Sunday, December 13, 2009

Obama In The Catbird's Seat

First, let us note that Obama sings sweeter than any bird- he is the 21st century William Jennings Bryan. In Oslo, he explains why he wages war, in an acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize- and they stay to applaud.

This guy could sell iceboxes to Eskimos.

Equally shrewdly, his "passive" presidential style splits the opposition. He will only lead on matters in which the Executive is expected and required to lead. Anyone attacking him is also attacking the powers of the next president.

Republicans are thus split. Those who want to preserve the powers of the presidency can't attack Obama, but an apparently larger number of Republicans derive more pleasure from whining about how they are mistreated, and would happily throw out the baby with the bathwater.

It's actually a pretty good position from which to drive forward a progressive agenda- if the rest of the team could start making the plays.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

What Did You Expect?

Faced with great challenges, we're learning that the US Congress has no great talent for governing. Who knew?

After all, they looked like they were governing when they passed the laws industries wanted, paid for the roads people wanted, and kept the economy at, at least, a mild simmer with Keynesian war-spending and Social Security.

Oh, sure, there were some troubling signs, such as their failure to save us $2 trillion over the past 40 years by legalizing drugs, or the fact that they couldn't enact taxes to pay for all the war spending. But that was, in a sense, the beauty of the thing- the money just kept rolling in and 2% of us became immeasurably wealthy.

But here we are now with a situation nobody expected- there aren't any more continents where we can "discover" natural resources, and all of our pointless (or worse) expense is hanging heavily on our shoulders in a lean and mean world economic environment.

The good news for people is that universal social services actually strengthen the body politic, so many nations do better at providing health care or education than we do. Whether the Congress will discover this in time for it to be good news for Americans remains a big question

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009



From Chuck Wolfe's blog.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

McGinn Gets On Board The Light Rail

Soon after winning a spot on the ballot, the McGinn campaign "sponsored" a community-oriented website that offered readers the chance to vote on questions like "Is McGinn the most totally awesome candidate for Mayor we've ever seen?" As it happened, building another light rail line in Seattle got more votes than McGinn. Shortly afterwards, he held a press conference, and announced he would support holding a vote about any plan for light-rail that might be developed by an agency like Sound Transit or Metro Transit. That was all he said, but that was enough.

In the background was a map of Seattle with a line connecting West Seattle and Ballard. McGinn supporters instantly inundated us with claims that McGinn would build a light rail system that would be cheaper and work better than anything seen to date. If you mentioned that McGinn had offered no plan for doing so, they would reply that, of course there was no plan- you could hardly expect to see a plan now, could you?!? Not actually having a plan was the most awesome part of having a plan! McGinn was a leader and he gets things done- that's all that you or I should need to know.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

McGinn Rides His Bicycle

Having unexpectedly edged out Nickels for a place on the ballot as Mayoral candidate, the McGinn team looked around to strengthen his credentials, and trumpeted another talking point- he rides his bike to work!

You would never guess this to look at him. Not a week goes by without cyclists passing me in Poulsbo, and they all have a lean and hungry look totally lacking in Mike McGinn. My initial guess was that he works at home, or perhaps a few blocks from his home, but after about a month of reading about McGinn riding his bicycle, a reporter let it slip- it's an electric bicycle.

Monday, November 16, 2009

McGinn's Opening Gambit

When McGinn ran in the primary, his issue was not building the tunnel. "Luckily" for him, that also happened to be the grievance du jour of the Stranger and many Seattle hotheads. In explaining how this worked for the benefit of people reading this out of town, I'm going to use rounded numbers. If you want exact numbers, look 'em up.

McGinn complained that the tunnel would cost $4 billion and was the greatest tax increase in Seattle history. He would stop the tunnel, save the people $4 billion, and build surface improvements instead of replacing the Viaduct. (The tunnel is the proposed replacement for the doomed Viaduct.) He said we should be spending the $4 billion for other purposes, like schools and better bus service.

