!!!" and then he throws his empty cigarette pack onto the windshield of my car.

Stay classy, McCain supporters. At least he didn't yell "kill him!".  Small favors and all.


Drinking Liberally Indy debate party tonight

Drinking Liberally: Indy debate watching party
Spencer's Stadium Tavern
802 S. West St. (as corner of West & McCarty)

Debate starts at 9, well have it on the big screen. See you there!


Welcome baaack, to that same old place that you laughed about

Someone shoot me. I just made a "Welcome Back Kotter" reference.


First up, I'll be starting a new job in a week and a half. Full time performance testing on n-teir web architecture at a company here in Indianapolis. It's a HELL of an opportunity to learn alot of exciting technologies. The fat pay increase doesn't hurt either. It was just time to move on from my job of nearly 7 years (it's been that long? Cheezus.) to an opportunity that will give me some career growth and advancement. Scary, but awesome.


I've got a heckuva special lady. She pretty much rocks my socks clean off. Living with her now in Irvington (a neighborhood here in Indy) in a rental house. 3 bedrooms, full (unfinished) basement, wood floors,yard, the works. Irvington is a fantastic, walkable neighborhood. Love living there and we really hope to buy a house in a year or so. We're hoping to have a party of some sort relatively soon. We're even doing Farm Fresh Delivery now and have received some amazing food, including some brats from Moody's that were out of this world.


I really hope to do some more political blogging in the next few weeks up to the election. but short version? It's hard not to be really optimistic right now. Obama is kicking ass, the polls look amazing and the statistical projections at 538 are not only technically very cool but are (at least right now) projecting an epic ass kicking. Even Indiana is close!!!

John McCain has decended so far into the gutter and his remaining loyalists that show up at rallies are truly disturbing people (yelling "kill him!", "terrorist!" and "he's a Muslim" etc).  A President Obama is goign to face soem very stiff challenges comign into office, but I'd rather has his intelligence, reason and measured calm to McCain's irrational, emotionally charged and dangerousbehavior in the White House.

Locally, it doesn't look good for JLT to unseat Mitch Daniels. I'm on record as being very unimpressed by JLT's campaign. I'm not even sure I really want to vote for her. I certainly can't vote for Daniels. Chris pretty much sums up my feelings about the decision perfectly, so I'll just let you read that. At this point I'm not really sure who I am going to vote for. I can't vote for the Libertarian, as not only are Libertarians generally a little delusional, but this one is a pro-life libertarian. Wrap your head around that. Tempted to write in Schellinger for the hell of it.

Other than Governor, Indiana has a chance to send at least one more Dem to congress. The 3rd around Ft. Fun is apparently close, and even Burton and Pence are fighting off strong challenges. if Obama's ground game really kicks in and alot of the new voters vote straight ticket, who knows what could happen? Also, now that I'm in Irvington I get to vote for John Barnes for State Rep. He'll be a great state rep. ALso pulling for Mary Ann Sullivan to unseat John "The Rod' Elrod to join Barnes in the State House. She came to a couple Drinking Liberally nights and I was incredibly impressed with her.

That's a good quick and dirty summary of things right now. Here's hoping I can get back on the blogging horse again.


Jill Long Thompson Is RUnning A Shitty Campaign

I'm a Democrat. (Duh!) I want to get Mitch Daniels out of the Governor's Mansion very badly (privatizing everything left and right, killing local government budgets for the sake of state budgets are the big reasons). But how the FUCK am I supposed to vote for a Democrat when all that Dem does is pander to the fucking Republicans?

She has proposed returning the state’s current surplus to taxpayers by suspending the state sales tax on gasoline.

“I’m glad that he finally responded to my repeated calls for tax relief for Hoosiers,” Long Thompson said. “But I think Hoosier families in many communities are economically stretched now, and the governor has the authority to suspend collecting the Indiana state sales tax on gasoline, and that would give immediate relief.”

Long Thompson said that when she was in Washington, she never voted for legislation that included a new tax or a tax increase. Daniels, she said, has sought multiple tax increases in his four years as governor.

You're STILL on this gas tax holiday bullshit? No economist of any skill thinks this is a good idea. Most of that will end up going to the oil companies themselves at worst, or at best you'll save maybe enough to pay for half a tank of gas. WOOHOOO!!! In the meantime, money that could be spend fixing roads and enhancing our transportation infrastructure is going to be pissed away - at a time where even the FEDERAL road budget is falling short. All so you, JLT, can say "I'm cutting taxes! Weeeeeee!!!"

