Month: January 2016

Patterns of the 5th Ward: Unemployment

By Matt Johnson

Patterns provide us with some insight into the behaviors of systems. With one pattern, say unemployment, it’s a simple behavior and it shows us a piece of the picture. With multiple patterns, say unemployment, foreclosures, and education levels, we can see multiple behaviors which provide us a different perspective from each individual pattern. Added together, they show us a more complex behavior of the system. Hence with each article, the data provides us with a much fuller description of discrepancies between areas within the 5th Ward, and between the 5th Ward and the rest of Minneapolis, at least with how the city looked in 2013.

Matt Johnson, The Systems Scientist
Matt Johnson, The Systems Scientist

As Table 1 shows us, there was an obvious and disturbing contrast between the zip codes and their respective unemployment percentages. But we must note one thing first before we continue.

Although the 55401 and 55405 are only partially in the 5th Ward, whereas the 55411 resides completely in the 5th Ward, the data in this table can still provide us with some inference and intuition between the respective zip codes. In other words, the 55401 and 55405 zip codes reside in multiple wards.

As the data illustrates, there was a clear distinction between the three zip codes. Whereas the 55401 and the 55405 expressed an unemployment percentage comparable to the General Minneapolis System (GMS) in 2013, which started off at 5.2 percent early in 2013 and decreased to 4.3 percent late in the year as Table 2 illustrates, the 55411 system experienced an unemployment reality three to four times higher than its neighbor zip codes. Clearly from these two pieces of data and the simple systems’ behaviors that represent them, a person in the 5th Ward, depending on where they lived, more than likely experienced a much different reality compared to other residents of the 5th Ward. Why might this be?

Table 1
Table 1

History indicates a much different experience for “black” Americans than it does for “white” Americans. Whereas, “white” Americans have benefitted from a plethora of economic, political, social, and ecological resources, “black” Americans have been much less fortunate. And many times, this has had to do with redlining policies at the local and federal level, which segregated “blacks” into certain, undesired neighborhoods. In many ways, Minneapolis is still reflective of this past.

To illustrate this point, the 55401 and 55405 zip codes were majority “white” in 2013; whereas, the 55411 zip code was predominantly “black” in 2013 This fact was illustrated in Patterns of the 5th Ward: “Race”. There were important questions posed in this previous article.

One question posed, will a depressed part of town have a higher percentage of American citizens who are “black” and unemployed? We have enough information now to show that not only does the 55411 have a majority “black” population contrasted to the majority “white” populations of the 55401 and 55405, but the unemployment rate was three to four times higher in the 55411 than it was in the 55401 and 55405 in 2013.

Table 2
Table 2

In some instances, the unemployment rate was as high as 40 percent in some of the neighborhoods within the 55411 zip code where the population was majority “black” in 2013 according to Thus, we have answered a key question from the first article of this series. And now we also have data to back up our hypothesis.

In the next article Patterns of the 5th Ward: Foreclosures, what will we expect to find? Will we expect to find a similar relationship and systems’ behavior where the number of foreclosures in the 55411 zip code is much higher than the number of foreclosures in the 55401 or 55405? In other words, should we expect to find higher foreclosure numbers in parts of the 5th Ward, which are predominantly “black,” or should we expect to find higher foreclosure numbers in the parts of the 5th Ward, which are predominantly “white?”

For further exploration of this subject, read the first part of this series Patterns of the 5th Ward: “Race” and Minneapolis, Yesterday, Today, and the Continuous Disparity of History.

**Remember, there is nothing more American than discourse. You are always welcome to post your comments, thoughts, and questions below. Feedback is always appreciated!


General Thoughts on the 2016 Republican Iowa Debate

By Matt Johnson

Senator Ted Cruz
Photo Courtesy of Jim Watson, AFP/Getty Images – Senator Ted Cruz

Wow! That was a different debate. It was a lot more substantive and reasonable than the previous debates. I wonder why that is? Anyway, here are my winners and losers for the 2016 Presidential Republican Iowa Debate.

My Winners

Rubio and Cruz are my winners. They both had that “Eye of the Tiger” feel and they took full advantage of the absence of Trump. But Paul rebounded. Whereas he was mostly invisible in the previous debates, I believe he earned a second place finish or at least an honorable mention. The absence of Trump helped him more than any other candidate.

