March 2005
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Posted March 30, 2005
Our transportation future is at steak Link This

How you eat a steak: You cook it to your own liking. Arrange on plate. Cut bite-sized piece; chew, swallow; repeat.

How Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl eats a steak: Reservations for dinner at 7. No prices on menu, just "Market Price." Cooking time is longer than expected; ambience ruined by kitchen noise of pots & pans, chopping, food processor and cook yelling at assistants. Steak arrives on cafeteria tray with dividers. Steak is smaller than expected, sometimes slops over divider into jello. Required to swallow huge 3-inch chunks of steak, because bigger is better, and uses mouth capacity more efficiently.

How Seattle Monorail Project's Joel Horn eats a steak: Dinner at Space Needle. Cooking time keeps changing. Steak is arranged on uppermost level of two-tiered plate in order to keep steak up and away from jello. More expensive than expected; after ordering the waiter comes back and offers choice of a different cut that might/might not be cheaper and taste/not taste the same. Also required to swallow huge 3-inch chunks—but who can argue with the great view! Fans of steak from around the world stand nearby and watch, drooling. Waiter says there's a problem with Horn's credit card, would he have another?

How South Lake Union streetcar proponent Mayor Greg Nickels eats a steak: takes money from poor person to give to Paul Allen to have lunch at Metropolitan Grill. Steak is the petite cut, and reminds Allen of steaks he's read about that They Used To Have, Back In The Good Old Days. It also reminds him of the steaks they serve at that steakhouse on Pearl Street, down in Portland. Presented attractively on a hand-blown glass plate, next to a savory flan and endive/radicchio salad; a photo is taken and printed in Sunset. The table looks like a place where successful, urbane people would want to dine, relaxing after a full day of gene splicing.

How Metro Transit's boss, County Executive Ron Sims, eats a steak: Dinner with Joni Earl. Keeps staring at menu pictures of steak, but instead orders a diesel-electric hybrid bus that is worse for his cholesterol than if he had just ordered the steak. More gas than expected.

How Seattle Art Museum Director Mimi Gardner Gates eats a steak: Throws someone else's steak in the trash. Replaces with tray of appetizers that are so nouvelle that no one can tell what they are. But all 17 appetizer connoisseurs in Seattle agree they're challenging pieces and beautiful to look at.

How a Personal Rapid Transit advocate eats a steak: Go down the street to a bistro. Stroll, there's no hurry, they always hold your favorite table. A friend is there, and the two of you have a pleasant chat. You order; the steak comes arranged on plate with the best garlic mashed potatoes in the world; side salad. Cut bite-sized piece; chew, swallow; repeat.

Also: Trolley rat smelled

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Posted March 29, 2005
Imagine you're a big urban transit agency... Link This

...and you have big problems. To get your enabling act passed 10 years ago, you had to promise in your long range plan that you'd finish your Phase I rail project before going back to voters for more capital funding, and fund innovation.

But a decade has passed and here's all you have to show for it:

  • express buses that the counties could have set up without you;
  • your original budget has bloated beyond recognition;
  • your daily commuter train round trips can be counted on the fingers of one hand, even if the hand is missing a pinkie;
  • your only light rail is a 1.6 mile streetcar mini-line in Tacoma; you've had to cut 7 miles out of the 21 miles of light rail you promised Seattle;
  • other than a hybrid bus that gets lousy mileage (and you have deniability because that was the County's f-up), the only real innovation you've done is to test a smart card system that will mostly just take up space in people's wallets that they'll need for supplemental medical cards;
  • a bill authorizing innovative personal rapid transit and maglev systems is working its way through the state Legislature. But you don't know what happened to the rest of your innovation money.
  • To make things worse, you HAVE to keep going on rail, because the chief executives of both the biggest county and city just love the choo-choos.

    What would you do?

