January 2005
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Posted January 31, 2005
Not Since Chilean Sea Bass...

What with all the reporters in Iraq eating room service and reporting all the Happy Election News that's fit to print, it's not surprising the following news wound up waaaaaay back in the Seattle P-I's A section:

U.S. lost track of $9 billion in Iraq funds
An inspector general's report said the U.S.-led administration that ran Iraq until June 2004 is unable to account for the funds."Severe inefficiencies and poor management" by the Coalition Provisional Authority has left auditors with no guarantee the money was properly used," the report said.

"The CPA did not establish or implement sufficient managerial, financial and contractual controls to ensure that [Development Fund for Iraq] funds were used in a transparent manner,"
The money came from revenues from the United Nations' former oil-for-food program, oil sales and seized assets -- all Iraqi money. The audit did not examine the use of U.S. funds appropriated for reconstruction.Source

For this you win a Medal of Freedom?

Column: Iraqi women find election a cruel joke

Nor is it totally clear why this trenchant report on the Chilean privatized social security system has been relegated to the P-I's "Pacific Currents" column:

Model for U.S. pension revamp falls far short
Under the Chilean program, which President Bush has cited as a model for his plans to overhaul Social Security, the promise was that... [a pension system of private] investments... would deliver monthly pension benefits larger than what the traditional [public] system could offer.But now that the first generation of workers to depend on the new system is beginning to retire, Chileans are finding it is falling far short of what was originally advertised under the government of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

For all the program's success in economic terms, the government continues to direct billions of dollars to a safety net for those whose contributions were not large enough to ensure even a minimum pension approaching $140 a month.
Even many middle-class workers who contributed regularly are finding that their private accounts -- burdened with hidden fees that may have soaked up as much as a third of their original investment -- are failing to deliver as much in benefits as they would have received if they had stayed in the old system.Orig. source: New York Times, 1/26/05

With all these important issues and more facing the nation, we can all rest easy that our Congress is on the job. I can think of nothing more pressing than a wrasslin' match over how many Congressional Gold Medals get to be awarded by which party:

Congressional Gold Medal Enhancement Act of 2005: Search bill number "hr 54"

And in sports... No Mariners off-season would be complete without the obligatory Washed-Up Has Been signing.

Exactly the Same Result—But Different.Finally, for anyone worried about what former Rep. George Nethercutt (R-Wa5) was going to do since he lost his bid to unseat Democrat Patty Murray, have no fear, the Nether-Man has managed to land, cat-like, on his feet. The Man Who Would Be Senator is now a lobbyist—named a partner in the firm of Lundquist, Nethercutt & Griles. The Lundquist is Andrew Lundquist, who led Dick Cheney's energy task force. Griles is a new partner too; until recently he was the Deputy Interior Secretary leading Bush's push to open public land to energy development. Nethercutt, a 5-term representative who was first elected on the promise that he would serve only 2 terms, "said his new job would continue a longtime interest in developing partnerships among the federal government, businesses, universities and non-profit organizations."

How Nethercutt the lobbyist will differ from Nethercutt the Senator, I have no idea.

Article: Nethercutt joins lobbying firm

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Posted January 28, 2005
Europe Gathers to Remember Auschwitz

Dick Cheney shovels their driveway

Also today: 'Marriage Saver' McManus got HHS grant, promoted marriage initiative in columns
Blarchive: Here's Britney Spears for Marriage®! (Jan. 2004)

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Posted January 27, 2005
Best Rumor This Week

Is Mike Cameron returning to Seattle?

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Posted January 26, 2005
The New Threat: General Tso

Last week I had a big red mark on my forehead, from where I kept slapping myself everytime I heard the hysteria-laden news bulletin about the hunt for Chinese terrorists making their way to Boston. "Great," I thought, "so it begins—the media-fed national paranoia is going to spread to Fear of Asians." Because we all look alike. At least the pressure is off Arabs for a little while.

My second thought was similar to last summer's New York security alerts, suspiciously coinciding with the GOP convention. Like that time, last week I turned to friends and demanded, "What the bleep are they doing plastering a sensitive counterterrorism matter all over the media?" I didn't really say bleep. Like last summer, there didn't seem to be any good investigatory reason for a public alert—the only reason seemed to be to maintain the country's Fear Level.

It was no surprise for me to read this morning that it was all a hoax:

Officials rethinking public terror alerts
Authorities say the recent terror alert issued for Boston was the result of an act of revenge by an immigrant smuggler allegedly trying to get back at people who failed to pay him. The apparent hoax has renewed scrutiny on the choices that authorities must make between deciding when to warn the public and when to investigate quietly without broadcasting the threat.