Finally, Rubio and Cruz didn’t back down from each other, or any other candidate for that matter; and Paul addressed criminal justice reform directly and how the War on Drugs has disproportionately effected “black” Americans. I thought these were strengths among the top-tier candidates.

My Losers

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush
Photo Courtesy of The Des Moines Register/USA Today Sports – Jeb Bush

Well, everyone else lost. I’m not sure why Bush is still in the presidential race. There’s nothing special about him other than his name. And frankly, I don’t know any republicans, democrats, or independents that are interested in what he has to say.

Carson is a sweet and genuine man. I believe he means what he means. And when questioned about his political inexperience, he was correct to assert his experience with receiving 2 am phone calls, putting together teams of professionals, and addressing complex problems. This may have been in medicine, but he has that kind of experience, even if it isn’t by way of governing and policy. But Carson’s time is running out. He’s just not charismatic enough to stay in it for the long haul, i.e., Trump.

There was another guy? Who was it? Christy? Kasich? They’re old school republicans. They’re just not representative of the party anymore.

Final Thoughts

It was clear that Rubio, Cruz, and Paul were in a league of their own. They are the top-tier for this presidential race. Rubio and Cruz are good debaters, and Paul’s intellectualism got to shine through with the absence of the cold, dense air of Trump.

However, as long as Trump remains in the race, he will continue to drown out the substance and healthy discourse amongst the other candidates. The top-tier candidates like Rubio, Cruz, and Paul won’t get many opportunities to show their stuff to the American public, and sadly this was probably it for them. In other words, the nomination is Trump’s to lose. He’s a celebrity in a celebrity’s world.

For more on the topic of the 2016 Presidential race, you are invited to read 2016 Presidential Race: Rand Paul with Chris Matthews and Science and The 2016 Iowa Republican Debate.

**Remember, there is nothing more American than discourse. You are always welcome to post your comments, thoughts, and questions below. Feedback is always appreciated!

Science and The 2016 Iowa Republican Debate

By Matt Johnson

Science policy? The 2016 Iowa Republican Debate? If you are a liberal, then you are probably assuming that the Iowa debate was just another meeting of the Flat Earth Society. Not so fast, Kennedy! You might be surprised. Here are some highlights from last night’s debate that involved science policy.

Climate Change

Look, it’s no secret that Republican politicians from the local to the federal level have opposed climate change. However, Rubio has provided a glimmer of optimism with respect to climate change as a science policy.

Although he emphatically denied ever supporting cap-and-trade when questioned and challenged on the subject by Fox News debate mediator Megyn Kelly, he didn’t actually go out of his way to deny climate change. As he exclaimed in the debate

I have never supported cap-and-trade. [And] I do not believe we have to destroy our economy to protect our environment.

These are not the words of a man who is looking to mimic the words of previous Republican presidential candidates. And although Kelly didn’t follow-up with any questions, which would have provided the audience with a more in-depth exploration of the subject matter and possibly some alternative science policies, Rubio didn’t volunteer any “No! Climate change does not exist!” nor did he accuse the left of propagating climate change for some sort leftist agenda. But then again, science isn’t science without dissent and discourse, is it?


Bush, Cruz, and Paul addressed this issue. In the case of Bush, it was about accessibility and health services to veterans; in the case of Cruz, it was about repealing the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare); and in the case of Paul, it was about making abortions a states’ rights issue.

For Bush, it was the responsibility of the United States government to take care of its warriors. He proposed holding administrators accountable, providing better and more access to care, and giving veterans the opportunity to access healthcare outside of the VA system, which would allow for a greater number of choices. He also touched on the issue of veterans’ homelessness.

For Cruz, he not only reaffirmed his commitment to repeal every word of Obamacare, but he was also questioned with what he would replace it with? As Cruz retorted, his healthcare reform would accomplish three things:

  1. allow people to purchase insurance across state lines
  2. expand health savings accounts
  3. and work to de-link health insurance from employment

In regards to the question of what he would do for people with no healthcare? He didn’t provide an answer.

And finally, for Paul, it was the question of abortion versus states’ rights. When pressed on the issue, he made it extremely clear that the repeal of Roe v. Wade would provide an opportunity for the states to address the issue. He also noted that reducing abortions was a good thing. However, he wasn’t challenged nor did he go out of his way to say that abortions should be illegal all together.