    What the Puget Sound region's Sound Transit would do is delete the troublesome language from its draft updated Long-Range Plan, pass the changes off as "factual or 'housekeeping'" edits, and hope no one notices:

    The Sound Transit Board is in the process of reviewing and updating Sound Transit's 1996 Long-Range Plan, which was adopted in 1996 as the Regional Transit Long-Range Vision. At its March 10, 2005 meeting, the Board reviewed the text of the 1996 Plan. The version that the Board worked from is available here. It includes edits that the Board is reviewing that are primarily factual or "housekeeping" changes. As the Board continues to review the Plan it will consider and discuss whether it wants to make any changes to the policy language embodied in the current Long-Range Plan. Source

    Oh, and if you were ST you would also revamp your website and 'forget' to put your original Long-Range Plan back up after the redesign. This makes it harder for anyone to notice that your "draft update" Plan changes this section:

    Before additional light-rail segments are considered, Sound Move lines must be substantially completed and voters must approve funding for any additional capital investments
    Before additional light-rail segments are considered, Sound Move lines must be substantially completed and voters must approve funding for any additional capital investments

    and that this has been omitted:

    The RTA will work with the community and the private sector to take part in a demonstration of personal rapid transit (PRT) or other technologies. PRT is an experimental type of automated transit consisting of small cars running on a guideway carrying two to six passengers per car. The demonstration could show how PRT or other new technologies could be appropriate investments in future transit system phases. [p.20]

    If you were ST, you would say instead that "the [Puget Sound Regional Council] recently surveyed a wide variety of technology options [and] suggested... personal rapid transit... could not meet a number of key system wide objectives". And then you would forget to mention that the PRT system the Council evaluated was designed circa 1970 and bears little resemblance to the minimalist, affordable designs that could be built today. And then you'd plunge happily ahead with light rail for your Phase II, not needing to innovate and expecting to be rolling in (tax) dough for the rest of Phase I.

    If you did that, you'd be pulling a fast one. But you wouldn't do that. Would you?

    A tip of the hat to eagle-eyed David Maymudes on this one.

    Also today:

    Mayor Einstein—Nickels's plan for our densest neighborhood: less parking

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    Posted March 28, 2005
    People of the World: Now YOU Can Vote in a U.S. Election!

    Star search
    Mr_Blog's bud Hayley Blackwell-Olsby is performing on "Gimme The Mike 2," a Seattle talent show. It will air tonight on KONG-TV at 8pm PST (0400 GMT). Then beginning at 9pm (0500 GMT), you have three hours in which to go online and vote for Hayley. And here's the beautiful thing about the Internet-- even if you can't see the show because you don't live in the Puget Sound area, you can still vote for her.

    Also today:

    Declaration of Revocation (not by John Cleese)

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    Posted March 24, 2005
    There Will Be a Slight DeLay

    Caught on Tape: Texas Exterminator claims Schiavo "is lucid," God's gift to GOP, targets Wyden, Levin and Boxer, wants to let tax-exempt churches lobby. Frist links case to judicial appointments, 'values'—

    Congressional Leaders' Plan To Push Religious Right's Controversial Political Agenda (:21 MP3)

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    Posted March 23, 2005

    Hey KPTK-AM 1090 Seattle! That sound you heard this morning as you began rerunning yesterday's third hour of Morning Sedition? That was me pushing the KJR button on my Walkman. And what happened to my Majority Report??? Still don't have the enewsletter pulled together, eh? I guess I'll be listening to Air America over the Internet.

    Also today:

    • I'm sure he'll get past it: Ultra-Reichert weighs pros and cons, uses logic, Votes No on Schiavo
    • Hydrocephalic Democrat: Baird weighs pros and cons, uses logic, votes the opposite
    "Expert" in Schiavo case a quack, liar
    • Be very afraid: "Mayor's eye on Rainier Valley" Need basic services? Just let your neighborhood be changed beyond recognition to suit light rail, and collect on the mitigation.

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    Posted March 22, 2005
    That's the ticket Link This

    If you care about your public officials having integrity, you ought to surf over to a blatant act of public relations in this morning's Seattle P-I. In response to a Ted Van Dyk opinion piece, Sound Transit Communications Officer Ric Ilgenfritz writes:

    [Van Dyk's] real whopper was stating Sound Transit's light rail construction is over budget. Not so. After 17 months of work, the project is trending 6 percent below budget, with four of five construction bids coming in well below estimates.

    Define 'budget.' According to environmentalist and former broadcast executive Emory Bundy, posting at the little-noticed Public Interest Transportation Forum, the agency's capital costs are significantly overbudget for all its rail and bus projects. In fact, Bundy's latest Sound Transit Report Card gives ST low or failing marks on implementation, capital & operating costs and ridership for all its programs. I'll bet Ilgenfritz really means 'reprojected (meaning fudged) budget.' Ilgenfritz continues:

    He also wrongly stated Sound Transit didn't consider alternatives to rail. Actually, we did, and the voters approved a regional system based on both bus and rail service.

