Thursday, October 25, 2007

Woo Hoo!

So I've just become the newest contributor to the Seattle Transit Blog! Now, someone may actually read and comment on what I have to say.


Transit NOW... Tomorrow

Metro has finally released the first details about the RapidRide program, or at least the section that's on SR99. Be sure to click through to the fancy map. In isolation, it looks great.

While I'm always for more and better transit, I'm uneasy and/or miffed at a few aspects of this, particularly in light of Ron Sims' defection to the anti-ST2 camp.

(1) When we voted for Transit NOW!(!!!!), that certainly led to the expectation that the transit would arrive, uh, now. 2010 is hardly forever, and I know projects take time, but I think Ron Sims oversold a bit. It certainly makes his complaining about ST taking too long a little rich.

(2) I wonder if Sims' opposition to South King County light rail is that it replaces this bit of his legacy?

(3) It seems awful repetitive to run BRT down the exact route that light rail is planning to use. It leaves us with several awful or doubtful alternatives:
- light rail is permanently trashed in favor of inferior BRT technology that also forces a transfer at SeaTac to connect with the rest of the system.
- the BRT is constructed to be rail convertible. I'm doubtful this is happening, and at any rate would create a big fight if it involved suspending existing BRT to lay track.
- The Rapid Ride investments will be abandoned when light rail arrives, or they will run simultaneously. That would get us one transit corridor for the price of two! Nice job Metro!

(4) I'm struck by the relative opacity of Metro compared to Sound Transit. The ST website pretty much lays out everything they're going to do. Almost a full year after the voters approved Transit Now, we're only now seeing a small part of the project. Given how often ST is bashed for being unaccountable and mismanaged, I'm struck by the fact that my experience receiving responses to comments from both agencies is similarly skewed.

(5) Is it an accident that the portion of Transit Now that most duplicates ST2 is the first to be released, just before the ballot!

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

2007 Baseball Playoffs

As I mentioned last year, my rule of thumb is root for teams that haven't won it in a long time, unless I have a special interest in one of the teams. Under that criterion, the rank of worthiness for this year would have been:

1) Chicago Cubs, 1908
2) Cleveland Indians, 1948
3) Philadelphia Phillies, 1980
4) Colorado Rockies, 1993 (year of inception)
5) New York Yankees, 2000
6) Arizona Diamondbacks, 2001
7) Los Angeles Angels, 2002
8) Boston Red Sox, 2004

But that wasn't what was in my heart. First of all, I hate the Yankees, so they're always at the bottom of the barrel. In addition, I'm a recovering Red Sox fan from my time as a college student there (nowadays, I root for the Mariners -- a colossal mistake if there ever was one).

Still, I can't help but remain fond of the Red Sox, but I decided that while I would be OK with them winning it all, I wouldn't actively root for them. With their matchup against the perpetually suffering Indians, this resolve was put to the test.

I failed.

Starting in Game 1, I couldn't stay away from Fenway Park, the players I loved in 2004, and the guys I (purely by coincidence) have on my fantasy team. I found myself rooting hard for Boston.

Until Game 7.

Once the game was firmly in hand, I immediately regretted my feelings. The nature of the Cleveland collapse helped me put my finger on what was wrong.

For a long time, Boston fans claimed a sort of moral superiority due to their intense suffering. To be a Yankee fan was easy, and a bit of a cop-out; to adopt perpetually choking losers was to somehow embrace the reality of the world.

In this playoffs, however, the Red Sox are the Yankees; they're a juggernaut, loaded at every position and confident (arrogant) in their ability to prevail. The Indians are the Red Sox of old: a solid team, but clearly snakebit every time they were close to making it happen.

So where's that moral superiority now? Boston fans are left merely with the ethic of rooting for the home team. If it's not your home team, you're merely a bandwagon jumper, no better than people born and bred in Kansas City, say, that root for the Yankees.

It feels terrible. I want to say "Go Rockies," but I just can't bring myself to do it.

May the best team win. That's probably the Red Sox.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Knock me over with a feather

I'm on record as favoring rapid withdrawal from Iraq, and I maintain that position, but I'm a pretty cheap date when it comes to good news coming from there. I've followed that whole debacle from the beginning with almost my full attention. After all, I was there for 6 months, and I have a pretty good grasp of both the military and military history. As they say, the best lack all conviction; all that I know is that I don't know.

However, I do have the sneaking suspicion that all sides are wrong:
  • The hawks are wrong: the consequences of withdrawal are not that great for the United States.
  • The moderates are wrong: leaving "just enough troops to lose" is not a good strategy.
  • The doves are wrong: the war is not "lost." I'd like to talk about that today.
In spite of all the mismanagement (at all levels), etc., I'm always conscious of the possibility of pulling a pyrrhic victory out of this mess. What does that mean? Just that Iraq turns out to be a decent country, for an absolutely unreasonable cost. Maybe there are free and fair elections, although formation of genuine liberal-democratic institutions are probably out of reach.

The general consensus seems to be forming that by purely military measures, the war is going pretty well relative to the recent past. General Petraeus has produced our first halfway decent counterinsurgency strategy, violence is declining, and Al Qaeda is not doing so hot (haven't heard about a big car bomb in a while, have you?)

But none of that really matters if the politics collapses. Skeptics point to the total lack of progress at the national level, and project that forward. But political progress isn't linear, or even monotonic (math term). I have no idea what might be possible in the next few months, or years.

What's more promising is the apparent emergence of a group of post-Saddam leaders at the community level, as represented by the various Awakening fronts. Real democracy comes from the bottom up, not from the top down. In our haste to get out of there, one of our many cardinal sins was to get this backwards.

I'm curious to see what the next Iraqi election (knock on wood) will produce. It seems like the extremist parties have lost credibility; I think we might be pleasantly surprised by the result, if it's allowed to happen.

Whether that outcome is worth another 300 American lives and $300 billion or so is not at all clear to me. But I wish everyone in this debate wasn't so damn sure of themselves.