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Posted June 29, 2005
2 Guys Facing South
Wow, it's as if the Weekly's Knute Berger is channeling Mr_Blog's June 26 late-night journaling:
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Posted June 28, 2005
Four Items and a Funeral
1. So according to Rumsfeld the insurgency could last 12 years. That's basically three Presidential elections and four midterms
in which the Resmuglicans can use the Stay The Course slogan.
One Billion Per Mile
Posted June 26, 2005
"Seattle's monorail can no longer rest on votes of the past or promises made, it must deal with the reality of a stunning debt the city cannot afford." Source
That's how the Seattle Times concludes an editorial in this morning's Sunday online edition. Preceding this sentence, the editors recount the history of the monorail project and the four votes that led to the current planand the pro-monorail side won the fourth ballot by less than 1,000 votes.
I've made no secret of my ambivalence for the Green Line. To me, the local fascination for "light rail on a stick" has been a civic version of the thirtysomething yuppie who, with a few bucks in the bank, hits Ebay to buy all the cool toys, now retro-cool, his parents couldn't afford when he was a kid.
The original monorail initiative was the brainchild of a cabbie who was annoyed he couldn't drive faster in trafficother people should take a monorail so I can drive! Some of the more vocal boosters don't even live in Seattle, hobbyists from all over the country who follow monorails with the same mentality that some poor, lonely men stalk Avril Lavignepony up a few billion so I can come to your city and take videos of myself riding the monorail!
Most of all, my ambivalence comes from my knowing there's a much simpler, cheaper, more advanced alternative, Personal Rapid Transit, which I've been promoting. I watched as the Green Line project was taken over by bureaucrats who know how to run a project and devise revenue streams, but not how to transport people. As they allowed the people of Seattle, in love with a technology, to transfer onto it all their expectations born out of frustration with traffic:
Congestion reducing! How does 70,000 riders a day make a dent in this region when there are millions of car trips every day?
Fast! Well... it's just as fast as old, pokey light rail, 25 mph. And you'd still have to take a slow bus to and from the stations.
Citywide! Going back and forth in a corridor is not "citywide."
Then we watched as the bad news was kept bottled up inside SMP, under the cover of bid negotiations, and reports of rising cost estimates despite cost-cutting redesigns.
You could almost smell the desperation coming out of SMP.
Time to wake up and look at the figures in black and white: $11 billion including debt service, and an underperforming revenue stream based on a tax now to last 50 years.
It's time for a revote, and time to put this project, this beautiful, impossible dream, to sleep. And before you scream about already voting four times, those votes were for planning authority. A fifth vote would be the first with a budgeted construction plan.
What's more, the Elevated Transportation Company (ETC), SMP's predecessor, promised us a vote if the project got out of hand:
If the measure is approved by voters, ETC Chairman Tom Weeks has promised that if the project can't be built for the anticipated cost, it will not proceed. He expects construction bids would be received next year.
Yes, Weeks was ambiguous as to whether he meant cost or number of miles. So we have to assume he meant both, right? Besides, I think $11 billion is a drop-dead number if ever there's been one.
Posted June 24, 2005
Baby where did our law go?
Regardless what the vox populi eventually settles on, the outcome of the eminent domain case is nothing but roses for the Seattle Monorail Project. Beset by new disclosures of ballooning cost, lengthier financing period and calls to stop the elevated train project, the Supremes open the door to a unique extension of their Kelo logic. Namely, if you can exercise eminent domain over private real property for private redevelopment, why not use it for any kind of property, for public purposes?
It won't be long before the monophiliacs in Yahoo Groups urge SMP to apply Kelo to every aspect of the project, then lowball Cascadia and landowners on the compensation. Second & Yesler? Obviously eminent domain. The local supply of concrete? Eminent domain. Millions of tons of steel? Eminent domain. Architecture & engineering services? Sorry, Intellectual Property is still propertyeminent domain.
All told, I estimate the post-Kelo Seattle Green Line is now going to cost about 3 million bucks after legal fees, contractor entertainment, and Joel Horn's salary.
