Fact-Checking the "PRT Boondoggle" Blog
A project of the PRT NewsCenter

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Glitch in the anti-PRT propaganda machine

Kiln Ovendoor said he was going to spend less time on the internet, but that doesn't mean he can't talk through others -- such as this new article in Thisweek Online out of Minnesota. Excerpt:

PRT critics argue the technology is unproven, expensive and systems that have been built or conceived have a history of failure.

Ken Avitar, a Minneapolis cartoonist and self-described transit advocate, calls PRT a boondoggle.

Avitar said he opposes the technology because the idea of it is a “silly pie in the sky thing” that distracts conversations about traditional transit systems.

He holds PRT responsible for holding up light rail proposed for Minnesota in 1973, when funding was given to study the concept [debunked here, --Ed.].

“We would have had a (rail) network a long time ago. Now everything is more expensive, Avitar said. “People blocked rail transit in the early ’70s and continue to do that now.”


Pretty sad when someone who repeats their own name so often still can't get it spelled right in print.

I guess this means the Anti-PRT Propaganda Machine is still unproven technology. It does fit his criteria: controversial and with a long history of failure!

Ken Avidor's talking points don't get better with age

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

End of an era for Personal Rapid Transit

I love that headline, because the Minnesota anti-PRT propagandist used it in 2006, on the occasion of a failed attempt by the ineffectual Rep. Slappy Olson to attach PRT to a bonding measure. A dramatic headline to be sure, but he forgot to indicate what era, exactly, had ended. It was just a chance for him to list a number of setbacks for PRT, and sneer 'losers' at its backers.

Now, however, "end of an era" could never be more appropos. For last Sunday our old Luddite friend announced, announced and announced that he was taking a break from all his worries. At Dump Mark Olson:

If Anyone is Still Reading....

In keeping with my New Years [sic] resolution not to spend a lot of time on the internet, I'm not going to blog here anymore.

The statistics don't justify me posting and nobody is paying me to flog a dead horse for the few readers who bother to read DMO.

I probably will add one more update when Rep. Mark Olson is officially dumped at the polls.

Until then, the blog will remain as a resource for opposition research.

At Dump Bachmann:
Hello I must be going...

I made a New Years [sic] resolution to spend a lot less time on the internet and get more artwork done.

What I found out is that it wasn't that easy to cut down. Somebody would send me something wacky about Bachmann and there I was composing, uploading... instead of drawing and inking.

I have to go cold turkey... so I've asked Eva to take away my ability to post on DB.

I began blogging at DB because the media was not reporting all the bizarre, wacky spectacle [sic] stuff Bachmann did and said.

The Dump Bachmann Team has done an amazing job of setting the record straight on Michele Bachmann and I'm satisfied that I have achieved the goals I had when I started blogging on DB way back.

The good news is that DB has excellent contributers [sic] from the 6th CD now. More good news is that there are two strong candidates in the DFL. Either Elwyn Tinklenberg or Bob Olson has a good chance of defeating Bachmann in November.

It's been interesting... but, I must be going....

[ellipses in original]

At Lloydletta:
Back to the Artwork...

...Eva has been gracious for letting me post non-Bachmann stuff on Lloydletta also.

Awww, cute. He's resigning to spend more time with his cartoon family.

But wait -- what's missing from Washingdor's Farewell Address(es)? That's right: he forgot to mention his vendetta against personal rapid transit!

That's really an amazing omission. What's it been -- five years? From his first anti-PRT cartoon, to the Light Rail Now disinformation paper Cyberspace Dream -- the Code of Hammurabi of anti-PRT propaganda -- to the Roblog skirmishes, his wholesale vandalism at Wikipedia, the time-wasting Wikipedia adjudications, the smears against PRT proponents, objective journalists and progressive officials, to the breathtakingly error-riddled and biased "reporting," the man has expended a massive amount of energy lobbying against innovation. Or amassed a huge store of bad karma.

Kenwood quitting blogging and not mentioning PRT is like winning an Oscar and forgetting to thank your spouse. I like this metaphor; I'll keep it.

