Archives for April 2008
In Seattle, we’re home to the Discovery Institute, a conservative think thank dedicated to the task of changing the definition of science. They’re hyping the new Ben Stein anti-Darwin film, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”. The film is getting awful reviews.
While I oppose the sneaky introduction of creationism into the classroom, I have not seen an energetic and accessible response by the science community.
Ken Miller basically rips Intelligent Design apart in a 2 hour long exposé of the claims of intelligent design and the tactics that creationists employ to get it shoehorned into the American school system.
Miller is funny, urbane, and respectful. He’s the author of science textbooks, and testifies in front of school boards across the country. At every one of these engagements, he always manages to eat the lunch of the Discovery Institute guys. The video is nearly two hours long, so allow it time to load. It’s worth it.
Less than two days left in our annual pledge week and we’ve raised a respectable amount of money, though we’re still far short of our 150 donor/$6,000 target. A huge thanks to the 67 of you who have donated $3,690 thus far.
The righty trolls in the comment threads like to accuse me of being a deadbeat, derisively pointing to this fund drive as proof positive. But what I really am is an entrepreneur, if with an admittedly shaky business plan: asking you to choose to help pay for a service you obviously find valuable. Prove me right, and them wrong; please give today.
Artist rendering of construction of Rossi’s waterfront tunnel
There has been much debate amongst political insiders this week over whether Dino Rossi’s transportation “plan” was a smart political move. Oh, everybody agrees it is dumb policy — a head-up-its-ass, roads-only acceleration of a WSDOT wish list funded by pixie dust and prevarication — but there are some on both sides of the aisle who argue that local voters are indeed gullible enough to believe that enunciating such a plan somehow reflects on Rossi’s ability to achieve it. Me… I’m not so sure.
See, the problem with transportation planning in the Puget Sound region and Washington state, is that we’re just too goddamn, small “d” democratic to give any public official the moral or legal authority to get things done. Robert Moses himself could descend from Mt. Sinai with a comprehensive transportation plan etched in stone by the hand of God, and it would quickly crumble to dust amidst political squabbling, obstructionist ballot measures, picketing polar bears, and our state taxpayers’ profound unwillingness to actually pay for the infrastructure and services we want. Neither our statutory framework nor our political ethos easily accommodates the kind of forceful leadership required to enact, you know… plans.
Hence, a skeptical response from our state’s opinion makers might have been expected even had Rossi’s numbers actually added up. Which they don’t. Prompting even the Seattle Times to politely trash Rossi’s proposal in a Sunday editorial that bandies about the words “mushy,” “baffling,” “troublesome,” and “misleading,” while charging that the candidate “cha-cha’s around the question of what other things the state would do without.”
It is hard to imagine the political advantage to be gained from a “plan” on which even the rhetorical cosmeticians at the Blethen Family Newsletter can’t manage to slather a little political lipstick. And how could they while describing three of Rossi’s major proposals as a “financial sinkhole,” “a waste of money” and, well… a political fantasy?
He relies on tolls less than Gregoire but only because he reaches into a currently untappable fund, Sound Transit’s pot of gold. For Rossi to accomplish his goals, he would need a Republican Legislature.
Rossi wouldn’t just need a Republican legislature to divert Sound Transit’s Eastside light rail dollars to roads, he’d need the cooperation of the Sound Transit board, plus a vote of the people. And he’s not likely to get any of those of three, anymore than he’ll get Seattle voters to approve a waterfront tunnel or residents of the Montlake neighborhood to acquiesce to bulldozing an eight-lane 520 through the Arboretum.
I suppose, technically, it’s still a “plan” — it’s just a plan for failure. The question editorialists should be asking of Rossi is, does he really not understand how politically unrealistic his proposals are… or does he just not care?
Previous posts in the Mutinyblogging series can be found here:
Mutinyblogging Pours the First Drink
Seattle vs. Jakarta: The Monorail Challenge – Part 11
Rising Up Against Captain Santa Claus
It’s been pointed out to me that I haven’t been writing as much, and of course that’s true, as I’ve kinda been immersed in coding these days. Recently, I’ve been banging my head against the wall trying to implement a basic Rich Text comment editor, but I’ve given up. If you’re a WordPress jockey who can give me Rich Text comments while automatically stripping out all but the most basic HTML and CSS, I could use your help, but in the meanwhile everybody will just have to get by with the formatting buttons I’ve added to the comment form.
Speaking of hitting a wall, that’s exactly what the Pledge Drive has done over the past 24 hours. We had a great first three days, but as expected, donations slowed to a crawl as we headed into the weekend. 55 readers have now contributed $3,110, and I thank you all, but we’re falling far short of the pace we need to meet our $6,000/150 donor targets.
If I were a righty, I’d have some cushy think tank job or bullshit book deal to pay my bills and keep me blogging. But progressives, well… too often, we’re just expected to volunteer. But you know, I can’t eat passion, and for some reason my bank won’t take page views in lieu of dollars when paying my mortgage, so if you want me to be able to continue blogging full time — and continue developing the all new HA — I need your financial support. Maintaining HA is a helluva lot of work, and I do it for next to nothing. But I can’t afford to do it for absolutely nothing.
So please, show your appreciation by giving whatever you can. An average $40 donation from 150 readers will hit our target, but just five or ten bucks is always welcome. Thanks.
I’m totally fine with building fences along the Aurora Bridge, but can we cut out the nonsense that it’s going to save the lives of the suicidal? Fencing off the Aurora Bridge will not save those lives for the same reason that fencing off the Mexican border will not stop illegal immigration.