This wasn't a hard claim to rebut. The tunnel costs were $1 billion from the City, for surface transportation improvements, $1 billion from the County and Port for much the same, and $2 billion from the state gas tax funds, which can only be used for roads, for the actual building of the tunnel. Of the money that would be 'saved' by not building the tunnel, only $1 billion of that was actually from the City, and McGinn was already proposing the spend the money 'saved' by cancelling local street improvements on the exact same set of improvements if he was elected.

None of the McGinn supporters ever understood this (or if they did, they pretended not to understand it). Others did, and the long pregnant silence when McGinn looked for endorsements was a solemn tribute to the profound discomfort felt by many at the sight of such demagoguery.

Next up: Bicycle riding McGinn! Streetcar riding McGinn!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

New Mayor- Not The Same As The Old Mayor

Meeting with "about 30 people representing labor unions, neighborhood organizations, and advocacy groups...Mayor-elect Mike McGinn asked the individuals, as community ambassadors, to go back to their respective constituencies and listen." Thus sayeth the Slog.

But wait- those people already had listened. That's how they got chosen to meet with McGinn- they represented groups that already had discussed among themselves their concerns and come up with things they wanted done.

This is a Stupid Lawyer Trick by McGinn. Arguably not as stupid as those who will fall for it, but really.

Welcome to what may be an ongoing thread of McGinnisms. Folks, we may have a winner.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Afghanistan

There is corruption in Afghanistan- because we're there. We are the largest corrupt entity there, so big that we suck anyone else into our corruption, but wait, there's more! Not only do our inflated salaries and imported goods corrupt Afghanistan, but our CIA and other agencies are up to their old tricks, and the contractors we employ pay protection money to use the roads.

And if, by some mischance, some religious movement, of sufficient fervor and sanctity to overcome human frailty, were to emerge as a governing body, we would "destabilize" them. Not because we want their oil, but because that is what we do. The broadest and deepest foundations of American policy are, that if money can't corrupt foreigners, we're all going to die!

This, in turn, allows Hamid Karzai to drag us around like an oversize pooch on a leash, an event that has happened regularly with tin horn dictators in every part of the world for 50 years. How bad has it been? So bad that John Foster Dulles starts to look good. That bad.

They're making out like bandits in Afghanistan, because they are bandits. Karzai is importing bandits from the UAE to help him, McChrystal is stealing from American schoolchildren and the elderly, Halliburton is there, the Afghan warlords couldn't be happier, and tv news is ready to dish us up a steady diet of "experts" who also work for the war industry.

It's a good thing the American public likes reruns, because, God knows, we've seen this one before.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I Know I Have A Compass Here Somewhere....

Between 1949 and 1956 China, a nation of hundreds of millions, transformed herself from the semi-feudal wreckage of decades-long warfare to a stable society providing at least sustenance and governance to all. This in itself is remarkable, but even more remarkable is the manner in which it was done- by the largely verbal and person-to-person transmission of homilies, just as the simple maxims in Mao's Red Book had served the Red Army.

And you have to ask yourself, how far adrift had that society gone, that the simple imposition of common sense and some rule of law could create such a striking change?

And then you look at our own society, with the airwaves ruled by the ranting of insane rightwingers, and a Congress soundly rejecting the progressive views of the citizens, and you start to realize how far adrift a society can go- before the big crash.

The problem is not that there are no precedents for an oligarchy ruling by gangsterism and mob violence. The problem is that there are all too many- and they have all ended badly.

Monday, October 19, 2009

This Almost Writes Itself

Storyline for a book or screen play-

The US and Canada, determined to maintain the intensely suburban lifestyles only they enjoy, are hoisting an 18-mile pipe into the atmosphere to pump sulfuric waste from the Alberta oil sands into the atmosphere, blocking out the sun and threatening crops worldwide. The other nations of the earth join together in an effort to stop them, an effort made difficult or perhaps impossible by the two oceans defending the North American continent and the military pre-eminence of the USA. Plot, counterplot, and battle unfold under eerie orange skies.