Energy and Natural Resources

If you’ve been following Iowa politics, then you know that Governor Branstad publicly stated that he would not endorse Senator Cruz. This is because Cruz has called to end ethanol subsidies. And so Cruz, with Branstad in attendance for the debate, was asked about the issue. He replied that all energies need to be developed: nuclear, oil, coal, wind, solar, etc… As he made clear, this planet has an abundance of natural resources. But he also insisted that he wants a fair and level playing field for all energy industries. The government should not be involved in picking winners and losers.

Following suit, Carson noted that he was against government intervention and agreed on providing a level playing field. He stated that Americans should take advantage of renewables and develop new forms of energy. He also said that 70 percent of the population lives bicoastally and should take advantage of the adjacent natural resources in the form of water.

Final Thoughts

Something to consider, Rubio was the only one asked about climate change. In his brief exchange with Megyn Kelly, no other candidate chimed in or felt the need to challenge or agree with Rubio. And this was the case for Cruz and Carson when they both exclaimed that alternative energies ought to be developed.

And finally, I realize that many Republican candidates in the past have denied climate change and biological evolution during these presidential debates. Indeed they are often mocked by their friends on the left for such positions and accused of being card-carrying members of the Flat Earth Society. But in last night’s debate, none of that happened and I think that’s a really good sign, especially for science policy, maybe?

For more on the topic of the 2016 Presidential race, you are invited to read 2016 Presidential Race: Rand Paul with Chris Matthews and 2016 Presidential Race: Bernie Sanders with Katie Couric.

**Remember, there is nothing more American than discourse. You are always welcome to post your comments, thoughts, and questions below. Feedback is always appreciated!




My First Science Article, Ever!

This was my first science article ever published. Originally published in the Iowa State Daily on February 13, 2014, it was a Letter to the Editor, rebuttal, that scored me a writing position with the paper. The Opinion Editor liked the piece so much that she offered me a position as a science opinion columnist. And now I am sharing it with you. As you will read, my style and voice have changed since its publication, but this was my first and that’s why it’s special. – Matt

By Matt Johnson

In a recent article entitled, “Science must be questioned,” the author questions science’s predictive ability and states, “we can never genuinely know what happened in the past, because we were not there to see it for ourselves”; therefore, science is a “waste of time” and thus ought to be de-funded.

This line of thinking is utterly nonsensical and disturbing, and illustrates the author’s lack of scientific understanding. I suspect this rhetoric derives from an intentional ignorance concerning biological evolution. But I digress.

The fact is, learning about our biological, geological and astronomical past is not a waste time. Not only does the knowledge obtained help us better understand our place in the universe, but it also allows our society to benefit from the great scientific discoveries of the past 400 years and is what drives the engines of our economy.

To illustrate my point, astronomy is a science that studies the past. How can this be? Good question. It is because of our understanding of light, which has been studied experimentally and quantitatively determined by various scientists such as Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Michelson, Edward Morley and Albert Einstein.

Through the process of scientific discovery, humans have determined that it takes one year for light to travel 5.9 trillion miles. This indicates the speed of light is constant, which means that light does not speed up nor does it slow down. It stays the same, constant, from one point to another. For example, it takes light roughly 4.3 lightyears to travel from our closest, neighbor star system, Alpha Centauri to our home planet of Earth. Because of light, we are able to view Alpha Centauri as it was 4.3 years ago.

Since the speed of light was discovered through scientific rigor to be a constant, an important fact, astronomers can make predictions of stellar phenomena, and utilize physical and mathematical models to show the distance of a star, a galaxy, or a cluster of galaxies, which can be millions or even billions of light years away. Hence, the author claims that “we can never genuinely know what happened in the past,” but we indeed do. Furthermore, our civilization has been built on such discoveries.

From this understanding of light, engineers have built telescopes, microscopes, mirrors, lasers, cameras (Your cell phone has one, correct?) and have developed machines for such medical disciplines as ophthalmology and optometry, just to name a few.

This one little example demonstrates that quite a bit is known about our cosmological history and that the consequences of such discoveries are the technological applications that you and I benefit from every day. As you can clearly see, all of this hubbub over the past few centuries has been well worth the time and energy, and contrary to the author of the original piece, has not been a “waste of time.”

