“RIP VAN” POSNER – SIX YEARS LATER THE JUDGE WAKES UP

Judge Posner has stunned the legal community with a rare judicial mea culpa: an admittance that he was asleep at the wheel six years ago when he wrote that he really thought voter fraud was an okay reason to have voter ID in Indiana even though little to no evidence was provided about actual fraud.  He was also provided with the argument that the voter ID could be the basis of voter suppression, which he also forthwith dismissed.

Indiana’s Republicans have long been working on various “disparate impact” voter registration and voter ID laws, which appear to be plausible but, in reality, are aimed at suppressing voting access by minorities and those who typically vote Democratic.  While they are shrewd enough not to flat out target a specific group – imagine the stink that would raise – they have fabricated laws that in their application have a disparate impact on certain groups.

In conjunction with Republican legislative efforts, then-Governor Daniels – under the guise of “efficiency” – made sure to slash the number of Bureau of Motor Vehicle locations where voter IDs could be procured.  Or the locations were moved from democratic strongholds to make access more difficult. Thus, the Republicans used a two-prong drive to suppress as many Democratically leaning voters as possible:  Impose an ID requirement, and then close or relocate those very offices where the IDs could be obtained.

Allen County has three BMV locations.  Two are in Fort Wayne – Pine Valley and Waynedale – with a third in New Haven.   The Waynedale location replaced the branch once located at Southgate Plaza, which served an area in the predominantly democratic 5th and 6th districts with a heavy minority concentration of African-American and Hispanic populations.

The following maps show the areas of minority concentration.  The numbers in the boxes are not related to the issue of minority population.

2010 African-American population concentrations

2010 African-American population concentrations

The darker the shade of blue the higher the African-American population.  The situation is similar for the Hispanic population.

2010 Hispanic population concentration

2010 Hispanic population concentration

Again, the darker the shade of green, the higher the concentration of the Hispanic population.

Finally, here is a map that shows the 5th and 6th districts showing the boundaries.  The relocated Southgate branch now resides in the 4th district – a Republican held city council seat.  Both the 5th and 6th districts are represented by Democrats.

City Council - 5th and 6th districts.

City Council – 5th and 6th districts.

So, while it is a stunning admittance from Judge Posner that he finally woke from his six-year sleep, it is not a case of “better late than never.”  His “ah-ha” moment is too little too late.

Advertisements
Posted in Civil Rights, Constitutional Issues, Indiana, Judges, Judicial System, Politics, Rights and Liberties, U.S. Constitution, Voter Suppression, Voting

WHO PARTICIPATES?

“We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.”

Thomas Jefferson  (1743 – 1826)

3rd president of United States

Quote | Posted on by

STUTZMAN WANTS RESPECT FOR THE “TEAPUBLICANS” BUT REFUSES TO RESPECT THE CONSTITUTION

Stutzman, Indiana’s Third District House Representative, has forgotten his Constitutional underpinnings – or he has chosen to simply ignore them.  As he whines about the TeaPublicans needing some measure of “respect”, he thoroughly trounces the Constitution which he so passionately supports – or so he says.

The Congress – not the president – is responsible for establishing revenue sources and for appropriating and designating funds for the budget.  The president sends a tentative budget to the House.  The House sifts through it, makes changes, and then sends it to the Senate.  The Senate marks it up as well, and the disagreements go to a conference committee where differences are resolved.  When done, it is sent to the President for his approval or rejection.

John Dean, former Nixon cohort in crime, has over the years come to pretty much despise Republicans.  He writes as an analyst for Verdict, which is a component of Justia, and he writes some very good pieces.  Given my dislike of anything Nixon and pretty much all things Republican nowadays, I almost ignored reading an excellent piece he wrote for Justia about the use of extortion by the Republicans to get their way when they cannot do so legitimately.

According to Dean’s premises,  the Republicans’ strategy is

(1) patently unconstitutional and unconscionable;
(2) in violation of the Congressional Oath of Office; and
(3) unethical and unseemly.