    Define 'considered.' Yeah, it was 'considered' all right. In another PITF report, Dr. Richard Harkness showed that the agency slanted the study of alternatives to make light rail look better—Sound Transit cheated. What else does Ilgenfritz claim?

    He capped it off by misstating transit's commute share around Seattle is only 7.6 percent of trips. It's actually 33 percent and growing all the time.

    morgan fairchild
    Mrs. Ric Ilgenfritz
    Define 'transit.' I don't know what sources, if any, Ilgenfritz is using, but when I crunch the Puget Sound Regional Council's 'journey to work' numbers, the figure Mr_Blog gets (including Everett and Auburn) is 10.9% commuting by transit. The only way you can get to a 33% transit share is by subtracting drive-alones from the number of total workers—which means counting carpooling, biking, walking and working at home as 'transit.' (See my Excel workbook)

    This one little letter to the editor, which will probably go unnoticed by most, exemplifies what's wrong with our current level of civic discourse: there's no such thing as a lie anymore. There is only spin.

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    Posted March 21, 2005
    Well Oiled

    Let me see if I've got this right—We still don't know for certain who leaked Valerie Plame's name to Bob Novak; no investigation into how J.D. Guckert got around White House security; Ken Lay still walks free. But to keep a feeding tube down the throat of persistently-vegetative Terri Schiavo, the White House and GOP-controlled Congress are transformed into a smooth-running midnight legislation machine? Just checking.

    Oh, and if Schiavo's parents are so certain she can recover, instead of holding more impromptu press conferences they should take her home with them. They should provide her round the clock care. They should feed and change her. They should sit up all night watching her for infections. Their insurance pays for long-term in-home care... right? Wait a sec; they already tried taking her home (Sept. 1990)--they couldn't handle it. What makes them think it will be different now?

    Also: Administration lied to Asian allies about North Korea
    Palast/BBC: Oil companies the real winners in Iraq

    The Midas Grope. For those at Seattle City Hall who are betting Paul Allen will have the golden touch in his redevelopment of the South Lake Union district, please refer to today's Post-Intelligencer report on an earlier Allen grand vision:

    The Experience Music Project, which opened to the accompaniment of an international oompa media marching band in June 2000, seems brilliant on its surface: a high-tech celebration of rock 'n' roll's heritage housed in a unique building that is among Seattle's cultural jewels.

    The expectations were huge... But as the museum's fifth anniversary approaches, things aren't going as planned: All rotating exhibits have been canceled or frozen, and of the roughly 250 people employed by EMP, 14 percent are temps who fear their contracts won't be renewed because attendance is half of what was expected.

    ...between 2001 and 2003, admission revenues were down 46 percent.

    ...EMP downsized its administrative offices, moving from Third Avenue and Broad Street to the old AAA building just off Aurora Avenue North last Friday.
    last year kicked off with a massive round of layoffs, a corporate turnaround man as the new sheriff and deep budget cuts. Now the turnaround man is gone, the museum having churned through its third chief executive officer in as many years.

    ...insiders... say EMP's woes can be blamed on its ruthless management style, its culture of secrecy and its lack of a community mission.
    The famously deep pockets funding EMP seem to prevent arts supporters from seeing it as an institution in need of help...
    Whereas most non-profits tend to sprout from small, grass-roots efforts, EMP just sort of appeared, wholly formed, on Seattle's doorstep...

    ...Insiders say 2005's only exhibit (a roots-of-rock deal) is on hold -- indefinitely -- and that management wants to recycle old exhibits (such as 2003's hip-hop exhibit, "Yes Yes Y'all," which sources say will return this summer) rather than creating new ones.

    ...Allen's Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, which opened in June, isn't getting rave reviews ([EMP's Paige] Prill says it had 117,000 visitors in 2004), it's at least functioning...

    SFM director Donna Shirley already has cut her hours in half, Prill said, in order to spend more time with her family... Source

    More: EMP's secretive culture

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    Posted March 18, 2005
    That's A Lot Of Nickels Link This

    Fresh on the heels of a dubious Seattle Center land deal that will give the world's richest man a $50 million discount comes more Seattle civic real estate news, this time concerning his old school chum:

    Mayor Greg Nickels and the Seattle Parks Foundation yesterday announced a record $10 million donation from billionaire Paul Allen's Vulcan Inc.

    The contribution is the largest single private contribution to a public park in Seattle history. However, it will be made in two parts and comes with some serious strings attached.