Now accepting donations. The most obvious thing about the photos I took at this year's Fremont Solstice Parade is that my camera, a 2001 Fuji Finepix, really sucks if the subjects are moving in bright sunlight. This means that the only thing people want to see in an FSP photo, the nude bicyclists, turn out all fuzzy. And I don't mean the pubic hair.
Here are the few shots I managed to salvage, and remember: all Mr_Blog wants for Christmas is a Fuji Finepix S5100.
Oh, I nearly forgot: there were two minor parade entries that were, for my money, fall on your ass funny. The first was the Pregnant Bride, who would go up to spectators, glare at them in a seen-it-all way, and say, "You look familiar to me, sir." The other was a Devil, who would go up to the littlest children in the crowd and offer, "Free cigarettes for the kiddies? Aw c'mon mom and dad, lighten up!"
Photogs with better cameras:
Posted June 21, 2005
Curious George Goes to 'Nam
(or, This One Writes Itself)
Prez'dent Bush is finally goin' to Vietnam! How would that go, in order for Dubya to really get the full, authentic active-duty Army experience he missed in the Sixties? Yes... Yes... it's coming... I think I can see it...
George bids tearful goodbye to Laura at induction center
Posted June 20, 2005
Fool me once Link This
I really can't stand Sen. Joe "I like you, you're the real deal" Biden (D-Del). Because in 1987 I did some campaign work for him in Seattle. He professed the right liberal positions in an articulate way; he seemed Kennedyesque. Maybe it was because, it was eventually learned, he cribbed a lot from Robert Kennedy. But that was after I had already quit his campaign in disgust after Biden was caught plagiarizing a speech by then-British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock.
Apologists will say: Biden made an innocent mistake on the Kinnock plagiarism thing: he used to quote Kinnock a lot, and forgot to attribute it just once. Pull the other one. What Biden actually said was,
"I started thinking as I was coming over here, why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go to a university?" Source
Not "a friend of mine was thinking," not "the British politician Neil Kinnock was thinking." He said he, Joe "Howard Dean doesn't speak for me" Biden, was doing the thinking. How is that omitted attribution?
Joe, you might as well know now: you don't have a chance. Not as long as there are Democrats like Mr_Blog who remember your last disastrous run.
Biden talks a good line when it suits him, but when it comes to major policy he lines up with the Resmuglicans. Joe "4 of the 10 biggest credit card companies are based in my state" Biden is just slightly to the left of Joe "Honorary Republican" Lieberman.
Why did you drive to Microsoft in Redmond today? Why didn't you take the bus or a car pool? It was because, once you get to the bus stop or drop-off, it's too inconvenient to get to and around the campus. Now the group SoundPRT has a video of what a Personal Rapid Transit shuttle would look like at Microsoft. While trains and buses have their uses, PRT is the link we've been missing in the campaign to get more people to leave their gas guzzlers at home, and take transit instead.
I took a lot of photos at the the Fremont Solstice Parade on June 18th, but I haven't had time to optimize them for web viewing. Until I get to the task, here's a list of albums of photos taken by much better photographers (keep an eye peeled for Wonder Woman and The Incredibles):
Posted June 17, 2005
A Tale of Two Stories
or, Repeat Offenders Link This
Posted June 16, 2005
541,000 signatures, and all we get is this lousy room in the Capitol basement
Elevated journalism. When did The Stranger, formerly the counterculture Avis of Seattle free alternative weeklies, become the official organ of gentrification and public works boondoggles? Check out The New Deal by Erica Barnett in last week's issue:
Sitting behind a low conference table in a nondescript meeting room in the basement of the Seattle Monorail Project's downtown headquarters, SMP director Joel Horn looked, of all things, nervous as he announced the most positive news to come out of the agency in months...
I'm confused. Is this piece supposed to be a news story, or a feature story? Because at the top there's their new tagline, "Seattle's only news section," but the story itself is softer than a Jamie Moyer strikeout pitch.
All the rosy pro-SMP spin is up front: $1.6 billion, fewer stations cut than rumored, and even a bulleted list that could have been taken straight from the official news release. Clouds don't appear until the 7th paragraph, where SMP's Cindi Laws voices dissatisfaction with the new, "blah," cookie-cutter station designs (so much for fantasies of retail inside stations). Then a passage mentioning the "tourist trains," which were supposed to generate revenue, are dropped too.
