Saturday, December 27, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Enough is Enough...

Hello all! It's been a few days since I've posted, so I thought I'd throw something up here. SHEAm has some great posts below and he covers most of the big stories that this week. Definitely take a look, especially his post on Friedman's column and the latest news with DC Circus

Just a quick rant for a moment:

Enough with this Obama-Lincoln business. Ever since election day Obama and his team have been straining credulity to compare the President-elect with our 16th Prsident. It started with this whole team of rivals b.s., then it was the 'transformational' nature of both 16 and 44, the Illinois connection, Lincoln's bicentennial, taking the same train route to Washington that Lincoln did, and now Obama is planning to use the same bible as Lincoln for the inauguration. But let's be clear:

Abraham Lincoln came to office amidst the gravest crisis ever to grip the country and while history has (appropriately) judged him to be one of the greatest presidents ever to serve, at the time things were hardly as clear-cut. Lincoln won a bare plurality of 39.8% of the vote in 1860 in a 4-way race. The Civil War broke out shortly thereafter and it was Lincoln's leadership that helped bring that dark chapter to a close and guaranteed his place in history. One of his many admirable decisions was to he chose a Cabinet consisting of men of different political stripes in an effort to help unify the country.

By contrast, though we are facing a financial crisis that should not be underestimated, we are not facing a crisis remotely comparable to the Civic War. While Obama will surely be tested and there are many unknown obstacles yet to come, we do not find our country on the brink of extinction. Our country is not nearly so divided, and Obama won a much more clear-cut victory. This "team of rivals" the press is making so much noise about is a team of almost all Democrats and nearly everyone is ideologically in line with Obama, even his vanquished foe, Sen. Clinton. I see nothing whatsoever wrong with that and I completely believe that to the victor goes the spoils. But a Lincoln-esque team of rivals? Give me a break.

The roundup...

Quick and easy ...

* Merry Christmas Eve!

* Yesterday GM closed its two biggest SUV factories - Janesville, Wisconsin (a plant which has been open for over 90 years) and Moraine, Ohio.  This move follows in the footsteps of Chrysler closing its Newark, Delaware SUV plant last Friday.  Each of the Big Three is now left with only one plant dedicated to producing SUVs - an odd thought in a consumer society that was once so dedicated.  The Paper of Record reports - here.

* Obama promised change, and people expect it, whether or not he mentioned it specifically.  The Paper of Record reports on people around the country hoping/expecting a massive shift in American food policy from the Obama White House.  I join them in that expectation, considering our food/farm policy is based on almost century old concepts and ideas.  Here.

* The Paper of Record and Danger Room both have leads about the changes that lie ahead for the State Department under Hillary Clinton.  In an era where the Pentagon has become so large that most diplomacy is handled through their staff offices - some argue that a Department of State should just be merged into the DoD.  Thankfully Clinton and Obama are reversing that trend, and at a breakneck pace.  The world needs to know the the US is their friend, not just a mighty military power, and the State Department has set out to do that.  Both USAID and the Foreign Service are recruiting and hiring people in record numbers - preparing for the new roads that lie ahead.  [Foreign service hires, here; Clinton expanding DoS role, here; Danger Room on it all, here]

* Via We Love DC, here - which references WaPo, here.  Why do you never see Metro in films?  Because Metro has the most ridiculous rules ever in regards to filming.  No shooting.  No jumping faregates.  No death.  And of course, no eating or drinking.

* The end of Paper Transfers -- January 4th, I can't wait.

* GGW has the new committee assignments for the DC Circus, chosen by RinBoldgleader Gray.  Tommy Wells has been placed on Graham's Public Works & Transportation committee, which GGW says is a great thing as Wells showed up to meetings when not even on the committee and is very pro-smart growth.  Here.  CityPaper has a full rundown of committee assignments, here.

* WaPo, here, has Michael Brown's appointment to the WMATA Board, as an alternate, by Gray.  And our good friend Jim Bojangles Graham was reappointed.  Bojangles currently serves as Vice-Chairman, and his reappointment will hopefully solidify him as Chairman.  If Bojangles does good as WMATA Chairman, I might think about forgiving him.

America, it's time we got something straight

2 great reads ...

This morning Thomas Friedman wrote an excellent piece for The Paper of Record; outlining what this country really needs, 'a reboot.'  Friedman couldn't have said what I've been thinking in any better way - granted he is a world-renowned author and columnist, so it is only fitting that he is able to put words together better than I am.  He wonders why we have let ourselves fall so far behind in innovation and infrastructure - while the rest of the world chugs ahead.  