    The agreement makes the money contingent on the city completing roadwork in the area and extending a deadline for Vulcan to start work on nearby property...

    Richard Conlin, who chairs the [city] council's Transportation Committee, said ... "It seems less like a donation and more like an agreement"
    The first $5 million will be donated immediately, and be spent on the first phase of park construction, including removal of a bulkhead, erecting a pedestrian bridge to connect to sections of the park, and building a boardwalk.

    Microsoft billionaire Allen has invested heavily in South Lake Union, aiming to transform it into a biotechnology hub where some of the world's brightest researchers will be drawn to live, work and play.

    His company owns 58 acres and plans to build more than 10 million square feet of residential, office and commercial space.
    Vulcan will hold onto the final $5 million until the city is ready to turn Valley Street, now five one-way lanes, into a three-lane, two-way street with a traffic signal and wide sidewalks.

    In addition, if the city ever decides to require impact fees on new development to help fund parks and open space, Vulcan can use that last $5 million as a credit and not have to come up with more money. Source

    It's not a gift if you expect more than a Thank You in return.

    First it was the aborted Commons Park that let Allen get a foothold in neighborhood. Then Nickels sweetened the deal by promising Allen a publicly-built streetcar that will only carry a few dozen people an hour. Now a quid pro quo deal for a backyard for the biotech elite and nice new boulevard frontage.

    Duck, or you could get hit by all the money flying around.

    Trolley Folly
    History of South Lake Union; the Commons

    Heart of Glass. As you're going out to the recycling bin with the bottles you emptied of German beer during last night's celebration of the man who drove the snakes out of Ireland, it might be a good time to reflect on why we recycle.

    I do it because it's personal action I can take to help reduce pressure on scarce resources and reduce the size of landfills. But I have to balance that against such considerations as how much water should I waste rinsing out a cat food can (beef & wheat germ is more stubborn than Krazy Glue). And while I assiduously recycle glass bottles, it bugs me that recycling them only saves about half of the energy used in making new ones (versus 95% savings for recycled aluminum and 65% savings for paper, which also saves water).

    But I do it anyway, and so do a lot of others because we want to be a good citizens. But the number of people and businesses who recycle in Seattle is way under 50%, so in a plan proposed by Mayor Nickels, residential and business recycling is now mandatory.

    I just received a mailer announcing that the new rules went into effect at the first of the year. Now, it's only going to be a hassle for me if the enforcement is going to be fascistically strict, which it probably won't. More people ought to get off their lazy asses and recycle anyway; and I'm glad businesses will no longer get a free pass.

    What gives pause are the political reasons that gave rise to the new policy. From the Seattle Times archives:

    Admitting that Seattle lags far behind its environmental goals, Mayor Greg Nickels unveiled new measures aimed at improving the city's slumping recycling rates—and the mayor's image.
    To pay for the new program, city officials estimate garbage rates would increase up to 1.5 percent but did not have specifics on how the rates would be broken down among residential and commercial customers.
    A key element of the mayor's program is the advent of commercial food-composting. Nickels wants businesses to divert 31,800 tons of food wastes annually by 2008.
    Chris Martin, president of CleanScapes, a private waste-management company in Pioneer Square, said food-only waste would require more frequent collections.

    "What is a food-waste Dumpster going to smell like?"

    Nickels wants the city to stick to its 60 percent goal.

    "It will take aggressive measures. These are realistic, but they do push the envelope," he said.
    The mayor's recycling initiative is part of a plan to "green" Nickels, who is now battling many Seattle environmental groups over efforts to restore and "daylight" the city's creeks.

    Nickels has an elaborate agenda for promoting his environmental initiatives and credentials.

    It includes a "strategy for improving communications to environmental constituencies," generating "one-environment-related media opportunity approximately" every three months, and maintaining a Web site on the mayor's environmental actions.

    Nickels said he deliberately chose to roll out his recycling plan before his State of the City speech next Monday. Source, 1/30/03

    The justifiable means (recycling) don't justify the ends: we're enacting a significant new public policy basically so Nickels can look good with the US Conference of Mayors. It's so he can have green cred without having to compromise on creek restoration. For "strategy for improving communications to environmental constituencies," read 'political communications.' The announcement was timed to coincide with his major annual address.

    And the recycling rates (for more frequent compost collection?) will be higher-- shouldn't there be an economic incentive to recycle by making it cheaper?

