Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A Note to Metrorail "Drivers"

The Metro system works much better when you actually bother to open the car doors at each station, especially major transfer stops.

Not doing so raises more questions about the already weird tagline "Metro Opens Doors."

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Metro May Spend Millions on Spanish Signs

The Washington Times reports on the DC Metro system's latest ridiculous proposal:

Metrorail officials are considering adding permanent Spanish-language signs, system maps, fare-card machines and announcements in stations after a push by immigration advocates.


The estimated cost of the changes is at least $500,000 per station and as much as $900,000 for a large, multilevel station such as Metro Center or L'Enfant Plaza.


Immigration advocates say riders with limited English skills might have difficulty understanding how to transfer between lines or how to use fare-card machines and schedules, and they fear rebuke from Metro staff if they seek help in broken English.

Foreign language pamphlets would be appropriate, but Spanish-only signage would be a colossal waste of money.

While I was waiting for a train a few days ago, I was approached by an Asian man speaking a language that I could not identify. He had the name of a Metro station on a piece of paper and never spoke a word of English, but was still able to ask if he was at the right spot to get on a train going to that station. And I was able to answer. A pre-existing sign would have answered his question as well, he just hadn't reached it yet. Spanish signs would not have helped, but Metro staff and fellow riders will.

"Immigration advocates" should stop insulting Metro staff and the intelligence of immigrants and tourists.
The Urban Institute estimates that more than 1 million immigrants and illegal aliens live in the region, and about 40 percent of them are Hispanic. The region annually draws 1 million tourists from overseas, the U.S. government-run Office of Travel and Tourism Industries reports.
The knowledge of English necessary to navigate the Metro system is far less than what I would expect even a tourist to know. The basic information conveyed by Metro signs is either one of five colors, an arrow, or a (generally untranslatable) station name.

There are no signs in any language telling people "how to transfer between lines."

There are no signs in any language asking people to "stand right, walk left."

And if there were, no one would read them.

Announcements will be useless since the ones now made in English are typically incomprehensible.

John Fonte, director of the Center for American Common Culture at the Hudson Institute, called it "strange" that Metro officials are willing to spend so much on the change. He noted that they initially resisted changing maps to reflect the name change for the airport Metro stop from Washington National Airport to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport because of the cost.

After a congressional order, officials in 2002 spent $398,500 of Metro's operating budget to replace all signs, fare charts, system maps and literature in all stations and rail cars to reflect the new airport name.

Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel said concern has been raised about space on fare-card machines, which already are cluttered with information.

Metro includes Spanish-language announcements and signage during major events such as baseball games, he said. For the May 17 rally for immigrant rights in the District, Metro spent a "minimal" amount of its special-events budget on 8-inch-by-11-inch paper signs instructing Spanish speakers how to use fare-card machines.

The Metro system's website is currently available in French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. Travel guides are available in those languages and more.

Anyone who has traveled to a foreign country (or even DC) should understand what a waste this would be.

For an earlier ridiculous proposal, check out "A Noisier Metro?" and earlier linked posts.

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Maryland May Charge for Bay Bridge Chauffeurs

The Washington Times reports:

Maryland transportation officials are considering charging a fee to drive fearful motorists across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

The Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) has quietly provided the assistance-driving program to thousands of white-knuckled drivers each year at no charge -- taking more than 3,900 motorists and their vehicles across the Bay last year and about 3,400 in 2004.

But the strain placed on the limited staff to provide the service has caused the agency to look into charging a nominal fee, MDTA spokeswoman Terri Moss said.

"The program isn't something we advertise," Miss Moss said, noting that only one employee is available to help nervous drivers across and is often needed for more urgent matters.

"The program isn't something we advertise," Miss Moss said, noting that only one employee is available to help nervous drivers across and is often needed for more urgent matters.

"It's a good program, and the safety of motorists is important," she said. "But the vehicle-recovery technician's priority is to attend to disabled vehicles and accidents -- to clear the roadway."


