Good News / Bad News

Apparently it’s a Good News/Bad News sort of day.

First up, the Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee has released a draft of their report on the Bay Bridge’s 2,200 bolts.

  • Good News: The report concludes that the bolts can “safely remain in service”.
  • Bad News: Caltrans’ credibility is so badly damaged that Jaxon’s article in today’s Chron gives almost as much space to a dissenting opinion. That opinion, provided by Yun Chung, a retired Bechtel engineer, takes issue with the design and extent of the tests Caltrans conducted.
  • Good News: At least Caltrans has documented the tests. That’s a major step forward from their previous practices on the Bay Bridge eastern span.
  • Bad News: The release of the draft report comes just a few days after the minimal “management shakeup” that’s been widely panned. Regardless of the Committee’s intent in releasing the report, it comes across as an attempt to distract the public’s attention from Caltrans’ failings throughout the bridge’s construction.

Next, we need to turn our attention the other end of the Bay Bridge.

  • Good News: The popular “Bay Lights” display on the western span will not end in March. Thanks to a $2 million dollar matching donation, the $4 million cost of making the installation permanent has been raised.
  • Bad News: That $4 million doesn’t include anything to cover the maintenance and power costs of the lights, estimated at $250,000. That money will be coming from bridge tolls. The same tolls that are pledged to cover maintenance of the entire bridge, including, one presumes, the “continued inspection and maintenance” of those 2,200 bolts. How long will it take for Caltrans to propose another increase in tolls to maintain “Bay Lights”?

There’s more news on the international scene.

  • Good News: President Obama is taking steps to normalize relations with Cuba. I’m too young to remember the Cuban Missle Crisis and the other Cold War era events that led to the U.S. policy of pretending Cuba didn’t exist. Maybe if I did remember those years, I’d understand how a unilateral embargo–ignored by the rest of the world–coupled with an ongoing series of incompetent attempts to foment a public uprising against Castro could possibly weaken Cuba’s ties to the Soviet Union and improve conditions for its citizens.
  • Bad News: There’s no way Obama is going to get a Republican-controlled Congress to support the plan. It’ll be spun as Obama being soft on Communism and illegal immigration. Given the Right’s ongoing attempts to demonize Obama, it’s only a matter of time before somebody starts explaining in all seriousness how normalization of relations with Cuba is part of a plot to turn Americans over to alien mind-controlling lizards.

Still on the international front,

  • Bad News: Sony and theater chains have decided to shelve “The Interview”. Nobody has presented any evidence that North Korea is behind the Sony hacks, nor is there any credible evidence that the hackers could carry out their threats to bomb theaters. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Sony and the theater owners have acceded to a terrorist demand despite the total lack of proof that the terrorists could actually carry out their threat. Now that the precedent has been set, look for a string of unsubstantiated bomb threats leading to the cancellation of any film project that could possibly be considered controversial.
  • Good News: By shelving “The Interview,” Sony has spared us the prospect of TSA-style security screenings at movie theaters. At least for now we’ll be spared the need to take off our shoes and wade through spilled soda and popcorn on our way through the X-ray machines.

Happy Turkey Day!

In keeping with a national tradition going back to–depending on what legend you care to believe–1989, 1963, 1947, or 1865, President Obama has pardoned a turkey. Or maybe two. The official pardon was given to a nearly fifty pound bird by the name of “Cheese”. However, it appears that his “alternate,” a bird named “Mac” has also been pardoned.

Clearly, this is some strange new use of the word “alternate” I haven’t previously encountered. I would have expected it to refer to the bird that would take Cheese’s place on somebody’s dinner table.

Obama is puzzled by the concept of pardoning a turkey. Back in 2009, the first time he perpetuated the tradition, he said “There are certain days when I remember why I ran for this office. And then there are moments like this.” He still hasn’t figured it out; saying yesterday “It’s a little puzzling that I do this every year.”

As Gawker reported, the first and second teenagers participated in a tradition that goes back to the first time a parent said anything in public. Sasha and Malia clearly felt they had far better things to do with their Wednesday than hang out with a turkey. Even if said turkey is president of the United States and their father.

Seriously, though, I do President Obama an injustice. He may not know why he’s pardoning a turkey, and his daughters may not respect him for being a tool of the Poultry and Egg Board, but at least he’s clear on the concepts of “turkey” and “pardon”.

Unlike President Obama, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray missed those lessons. Last week, he issue a mayoral pardon to a Tofurky. Yes, you read that correctly. He “pardoned” a box of soybeans. It was one of the shortest reprieves on record: the AP reports that after the ceremony, the relieved hunk of plant life was sent to the Rainier Valley Food Bank.

Mac and Cheese will live out a full turkey lifespan, but poor Tom Tofurky isn’t even going to make it to his “Best Before” date.

Meanwhile, our turkey–not one of the local wild birds–is in the oven. No pardons here, though we did make a donation to the needy: the turkey’s liver has been distributed to the Backyard Bunch.

Whether you’re eating turkey today or not, happy Turkey Day to you all.