    Recycling energy facts
    Recycle or else

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    Posted March 16, 2005
    So many publicists, so little time

    How about some makeovers to give tired cultural fixtures some much-needed post-9/11 sensibility?

    Live! With Regis & The Military-Industrial Complex
    Fleetwood Big Mac
    Popiel Pocket Anthrax Sniffer
    KC Masterpiece Theatre
    Ed McMahon's WMD Search
    Afghanistan Bandstand
    Easy Riders, a News Corporation publication
    A Prairie Home Civil Union
    Crosby, Spears, Nash & Young
    Creedence Clearskies Revival
    The Wonderful World of Disney Shareholder Meetings
    The Chet Atkins Diet
    Tom Clancy's Cheech & Chong's Joint Task Force

    Even Worse. Link This In a follow up to a Times report on a sweet land deal for the Gates Foundation, the Weekly's Rick Anderson (in a complicated article, give it a chance) reveals that Mayor Nickels has actually shortchanged the taxpayers by $50 million, not the $28 million originally "disclosed" (Marianne Bichsel, Mr_Blog's favorite flack, does her usual yeoperson duty):

    Charitable Terms, city deal to sell land to the Gates Foundation was even worse than you think

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    Posted March 15, 2005
    Karen Hughes nominated to Ministry of Truth

    ...Hughes will take over the Bush administration's troubled public diplomacy effort intended to burnish the U.S. image abroad...

    Through exchange programs, foreign language media and other initiatives, the public diplomacy campaign aims to promote American values of democracy, tolerance and pluralism abroad while combating negative images propagated in many parts of the world. Source

    In other White House news, President Bush announced that Paris Hilton will lead the Administrations's teen abstinence initiative... Michael Jackson will head the Department of Education's activities in Early Childhood Education... Former press secretary Ari Fleischer has accepted an appointment as the new Joseph Goebbels Professor of Political Marketing at Bob Jones University.

    Amazon Founder On The Moon
    County abuzz as Bezos plans spaceport
    VAN HORN, Texas (AP) Even skeptical locals, who've become wary over the years of city slickers with big ideas for their town, perked up when founder Jeff Bezos made his pitch - a spaceport for commercial travel into the beyond.
         Bezos... acquired 165,000 acres of desolate ranch land. He also gave his only interview so far on the spaceport to the Van Horn Advocate, the weekly newspaper Larry Simpson runs from the back of his Radio Shack store.
         "He walked in and said: 'Hi, I'm Jeff Bezos,' and sat down right in that chair there," Simpson said, pointing to spot [sic] in his small cluttered office.
         Over the next 30 to 40 minutes, Simpson said Bezos told him the goal of his venture - known as Blue Origin - was to send a spaceship into orbit that launches and lands vertically, like a rocket.
         "He told me their first spacecraft is going to carry three people up to the edge of space and back," Simpson said. "But ultimately, his thing is space colonization." -AP, 3/15/2005

    Van Horn Advocate
    Google Blue Origin

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    Posted March 14, 2005

    Good morning, sports fans. Like the swallows to Capistrano or a red & green repp tie to Nordstrom, today is the day the Seattle Mariners ad campaign returns to the air with a new set of TV commercials.

    Produced by the Copacino+Fujikado agency for several years, Ms ads have been a fan favorite due to the humorous way they sell the players. That's right: Ms advertising has long emphasized the lovability of the players over the quality of the team. Not a surprise, since historically the team management has needed a way to rinse the bad taste of another winter with no significant free agent signings from the mouths of potential season ticket buyers.

    The pressure won't be so high on the ads this spring, as management finally listened to fans over the winter, beefing up the offense with a lineup that ought to Kick. Some. Ass. So give the new crop of TV spots a look-see and vote for your favorite.

    New ad campaign unveiled
    Previous Mariners ads by Copacino+Fujikado

    With Six You Get Saber-Rattling. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is steamed (I prefer the baked BBQ pork Wen Jiabao anyway): Taiwan is still putting on the airs of an independent state after more than 50 years on its own. So the People's Congress in Beijing has voted to keep its options open regarding an ultimate use of military force to preserve the two Chinas' paper unity. Fine. Gotta keep your options open; imagine if Idaho wanted to sece- uh, if eastern Washington wanted to split off from the rest- okay, I know there's a good parallel out there somewhere. But for the moment consider the hypocrisy in what you're not reading--a strong White House statement in favor of Taiwanese independence and self determination:

    In Washington, the Bush administration last week called it "unhelpful" and urged Beijing to reconsider the bill. Source

    "We view the adoption of the anti-secession law as unfortunate. It does not serve the purpose of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait" —Scott McClellan

    And here I thought liberty and democracy are spreading, and freedom is on the march. But that doesn't apply when the marchers want to march out of a country that owns $217 billion of the US National Debt.