At more than 4 miles long and 186 feet high, the bridge provides a scenic link to Kent Island, the Eastern Shore and Atlantic Ocean for hundreds of thousands of commuters, travelers and beachgoers. In fiscal 2005-2006, nearly 25 million vehicles crossed the bridge.

But for gephyrophobics -- people who dread crossing bridges -- the span poses an impassable, seemingly endless barrier across the Bay.

The article also details the length of a detour needed to avoid the bridge, estimating the effect for drivers from DC as "at least an hour."

Barbara Wiederhold, executive director the California-based Virtual Reality Medical Center, which has treated more than 200 patients for driving-related disorders, said the assistance-driving program that the MDTA employs is feasible only as a short-term fix.

The most effective solution, she said, is overcoming the fear.

"It can create a dependency, where they feel they don't have to drive over. It should be used as a steppingstone, not a solution."

Motorists should either face their fears or find someone else to drive (ever heard of carpooling?). They should not expect a personal chauffeur provided by the State of Maryland.

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Friday, June 16, 2006

A Panda Birthday Extravaganza

The Washington Times reports:

It's a party sure to draw thousands, complete with a birthday boy clad in black and white.

Giant panda cub Tai Shan -- who went from butter stick to ball of fur to big-time celebrity since his birth last year -- turns 1 July 9, and the National Zoo is celebrating his big day with a blowout fit for ... well, a bear.

"We've had birthday parties before, but I ... could say with little doubt that this probably will be the biggest," zoo spokesman John Gibbons said. "Everything we do with Tai Shan seems to be the biggest. He's definitely a national celebrity."

Tai Shan, who is slated to be sent to China when he turns 2, was born through the artificial insemination of mother Mei Xiang in March 2005. Since Tai Shan made his public debut Dec. 8, zoo officials said 1,097,975 people have flocked to the zoo hoping to get a peek at the cub.

Or 500,000 people twice.

The festivities will be appropriate for the zoo's furry celebrity. The celebration will include free birthday cupcakes for the panda habitat's first 1,000 visitors, traditional Chinese dancers, music and informational booths manned by zoo scientists and nutritionists.

And although Tai Shan himself won't be treated to cake, he will have a special panda treat of his own to munch on: a "fruitsicle."

"It's ... bamboo leaves and things like that that are frozen in water," Mr. Gibbons said. "On his birthday, Tai will be getting his very first one."


Panda panderers also can pick up blank birthday cards at the zoo or at participating Whole Foods Market and Panda Express locations and write birthday wishes to the still growing -- but according to all accounts, still unable to read -- panda cub.


Panda Express also will be giving away plush panda toys to children requesting a birthday card for Tai Shan at participating locations in the area.

More information is available from the National Zoo.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

A Noisier Metro?

The Washington Post reports on Metro's latest scheme:

Under a proposal to be presented today, managers are asking the Metro board to entertain the idea of entertainment in stations, which has been banned since Metrorail opened 30 years ago.

The second-busiest subway system in the country is one of the few that prohibit music and other types of entertainment inside stations. And it means it. Repeat offenders are subject to a maximum punishment of a $100 fine and 10 days in jail.


In the latest of several "customer-first" initiatives, Metro's interim general manager, Dan Tangherlini, thinks entertainment could make the ridership experience "more fun or interesting or peaceful" as the system gets more crowded. Ridership on Tuesday, with a Washington Nationals game at RFK Stadium, was 786,843 trips, the sixth highest ever.

No, it will make it more disruptive, noisier, and more crowded. Hopefully the hyperactive interim general manager will be replaced with a (different) permanent general manager soon.

People don't like the same music, and they shouldn't be forced to listen. Metro bureaucrats are losing focus on their real jobs:

Metro has tried to bring music to the underground before. But the proposal mostly ran into deaf ears. "It just fell off the radar screen," recalled board Chairman Gladys Mack, who represents the District. Mack, who is fond of Broadway show tunes, said it might be time to consider new ideas.

