Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Biodiesel? Not if it freezes!

I had read that colder temperatures caused problems for biodiesel cars. Freezing causes the alternative fuel to 'gel' up. This guy learned that little lesson. Thankfully, he had some good old-fashioned non-alternative diesel to buy:

Billy Amon lugs several gallons of diesel fuel for his bio-diesel car back to his home. Amon had tried to take a bus, but was denied because of the fuel he carried. His car won't operate in freezing temperatures with out the diesel.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The death penalty doesn't prevent murder-- but convicted murderers sure want to avoid it.

Convicted serial killer, Robert Yates, is trying hard to avoid it.
Yates was sentenced to 408 years in prison in 2000 after confessing to 13 killings in a plea deal with Spokane County prosecutors that included information on the Pierce County deaths.
"Mr. Yates' [death] sentence is arbitrary, wanton ... freakish and random in light of his Spokane County sentence," his lawyers argued in court documents.

Monday, November 20, 2006

I pay taxes in Peru, and all I got was this lousy 9' fiberglass penis.

Peruvians have a new theme park, paid for by public monies.

People in Huayre are bemused by the uproar. National rulers, they figure, have been squandering their riches for centuries, so what's the big deal if Mayor Wenceslao Alderete hoped to attract tourists by gracing the village's central plaza with outsize images of genitalia and of the maca root, a tuber traditionally consumed as an aphrodisiac?
I guess you can either get really mad at your elected officials or simply declare, "What do you expect?" However, if my income taxes went up 1,000%-- I say again-- 1,000%, I'd expect a little something more. Like, you know, a sewer or a road.

Mercedes: Engineered like no other car in the world.

Which could be why Mercedes has three of the seven un-coveted "least reliable" slots in the Consumer Reports New Car Preview. Mercedes, unhappy with the "results" which came from 1.3 million readers, is less than pleased.

For its part, a spokesman for Mercedes says that the data in the Consumer Reports rankings "is totally out of sync with what we're seeing in the mainstream research as well as our own customer satisfaction and warranty data." He points to the good marks Mercedes gets for ride, handling, comfort, safety and performance.
According to the article, JD Power ranked Mercedes 25th out of 37 brands, which was (and I was surprised to read this) two notches "above BMW". Wow, those Bavarian engineers have begun to slip.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I've got three words for these situations: GPS, GPS, GPS

I don't know why in this here modern day, people still manage to get lost, and more importantly, manage to not find their way back:

Search and rescue teams were scouring the Cascades near Snoqualmie Pass for a woman who went missing Saturday. Dozens of workers and volunteers hiked on and off-trail and skied the backcountry trying to find the 31-year-old.

The woman, whose name hadn't been released by the King County Sheriff, went missing while she was snowshoeing with two friends on the Denny Creek Trail near Hemlock Pass, according to KING-5 TV.

The woman was equipped only for a day hike and not prepared to spend a snowy night on the mountain, rescue officials said Sunday.
In one case, an IPod was what helped find one man. Tip: GPS is a much more effective and cheaper navigation device.

An iPod glowing in the middle of the night from thick underbrush led rescuers to a mushroom picker lost in the woods.

The search leader said Pini Nou, 25, was on his first outing Thursday and got separated from his mother, an experienced mushroom hunter.

At nightfall, she called Benton County authorities for help.

Update: The woman lost in the Cascades was found safe. Rescuers worked in condions that were freezing, wet and were themselves almost to the point of Hypothermia.

Farley said she expects Wysocki will "probably become a poster child for carrying emergency gear," and will make sure to tell others to be prepared when they go hiking.
One can only hope that this "emergency gear" will include, oh, I don't know, a GPS?

Aside: Day hikers going into wooded areas: Please consider an inexpensive GPS. The worst that will happen is it won't reliably pick up a signal under wet tree-cover. However, you might get spotty coverage which would be more than enough to pinpoint your own location in relation to your base camp (car, whatever). GPS, better to have one and not need it, than to need one and not have it.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Puget sound traffic study: an incredible grasp of the obvious.

The question, however, is will this diminish the crackpot ideas which have suggested routing Seattle traffic through I405 to 'relieve' congestion? A new study "discovered" that the commute to Bellevue along I405 is "worse" than the I5 commute in Seattle. I'm so tickled by this discovery, I can't stand it, I have to quote myself from a September post:

[in response to a plan which wants to route Seattle drivers through I405]
Have these people ever been on 405? Why the hell should I have to drive all the way around lake Washington on a clogged, two lane freeway that’s perpetually jammed?
Yeah well, when you're right, you're right. So how does the state sum up the Bellevue commute?