    Foreign Holdings of the U.S. Debt

    Error America Radio. Last week the Network turned Lizz Winstead into an unperson (and won't talk about it), and today the Seattle affiliate has moved the entire Unfiltered show... somewhere (and isn't talking about it). It's been replaced by Morning Sedition, which is just perfect timing—I wanted to hear that show last year when Sue Ellicott [1, 2] was on it. I've heard MS first during a bout of insomnia and then during a guest stint for Randi Rhodes and, while competent, I find Maron & Riley just too juvenile. And Unfiltered without Winstead is like... well, like Democracy Now.

    Whether Unfiltered is even still on the air in Seattle is a mystery. Hey KPTK, I went to your new "Precinct 1090" web page last week, and even signed up to "receive all the latest updates and information as it relates to Seattle's Progressive Talk AM 1090." Doesn't a lineup shuffle meet the criteria? Your ratings are up slightly since last October's format switch--don't blow it.

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    Posted March 8, 2005
    Dear Leader
    by Kim Jong Il

    Dear Leader,
    I'm in big trouble, please help me! I'm a xenophobic leader too, but with a big secret: I'm illegitimate. Until now I've denied it, but now the bloggers are gaining credibility. Should I reveal the truth?
    Son of a Bush

    Dear SOB:
    Telling the truth will undermine your glorious plans for your hard working, freedom loving peoples. The best thing to do is keep their minds occupied. Tell them that jealous foreign devils are out to destroy the homeland. Silence your opposition! Question the patriotism of critics! Name scapegoats! Close borders! Conduct show trials!

    Dear Leader,
    For a few years I've had a special relationship with another political leader from a much bigger country. For four years I've gone along with all his schemes, while he's spent all his money and gone into debt. But he keeps on spending, and telling me I have to keep agreeing with everything he says and does. Lately he's been going to other continents, stealing and getting into fights. When he finally comes to see me he's drunk on power. But he's basically a good man and I don't want to abandon him. What should I do?
    Tired Of Nitwit Yankee

    Dear TONY:
    He's not that into you. The only reason he keeps you around is because he needs his coalition. As long as you continue to enable his behavior you'll always be his lapdog. Why not try undermining his public support? Export your news and cultural programming via his own media infrastructure. Soon they'll all be talking like Alistair Cooke, drinking tea and quoting Wodehouse. If that doesn't work, try kidnapping his citizens and holding them for 20-25 years in order to reprogram them as espionage agents.

    Dear Leader,
    An obnoxious neighbor has moved into my region. All day and night they're carrying on with house to house searches, reconstruction, pacification and loud music. And you should see all the armored vehicles parked at their place. Anyway, we're in the midst of a change in leadership, the people are in the streets and our occupiers may leave. But the obnoxious neighbor has butted in and is trying to take credit for the whole thing. How can I tell him to mind his own business, but in a way that won't cause him to park his armored vehicles in my front yard?
    Just sign me: Like to Evict, But Nonconfrontational

    Dear L.E.B. Non:
    New neighbors take some time to get used to, just be patient. If your neighbor's place is the hellhole it sounds like, it won't be long until he's spending all his money on contractors. He won't have time OR money to cause you any real trouble. Bide your time for now and take his verbal meddling in stride. Invite them to come over for some athletic events and tours of your industrial facilities; ask them for several million metric tons of food aid.

    Sleepless in Islamabad: you did the right thing. When a bully is threatening you, the best thing to do is nuke-up in a serious way. Because bullies are really just scared little boys who'll back down at the first sign of radioactivity.

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    Posted March 7, 2005
    I'll pass too Link This

    Yesterday's Seattle morning paper contained one of those What Is This Waste Of Space op-eds about how our current transit mish mash can work if only we would just tinker with it little bit more.

    Anindita Mitra, smiling up from next to her byline (an editor felt she rated a photo, rare for a guest editorial), offers us Cars? I'll Take a Pass, a column that exudes the positive, can-do optimism of an industrious bee, or maybe a beaver that has discovered a shallow stream, its banks lined with tasty stands of birch.

