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August 2005
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Posted August 31, 2005
Jumpin' Jack-ass Link This

A Force 5 hurricane hits the South, and all some neocons can offer is a chorus of Homeland Self-Pity.

Within the past hour, the increasingly bizarre Dori Monson (midday host, KIRO710) lashed out at liberals and foreigners (he seems to think they're the same thing) for ingratitude. America is there when other countries need help, he smarmed, where's the outpouring of support now that America needs help? He actually said something like 'When has the world ever helped us?'

Maybe he forgot that after 9/11/01 even the French said "We are all Americans." But the point is that America is able to take care of itself. Or used to be able to, and still could: if it weren't for the fact that thousands of affected states' first responders and their equipment are in Iraq. Or if Reagan hadn't downgraded levee improvement; or if Dubya hadn't also slashed funding for New Orleans flood control to pay for the war.

And it turns out that Monson's rant is just another neocon line that isn't based in reality:

(AP) From papal prayers to telegrams from China, the world reacted with an outpouring of compassion Wednesday for the American victims of Hurricane Katrina, even moved to offer aid at the sight of what nature could do to a wealthy and powerful country.
    Images of flood-ravaged New Orleans earned particular sympathy in central Europe, where dozens died in raging floodwaters only days ago.
...
    French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder sent messages of sympathy to U.S. President George W. Bush. Chirac, who has famously quarreled with Bush over the Iraq war, addressed his letter, "Dear George."
   Pope Benedict XVI said he was praying for victims of the "tragic" hurricane while China's President Hu Jintao expressed his "belief that that the American people will definitely overcome the natural disaster and rebuild their beautiful homeland."
   Queen Elizabeth II sent a message to Bush saying she was "deeply shocked and saddened" at the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, Buckingham Palace said Wednesday.
...
   The U.S. Embassy in Bern, Switzerland - a capital at the foot of the Alps hit by flooding last week - said ... "We are getting calls from the Swiss public looking to express their condolences (and) people are also asking for an account number where they can make donations," said spokesman Daniel Wendell.
...
    The Internet-edition Vienna daily Der Standard recorded 820 postings commenting on a front-page story on the hurricane. One of the postings, signed "Emerald," asked where donations could be sent, sparking debate about whether a rich country such as the United States needed such aid.
    In response, a posting signed "far out" said sending aid to homeless in New Orleans made just as much sense as donating to the poor in Sudan.
    "Poor is poor, regardless of where," the entry said.

Bush's America is like Sudan. That's just so great.

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Posted August 29, 2005
Hospitaliano Link This

If you dine at a restaurant known for its Italian dishes, do you go just for the sauce? That seems to be the market research being used by the New Acorn Eatery in Crown Hill.

I had been looking forward to trying the Acorn, situated not five minutes away from our house. "Northern Italian Cuisine," beckoned the website like a siren.

Housed in a former roadhouse-style cafe/bar, at the bend in the road near Dick's Drive-In, the Acorn has an accessible neighborhood atmos. It seems like a comfortable, democratic nightspot, whether for couples on dates, adventurous seniors on a budget, or friends meeting for Friday beer and pizza—and indeed we observed all those types of patrons.

On first visits I go for the basics, because if a restaurant can prove it can handle those, it bodes well for more ambitious dishes. So I ordered the Spaghetti & Meatballs ($13). The meatballs are Sicilian-sized and Bolognese in content. "As big as the ones on The Sopranos," was my comment after the indefatigable waitress brought our plates. A mix of beef and ground pork nicely accented with herbs, the meatballs were bathed in a good red sauce which may have been thickened with pasta water (or maybe pureed vegetable) rather than flour, a nice lighter touch.

The Acorn also resists the tendency of many Italian establishments to overdo it with cheap Parmesan. Instead, the meatballs enjoyed a sprinkle of a good Parm blended with ricotta salata.

But the real test is in the pasta, and here the Acorn utterly fails. Imagine my disappointment: a restaurant that promotes its pasta, the credentials of its chefs (was ex-Serafina Clay Blake, currently The Restaurant School alumni Chris Frantz), and the food-idealism of owner Carrie Topacio. And yet it serves me dried spaghetti noodles you can buy at the QFC down the street. Permiso, but if a non-chain Italian restaurant makes a big deal about its philosophy and its chefs, I expect fresh, house-made pasta soaking up the sauce on my plate. Golden Grain just doesn't cut it—for that I could stay home and make my own dinner.