In fact, the state Department of Transportation's report says, the two worst afternoon freeway commutes in the region both originate in Bellevue: the voyage south down Interstate 405 to Tukwila, and the haul west across Highway 520 to Seattle.
I have a very good friend who has his own personal quote about driving on 520: "If you're on 520, you're just wrong."

For those of you who don't live here, what he means by that is that 520 is SO bad and SO clogged 24/7, that the very act of getting on 520 is a bad idea. It's more efficient to drive 10 or 15 miles out of your way and take another bridge-- or just drive the hell around Lake Washington, than to even bother with 520.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, I pile on thee:
Evening congestion on southbound 405 lasted an average of 5 hours, 35 minutes in 2005, longer than anywhere else.
That's right, 'evening congestion' lasting five effing hours. I was once accused of exaggerating when I declared that the only time I had ever been in a traffic jam at 2am was on... wait for it...I405. And this incident occurred somewhere in the neighborhood of ten or twelve years ago. It's only gotten worse since then, I can tell you.

On an interesting side note, the state considers a freeway congested when speeds drop below 40mph. Hah! 40mph! I would think that Bellevue commuters would thank the almighty if their speedometers could get anywhere near 40mph. Oh, while things may be better on my favorite whipping boy, the HOV lane, they're not much better:
High-occupancy-vehicle lanes carried a third of all freeway commuters at monitored locations in 2005, the report says. But it also says that six of the region's HOV lanes were so congested during evening peak hours that average speeds dropped below 45 mph.

Nothing good happens at 3 a.m.: PS3 edition

Or so a group of 15 to 20 people who were robbed at gunpoint learned. Yes, that's right, two thugs with gats confronted a group of 15 to 20 people waiting in a line outside a Hartford, CT Wal-Mart for the privilege of being the first to own a Sony PS3.

It was about 3 a.m. when the two gunmen in Putnam, a town of about 9,000 residents in northeast Connecticut, confronted 15 to 20 people standing outside a Wal-Mart store and demanded money, said State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance.

"One of the patrons resisted. That patron was shot," Vance said.
Oh, and mad props to the guy who resisted. Shot twice, his wounds are not considered life threatening.

In stranger than strange news, the PS3 is quite a popular item and the anticipation has led to a number of violent incidents. In one case, five men attacked a man who had received his PS3 just minutes before. After stealing his PS3, and driving away in a car, one of the robbers was pushed out of the car by the other four.

The shopper told police five men surrounded and beat him as he left the Shoppes at Buckland Hills with the new PlayStation.

Police Sgt. Chris Davis said the attackers pushed one of their cohorts out of the car as they drove away. That man, a 17-year-old from Windsor, was charged with robbery, larceny, assault and breach of peace.
You can bet someone is singing like a canary.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

O.J. Confesses!

Well, that's what his publisher says, referring to a new book by Simpson titled If I Did It.

"This is an historic case, and I consider this his confession," [Judith] Regan told The Associated Press. She also refused to say what Simpson is being paid for the book but said he came to her with the idea.
I predicted several years ago that O.J. would confess to the crime-- possibly on his death bed. I feel we're getting closer.

Seattle's street maintenance backlog... is it any wonder?

This is (partly) why Seattle has a $300 million street repair and maintenance backlog:

At the time, there was urgency to find a replacement for the streetcar barn near Pier 70 so the Seattle Art Museum could tear it down and move forward with its Olympic Sculpture Garden as designed.

The old barn has been torn down, and service on the streetcar line was suspended a year ago with the intent to bring it back — using the new maintenance facility — by the 2007 tourist season. Meeting that target date is no longer possible.
This city can't get anything done correctly. Oh, and hey, Bellevue's got a tiny little backlog, too. If government isn't here to maintain our roads, what are they doing?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Nothing good happens at 3 am

Well, mostly nothing. An off duty police officer was killed when some tardlet in a stolen vehicle slammed into her car. Very unfortunate. Strange, though. This is the second time a police officer has been killed while not involved in a chase.

The upside: the perp was killed too.

Dog Bites Man, Gas up .4 cents

Yep, drove by my favorite station today, and saw gas selling for $2.49. That's the quickest jump (either up or down) in quite some time.