"We have been extra cautious about introducing anything other than things purely related to transit," she said. "We have a board now that is willing to listen and a general manager who brings us fresh ideas to try."

They should be extra cautious, it's the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, not the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit and Noisy Street Performer Authority.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Annapolis Starbucks Approved

The Washington Post reports:

The Annapolis Historic Preservation Commission gave Starbucks the go-ahead last night to convert part of a historic building into its sixth store in the Annapolis area.

The proposal to build a Starbucks in the basement of the Maryland Inn, approved unanimously by the commission, had sparked concern among Annapolitans who said the building's historical integrity could be compromised.

Members of the commission, however, focused on the coffeehouse's stated commitment to historical district guidelines. The company also pledged to report regularly on construction plans.

The building dates back more than 200 years, when it was known as the King of France Tavern and hosted foreign dignitaries and spawned a legend of a secret passageway from its wine cellar to the State House.

The Historic Annapolis Foundation, which also recommended approval last night, has said that Starbucks would offer a modern-day gathering spot and spur renewed interest in the historic site.

For more information on the location and the debate, see our earlier post "Are You Afraid of Starbucks?" (Jan. 4, 2006).

VA Senate Race Will Be Republican v. Angry Republican

The Washington Post repeatedly reports on Virginia's senate race:

The springtime squabble between Democrats produced a near-record low turnout that a state election official described as "dismal." Polling places across Virginia reported being empty for long stretches, even though voting was open to all of the state's 4.5 million registered voters.


Election officials said just over 3 percent of voters went to the polls, far less than the 16 percent who voted in the 1996 primary between Republican Sen. John W. Warner and former Reagan budget director James C. Miller III.

"I just don't understand," said Jean Jensen, secretary of the state Board of Elections. "It's dismal. It's not even very high in Fairfax County," where both candidates live.


Webb now faces the challenge of raising millions of dollars in an attempt to oust Allen, a popular ex-governor who is considering a bid for the presidency in 2008. Allen has more than $7.5 million in the bank and a long history of winning in a state that usually votes for Republicans in federal contests.

Allen, the son of a beloved Washington Redskins coach by the same name, became a darling among conservatives as governor in the mid-1990s, when he abolished parole, toughened education standards and changed the welfare system. He left office in 1997 with strong approval ratings and beat incumbent Charles S. Robb (D) in the 2000 Senate race.

Allen's campaign manager, Dick Wadhams, said the Republicans look forward to running against a "very fractured, divided Democratic Party" and "having John Kerry . . . campaign with Mr. Webb."


...some voters wondered why they bothered, given Allen's popularity across Virginia, a Republican-leaning state.

Lifelong Democrat and Manassas resident Richard Geris, 68, voted for Webb because "he's got the best chance of unseating Allen."

"But," Geris added, "I don't give him a snowball's chance in hell of doing it."


[Webb's] first appeal was to people like himself. "It's time to welcome home those Democrats who left for a time, the Reagan Democrats, the conservative Democrats, whatever labels we give them," Webb said. "It's time to welcome them home."

They may be the ones who can deliver Webb to the Senate in the fall, but they are not the ones who gave him his victory yesterday. Although Webb has portrayed himself as the candidate who will appeal to conservative voters in southwest Virginia and bring out new military supporters in the Tidewater, it was the tried-and-true Democrats from Northern Virginia who provided his margin of victory yesterday. More than 42 percent of all the votes were cast in the Washington suburbs, and Webb won an overwhelming majority of them.


But what Democrats have at this point is more a résumé than a candidate. On paper, the 60-year-old Webb is a Vietnam War hero who's against the war in Iraq, a Republican military specialist who has renounced his old party and brings instant national security credibility to Democrats. He's a noted author, screenwriter and journalist, beloved by the liberal blogosphere yet fluent in the language of the commonwealth's rural heart.