The warning from an anonymous tipster to California authorities quickly crackled across the nation to Boston: A group of people were on route to Massachusetts and planning a terror attack.

Patrols were increased at Logan International Airport and the city's transit system. Vehicles were searched in underground parking garages. Gov. Mitt Romney skipped President Bush's inauguration to return to Boston, all for an apparent hoax.
The tip that set Boston on edge was called in to the California Highway Patrol on Jan. 17. The caller claimed that four Chinese nationals and two Iraqi nationals entered the United States from Mexico and were awaiting a shipment of nuclear material that would follow them to Boston. The implication was that the group was plotting to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb."
"The other risk it creates is a climate of suspicion, especially if people are identified by racial or ethnic characteristics. I think that's a danger officials need to think about when they issue these kinds of alerts."

In Boston, federal authorities went public after state and local law enforcement agencies took steps to increase security, and reports about the threat were leaked to the media.
[US Attorney Michael] Sullivan noted that authorities were careful to emphasize from the beginning that they had been unable to corroborate the claims of the tipster.
AP, 1/26/05

Well thank you SO MUCH, Mr. Sullivan.

Let's see... unsubstantiated claims... leaked to the media... Asian Americans from coast to coast looking over our shoulders... it was all a hoax. God Bless America and the Department of Homeland Security!

Philip Johnson, 1906-2005:

(AP)Philip Johnson, the innovative architect who promoted the "glass box" skyscraper and then smashed the mold with daringly nostalgic post-modernist designs, has died. He was 98.

Johnson died Tuesday night at his home in New Canaan, Conn., according to Joel S. Ehrenkranz, his lawyer. John Elderfield, a curator at the Museum of Modern Art, also confirmed the death today. Johnson's work ranged from the severe modernism of his New Canaan home, a glass cube in the woods, to the Chippendale-topped AT&T Building in New York City, now owned by Sony.

He and his partner, John Burgee, designed the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif., an ecclesiastical greenhouse that is wider and higher than Notre Dame in Paris; the Bank of America building in Houston, a 56-story tower of pink granite stepped back in a series of Dutch gable roofs; and the Cleveland Playhouse, a complex with the feel of an 11th century town.

"Architecture is basically the design of interiors, the art of organizing interior space," Johnson said in a 1965 interview.

He expressed a loathing for buildings that are "slide-rule boxes for maximum return of rent," and once said his great ambition was "to build the greatest room in the world—a great theater or cathedral or monument. Nobody's given me the job."

In 1980, however, he completed his great room, the Crystal Cathedral. If architects are remembered for their one-room buildings, Johnson said, "This may be it for me."

He got even more attention with the AT&T Building in New York City, breaking decisively with the glass towers that crowded Manhattan. He created a granite-walled tower with an enormous 90-foot arched entryway and a fanciful top that seemed more appropriate for a piece of furniture.

The building generated controversy, but it marked a sharp turn in architectural taste away from the severity of modernism. Other architects felt emboldened to experiment with styles, and commissions poured into the offices of Johnson-Burgee.

Most were corporate palaces: the Transco II and Bank of America towers in Houston; a 23-story, neo-Victorian office building in San Francisco, graced with three human figures at the summit; a mock-gothic glass tower for PPG Industries in Pittsburgh.

"The people with money to build today are corporations—they are our popes and Medicis," Johnson said. "The sense of pride is why they build."
Johnson was awarded the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Architects in 1978, and the following year he became the first recipient of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize. He was an astute collector of art; what he didn't have room to display at home, he gave to the Museum of Modern Art.

Toward the end of his life, Johnson went public with some private matters—his homosexuality and his past as a disciple of Hitler-style fascism. On the latter, he said he spent much time in Berlin in the 1930s and became "fascinated with power," but added he did not consider that an excuse.

"I have no excuse (for) such utter, unbelievable stupidity. ... I don't know how you expiate guilt," he says.

He blamed his homosexuality for causing a nervous breakdown while he was a student at Harvard and said that in 1977 he asked the New Yorker magazine to omit references to it in a profile, fearing he might lose the AT&T commission, which he called "the job of my life."

In the 1950s, Johnson reflected on his career and what he hoped to achieve.

"I like the thought that what we are to do on this earth is embellish it for its greater beauty," he said, "so that oncoming generations can look back to the shapes we leave here and get the same thrill that I get in looking back at theirs—at the Parthenon, at Chartres Cathedral."

Philip Johnson (

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Posted January 18, 2005
Go Barbara

Finally, Democrats with some vertabrae are grilling Condi! Nancy Pelosi could take some lessons.