Barnett saves for very last the announcement of the true $2 billion price tag. That the new total cost was released "on Tuesday, as The Stranger went to press" seems to be the excuse. Give us all a break: even if the June 9-16 edition went to press June 7, the NIMBY group OnTrack broke the story on June 4th.
I'll grant that Ms. Barnett was busy with other assignmentssuch as Great Heights ("great" meaning Tall, or Good?), in which she reports that The Stranger's favorite mayor's Broadway densification plan will not include an amendment, opposed by that mayor, that 20% of new housing be affordable.
Posted June 15, 2005
Stop the spam
Those spammers are diabolical! Not only am I getting emails with domain-filter-beating spellings like v:agr:a, cialess and medicaments, now the Seattle city government is sending out election-year campaign PR disguised as official business. Here's a clip from a culprit that just arrived in my inbox:
Please join me at the 9th event of the 2005 Urban Sustainability Forum. This topic is particularly timely for Seattle ... with Mayor Nickels' success with his Climate Protection Agreement (received unanimous support at last week's U.S. Conference of Mayors) and Seattle's receipt of the "2005 City Livability Award" at the same conference.
It was signed "Diane M. Sugimura, Director, City of Seattle Department of Planning and Development." I doubt Ms. Sugimura writes the PR for her department, so for this visibility piece we taxpayers are contributing to Nickels's campaign the time for (at minimum) (1) a PR specialist, to write the thing, (2) the specialist's manager, to review the work, (3) Ms. Sugimura, to approve the final version, (4) a staff of, what, 5? 6? to plan the Forum Series and schedule it for maximum political effect, and (5) the Municipal email system, to send it. What would you call thata $5000 contribution? $10,000? How generous of us. And no thank-you letter...
Blues not music to GOP ears. The Weekly has a tear-stained feature about Republicans living in Seattle. Basically, the wittle beebees are whining that nobody is nice to them when they display their W signs or talk about being a Resmuglican. The theme seems to be, "people are intolerant because they hassle me about my politics." Well vocal disagreement isn't intolerance, it's freedom of speech. So what if the verbs get rough sometimes? Yours are the partisans who still call the Clintons murderers, drug smugglers, and worse. I don't recall any Seattle Republicans calling for moderation, the only thing I heard were shameful incidents such as KVI groupies shouting down Hillary Clinton at Westlake Center.
Your whining is typical of a political movement that equates dissent with treason, that regards opposing views as attacks on your right to hold yours. Your problem is that you want people to like you for your support for lying, cheating, fascist warmongers. Your problem is that you really want to be living in Kansas.
You like the Bushies? Fine, tell us why you support the lying, cheating, fascist warmongers, and why you think their lying, cheating, fascist warmongering is good for the country. And above all, have the courage of your convictions. Don't come crying "nobody wikes me" when you get a chilly reception.
404, Terror Suspect Not Found
In Le Carré novels from the Cold War, the spies depended on their memories. George Smiley, the spymaster with decades of experiences tucked away in his brain, had no need for computers. But protecting us from terrorists, mislaid packages and news today requires enormous computing power. But if you've ever tried to set up a database or get through to Dell customer support, you know that computerization does not come without technical difficulties.
Watch list IT management feeble
DIDYA GET THAT? "eliminated the ability to retrieve historical information from the system."
It's probably a good bet the problem was discovered the way database errors of this type are often foundrecords were lost, and when the workers tried to restore them: POOF, gone forever.
The implication is that people who ought to be on the watch list, aren't. Of course, it is also possible that people who shouldn't have been aren't either. So it's good news if a lost name was, say, Murray O'Mara of Peekskill, NYbut bad news if it's Mullah Omar of Somewhere Near Kabul, Afghanistan.
Hey... maybe this is why Dubya never mentions the Mullahor Osama: computer error!
Good Air America news. The ratings for Spring, Period 1 came out earlier this month, and Seattle's KTPK 1090 continues to hold its ownwhile dittohead favorites KVI and KTTH declined dramatically (source: Radio & Records; previous quarters' data seem to have been adjusted since first reported). "Christian Talk" KGNW seems to have vanished from the ratings book altogether.