    All that sweetness, like gnawing on tree trunks, makes my teeth hurt. Not that she starts off wrong; her problem statement is right:

    "For me, the course that makes the most sense is a seamless network that integrates the area's transportation systems, whereby commuters easily can access buses, light rail, monorail and so on with a single pass."

    "By some accounts, we will be left with a hodge-podge of grand transportation projects that will make less than a dent on the traveling public's current behavior."

    Well, her faith in light rail and monorail is misplaced. But I suppose that's politick. But the single pass? OK...

    Mitra also understands what transit needs to do to ease congestion, and be servicable in its own right:

    "For transit to be attractive to more than 80 percent of the population, it has to compete with the convenience of driving a car. What is lacking so far is a commitment to linking different transit/mobility choices; to speed; and to providing multiple points of access into the system.

    But then she proposes a solution that completely misses the point:

    Seamlessness can be provided through careful scheduling, as well as through such things as the design of shared platforms and easy transferring between corridors.

    Sound Transit is hoping to test its Smart Card program in the spring of 2006. Similar to the One-Pass Plan recently adopted in the San Francisco Bay Area that issues a single ticket for the 20-odd transit choices in the Bay Area, the Smart Card will be a critical step toward an integrated transit system in the Puget Sound region."

    Why did you and 95% of your coworkers, friends and everyone else in this country drive to work this morning instead of taking public transit? Was it because you loath having to pay when transferring, or showing a transfer ticket?

    Hardly. Payment takes almost no time for most people. Repeated studies have shown that the inconveniences that detract from use of conventional transit are chiefly

    (1) inconvenient access (too far from origin or destination; timetables)
    (2) slow (too many intervening stops)
    (3) transferring

    Can adopting Smart Cards or One-Pass Plans make this "hodge-podge," as Mitra calls it, "seamless"? A thousand times No! Under the "best" transit plans buses will still feed trains, and vice versa. If you have to transfer it's not seamless.

    Transferring, as well as inconvenient access and slow speed, are the inescapable, inherent service characteristics of buses and trains. Experts have been tinkering on the margins of these technologies for decades, but the most they've been able to do is make the actual ride more bearable, I suppose, with features like air conditioning, wheelchair lifts and comfier seats. But whether you rename trams 'light rail,' or supplement local bus runs with 'BRT,' a train is still a train and a bus is still slow and lurching.

    Mitra, her eyes bright (maybe from the camera flash) tempts the reader with a shining happy future:

    "Perhaps this approach would shift our attention from the massive road reconstruction projects now planned to only those that are a matter of public safety. We could then invest every extra dollar toward transit-corridor planning and construction."

    Yeah. And perhaps one morning we'll see Mayor Greg Nickels biking to work, cranking up James Street on a buckling ten-speed. I'd say the odds of that are better than Ms. Mitra's well-intentioned but totally naive vision.

    Transit corridors wend like dragons through the landscape; Mitra et al are just feeding the dragon--with people. What she needs to start thinking about are networks that run like the Internet. Would you want to surf the Web the same way you access transit? Neither would I. I invite Ms. Mitra to check out an innovative, paradigm-shifting technology: Personal Rapid Transit.

    Got Lozenge? I know it was only "Mainly Mozart," and I know the acoustics of the Taper auditorium at Benaroya Hall to those of a good concert venue is like comparing CD to vinyl (one clean but dead-sounding, the other scratchy but with an aural je ne sais quoi). But fellow Seattle Symphony-goers, I beg you: for the love of god, DON'T have the dairy products at your pre-performance dinner. Saturday night was like sitting in the tubercural section.

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    Posted March 4, 2005
    Junk Mail