On the stump, he can be hesitant and uninterested in domestic policy questions. He hates the demands of fundraising -- "odious" is what he calls the process -- and it shows; he has not been very successful at it. Some find his rawness appealing while others just find it raw.


National Democrats are still not ready to move Virginia into the top tier of races that they think will help give them a majority in the Senate.

Allen has never lost a statewide race, and he has a huge advantage in fundraising: He has raised more than $10 million. And as withdrawn and shy as Webb sometimes can be, that's just how outgoing and gregarious Allen is on the stump.

One WaPo article contains an interesting county-by-county map of the primary results.

Commonwealth Conservative also reviews the race. Virginia Virtucon gives the best summary of the few I've read:

Six things we learned from the Dem. Sen. Primary

A bad campaign will beat a bad candidate.

Democrats will sell their ideological soul for the glimmer of a possibility of victory.

Style beats substance.

We now know that there's a Democrat born every minute (see P.T. Barnum's famous quote.)

Even then, only 3 percent of Virginia voters think of themselves as Democrat primary voters.

The WashPo endorsement is as irrelevant to a majority of Democrats as it is to Republicans.

Update: The same writer gives the best short bio of James Webb:
When given the chance, Webb has cut and run the past 20 years. As Reagan's SecNav, as a member of the GOP and now he wants the USA to cut and run in Iraq. He’s gone from "Born Fighting" to "Born Quitter."
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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

In Virginia, Republican Wins Democrat Primary

With voter turnout just over 3% statewide, the AP reports on today's top Virginia primary:

James Webb, a former Reagan administration Navy secretary who left the Republican Party over the Iraq war, won the Democratic nomination Tuesday to take on GOP Sen. George Allen in the fall.

Webb defeated lobbyist and longtime Democratic Party activist Harris Miller after a bruising primary in which voters decided between a traditional and unabashed liberal (Miller) and a former Republican (Webb) whose populist campaign was aimed at so-called Reagan Democrats - namely, rural, white moderates.

Webb lost that vote, winning the pathetically low turnout election in and around the Beltway, drawing his most vocal support from the venomous left. However, the Democrat strategy of nominating Republicans for office is encouraging.

In area Congressional districts, Andrew Hurst defeated Ken Longmyer for the Democrat nomination in the 11th (55-45, 4% turnout). Tom O'Donoghue defeated Mark Ellmore for the Republican nomination in the 8th (70-30, 0.5% turnout). Votes from Just Barely Inside the Beltway are currently believed to contribute about 0.015% to O'Donoghue's total.

Current results are available here.

For more information on the races, check out today's earlier post and accompanying links.

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Primary Elections Today in Virginia

Virginia's biggest primary election today will be for the Democrat nominee for U.S. Senate, former activist and lobbyist Harris Miller or former Republican James Webb. The Washington Post reports:

Miller and Webb jumped into the void left last year when Warner decided not to challenge Allen. Since then, the two Democratic candidates have waged a spirited and at times nasty campaign that has often involved questions about what it means to be a loyal Virginia Democrat.


Political observers, and even the candidates themselves, say they do not know how the primary will turn out. Elections officials have said they expect between 3 percent and 5 percent of the state's registered voters to show up at the polls.

The Washington Times has a less quotable article that includes an interesting question:
Herein is where the confusion and distrust for voters comes into play for Virginians. Are they being played? "What kind of Democrat is this?" one Alexandria friend aptly asked of Mr. Webb. And, if Virginia Democrats elect a covert Republican to replace an overt one, Mr. Allen, then what have they accomplished?
Good question.

If Democrats see electing Republicans as their key to victory, why should I disagree?

Elsewhere around the Beltway, Virginia's 8th District has a Republican primary and the 11th has a Democrat primary.