A glass of Lion's Gate cabernet sauvignon ($6.25) adequately cut through the disappointment—but after watching the documentary Mondovino, I'm no longer surprised at how far Michel Rolland's blandardization of the world's wines has progressed.

New Acorn Eatery, 9041 Holman Road, Seattle
Rating: 2/5

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Posted August 24, 2005
Homeland Insecurity Advisory Link This

WASHINGTON -- Asking for increased vigilance in the wake of the London bombings, the government is warning that terrorists may pose as rednecks to conduct surveillance of barns and CENEX stations to plot future attacks.

"In light of the recent bombings in London, it is crucial that police, fire and emergency medical personnel take notice of their surroundings, and be aware of 'hillbillies' who seem out of place or unfamiliar," said the message, distributed via e-mail to some federal employees in Washington by the U.S. Attorney's office.

It is based on a State Department report that was issued last week. The State Department had no immediate comment Monday.

The warning is similar to one issued by the FBI before July 4, 2004 that said terrorists may attempt surveillance disguised as Wal-Mart associates, moonshiners or televangelists.

The e-mail stresses that there is no threat of an attack and that it is intended to be "informative, not alarming."

Rednecks easily blend into rural landscapes, the message said.

"This is particularly true of our Hooters restaurants, where mulletheads tend to loiter unnoticed," the e-mail said.

It referred to a recent incident in Biloxi, Miss., in which a police officer became suspicious about someone dressed like the Dukes of Hazzard. The officer questioned the man, discovered he had an Official Bikini Inspector ID card and a trailer park address, the e-mail said. The investigation is continuing, it said.

The incident happened in early July, Biloxi city spokesman Bubba Johnson said, when the man walked back and forth in the Victoria's Secret in Biloxi's Tres De Luxe Mall and kept looking in the changing rooms.

"This was right after a Stephanie Seymour in-store appearance," Johnson said. "There was an even higher degree of sensitivity."

The man was evasive about what he was doing but wasn't arrested. Biloxi police didn't investigate further but passed the information on to his sister-wife, Johnson said. There haven't been any similar incidents in Biloxi, he said.

FBI spokeswoman Gail Marcinkiewicz would not comment on whether an investigation is ongoing.

Google News search: Terrorists may pose as homeless

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Posted August 22, 2005
Fu for the soul Link This

I know, many cultures have discovered batter-frying. In fact, it may be a sign of a society's advancement. You know they've got something on the ball if they can figure out that hot oil isn't just for homeland defense.

An argument can be made that a race is truly head and shoulders above the others if it can deep fry eggplant. The easy way to fry eggplant is to treat it like French Toast. Any other way and the end result is soggy--only okay if what you're after is caponata or baba ghanouj. Even the French Toast approach can backfire if you cook it too long.

Judy Fu's Snappy Dragon restaurant in Maple Leaf has solved the problem; they have the technology. One can only wonder at the Crispy Fried Eggplant With Tangy Sauce, and the multimillion dollar Manhattan Project that must have preceded its creation.

What you get is a big oval platter of medium-soft eggplant slices encased in thick, crispy crusts. I've ordered them a number of times, yet I never cease to be dumbfounded by the contradictory combination. They are bathed in a wonderful medium-spicy sauce that is halfway between brown General Tso and red sweet & sour.

They are so delectable, so perfect, that one almost hates to spoil it by ordering the equally-transcendant boiled dumplings, hand-made by a woman in the corner of the back dining room. Don't disturb her; she's engaged in important work.

Snappy Dragon, 8917 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle.

