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“Dane Cook with a better vocabulary and an accent.”

[ 55 ] October 22, 2014 |

Let’s just say that when Russell Brand briefly had that dreadful show that followed up Louie — come back Colin Quinn, all is forgiven — his choice of sidekick was Hank Kinsgley Mr. Matt Stoller.

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Changes in VMT forecasting

[ 18 ] October 22, 2014 |

Earlier this year, in a lengthy post about the disastrously stupid plan to replace the Alaskan Way viaduct with a risky, costly deep bore tunnel with no access to downtown Seattle (update: still not looking good!), I expanded my complaint to WSDOT’s planning process, mirrored by DOTs around the country. They exhibited a stubborn refusal to adjust their future projections about vehicle miles traveled based on a new information; up through the 2013 projection, they were insisting that the steady increase in VMT that characterized the second half of the 20th century is likely to return immediately.  The September 2014 WSDOT projections are now available, and something appeared to get through to them this time:

Washington State Transportation Revenue Forecast Council - Peak Traffic

Looking at the data, the change here is really striking: they went from assuming the 80′s are coming back immediately to assuming the modest declines in VMT per capita will not just continue but accelerate, such that VMT per capita is now projected to drop by over 1% per year, at a slightly increasing rate, throughout the 2020′s and 2030′s, resulting in a 2041 VMT per capita a full 33% below the peak rate (see pg 28 here). I would have expected formulas and assumptions to be tweaked and nudged, not radically revised. I think these projections are more sensible, and I obviously certainly hope they’re correct, but it’s striking to see such a dramatic change. One possible reason might be political–forecasts like this make extravagant highway projects funded by assumptions about the future more politically difficult. (That WSDOT might now recognize this is a good thing is a happy possibility to contemplate). Whatever the reason, this shift in forecasting is good political news regardless of whether it’s accurate or not, as Clark Williams-Derry explains:

Second, even if the forecast is wrong, assuming that traffic won’t grow much is the most fiscally prudent way to plan a transportation budget.

For far too long, “build now, pay later” has been the transportation budgeter’s mantra. In the 2000s, for example, Washington committed itself to massive road projects that it didn’t have the money to build. So the state floated bonds, assuming that revenue from gas taxes would show up to pay them off.

That hasn’t worked out so well. Traffic didn’t grow as expected, and gasoline and tolling revenue has gone AWOL as a result. Gradually, planners have come to realize that debt service will swallow up most of the state’s gas tax receipts, crowding out everything else. As the chart below shows, WSDOT predicts that within a few years three-quarters of the state’s gas tax receipts will pay for old projects.

And because so much of the state’s gas revenue is going to pay off old debts, state and local governments simply don’t have the money to keep existing streets and roads in good repair—let alone complete projects, such as the SR-520 bridge, that we’ve already started. And there’s even less money left for the transportation priorities where demand is actually growing, such as walking, transit, and biking.

The irony here is that one reason we might see future VMT decline is declining investment in transportation infrastructure maintenance, caused by foolishly overspending in the 00′s based on budgeting on future VMT increases. It will be interesting to see (and when I have more time I may do some digging) if this is part of a national trend. USDOT’s last VMT forecast appeared to be straight from the late 20th century, even as the US Energy Information Agency projected little to no growth. It’ll be interesting to see what they’ll do with the 2014 report.

 

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Ben Bradlee

[ 21 ] October 22, 2014 |

robardsbradlee.jpg.CROP.promovar-mediumlarge

R.I.P.

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Can You Beat Aimai?

[ 55 ] October 21, 2014 |

Do you remember my “one pot, one skillet” post awhile back? Well, a lot of you shared some of your favorite one-pot meals. I read through just about the entire thread, and there were LOTS of delicious offerings, but one dish really stood out (to me) and that was Aimai’s Jamie Oliver roasted chicken recipe. It was truly one-pot cooking, with an ease, a hint of sophistication, a depth of flavor, and a built-in sauce that you simply do not often find, even in beloved one-pot recipes.

I’ve made Jamie’s Aimai’s recipe probably close to to ten times since she shared it, varying ingredients (only very slightly) and cooking methods. It’s never turned out poorly. In fact, each time it’s been somewhere between “this is great” to “my tastebuds are climaxing.” The bones of this recipe are that solid.