...California Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer argued the Bush administration had shifted its justification for the war because it had failed to find stocks of biological and chemical weapons it had asserted were there.

"You sent them in there because of weapons of mass destruction. Later the mission changed when there were none," Boxer told Rice. "Let's not rewrite history, it's too soon to do that."

"It wasn't just weapons of mass destruction," Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, saying former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein supported terrorism, attacked Kuwait and Israel and needed to be removed given the new U.S. threat perception after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.
The exchange was the most pointed in a hearing that included disagreements between Rice and Democrats on the numbers of trained Iraqi troops—the linchpin [sic] of the U.S. exit strategy—and the numbers of U.S. troops sent to stabilize Iraq.

Rice said she believed there were more than 120,000 trained Iraqi forces —acknowledging problems of absenteeism and desertion—but drew a quick rebuke from Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, who said he thought the number was closer to 4,000.
"We must use American diplomacy to help create a balance of power in the world that favors freedom," Rice told the committee. "And the time for diplomacy is now."

Biden shot back: "Despite our great military might we are in my view more alone in the world than we've been in any time in recent memory. The time for diplomacy, in my view, is long overdue." Reuters, 1/18/2005

The President we have.Maybe the 1990s just spoiled us or something, but Sunday's Washington Postinterview of the-you-know-who-In-Chief made me yearn for the days of Oval Officefellatio, that time when we had a President who could form a coherentthought. Instead, we have one who was born with a silver spoon in his nose. People walking around this Kerry Landslide city who haveread the interview actually have bruised chins from where their jaws hit thefloor. Just get a load of this:

The Post: Back on Social Security. How can you -- you talk about cutting the deficit in half over the next five years. How can you do that and have personal accounts, which are going to have some sort of transition costs -- we won't debate the number, but most people say it will be at least $100 billion. How can you do that, and do personal accounts?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, that's what we look forward to working with Congress on, to work with them in such a way that we can handle the concerns of those who say the transition costs may be too much. That's part of the negotiations. I look forward to Congress asking that question. That's not the threshold question. The threshold question is for some who say, we don't have a problem. And once we get people talking about how to fund it, how do you handle the transition costs? I think we're making progress when that happens. It hasn't happened yet, because we're still trying to -- I am making the case that people that have got to understand we have a problem that should be addressed now. But part of the discussions, Jim, that go on, will be how to deal with it -- that particular aspect, as well as a lot of aspects, on how to make the system sound and sound fitting.

The Post: Will you talk to Senate Democrats about your privatization plan?

THE PRESIDENT: You mean, the personal savings accounts?

The Post: Yes, exactly. Scott has been --

THE PRESIDENT: We don't want to be editorializing, at least in the questions.

The Post: You used partial privatization yourself last year, sir.


The Post: Yes, three times in one sentence. We had to figure this out, because we're in an argument with the RNC [Republican National Committee] about how we should actually word this. [Post staff writer] Mike Allen, the industrious Mike Allen, found it.

THE PRESIDENT: Allen did what now?

The Post: You used partial privatization.

THE PRESIDENT: I did, personally?

The Post: Right.


The Post: To describe it.

THE PRESIDENT: When, when was it?

The Post: Mike said it was right around the election.


The Post: It was right around the election. We'll send it over.

THE PRESIDENT: I'm surprised. Maybe I did. It's amazing what happens when you're tired. Anyway, your question was? I'm sorry for interrupting.

The Post: So have you talked to Senate Democrats about this?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I have talked to Senate Democrats, and I will continue to talk to Senate Democrats. And I'll continue --

The Post: Did you --

THE PRESIDENT: We had a meeting with -- I think before Christmas we had the leadership in, didn't we?

MS. DEVENISH [Nicolle Devenish, the White House communications director]: That was Republicans.

MR. McCLELLAN: For Social Security?


MR. McCLELLAN: The bipartisan meeting at the end of last year, toward the end of last year.

THE PRESIDENT: And before we went on the Christmas break?


THE PRESIDENT: It was right after, I think Harry --[Senate Minority Leader] Harry Reid was there, I know for certain. I'm trying to remember -- I can't remember all who were there. But, yes, I have, and will continue to do so, and continue to speak to the people.

The Post: But you haven't reached out personally to [Senate Democrats] Ben Nelson or Mary Landrieu or [Joseph] Lieberman, people that seem open, at least to the idea, because so many Democrats say, no way.