Mr. Maxwell is correct in his assertion, “Science must be questioned,” and it has, by scores of scientists for more than 400 years. Science is a malleable process of inquisitive thought, constantly questioning, observing, experimenting, testing and refining, all the while getting closer and closer to the truth. That, my dear sir, is science, and as a consequence, well, take a selfie with your cell phone and post it to Facebook, and take solace in the fact that you just benefited from science.

To see how I’ve changed and evolved since My First Science Article, Ever! I suggest a couple of my favorites – Book Review: The Martian and Go Tell It to the Mathematicians.

**Remember, there is nothing more American than discourse. You are always welcome to post your comments, thoughts, and questions below. Feedback is always appreciated!

Who’s the New White Guy?

By Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson, Author of Urban Dynamics and Systems Scientist
Matt Johnson, The Systems Scientist

You’re probably asking yourself, “Who’s the new ‘white’ guy writing articles for The Systems Scientist?” Well I’m glad you asked. That’s J.A. Klyng, otherwise known as The Philosophy Nerd. He likes philosophy and he’s a real nerd about it. Did I mention he’s The Philosophy Nerd?

Klyng approached me a few months ago about the idea of writing for Urban Dynamics. And since then, he and I have been working on and preparing for his arrival.

From his perspective, he already knew he could approach the subject of Urban Dynamics from a philosophical point of view; from my perspective, it was how to incorporate him into the fray. I’m sorry! Did I say fray? I meant into the chaos. I’m sorry! Did I say chaos? I meant into the family.

Anyway, and to be honest, he and I go back a little ways. Now he’s all grown up (he was a grown up then) and works as an adjunct professor at Los Angeles Pierce College. Ironic! We met at Los Angeles Pierce College. Hmmm…

Jonathon Klyng
J.A. Klyng, The Philosophy Nerd

Klyng’s always been curious. He’s always been a thinker and he’s always asked questions. You know, the type of person you want delving into the complexities of cities and the people and organizations that reside in them.  And he’s got that “it” factor. You know, the one where he’s interested in effecting change.

Klyng brings with him a philosopher’s tool kit. So his approach and perspective will be a bit different from mine. But I promise it will be every bit as unique as mine.

Going forward, he will be addressing issues mostly within the context of the Los Angeles area, although I’m sure he’ll write about subjects and issues outside of Los Angeles. He will be talking about a great many things and occurrences in that urban environment. And I’m sure he’ll be putting forth some interesting ideas and possible solutions.

So who’s the new “white” guy? That’s J.A. Klyng and he’s The Philosophy Nerd.

For further exploration into the world of The Philosophy Nerd, read Diversity, The Oscars, and The Philosophy Nerd.

**Remember, there is nothing more American than discourse. You are always welcome to post your comments, thoughts, and questions below. Feedback is always appreciated!

Diversity, The Oscars, and The Philosophy Nerd

By J.A. Klyng, The Philosophy Nerd and Guest Columnist

Since 1927, four non-white men have won the academy award for best actor: Denzel Washington, Jamie Foxx, Forest Whitaker, and Sidney Poitier. Additionally, only one non-white woman has ever won best actress: Halle Berry. In that time period, there have not been any non-heterosexual/non-cis winners of these awards. The only known gay nominee has been Sir Ian McKellen.

Jonathon Klyng
J.A. Klyng, The Philosophy Nerd

Why is this the case? In a country where artists of color have found success in other forms of entertainment, why does the film industry seem to lag? It is sometimes noted in political philosophy that theory precedes action. As it were, the film industry may still be in a nascent stage of progress on the whole.

The conservative (or realist) response to this observation is that the goal of the film industry is to produce a product which the greatest percentage of US citizens identify with. According to the 2012 U.S. Census, 78% of the United States consider themselves white. The 2012 U.S. Census also informs us that 3.8% of the population consider themselves non-heterosexual/non-cis.

This is all the evidence necessary to support the conservative response – white cis heterosexuals identify predominantly with other white cis heterosexuals. Thus, it is no surprise that the film industry predominately features actors like Tom Hanks, Jeff Bridges, and Russell Crowe. The conservative position asserts that the inclusion of some non-white actors matches up with the current US population. Ultimately it’s a numbers game and the conservative perspective identifies the film industry’s practices as financially successful and offers evidence for why this is the case.