The United States Constitution establishes a government which was intended to function 24/7, 365 days a year.  No where in the Constitution can be found a provision for shutting down the government because some individuals are unhappy.  Laws are passed, and they take effect.  Provisions are in place to change that through the legitimate process established in the Constitution – not by some irresponsible process found in the minds of TeaPublicans.

Stutzman took an Oath to uphold the Constitution and its laws and to faithfully discharge his duties, yet he conspired with other Republicans to violate that Oath by refusing to fund the government and to ignore his obligation to discharge his duties.  Stutzman mouths the virtue of respect yet refuses to actually follow his own words.

Stutzman is a Cruz clone, and, in voting to shut down the government, he has decided that his own idea of Constitutional interpretation is superior to the actual words and intent of the Founders.  His foot-in-mouth moment that has now become a “shot heard ’round the world” demonstrates his idea of respect:  he wants respect for himself but won’t give it for the very government created by the Constitution, which he swore to uphold.

 

 

 

Our Constitution calls for an ongoing and perpetual government unless modified under the amendment process set forth in Article V of the Constitution or by revolution.  Refusal to fund the government, which under law shuts it down, because a small recalcitrant group of Republican Party office holders are unwilling to fulfill their basic responsibilities for maintaining a functioning government, is a form of unconstitutional insurrection. – See more at: http://verdict.justia.com/2013/10/04/the-legality-of-government-by-extortion-as-we-say-or-we-shut-it-down#sthash.YBZALjvc.dpuf
The Republicans’ strategy for imposing their Party’s minority will on the majority by refusing to fund a law, or to keep the entire government functioning is (1) patently unconstitutional and unconscionable; (2) in violation of the Congressional Oath of Office; (3) unethical and unseemly; and yet, (4) there is no legal action that anyone in the other branches can pursue to end this shameful conduct. – See more at: http://verdict.justia.com/2013/10/04/the-legality-of-government-by-extortion-as-we-say-or-we-shut-it-down#sthash.YBZALjvc.dpuf
Posted in Barack Obama, Marlin Stutzman, Politics, Republicans, U.S. Constitution | Tagged , , , , ,

LOSING OUR RIGHTS – TAKING OUR EYES OFF THE STATE “BALL”

Federal elections are important, but, in our focus on and zeal in maintaining our elected advantage at the federal level, Democrats appear to have taken their eyes off the real seat of power – the states and their elected officials – governorships and legislative control.

Federal officials and their policies can have devastating effects on state and local matters, but it is at the state level that more and more laws that negatively impact voting, women’s reproductive rights, gun control, same-sex marriage, education, and other social issues are slowly squeezing the life from the rights for which many have fought decades to secure.

Like a giant anaconda, the Republicans have slithered in, honed in on their targets, and focused on the “big squeeze” by implementing legislation that is having devastating effects across this country – all at the state level.

For the first time since 1964, our Indiana General Assembly has super-majorities in both chambers. And, they aren’t Democratic super-majorities.  The House Republicans have a 69-31 super-majority, and the Senate Republicans have a 37-13 super-majority (which it has had for years).  Couple that with a Republican-controlled governorship, and the picture becomes stark and bleak.

But, Indiana isn’t the only state marching backward to the beat of a bygone drummer. State legislatures are evenly divided as to party control in their chambers with one or the other chamber in the opposite party’s control – 25 and 25.

Governorships are now tilted to a Republican advantage – 30 to 19.  Our governor – and I use that word loosely – is a fundamentalist conservative Christian TeaPublican.  Say that in one agonizing breath.  Worse yet, understand the agony created by the knowledge that comes with recognizing what he intends to do to Indiana. Daniels was a disaster, but Pence is a catastrophe.

One-party control – both chambers and the governor – exists in 37 states – by Republicans in 24 states and by Democrats in only 13 states.  And, the coup de gras is the increase in legislative super-majorities by Republicans.  Republicans also hold that advantage with 15 states in their complete legislative grasp to only five states for Democrats.

Parties with super-majorities in control are able to pass legislation without even needing the other party to do session business.  The “quorum” to do business exists without counting the opposite party’s members.