THE PRESIDENT: I will. First step is to make sure people address -- are willing to address the problem. In other words -- in the campaign, you might remember, in going to one of the debates -- Senator [John] Kerry said -- I don't want to put words in his mouth, but basically said, this is something that we can grow the economy and Social Security will be okay. I think he said that. It's not fair for me -- I don't like when people put words in my mouth, and I try not to put in theirs.
     But my point is, is that to me, that points at part of the challenge of getting the issue moving forward. That's why I love when you all put it in the front page of your newspaper, the different aspects of Social Security; so and so says this, and so and so says that -- because it means people are at least talking about it. And my view is, the more it's talked about and the more it's debated, the more likely it is people will recognize that we have a problem that we need to address.
     And I meant what I said in some of the big speeches I gave, and oftentimes on the campaign trail, where the job of the president is to confront problems, not to pass them on. Plus, I enjoy confronting problems. I enjoy it when hot shot political reports say, can you believe -- sitting around the coffee table -- can you believe old Bush is trying to take this on?

The Post: [Post staff writer Michael A.] Fletcher is the one who does that. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, of course. (Laughter.) Source

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Posted January 15, 2005
But does Neil Steinberg wear hats?

Give a listen to this story from this morning's Weekend Edition Saturday, about a new book that describes the place of men's hats in American culture. One interesting tidbit is that the automobile was a factor that contributed to the demise of hats' popularity. Perhaps the piners for old-fashioned streetcars, who want us all to travel by expensive, huge-vehicle mass transit, are also trying to bring back the fedora?

'Hatless Jack' Tracks the Demise of the Fedora
Personal Rapid Transit

It's My Party and I'll Cry If I Want To. OK, it's been a couple days since it was announced the hunt for WMDs had ended, and had come up empty. As the Left had been saying for the last two years.
      What I find just as annoying as Dubya's aw-shucks non-apology apology with ABC's Baba Wawa is that the Democratic Party is missing in action. WHERE'S THE OUTRAGE? Where're the calls for Congressional investigations? Where's House Dem Leader Nancy Pelosi, hiding in Europe with John Forbes Kerry? Here's what she had to say to the Australian press:

Democrat house leader Nancy Pelosi demanded that Mr Bush "explain to theAmerican people why he was so wrong, for so long, about the reasons for war".

"After a search that has consumed nearly two years and millions of dollars, anda war that has cost thousands of lives, no weapons of mass destruction have beenfound, nor has any evidence been uncovered that such weapons were moved toanother country," Ms Pelosi said.

"Not only was there not an imminent threat to the United States, the threatdescribed in such alarmist tones by President Bush and the most senior membersof his administration did not exist at all."Source

Give me a freaking break! We know "why he was so wrong, for solong"—it can all be reduced to this: "he tried to kill my dad" (aswell as "there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan").

Instead of pretending like the end of the Iraq Survey Group's WMD work is abig surprise, and restating what the anti-war side has known all along, Pelosishould be on livid! This weekend she should be on all the network panel newsshows, screaming about Bush lies. She should raise the question ofimpeachment. But I don't think she will, because I haven't seen anythingthat shows her as willing to get into a streetfight; that isn't her style.

The Democratic Party needs a leader who isn't afraid of a good fight. Someoneplain-spoken, with anti-war credentials, who has proven ability to connect withaverage citizens on the issue. Howard Dean for DNC Chairman.

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Posted January 10, 2005
Another big non-crisis

Dubya can't seem to buy himself a legitimate domestic policy issue. Fresh onthe heels of Armstrong-Williamsgate and weekend public education bynewspapers (finally!) that there's no real Social Security crisis comes this puncture in the tort "reform" balloon:

Key doctors insurer cuts '05 rates
As dueling medical-malpractice-reform initiatives head toward the [Washington] Legislature, the state's largest insurer of doctors has posted record profits and is cutting 2005 rates -- in some cases, to levels resembling those paid in 1985.
      The lower premiums, combined with the dwindling number of doctors now asking for help finding malpractice insurance, signal a turnaround in the market, says state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, and puncture the argument that such drastic measures as the initiatives are needed. "We've clearly turned a corner," Kreidler said. "It's gone beyond being stable; we're seeing strong improvements." Source

Despite the facts and the record profits a flak for the insurer, PhysiciansInsurance, then has the chutzpah to claim that the company is less financiallysound than a few years ago, and that they would still press for tort reform.Jeez—even Warren Buffett says he doesn't need a tax cut.

Article: The shape of Social Security: ...not hurtling toward collapse

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Posted January 8, 2005
HypocRossi suit targets Blue Washington

Dino and the Ratpack are really doing it—demanding what their party denied Al Gore in Florida and what they denied John Kerry in Ohio. And they're only focusing on the populous counties on the bluer side of the Washington-dividing Cascade Mountains.