How can this not be thrilling? And how can it not contain numerous women in shorts because of the heat? Move over James Bond, there's a new storyline in town.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Who's Crazy Now?

"Stiff competition from thousands of America's mom-and-pop marijuana farmers threatens the bottom line for powerful Mexican drug organizations in a way that decades of arrests and seizures have not, according to law-enforcement officials and pot growers in the United States and Mexico."

That's the lead paragraph in a recent article about the failure of the law enforcement approach to drug regulation.

Let's be perfectly clear- putting the police in charge made things worse, exactly as predicted by every major study over the course of a century. They have made things incalculably worse, costing the US economy at least $3-$4 trillion as they became cruel and corrupt in the pursuit of their prey- enough to have built every mile of limited access highway in the entire nation.

And all that needed to happen to put us on the right track was to protect a small, but unusually energetic, portion of the population from the predations of the police. So much for the media image of the spaced-out stoner- it seems these "laid back" dopers have accomplished in a few years a goal that has eluded the massed efforts of all of the police forces of North America for half a century.

Could America's pot smokers have a little respect now? Probably not, in a nation whose main commerce is the marketing of artificial distinction. You can't turn the ship on a dime, but at least now the shining beacon can be clearly seen. Having predicted this outcome 42 years ago, I do not stand corrected. And it feels damn good.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Cutting the Gordian Knot

The great evil of our Senatorial system is that industries can buy, on the cheap, Senators from sparsely populated states. Buying the Senator from Montana costs only a fraction of what it costs to buy the Senator from New York. In this way, industries can block needed change by buying three or four Senators, or even, if needed, ten.

The only way out of this is to restore simple majority rule in the Senate, making it more expensive for industries to buy enough Senators. Certainly, requiring them to buy 11 Senators will not bankrupt them, but it would be a good deal more expensive for them than buying one or two, as they have done with Senator Baucus.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Republican Game

Samuel Elliot Morrison and Henry Steele Commager, in their History of the American Republic, argue that Republicans of the 19th century lavished pensions on veterans to spend the money collected by protective tariffs, and prevent a budgetary surplus that might otherwise have fueled calls for the end of the tariffs.

They're still doing it.

If it weren't for our grotesquely outsized military budget, Social Security, which has collected surplus revenues for decades, might be so well invested as to live on dividends, or might have loaned to the US, at Treasury bond rates, the money needed for health care, renewable energy, or universal free education.

All of this is glossed over by the common guy because we have shiny things. Who cares if life in America is getting worse by the year? We have shiny things.

But it doesn't need to be this way. The choice is ours, if we care to make it.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

They Had Their Chance

In the 20th century the free marketeers of America were given their opportunity to show what they could do. They had free natural gas, oil, and coal, not to mention millions of acres of timberland at give-away prices, they had the full sanction of the state, and, frequently, government assistance when they failed. And, most importantly they had a vast market, the people of the United States, generally prosperous, who were allowed to keep most of what they earned and spend it as they chose. How did this work out?

Well, simply, it was a disaster, proving mainly that the free market functions worse than even a king or dictator. That's a pretty damning comparison.

In some areas, like health care, we continue to get results that are about as good as other countries like us- but at twice the price. In most regards, the system has created widespread devastation and poverty, maintained only because other nations will still buy our debt, and ready to fail the next time the price of oil doubles.

It seems safe to say that the theories of the free markets are mainly propaganda and balderdash, indulged in by people who have no responsibility (or who, like Pinochet, feel no responsibility) for the welfare of their nation.

This can't be entirely unexpected. In the real world, markets are places that are regulated to provide a place where people buy and sell, but that's a larger story, and not necessary to draw the conclusion we do from the evidence- the "free" market has been a big failure. Stick a fork in it, it's done.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Irony, The Irony

In an advanced piece of concern trollery, the AP reports concerns about windfarms presenting confusing images to the Doppler radar used to watch for tornadoes- and the possibility that adopting wind power too quickly might lead to false alarms being sounded by the weather service.