    Builders group uses trickery to check out voters' signatures
    OLYMPIA - A "Home Ownership Survey" sent to hundreds of King County residents, along with a $10 check as an incentive for returning it, wasn't really designed, as it claimed, to help project housing trends in the Puget Sound region.
         The three-question survey and the check are part of a plan by backers of former Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi to search for fraudulent votes cast in the disputed November election.
         The surveys were sent to more than 400 voters whose absentee ballots were questioned after the election and who signed post-election affidavits to ensure their ballots were counted.
         The Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) sent the mail in January and February in the hope that the surveys would be signed and the checks endorsed. That would give the builders group signatures to match against the affidavits, which were collected by Democratic volunteers and helped Democrat Christine Gregoire win the election.
         So far the homebuilders association has received about 120 checks or surveys back, according to Tom McCabe, its executive vice president.
         About 20 of those raise questions for McCabe.
         Some of what he's found appears suspicious at first glance. Some signatures on voter affidavits submitted by Democrats in November do not match signatures on surveys and checks the builders group collected from the same people.
         McCabe said he suspected Democratic volunteers forged signatures.
         State Democratic Party Chairman Paul Berendt said... "It's very unseemly. It actually is stealing people's signatures," Berendt said. "What he's done is essentially a form of identity theft."
         A few voters contacted this week agreed and said the signatures on their affidavits were theirs.
        Two said they also had signed the survey or check but purposely used a different style signature than what was on their affidavit...
         [Arthur] Pasette, a retired physician, used far different signatures on his voter affidavit and the check. When he signs checks, he said, he writes more legibly and spells out his first and last name. On the affidavit he used a more stylized signature, with his first initial, last name and a giant loop around it all.
         In Duvall, Christina Spears-Bartunek looked at the signatures and had a quick answer for why the signature on the check was so different from the one on the affidavit.
         "My husband signed the check," she said.
         Cheryl Triplett said she has a "generic signature" and an "official signature."
         She does that out of fear of identify theft, she said. She doesn't want to put anything through the mail with her official signature.
         In fact, that's what got her ballot tossed initially. She used the generic signature on the absentee ballot because it was going through the mail. When it didn't match her signature on file at King County, her ballot was rejected.
         She said she thought she had been tricked into giving her signature.
         Before sending the surveys, McCabe compared a few signatures from the affidavits to court records and became suspicious about what looked like mismatched signatures.
         "Scientists say that you shouldn't do an experiment if you have a conclusion already. I had a conclusion. I thought they had cheated," he said. Source

    Tit; tat: Democrats try to rein in BIAW Feb. 11,2005

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    Posted March 3, 2005
    43rd in the hearts of his countrymen

    I was leafing through an issue of Smithsonian magazine from a few months ago, and happened upon an article about Thomas Jefferson and election of 1800. It's always been one of my favorite stories from US history—Jefferson vs. Burr, no electoral college victory, the race is thrown to the House for days of revotes, and the man with the zippiest redesigned US coin ekes out a 1-vote win.

    But I didn't enjoy this retelling as much as others, because of a glaring bit of nomenclatural revisionism. Author John Ferling refers to our third President as leader of the Republicans.

    I hope it gave Republicans a nice warm feeling, being a member of a party that goes all the way back to the Founders. But it's not until seven paragraphs in (in a parenthetical CYA) that Ferling explains that Jefferson's Republicans aren't the same as today's GOP, formed in the 1850s out of the ashes of (he doesn't mention) the Whigs. "Republican" crops up in the article a total of 21 other times.

    The big deal here is the real name of Jefferson's party was the Democratic-Republicans, i.e. advocating representative government elected by vote of the people. Historians have called it by that name as long as I can remember. So why the change? Why now?

    In the 80s while the Left was occupied with political correctness, the Right was busy launching a campaign to redefine political language. The first shot fired was over the name of the dominant party in Congress: suddenly the Democratic Party was, when it was Republicans talking, "the Democrat Party." Because the common people like things that are democratic, see? So we don't wanna confuse 'em by calling the liberals Democratic, see? It's the same mentality that wants to put Reagan on the dime and Mt. Rushmore. It makes history agreeable for those people who, given the choice last President's Day between voting for George Washington and George W. Bush, would rather press the touchscreen for #43.

    The Right has been winning this Korean War of language. For the Left it is 1950, and its forces have been swept all the way back to Pusan. Now you hear reporters in the mainstream media refer to "the Democrat party" all the time; it's hard to find White House/Capitol Hill beat reporters who don't sound like they're parroting the GOP talking points (such as "personal accounts" instead of privatized).

    And now it's even reached as far as the innocuous Smithsonian. What was gained by dropping the D from D-R? It didn't save space, the CYA balanced that out; and the result was less accurate from a standpoint of historical accuracy—and isn't that one of the things the Smithsonian is supposed to be about?

    Finally, do you remember which modern party is the actual descendant of Jefferson's Democratic-Republicans? Yes, it's today's Democratic Party.

    Cliffhanger: The Election of 1800
    43 leads 1 among Republicans
    Gettin' Jiggy with Frank Luntz
    Democratic Party history

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