We must re-focus at the state level to re-take and re-shape our policies once again to focus on all citizens – not just those with an ideology that views social programs as undeserved government giveaways, our hard-won Constitutional rights as bothersome antiquities, and the power and the money to buy who and what they want.

Indiana is a state known for its love of basketball, but, sadly, we took our eyes off the political “basketball” and are now losing rights with each legislative session. Indiana Democrats need three seats in the House and four seats in the Senate to regain control of that ball and put it back in our court – at least as to stopping the super-majorities. It is a start, but we have a long way to go to become a legislatively relevant party in our state once again.

It is frightening to know that our rights can be erased or diminished simply by controlling the governorships and the legislatures – not at the federal level but at our own state level. We have already seen the impotence of Congress and the bias of the United States Supreme Court.  It is up to us at our state levels to once again place our eyes on the ball – and then not give it up.

 

Posted in Politics

WHEN IS A FARMER NOT A FARMER? ASK MARLIN!

Exactly how long is a person entitled to claim the moniker of “farmer.”  Does farming apply generically in that once a farmer always a farmer even if the person only obligatorily climbs the steps into a tractor or combine cab for a photo op?  Or does it mean that someone actually sits his or her backside on a combine, tractor, or other piece of farm equipment on a daily basis?  Plowing, planting, and harvesting? Milking, caring for livestock, etc.?

Stutzman continues to label himself currently as farming 4,000 acres with his father, Albert.  So, if Stutzman is farming, how is he representing the Third District in Washington?  Or if he is representing – albeit inadequately – the Third District, how is he farming?  What Stutzman is doing is using his tie to a long ago effort at farming to display a public persona.

Case IH

And, in doing so, he dishonors the profession of farming.  He is no longer a farmer. He is a part of the D.C. establishment which has a dismal approval rate.  You can’t have it both ways, Marlin.

Posted in Agriculture and Food Production, Marlin Stutzman | Tagged , , , , , | 11 Comments

STATE BOULEVARD AND BROOKVIEW – SAVING HISTORY FROM DESTRUCTION

 

I oppose the State Boulevard widening project; I thought it would be best to get that out front.  However, let me say I have supported City projects on other occasions.  I was an enthusiastic supporter of the Harrison Square project.  I currently support the Around the Square Plan – at least as released in its preliminary plans that have been viewable by the public.

As President of the West Central Neighborhood Association, I supported the demolition of two historical homes located on West Washington Boulevard – a main thoroughfare heading west out of Fort Wayne – with plans to construct two new homes on the empty lots left by the razed homes.   The two homes had been abandoned for years and were virtually beyond salvation.  Two other companion homes to the west were to be salvaged and renovated.  In West Central, we deem demolition as a last resort, but the homes were demolished so the City could accomplish a much-needed renovation of 50% of a deteriorated block in West Central.

But projects must make sense, and they must be necessary, and they must be based on public concerns and input – not arrogantly garnered after the fact but gathered in the initial planning stages of the process.  The State Boulevard project fails on all counts.  In order to understand what is happening to our neighborhoods through the City’s plan to slice and dice them into quadrants and thruways, a little background and history is required.

METROPOLITAN PLANNING ORGANIZATIONS (MPOs)

Regional and area transportation plans are created by entities called “Metropolitan Planning Organizations” (MPOs).  These MPOs are federally mandated and federally funded under the 1962 Federal Aid Highway Act.  Statewide and metropolitan transportation planning processes are governed by Federal law, and applicable state and local laws are required if Federal highway or transit funds are used for transportation investments.  While this all sounds neat and tidy, the major flaw in this entire scenario is that Metropolitan Planning Organizations operate virtually free of public scrutiny and input.

In our local area, the Northeast Indiana Regional Coordinating Council – NIRCC for short – is the entity that decides for the most part just what roads, highways, intersections, and other infrastructure repairs go where, when, and how.  And they get to decide how a road is labeled, which makes a tremendous impact on what happens to the road.  Is it an arterial – major or minor?  Is it a boulevard? Is it a local road?  All left up to the regional authority with no input from the neighborhoods through which these streets run.  The designation impacts what can happen to an urban street such as State Boulevard.