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Monday, June 12, 2006

Effort to Create Racist Government for Hawaiians Fails... For Now

Over at Observant Observations, I have commented on an effort to create a redundant, race-based government for "native" Hawaiians. The proposal is a racial entitlement program that is offensive to the Constitution and the principle of equal protection.

The bill failed to survive a procedural vote in the Senate late last week, but supporters have not given in.

Click here for the details.

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

First Driver on New I-95 Bridge Couldn't Speak English

The Washington Times reports on yesterday's half-opening of the new Wilson Bridge:

The first cars rolled across the new bridge at 9:41 p.m., making their way from Virginia to Maryland amid little fanfare and lots of construction -- and almost 12 hours later than officials had set for the new span to open for traffic.

The first driver across the bridge did not speak English, but a passenger in his Toyota identified himself as Ted Shin of Virginia, said John Undeland, spokesman for the new Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge project. The next cars across were a Honda driven by Anthony Ferbish of the District and a Chevrolet driven by Kristine Egleston of Maryland.

Good thing drivers don't need to be able to read traffic signs or converse with law enforcement. (But Mr. Shin will always bring his translator with him, right?)

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Two Defeats for Venezuela's Castro-With-Oil

Over at Observant Observations, I've commented on the historic re-election of Colombia's president and a subsequent election in Peru - both serious defeats for Hugo Chavez (Venezuela's Castro-with-oil).

It's an interesting follow-up to last November's trade negotiations that ended with the score: Bush 29, Chavez 5.

Click here for the details.

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Black Leaders Stand Against Racial Groupthink

The Washington Times reports:

Black pastors and civil rights leaders... held separate rallies on Capitol Hill, staking opposite positions on a constitutional amendment aimed at banning homosexual "marriage."

"This is a moral issue that brings us to the table, and I'm a Democrat. We're not the right-wing Republicans that are just trying to make you do what our political agenda says. We have a legitimate concern about the deterioration of our community," said Bishop Harry Jackson, a pastor from Hope Christian Church in Bowie, who opposes homosexual "marriage."


Later in the day, the Human Rights Campaign, the country's top homosexual rights lobbying group, rallied in the same park in opposition to the amendment.

The real story here is that different black "leaders" hold different policy positions and the media reported on it (the Washington Post does not appear to have taken notice of that yet). In addition to the problems with declaring people "leaders" of entire racial groups, the media too often presume total agreement between the "leaders" and their apparent subjects.

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

America's Only Coup d'Etat?

Wilmington, North Carolina - 380 miles outside the Beltway

Observant Observations comments on North Carolina's recent claim to America's only recorded coup d'etat:

The 1898 violence began when white vigilantes, resentful after years of black and Republican political rule during Reconstruction, burned the printing press of a black newspaper publisher, Alexander Manly.

Violence spread, resulting in an exodus of 2,100 blacks, the commission concluded. Then the largest city in the state, Wilmington flipped from a black majority to a white majority in the months that followed.

Click here for more details.

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Republican Wins Key Special Election

The Washington Post reports on a notable Republican victory in a four-way special election:

A special election for a House district in California left Republicans with control of the seat, while offering scant evidence of the highly energized Democratic electorate that analysts say would be needed to dislodge the GOP from power on Capitol Hill in November.

...former representative Brian Bilbray won with 49 percent of the vote in the traditionally Republican district. Democrat Francine Busby's 45 percent total barely improved on John F. Kerry's showing there in the 2004 presidential election.

Interestingly, Democrat turnout should have been boosted by a bitterly contested Democrat gubernatorial primary with no comparable Republican races. Busby also made the news for comments inviting illegal immigrants to volunteer on her campaign and trying to split the vote by producing ads for an "independent" candidate.

Democrats and reporters hoped for anything they could spin into a pro-Democrat trend, but were stuck with yet another status quo election.

"From the beginning, Democrats said this would be bellwether of what would happen in November," said RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman. "You see a lot of things that are bellwethers, and they indicate Republicans are in position to hold Congress."