Though I think Friedman's most important point was all this money that is being spent - being borrowed from our futures, and our grandchildren's futures ... we need to make sure it is spent wisely.  We need to avoid letting this money going to its usual places - being spent on pet projects around certain people's districts, or small improvements that really won't make the difference.

As I have said time and time again, education is where we desperately need money - we need money to poured into education.  Somehow we had the greatest educational system in the world in the 1950s and just let it slip away.  We still have the best colleges and universities, but our k12 education is lacking - to the point where it is disgraceful.  If we start investing now, we will start seeing changes in the next five or ten years, and another decade or two down the line - we will finally start seeing the products of our change coming out of these schools.  

So let's join Friedman in saying no to this bailout - and getting ready for a reboot of this country.

Friedman ends with "John Kennedy led us on a journey to discover the moon. Obama needs to lead us on a journey to rediscover, rebuild and reinvent our own backyard," and you should read the article here.

Also on the same page in The Paper of Record, was an amazing Op-Ed by Oliver Morton.  You can read that piece here, and I really suggest that you do so.  It is another thought provoking look at our lives - through our planet, Earth.  Mr. Morton looks at the Earth from the picture Earthrise, taken from the Apollo 8 spacecraft while circling around the moon (I have copied the picture below).  It is especially poignant because it shows Earth so small - such a little part of this whole thing we know as 'space' - and yet it means so much to us.

Morton ends the piece discussing the power of the sun - the power that made the picture possible, the power that makes our everyday lives possible - and what that power holds for us.  As we try to rid ourselves of fossil-fuel dependency we have found options in wind power, water power, and solar power -- the latter of which still seems to be one of the most expensive and least pervasive.  Yes, you can put solar panels on your house, and every little bit helps ... but what we really need are fields of solar platforms out in the desert - powering our planet.

Whether you agree that the Earth is warming or not is not important to me, we need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels regardless.  Anywhere is a good place to start, but Mr. Morton points out that Solar probably holds the most long term power for us - and we has been the most elusive in terms of our maximizing its energy.  As he points out, we were able to get a man on the moon - this should be easy.



Earthrise, image courtesy of NASA.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Slumdog and some other musings

I didn't get a chance to write about this when I first sat down this morning because I was little busy, but last night I saw Slumdog Millionaire.  Wow.  Very, very good movie.  I have embedded the preview, if you have not seen it yet - I suggest watching it, I think it will really make you want to see it.  It is about an 18 year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai who gets onto India's Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, gets within one question of one million ... and is arrested on the accusation of cheating.  The movie is a story of how he got to where he is now, what he does, and of course an amazing love story all intertwined.  If you think it sounds cheesy and stupid, I promise it is not.

Just as interesting as the movie was, I think one of the most insightful parts for me was actually watching this kid grow up ... the life of a slumdog orphan.  Seeing what the slums of Mumbai are like, and traveling as Jamal made his way around the city and around the country.  Sometimes ending up dealing with the wrong people, always needing money, and working as hard as possible just to make it to the next day alive.  I really recommend going to see it, and let me know what you think.  In addition, the soundtrack is also amazing - I have embedded my favorite song right below the YouTube Trailer.




* We lead with an ad-parody from Portfolio.com's Best and Worst Overlooked Ads ...



* More on that 66-inch water main break this morning ... over 15 people had to be rescued and Montgomery County closed schools 2.5 hours early.  Apparently it is safe to drink water though, and everyone should have full water service.

* Per WaPo, Fenty and crew are accepting bids for 11 of the 23 schools that were closed down this year as a result of Rhee's Righteous Realignment.  Developers can submit proposals which include office space, affordable housing, high priced housing, and/or retail.  Of the schools, a good number are in prime real estate locations - including Steven's Elemtary School located between K and L in Foggy Bottom/West End/Golden Triangle.  WaPo article is here.

* Shocker found in the CityPaper this morning ... Circus Chairman Vincent Gray  (who is also Chairman of the Anti-Fenty Committee) is upset that Michelle Rhee was on the cover of TIME.  Not only is Gray a few weeks late in reading this issue of time, but this particular blogger thinks he is quite peeved that TIME was writing about Rhee and not him.  Gray is not a fan of Rhee, mainly because she is trying to get things done - and he prefers that things get done at a slower pace and with him getting credit for them.  Sadly for him (but luckily for DC residents), Rhee doesn't care what Gray and the other ringleaders think - and is fixing schools with or without their support.