Most citizens have no idea of the power and influence of NIRCC.  Plans are made 20-30 years in advance with cursory and obligatory public open houses after the preliminary plans have been drafted.  Even then the plans are mere lists of projects with codes that indicate the stage and funding source – no detailed explanations of impacts on neighborhoods or areas.  Simply, “here it is whether you like it or not.”  The newest draft plans can be found at NIRCC under current news.

Despite the fact that 20-30 years is at least a generation and paradigms and philosophies change, NIRCC and the City still advance plans made decades earlier and are pretty much unwilling to take another look based on newer paradigms and philosophies.

REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL – 2007

In 2007, a Request for Proposal (RFP) was published by the City.  The RFP was for a five-lane expressway through the Brookview Neighborhood.  The plans and design for the five-lanes were created probably in the early years of the Richards administration.  The RFP was done before public input was sought.  The City and its engineers had already planned the concept, and, they determined they were not going to change it.

In February 2009, City Council was presented with the proposal to hire a firm to develop the plans.  A contract for approximately $950,000 was approved for engineering services only – nothing further.  Thus, as of today, the only item that has been approved is the engineering contact for a design.  If anyone tries to tell the public different, then they are misrepresenting the actions of that February 2009 council vote.  No project has been approved even though the City personnel continue to speak in terms of a “done deal.”

STATE BOULEVARD AND BROOKVIEW NEIGHBORHOOD

Brookview is a historical neighborhood, designed by nationally known architect Arthur Shurcliff.  State Boulevard – the boulevard that is the focus of the project – was also designed by a nationally renowned landscape architect and planner, George Kessler.   State Boulevard runs east and west and winds through Brookview just past the intersection with Cass Street.  Once through the historic neighborhood, State Boulevard crosses the St. Joe River near North Side High School and continues past several additional historic areas. The Brookview-Irvington neighborhoods were listed in 2011 on the National Register of Historic Places.

Brookview

Obtaining this recognition is accomplished through a lengthy submission which requires much work and dedication in its preparation; the process is time-consuming, but, if successful, bestows an honor on the neighborhood and provides a certain degree of protection from the advances of modern engineering philosophy that deems wrecking balls and bulldozers as tools to be used – often indiscriminately.

CITY PLANS WILL DESTROY BROOKVIEW ENVIRONMENT

The Brookview neighborhood is threatened by various separate proposed roadway and flood control projects. The existing State Boulevard bridge is to be replaced. As the road narrows and curves as it runs through Brookview, traffic engineers plan to replace and elevate the bridge and, at the same time, widen and straighten State Boulevard to five lanes – a total of a 54-foot width.

This will alter the character of the neighborhood significantly and may lead to the destruction of many houses that date to the district’s historic period (circa 1906 to1965). Several houses have already been removed as a flood control measure. A final project is the improvement of the Clinton Street Bridge which will cause the height of State Boulevard to be elevated in order to connect with Clinton properly.

The City has given little thought to alternative plans – in fact, it has given no thought; it doesn’t think it needs to.  NIRCC and City personnel have basically said this is it – tough luck. The City argues with vitriol against opponents of the project that federal funding will be lost if this massive five-lane project cannot be completed.  City engineers wring their hands and opine that the only solution is the five-lane expressway through the historical Brookview-Irvington neighborhoods.

Yet, the engineers cannot point to any specific source where criteria can be found to support their position that a change in plans will lead to loss of funding.  The explanations provided usually are based on the assumption that “because we say it is, it is.”  Or, “it is complicated.”  That, my dear public, is code for “you wouldn’t understand it even if we explained it to you because you just aren’t educated sufficiently to understand these issues.”  I beg to differ.