Down The Street Memo. Congratulations to the
thousands of Seattle DIYers who have followed this spring's 18-To-24-Inch
Front Yard Retaining Wall Memo. Extra credit to the 33% who sprang for
rough, natural stone. There's nothing like individuality!
Council gets on Allen's "frill" ride.
Council gets on Allen's "frill" ride.-Link This- That $48 million, 30-35 riders per hour gift to Paul Allen and other gentrification promoters is one step closer to reality, as the City Council's Transportation Committee (with some dissent) voted to send the thing to the full Council for a vote. Since it's a train, instead of an up-or-down vote, we'll call it a back-and-forth vote. Some choice bits from today's P-I story by Kathy Mulady:
Billionaire Paul Allen's desire for a streetcar, a key part of plans to transform South Lake Union into a hub for biotechnology, is on track and headed for City Council approval in two weeks.
DIDYA GET THAT? Streetcar money is coming out of biking and pedestrian facilities. Hey fellow environmentalists: are you sure you want to be part of a "pro-transit" coalition that throws your money at trains, gentrification and developers, at the expense of feet and pedals?
"I had a tentative agreement with some of my colleagues, and that was negotiated away overnight with the executive, and that's what I was steamed about," said Steinbrueck.
DIDYA GET THAT? Mayor Horizontal is spending his time catering to billionaire Paul Allen's pet project.
"The streetcar will help spur much-needed job and housing growth in one of Seattle's most dynamic neighborhoods and connect thousands of riders to buses, monorail and light rail in the heart of the city," Nickels said yesterday.
30-35 riders per hour; "thousands of riders". A certain mayor has got a truth problem.
Jim Falconer, who co-chairs the Build the Streetcar Committee with Ada Healy, Vulcan's vice president of real estate, said he hopes the streetcar can be replicated in other neighborhoods.
DIDYA GET THAT? Falconer has got His. He "hopes" you can get Yours. But you're going to be paying for His; what do you think are the odds he'll be returning the favor?
"We have a $500 million backlog in transportation needs that are being ignored," said John Fox, with the Seattle Displacement Coalition.
Hey Seattle: come on and take a frill ride!
Posted June 13, 2005
Mayor Has Gas Worries
I'm back. We saw eagles land in the surf and pick over a dead seabird.
On a similar note, it's good to see Greg Nickels's relentless PR machine lost no momentum in my absence. You've got to hand it to himof all our recent mayors, Nickels has the most inertia. How does he do it? Well, an abundance of mass is usually how it happens.
A while back (see Heart of Glass) I decried the obviously political motivations behind the then-impending, now implemented changes to Seattle recycling rules. And not hazy, feel-good politicalit was for the personal political benefit of our Chicago-Way mayor.
I believe what I wrote at the time was, "we're enacting a significant new public policy basically so Nickels can look good with the US Conference of Mayors." So I had to laugh when I saw the latest stop for Nickels's Reëlection Express (and check out the angstrom-thin layer of humility):
Mayors conference names Seattle most livable U.S. city
"Grassroots action" that originated in and was relentlessly promoted, top-down, by his office.
Greenhouse gases are a local issue. Seattle voters can reduce them by shutting down a major source of gaseous emissions coming from the executive offices of New City Hall.
Speaking of gaseous emissions. Remember how Seattle monorail boosters were promising us that the Green Line was going to cost $1.6 billion, leaving plenty of room under the $1.75 billion cap (if you extend the financing wayyyyyy out past 40 years)? Well now the price is up to $2 billion, and director Joel Horn is basically telling us that's how much it's gonna cost, get used to it
Cost Of Planned Monorail Climbs To $2B
You know what? If you split the trains into little pods, you could shrink the size of the elevated rail, to the point where it would be cheap enough to build enough of it to reach every part of the city, and give every neighborhood a station. You would then have a personalized rapid transit network, capable of providing non-stop, A-to-B travel without waiting, timetables or transfers. But the people who want Disneyland-style transit see no double standard in likening such a "travel-ator" system to The Jetsons. And we're going to be the poorer for it. About $2 billion poorer.