Friday, November 10, 2006

A reminder to conservative Republicans: You lost because of what you are, not in spite of it

NPR did a short segment talking to conservatives about what they felt was the message or reason that could be gleaned from Tuesday's Democratic sweep. Michele Norris posed[audio link- click 'listen'] the question to Dr. Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky, what he would say if Karl Rove called him on the phone soliciting advice.

Strangely, Mohler indicated that Republicans must get back to their core values including but not limited to issues such as gay marriage and abortion, especially given all the "hard work" that evangelicals had done for the Republicans since Ronald Reagan. Mohler expressed concern that Roe V. Wade-- despite helping to elect Reagan twice, Bush I and Bush II (twice)-- is still the "law of the land."

Mohler seems to be woefully unaware that it was precisely the social conservative issues which have done the Republicans the most damage. Roe v Wade is here to stay- (and my bets are still on the table-- takers?) and a very red state just gave the smackdown to an abortion ban by a very strong margin. So what, exactly is Mohler suggesting? Mohler vaguely implies that evangelical Christians abandoned the Republicans in this last election, but for whom? When pressed by Norris as to whether evangelicals would drift to the Dems, Mohler quickly and forcefully rejects that, stating (logically) that Democrats have clearly articulated views on these issues which are antithetical to Christians, so no leftward drift is really in the cards. This tells me that evangelical Christians are a very noisy, boisterous group, but hold very little voting power in the larger picture.

My wife indicated that she thought that Mohler was implying that evangelicals didn't go to the polls due to their disillusionment with Republican lip service to social issues. I don't think that's the case. I think that Mohler is in a case of colossal denial and simply hasn't realized that the very reason for the Republican loss was precisely because of the sharp turn towards social policies which were evangelical pet projects.

Site note: During the discussion with my wife, I began to talk about the 1994 "contract with America" brand of Republicanism, vs. what we've seen over the last six years, and she couldn't see the difference. I pointed out that the Contract With America really had no social conservative basis to it, beyond the "personal responsibility act" which 'discouraged illegitimacy' and teen pregnancy which was still coming from the locus of cutting back the welfare state.* My wife was utterly convinced that the Contract With America was a social-conservative fiery jeremaid against "liberalism" promising a nation of God, Guns, an abortion free nation and elimination of "teh gay". After I showed her the document, she sat there stunned for a moment, realizing just how bland a document the whole Contract was.

* the bill text relating to the personal responsibility act did have a provision to not allow funds being funneled to the states to be used for "abortion and family planning". The contract itself, however, makes no mention of the word abortion anywhere within.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Dog bites man, gas at fav station up .02 cents

Now, I'm not saying anything about a Dem victory in them thar houses o' Congress, but I did note that after an absolutely steady fall of prices, we crept up about .02 to $2.43 per gallon at my usual station. So would a rise in gas prices immediately after the election look bad or good for Dems?

That's a young crowd over at Kos

I don't read Kos much, but I was curious to see what was going on in the wake of the Democratic cleanup of the GOP controlled houses. For a few seconds, I was interested to see some new ideas that were going to come out of the new Democratic majority. Some fresh things from the people that were responsible for a party change in Washington. I was profoundly disappointed. Between a long jeremaid against Ronald Reagan-- Ronald Reagan, for chrissakes-- some quotes by Abbey Hoffman, no attempt to distinguish Newt Gingrich and the modern Congress, some jabs at Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew by the few old timers that were there, we get this:

I can't believe that this Congress will actually stop waiting for the free market to reduce drug costs and will have the government negotiating for drug costs.
Hopefully, the days of the free-market trickle-down ideology are over! Hopefully, this Congress will directly intervene for the interests of the American people. But I still won't believe it until I see it. I've grown up in the times of Gingrich and I am still not sure that the Republican Revolution is over. Over a decade of free-market slavishness cannot be undone in 2 years.
this feels like woodstock felt, this feels like it felt to see janis joplin play in golden gate park the summer of love, this feels like being at the mall in washington for an anti war march in 1970 and giving the finger to the government guys photographing us, this feels like watching my daughter be born....this feels like watching a super bright shooting star cross a clear cold new england night sky...
That's why I still can't believe that we have elected a Congress that wants to do something about healthcare, when my whole life the only healthcare proposals I've seen involved cutting benefits or creating fake benefit programs that barely covered any costs like Bush did last year.
The Clinton years were no fun as I witnessed a full-front assault on social programs that was absolutely depressing.
Hoo boy, Nick Gillespie was right, the real losers in this election are the American people, no matter how you slice it. The times, they are a changin' back.