But there are those who believe that film should be a progressive art form. You might say this only applies to film as an artistic object. That the film viewing experience may incite an individual to have a greater sense of racial and LGBT equality does not correlate with the percentage of non-white leads. When we begin to look at directors, the numbers become even more alarming. Over a course of eighty-six years, only one woman has ever won best director. There are zero African-Americans who have ever won the award, and only two have ever been nominated.

There are some positive inferences which may suggest the film industry may be undergoing some changes. Since 2000, there have been three African-American men who won best actor, one non-white woman who won best actress, and one woman who won best director. This is a good sign, and a necessary one if film wants to continue down a progressive path.

The occurrence of diversity in regards to lead roles or directors winning an academy award may not be too far off. Certainly there will be the ignorant bigots flaming the internet when it does happen. They will rant as if someone had removed a vital organ and spew an excessive amount of toxic dribble towards anyone who will listen. But this will always happen when change is introduced. So we can see the recent affairs in the academy as a sign of progress and equality. There is surely a long way to go.

**Remember, there is nothing more American than discourse. You are always welcome to post your comments, thoughts, and questions below. Feedback is always appreciated!

Minneapolis, Yesterday, Today, and the Continuous Disparity of History

By Matt Johnson

Imagine that each article is a piece of the puzzle to a 10,000 piece puzzle set. I know! Ouch! Indeed, this is a challenge. However, each time an article is published, we get closer and closer to a systems model we can use.

Matt Johnson, Author of Urban Dynamics and Systems Scientist
Matt Johnson, Author of Urban Dynamics and Systems Scientist

In this puzzle piece, we will be looking  back into Minnesota history. Although we haven’t used it much, history is an important part of our analysis and it will give us valuable insight into the origins and potentially some of the current dynamics of the General Minneapolis System (GMS) and its subsystems. The book that we will be referencing is called African Americans in Minnesota by David Vassar Taylor and Bill Holm. It will indeed provide us with some worthwhile insights.

Here are four points of interests, and quotes, I found in the book that I believe are still challenges in today’s Minneapolis, and St. Paul.

Political Promises and Opportunities

To meet the demands of a wartime economy, recruiters scoured the South for blacks willing to move to northern industrial centers in return for promises of free transportation, higher wages, and a better standard of living.

Marriage, Employment (Types of Jobs), and Homeownership

Only 44% of eligible black Minneapolis males over the age of 15 were married in 1910. Similar employment and homeownership patterns also existed. Men worked as porters, waiters, cooks, and janitors in hotels, restaurants, jobbing houses, and on railroad lines, while black women worked as personal or domestic servants. By 1910, 75.3% of the dwelling units occupied by black people in Minneapolis were rented.

The American Dream and Wages

Black people of Minneapolis and St. Paul had never fully participated in the prosperity of the 1920’s. (As early as 1919, it was estimated that the median wage of a black male head of household in the Twin Cities was only $22.55 per week at a time when the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics regarded $43.51 per week as the amount necessary for a family of five.)

Government Sanctioned Partitioning, i.e., Redlining

By 1920 restrictive housing covenants were being used extensively to contain and isolate blacks of both cities. As a result, ghettos emerged.

Although this is a world that once existed, we have seen from the data published on this site that the median household income for “blacks” in Minneapolis, and specifically in certain wards, is still lower on average than those of “whites.” Secondly, there are still disparities between the type of industries and the number of “blacks” and “whites” that work in those industries such as finance, science and technology, and business ownership.

Thirdly, although redlining has been illegal for sometime now in the United States, the consequences of such policies can still be seen and felt. Make no mistake, “black” neighborhoods and “white” neighborhoods are still salient in the minds of all Americans, and they are real.

The open and completely visible secret is that America is still fairly segregated today. It’s segregation ranges from neighborhoods to organizations to churches to entertainment. And finally, aren’t economic, educational, political, and social promises still made to “black” Americans?

For further reading on similar subject matter, I invite you to read The New York Times, The Systems Scientist, and the 2014 Annual Crime RateThe Simple Behaviors of Cities, The General System of Minneapolis: ForeclosuresForeclosure Rates: Wards 2, 4, and 5 from 2006 to 2015 and Patterns of the 5th Ward: “Race”.

Remember, you are always welcome to post your comments, thoughts, and questions below. Feedback is always appreciated.