Midday Scan: Thursday's top stories around the region

In the news today: Seattle's former transportation director gets serious about BART, Idahoans Internet access is WAY slower than yours, and British Columbia eyes the role of geothermal king of the world.

Crosscut archive image.

British Columbia's rich geothermal assets could put it at the forefront of the energy world.

In the news today: Seattle's former transportation director gets serious about BART, Idahoans Internet access is WAY slower than yours, and British Columbia eyes the role of geothermal king of the world.

Grace Crunican, Seattle's former director of transportation and the newly appointed general manager of BART, inherited the administrative equivalent of a white-elephant gift: An agency albatross you hope to squirrel away and forget. As Zusha Elinson of The Bay Citizen reports, BART's communications director, Linton Johnson, conceived a plan to neutralize activists protesting the BART police shooting of a homeless man back in July. "In response to a planned protest Aug. 11, BART recruited loyal riders, prepared a script for them to read from, and hired a car service to take them to and from a press conference intended to sway public perception and media coverage, according to emails obtained by The Bay Citizen," Elinson writes.

As part of the plan, Johnson instructed BART to shut down cell service on subway platforms, a J.Edgar Hoover-ish strategy that seems antithetical to San Francisco's peaceable reputation. Just as obnoxious, BART's counterinsurgency plan cost the system $300,000 in overtime and other expenses. Crunican is a seasoned under-fire administrator, so it will be fascinating to see if she demands a full airing or simply chucks the white elephant in the bottom drawer. (It looks like the former, after Crunican met with Board president Bob Franklin, they agreed that BART would no longer manufacture scripts and transport loyal riders for PR purposes).  

When Midday Scan got married last fall, his bride-to-be pledged "to watch depressing Bergman films with you and to help you find Internet connections in the remote mountains of Idaho." Repeated viewings of Bergman's The Seventh Seal will need to make up for that empty promise of Gem state Internet: As Katharine Seelye of the New York Times writes, Idaho has the slowest Internet speeds in the country.

Seelye reports, "speed distinctions might seem insignificant. But with larger files, downloading delays of just a few seconds can stretch into crucial minutes or hours and over time result in losses across many aspects of life, some experts say, beyond entertainment and games, affecting fields such as public safety, education and economic growth. It is not clear how many households throughout this state still have no Internet, but nationally, the figure is 28 percent — most of them in rural areas." How could Idaho be worse than Wyoming or Alaska?

Geothermal may be the new solar (or new clean coal or new fusion), in which case British Columbia is the new Saudi Arabia. Margaret Munro of the Vancouver Sun highlights the "massive" store of Canadian geothermal documented in a government report. It's a timely companion piece to Bill Stafford's Crosscut essay on Iceland, the world leader in geothermal (it, along with hydro, powers the entire country).

"Tapping into hot rocks that are tantalizingly close to the surface in western and northern Canada could generate more electricity than the entire country now consumes and generate few greenhouse gas emissions," Munro writes. Because the earth's heat doesn't take weekends off, there's a consistency to geothermal, unlike solar or wind. Yes, it sounds too good to be true.  

In 1962 Richard Nixon, newly defeated in his campaign against Pat Brown for governor of California, announced, "You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference." If only it were so. Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Nixon-esque in his political baggage, would have been an inspired gift to Washington's press corps aching for non-milquetoast candidates. With Kucinich opting to stay in Ohio and not move to Washington to run for Congress, the state's political parties (or at least Republicans) are crestfallen.

The Everett Herald's Jerry Cornfield quotes a press release issued by Republican party chair Kirby Wilbur:"We were so looking forward to him coming here. His radical left-wing beliefs and general kookiness fit in so well with the mainstream of the Washington State Democratic Party, it would have been a match made in heaven and an easy Republican victory." A Democratic spokesperson responded in kind, "How amusing...that the Washington State Republicans pinned their electoral hopes and dreams on an Ohio congressman making the leap to the West Coast. If that was their campaign strategy, I think Democrats in Washington are going to have yet another banner year in 2012." 

Today is revenue-forecast day, and the Tacoma News Tribune's Peter Callaghan imparts some sage advice: The state should just lower our expectations. A lot. Callaghan's ideas for revenue-release language include the following: "a word on methodology. Using sophisticated and quite expensive computer models, loaded with all the economic numbers as well as historic data from past recessions, we were able to generate a report that simply said: ‘PANIC.'"


Link summary

The Bay Citizen, "BART's media manipulation strategy"

New York Times, "Downloads are slowest in Idaho, study finds"

The Vancouver Sun, "B.C., Canada sitting on massive store of geothermal energy: Report"

Everett Herald, "Republican leader hopes Kucinich changes mind, moves to Washington"

Tacoma News Tribune, "Let's try a little reverse psychology with the revenue forecast"


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About the Authors & Contributors

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson is the former editorial-page editor of the Everett Herald. Follow him on Twitter @phardinjackson