Other Headlines Not About the Downing Street Memo. I'm saddened and appalled like everyone else about Natalee Holloway. But does it really help that Holloway's mother seems to have taken lessons in diplomacy from John Bolton? Has State cut the budget for embassy babysitters?
Mom of missing teen narrows suspects to 3
Though on the extreme right, WorldNetDaily's Barbara Simpson today says the whole thing is the parents' fault (look it up, I'm not giving the wingnuts the linkage points), so maybe I'd lash out too...
Posted June 8, 2005
Substitute, Me For Him
*We interrupt our scheduled programming...*
Blarchives: The Slam Book®
Back on Monday.
Posted June 7, 2005
'Nickels to make Seattle greener'
Our Chicago-Way meaty municipal maven is always searching for environmental cred. After rolling out new mandatory recycling rules earlier this year that covers residential kitchen waste, it has been widely anticipated that he would jump on board a worldwide treaty of environmentally-conscious mayors. And now here's the publicity offensive!--
Nickels... signing treaty for greener cities
What does it actually accomplish? It's nonbinding, so the answer is: nothing. Except garner publicity for His Girthness. And before you start getting all huffy with me, Mr_Blog is on the record as an environmentalist and household recycler. And composter. So all Nickels's new rules get me is a great big honkin' lime-colored 96-gallon yard waste cart (it would be a tight fit in NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building), that I don't have room for on my new-last-fall brick storage pad, and the privilege of having two kitchen garbage cans (one for each kind of garbage) under the sink, where I only have room for one.
Oh, I nearly forgot: I get to buy lots and lots of baking soda to use as deodorizer! And rinse out the Green Monster regularly, when I thought we were in the middle of a summer water emergency. And let's not forget my senior citizen neighborI'll get to wrangle her yard waste cart to the street too (I would write "to the curb," but the city hasn't seen fit to grant my neighborhood curbs or sidewalks, although I still get to pay for street maintenance, and starting in 2010 we will be able to travel above the unimproved right of way in a shiny new, obsolete monorail. But don't get me started...).
But what does this mean for Nickels's #1 priority, namely How will this affect Paul Allen??? He doesn't live IN the citybut he keeps his yacht moored here. Oh god, will he have to buy one with a larger galley that has room for a second garbage can??? Somebody appoint a commission.
Nickels's proposals for greening the city:
www.strongman.com . For Mayor Horizontal it's not just environmentalist publicity, at some point in the last couple of years the seattle.gov website was been redesigned into a great big honkin' non-lime-colored Nickels advertisement. His name, mug, and latest Happynews are at the top of the home page, and he pops up on each departmental page too, posed with the department headsmiling, ubiquitous and omnipresent, like some kind of Central American caudillo (an actual hermano mayor!) For their part, the poor department officials smile like nervous hostages.
Also today: Post/ABC poll- Bush ignoring public's concerns Watch for the
diversion, such as a report that Jennifer Wilbanks attended an Al Qaeda training
Posted June 6, 2005
Dino Rossi, you may already be a... loser
Christine Gregoire was hard at work on the people's business, but Washington's Democratic governor figuratively emerged from a Wenatchee court victorious. "A resounding decision that knocked down every one of the GOP's claims," reports the Seattle Times, while the P-I reports Judge John Bridges "said there was no evidence that Gregoire benefitted from the illegal votes." What makes it sweeter is that the Resmuglicans went judge shopping across the state, finally selecting in Bridges a jurist they thought would look kindly on defeated crybaby Dino Rossi.
But Bridges's decision couldn't have been more humiliating for the Fundamentalist Party:
Cry, Chris Vance, cry ya baby. Now before he heads to an appeals court, a look at some of the reasons the Resmuglicans failed in Washington, where they had prevailed in Florida and Ohio:
And in this Washington, "conservative judge" still means "independent who rules according to the law."
We don't think you could do it every day, either. Please, please, please: STOP asking bicycle commuters...
"How far do you ride?"
Posted June 3, 2005
Thumbs Up Link This
Wim Wenders has never been a filmmaker who conveys an impression of being in a hurry to get to the denouement. His films unfold at their own speed, characters mosey through their on-screen lives doing what they do, and the experience is almost always enjoyable for the audience. Lisbon Story (1994) is no exception.
