Month: December 2010

Providence Core Connector Meeting this evening

So I attended the meeting. Here’s my take away on this.

The politicians WANT a streetcar line in the city of Providence. It isn’t a question of getting either the current nor elected mayor on board with this.

However I brought up some points at the forum as did many others about the fact that the study premise is false. The Core Connector is using already developed areas such as Brown University, and the Lifespan group on the south end to anchor their streetcar proposals. But in their own documentation they show a depressed area of Portland, WA called the Pearl District in before and after pictures. I have to scan it for you to see it, the before picture is grey, boring, lifeless. The after picture with the streetcar shows color, trees, people, it’s night and day.

It makes sense to put fixed track into economically depressed areas. Over and over studies, and this by the Core Connector groups own studies, show that for ever $1 spent, the economic return is $4. So if we spend $66,000,000 to build a 2.4 mile streetcar line, the benefit is $264,000,000. If we spend $200,000,000 the benefit would be nearly a billion dollars!

Several of us made the point that the West end and Olneyville sections of the city seem to have been completely ignored. One of the RIPTA folks, Mark Therrien who is the Assistant General Manager – Transit System Development/Planning/Grants made a point that the #27 bus line would be made a BRT line. This would means stops every 1,000 feet, as opposed to the few hundred now.

But I know why they’ve chosen the #27. It’s all state roads, and the state has been going gangbusters installing ITS capable traffic lights all over the city. It’s just a little module that snaps into the control boxes that would allow buses in general to hold green lights. That would be a BIG plus for transit.

But one thing I hear, over and over again from people who would like to take the bus but hate the idea of transferring downtown. I think that RIPTA is trying to address that but like it or not, Kennedy Plaza and the PVD airport are transit hubs, no matter how you slice it.

I made mention the funding aspect. I’m going to be posting a template letter for RIPTA and everyone to hit up our federal legislators for the money to make a REAL streetcar system a reality in the city. We had them until 1948, we can have them again. Congress loves to fund the capital budgets of transit agencies but they don’t like to fund the operating side. One has to wonder why that little fact emerges all the time.

I pointed out that I find it ludicrous that we can spend close to a billion dollars to move a highway, yet we can’t find a couple hundred million to put in a decent streetcar system. Therrien asked that we write our congressmen and senators and so I will.

While there I had a brief meeting with our new city councilor Bryan Principe. Bryan gets it. He understands my arguments about the money. I mentioned that I’ll be lobbying our congressmen to have all highway projects have 20% of their budget funneled toward public transit projects. Think about it, this makes sense. What you can’t spend on expanding a highway, you spend on transit systems that negate the need to build more highway.

In Providence, we just moved I-195 to the tune of a billion so that would have netted $200,000,000 for public transit. Put it this way, RIPTA’s operating budget is $100,000,000 a year.

They’re going to have to replace the viaduct here in Providence too. That one should cost about a half billion. And then there’s the replacement of the Pawtucket River Bridge in Pawtucket and that’s going to be a fairly pricey affair too.

Figure $700,000,000 for both. My 20% proposal would mean that $140,000,000 would go to public transit.

We need to start moving away from a car-centric country to a public transit centered one, like Europe.

And what better way to do so than to penalize car infrastructure projects.

America’s Healthiest and Unhealthiest States (And how it impacts Rhode Island)

You can see the entire list by clicking here.

Now the RI observations:

RI is the 10th most healthy state in the union. The top ten list is mostly New England states along with Minnesota and Iowa. Interestingly the states that are healthiest also tend to already have marriage equality. Go figure! It would be shocking if I didn’t know we do have decent medical facilities here along with a medical school at Brown University. So obviously the state of the art is well developed here.

Behaviorally, RI is the 5th when it comes to smoking, much to my chagrin.

With regard to obesity, RI is somewhere in the middle, not in the top 10, not in the bottom 10. The bottom 10 are interesting, Michigan, Missouri, Arkansas, Alabama, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Mississippi. All areas of the country with pretty widespread poverty.

RI ranked 9th in highest rates of diabetes which is interesting. It breaks the correlation link between obesity and diabetes so what is causing diabetes? Well, we are a foodie state. Lots of good food in the area. That might have something to do with it.