Also today: San Diego "control group" balloting points to error in mayoral tally

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Posted August 18, 2005
Dear Leader
by Kim Jong Il Link This

Dear Leader,
I'm supposed to be enjoying another much-earned vacation, but I can't seem to enjoy myself. I've never been so down in the polls, and I can't think of anything I've done wrong, not a thing! To make matters worse, a woman from California is stalking me. I don't know what she wants, if she blames me for something, or whatever. But she's camped next door to my house, she and dozens of her friends. Cars honk in the middle of the night, and the other day someone fired off a shotgun. I can't hear myself think. What should I do?
—Son Of a Bush


Dear SOB: California? Is she in The Business? I just love the movies, your cultural imperialism is second to none. I remember, when I was a boy, I would make my bodyguards sneak me across the border so I could visit the movie theater at the U.S. army base. Some of my all-time Hollywood favorites include Damn Yankees, Funny Girl, Singing In The Rain, Sunset Boulevard, Xanadu and M*A*S*H. I have them all on LaserDisc. And you may not believe this, but— my favorite star? Lassie! She's my kind of running dog! I've also been working on a screenplay about my life. Can you go next door and ask this woman if she could show it to the Weinsteins?

P.S.- You've earned a vacation from your vacation. I hear that Idaho is very nice this time of year, you're still polling strong there (if you call 59% strong, but what do I know from low approval).

Blarchives: Dear Leader

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Posted August 17, 2005
Rights. They're sooo inconvenient. Link This

Throughout recent American history, liberals (and moderates) have had to drag a lot of people, kicking and screaming, toward a future where everyone's rights are respected. And at every point, a familiar reactionary bleat can be heard: "giving fill in an oppressed class the right to fill in basic civil right infringes on my rights." They really mean their right to practice discrimination, and punish through legal sanctions those holding different political views.

Now, upset over Cindy Sheehan's increasingly popular vigil, some of Dubya's neighbors (but not all) are trotting out this specious "what about my rights" argument. Also true to form, they are hiding behind children:


    Some of President Bush's neighbors asked county leaders Tuesday to prevent large gatherings near the president's ranch like the ongoing anti-war protest led by a mother of a soldier who died in Iraq.
    Several residents have complained of blocked roads and traffic jams in the last week since dozens of people joined Cindy Sheehan's protest...
    ...If the ordinance passes, demonstrators probably would have to stay in Crawford, which is 7 miles away.
...
     Noting that an anti-war protester raised civil-rights concerns about the ordinance, petition-signer John Laufenberg told commissioners: "All those of us that live in that area and in that community and our children also have civil rights, and we do feel that those are being seriously compromised at this time." Source

They think their comfort zone is more important than freedom of speech and assembly. They hate her for her freedom.

Both sides now. Former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Dick Wolf Productions) is in charge of greasing John Roberts's confirmation to the Supreme Court. Thompson is being called upon to justify the White House's refusal to release all of Roberts's papers from the 1980s. Here's what he told Pat Robertson's CBN:

CBN: ...Roberts did [pro bono work] on the Colorado case that was a big victory for gay rights advocates. Does his work on that equate to support for gay rights?

THOMPSON: No, not at all. Unfortunately, when a person practices law for as many years as John Roberts has, he's going to make somebody unhappy probably. ...John Roberts has represented people across the board, across the spectrum. ...And, uh, you certainly cannot equate a person's personal views with positions that are taken. He didn't, of course, represent them in court or anything like that, but he did do some work on the case... Source

Don't worry, he's telling the wingnuts, his personal views are what count, *wink wink*. And there it is again: We're being told to pay attention to Roberts's personal views. As Mr_Blog has said before, who gives a rip about his personal views? What matters is his record as a lawyer and a jurist.

The problem is Thompson is saying the same thing to the lefties who listen to NPR:

You have usually younger lawyers over there giving advice on controversial issues... all from a legal standpoint, nothing in there that would disclose anyone's personal views, I would doubt. Source

Don't worry, liberals, about his right wing positions—he was just doing his job. Really? Papers that have been released show he was critical of the 1985 SCOTUS ban on volunteer school prayer, opposed to death penalty appeals, and comparable worth—all right-wing positions. What surprises might be contained in the withheld documents?

We can't rely solely on what Roberts will say to the Senate—he might do what he advised Sandra Day O'Connor to do in 1981: not tell us how he would vote on key issues like Roe. Sorry, but his personal views on that and other subjects aren't what matter. How would he rule??? Release all the damn papers!

Blarchive: Implausible Deniability (7/21)

One simple thing could do more about rush hour congestion on Seattle's arterial streets than light rail and monorail could ever do: Close commercial loading zones and prohibit garbage pickup during the morning rush.