Take one 4 lb chicken
10 garlic cloves
Handful of fresh sage
1 cinnamon stick
1 dried red pepper (or two)
Peel of one lemon
Juice of one lemon
1 cup milk
1/2 cup or 1 cup of dry white wine
Onions–Sliced in quarters longitudinally so the shape will be preserved.
Celery–sliced in long batons about 2 inches
Carrots–Chunks
sometimes parsnips–same size as the carrots

Salt and pepper the chicken all over. Brown it in butter or olive oil. Drain pan but save any sticky bits. Then put the vegetables and all the other ingredients in a roasting pan or a dutch oven and put the chicken down on top, nested in the liquid, and cook until the top is browned and golden, chicken is done, and the base vegetables are cooked. The milk and the lemon will “break” and make a classic sauce. For extra killer deprssion repair you can add some cream at the last minute to the sauce and you get an unbelievably rich sauce for pouring over potatoes or rice or dipping bread.

 

My challenge for you is this: Can you top Aimai’s recipe?

Also…marinated cheese? Yes.

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Royal Series

[ 35 ] October 21, 2014 |

lorde-kansas-city-royals-george-brett-signed-jersey

Really good fan’s perspective from Rany Jazayerli, especially the risk you know going in that this could be like the ’07 Rockies. I’ll be rooting for KC, but above all it would be nice to have a series that isn’t over quickly.

On the other side, Jonah’s piece on Bruce Bochy is excellent. As he says, the Jaffe/Birnbaum data established him as a first-rate manager even in San Diego, and he’s done a terrific job with the Giants.

…James Shields’s parents should have given him a name that kind of rhymes with “perfectly decent #2 starter.”

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Job Interviews at Academic Conferences

[ 106 ] October 21, 2014 |

Forcing impoverished graduate students and adjunct faculty to travel to a random expensive city for 30 minute first round job interview is one of the least morally defensible parts of academia. Professional associations need to stop it.

[SL] Make sure to click through and read this as well. Even before the age of Skype this practice was absolutely indefensible; the application materials and perhaps a phone call are perfectly sufficient for a preliminary interview process. It’s just a bigger disgrace now.

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Area Hack Pundit Attempts to Defend GOP Vote Suppression, Makes Most Ridiculous Argument Ever

[ 117 ] October 21, 2014 |

Shorter verbatim John Fund: “There’s no doubt that many people in our increasingly mobile and hectic society want voting to be as easy and convenient as buying fast food. But too much of anything can be bad — just ask someone who has gorged on drive-thru burgers and fries.”

Admittedly, Fund drew the short straw on this; attempts to stop or roll back early voting lack even the pretense of a non-partisan justification that other Republican vote suppression efforts have. Still, you’d think someone in Fund’s pay grade could up with something just a tad less transparently self-refuting than “voting on a Sunday is like eating 8 Double Quarter Pounders in one sitting!” The bullshitting about a single election day being “in the Constitution” is a little better, but really.

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Your Point Being?

[ 31 ] October 21, 2014 |

A Heritage Foundation hack has taken time off from crafting Democratic health care policy to point out the horrors of Obama’s nominee to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division discussing the War on (Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs:

To begin, she believes that the misnamed war on drugs “is an atrocity and that it must be stopped.” She has written that the war on drugs has been a “war on communities of color” and that the “racial disparities are staggering.” As the reliably-liberal Huffington Post proclaimed, she would be one of the most liberal nominees in the Obama administration.

Pointing out the racial disparities of the drug war — facts you do not actually dispute — makes Gupta the real racist or something. As Serwer shorters it:

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Not Even Casey Is As Bad As the 5th Circuit Thinks

[ 14 ] October 21, 2014 |

As Anderson noted in comments recently, Judge Dennis’s dissent from the 5th Circuit’s denial of an en banc hearing of its opinion allowing Texas to force most of the state’s abortion clinics to close without any legitimate independent justification is very good:

In upholding Texas’s unconstitutional admitting-privileges requirement for abortion providers and medication-abortion restrictions, the panel opinion flouts the Supreme Court’s decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania. v. Casey by refusing to apply the undue burden standard expressly required by Casey. Instead, the panel applied what effectively amounts to a rational basis test — a standard rejected by Casey — under the guise of applying the undue burden standard. The panel’s assertion that it applies Casey is false because it does not assess the strength of the state’s justifications for the restrictive abortion laws or weigh them against the obstacles the laws place in the path of women seeking abortions, as required by Casey. A correct application of the Casey undue burden standard would require that the admitting – privileges provision and medication – abortion restrictions be stricken as undue burdens because the significant obstacles those legal restrictions place in the way of women’s rights to previability abortions clearly outweigh the strength of their purported justifications.