After six years of George W. Bush and his small-government ways, leaner budgets, and reductions of the Federal Government's power in our daily lives, now we're gonna get some work done. Government, get ready to roll, 'cause it's gonna be busy around here.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Miniscule differences

It occurs to me (yeah, it's probably occurred to others smarter than I) that the reason we see so many razor thin margins in some of these elections is not due to the "deep divisions" in our country, but the lack of division between our candidates. Just sayin'.

Stuff heard on CNN

Listening to James Carville, I gotta hand it to him, he's got a point. He indicated that very soon (I didn't catch the date) that we will have been in Iraq longer than we were in World War II. On the other hand, John Kerry called Sen. Ted Kennedy the "greatest senator in history." So, Democrats have still got work to do.

Mission Accomplished? We never said that...

Via Nobody's Business, Rogier Van Bakel notes that the Mission Accomplished banner under a speech given by Bush over three years ago has been crudely cropped from the video. Check out Bakel's post for links to the video.

Update: It looks like the 'blocked out banner' has been debunked. Good old internet. Gotta love it. It appears that the blacked out portion was from network (CNN) ticker programming being eliminated. The banner itself was up high and behind the president. Click the link noted above to see the commentary on this issue at Bakel's blog.

Kos Democrats breathe a collective "oh shit"

CNN projects Lieberman keeps his seat. I'll not link to any stories on CNN, because they're apt to change. I have mixed feelings about this because I felt that the Lieberman/Lamont battle was a battle of losing ideologies, with Lamont carrying the slight moral high ground with his anti-Iraq war stance. Unfortunately, as noted elsewhere, Lamont offered little else.

[...]Lamont has at least two stances that are attractive to most libertarians: He thought the intervention by congressional Republicans into the Terri Schiavo case was objectionable and he's openly opposed to the Iraq War. Beyond that, though, is a litany of proposals that hardly sing to the "Free Minds and Free Markets" crowd: universal health care, increased federal spending on schools, and rolling back tax cuts "on the richest 1 percent."
I hesitate to offer up a completely bitter narrative on Lamont specifically, but to simply point out that as a Democrat, Lamont offered more of the same party-line positions, but had the fortune of being able to ride the anti-war, anti-Bush sentiment. All well and good. But this president, and this war will not always be with us. Well, ok, the war looks like it's going to be with us for a very long time, which is why it's so important to vote for the right candidates. Because even as an anti-war candidate, you have to have a reasonable solution to the crisis in Iraq. At this point, I have little idea what that reasonable solution is, and no, I don't accept Lieberman's 'stay the course' solution, either.

Slightly heavier than normal rains

In weather related news, we're getting some. Time to get the kayaks out, I suspect.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Islamic militants becoming more progressive about the role of women in society.

And it's about time, I say. Women are slowly making inroads into areas of militant life once seen as the exclusive domain of men:
The women, many with ties to the Islamic militant group Hamas, left their homes after daybreak in response to radio and telephone appeals. By nightfall, they were celebrated as heroes, an unusual role in a deeply conservative society that tends to keep women on the sidelines. Until Friday, battling Israeli troops had been men's business in Gaza.
It's possible that Western liberal values are finally having an effect on the old Islamic world. I, for one, will be looking forward to more of these progressive changes in the near future.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Campaign finance reform works. Proof: The parties raised and spent more money than ever

The Washington Post declares Victory for CFR laws by hailing the record amounts of cash the parties were able to raise and spend:

Not in 2004, when the parties raised a combined $1.5 billion ($785 million by Republicans, $684 million by Democrats) -- amazingly, more than their hard and soft money combined in any previous election. And not in 2006, the first midterm campaign conducted under the new rules, when the combined party fundraising was $768 million as of mid-October ($438 million by Republicans, $330 million by Democrats), according to a study by the Campaign Finance Institute. The parties, now limited to maximum annual contributions of $26,700 from individuals, haven't recouped all the soft money they once vacuumed up, but they have rebounded far more robustly than anyone had predicted.
Thank God we solved the problem of money in politics. Hooray! Except, way back in the recesses of my feeble brain, I seem to remember that the whole point of CFR was to "get the money out of politics".

The Post, a fervent supporter of McCain-Feingold declares that the money is flowing faster than ever, proof that CFR laws are a rousing success. The only fly in the ointment, according to the Post is the pesky 527's, which can create ads on behalf of the candidates so long as no consultation between the campaign and the 527 occurs.