You try to make up for it later at the post-ceremony confab, but the tabloids, Entertainment Tonight and People talk up the gaffe and, inevitably, it's Splitsville.

The problem is, the estranged spouse supported you for all those years before you became Big, and now this is how you say thanks?

Him being Big is the reason. He's Big because of PRT. All over the internet he's the PRT Skeptic! Perhaps the leading skeptic! An expert! In Minnesota politics he's the guy who only cares about how candidates stand on PRT!

I think I was right -- he sees the first PRTs are coming to England and Sweden, and he's nervous (Tick tock, 12/18). All his past claims -- especially PRT doesn't exist -- are about to become as obsolete as a rotary phone. Who can blame him for wanting to put some distance between himself and his anti-PRT past?

Yes: if he really means it, his exit is the end of an era indeed. PRT systems will launch; some will succeed, some will fail -- like all things man-made. Some PRT will achieve policy objectives, some won't. That's life.

PRT will also be discussed and debated. But one thing is virtually certain: it now has the chance to be discussed accurately, on its merits, rather than as a political bogeyman.

So now what? He's not the only one tired of battle; so am I. I for one would be curious what the ex-Propagandist thinks about other important issues of the day. Maybe someday we'll meet. We might talk about art, politics, or travel. What kind of light system does he have on his bicycle? What does he think makes a good cocktail?

I may buy his book.

Farewell, Ken Avidor, we hardly knew ye

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Just Perfect (Mock Journalist, Part IV)

The Minnesota anti-PRT propagandist's body of work finally bears some fruit. But as a debunking tool; probably not what he had in mind. Read on.

He's still doing his best (one assumes) to make video reports on the Uptake online channel. In the new one, he interviews Elwyn Tinklenberg (1/11/08), who is running as a Democrat for the Minnesota 6th congressional seat currently held by Smoochy Bachmann. I say "as a Democrat," because the last time he ran for Congress he was against gay marriage and pro-life.

And against gun control. Because what Democrats want is to go for a stroll in their quiet urban villages, armed. Wait-- not Democrats/urban village. Resmuglicans/Old West village.

It would be wrong to call this video an interview. It's more of a campaign ad -- Tinklenberg gives his stump speech, and when he pauses to take a breath Kenmore slips in a few words.

Kenwood loves ol' E.T. A little over two years ago, in the Seattle P-I Transit Forum, he sneered that I probably didn't like Tinklenberg because he supported the Twin Cities' Hiawatha light rail (see table). That was the time he wrote that a candidate gets his vote just by having a picture taken with a train.

Watching the interview, it appears Tinklenberg knows his questioner, criticizing Smoochy's support for PRT like he had spent the night before studying Labridor's webpage and blogs. I wouldn't be surprised if Tinklenberg exited the interview with his backside covered with Humidor's lipmarks.

It's interesting, though, because of this description in Tinklenberg's Wikipedia bio:

Elwyn Tinklenberg was the Minnesota state transportation commissioner under former Governor Jesse Ventura. In that role, Tinklenberg worked with Ventura to support aggressive construction of highways, particularly serving the northern suburbs of the Twin Cities, and a new light-rail system. Source

What??? The author of Roadkill Bill pitched softball questions to a member of the (aggressive) highway construction lobby? Worse still, suburban, sprawl-promoting highways! In Kenthorpe's universe, the highway lobby is supposed to be for PRT, surely that inconsistency alone must have counted for something.

What's more, in that same universe there's an interesting trail from Tinklenberg right to Bachmann. Turns out, Tinklenberg's transportation consulting firm is associated with SEH -- Short Elliott Hendrickson -- in an old controversy about no-bid contracts he obtained:
S.E.H. and the Tinklenberg Group will collaborate and put together a Public Involvement Plan whereby a newsletter or brochure will be sent to Albertville residents and specific business owners that would be assessed and affected by the proposed I-94 Project. In addition to the newsletter or brochure, the Albertville website can be used to convey project information. Several public information meetings will be held to inform the public. S.E.H and the Tinklenberg Group will put together a budget to accomplish this business. Source

Kenweed might love E.T., but he hates SEH. They were the engineering firm on the "35W Excess" project he opposed. They also used to be part of the group working with Taxi 2000 Corp. So, a connection from Tinklenberg, to SEH, to highways and PRT. You'd think that would set off alarm bells.