Also today: Legislators slam cost of Real ID
Duelling Mullets
(Quicktime .mov)

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Posted August 15, 2005
Another Mayoral Accomplishment Link This

Most days after work I point my Cannondale touring bike down the north side of Capitol Hill, across the University Bridge, and up University Way, "The Ave."

The Ave was a standard urban street, one traffic lane in each direction, plus parking lanes on each side. There was plentiful traffic, but it moved; through-traffic tended to avoid it, staying on Roosevelt Way and 11th or 15th Northeast. So up until a couple years ago it was a slow way to go for cars, but therefore pretty fast and safe for people on two wheels.

But then Mayor Greg "Who Moved My Dessert?" Nickels got his grubby, cash-stained fingers on it. The Ave was rundown, the theory went, it needed to be Improved.

A lot of people had been saying that for years. But the solution they suggested was simple—clean the chewing gum off the sidewalks; building renovations; better retail and pedestrian amenities.

What we got was a major reworking of the street. What this did was temporarily make it an impassable combat zone for months. And permanently make it a hopeless traffic bottleneck for two and four wheelers alike.

Who planned this? Does Nickels and the Seattle DOT have a rhesus monkey that has mastered CAAD? Gone are the continuous parking lanes, now at the bus stops the street narrows to just the two traffic lanes—NO TURN-OUTS FOR BUSES. Also added is a double-yellow centerline, meaning that when the buses stop, everything stops. Cars back up behind the buses. The buses take up the entire lane, so bikers usually can't get by either.

The merchants must just love the inability of customers to reach them by car.

The other day I was by the NE 43rd St. post office, stopped in a line of cars, in the hot sun. We were stuck behind one of those new hybrid buses (that get worse mileage than the old diesels) that are covered with advertising wraps. The back of this one was covered in an ad for Carter Volkswagen/Subaru. Carter may want to rethink the wisdom of associating itself with a cause of traffic congestion; the county may want to rethink the wisdom of using transit to help sell cars. I know the pissed-off drivers didn't miss the irony.

The Ave did get retro streetlamps and concrete pylons with antique brass fittings—and new sidewalks, but they need to clean the chewing gum off them.

I was delighted to read Sunday that a number of local liberal Democratic legislative district groups aren't going along with the Nickels Reëlection Juggernaut ("Democratic groups withhold blessing from candidate Nickels," 8/14).

Over the past week and a half, three out of five Democratic legislative-district organizations snubbed the mayor by refusing to endorse him for the Sept. 20 primary election. The 43rd, 46th and 36th District groups represent the entire city north of the Ship Canal, plus Capitol Hill, Magnolia and Queen Anne... Resentment of Nickels—centering on his developer-friendly agenda and perceived aloofness toward neighborhoods—was one clear theme to emerge from the midsummer round of Democratic endorsements in City Hall races.

Dick Kelley (43rd District Dems) did his best to pooh-pooh the non-endorsements, as did Greg Rodriguez ('The mayor has "done a great job of balancing development needs and neighborhood interests," Rodriguez said'). But the truth is that endorsements show who feels Mayor Horizontal is working for them: last week he was endorsed by the pro-business Alki Foundation, the political arm of the local Chamber of Commerce (the national organization funded illegal ads in last year's Washington Attorney General race). And Nickels's grandstanding over "his" greenhouse gasses initiative at the U.S. Conference of Mayors had its desired effect: he snagged the Sierra Club's endorsement.

Mayor has gas worries
Irony City
Christal Wood For Mayor

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Posted August 12, 2005
A M0de$t Pr()p0zal Link This

109th Congress

A Bill

To criminalize misspelling of keywords for the purpose of bypassing filters of personal Internet communications software

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the 'Anti-Spam Act of 2005'.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

Congress finds the following:
(1) American society is increasingly dependent on the Internet for communications, entertainment, commerce, and banking.
(2) For the Internet to reach its full potential in these and other respects, it must continue to be a trustworthy medium. This means, for example, that Internet users should be free to regulate Internet communications they may receive, whether by sender, subject, purpose or content.
(3) Internet users have been empowered by electronic mail software to take affirmative action to include or exclude messages, through use of software filters that block the receipt of messages based upon their content matching user-specified alphanumeric criteria. Increasingly, senders of unwanted communications are using variations of spelling, mispelling, substitution, transposition and other artifices so as to be excepted from the filter criteria.
(4) This practice victimizes not only the individuals whose time and electronic mail subscription are inconvenienced, but the entire online community, including millions of people who rely on the speed and integrity of electronic mail.