Wow, what if we had adopted that cautious approach to energy development when oil was discovered? I'm guessing the world might be a lot cleaner, and already be using a lot more wind power.

It's a little late now, though, to get hyper-cautious about developing a much cleaner and infinitely more renewable energy source. AP fail.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hunting Down The 'Militia'

With the closing of the borders, pot production in the woods has soared. With Mexican mafias providing the muscle, police are increasingly focused on gaining the upper hand. The jackboots are coming to a forest near you.

I'd always wondered how America would deal with the nutcases who would hide in the woods. Now I plainly see that, after legalization, you turn the police on the 'militia'. If there's anything left of the 'militia', that is, after they have a few run-ins with the Mexican mafia.

The irony, of course, would be the role the so-called 'militia' are playing in the demands to close the borders.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Things To Come

Mike McGinn wants to be mayor of Seattle, and in the process, people are going to get a close-up and personal look at Sierra Club politics. It's about the worst thing that could have happened to the Sierra Club.

I say that as one with an heirloom fondness for the Sierra Club, but increasing questions as to how much of my life I would want them to control. More and more I'm thinking it would be, like, None.

People have wondered for a long time why we get old and die. Right now I'm leaning towards the "build-up of toxins" train of thought.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dick Cheney and Jack Kennedy

John F. Kennedy famously read the NYT in ten minutes every morning. Of course, he used a trick- his knowledge that the NYT, aside from leaning far to the right, was simply a mish-mash of the conventionall knowledge from unattribued sources. Knowing the topic, Kennedy could synopsize the story as though he'd read it.

Cheney operated in much the same way. Having learned that almost everyone around him was poorly educated and almost brain-dead, he easily bullied and manipulated them, confident in their inferiority. Almost nobody felt sure enough of themselves to contradict him or quit in disgust.

That's the secret of the upper classes. They're stupid and got their positions the old fashioned way- their fathers called in favors. And a giant among them is, for better or worse, a giant.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday, July 10, 2009

Me- Bad Blogger

Yes, I never post- here. But you can google me! And if you do, you'll find my salty comments at the blogs of much better bloggers! It's like me, with substance.

And this was a good post, right?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Crying 'Fire' in a Crowded Theater

For thirty years reforming marijuana prohibition was not the kind of liberalization that could be allowed to people like you or me. So our "leaders" screamed hysterically about the dangers of pot, causing the deaths of millions and the imprisonment of tens of millions.

But it was easy enough to repeal the banking regulations that kept this country prosperous between 1945 and 1980. Wham, bam, and thank you ma'am, and our prosperity flew out the window and into the Swiss bank accounts of 1% of our population.

I try to keep my faith in what we call "democracy" but it ain't easy.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Obama Should Have Handled That

Obama should have taken 15 minutes to handle the DOMA thing. The Bush holdover who wrote the brief should have been moved, the brief withdrawn, and a different brief, or none at all, filed. I don't fault him for the initial mistake, but for his failure to fix it.

There is no excuse.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Wrong-Footed

Obama really wrong-footed himself when he dissed the legalization of marijuana. Read any comment thread- nothing brings us together like the legalization of pot. Rightwingers and leftwingers agree- the time is now.

Naturally we can't expect that every President is going to stand up like Harry Truman or Dwight Eisenhower and do the right thing at the critical moment. And Obama can't expect we will vote for him again if our own lives are unchanged by his first term.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Electric Trucks





The pictures come from here.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Enablers

Republican 'leadership' is lost in a thicket of their own making. It's hard for them to see this, because the media they have long derided as 'liberal' is, in fact, rightwing. Republicans dominate the talk shows, have their own propaganda network, and a supporting cast at the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post.