Rossi files suit for a new vote
Republican Dino Rossi formally contested the November election yesterday, claiming that errors, negligence and misconduct have made it impossible to know who really won the closest governor's race in U.S. history.
      In a lawsuit filed in Chelan County Superior Court, Rossi asked that Gov.-elect Christine Gregoire's 129-vote victory be nullified and a new election ordered.
      Gregoire, who is set to be sworn into office Wednesday, has maintained that the idea of a re-vote is "ludicrous." But she said yesterday that she respects Rossi's right to have his day in court.
      Rossi based his election challenge heavily on the fact that county records around the state show more votes counted than people credited with voting.
      Complete lists from King, Pierce, Snohomish, Kitsap and Clark counties accounted for 1,979 fewer voters than votes counted. Although that number was considerably smaller than the Republicans' earlier estimate of 8,400 votes, it was still statistically significant in such a close election, Rossi said.
      Some people complained yesterday that they've unsuccessfully tried to get authorities to remove dead relatives from voting lists.
      "I never would have thought that I live in the city that's going to be made the laughingstock of the country [", said Martin Ringhofer, who has run for the Seattle School Board and campaigned for other issues. Ballots for both his long-dead parents showed up last fall for both the primary and general election, he said. "] Never mind Florida and the chads. It's going to be Seattle and the dead." [See "I can already hear the judge laughing", yesterday]
      The suit was filed in Chelan County to avoid arguing the case in one of the Western Washington counties where the problems were most acute, [GOP lawyer Harry] Korrell said.
      "It's obvious that the Republicans went judge shopping," [state Democratic chair Paul] Berendt said. "They were looking for a partisan judge and Chelan County is one of the most Republican counties in the state." Source

Washington geography ("Cascade Curtain")
Blue (green) and Red (gray) Washington (scroll down)
Governor results by county (scroll down)

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Posted January 7, 2005
I can already hear the judge laughing

I happened to be up late, and surfed to the Seattle P-I website soon after their usual midnight posting. "Dead Voted in Governor's Race," screamed the headline. But before you get your Freepers in a twist, know that The Timeschecks in with a less hysterical "Voting by dead people isn't always a scam":

In six of the state's largest counties, at least 24 dead people were credited with voting in the November election. Some of those can be explained as clerical errors... three of the cases... warrant referral for felony prosecution, elections officials said last night, and several others require further investigation.
... at least half of the two dozen cases there is no evidence that extra votes were cast in dead people's names... The clerical errors and surviving relatives' slip-ups mean the wrong person - but not an additional person - was credited with voting.

Half of two dozen. That's twelve. A one with a two after it. 1-2. I can't wait to hearChris Vance in court"Your Honor, the Republican State Committee herebycharges that the Democrat Party did, with malice aforethought, cleverly engineera handful of dead-voter ballots, because they diabolically knew that theelection would be decided by less than 150 votes."

At most twelve dead voters. This is the best they can come up with?

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Posted January 6, 2005
What Went Wrong in Ohio

Report of the House Judiciary Democratic Staff (Conyers Report)

I'm watching the laughfest on CSPAN. Republicants are arising to decry Democrats, Moveon and Michael Moore (I didn't know he had a seat in Congress) for forcing debate on the Ohio vote. "Get over it" was what one smug pissant actually yelled on the House floor. They get up there and treat the Democrats like UFO kooks, never acknowledging the well documented Ohio irregularities.
      Meanwhile, their minions in Washington state continue to whine about thegovernor's race. Which is over.

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January 5, 2005
What's The Big Idea?

Have I mentioned that I love the morning paper?

Cracking open one of the local fishwrappers and perusing its items offer thenews in a linear, friendly way that I doubt hyperlinks will ever match. At leastin terms of tactile satisfaction.

Both of Seattle's daily papers, the Times and Post-Intelligencer("P-I") publish in the morning. The Times runs the advertising and circulationfor both under a Joint Operating Agreement. More on that later.

To me the most attractive feature of a newspaper is that you can foldit. When at your favorite diner and the Denver omelette arrives, you canfold the P-I and keep going on the New York Times crossword puzzle while youeat. I guess you can fold too, but it means closing yourlaptop.

"New Congress gets serious in a hurry", A1 below the fold, popped out at me first this morning. Whilemany consider Speaker Denny Hastert a bland midwesterner, I think he's one ofthe most nuanced comic geniuses of our age. Get a load of this one:

We have big challenges... and we need big ideas to meet those challenges.

It's a little bit funny. Because it turns out their new ideas are theirold ideas: undermining Social Security with a manufactured crisis;"simplifying" the tax code; drilling for oil in the ANWR; tort "reform". TheRepublicants are even bringing back the handful of judicial nominees whocouldn't pass the smell test in the last session. The only really new idea ischanging ethics rules to protect future indictee Tom DeLay, and they're droppingthat one.

