Friday, December 19, 2008

Chu, LaHood, Ducan, Rhee, and FiOS

The title of this post says it all - so I will just go in order...

* I just went to the The Paper of Record's website and saw that Bush approved $17.4 million in loans. This is just a measure to let the hobble along until Obama can come in and just pour money into their coffers. I'm pro saving these companies and don't think bankruptcy would have destroyed them, but I'm against this bailout. I see this as a bailout of failed-union policies, not as a bailout of the automakers.

Anyway ... back to the post:

* It turns out that Dr. Steven Chu - Obama's nominee for Minister of Energy - went to my high school. Dr. Chu graduated from Garden City High School in 1966 (quite a bit before I did, though I understand the building has not changed much), and cites one of his teachers, a Mr. Miner, as one of the main reasons for his love of physics. So I did some reading about him, the guy seems pretty smart - he is Chairman of the Physics department at Stanford. The Paper of Record has a great quote that I just have to put here:
New houses could be made energy efficient with an investment of an extra $1,000, “but the American consumer would rather have a granite countertop.” (At a lecture in Washington on energy options, June 25, 2008)
* LaHood. The whole LaHood nomination (he was nominated for Minister of Transportation) has been overshadowed by the fact that Obama announced that he hates gay people, but I'm still fuming over LaHood (especially since I knew long ago that he hated gays). The more I read about him, the more I want to vomit. I mean Norman Mineta = great American, Ray LaHood = great non-American (I didn't want to compare him with another country because most that I can think of have pro-transit policies). Sidebar, I was trying to find this great post-9/11 picture of Mineta on a Coast Guard patrol boat, it was so great - but I can't find it. Anyway ... LaHood. I honestly don't know what to make of him, he doesn't have an anti-transit record, but I was hoping for someone who is all about smart growth and transit, etc, etc. (Cough - Janette Sadik-Khan - Cough) Anyway, I'm going to bring you a quote from my friend Panda. Just as a little background, this kid would support Obama if he was shooting American's in front of the White House, so I figured I would give you some pro-LaHood talk:
I think we need to wait and see on the Transportation Secretary. According to the Chicago Tribune, LaHood is a moderate Republican with a bipartisan "record of supporting funding for Amtrak and public transit." As far as appointing a Republican to the Cabinet, LaHood seems like an ideal candidate. I think we need to hold off on judgment for now. As I said before, once the rubber hits the road (or the wheels hit the rail), then we'll see what this administration is all about.
Anthony also popped over to Track Twenty-Nine after reading my post about LaHood which linked to T29. He found this pro-LaHood comment on this post, which I generally disagree with (I agree much more with the blogs author Matt), but it also offers a unique perspective on the entire LaHood thing:

Matt, I feel your pain. I had extremely high hopes for who could have potentially been Transportation Secretary (my favorite was Blumenauer); nevertheless, your past few posts expressing serious disappointment with Obama got me thinking.

In an ideal world, with the right appointments, government could wave a magic wand and satisfy all of us urbanists instantly. I'm afraid the political game simply isn't that simple. At first glance the LaHood appointment appears to be a slap in the face to anyone hoping for a much more progressive approach to transportation. However, there are still a few things worth considering:

First, we still don't know who is going to be the Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration. It could be possible for Obama to use that position, rather than Transportation Secretary, to push a more progressive urban agenda. Second, it is entirely possible that transportation issues, particularly urban transportation issues, could be handled out of an entirely different executive office. In that case it would make sense to appoint someone like LaHood to oversee the airlines, interstates, etc. and let someone with more urban experience handle the urban issues. Third, transit issues are often held up by stubborn congressional Republicans (people like McCain who think we ought to privatize Amtrak or people like Coburn who don't think we should fund WMATA or other agencies with federal dollars); putting an extremist as the head of DOT probably won't help to win these individuals over.

Finally, I think you have done good work on this blog, so please don't take this the wrong way; but your last few posts have almost confirmed the perceived snobbish attitude that leads a lot of folks to distrust urbanists with otherwise good intentions. When I voted for Obama I knew that on transportation issues 1) they couldn't be worse than under McCain and 2) that it was really a roll of the dice as to whether or not any real progress would get made during the first term. Campaign rhetoric is usually just that: rhetoric. Setting your expectations too high ultimately leads to the disappointments you now seem to be experiencing.
* Duncan! My friend Friend sent me a post from DCist about how Obama's nominee for Minister of Education, Arne Duncan, will have to deal with DC School's Chancellor Michelle Rhee. Now - I am a huge fan of Rhee ... and would take a bullet or two for the woman - but it is an interesting thought. The Ministry of Education always feels the need to get involved in DCPS, and will likely even get more involved -- as Rhee will likely ask for the system to be placed in a 'state of emergency' giving her even more control over teacher contracts ... and the fact that the American Federation of Teachers (the national union) is getting involved in the whole battle. Well Duncan, you read it here first - Rhee is right, and I expect you to stand by her. It is important to point out that Duncan received a recommendation for the job of Minister from the AFT - so that will be interesting. There is a write up over at US News that I suggest you read - here. The article also had a great Rhee quote:
If the children don't know how to read, I don't care how creative you are. You're not doing your job.
I think it will be interesting to see what happens with Duncan, because I think he will have to get involved sooner rather than later in the battle taking place in DCPS. Michelle you have my full support, so if you want to go over to the Ministry of Education and toilet paper those red school houses they have out front - let's do it! And I will leave you with a quote in The Paper of Record from Arne Duncan, which I believe shows that he's got Rhee's back:
We are one of the few districts in the country that has shut down underperforming schools and replaced the entire school staff. This turnaround school strategy has taken some of our lowest-performing schools and doubled or tripled test scores within a few years. Same kids, different teachers, new leadership, a new educational approach, and the results are dramatic. (Testimony before House education committee, July 17, 2008.)
* And finally ... FiOS. I talked about FiOS the other day, when I wrote a passionate post about how awesome it is. I neglected to tell you that last Christmas while I was home - I convinced my parents to get FiOS ... as it was finally available in my neighborhood. My family had been using Verizon for landline services, Cablevision for internet, and DirecTV for television. The reasoning for using three different companies was my Dad's hatred of Cablevision, but the lackluster-ness of DSL made cable-internet the only option. Anyway, so I was home this afternoon watching FiOS and decided to go look at the HD channel offerings. AMAZING.

Okay ... based on my rough count of HD channels online, RCN, which as of last week added more HD channels has about 67 channels which are HD, 20 of which fall under premium only packages. So everyone had at least 50ish HD channels. Meanwhile, FiOS has about 103 channels available in HD, about 30 of which fall under premium only packages. So with FiOS everyone has at least 70ish HD channels. wow... America. FiOS wins.

I'm out for now ... that net neutrality post is still coming, one of these days.

Oh Cocktail - I really agree with you ... this 'internet' capitalization thing is driving me crazy.

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