So they will continue to drift, never really challenged in their breezy assertions of how things oughta be. And the dead-tree newspaper industry will continue to wonder what they could possibly do to support their 'news model'. After all, doesn't everybody want to read more Bill Kristol?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Cheap Stuff

In Belfair we have two grocery stores. The QFC was here first and then a Safeway opened. The Safeway appeared to be much larger than the QFC, until the QFC completely remodeled last year. The difference couldn't be more striking.

The QFC is now the most opulent of grocery stores, an object lesson for grocers who want to upgrade, and attracts the more prosperous element of shoppers. The poor people flock to the Safeway, in spite of the fact that the prices are often higher in the Safeway. The Safeway is now starting an expansion and upgrade, but they will always labor under the need to appear cheaper than the QFC.

And that's the trap the Republican Party is in today. They built a brand in which the ugliness of bigotry lay hidden in the fact that their voters could trust them to do the wrong thing. Those are their core voters, the 20% of us keeping the Repubs on life support, and they won't accept anything more. A move by a Republican towards rationality, compassion, or fairness, is a deal breaker for their remaining voters.

They are, in short, hoist on their own petard.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sacrificial Anode

That's fancy talk for the zinc you attach to the bottom of a boat. The zinc, being more attractive to electricity, absorbs the ionic currents that would otherwise eat your propellor.

And that's what Iraq has been for the past six years- the sacrificial anode that spared the rest of the world from the insanity of George Bush. Without Iraq, the American Death Star would have shown on a half-dozen other countries.

When you remove the zinc, it looks the same. That cannot be said for Iraq. The destruction will always remain, as a monument of sorts to the diseased brains of Bush and Cheney. But the Iraqis defended freedom and dignity around the globe when nobody else could do it. They've earned their place in history.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Repubs May Want To Rethink This

The Republicans are saying Republicans shouldn't be prosecuted for crimes. If they aren't, eventually we'll just need to conclude that all Republicans are criminals.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday, April 10, 2009

Hold A Gun To Their Heads

Right now Obama is focusing on saving the banks and stimulating the economy, hopefully with unemployment extensions and aid to education and health care that do two kinds of lifting.

But the second string to our bow should be a national program to build mass transit, low income housing, single-payer health care, and clinics and schools. This would be the kind of direct investment in our own future that will pay dividends.

And the banks and financial industry should be given notice that we will do it without them if we need to. Let them watch several hundred billion flow into construction projects without their participation and they will have a new interest in cleaning up their financial house so they can qualify as responsible lenders.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

800,000 Arrests

Refuting Joe Klein, Mark Kleiman puts the best possible face on not legalizing pot- and admits that 800,000 arrests for marijuana each year is not implausible- but goes on to say that only 30,000 people are in jail for marijuana.

Let's accept that for a minute and ask- why were the other 770,000 people arrested? At over $1000 for each booking and mugging, that's $770 million in arrest costs alone for people not dangerous enough to warrant jailing. And that's before we get to any of the other costs to society of forcing a person to answer 'yes' to "Have you ever been arrested?" for the rest of their life.

Face it, this debate is over. The only remaining question is when we'll gather the courage to do the right thing.

Friday, April 3, 2009

OMG! James Wolcott...

When you can, read James Wolcott-

"Only within the Beltway popcorn popper could Gingrich, whose serpent tongue and ogre ego did so much to polarize discourse in the 1990s and abort reform, be considered a foxy catch. Only in Washington, D.C., could Gingrich, a magpie of futurist jargon and a bumptious opportunist, pass himself off as an iconoclastic force and centrifuge of ideas, a cross between Buckminster Fuller and Che Guevara leading a commando raid on the buffet table. And only within the punditocracy could “hyper-bipartisan” be bandied about as an aphrodisiac.

I wasn’t brought up in a crate. I understand that one of the purposes of bipartisanship is to cram something difficult and necessary down the American people’s gullets for which neither party has the fortitude to assume full responsibility. It’s a way of turning a possible gangplank into a teeter-totter."

And he can do that for hundreds of words in a row...