If not overruled, the panel’s sham undue burden test will continue to exert its precedential force in courts’ review of challenges to similar types of recently minted abortion restrictions in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.”

Certainly, the history of Casey has shown the vast inferiority of the “undue burden” test compared to Roe’s strict scrutiny test. Nevertheless, despite its vagueness it has to mean a higher standard of scrutiny than rational basis, and the Texas statute could not survive any scrutiny more heightened than the rational basis the 5CA panel applied in practice. The panel acted as if the rational basis test Rehnquist tried to replace Roe with in his throw-Roe-from-the-caboose draft in Webster, and not Casey, was the controlling precedent. I fear that Kennedy might be headed in this direction, but at he very least 5CA can’t do it before he does.

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Mt. Sing

[ 14 ] October 21, 2014 |

I’ve talked before about how national parks, and especially the classic nature parks of the American West, are whitened places, with indigenous histories erased and indigenous people evicted. That’s certainly true, but those white people needed servants and sometimes they left a bit of evidence about themselves.

Many of the immigrant workers were road builders and lodge workers, who took on these jobs so they could send money back to their families in China.

But during Chan’s research, one character in particular stood out. In historic black-and-white photos, he’s a sturdy man with a tuft of black hair, wearing a white apron. His name is Tie Sing. He’s believed to be Chinese, though no one knows exactly where he was born.

“He was the head cook for the US Geological Survey,” Chan explained. This was a key job at the time, considering that the USGS cartographers were mapping out the park and campaigning with people like John Muir and the first directors of the National Parks Service to preserve Yosemite.

Because Sing was a particular kind of servant that required close quarters with the whites he served, unlike, say, someone who took care of the horses or cleaned the tents, he could take a sort of mascot form. Today, there is a Mt. Sing in Yosemite National Park named after him. And one good thing about that is that it provides a location that marks Chinese presence in a land where they are usually erased. People interested in the him and the Chinese experience in California can now hike up to the top of the mountain.

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Himalayan Labor Exploitation

[ 64 ] October 21, 2014 |

Sherpas are poor. So they take what jobs they can get. Those jobs are carrying stuff for rich white people around the world who want to climb mountains. Serving as a beast of burden might feed these workers but it also places them in one of the most dangerous working environments in the world, especially when those who hire them want to try less trodden paths. Sherpas die all the time, but it receives only a smattering of attention compared to the deaths of climbers.

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Silent Film Archaeology

[ 14 ] October 21, 2014 |

tencommandments2

Super cool:

Hidden for more than 90 years beneath the rolling sand dunes of Guadalupe, California, an enormous, plaster sphinx from the 1923 blockbuster movie “The Ten Commandments” has been rediscovered and is now above ground.

The public will be able to see the sphinx on display as early as next year, once it has been reconstructed — a necessity since it became weather-beaten during its stint beneath the sand, said Doug Jenzen, the executive director of the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center, who oversaw the recent excavation.

The roughly 15-foot-tall (4.6 meters) sphinx is one of 21 that lined the path to Pharaoh’s City in the 1923 silent hit, directed by Cecil B. DeMille. He later remade the film, with Charlton Heston as Moses, in 1956.

Legend has it that after filming ended, the movie crew dynamited the set and buried the sphinxes in a trench, but Jenzen has found little evidence of such a dramatic end. Instead, the wind, rain and sand likely collapsed and buried a large part of the set under the ever-shifting dunes. The sphinxes are in roughly the same place they were during filming, he said.

In fact, the film helped guide an excavation of the site in 2012.

“We’d work during the day, and we’d watch the movie at night to figure out what we were finding,” said M. Colleen Hamilton, a historical archaeology program manager and senior historical archaeologist with Applied EarthWorks in California.

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