SEC. 3. CRIMINAL OFFENSE.

(a) In General- Chapter 63 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:

Sec. 1355. Electronic mail fraud

(a) Electronic mail message- Whoever knowingly--
(1) creates or procures the creation of an electronic mail message containing artifices that are designed to bypass an electronic mail filter
shall be fined under this title or imprisoned up to five years, or both.

P-I columnist Robert L. Jamieson notes that Mayor Nickels has looked up from Paul Allen's posterior long enough to gauge the political winds, and finally say something substantive about the Monorail:

    Mayor Greg Nickels is getting in on the monorail act.
     Shape up by mid-September or shut down the project, Nickels declared in a letter to the monorail board Wednesday. (I should point out that the mayor did conveniently wait until the filing deadline passed for mayoral challengers before finding a voice on the controversial matter.) Source

Christal Wood For Mayor

Sound Transit has announced a planned test to simulate how the I-90 floating bridge would stand up under the weight and movement of light rail trains ("Trucks to pose as trains").

The test will occur in sunny September. Huh. If they really wanted a realistic test, they'd schedule it for November, December or January—the windy months. Then we'd see if the bridge's motion would pitch the trains off their rails.

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Posted August 10, 2005
Bush Leaguer Link This

Seattle's ostensibly Democratic mayor Greg "Who Moved My Dessert?" Nickels has shaped up as this city's Mini-Dubya: he knows what he wants, and he's sure what he wants is right, evidence to the contrary. Like the original Dubya, Nickels is a unilateralist—planning policy initiatives in virtual secrecy on the top floor of city hall, shutting out the public and their representatives, the City Council. Also like the Crawford Cowpoke, Nickels's pet projects just so happen to be very good for the already-rich among us.

The mayor's current fixation is on the size of his skyscrapers. With an envious eye toward Vancouver, BC and Portland, Nickels is trial ballooning a plan to supersize Seattle's downtown by allowing taller buildings. Today, Phillip Dawdy pops that balloon in the new Seattle Weekly ("Time To Grow Up").

Urban density is desirable if undertaken in such a way so as to accommodate more people in the same space, while providing thoughtfully-designed employment, residential, commerical, and public services & infrastructure that benefits citizens of all socioeconomic levels. What is apparent in Dawdy's analysis of Nickels's plans is that this one—like all his high profile ideas--aims for a vaguely-defined result while ignoring the all-important planning and detail work. The result won't be density, it'll just be crowded. However, property developers will still have the opportunity to make scads of cash.

The miraculous Reëlection Warchest Cycle of Life continues.

Excerpts:

     Last May, Nickels introduced a proposal to rewrite the city's planning code and dramatically raise building heights for office and residential buildings in downtown Seattle and in the Denny Triangle... over the next 20 years.
     Vancouver, B.C., and Portland, Ore., are the exemplars that Nickels and many others in urban planning point to as evidence that big cities can absorb many thousands of new residents in their urban core... Both cities worked overtime to create residential housing that made the new construction an integral and revitalizing part of downtown neighborhoods.
     As it exists now, Nickels envisions proposed code changes that would do little to instill a neighborhood feel in the city center...
     "We've got to do it gracefully," Nickels says. Many Seattleites wouldn't use "grace" to describe the mayor's political style. His is the buccaneering, mailed-fist style of governance versus the old Seattle style of consensus and death by process.
     The trouble is that the mayor's original plan did little to address the very things that have made Portland and Vancouver so livable and walkable, such as parks and trees...
     "If you want to impact sprawl, you have to impact families," says City Council member [and architect] Peter Steinbrueck. "That's why there's sprawl in the first place. They can't find housing in the city that meets their income level."
...
     Steinbrueck isn't exactly in love with the mayor's plan. No sooner had the details hit his desk last spring than he hired... Ray Spaxman and Larry Beasley, the planners credited with making modern Vancouver...
...
     On Monday, Aug. 8, Steinbrueck's two consultants delivered a report to the City Council that in careful, diplomatic terms poked holes in the Nickels plan, particularly as it relates to attracting families to downtown.
     "Make sure you are absolutely clear about what kind of place you want," Beasley said. "Otherwise, the consumer won't come, and it won't work."
...
     [Spaxman and Beasley] brought to Vancouver to make its dense neighborhoods feel like neighborhoods, as opposed to resembling a scene out of the dystopian future of Metropolis.
     "Eyes on the street" is how they explained the organizing principle. Twenty-five percent of the new residential construction has to be set aside for families. "We paid attention to families and dogs," says Beasley. In Vancouver's urban core, there are now 3,000 children with 60 babies being born each month.
     Their chief criticism [of the Nickels plan] is that the plan will not create real neighborhoods, and in turn, that will encourage families to go east to [suburbs like] Issaquah.
...
     If Nickels' plan were enacted in its present form, the two consultants project that towers won't be narrow enough to be unobtrusive... [and] "will still produce considerable overlook and shadowing on adjoining streets."
     What's more, the Nickels plan doesn't have incentives or funding to create the very neighborhood amenities such as schools, shopping areas, and small green spaces that have attracted new residents to Vancouver and, to a lesser degree, Portland. They suggest that Nickels' plan would produce density--just not the density anyone with kids would want to live in. Read all