Bush is encouraging Americans to make donations to private charities for tsunami relief (A1). Good, every bit helps. But don't I pay taxes for that too? Oh wait—that's for corporate relief.

George W. Bush said some time ago that he's stopped reading the newspapers, and now he doesn't even want staff to brief him about bad news, according to the Nelson Report. So he probably doesn't know that Scott McClellan has opened the door to delaying the Jan 30 Iraq elections (A1 above the fold).

But he stressed that the politically independent Iraqi Election Commission will make the final decision on whether to change the date of the election.

Remember last summer's controversy over sovereignty? Inside the Misadministration they couldn't agree whether sovereignty meant full or partial. Now I guess 'situational' should have been an option too. Although isn't that really synonymouswith 'colonial'?

Phone... or tricorder? A preview of the annual Consumer Electronics Show (E1) describes a new Samsung phone:

to be available in the United States later this year, including ones featuring a 5-megapixel camera, Wi-Fi support for easy Internet access and use of next-generation, high-speed cellular networks known as EVDO.

All it needs is a big, flexible screen. That I can fold while I eat a Denver omelette.

Columnist Bob Jamieson (B1) notes that former Gov. Dan Evans is the new front man for the state GOP's campaign for a do-over in the 2004 governor's election. Jamieson doesn't notice that Evans isn't a moderate, but he does write that

Evans presents a palatable public face for the GOP's revote push -- more so than party Chairman Chris Vance, who seems like a conniving hothead, a compassionless conservative.

And Jamieson goes right to the core of the do-over nonsense:

That's just an endgame where the rules call for play to continue until the GOP wins.

Pokey Reese is a Mariner!(D1) Here we see some differences between the P-I and the Times. The P-I'scoverage of the Reese signing is adequate, noting the shortstop will join a GoldGlove-caliber infield, his so-so bat, his base stealing ability, and that hisreal name is Calvin. The Times goes much further—making a bigger deal outof Reese's numerous injuries, and revealing the sales job done by ex-MarinerMike Cameron in getting Reese to agree to come to Seattle.

So: this offseason the Mariners have addressed their defensive needs, hitting needs, but not pitching. Although what worries me about Pokey is that he's had 15-error seasons twice (1997 and 2001) and 14 errors once (2000). Last year he had 7 in the 96 games he played.

That the Seattle dailies have co-mingled business operations is itself an ongoing news story. The locally owned Times (Blethen family) and Hearst-owned P-I have lived under a federally mandated Joint Operating Agreement for many years, to make it easier for the weaker P-I to survive and prevent the Times from having a monopoly.

The Blethens have been trying to scrap the JOA for several years on the grounds that they are losing money. If the JOA ends, one paper would go under fairly quickly since there is only one marketing and printing operation.

Something happened last month that makes me wonder how far the Blethens would go to kill the JOA. Last fall I took advantage of a Times/P-I promotional offer of a free, 7-days a week subscription to last 3 months. It ran out at the end of November. Three weeks later a Times salesman came to my door offering another free subscription for eitherpaper—and he said that if he turned in the paperwork without an expirationdate I would get the free subscription indefinitely. I again chose theP-I. It has Dilbert.

Is this part of a stealth strategy to kill the JOA? How many of theseopen-ended free subscriptions are out there? Hundreds? Thousands? How hard isthe Times circulation department selling them? Diabolically, the Times getsto carry them as extra expenses, bolstering the Blethens' claim of losingmoney.

Seattle P-I
Seattle Times
New Congress gets serious in a hurry
No Bad News
U.S. opens door to delay of Iraqi vote
Digital revolution's next destination: your living room
Jamieson: When is an election like a Civil War battle?
Mariners sign Reese
Pokey Reese
Joint Operating Agreement

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Posted January 4, 2005
There's No Mystery

Dino (Rossi) and his Ratpack are still holding out a slim hope that they can smear their way to a do-over of the Washington election for Governor. The straw they are grasping at today is a recordkeeping discrepancy between the number of ballots cast and the official report of registered voters.

What the state Republicants are doing is trying to manufacture a scandal—much in the same way that the national GOP is manufacturing a 'crisis' surrounding Social Security.

Here's the story. Every election the 39 county elections departments reconcile the ballots to the registrations as closely as possible. The difference between the number of ballots and registered voters arises because of a variety of factors—such as write-in votes on military ballots, registered voters who were put on an 'inactive' list because they skipped voting in an election cycle, and people who for a variety of reasons do not have a listed address.