More on Wendell Potter’s “Deadly Spin”

Reading through (I’m more than half way through the book.) I’m just astounded by the crap pulled by corporate America.

I’ve long suspected they game the Letters to the Editor page of my local rag, The Providence Journal. Used to be I’d have my letters printed regularly and then I noted they took a rightward turn when Belo bought them out.

We kept seeing letters against gay people, against healthcare, against government. And in Potter’s book, he details how corporations hire agencies to do things like write letters to the editor, contact media, etc.

They’re stacking the deck against us those dirty bastards. And they’ll be the first to cry out when their backs are against the wall.

UFO’s and life on other planets

Ok, so I don’t necessarily believe in UFO’s. The reason behind this is I have an understanding of the physical principles behind our universe and know what a light speed is (3×10^8 m/sec^2). The distances are HUGE.

Most of what we see as UFO’s are either aircraft, or even satellites and other space vehicles. Because they zip along at 17,500MPH or so.

As to life on other planets, I fully expect that there is life elsewhere in the universe. There are a plethora of rocky bodies now being identified, some with atmospheres. Knowing how widespread life is here on planet earth, from the most to least hospitable places, I’d guess that mono-cellular life is a definite, multi-cellular I’m somewhat still agnostic about, and intelligent remains to be seen.

But here’s the thing. If I know engineers like I know engineers (I am one!) it’s that we never stop at the current art. Keep tweaking and pushing. So right now we can detect these planets. At some point we’re going to develop light speed transit and we’re going to see very quickly whether there’s life out there. We may even figure out FTL (Faster Than Light) via warp (Which is theoretically possible but the energy required is ENORMOUS). However with news that the LHC project has been able to generate and trap and anti-matter particle means all we need now are dilithium crystals and plasma conduits (Ob: Star Trek).

If we can ever get our act together here on earth we might just do it. Reality is stranger than science fiction.

Canadian Atheist Ads are much to my liking

Here’s the article and the pic:

Atheist Bus Ads in Canada
Atheist Bus Ads in Canada

It states that “Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence” and then goes on to list those items like Al’Lah, Bigfoot, UFO’s, Homeopathy, Zeus, Psychics and Christ.

Pretty accurate list. And can you just imagine the religious idiots here in the U.S. seeing that running the streets? They’d go apeshit.

I’m glad Canada is more progressive than the United States. They have equal civil rights, government health care, and now the atheists are taking a stab at it. If Canadian winters weren’t so damned frigid I’d even consider emigrating. Granted it’s 21F in Montreal, and 29F in Providence but they get the cold weather much earlier than we do. Brrrrr!

Reading: Wendell Potter’s “Deadly Spin” and how it relates to NOM

I’ve covered Mr. Potter her on the blog in the past. He’s the former PR veep from CIGNA who left his job to challenge the myths of PR spread by the insurance companies using front groups, and other messaging methods.

I bought his book “Deadly Spin:An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans”

I’ve only read about a  quarter of the way through the book so far and am at the part where Potter discusses the Institute for Propaganda Analysis’s eight rhetorical tricks used by propagandists. the IPA was disbanded during WW II because it was not only good for exposing the propaganda of the Axis powers, but if applied against the American propaganda of the time, it’s could have had disastrous consequences. Yes, consequences like Brian Brown and Maggie Gallagher from NOM prefer to use for fear mongering.

They’re ordered quite differently in Potter’s book, he ranks fear as the number one trick.  I’ll list the tricks and post my responses below the red block of text. Because NOM uses EVERY SINGLE one of these. We need to use them too.

1. Name-calling – involves the use of insult words. Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, is reported to have used this technique very deliberately, circulating a list of negative words and phrases that Republicans were instructed to use when speaking about their political opponents-words such as “betray,” “corruption,” “decay,” “failure,” “hypocrisy,” “radical,” “permissive,” and “waste.” The term “junk science,” is an obvious use of this same strategy. When name-calling is used, the IPA recommended that people should ask themselves the following questions: What does the name mean? Does the idea in question have a legitimate connection with the real meaning of the name? Is an idea that serves my best interests being dismissed through giving it a name I don’t like?