Normally, Lee is a wellspring of wisdom, but he could not be more wrong. Suicide barriers and border fences serve altogether different functions, and the forces at play in each case have little in common.
When individuals decide to cross the United States’ southern border, they’re reacting to economic conditions. They know that in America they can earn in a day what they can earn in a month in their home countries. There are plenty of low wage jobs in America that will not be filled by Americas. (Or, more accurately, there are plenty of jobs Americans won’t do because the jobs pay so little.) Lee’s right about the U.S./Mexico fence: it’s poorly thought-out, and flies in the face of economic realities. That said…
Why build a suicide barrier — won’t they just go somewhere else?
No. This is a common misconception:
* Two suicide bridges in Washington D.C., the Taft and the Duke Ellington, are located a block away from each other. When officials erected a barrier on one bridge, suicides on the other bridge did not increase.
* Dr. Richard Seiden, a psychology professor at UC Berkeley, studied 515 individuals who were prevented from jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge. Ninety four percent of them went on to live normal and productive lives — a mere six percent attempted suicide again.
* The Memorial Bridge in Augusta, Maine was the sight of 14 suicides before officials erected a safety fence there. After installing the fence, suicides at the bridge fell to zero — and the suicide rate in the entire state did not increase.
We can reduce the number of suicides by installing a fence on the Aurora Bridge. We should, and not only for the benefit of the individuals who will be dissuaded from taking their own lives:
The neighborhood beneath the bridge used to be docks and warehouses, and the suicides went largely unnoticed. But during the technology boom of the past two decades, it morphed into a trendy area full of office buildings, shops and restaurants, and the bodies began to fall where people could see them.
“They end up in our parking lot,” said Katie Scharer, one of Edwards’ co-workers at Cutter & Buck, a sportswear company based in the Adobe complex. “Nobody’s ever totally used to it.”
Grief counselors regularly go to Cutter & Buck, paying a visit as recently as a month ago.
I can’t imagine how awful it must be to work in that area, knowing that at any time someone could fall to their death. If a fence can successfully prevent people from killing themselves, then it’s worth building.
UPDATE [Lee]: I’ve responded in the comments and will leave it at that as I’ll be signed off for the rest of the day, but I want to make it clear that I actually do support the fence for the fact that the jumpers are a huge concern for the businesses and residences below.
During a web chat Friday, Washington Post congressional reporter Jonathan Weisman was asked for his thoughts on the race for WA-08:
Seattle: A Congress question — do you think Washington’s 8th District Rep. Dave Reichert (R) is in a better or worse position to win a rematch against Darcy Burner (D)?
Jonathan Weisman: Worse, way worse. I never count out an incumbent, never. But Darcy Burner is a little more experienced this go-round and a lot lot richer. She’s been raising a ton of money and is getting a lot of help from Democratic Washington.
Darcy’s getting a lot of help from Democrats in both Washingtons… the kinda help Reichert can’t count on getting from Republicans this cycle.
As expected, NBA owners approved moving the Sonics from Seattle to Oklahoma City for the 2008-09 season. I’ve got nothing really to add at the moment, I just liked the headline.
Three days into HA’s Second Annual Pledge Week we’re almost halfway toward our $6,000 target and a third of the way toward our goal of 150 contributors. A big thanks to all of you who have given thus far.
But as great as the response has been we’re heading into a slow weekend, and we’re still a long way off, so I’m hoping a lot more of you will pull out your credit cards and chip in. A little over $30 a person from 101 more contributors will get us past both our targets… is that so much to ask in support of a blog that has become a regular part of your daily routine and a critical part of our local progressive media infrastructure?
This morning I posted a preview of the The Ti-Po, a snarky review of Seattle’s two dailies, just one of many new features we’re developing for the expanded HA. Your contributions make this work possible, so thank you in advance for giving whatever you can today.
Just a quick note to our friends at Slog. I’m totally fine with building fences along the Aurora Bridge, but can we cut out the nonsense that it’s going to save the lives of the suicidal? Fencing off the Aurora Bridge will not save those lives for the same reason that fencing off the Mexican border will not stop illegal immigration.
As compared to Reichert’s numbers from two years ago, he has raised $35,848 less than back then, while spending $20,928 more. He has $26,682 less cash on hand at this point than he had two years ago. Meanwhile Burner has $564,554 more cash on hand than she did at this point two years ago in a race she started as a complete unknown, and that ended with Reichert eking out a 7000 vote margin of victory.
I hate to focus so much on the money race, as I think it dumbs down the political debate, but at this point in the cycle it is usually one of the best metrics for evaluating the relative strength of campaigns. Without sufficient financial resources no congressional candidate can successfully get their message out, but dollars raised also reflects both the competency and efficiency of the campaign, as well as the general enthusiasm for the candidate. Burner received almost 4,900 contributions from individuals last quarter, about ten times that of Reichert, who once again relied on PAC money and high-dollar fundraisers to pad his coffers. And a preliminary analysis of itemized contributions shows Burner expanding her substantial lead in both in-district and in-state contributors.
This fundraising disparity represents a HUGE shift from two years ago, and no doubt is one of the reasons why Congressional Quarterly recently upgraded WA-08 to one of only three Republican held seats rated a “toss-up.” Eventually, once this money starts being spent, we’ll get a better idea of how close this race really is, but you can be sure that it is a helluva lot closer than Reichert and his surrogates are willing to acknowledge.