The counties do their best to reconcile every difference, but this isn't always possible, there usually are discrepancies that are never resolved. Rossi and his front man Chris "I'm fighting for my political life here" Vance are latching onto this regular glitch and claiming it as evidence of fraud. The auditor of Clark County, Republican Greg Kimsey, explains the reality:

Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey said he thinks that 553 of the 1,005 vote-to-voter discrepancy there will be accounted for when the list of inactive voters -- those who have not participated in recent elections -- is reconciled with those who did in fact turn out in November.

But he has no plans to try to account for 452 extra poll, absentee and provisional votes.

"It would be a huge task," Kimsey said. "You are looking through 121,679 absentee ballots, affidavit envelopes and through poll books where 50,598 voters cast their ballots.

Vance pounces on that, ominously calling the remaining ballots "mystery votes," and beating his drum arguing for existence of fraud:

Vance said that's outrageous. "You simply can't have more votes counted than you have voters... counties have to come up with a plausible explanation for this and if they don't this election is invalid on its face.

Ah, but they have a plausible explanation. Kimsey again:

"The controls that are in place in the election process ensure that only registered voters are going to receive a ballot. While I understand the concern that comes from seeing two different numbers, the controls are at the front end."

Here's the hypocRossi: Vance says "serious questions arise when resultsare certified before the voter lists are reconciled with the number of votescounted." And their official voice of outrage, at least for today, is formerRepublican Governor Dan Evans, who is parroting Rossi's call for a do-over.Well it seemed okay with them when Ken Blackwell (R) certified Ohio electors for Bush before completion of the recount. And the Dan Evans of today is a partisan shill, not the progressive lion remembered by most, someone who in the early 80s sold out to the ultra-right of the GOP so he could be appointed to the U.S. Senate upon the death of Scoop Jackson.

You know when you're working with a big database, and no matter what you doyou can't get the report to kick out all n of the records you want? Maybeit'll kick out n-5 of them, or n-3, or n-1. But you knowyou entered them, and you're pretty sure it was done accurately. Eventually youhave to trust your data entry procedures and turn in the report as-is, with afootnote. That's the analogy to what's going on with the reconciliation ofregistrations—there's an annoying discrepancy, but it's certainthere's no fraud.

Rossi and his backers have nothing to stand on. Give it up already.

Article: Rossi given fresh hope as 'mystery voters' grow

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Posted January 3, 2005
When ideology leads to idiocy

One of the saddest things in the world is when I witness a fellow liberal act like a complete imbecile.

Today's example is Joshua Frank, who attempts to write aboutPersonal Rapid Transit at the otherwise excellent In thearticle "Strange Bedfellows," Frank takes a number of Green Party figures totask for supporting PRT, presenting arguments that they are being manipulated by"the pro-highway and anti-transit lobby." To Frank, PRT is technological unorthodoxy—liberals who ascribe to it are heretics. Even the last twoGreen Party presidential candidates (David Cobb and RalphNader) aren't green (or Green) enough for him—they both support PRT.

Frank uses the same technique radical-right Republicans use against liberals: a lie or half-truth is stated and then repeated and repeated—even after it has been disproved. The side under attack then has to waste time responding to the lies and less time on communicating a positive message. It worked for the Swift Boat Veterans For 'Truth' against John Kerry, and it could work against PRT too—to the benefit of massive corporations (no friends of liberals and environmentalists) like Bombardier, Siemens, Parsons Brinckerhoff and Bechtel that plan, manufacture or build light rail train systems.

Everything Frank trots out to 'prove' PRT is a right wing plot is wrongand/or has been disproved. Example: Frank cites a writer in the NY Presswho characterizes PRT as "transportation with no wait, no traffic and no smellystrangers." The lie here is an old one: that PRT is 'anti-community' andprobably racist because it would appeal to people who want to travel alone instead of with strangers. The truth is PRT is "no wait" because it'son-demand: PRT will be the first public transit system that treatseveryone the same. When you show up at a PRT station and request a ride, you getit. PRT doesn't care what color you are, where you live, how much money youmake, or the time of day. It just takes you to where you're going, and it takes you now,because that's when you want to travel—not when a timetable dictates.

