Fixing Illinois

  1. Independent Representation
  2. Independence for All
  3. Structural Budget Reforms

Illinois is broken because we have had decades of placing politics above policy. The focus has been short-term, on the next election, instead of long-term, and what is best for our state. Personal interests and wealth over the public good. A complete unwillingness to make hard choices and use their time with the people to inform and educate about the problems and what is necessary. Instead, it is all lies and attacking the other side in ads and mailings. Wasted money on unnecessary and unqualified patronage to serve as campaign staff. While it is a bipartisan problem, it might be most clearly seen in 30 years of Madigan being both speaker and leader of the Democratic party. He controls what gets voted on to ensure he can attack or defend those votes on the campaign side. He also allocates money and campaign staff, making candidates almost an accessory. While Rauner is outright buying out the Republican party to push his personal priorities over everything else, he is using loopholes selfishly maintained by Madigan to do so.

We have to do three things if we hope to fix this. First, we have to elect independents.

What I mean by independents are people who will look into our problems, work hard to educate the electorate about the system and explain what they think should be done to fix them, have open dialogue and be willing to change based on new ideas, and then propose good bills and vote independent of politics or party. For this to work, candidates have to reject typical politics. Don’t run attack ads or mailings. Otherwise, your opponent will be scared to speak publicly or make that difficult vote, for fear of an out-of-context attack. And the public gets deprived of further understanding, from multiple perspectives. It is only an engaged and informed electorate that can save any democracy, but candidates can inspire us toward our better selves.

The next two steps build off of independent candidates, and they are what those candidates should support: making it easier for more independents to get elected and responsible, structural budget reforms.

We should make it a lot easier for anybody without political connections for run for office in Illinois. More competition would make for better representation, just as it improves life in every other part of our society:

  • Getting on the ballot requires gathering a lot of signatures. That is called ballot access. Usually that means you need other people to help you do that. Let’s lower the number of signatures required but also require candidates to gather the signatures by themselves. That would both make it easier for anyone to do and make candidates more accessible to the public.
  • Move primary elections into late spring or early summer, and vote on the weekend. This would make it easier for the average candidate to meet voters and make it easier for everyone to vote.
  • Within the bounds of free speech, limit the power of big money or big organizations to affect elections. Other states do this, and we should follow their lead. We can write stricter laws and force more transparency on how money is moved around to fund campaigns or even directly influence candidates.
  • Implement what is called Ranked Choice or Instant Runoff Voting. This could also eliminate primaries completely. It is already done in many elections and involves ranking candidates based on your own personal preference for each office instead of just voting for one. When ballots are tallied, this process allows us to avoid the phenomenon of having to vote for the lesser evil.
  • We should have legislative leadership term limits, but term limits on legislators only make sense as a last ditch effort at political reform. When it seems that the system is rigged to make incumbency too powerful, this is an option. I think that is where we are. But once we can fix the other problems, they should be removed as they are undemocratic at their core. If someone wants to serve and their constituents want them to, they should be able to. This does not apply to legislative leadership term limits where the only limit is on the legislators, not the voters.

Underlying all the other issues in Illinois and of most immediate concern is the budget. We must make responsible, structural reforms to move the state forward. These will be huge and difficult compromises that require real sacrifice. Failure by the electorate to understand these issues has led to bad politics and where we are today.

  • The fact is we need more revenue in Illinois. There is a lot of waste, fraud and abuse in state government that we need to eliminate as soon as possible, but not enough to avoid the huge increase in revenue we need. That is depressing, but more money will provide for a better state in the future, less debt financing and lower taxes in other areas. We must switch to a graduated income tax in order the raise this revenue in an affordable way, and that requires a constitutional amendment.
  • Next is reform of all of our pension systems, including the one for Chicago teachers. The best example of how this should work is the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund. State law requires that local governments make the payments and a unified system eliminates overhead. This state-local split eliminates the ability for the responsible party to skip payments. The party responsible for payments is also the entity determining future demand with hiring and salary decisions. Of course, the state will continue to play a large part in funding the systems but will now do so through a reformed structure with proper incentives in place.
  • And last is education reform such that schools are both better and more equally funded throughout the state, and property taxes can be alleviated. Once we begin to treat the Chicago teacher pensions like all other teacher pensions, we must also treat their school district like all other school districts regarding funding. One formula, reformed to better account for more expensive exceptions as they arise, with more state funding for all. As it says in the state constitution. With enough money but also with every local area paying its fair share, this will also lower property taxes. Retain local control with limited testing to ensure a proper base of education for all. It will be costly but all spent appropriately on our most important resource, our children but also our future workforce and citizens to guide our democracy.

We need a vision. I wrote this as a framework for my understanding of what’s needed in state government going forward and as a way to explain to others my position on candidates. Going beyond political parties is hard, and we need firm ideas to guide us in this new territory. How to balance a compassionate worldview with the best ideas to get the world we want in a sea of corruption. This is the best I could come up with.

Real Music

“Fuck this town. I’m moving.”

This is not just about country music. Rock had the same problem in the 1980’s until SoundScan came along and forced the industry to reconsider what people really wanted to hear. It is the problem with the radio and popular music now. It is much easier to sign a few acts and use promotion to make some of them huge and cash in. It is easier to sell ads by creating stations with music or talk that appeals to a certain demographic.

But these actions are not good for society or our culture. They divide and keep us poorly informed. Commercial media is our biggest problem.

just get it out there

reading Girl With Curious Hair and very much enjoying Westward the Course of Empire Takes its Way. yet more DFW all about advertising. our culture is broken. I need to find my people. JRE fans, No Agenda fans, DFW fans. they see beyond the bullshit of this world.  JRE does it as via drugs and comedy, No Agenda guys were taught media tricks directly, and I don’t know how DFW learned to do it. Sadly, it seems part of his depression. I understand that. There is just such a sense of disconnection from others who live in a world of bullshit. How do I make money with a head like this?