But there's more. Kenthorpe himself has done the work showing that Taxi 2000 uses a lobbyist named Edwin Cain, whose picture is on the wall of Bachmann's virtual office! Tinklenberg -> SEH -> Taxi 2000 -> Ed Cain -> Bachmann!

"Maybe he didn't know about Tinklenberg and SEH."

Yeah, I considered that. Except that he covered it himself in 2006.

And yet not one peep about it in the Uptake video. What could possibly cause him to ignore his own blogging on these issues?

What's so funny 'bout peace, love and Ken Avidor?

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Mopping up - Mock Journalist, Part III(a)

Is blogging 'journalism'?

It can be. For instance, Talking Points Memo (and it's spin-off, TPM Muckraker) is an example of a blog that started out with dedication, professionalism and connections, and built a reputation as a trustworthy source of news and analysis. I also like Juan Cole, Daily Kos and some of the Huffington Post-ers. When I want a laugh I visit Borowitz, Bad Reporter and Defamer. When I'm feeling especially angry at the christo-fascist zombie brigade, Wade Madsen is there to connect the dots.

But if you survey the spectrum of blogs, there is an inescapable conclusion. Like all things, blogging reflects the motives and capabilities of the blogger.

In short, we can conclude that blogging is journalism if that is what the blogger is practicing.

I don't mean credentialism. I believe citizens can be journalists -- if only for the practical reason that we can't all go to journalism school; we can't all be Rachel Maddow. Journalism depends on whether a person asks questions, anticipates questions readers might ask, and doesn't stop questioning until getting the full story. Or as full as can be expected. At a minimum, does the person ask the classic reporter's questions: Who, What, When, Where, and Why, and sometimes, How?

The recent events reported in Mock Journalist, Part III (1/2) are a case in point. Take a moment to catch up on it; be sure to read the Minnesota anti-PRT propagandist's post that started it all.

Ready? We'll continue.

1. Kenwood the propagandist's entire post is dedicated to hammering on the point,

Ray Cox Claims there is a PRT Facility in Duluth.. [sic] and There is None...
How about a politician who claiims [sic] there is a quarter-mile demonstration PRT system up in Duluth?

He copies two old statements to establish that Cox has favored Personal Rapid Transit, then part of a Nov. 13, 2007, email from Cox confirming his support continues. Thus, we know Kenmore asked questions directly of the subject, maybe the most important aspect of journalism.

2. Next comes the video with Cox's Dec. 20 statement about there being a PRT facility in Duluth. At this point the propagandist stops being a journalist, because he apparently stops asking questions -- even though the statement about Duluth ought to give rise to a whole other line of such questions (e.g., Huh? There's PRT in Duluth? Since when? Etc., etc.).

3. Instead, what Kenmore does next is give Cox a seat in The Pod Squad, on Dec. 24. That's four whole days in which those additional questions could have been asked.

Then, he writes an anti-Cox letter to the editor ("LTE") of the Northfield News! I won't link to it (since he does), but I will emphasize this sentence from it:
Cox also says there is a 1/4 mile Personal Rapid Transit demonstration project in Duluth. That is not true.

The letter ran Dec. 26, six whole days after the video was taken.

Then came Ovendoor's blog post, datestamped Jan. 1. Happy New Year! Eleven days have now elapsed since the Duluth video.

4. The next day is Jan. 2, and I am now on the story. By 2:00 in the afternoon, Pacific Standard Time, I have asked the obvious followup questions of Cox, and received his answer that he had simply been mistaken about Duluth. It took all of three hours, not days.

What I wrote then still holds up: if Avisnore had asked Cox the obvious followup questions the full story would have come out, turning the video scoop into a non-issue.