More worrisome to Democrats was the fact that Busby's total hardly budged the 44 percent that Kerry won in the district in 2004. "If we can't improve upon Kerry's numbers in these congressional districts in this climate, we've got a big problem," said one strategist, who asked not to be identified in order to give a candid assessment of the results.


Amy Walter, who charts House races for the Cook Report, said that, at a minimum, Tuesday's outcome denied Democrats a major psychological boost. "This just took what would have been on the front page of every newspaper -- 'Democratic tsunami heading for Washington' -- off the front pages," she said. "You can't overstate how important that is."

Update, June 9th: Rich Galen's "Mullings" reviews the election results.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

NY Democrat Calls for Presidential Assassination

New York, New York - 220 miles outside the Beltway

From WNBC:

State Comptroller Alan Hevesi publicly apologized... for a "beyond dumb" remark about a fellow Democrat putting "a bullet between the president's eyes."


According to a videotape of the speech, Hevesi said:

"The man who, how do I phrase this diplomatically, who will put a bullet between the president's eyes if he could get away with it. The toughest senator, the best representative. A great, great member of the Congress of the United States."

Hevesi is beyond "beyond dumb." Prompt resignation followed by an investigation would be appropriate.
Hevesi said he hadn't been in touch with the White House but he hoped his apology reached President Bush.
Perhaps the Secret Service will pass it on.
"Threats against the president are no joke, and this incident raises real concerns about Alan Hevesi's fitness to hold public office," GOP Comptroller nominee J. Christopher Callaghan said during his acceptance speech at the Republican state convention in Hempstead, N.Y.
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Friday, June 02, 2006

Yes, Police Can Stop Your Violent Drunken Melee

From the AP:

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that police do not need a warrant to go into a home to break up a bloody fight.

Justices said that a "melee" that Brigham City, Utah, police officers saw through a window early one morning in 2000 justified rushing in without knocking first.

"The role of a peace officer includes preventing violence and restoring order, not simply rendering first aid to casualties; an officer is not like a boxing (or hockey) referee, poised to stop a bout only if it becomes too one-sided," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.

The ruling overturned findings by three Utah courts that the officers violated the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches when they entered the house without getting permission.


Roberts said that officers did everything right when they arrived about 3 a.m. after getting a complaint about a loud party. They saw juveniles drinking beer in the backyard.

After seeing a scuffle through back windows, including someone punched in the mouth and spitting blood, an officer opened a screen door and tried to announce the arrival of police but could not be heard over the noise.

Roberts said the officers "were free to enter; it would serve no purpose to require them to stand dumbly at the door awaiting a response while those within brawled on, oblivious to their presence."

I still can hardly believe this case made it to the Supreme Court - but it does help that the result was unanimous.

Some complained that the state of Utah was willing to pay for the appeals that eventually reached the Supreme Court because the charges were relatively minor, but an important principle was at stake:
Assistant Utah Attorney General Jeffrey Gray said the case was about officer flexibility in responding to violence, not the individual misdemeanor charges.

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Chief Justice's First Graduation Address

Here are two of the highlights of the highlights from the first commencement address by Chief Justice John Roberts (at Georgetown):

"This is the perfect audience, of course, for a lawyer joke.... But I don't tell lawyer jokes anymore. It turns out that the lawyers in the audience don't think they're very funny, and the non-lawyers don't think they're jokes."

"I would like to congratulate the families as well. I know that behind every Georgetown Law graduate stands the support of family, presumably at this point perilously close to bankruptcy. To those family members I would say this: Do not believe your graduate when she tells you that she cannot write the will, or help you with that dispute with your neighbor over the fence. You've paid for the privilege of free legal advice for the rest of your life."

And no, that doesn't apply to my family.

The full text of the speech is available on Georgetown's site.

The AP also reported on the speech.

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