The City held three open houses several months ago for what it said was the purpose of public input.  Would it surprise anyone to know that the public input was a farce?  One city personnel said that the five lanes were not going to change – that was it – basically too bad.  What the public input amounted to was where to place landscaping.  Yet, what hasn’t been disclosed by the City is that the comment sheets personnel handed out indicated that at least 50% of the those responding wanted the project scaled back.

Our opposition group also handed out surveys at the open houses, and we found the same position by those who had responded with comments to the City.  Despite the fact that at least 50% of the public’s comments asked that the project be scaled back, the City dismissed the results with the typical “Father Knows Best” stance, intent on ignoring the results.  Public input is merely illusory.

Folks, the result will be a five-lane expressway carrying increased truck and vehicular traffic.  And, if anyone thinks a five-lane expressway will not become a truck route, hey, I have the proverbial ocean front property to sell you located in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

West Central – my neighborhood – is a perfect example.  Before the extension of West Jefferson and West Washington toward the southwest, the two boulevards terminated at Swinney Park.  They now carry 35,000 vehicles a day.

At any hour through the daytime and early evening, heavy traffic enters from the west speeding around the curve at the Swinney Tennis Courts.  Thousands of vehicles per day.  And, in the evening, thousands of vehicles leave by West Washington.  Placing a five-lane expressway in the Brookview neighborhood will do exactly the same thing. The goal for the City is to run a major thoroughfare through the heart of historical neighborhoods including those farther east of the Brookview-Irvington neighborhoods.

The State Boulevard project is not necessary in its current form. The public input suggests that at least 50% of those who responded with comments want the project scaled back.  So, one might ask – exactly what message is the City and its engineers not getting?  Or are they getting it but believe they have no obligation to listen to the public – the taxpayers – the citizens of this community?

 

 

Posted in Politics | 1 Comment

STUTZMAN “SNAP”PING UP THE SUBSIDIES

One of the most irritating things about Marlin Stutzman is his air of superiority.  While pushing to separate the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that helps families – I assume so that it may be gutted more easily – he has fed at the trough of government largesse for 18 years by holding his hand out for farm subsidies to the tune of $196,268.

Let’s do a little calculating.  Stutzman – keep in mind, just Marlin, not his family – received $196,268 from 1995 – 2012. That calculates to $10,903.77 per year. Breaking it down farther, it equals $908.65 per month.  In Indiana, the average per recipient SNAP amount is $132.46 per month. Assume a family of four, and the family receives $529.84 a month.

In a year, assuming no changes, the family would receive $6,358.08. Stutzman received  $10,903.77 in subsidies.  Looks like Marlin is doing just fine.

Stutzman and Subsidies

And just for fun, here are the amounts his father received through Michigan. $944,000 – isn’t that close to a million dollars from the government trough? So, Marlin and Albert Stutzman received – between the two of them – $1,140,268.  While Stutzman is busily working hard to separate the farm bill from the SNAP program, he continues to belly up to the government trough of farm subsidies – and belly up and belly up.

Posted in Politics | 2 Comments

MEMORIES OF COLLAMER AND THE DAM

First Memories 

My growing up years were spent in South Whitley, Indiana, a small, rural, farming community snuggled in the southwest corner of Whitley County, Indiana.  Just to the southwest of South Whitley and closer to the edge of the county was another even smaller community – Collamer, Indiana.  Both communities appear as those tiny dots on maps, but within those “dots” reside many of my life’s memories. 

One of my favorite memories was and always will be of Collamer and the Collamer Dam.  My dad and mom took my brother and me on our first visits to Collamer – usually on a short drive on a Sunday.  Our family had a grocery business in South Whitley, and mom and dad worked a lot.  But, once in a while they would take a break and take us on an excursion into the countryside. 

Those sporadic, yet much-anticipated visits to Collamer sometimes included a cookout at an old brick fireplace that someone had built on the south bank of the Eel River near the dam.  Riddled with decay and damaged by time, the fireplace long ago collapsed and slowly faded into memory; its iron grates falling to the ground and its bricks disappearing over the years – perhaps carried away by passers-by for mementos.

DSCN4062

At the side of the dam watching the water flow over in a beautiful amber color!