Of course, getting a scoop and stirring up an issue, the PRT issue, is Humidor's whole purpose. That is why as soon as he thought he had his 'gotcha' story, he stopped being a journalist, stopped asking questions, and went on the attack online and with the LTE. And he can't even use the old newspaper excuse of being on deadline. There are no deadlines in blogging.

Except in this case, there was a sort of deadline: the Jan. 2 special election for the Minnesota state senate, between Cox and Kevin Dahle. Lumpidor likely needed to get the Duluth-PRT story out ASAP so it could simmer and do (he hoped) the most to help Dahle. Except that we showed that no one cared. Still don't.

The aftermath has brought a defense of Floppidor by Eva Young. I suppose we can refer to her as Mr. Floppy's publisher, since it's her "Lloydletta's Nooz" [sic] and "Dump Bachmann" that host so much of his propaganda. This nugget from Eva is worth thinking about:
Ken's post was accurate. He had no obligation to contact Cox to verify what he said, since it was on tape. Cox said, what he said - and after I listened to the video, and read Avidor's post, I googled for information about the Duluth area PRT test track and could only find a Mark Olson press release promoting it. Source

Oh, but I think there is an obligation, a personal one, on any blogger who aspires to inform a lot of people. At the very minimum, there is an obligation to at least get the full story. And beyond that, to be regarded as trustworthy and responsible. And beyond that, to be worthy of the constitution's protection of the press, should it ever come to that.

Kenthorpe once indicated that he might have aspired to standards of some sort:
One problem overlooked in all the hoopla about citizen journalism... [ellipsis in original] what rights do citizen journalists have? How is working for free, not having your article fact-checked and edited, not being protected from angry readers, not being represented by a union and having no control over your work more desirable than being a paid, professional journalist? Source

Except that he seems to have mistaken those hardships for directives, not challenges.

Of course, at Lloydletta they give you a big whopping signal that they're not reporting news. No, what they're serving up is "Nooz."

When I want "news," I surf over to something like McClatchy.

Good night and good luck, Ken Avidor

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Dump Mark Olson Blog - Now Bogus on Two Continents®, II

What the Minnesota anti-PRT propagandist is blaming on PRT today:

Daventry's PRT Promoters Want to Pave a Public Swimming Pool for a Parking Lot

Daventry Today:

THERE will be no replacement outdoor pool, no refund to the townspeople who paid for it, and the former site is likely to be built on...
. . .
In the past DDC has said it planned to expand the existing Chaucer Way car park over the old Outdoor Pool site to create an additional 240 spaces as a temporary measure while other car parks in the town are redeveloped.

In the longer term DDC’s own masterplan for the town’s growth indicates the outdoor pool land would be used for retail units, associated parking, and part of the marina project.

... but ... but ... I thought the podcars that the DDC proposed last year were supposed to make cars and parking lots obsolete?

. . .

Yet another example of the Personal Rapid Transit public relations gimmick used to mask the true intentions of people who want to privatize, build on and pave over everything.[*]


Man! Is there no aspect of community affairs in central England that PRT does not touch?

The pool:

He wants you to assume the PRTistas are taking away the town's only swimming pool -- except that Daventry has what sounds like a very nice pool at the ‘leisure centre,’ as they call them, in the center of town. It sounds like the Pool Association loves the outdoor pool too, and wants it replaced. That would be fine. Whether it happens is a local political matter.

The parking:

Did anyone claim podcars will "make cars and parking lots obsolete" in Daventry? Them's some fancy words to be putting in people's mouths. In fact, the very article he links states:
It is hoped the scheme will ease congestion and save parking spaces with the town’s population set to increases [sic] to 40,000 by 2021. Source

Nothing about eliminating cars or the need for parking. Labridor doesn't even read the material he uses to substantiate his allegations.

A new challenge for Humidor: explain the various publicly subsidized, public-private, and fully privatized redevelopment projects in the vicinities of light rail stations -- encouraged for the purpose of achieving necessary density, but also resulting in gentrification and displacement of original residents and businesses.

* i.e., he's saying it's a conspiracy. Because if PRT has a secret agenda, the anti-PRT propagandist gets to define it however he wants.