Gray claims to be upset by a quote attributed to him by the author of the TIME article, Amanda Ripley, saying "dealing with Rhee [was] a 'nightmare.'"  Gray is all up in arms because he would never be stupid enough to say this to a TIME reporter, but was stupid enough to say it on the record at a Circus meeting over the summer.  Ms. Ripley found the quote from LL's CityPaper blog, and proceeded to basically copy and paste into the TIME article.  Now, normally I'd say that Ms. Ripley was perfectly in line ... Gray did say this and its a part of the public record, but according to Gray she never even contacted his office for a clarification or comment on the quote.  It seems to me that a reporter writing a cover story for a national news magazine might want to get some more information on quotes before she publishes them.  Gray wrote the editor of TIME a really nasty note about how he should have been given a chance to speak for himself.  Even though I think he is a slimeball and any modification to that quote would have been a complete lie, Ms. Ripley really should have at least shot off an e-mail.  You can read the whole thing over at the CityPaper.

* Continuing on the schools note DCTeacherChic brings up a great point - if the WTU 'spent half as much time protecting the jobs of terrible teachers and twice as much time negotiating higher standards and improved resources for teachers, DC children would be much better off.'.  She is beyond right in this assertion.  Even though I feel that Union's are the absolute spawn of evil, I would be willing to negotiate with them - if they were willing to acknowledge any real concessions.

* GGW has some more about LaHood and not understanding the links between transportation and climate change.  Read about it here.

* WaPo talks about how the Purple Line might actually see construction - after being discussed for over 30 years - thanks to the pro-infrastructure spending of the incoming administration.  While I tend to agree with the Post that the Purple Line probably won't eliminate that much congestion along the Beltway, I think it is very necessary ... it is currently impossible to get across the route it will serve.  And buses just aren't an option - there is too much of a stigma against them.  Light Rail is the way to go.

* Trinidad is getting 30 crime surveillance cameras thanks to a program called CitySafe (a joint venture of Target and Sprint-Nextel).  This should help in crime reduction!  Via WaPo - here.

* Last but not least - Obama SmarTrip cards and one-day passes are now available for sale on Metro's website.  I would link directly to it, but then I'd be losing advertising revenue - lol jk, Google Transit joke. - link here.  I've tried to buy one like four or five times today and have not been able to get the transaction to complete - let me know if you have more luck.

Had to post...

This is via Seriously? OMG! Blog - thanks to my food friend and Connetiquette reader EMaz.  It is really well done ... I have to give this person props.



A few brief bits later

Bare with me ...

* The Paper of Record has it as a fact, the love-child of the auto industry, Toyota, is feeling the hurt too.  Saddness can be read here, they are losing money for the first time since it started up in the late 30s.

* Gizmodo has an awesome post about kids in Maryland who are using speeding cameras to get their enemies.  Basically they make copies of their friend's license plates with a glossy photo paper and go speeding past cameras to get them tickets.  This is perhaps the best use of a speeding camera ever - read here.

* Apparently CNN conducted a poll which determined that Vice President Dick Cheney was the worst VP ever.  As if CNN wasn't far-leftist enough for you, I am linking to an article from Left-Wing blog Real Clear Politics for the run down on the poll - here.  

I conducted my own poll which found that we've had much worse ... and it turns that Cheney wasn't that bad, he is actually one of the best!  Yay!  In all honesty (and ignoring Corrupt's future post on the topic), Statesman Dick Cheney completely reinvented the role of Vice President ... making it a much more relevant position in today's world.  Now, we know that Biden will take a backseat to Spotlight-whore Obama.  But ... I think Cheney has done good and hope that in the future other VPs follow the path he forged for them.

* Victory for The Paper of Record.  The Chinese had blocked the paper's website as of last Thursday, without explanation - but it was up and running again on Monday, also without explanation.  Short story - here.

* From Autoblog (via H), London has scaled back the hours that the Congestion Charge is in effect due to the slumping economy.  There is also talk that they might scrap the entire concept all together - which is ridiculous.  The Congestion Charge doesn't hurt business, it just forces people to think of alternative means of transportation - and London has many other options.Bold  I think it would be a huge mistake for London to get get rid of the CCZ.