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

They Just Don't Get It

From Talking Points Memo-

Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-MI): GM's Rick Wagoner is just a "sacrificial lamb."

Wagoner, in fact, is the CEO who doesn't believe in global warming. IOW, too dumb to walk and chew gum. But he might be a little smarter if people he associated with, like Governor Granholm, would challenge his stupidity. And she's the Democrat!

We are so screwed.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Why Legalize?

Every major commission, over more than a century, has found that the costs of prohibition outweigh the benefits. At a time when schools and health care are gasping for funding, how do you justify spending the money on prohibition?

It’s like a form of rot. Now people have treatment programs for a non-existent “marijuana addiction”. The Feds audited one of these treatment programs in 2007 and found that one in ten hadn’t used pot in the previous year, and more than one in three hadn’t used it in the previous month. Naturally, the treatment people are always warning us of the terrible dangers if pot is legalized.

As for whether big business makes a bundle on pot prohibition, the ‘third rail’ nature of the issue should tell you they do. You might think beer and tobacco companies would hurt the worst, but actually big drug companies are making the most. A months supply of Dromolol for a cancer patient costs over $600. Anti-spasmodics, pain relievers, anti-depressants, anti-emetics- add it up and you’re talking money that makes brewery revenues look like “small beer”.

Drug prohibition is what you call a multi-dimensional problem. It provides funding for gangs and terrorists. Some of the money is used to bribe policemen, prosecutors, and legislators. It prevents the use of cheap and effective medications. It expands the presence of the police and has made Swiss cheese of our Bill of Rights. It costs a lot of money which, like bad DNA, replicates expenses, turning ordinary people into hardened criminals condemned to “treatment” for an addiction they don’t have.

And those were the “successes” of prohibition. On the negative side we have the destruction of the family by long prison terms- seeding an entire generation of sub-par performance, poverty, and in all likelihood, abuse of legal substances.

The cost over the past 30 years- over a trillion dollars- would have been sufficient to build solar and wind power for the entire US- even with the less efficient technology of the past. If we had done this, the world would be coming to us to buy, and we would be lending them money, instead of the sadly reverse situation in which we find ourselves.

Maybe the California prison guards have the most realistic take on the matter- presidents come and presidents go, but as long as pot is illegal, the prison guards will have a veto on the California governor. And that’s something they’re ready to fight for.

The Stupidometer

I just looked at a weather forecast from the Times, predicting late-season rain and snow. Appended, a 112-comment thread consisting, probably, of mainly comments saying that if it's snowing, global warming must be over. I didn't have the heart to actually read. Sometimes the stupidity just hurts.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Connect the Dots

First, a little quiz. Raise your hands if you think doubling the cost of transportation could trigger a recession in an economy that spends 66% of its energy on transportation.

That of course, is what happened when gas prices doubled last year. That wasn't part of a long-term trend, it was a bubble driven by fears of an Iranian war, fears driven by the obvious eagerness of the Bush administration. To make a few billion, oil traders and *others in the oil business* bid up futures until we were spending every available dollar on gas.

Then, as credit cards maxed out and mortgages went into default, the markets crashed and the Bushies pitchforked $700 billion to their friends on Wall Street. Nice work if you can get it.

So that was your 2008. 'Wham, bam', but no 'thank you, ma'am' from this crew. Being a Republican means never saying you're sorry.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Serendipity

Whether they know it or not, in just a few days the Seattle P-I morphed from dinosaur to beehive. Linking to local reporting around Puget Sound, readers of the P-I website could choose from a tasty menu of longer and more local stories- that have big implications for the region as a whole. The new ferries chief, a medical marijuana trial, the tribes versus the state on saving the salmon- local reporting is better, but the stories are hardly local.

There's volumes to unpack here, starting with the possible improvement of outlook for the small town paper and the big city daily, which now can focus, as in our federalistic form of government, on what they do best. And really, when metro areas go over a million, how could it be otherwise?