Gonna greenwash that Ken Avidor right out of my hair

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The twin threats of citizen activism and academic freedom

What do you call it when a group of citizens identifies a local problem, selects a possible solution for addressing the problem, creates a program for implementing the solution, and takes that program public for all to see? If you answered "grassroots activism," the Minnesota anti-PRT propagandist begs to differ:

Ithaca's PRT Promoters Know Better Than You

...I am in favor of full and meaningful citizen participation in decisions that effect the neighborhoods they live in...

Meaningful citizen participation requires that citizens be given the power to make decisions based on the best available information.

The PRT promoters of Ithaca seem to have another idea... [ellipsis in original] no meaningful citizen participation.

Apparently, if a person from Ithaca supports PRT, in the eyes of Kiln Ovendoor they are no longer a citizen.

Nope, he calls them "‘green’ tyrants" who are going to "force [PRT] on Ithaca." On what does he base this allegation? This passage from a blog:

THE GOVERNMENT: Top down approach. This is how any really major change has ever happened in the world of environmentalism. Without governmental guidance or support very little will get done in a short period of time.

Let's look at the "blog" where this passage originated. Kenwood calls it Green Cities blog, but closer inspection reveals there is more to the story: it's part of a class at Cornell. The description at the top of the page reads:
"This highly participatory course will engage students in the possibilities and challenges of re-creating our cities as sustainable communities that enhance rather than deplete our planet and that provide a high quality of life for all their residents."
There are even links to a syllabus and class Powerpoints. It met twice a week in Snee Hall.

The class is about "green urbanism," and the passage about "The Government" is from a section where the writer discusses ten ways to achieve progress on a broad range of issues -- not only PRT.
Heaven forbid there should be any government leadership on the environment (does Labridor think Al Gore is a wacko?).

Children are our future, but I guess exploring, thinking college students (and the Academic Freedom that encourages them) are a lurking threat -- at least to the Propagandist.

Mitt Romney saw his father march with Ken Avidor

Mock Journalist, Part III

Kenweed the Minnesota anti-PRT propagandist proudly exposed state senate candidate Ray Cox as a PRT supporter:

I emailed Ray Cox recently if he still supports PRT and he replied November 13th:
I have continued to like the concept of PRT for a number of reasons. I think the ability for the car modules to go off line to the stops, keeping the line service flowing, is a great feature. I also like the concept of elevating it so ground space is only taken up by the support standards. Let me know if you have specific questions.

-Ray Cox
Kind of hard to expose someone if they have freely volunteered it for years. But still -- good on ya, Kenmore, for actually accepting email from a "PRT fanatic."

But then Kenthorpe posts a December 20 video of Cox saying there is a quarter-mile PRT system in Duluth:

This is surprising, because most PRT innovators know there were plans for a Duluth system -- which had support of the mayor, council and business community -- but plans never proceeded due to lack of funding.

So why would Cox purposely say this? I mean, it's a political campaign; people (and propagandists) are watching. Turns out the explanation is simple: Cox misspoke. To directly quote Cox,
"I misspoke. It was my understanding that work moved forward on this after I left the legislature, but it appears that is not the case."

How do I know this? Just like the case when Lumpidor alleged problems with the Heathrow PRT project, I bother to ask questions. Unafraid of GOP cooties, I sent Cox a message through his campaign website, and received his response only a few hours later.

Why didn't Labridor seek a comment from Cox? He could fall back on his experience as the Transportation Editor of the Twin Cities Daily Planet, and just ask. He wrote Cox on November 13 and got an answer -- why not get a comment about December 20? But asking would have brought out the full story, turning Avisnore's video scoop into a non-issue.

One supposes he is loathe to employ journalistic standards because, when one makes a mistake it calls for a
retraction or a correction. Retractions and corrections get in the way when producing propaganda.

Update (1/4)-- Dahle defeats Cox, and Floppidor reports it as "PRT Supporters Lose Special Election in Minnesota." That would mean something, if PRT had been an issue to anyone besides Floppy.

Ring out the Ken Avidor, ring in 2008