Christal Wood For Mayor

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Posted August 8, 2005
One huge pile Link This

This is Tim Snide in the New York studios of Mr_Blog with... The Slam Book® Talks Space.

Space shuttle astronauts report signs of environmental damage to Earth are obvious enough to see from space.

   Commander Eileen Collins said astronauts on shuttle Discovery had seen widespread environmental destruction on Earth and warned on Thursday that greater care was needed to protect natural resources.
...
    "Sometimes you can see how there is erosion, and you can see how there is deforestation. It's very widespread in some parts of the world," Collins said in a conversation from space with Japanese officials in Tokyo, including Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.
    "We would like to see, from the astronauts' point of view, people take good care of the Earth and replace the resources that have been used..."
...
    "The atmosphere almost looks like an eggshell on an egg, it's so very thin," she said. "We know that we don't have much air, we need to protect what we have." Source

There was no comment from the EPA or the White House about Collins's statements.

In other shuttle news, the crew also says it has located over $8 billion in cash in missing Iraq reconstruction funds. Commander Eileen Collins reported Thursday that the huge pile of cash had been sighted from orbit, although NASA officials requested she not disclose its location, citing security reasons. There was no comment from the White House.

Finally, NASA has announced it will be able to fund a repair mission for the beleaguered Hubble Space Telescope after all. The telescope, which has enabled astronomers to see light from the most distant and youngest galaxies ever, was slated for abandonment last year when NASA announced it could no longer afford to maintain the telescope. However, the agency has reversed its decision following a "budget reorganization and reprioritization" which freed up the more than $8 billion which will be used for the space telescope and other programs. And there was no comment from the White House.

This is Tim Snide, see you next time on... The Slam Book®.

Blarchives: The Slam Book®

Also today: Someone's awfully confident about reëlection

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Posted August 4, 2005
Finally, some monosense Link This

The nascent pro-monorail group 2045 Seattle is proposing two solutions to the Monorail Project's financial shortfall. One is to sell bricks to the public as a fundraiser, in much the same way that the Pike Place Market sells tiles. The second is to sell "monorail bonds."

Since the current $2.1 billion project ran afoul of a proposed 50 year, $11 billion financing package, we have to assume that 2045-S intends for their options to replace the entirety of that non-starter plan. Let's be generous and say the brick option will account for 10% of the plan ($210 million), while the bonds will handle 90% ($1.9 billion).

Bonds.

Offer Monorail Bonds
2045 Seattle calls upon the Seattle Monorail Project Board to issue Seattle Monorail Bonds so that individual citizens can invest in their future and the future of their children. We ask that these bonds grow at a rate similar to inflation to preserve their worth to the individual and we waive the first three years of interest Source

Possible sizes of a bond issuance are eyebrow-raising: 19,000,000 $100 bonds, 7,600,000 at $250, or 3,800,000 at $500. Beyond that is probably outside the comfort zone of most families, even if it's 'for the kids.' 2045-S proposes the bonds grow at the rate of inflation, which has been under 5% for over 10 years; let's lock in a 2.5% annual rate for 37 years. The result is $4.74 billion which, compared to $11 billion, is pretty damn good.