Whether the management at the P-I sees this or not is a different question. Enjoy it- and encourage it- while you can. It may not last forever.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Public Discussion

It's typical to assume that there's one way to look at a problem, and then there's another way to look at a problem. But if you actually look, that's not the situation we actually have.

In reality, as you can see on comment threads, or in remarks from Republican legislators or cable news, there's one way to look at a problem, and then there are people who are totally insane. Run some actual public policy from Europe up the flagpole around here, and see what kind of salutes you get. Like I said, totally insane.

And this will be about as easy to change as shariah law or the belief that the sun goes around the earth. In Germany 70 years ago it took total defeat and destruction to bring them down a peg and restore sanity.

Could it happen here? Be afraid, very afraid.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Get A Grip

Back in 1970 I voted against the proposed subway, because it was 'a conspiracy to benefit the rich' etc etc. Of course, in those days the Highway Department had quite literally and illegally conspired against the citizens to build freeways, city departments and unions conspired to give the shoreline away to businessmen, and, in violation of the Shoreline Management Act, Roanoke Reef was under construction with permits illegally issued by the Building Department.

As the years passed and government was cleaned up, conspiracy theories became more a general misguided do-goodism, occasionally whipped to a froth by demagogues like John Fox. The Sierra Club opposed rail transit because "it would encourage sprawl", and citizens voted a height limit on buildings for reasons I never understood.

Eventually the reaction to non-existent conspiracies reached a nadir when Seattle hipsters were led around by the ring in their nose by the unholy trinity of John Fox, a used car dealer, and a suburban chain of free 'alternate' newspapers opposing the Seattle Commons proposal. Every nattering nabob of negativity climbed on board to defeat the evil proposal to build a park, but the only Seattle institution saved by their opposition was the civic fear of conspiracies.

That this civic fear is alive and well was illustrated recently by several blogposts suggesting Gregoire had wickedly promised improved bus service and was now reneging, and in the most recent form, by a post at Seattle Transit Blog suggesting that a central waterfront park in Seattle could be too big.

In the case of Gregoire and the buses, let's remember that Ron Sims promised Gregoire that King County would supply bus transit for commuters to downtown, and, depending on that promise, Gregoire announced a downscaled effort by the state to provide capacity for traffic bypassing downtown. Now Sims is off to the other Washington, to spread his pro-bus-anti-rail agenda, and Gregoire is left to deal with Frank Chopp and his merry band.

It hardly seems any more realistic to imagine a waterfront park that is "too large" in an area that even a wheezing asthmatic can traverse on foot in about three minutes. But this is hardly the last dark foreboding that will emerge in the Seattle Process, and commenting on them often bears more resemblance to a game of whack-a-mole than reasoned discourse. Informed observers will have noted that John Fox is back, now fighting increased density around rail transit stations, as part of his tireless but ineffective demagoguery for low-income housing.

Enough already! The next time you feel like they're all out to get you, grab some old issues of the Helix and find out what real conspiracies look like. Conspiracies? We had 'em. But now, not so much.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Beyond Bipartisanship

Obama has ascended to dizzying heights- perhaps too dizzying for a Democrat. Despite a clear mandate, he's not providing leadership for a Democratic Congress to pass needed legislation.

According to the AARP, two-thirds of Americans want universal health care- and they want it now. Other polling has shown 70-80% for the position of legalizing marijuana.

If Obama continues to court Republicans, he will be sadly out of step with the majority of Americans- at a time when the "leadership" on Wall Street and in Washington DC has proven itself bankrupt. Unlike movies, history does not always have happy endings.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Read My Lips

As regular as a clock, one of the old has-beens at the Seattle Times will suggest that bicyclists should "help out" by asking to be taxed, again, for roads and parks they've already paid for.

How about realizing that bicyclists are already helping by using a vehicle that will never wear out a city street, a form of fuel that doesn't pollute or make gas prices higher by increasing demand, and a machine that doesn't drip oil on the streets to poison our waterways.