Is it my incredible grasp of the obvious when I note that this whole CFR issue seems to be a massive bait-and-switch being perpetrated upon us by the reformers of campaign finance? Those of us who criticized CFR laws based on their potential to chill the most important speech of all-- political speech-- were repeatedly told that it wasn't about speech, it was about the money.

The Post now seems to be comfortable with the money, but not so much with what's being said [registration req'd] with it by pesky independent groups. This, to be sure, relates to what the Post deems undesirable speech. This Post commentary cements the fact that Campaign Finance Laws were never about the money, they were about undesirable speech. The Post points to the "more muted role" of the 527's from 2004, to 2006. This is certainly due to the constant legal scrutiny that 527's and now churches face when speaking about a candidate without the direct involvement of the candidate himself. According to the Post, law makers need to get right on the 527 issue, post haste.

Via: MoreSoftMoneyHardLaw.com

For Whom The Bell Tolls

And the bell's a ringing. If there's one thing that social conservatives don't need right now, it's another gay sex scandal. Questions are being raised as to the timing of the most recent news of an evangelical leader's gay sex trists with a male prostitute. It's certainly notable, but assuming the allegations are true (and it looks like they are), I say too bad. One has to assume that if you're in the public eye and at the same time a big, fat hypocrite your laundry will get aired publicly at the least opportune time.

Unfortunately, due to our two party system, often times the unbending social conservatives can remain in power while more moderate republicans find that it's their seats which are vulnerable.

One can only hope that the most socially conservative Republicans are swept from office. The time has come... they've overstayed their welcome.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Gapping the bridge.

One might ask the question, if roads and bridges aren't paid for by a government's general fund, from what revenue source should roads and bridges maintenance be paid? According to the City of Seattle, the answer is "Your shoe's untied! Look, shiny things!"

Proposition 1, which will raise a projected $325 million over the nine year life of the levy, is supposed to take care of the "routine maintenance" and "basic repairs" of "1,500 lane miles of arterial streets, 150 bridges, signs and sidewalks representing an economic asset of over $8 billion." All of this is from an admitted "backlog of maintenance work". Howls of revenue strangulation most often accompany any question about the need for new taxes to pay for this backlog of maintenance.

The City needs additional sources of tax revenue. In recent years, court decisions and public initiatives have restricted the City’s sources of tax revenue to fund transportation. In 1995 the Washington State Supreme Court declared the City’s residential street utility charge unconstitutional, reducing City revenue for transportation projects by $13 million per year. In 2002, voters statewide approved Initiative 776 which eliminated the vehicle license fee, a fee that generated $5 million per year to the City for transportation purposes. The state shared gas tax revenues for Seattle do not keep up with inflation due to annexations and incorporations.
Yes, there have been specific tax revenue streams which have been tightened or removed. In one case, a tax revenue stream was removed (noted in the quote above) because it was an illegal tax!

All of this is generally endemic of municipalities reliance on special, targeted taxes to pay for what should be basic infrastructure expenditures paid out of the general fund. So, what we have is a city placing illegal taxes on its citizens, then when the State Courts reverse those taxes, the city cries that their revenue stream has been "cut". B.S.

First off, from the rather large lens called "general revenues", the Seattle bankroll has nearly doubled [see Executive Summary] in size (with adjustment for inflation) since 1980 with a population which has shown relatively small growth:

While the street maintenance backlog has been growing, the city's total tax collections have increased on a year-to-year basis for more than a quarter century. Seattle's General Fund budget, adjusted for inflation, has more than doubled since 1980, when it was $156 million. While the amount of revenue the city collects has increased sharply over 25 years, the city's population has remain constant at around 560,000 people.

According to the the Washington Policy Center, Seattle residents are currently burdened with no less than sixteen levies totaling approximately $1.4 billion dollars.

What is the most annoying factor of any property tax rate increase is that property taxes increase without the rate being bumped. In fact all taxes tied to the 'value' of a thing rise as the economy expands. This way, government could expand in proportion to the economy.

There's also the other issue that I've long suspected is the real reason for this levy: It's a way for Greg Nickels to start bankrolling his beloved tunnel project which is coming against increased opposition.

These people are on crack.

I have no idea who would pay $29.95 a month to get internet for a forty to sixty minute ride on a ferry.
The ferries have contracted with Parsons Transportation Group, from California, to provide Internet access on the state ferries for $29.95 a month.

Service had been free, financed by a $775,000 grant from the Federal Transit Administration, awarded to Mobilisa, Inc., a Port Townsend company, to test wireless technology on the ferries.