The Pander Bear is so excited to see you, Jill!

You can't out tax-cut Republicans. And how about this - how about talking about WHY we have this surplus. It's not because of sound fiscal management. It's because Mitch Daniels has FUCKED cities, towns and counties into taking up more of the burden. So all those local services people love (and love to bitch about paying for but don't want them to go away) are being slashed left and right. Schools are being starved. All so Mitch Fucking Daniels can say we have a "surplus". AND YOU"RE TRYING TO OUT FISCALLY MISMANAGE THIS JACKASS?

Way to go JLT, you're actually making me want to NOT VOTE at all for the Governor's race. I can't vote for either of you dipshits. You can't sell change when you're trying to be more Mitch Daniels than Mitch Daniels.  And the moment I hear you pander to the idiots who hate DST I'm going to have a fucking stroke...


Deconstructing Newt

Okay, so Newt Gingrich is right on one count, his party is fucking doomed right now. But then he tries to come up with another magic plan for change. Because his "Contract With America" was implemented so well.

1. Repeal the gas tax for the summer, and pay for the repeal by cutting domestic discretionary spending

Stupid and bad. Every economist says this is at best just a stupid idea, at worst a very very bad idea that will end up helping the oil companies.

2. Redirect the oil being put into the national petroleum reserve onto the open market.

Stupid and unhelpful. Really, a couple cents a gallon? A short term fix? This does nothing.

3. Introduce a "more energy at lower cost with less environmental damage and greater national security bill" as a replacement for the Warner-Lieberman "tax and trade" bill

I also want to introduce a "more ponies at lower cost with more rainbows and greater national security bill." What does this even mean?

4. Establish an earmark moratorium for one year and pledge to uphold the presidential veto of bills with earmarks through the end of 2009.

Ahhh the great McCain Earmark Gambit, that keeps slowly getting rolled back as he is challenged on exactly what earmarks he'd stop with a complete moratorium.

5. Overhaul the census and cut its budget radically.

Right. because the Census is a HUGE part of our budget. Man, if only we could radically cut the census we could get that new Ponies and Rainbows bill funded!!!

6. Implement a space-based, GPS-style air traffic control system.

Weeeee!!! Space!!! Sounds great, but want to hear an expert's take on this.  Also, like #5, really how significant is this in the scope of the entire budget? Mor ethan likely a drop in the bucket.

7. Declare English the official language of government.

Ahhh Newt, you just gotta pander to the "They Took Our Jeeerrrrrrrrrbs" crowd, eh? Is this really an issue that will save the GOP when the economy, the war and health care are the top issues? Really?

Here comes the Pander Bear!!!

8. Protect the workers' right to a secret ballot. The vast majority (around 81%) of Americans believe that American workers have a right to have a secret ballot election before they are forced to join a union.

Ahhhh but a significant minority of Americans are in a job with unions, so looking at a poll of all Americans about the right to unionize is like asking all Americans about a ballot initiative in Alaska. It doesn't really matter.

I got you a Cherry Picker, Newt. I hope you like it

9. Remind Americans that judges matter.

We've heard this one for years. It's really helping now, eh? Pandering to little wedge issues won't save you now.


Well, that was fun.


Indiana Primary Thoughts [Updated]

Alright so I should be sleeping but i want to get these thoughts out before sleep chases them off into crazy Jason dream land.