And, in spite of the fact that cyclists have already paid for the roads (in your county tax statement, in case you didn't know) and are legally entitled to half a lane, they are subject to bullying by drivers and frequently hit by two-ton vehicles. Then, when you finally reach your destination, well, good luck trying to find a parking spot for your bike. Yes, it's easy enough to provide free parking for cars and trucks, but a major challenge to fit in a few bike racks.

And it's not like you would actually get anything for your license fee- in fact, the chances are pretty good you'd actually have to pay more taxes to make up the shortfall at the licensing office.

As Obama said, we now must put aside childish things- and that would include the idea that bicycles are not a serious solution to some serious problems we need to solve.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Schools


Schools should be in integrated campuses that provide education for all ages and also include dining facilities for meal programs, libraries, clinics, transit stops, mini police stations, social welfare offices, public restrooms, parks, and low-income housing.

These campuses should be fairly busy for 18 hours a day and comfortable and safe 24 hours a day. Instead of regarding schools as a sort of prison in which children are segregated from society, schools should be regarded as a core value to which we all return throughout our lives.

Naturally, you might hope to see some synergy here, with older people helping in the classrooms before dinner, transit serving riders of all ages, and younger people sampling vocational training, such as cooking or facility maintenance, while in high school.

Almost all of the activities listed are already funded, but geographically dispersed, increasing transportation costs, and located in older buildings that are not energy efficient. And there’s no time like the present! The largest population cohort we’ve ever known is beginning to retire and looking to trade that family lifestyle for some serious empty-nester living.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Seattle P-I, RIP

I'll miss the Seattle P-I, in much the same sense as I miss the Doghouse and the organist at the Wharf. Which is to say, not so much.

In fifty years the P-I has never strongly supported a progressive position I believe in. In fact, they haven't even provided the full and balanced coverage I could have provided from my readings of other sources. In fact, they supported the re-election of Nixon.

Maybe there's a big bunch of people who will feel a new hole in their lives. I'm not one of them.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Did The New Deal Fail?

When I was a kid in the 50s nobody thought the New Deal had failed. When you drove on a road it was probably a road built by the New Deal. When you went to school it was probably a school built by the New Deal. When you went to the Post Office it was probably a Post Office built by the New Deal. When you turned on a light, the electricity came from dams built by the New Deal. All of the adults you knew had lived through the Depression, and none of them thought the New Deal was a failure.

In fact, they thought capitalism had failed catastrophically, and that probably something like the New Deal would be necessary forever to keep capitalism from failing again. Modern Republicans think the same thing, they just don't like to see any democracy or accountability involved when government props up business. When it came to pump-priming, though, George Bush was so there, spending about $4.5 trillion over eight years to keep things looking rosy.

In spite of today's orchestrated whining, there's no disagreement at all- the New deal was a success, and a model for the future.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Another Great Depression?

Any serious student of American transportation knows that by the year 1900 railroads had achieved a rich corruption beyond the confines of a blog post. They routinely passed through bankruptcy and emerged, 'healthy' with a third again as much debt as when they entered. After 1910 the interurban trackage in the US doubled but none of that new investment ever paid a dime in profits. By 1920 we had a half again as much railroad trackage as we needed, even after the fierce government slashing of the First World War, and in the 20s the steam railroads built massive new terminals and servicing facilities for the traffic they expected to serve.

All of this happened after the automobile, truck, and bus emerged, between 1900 and 1910, as the new transportation paradigm. Is it really so amazing that most railroads saw business drop by 90% at some point in the 30s? Do we really need a clever one-size-fits-all explanation?

Could this happen again? The solipsistic US ("We are the largest market in the world") has largely ignored the changing world situation for- oh, say- about 40 years. Could the end of happy motoring, as Jim Kunstler calls it, mean we'll grow our own vegetables and mend our own clothes?

Only if you're smart. Social Security provides a buffer for the basic economy. Bank deposits are insured. There's plenty to do in fighting Global Warming.

But, as the song says, it's been a long time comin', and it will be a long time gone.