2. Glittering generalities – is a reverse form of namecalling. Instead of insults, it uses words that generate strong positive emotions-words like “democracy,” “patriotism,” “motherhood,” “science,” “progress,” “prosperity.” Politicians love to speak in these terms. Newt Gingrich advised Republicans to use words such as “caring,” “children,” “choice,” “commitment,” “common sense,” “dream,” “duty,” “empowerment,” “freedom,” and “hard work” when talking about themselves and their own programs. Democrats, of course, use the same strategy. Think, for example, of President Clinton’s talk of “the future,” “growing the economy,” or his campaign slogan: “I still believe in a place called Hope.”

3. Euphemisms – are another type of word game. Rather than attempt to associate positive or negative connotations, euphemisms merely try to obscure the meaning of what is being talked about by replacing plain English with deliberately vague jargon. Rutgers University professor William Lutz has written several books about this strategy, most recently Doublespeak Defined. Examples include the use of the term “strategic misrepresentations” as a euphemism for “lies,” or the term “employee transition” as a substitute for “getting fired.” Euphemisms have also transformed ordinary sewage sludge into “regulated organic nutrients” that don’t stink but merely “exceed the odor threshold.”

4. Transfer – is described by the IPA as “a device by which the propagandist carries over the authority, sanction, and prestige of something we respect and revere to something he would have us accept. For example, most of us respect and revere our church and our nation. If the propagandist succeeds in getting church or nation to approve a campaign in behalf of some program, he thereby transfers its authority, sanction, and prestige to that program. Thus, we may accept something which otherwise we might reject.” In 1998, the American Council on Science and Health convened what it called a “blue-ribbon committee” of scientists to issue a report on health risks associated with phthalates, a class of chemical additives used in soft vinyl children’s toys. People familiar with ACSH’s record on other issues were not at all surprised when the blue-ribbon committee concluded that phthalates were safe. The committee’s real purpose, after all, was to transfer the prestige of science onto the chemicals that ACSH was defending
5. Testimonial – is a specific type of transfer device in which admired individuals give their endorsement to an idea, product, or cause. Cereal companies put the pictures of famous athletes on their cereal boxes, politicians seek out the support of popular actors, and activist groups invite celebrities to speak at their rallies. Sometimes testimonials are transparently obvious. Whenever they are used, however, the IPA recommends asking questions such as the following: Why should we regard this person (or organization or publication) as a source of trustworthy information on the subject in question? What does the idea amount to on its own merits, without the benefit of the testimonial?

6. Plainfolks – ia a device that attempts to prove that the speaker is “of the people.” Even a geeky multibillionaire like Bill Gates tries to convey the impression that he’s just a regular guy who enjoys fast food and popular movies. Politicians also use the “plain folks” device to excess: George Bush insisting he eats pork rinds; Hillary Clinton slipping into a southern accent. Virtually every member of the U.S. Senate is a millionaire, but you wouldn’t know it from the way they present themselves.

7. Bandwagon – is a device that attempts to persuade you that everyone else supports an idea, so you should support it too. Sometimes opinion polls are contrived for this very purpose, such as the so-called “Pepsi Challenge,” which claimed that most people preferred the taste of Pepsi over Coca-Cola. “The propagandist hires a hall, rents radio stations, fills a great stadium, marches a million or at least a lot of men in a parade,” the IPA observed. “He employs symbols, colors, music, movement, all the dramatic arts. He gets us to write letters, to send telegrams, to contribute to his cause. He appeals to the desire, common to most of us, to follow the crowd.”

8. Fear – is a device that attempts to reach you at the level of one of your most primitive and compelling emotions. Politicians use it when they talk about crime and claim to be advocates for law and order. Environmentalists use it when they talk about pollution-related cancer, and their opponents use fear when they claim that effective environmental regulations will destroy the economy and eliminate jobs. Fear can lead people to do things they would never otherwise consider. Few people believe that war is a good thing, for example, but most people can be convinced to support a specific war if they believe that they are fighting an enemy who is cruel, inhuman, and bent on destroying all that they hold dear.