Example: Frank writes "In reality PRT has never worked despite over 30 yearsof research and development." He ties the failures to corporations that receivedpublic money and produced expensive, impractical PRT systems. The liehere is that he equates failure of a company with failure of the entire PRTconcept. A project like PRT2000 by Raytheon ("the maker of "Bunker Buster"bombs, Tomahawk, Patriot missiles, and other assorted weaponry"—is Franktrying to depict PRT as part of the military industrial complex?) is indeed ahigh profile failure, but the truth is that past PRT projects that failed did so for identifiable and solvable reasons. In the Raytheon case,they had deep pockets and zero incentive to create a minimalist, inexpensivesystem. So they didn't.
      And Frank doesn't even get his basic claim right: there HAVE been PRTprojects that have worked. Boeing built a PRT (although with vehicles the sizeof a large minivan) at West Virginia University in the 70s—still operatingtoday, and WVU is considering expanding it. Germany had a successful prototypein the 1980s, cancelled due to a national budget crisis (caused by US demands that its allies increase their defense spending--again, a boon for big defense contractors).
      Today, a British PRT test system (ULTra) exists that was built for only $10 millionper mile, and its operation and safety proven to the satisfaction of the UKgovernment. The main thing holding it back? A traditional pro-transit coalition,composed of transit agencies and environmentalist supporters, that has successfullylobbied to deny further funding. Such coalitions are useful when campaigning forexpansion of public transit systems, funding, and equitable service—butharmful when the coalition obligates its environmentalist partners to help transit agencies find excuses to not adopt new technologies like PRT thatcould offer better, faster, cheaper, and less polluting public transit.

It's these pawns of the transit status quo—people like Ken Avidor, theconspiracy-obsessed Minnesotan with a vendetta against PRT (who Frank quotes,and whose ideas he parrots)—who are doing the most harm to the cause ofpublic mass transit in the United States. Here they are, clinging to advocacy oftransit technologies that were invented in the 19th century, as though trainsand buses are the pinnacle of what humans can achieve. And yet I'll bet they areall for spending billions on solar, wind, clean fusion, and new technologyfor private automobiles like hydrogen fuel cells. Why innovations for cars,but not transit? It's perpetuation of transit's second-class status; somethingnew like PRT could put transit on even footing with cars.

Frank quotes Avidor's wild accusation that "PRT is really a stalking horsefor the pro-highway, anti transit lobby," which is total poppycock. Think aboutthis: if you continue to rely on buses and trains that only a tiny percentage ofpeople will use (outside of New York City), and yet the population and economycontinues to grow, what will you need to build more of? Answer: Roads.

In my world view, there's an alternative: create a new kind of transit that more people will wantto use, that will reduce or at least check road congestion, and therefore reducethe need for more roads.

Frank and Avidor (and NY Press's Aaron Naparstek) don't get thislogic, as their arguments lead to one conclusion: that current transit systemswill get higher ridership when congestion on our roads is allowed to reachintolerable levels, forcing us to switch to trains and buses. In other words,to get more of us onto their outmoded transit systems, Frank & Co. arewilling to force upon us longer commute times—even if it means less time for ourfamilies, friends, and (what the so-called 'pro-transit coalition' claims to prize above all) community involvement. And have the economy, alreadyweakened by George W. Bush's policies, choking on more congestion.

For further assurance that PRT is NOT about highways one need only look toEurope, where the EU is giving PRT a major look as part of the EDICT (Evaluationand Demonstration of Innovative City Transport) program. Dr. Eric Ponthieu,director of European Commission research on urban sustainability, affirmed thatPRT is in accordance with Europe's goal of 'mode shift' away from roads(Source: TransitPulse (ATRA) Vol. XXII #5).

The logic used by Frank, Avidor, et al insists on clinging to outmodedtechnologies, even in the face of such cognitive dissonance as this: a plan toextend Seattle's planned streetcar system to the airport that requires adding an additional lane to a freeway, and removing and rebuilding parking garage access ramps to suit, at a cost of $85-105 million. Talk about your strange bedfellows.

Article: "Strange bedfellows" ( )
The real story: Personal Rapid Transit
Skyweb Express (Taxi 2000)

Look who's profile is rising. On Dec. 20 Ispeculated that the Run Jeb Run chorus was going to be starting up, and here it is.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush spent today in Thailand as part of a U.S. entouragetouring areas devastated by the tsunami - a role freighted with political andpersonal overtones for the president's younger brother... marking the governor'sfirst major appearance on the international stage.
But it already has reignited talk about thegovernor either as a future presidential contender or landing some role in hisbrother's administration when his term in Florida ends in 2007.

"Herein Washington, people have certainly noticed that Jeb was chosen for this trip,"said Stephen Hess, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and formerpresidential speechwriter.

"Clearly, it adds to his experience level,which, so far, has been mostly at the state level."
"He's said he's not interested in running for president in 2008 and when he says 'no' he means no," said JohnThrasher, a former Florida Republican House speaker from Orange Park. "But after that, I think his opportunities are wideopen."Source

Pretty good campaign clipping for someone not running for President, dontcha think?

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