We would play on the cement abutment near the dam and then climb down the short slope to bring us as close to the dam and the Eel River as possible without falling in.  Several fallen trees provided seating where we sat and watched the river.  I loved gazing at the sparkling, sun-filtered waters of the Eel River as it plunged over the dam, sometimes interrupted by an errant log here and there cutting through the curtain of water as it flowed on its way toward Liberty Mills. 

DSCN4052

The old Pony Truss bridge that was later replaced by a standard concrete bridge. I love these old bridges! The Pony Truss replaced a Through Truss bridge. The image notes June 2013, but this is a digital that I took to get it uploaded – I need to do this with my old pictures in order to use them in today’s technology!

We would always stop at the covered drinking well – constructed of field stone – on the side road heading into the park area.  Mom and dad would park the car, and we would jump out and head down the steps into the well – a tiny haven in the heat of summer – a cool, shaded spot from which to sip cold, clear water.  The well sat at the entrance to the small park area, and we would finish our drinks and then head into the park.

DSCN4059

A small, quiet spot from which I always sat and contemplated. The digital upload does not do justice to the original picture.

We would dally along the small sections of what remained of the old grist mill. The huge structure was gone, but its legacy could still be seen in a couple of locks that remained. A small foot bridge traversed the tiny stream flowing through the park, and we would stop and gaze into the waters below.  At the end of our visits, we would head back to South Whitley – to anxiously await another Sunday and another visit to Collamer!

Hiking to Collamer

As I grew older, the typical school-age activities took away from my thoughts of Collamer and the Dam.  But, one summer, mom and dad took a short day trip and left my brother and me in the care of my Grandma Weybright.  I was probably about 12.  Grandma was old, and I had learned that I could ask for about anything without having to worry about Grandma saying no.

One afternoon, I asked Grandma if I could visit one of my friends, Cynthia.  Cynthia lived close – of course in a small town, everyone is near by – so Grandma said yes.  Leaving my brother to his own devices – I didn’t want him tagging along with us – I walked over to Cynthia’s house.  Somewhere in our giggling and talking we decided we wanted to walk to Collamer.  We had no idea of how far it was or how long it would take us; we just knew we loved Collamer and the Dam.  We both thought it was a great idea! 

We traipsed back over to Grandma’s house and Grandma said yes. To this day, I am not sure if I told her our fully-thought-out plan, if we even had one.  I am sure I left out the part about walking all the way to Collamer and just told her we were going to take a short walk in that direction.

Walking and chatting, Cynthia and I headed out on State Road 14, which ran west out of South Whitley toward Collamer.  We knew which direction to take; we just weren’t sure at what point in our walk we would find Collamer and the Dam.  When we saw the tracks that cut through the farmland near the edge of Collamer, we gave a huge sigh of relief; we knew we were getting close since those tracks turned into the trestle that crossed the Eel River at Collamer. 

DSCN4054

A long ago memory – the old trestle is now gone and only a pier stands where the trestle once provided a challenge to many youth to crawl out and spray paint the sides. It stood just to the northeast of the Dam.

We tramped into Collamer, tired and wishing we were back home yet elated that we had actually made it!  We headed toward the old truss bridge which we knew would take us over the Eel River, past the Collamer Dam and onto what was and still is known as the River Road.  We anxiously turned our steps toward South Whitley; our return journey had begun, but we knew we were only halfway.  We were exhausted, and now we were worried.  We had been gone for much longer than I had told Grandma, and we were scared of what would await us when we finally got home. 

While we were gone, mom and dad had returned late in the afternoon, and Grandma couldn’t tell them where we had gone other than for a walk.  By that time Cynthia and I had been gone for several hours, and everyone was frightened about what could have happened to us.  My poor Grandma had turned frantic when we didn’t return, and mom and dad’s return compounded her panic. 

Mom and dad called our town policeman, and he had mom and dad follow him in their car as they looked for us along the roads out of South Whitley toward Collamer.  I am sure they all expected the worst!