Pro-market Progressive

That’s what I’m going to start calling my political philosophy. It means that I like competition in all areas of life and see the value in our economic system, but that it must serve the public interest. And it fails in a lot of ways, but the best solution is then to try to fix its shortcomings by causing the least distortion possible. Or force negative externalities back onto those who caused them. Just as the market system is built on certain artificial legal structures, we may need to help those born with an unfair disadvantage, provide new structures like the internet or other infrastructure to create a more competitive environment, or break up entities that have reduced competition in various sectors.

And in paying for public goods, we should place the burden on those best able to pay and where doing so will have the least disruptive effect on the market – the wealthy. Reduce taxes everywhere else as much as possible, excepting fees that pay for something that lacks general public value and restricting deterrence taxation to alleviating the related negative externality.

Mobile Number As Personal DNS

Your mobile number is like a domain name. You basically own it, but some central organization provides oversight of the database of numbers. They subcontract much of that management out to the carriers, but you can take the number with you when you change carriers. Just like owning a domain name and changing registrars.

Your mobile number is linked to your personal device that is almost always with you and is already used as a 2nd level of authentication.

Why not take the next step? Use your mobile number as your personal identification on the network. Merge the idea of a domain registrar and hosting company. Instead of having to create a new account, password, and giving out your email address each time you sign up for a new online service or download a new app, just give them your mobile number. That new service/app then uses the number to query your mobile number host, and you choose what information to pass over to the service/app. Eventually, your mobile number host has an app that you install, and every time it gets queried, it notifies your mobile device and you can decide what information to allow it to access.

We take back control. Our contacts become just a list of mobile numbers, and as long as we’ve been confirmed by the other person, our apps read the current info from their database in real time. Calls get intermediated unless we’ve already confirmed that number. We create competition in the mobile number host space based on security, cost, and service. Social networking, texting, and VOIP become protocols. We win.

Time to Start Writing Again

I am unemployed. I am getting in shape – running and working out everyday for months now. I am learning Ruby on Rails. I am actually building Public Patron. I am volunteering for Chuy for Mayor of Chicago when I can. I am freezing in my basement office. My daughter is learning jiu-jitsu. My dad has kidney cancer and I am visiting him nightly to help with his catheter, medicine, and feet. I am going to NOLA in April for a friend’s wedding.

Overall, I feel pretty good.

A Message from Willis Earl Beal

Followers. One immense sheep herd. Dancing, twirling, going ape-shit for the unknown dream. I can see it so clearly now. We are fooling ourselves. Necessity, simple need, has led me to this conclusion. No single collection of songs or literature can encompass or transcend it. Once again, it seems that there is an opportunity to “Do something”…but what can be done? What can be done when every aspect of modern existence is monetarily owned? When power-crazed, megalomaniacal, business men infect minds with their subliminal marketing and turn common men into thieves or vagabonds or unwitting slaves?

Drink it up. Smoke it up. Fuck it. Suck it. Tear your fellow comrades down. Listen to the steady thump of the dead beat. It is the sound of your own heart. The parade is unyielding as we march enthusiastically into oblivion. We, as the common people cannot protect ourselves against oncoming wilderness. For we have been rendered helpless by instantaneous gratification. Our politics, religion, music, art, communication & necessary skills have been pre-selected. We must stay in-between the lines that have been painted by the state, by the taste makers, by the media etc. We must go through the proper channels to convey messages, to get a companion, to be accepted. Even I, who took a detour, have ended up here, on some kind of main road. If not, we are excised, cut off, turned into mad men. Even modern anarchy has become a stale joke. Love is for sale.

– from The Book of Nobody

What’s Wrong with the NSA (from 1975)

In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air. Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left such is the capability to monitor everything—telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.

If this government ever became a tyrant, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology.

I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.

– Senator Frank Church on NBC’s “Meet the Press” (August 17, 1975)


Just watched the documentary on The Pirate Bay, and it seemed amazingly honest. Different people doing it for different reasons, and the ability to get something going on the web does not translate to the ability to build an organization outside of the network. They deserve the full support of those who believe in the open internet, and they should inspire all of us in this area.

All media should be freely available to everyone, now that the distribution cost is so low (even for long-form HD video thanks to bit-torrent). Copyright should be refined to its intended purpose, to encourage creation. Copyright is an extremely delicate subject because everything new is just a remix of previous ideas, yet limited copyright does encourage risk-taking. I see the former argument as much stronger than the latter.

We need to take all of this further into the cultural dimension, along the lines of what is hinted at in the documentary. A certain understanding of the world as transmitted in most movies and television, is the voice of a very limited group of people and it dominates our culture. This was the result of the limited previously available distribution methods, and the business model that grew up to accommodate it. The internet and related technologies mean that we can support many more voices and have a more democratized culture where all ideas have the chance to achieve culture dominance. To accommodate the new distribution, we need something better than a business model, an alternative way to support media culture.

And remind me never to use IRL ever again.

Pedestrian Verse

A new Frightened Rabbit album came out today. By chance, I was looking them up and happened upon that fact this afternoon. In a perfect world, I could go to a local “record” store and buy a beautiful booklet with a download code for the album in FLAC format. Maybe for $5. But back to reality, and I can’t buy it in FLAC anywhere on the web. An MP3 version can be had for $10 from Amazon. Pretty sure they don’t have the CD at the local big box, especially for much less than $20. Anything I can do illegally, should at least have a