Riverview Corridor

How is a successful transit project designed and implemented? In the past I’ve complained bitterly about a St Paul project that went badly and praised one that seemed to be going well. The difference? Primarily, it’s about engaging the public and making sure that everything is accounted for.

Today I am a representative of the Fort Road Federation on the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) for the Riverview Corridor. In the interest of practicing what I preach, here is a full disclosure of what we will do and how I am approaching it. I value your comments, regardless of whether you live in St Paul or somewhere else – everyone has something to add to big, expensive projects like this.

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The Time of The Doctor

If you are a fan of the BBC Series Doctor Who, you are probably enjoying the eighth season since the reboot, now starring Peter Capaldi as The Doctor. If you aren’t, I’d rather you didn’t read this piece, since you may want to alert the authorities about my mental stability.

This is a work of fandom. I’ve been a fan of the show since 1978 and have passed this affliction, er, passion, on to my kids now.

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Paralyzed

“It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”
– Franklin Delano Roosevelt

One of the key features of the time we live in is paralysis.  Uncertainty creates risk aversion, since risk is much more difficult to calculate.   After a few years living like this and people start to live day to day.  It eventually becomes “survival mode” when tomorrow becomes very difficult to imagine.  The result is nothing – and that often comes even when one person is calling the shots, let alone a system based on consensus among many.

The evidence is all around us that something unusual is happening.  Change is coming faster and in ways that are not often talked about adequately.  The economy is not simply recovering the way it has after any other post-war recession.  What should we do?  FDR had it right – try something and see if it works.  If that goes against every instinct you have right now, you’re not alone.  But let’s see if we can convince you that there are, in fact, some things that point to very different actions than we’re all used to.
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Thanksgiving and Dia de la Raza

October is a good month for holidays in North America.  At the end of the month we have the collision of the Celtic Samhain with the Aztec / Spanish Dia de los Muertos which swirled into Halloween.  But in the middle is the difficult holiday, the one where we celebrate the connection of this continent with the rest of the world.  And the three brother nations of this continent have their own ways of marking it.  This is a repeat from 2011, updated.

To our North, in Canada, the first Monday after October 12th is  Thanksgiving, this year on the 13th.  To our South, in Mexico, the 12th is  Dia de la Raza.  Our brother nations here in North America have found things to celebrate in the early days of Autumn, but here in the USofA we have nothing but the pseudo-holiday Columbus Day – something we’ve tossed over our shoulders and given up on.

This may be a measure of our ability to get anything together.

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HeForShe

What is “feminism”? According to the dictionary, it is “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities,” a definition cited in Emma Watson’s inspiring “HeForShespeech at the UN. Yet even as she spoke it, she noted that it is often not applied in this way in public discussion. If that isn’t he definition, what is? The only sensible argument is that those who support feminism get to decide.

I am a feminist. I support the work that Emma Watson and so many others are doing to guarantee equal rights and opportunities for women all around the world, and I embrace that definition. Yet it remains obvious that there is so much left to be done and so much to consider we can’t let it go at something this simple.

Watson, speaking for HeForShe, was speaking directly to me, as a man, to garner my support for women. I’d like to echo this, but also to refine and elaborate on what it means to me as a man.

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Hindsight Conspiracies

As US bombing runs extend across Iraq, and now into Syria, many people in the US have started to worry about our open-ended commitment to be the policeman of the world. The powerful counter argument is that ISIL is so dangerous it must be wiped out. Where did this threat come from?

If you believe one conspiracy theory popular in the Middle East, it’s a creation of the US – for the purpose of doing just what we’re doing now.

While this comes from a region of many conspiracy theories, hatched by governments like Iran with strong propaganda needs, it’s actually a common type of conspiracy theory. It comes from looking at the result of a world event and then working backwards to determine that the outcome must have been planned by nefarious forces. Such “Hindsight Conspiracies” are part of the news cycle these days – despite almost always being pathetically wrong.

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What is a “Nation”?

Much to the dismay of many people of Scottish ancestry around the world, a new nation was not created last Thursday. The people of Scotland, which is to say those who would have to live with the consequences of any action, narrowly decided to stay with the UK. In the lead-up to the election, when it looked like it might go the other way, the leaders of all the parties of the UK promised that Scotland would have more power to decide its own fate and that seemed to be good enough.

But a not-independent Scotland is just one of the many complications found within the UK and in many nations around the world. Simultaneously, an agreement was made in Ukraine to give more autonomy to the Russian speaking regions in an as yet undescribed power sharing arrangement if only everyone would stop shooting. And in Iraq that central government appears powerless as the autonomous Kurdish region uses its own army, the Peshmerga, to battle ISIL with help from many nations.

What, indeed, is a nation? The short answer is: whatever it needs to be.

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