We were probably still about a mile out of South Whitley on the River Road when the police found us!  Rather than give us a tongue-lashing at that point, they loaded us into the car, and we headed home.  Cynthia and I were so happy and so relieved to see them, we didn’t care what happened.  But, we did make most of our walk to Collamer and back, a little worse for the wear.  And, a lot worse for the fear of what we had done.

Poor Grandma!  She tried to tell mom and dad she didn’t give us permission to walk to Collamer, and I am sure mom and dad believed her because they knew me and how determined I could be at times.  But looking back into my memory bank, this will always be one of my most treasured memories of Collamer and the Dam.  Last year, at our 46th class reunion, Cynthia was there; we hugged each other, laughed, and almost at the same time said, “Remember our walk to Collamer?” 

08 - August Reunion (2)

Our 46th reunion held last August at the Brownstone in South Whitley. Cynthia – my partner in “crime” is on the far right in the blue-flowered top and solid blue skirt. I will just let all of you figure out where I am. But, here is a clue, after all these years, I am the only one with long hair!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Cities and Towns, Collamer, Eel River, South Whitley | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

ROLLIN’ ON THE THREE RIVERS

The need to build along rivers is not unique to Fort Wayne.  Throughout history, civilizations have located close to rivers to provide routes for transportation of many critical supplies and goods.  But, growing cities brought construction of more and more buildings on the surface of the land surrounding the rivers, negatively impacting the ability of the land to absorb and re-distribute water.

The downward spiral of decades of generally unplanned building removed valuable drainage surface, increased runoff into rivers, and led to construction of more and more walls and levees to protect cities in jeopardy.  Increased use of walls and levees only served to rearrange water flow rather than diminish its volume, triggering the need to build even more walls and levees.  Dealing with rivers and their tendency to flood has become a vicious cycle – much of the cycle triggered by the doctrine of “unintended consequences”, or perhaps more along the line of lack of common sense and good, sound planning.

Today, many cities that in earlier days suffered through minor flooding events are prone to ever increasing disasters with greater quantities of water invading city realms.  This is the result of not understanding and not appreciating river dynamics.  Every action that we take impacts a watershed and, ultimately, a river somewhere, somehow.

Rivers are dynamic systems, often impacted by the “lay of the land”, or, in more technical terms, the geologic and geographical formation of underlying strata and surface features that guide and direct our river systems.   Our own city, Fort Wayne, and our three rivers are impacted by location at the end of what once was the “Great Black Swamp“, an impressive and, in our early history, an all-but impassable area roughly 30-40 miles wide by 120 miles in length beginning near Toledo, Ohio, and ending at Fort Wayne.

Our area was created by glacial moraines receding some 20,000 years ago, leaving in their wake a virtually impassable area of  swamps and marshlands.  Early settlers drained the area and proceeded to farm and use what once was an unusable land area.  But, simply draining the area did not change the “lay” of the land and that has impacted our area for thousands of years.

The color of our rivers comes from the contents they carry – typically sediment or dark particles – giving them their dark color.  They will never be blue as the sky, and to wish so is folly.  Although we have three rivers that meet at the confluence on the east side of downtown, the river that impacts virtually all of downtown is the St. Marys.

The City Council has approved up to $500,000 to be spent on a study to analyze every facet of Fort Wayne’s three rivers, and, in particular, the St. Marys, to establish potential use.  The study has been let for bid and 13 companies submitted proposals.  The selection of the company to prepare the study should be released any day now, and the City will move forward with plans based on the study.

But, caution must be used to guard against pressure from developers, real estate agents, and construction companies to force unwise plans that will further exacerbate our existing flooding issues.   A beautiful and aesthetically pleasing river environment will go far to enhance our City, but, ultimately, plans must not become simply a path to rush to development based on financial gain.  Any plans must respect the nature of our rivers with the goal of integrating improvements into the river environment – not the typical philosophy of humans to impose their own will and often destructive practices.

The St. Marys River viewed from the Thieme Drive Overlook.