Read through them thoroughly and you’ll notice something. EVERY ONE of them applies to what NOM is doing. I’ll take it point by point:

1. Name Calling: Every time NOM people  scoff at the idea that a same sex couple could marry, they’re name calling. It couldn’t be any clearer.

2. Glittering Generalities: The Great Arc of human existence, man and woman. Does that sound familiar? It should it’s come out of the mouths of both Brian Brown and Maggie Gallagher. They also exalt the mother and father, being necessary for the proper upbringing of children.

3. Euphemisms: More in action than in word, NOM employs this tactic. They try to show off their Christian side by offering water on a hot day, or chatting amiably before they know your position on equality. Or how about the term “Civil Union”. Occasionally they’ll utter that but then change their mind and be against it too. The old bait and switch in play. They don’t just want us not to marry, they don’t want us around at all.

4. Transfer: This one is another clutch point. They transfer the attitudes and dogma of their churches (Catholic and Mormon for the most part, they’re the ones with the deepest pockets) into their arguments against marriage equality. It’s really interesting to watch them do this. It kind of falls flat for those of us who really have no respect for the churches. I.e. does the Catholic church really have any credibility left anymore? Between priests abusing children, the newest communication on condoms to stop the spread of disease even if it subverts a pregnancy? Are you kidding me?

5. Testimonial: I’ve noted this on the local and national levels. NOM tends to use the public for their testimonials but they trot out the priests at hearings, etc. As I say in the part on Transfer, sorry, I don’t buy it. But we’ve all seen the attractive family, or the groups of people doing their best to tell us that “The Storm is Coming”. It’s all bullshit. Every last bit of it.

6: Plainfolks: In reference to the Testimonials they try to extract from the alleged ‘victims’ of the homosexual agenda. The parents whose son read “King and King”, or the church in New Jersey who was forced to permit gay people to use their PUBLIC pavilion. But that’s the thing, this is ALL NOM and the other SPLC groups seem to be able to dredge up. The reality is, that once a state achieves marriages equality, it becomes a non-issue in that state with the exception of groups like NOM.

7: Bandwagon: The Bigot Bus, do I need say anymore?

8: Fear: They’re very good at the fear component. They’re always talking about consequences of marriage equality but they can’t elaborate much more than the issues stated in the sixth point, Plainfolks. ey jThust can’t do it because they have nothing to stand on. But they’ll keep attempting to whip people into a fury of fear with their gloom and doom talk about the destruction of society if we allow gay people to marry the person of their choice. Imagine.

See how many you can spot in the video above and post in the comments.

More on the Comcast Net Neututrality Debacle

It was brought to my attention that Comcast’s main gripe about Netflix is due to the fact that Netflix chose to switch their traffic carriage to Level 3.

Internet providers all have what are called peering points. It’s basically where the great big web of the network gets all intermixed. But the charging for bandwidth at the peering point still essentially uses the charging structure of the old telephone network (Board to Board, Station to Station, Person to Person) except they use bandwidth equality.

This is the main bitch from Comcast, is having to pay more to sip from the pipe.

I call bovine effluent on the whole thing. First off the whole peering charge should be flat fee. Secondly the other concern of Comcast is that their network will be saturated.

Let me take on the second point. Comcast (And Cox, Verizon et al) have ALL been collecting the highest fees for broadband IN THE DEVELOPED world yet not making any dramatic improvements to their networks.

Part of it has to do with the fact that we broadband consumers are now subsidizing the dwindling mass of cable tv subscribers.

But over the years they all could have improved their networks so say their network backbone could contend with the volume of traffic being sent by Level 3, or even offering 100Mbps download speeds in the U.S. But no, I pay $58.99 for 30Mbps service. In France they pay the equivalent of about $45 a month for 100Mbps, digital tv and phone all combined.

So this all leads me to say it once and for all. Net Neutrality means moving providers into Common Carrier status. It means giving the FCC the teeth necessary to enforce carriage.

So support Net Neutrality. Write your congress critters. Let them know you’re mad as hell and not going to take this shit anymore.