I've been sort of a fan of Wenders for some time, but not the sort who obsessively searches online for filmographies. So when I stumbled upon Lisbon Story while looking up material on the different versions of Until The End Of The World, I added it to my mental checklist.
I admire cosmopolitan films in which a number of languages are spoken. And I respect films where the director unapologetically doesn't subtitle the non-English dialogue. This is a fixture of Wenders's films, but Lisbon Story takes it even further.
Phillip Winter (Rudiger Vogler, who has played the character for Wenders a number of times, including End Of The World and Faraway, So Close) gets a message from colleague Friedrich (Patrick Bauchau's voice)SOS, I need your help with my film, come to Lisbon.
Over the opening credits, Winter drives from Germany to Portugal. German, French and Spanish on his car radio mark his progress. During the drive he practices Portuguese from a cassette. He talks to himself in native German. What's being said? It doesn't matter.
The story unfolds. It is revealed Winter has a broken foot; during the drive he is shown to be something of a klutz, a personality quirk that runs through the film. And yet a resourceful klutz: he loses his spare tire but repairs the flat tube; he buys soft drinks from tourists to pour into his overheated radiator; he trades the broken down car for a ride into the city.
He manages to locate Friedrich's house, but he's not there, just a group of neighborhood urchins who seem to have appointed themselves Friedrich's 2nd and 3rd camera units. And the revelation is the owner of the house, the fado group Madredeus. Fronted by the luminous Teresa Salgueiro, the group performs several wonderful songs within the film's loose structure. Winter listens, falls in love with her, and I think we do too.
We learn Winter is a movie sound man and foley artist. The scenes of him performing for the children are enchanting. Expeditions to record natural sounds are pretexts for him to explore the city, tape recorder and boom microphone in tow. The equipment signals us that hearing this movie is as important as seeing it; the sounds of Lisbon become as integral to each scene as the visuals. Scuttlebutt is that Lisbon Story was commissioned as a travelogue; if so, this aspect works.
As he settles into a routine, Winter reads poems in German and English; he tries to converse with locals in their language. In these scenes, as in life, there are no subtitles. In an extended scene, Winter records a monologue by silent filmmaker Manoel de Oliveira (86 at the time, still making movies today, talkies, at 97), who seems to be talking about the history and beauty of Lisbon. What exactly is being said? Relax, control-freak mainstream moviegoer, and enjoy the rhythms and inflections of his voice.
Weeks drag by; Salgueiro returns from a tour and lights up the screen a final time. Friedrich is still a no-show, the only clue a video recorder, Friedrich's "sketch pad", containing "notes" about some kind of "experiment." During his recording jaunts, Winter retraces his friend's trail (shades of his later vocation as a detective in set-in-1999 End Of The World). Is he in trouble? Did he cross local gangsters? All the leads are dead-ends.
Except for a mysterious non-speaking boy who keeps showing up. Winter follows him one day, and finds Friedrich (the actual Patrick Bauchau) hiding in an abandoned movie theater. The director has gone a little nutty, and obsessive-compulsive, expounding on a mad idea that the bias of a director's eye ruins the truth of the images he is trying to capture. So he is walking around town narrating his movie into a mic, with the camera strapped to the middle of his back so he can't see what is being recorded. It seems to be Wenders's dig at auteurs who take themselves too seriously.
There is no Big Climax, no Showdown Between Competing Artistic Visions. No one has a breakdown and checks into rehab for some Soul-Searching. There are no shouting matches or montages of people Soul-Searching. Winter merely recognizes Friedrich has lost his way, and provides a gentle, corrective shove.
Simple? Sure. Anti-climatic? Maybe. A boring waste of time? Certainly not! The fun of Lisbon Story is in the getting there.
Lisbon Story is available on VHS from Fox Lorber, and online as an .avi if you know where to look. A version of this review also appears at Epinions.
Posted June 2, 2005
New Product Development
Also today: Mossback samples Paul Allen's Kool-Aid "those who have
alternative visions must find a way to get them out there in a form as compelling"
Posted June 1, 2005
Scott McClellan's Believe It: Or Not!