Due to the number of bonds that would have to be sold, you'd need major institutional investors snapping up significant percentages of the issuance. But forgoing three years of ROI and term length could be disincentives.

Bricks.

Let the Communities Buy Their Stations Brick by Brick
Give both individuals and organizations the ability to invest in their local stations brick by brick... Twenty years ago, Pike Place Market attempted to sell bricks and tiles to support this great public institution. It was an unquestionable success with 46,500 tiles laid in the Market at that time. Source

What would those go for? $250 each? You'd have to sell 840,000 of them. That many 6-inch tiles (1/4 sq. ft.) would cover 210,000 sq. ft., or an area of over 275 x 40 sq. ft. per each of the 19 stations. But not impossible. True, 840K is greater than the population of Seattle, so let's look at this as a chance for the project's biggest boosters, monorailiacs who don't live here Kim Pedersen, to chip in for a change Kim Pedersen.

The lesson here is that it took a few ordinary folks with a web site to propose a mathematically feasible financing plan—something the $35 million a year SMP couldn't accomplish.

I'd still rather have Personal Rapid Transit, but if people want a monorail, let's take a closer look at 2045 Seattle's plan and whether it fits the car-tab revenue assumptions.

Compound Interest Calculator

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Posted August 3, 2005
Here boy! Good movie! Who's a Good Movie? Link This

Saw my first Manoel de Oliveira movie,1 "A Talking Picture." An appropriate title, since the director, born in 1908, got his start in silent films. It's also appropriate because it's chock full of people talking.

  Released to festivals in 2004, "A Talking Picture" stars Leonor Silveira2 as Rosa Maria, a Lisbon history professor who, with her 7 year old daughter Maria Joana, is taking a cruiseship to India. John Malkovich is the ship captain, and Catherine Deneuve (!) and Irene Papas are among the passengers.

As the ship passes through the Mediterranean, mother and daughter have a question-answer dialogue about the historic places they visit—Marseilles, Naples and Pompeii, Athens, Istanbul, and finally Egypt. In each place Rosa Maria purposely strikes up conversations with people who just-so-happen to be knowledgable about the local history. In Marseilles it's a fisherman. In Pompeii we eavesdrop on a tour guide with an atrocious, unidentifiable accent. On the Acropolis an Orthodox priest informs us he is doing his doctoral dissertation on art. A holidaying Portuguese actor introduces himself against a backdrop of the Pyramids.

This section of the film, which occupies maybe the first hour, establishes an extremely linear and pedagogic structure. We hope for a love connection when the actor chats up Rosa Maria, but that's not in de Oliveira's plan. Not until the second hour do we see what he is up to.

What he's up to isn't complicated.

At three ports of call the ship picked up three famous women—a French businesswoman, an Italian model and a Greek actress (Deneuve, Stefania Sandrelli and Papas). It turns out they are all old friends, and their circle includes Captain Malkovich.

The four sit down to dinner (speaking in their native tongues—a spot of realism I always like {see Thumbs Up, June 3, 2005}—but it's such a strange coincidence that even the script remarks upon it). The talk starts out with a "game" of self-criticism that also gives us their backstories, and ends up resembling a History Channel version of "The McLaughlin Group." Call it "My History Cruise With André."

Because what de Oliveira did in Hour 1 was give us a survey of the development of Western civilization and the split between Judeo-Christianity and Islam. Then in Hour 2 the four at the Captain's Table sum up that history, hash it over, and opine upon the current state of mankind, womankind, and relations between east and west.

Then de Oliveira cuts it off, ending the story in an abrupt—and violent—fashion. It seems very deus ex machina at first. But upon further reflection it is very 9/11.

An interesting look at the world view of a man who directed his first movie in 1931. Rating: 3/5

1. Update: it seems I've also seen de Oliveira's "The Convent," but I didn't know it was one of his.
2. Silveira, 34, has appeared in at least a dozen of de Oliveira's films.

Sit, movie, sit! Bad movie! Twenty years ago, Gary David Goldberg's "Family Ties" tranquilized Reagan era TV viewers with its blend of ex-hippy parents, materialistic children, sappy, simple plots and flashes of snappy dialogue. So it makes perfect sense that the same problem spoils "Must Love Dogs," starring hot babe Diane Lane and I-suppose-he's-attractive John Cusack.