The St. Marys River viewed from the Thieme Drive Overlook.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

DOUBLING DOWN ON DATA MINING

“Those who would give up essential liberty for security, deserve neither.”  Benjamin Franklin

Ideals and philosophies certainly change when one’s position in the world changes.  President Obama’s push to “double down” on data mining is disconcerting as well as frightening – particularly since he railed against these very techniques when Bush was president.

Our Constitution contains a Bill of Rights – granted it was added in 1791 a couple of centuries before current “invasive” technology was invented – but the concepts contained in its provisions are still worthy of protection.  Unfortunately, the Bill of Rights is well on its way to obscurity in the area of the various individual liberties contained in several of its Amendments.   Two of the primary amendments that protect citizens against unwarranted and unjustified and unsubstantiated government intrusion are the Fourth Amendment and the Fifth Amendment.

The Fifth Amendment clauses against self-incrimination and the requirement of a warrant based on probable clause are becoming increasingly useless in today’s world.  The self-incrimination clause provides that one arrested and brought to trial does not have to take the stand to provide testimony against himself or herself.  It focuses on oral testimony – not physical evidence.  Even the mere mention by the State that the defendant did not take the stand can cause reversible error.

But, with the protection of the Fifth amendment limited to oral testimony, States for years  have found courts willing to issue warrants that allow the prick of a needle to draw a blood sample, the insertion of a swab to invade the open mouth, or the pluck of a hair uprooted from a head to be used against defendants as evidence in courts of law.  Thus, the self-incrimination aspect of the Fifth Amendment is rarely relevant today in criminal trials other than to call indirect attention to the fact that the defendant has decided not to take the stand.

The encroachment into the parameters of the Fifth Amendment warrants clause has now made its way into the realm of  the Fourth Amendment by little-noticed and much-ignored forays using a secret court that issues secret warrants.   The Fourth Amendment protects citizens in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Yet, one incident – 9/11 – has made the citizens of the United States into suspicious, shivering, anxious masses willing to trade protections found in our original Bill of Rights – those liberties fought for and secured by the giving of the ultimate sacrifice by our Founders – to gain a security that will never be assured.

After 9/11, President Bush and his Neocons went to work on Congress establishing an environment of trepidation based on a color-coded “scale of fear” – ups and downs on a regular basis informing the public of the dangers that loomed on the horizon and the image of another “big one.”  One of the lesser known or scantly acknowledged “plans” was to reinvigorate a languishing secret court created through the original Foreign Intelligence Services Act of 1978 (FISA).

The secret court – the Foreign Intelligence Services Court (FISC) – was established to review requests for warrants to “obtain” information deemed necessary by the federal government to protect its citizens.  The application process was set up as one-sided – no one else appears – only the government presents its evidence to support its request for issuance of a warrant.  The government literally says this is what it wants and the FISC genuflects and grants the warrant – it is a rubber-stamp court.

Of the 20,000 requests submitted to the Court since 2001 – when the Patriot Act reduced the requirements for obtaining a warrant – only 11 applications have been rejected.  Similarly, the court allowed the FBI to issue more than 140,000 National Security Letters since 2004.

FISA

This, then, is the judicial body into which Americans have placed their blinding trust – a court that lacks the spine to thoroughly review and make a rational decision as to issuance of its secret warrants – a court willing to rubber-stamp secret warrants because it cowers at the thought of an incident in which it failed to issue a request.

President Obama, who once criticized President Bush for these very tactics, has expanded the reach of spying to cover millions and millions of “data” which floats in cyberspace and resides in the records of various companies.  Blanket warrants have been issued by the thousands with very little concern – or care – for their impacts

Americans have become so frightened of another attack – which will most assuredly happen given time regardless of efforts to stop it as was evident in Boston – that they are willing to sacrifice their most cherished liberties.  Unfortunately, as Benjamin Franklin understood, giving up our liberties to obtain security demeans the very work that our Foremothers and Forefathers undertook to give us an open society – not a society based on secrecy and totalitarian methods.

Posted in Bill of Rights, Civil Liberties, Civil Rights, Politics, Rights and Liberties, Technology | Tagged , , , ,