* Connetiquette reader "Friend" sent me this image which portrays what bars and clubs will look like with Bojangles' new rules in effect.  Good job Jim Graham:


* From Lifehacker - though I have seen this elsewhere - the RIAA is no ending its five year policy of suing individual copyright infringers.  The RIAA is going to work with ISPs to identify users who are stealing copyrighted materials - and send them warnings (through the ISP, without the RIAA ever knowing who the person is).  In turn after three warnings the ISPs will be shutting off that users connection.  Sounds fair to me, though I also think the RIAA should keep suing people.

* Via Trains for America - The Governator, Arnold, says "Meanwhile, infrastructure spending as a share of gross domestic product in the United States has dropped 25 percent over the past 20 years" -- so true.  What a great American.

* Via Transportation for America - here: America is ready for change.  A study from the Brookings Institution, found the following: 
Driving, as measured by national VMT[vehicle miles traveled], began to plateau as far back as 2004 and dropped in 2007 for the first time since 1980. Per capita driving followed a similar pattern, with flat-lining growth after 2000 and falling rates since 2005. These recent declines in driving predated the steady hikes in gas prices during 2007 and 2008. Moreover, the recent drops in VMT (90 billion miles) and VMT per capita (388 miles) are the largest annualized drops since World War II.

We are ready for change ... we are ready for real smart growth and better transportation options.

Ummm ... Hi

Okay, I'm back in the District.

First off - we have the stupidest girl in the world.  Click here to see the girl who accidentally texted her Dad after losing her virginity.  [cite: H]

In other news - River Road in Potomac, MD (outside Bethesda) has actually turned into a river this morning due to a 66-inch water main break.  Cocktail sent this to me this morning, the article can be viewed here on WJLA's website and I have embedded the video below.



And...

Via DCist - The Examiner is reporting that over 300 bars, clubs, and restaurants that have 'voluntary agreements' with their ANC's must close at their current closing time - not the 4am that the DC Circus Ruling allows them too.  You can read about it here, but basically DC AG Nickles has determined that the agreements with the ANC's are binding contracts and must be upheld - unless of course the particular ANC votes to change their feeling on the matter for the 5 day inaugural party (which they should).

Metro ... Metro ... Metro - They are at it again.  Following Thursdays Board Meeting, with many protests over the Google Transit debacle (over 750 signed GGW's petition) - Metro has begun working on some better lines, rather than telling people they just want money.  They now say they are going to work with Google Transit, and that getting their data out in the open is very important to them.  Righttttttt.  Though this is coming from Metro's Chief Administrator, Emeka Moneme - who is a step about Metro's Bumbling Idiot, John Catoe.  Metro has been kind enough to put up an FAQ page as to why they hate data-openness, you can read it here.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Snuggie

I have seen this on TV before -- I know GWSkank has expressed interest in ordering one, but I've didn't realize it had a website. Anyway, the cite for this find goes to H.

I mean this is basically unreal. Just unreal

If you are interested - check it out here ... if not just watch the video below.



Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fire in the Argonne

Yowzers!! Happy first night of Hanukkah ... we had a little festival of lights of our own this afternoon at the Argonne, located at the confluence of Adam's Morgan, Mount Pleasant, and Columbia Heights.

I heard the fire alarm and first thought it was a bicycle handlebar-bell that an obnoxious toddler was ringing incessantly in the hallway ... but then realized that the fire engines were stopping in front of our building. I quickly threw on a coat, grabbed my camera and computer, and went downstairs to see what was going on. I ran into a good dozen or so firefighters barreling up the stairs as I was coming down (computer and slice of pizza in hand, mind you). The fire was not on my side of the building, but I can smell it now ... gross. The fire was contained rather quickly, but I was able to get a few shots of the smoke pouring out of the building.






In addition to learning what the fire alarm here sounds like, this morning was fairly educational, I'd say. I now know what some of my neighbors look like, for one, and I also discovered that my internet works from the sidewalk - delightful information to remember in ... oh, 4 months or so. We received an enormous showing of fire engines, one that said Columbia Heights, and another said Adam's Morgan, I believe ... but all responded very, very quickly - I was pleased. One person was pulled away on a stretcher (smoke inhalation, I presume), but I don't believe there were any serious injuries.

Steelers vs Titans




I'm going to do something today I haven't done in forever: go watch a Steelers game with friends. Besides the great (read: vastly unhealthy) food, I'm excited to see the Steelers cream the Titans. The black and gold are the AFC North Champs and are 11-3. The Titans are 12-2 but we've come from behind the past few games, so I look forward to another victory! Happy Sunday!