  Sarah (Lane) was dumped by her husband; Jake's (Cusack) divorce has just been finalized. Her family and his friends are urging them to get back into the dating scene. Both are involuntarily signed up with online dating services and go on a series of blind dates before they meet up. And it doesn't go so well, but kizmet causes them to keep trying—the highlight being a madcap high-speed drive across L.A. in search of condoms. But even the madcap aspect feels just a trifle forced, although it's a great ad for the tire-squealing, 180-turning Prius. Throw in the obligatory Irish father (Christopher Plummer), big sister (Elizabeth Perkins), scum (Dermot Mulroney), a big black dog, and Stockard Channing phoning it in as a wacky sixty-something divorcee, and there's your movie.

The result is so much like a made-for-Lifetime or Oxygen TV movie that you want to fold your laundry while watching it. We're going to talk about love, sex, romance, infidelity, and even gays—but we're to not going to be threatening about it.

The movie's biggest, most egregious sin: stop, stop, STOP using songs in the soundtrack to tell me how to feel! It's a cheap trick, and evidence of sloppy, lazy screenwriting (second only to the montage).

What the hell happened? Goldberg violated the #1 rule of any John Cusack movie: Thou shalt cast Jeremy Piven as Cusack's best friend. Rating: 2/5

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Posted August 2, 2005
No Sale Link This

Before you get all excited about the builder of the monorail in Kuala Lumpur, MTrans, expressing interest in entering a possible Seattle Monorail rebid competition, check out our quick analysis from 2003. We factored-in the difference in the cost of construction between the U.S. and Malaysia. At the time it would have cost about $2.57 billion to build that system here.

Although the exchange rate is better now (currently 1:3.5 versus 1:2.5 two years ago), would you count on it to stay that way?

Malaysian ringgit is about 25% below its fair value.

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Posted August 1, 2005
Maverick was James Garner

There I was last Friday, linking to a Washington Post article portraying Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-NC) as some kind of maverick, for his at-odds-with-Dubya support for a timetable for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. While his bipartisanship is laudatory (thanks Walt, it's about time), the fact is that he's not straying that far off the Ranch:

Bill would allow voluntary prayer at academies

     A North Carolina congressman re-introduced legislation July 26 that would authorize the superintendents of West Point, Annapolis and the Air Force Academy to offer a voluntary, nondenominational prayer as part of their activities.
     ...Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., sponsor of... the Military Academy First Amendment Protection Act, described it as an effort to protect the religious rights of men and women within the nationís service academies.
     Jones offered similar legislation in September 2003, after a federal appeals court in Virginia ruled that the Virginia Military Instituteís dinner time prayer was unconstitutional. The American Civil Liberties Union had sued VMI on behalf of two cadets who opposed the prayer.
...
     The issue was raised again this year when the Anti-Defamation League called for ending the noon meal prayer at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Navy Times, 7/27/2005

Jones must have missed an earlier Washington Post report, from just the previous month:

Intolerance Found at Air Force Academy
A military study of the religious climate at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs found several examples of religious intolerance, insensitivity and inappropriate proselytizing on the part of Air Force officers and cadets...
     Air Force Lt. Gen. Roger A. Brady announced that his 16-member review team found a "perception of religious bias" in more than 300 interviews with cadets representing all faiths and with faculty members and administrators. Brady also found that there was a failure at the academy "to fully accommodate all members' needs and a lack of awareness over where the line is drawn between permissible and impermissible expression of beliefs."
     ...there did not appear to be a systemic problem, but he cited examples in which professors used their lecterns to promote specific religious activities to their cadets, calling the professors "well intended, but wrong." [gee, sounds pretty systemic to me. Ed.]...some cadets expressed objections to what they perceived to be mandatory prayers at official functions and in locker rooms.
     "Additionally, some faculty members and coaches consider it their duty to profess their faith and discuss this issue in their classrooms in furtherance of developing cadets' spirituality," according to the 40-page document.
     The report came after allegations that officers at the academy promoted evangelical Christian beliefs and were insensitive to cadets who were of a different religion or chose not to practice a faith. Source

Sounds like the service academies need protection from the God Squads, not the ACLU. Don't worry about Rep. Jones, though. The first step was admitting he has a problem.

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