  • Lake county still has more to report, there are a couple precincts left in Marion and Monroe counties as well. FiveThirtyEight is projecting a Hillary win by 0.9% as of the latest update on the thread there. I was thinking 5% and 2-3 delegate win for Hillary so I will be thrilled by this.
  • I'm predicting, based on nothing at all, a 1.5%, 1 delegate Hillary win. Maybe 2 delegates depending on how the CDs break down. Again, I'm thrilled with this considering that Obama kicked her ass in North Carolina and the end result is making up the popular vote ground from Pennsylvania and gaining even more ground in the pledged delegates (which, dear CNN, is what is really important)
  • CNN needs to quit with the Lake County conspiracy mongering. I learned from a former state election director that Lake County is one of the counties that uses a consolidated county ballot counting system, rather than the precinct-by-precinct system used in most counties (and in Marion county). This, combined with the large number of absentee ballots (11,000+) is causing the late returns. not some anti-Hillary conspiracy.
  • Sadly but not surprisingly, David Orentlicher did not win his bid for the nomination in the 7th CD. David O. would have instantly become one of the smartest congressmen in the country and a great progressive voice. I hope he gets back into the political ring soon (maybe run for Mayor if Indianapolis against Mayor Chinatowns in 2011? I would pay an admission fee to see a debate between those two).
  • No one seems to be mentioning the insanely close race for the Democratic nominee to take on Governor Mitch "Mitchy Rich" Daniels. Jim Schellinger is the party approved, powers that be candidate. Jill Long Thompson is the 'outsider.' Currently (as of the latest results on wthr.com at 12:56am) Schellinger is up by 609 votes with 4967 of 5230 precincts reporting. So since when is the party approved, Dan Parker/Evan Bayh approved candidate eeking out a potential narrow victory an upset? When your state party chairman is the inept Evan Bayh toadie Dan Parker who can only get Schellinger's name ID up to 50% in the weeks before the election. As much as I hate to agree with Bayh/Parker on anything, I hope Schellinger pulls this off. If I want to vote for a candidate who will pander with ridiculous gas tax holidays and engage in property tax demagoguery I'll vote for a Republican.
  • If anything came of tonight's result in Indiana, its that Evan Bayh's endorsement means very little when it comes to Obama vs. Hillary and that he will not get tapped as the VP. If Bayh can only deliver a tiny victory that is essentially a tie, he's not the force among state Democrats that has been assumed by some. I am not shedding any tears over this.
  • (as of 99.49% of Marion County precincts reporting) And finally, turnout was insane. 35.32% turnout of all registered voters in Marion County. Unfortunately the Indygov.org website does not list registered voters by party, but the GOP only got 45,667 ballots cast to the Dems' 182,252. Turnout among Democrats HAS to have been well above the 50% of registered voters mark. This is awesome news for November.
  • Finally finally, thanks to everyone who came out to Drinking Liberally. We had a really good crowd and it was a great time. Thanks also to Spencer and Dustin, who always treat us great at Spencer's Stadium Tavern (802 S. West Street. Stop in and have a few beers. it's a fantastic place)


  • Looks like JLT pulled it out with the same white votes that came in for Hillary from Crown Point and such. As a friend of a friend said: "I blame Crown Point".  JLT will get trounced by Daniels. There goes that opportunity. Heckuva job, Dan Parker.
  • I still haven't seen the delegate counts out of Indiana. Nothing official anyway. This is what matters, not the popular vote.  Will update here when I see it.
  • Chris Bowers has the quote of the night:

So, please correct me if I am missing something, but if a shift of 4-5% and two or three delegates in Indiana and North Carolina is enough to end the Democratic nomination, then why didn't anyone frakking tell us that the campaign was so close to ending? Why was there this massive kabuki theater pretending that it was still a close campaign where Clinton had a legitimate chance at winning? Why were Clinton's attacks on Obama repeated again, and again, and again, without anyone mentioning that Clinton was a desperate candidate hanging by a thread who would probably say anything in order to stay afloat?

The reason is simple: the established media was never covering the Democratic nomination campaign. They were, instead, covering some form of kabuki theater where reality is ignored and liberals are ritually gutted on the public stage for the pleasure of elite, rich, white, male pundits who like to pretend they know what is in the mind of the "common man" or some other formulation that is equally rustic, offensive and laughable. That is all that we have been watching since the Wisconsin primary, since the delegates have not improved for Clinton since the Wisconsin primary (and have actually gotten much worse, if you include the supers). If we had been watching something else, then tonight would not be the end of the campaign, because nothing really changed tonight. If this is the end, then the last two and a half months have been a Clinton-fueled fairy tale, which is basically a white-hot lie about the nomination campaign. Puns intended in the previous sentence.


Building the (Light-)Railroads

Well when I first read this link courtesy of CJ, I was thrown for a loop. Mayor "Chinatowns" Ballard supporting mass transit and potential taxes to make it happen? It was as if my world had been turned upside down. Bit then it all became clear at Drinking Liberally: Indianapolis last night...

Mayor Chinatowns is going to import low wage Chinese workers to build our light rail system, then put them into an area of the city so that we can have our very own Chinatowns!! Two birds, one stone bitches! Now thems The Ballard Rules!

Photos From Teh Futar!!

Photo Circa 2010: Chinese workers build the light rail line in Indianapolis.

Photo Circa 2017: Indianapolis Chinatowns, Morris & West Streets

(In all seriousness, I really do hope he is behind light and regional rail for Indianapolis. We need it badly. And thanks to Nick for the rail-chinatown connection)


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