Thursday, February 25, 2010

You know those illegal interrogation techniques?

It looks like Congress is finally getting around to banning them. Today, under the shadow of the Barack Obama Healthslam Invitational, the Democrats stuck some provisions into the intel bill to forbid the CIA from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

What does that mean? Well, it includes, but is not limited to the following:

Forcing the individual to be naked, perform sex acts, or pose in a sexual manner.

Tough to disagree with this one.

Beatings, electric shock, burns or other forms of inflicting physical pain.

Ergonomically correct chairs and yoga instructors will be required. Do you think I'm joking? I am not joking.

Waterboarding

Why do you have to ban something that was already illegal? I mean, why waste the ink? Also, why are they only banning this now? They could have tacked on an anti-waterboarding provision to the stimulus package and gotten it passed.

Using military working dogs

What the hell is the point of having dogs if you can't use them? Pets? Does any normal person sincerely care if dogs are part of the interrogation process? Anyone at all?

Inducing hypothermia or heat injury

I like how the verbiage casually tosses in "dog use" amongst the burning and raping.

Depriving the individual of necessary food, water, sleep or medical care.

Memory foam pillows in every cell!

Conducting mock executions of the individual

Because tricking a suicide bomber into thinking he's going to die is just wrong.

Using force, or threat of force to compel an individual to maintain a stress position.

On second thought, cancel the yoga instructor.

Exploiting phobias of an individual

All interrogation rooms must be spider free. But what if they have agoraphobia? Is there going to be a demand for free range detainees?

Using force or the threat of force to coerce an individual to desecrate the individual's religious articles, or to blaspheme his or her religious beliefs, or to otherwise engage in acts intended to violate the individual's religious beliefs.

Um, their religious belief is that if they blow people up, they get a magic warp whistle to the Champagne Room in Islamoheaven. Our whole mission is to violate their stupid religious beliefs.

Making threats against any individual that, if carried out, would result in death or serious bodily injury to that individual.

And the award for most awkwardly worded provision goes to...

Exposure to excessive cold, heat, or cramped confinement.

You hear that, Motel 6? You're not even good enough for terrorists!

Sensory deprevation or overload, including the following:

I. Prolonged Isolation

I'm sure this nebulously defined term will never be used for politically motivated prosecutions in the future.

II. Placing hoods or sacks over the heads of the individual

What about bags? Or funny hats? Is it torture if we issue them a Lions Cap?

III. Applying duct tape over the eyes of the individual

At this point, their just going through the handbooks of college fraternities. They should also ban chugging, though I suppose that goes with the religious thing.

This is great, I'm glad that congress took the time to do this. I was always worried that our CIA interrogators were engaging in behaviors including, but not limited to, dog use. We can all rest a little easier knowing that, if we are ever caught trying to murder Americans en masse, we will never have to suffer the indignity of being inconvenienced.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A post-mortem account

Me: (Having died in some damn car crash) Wow. So we really do wear robes.

Michael Jackson: Like 'em? I designed them myself.

Me: Michael Jackson? I was expecting God.

Michael Jackson: People have really high expectations of me.

Me: No. But seriously.

Michael Jackson: Here, take this scarf.

Me: Scarf? I....

Michael Jackson: Watch me twirl and disappear! (He does son)

Me: Well. Scarf's better than hell. Hey look, I have swords for hands.

Walter Matthau: (Drinking a Miller High Life) Now yer talkin'.

Me: You livin' the High Life, Walt?

Walter Matthau: Yes I am.

Me: Summmbitch... Summmbitch...

(Michael Jackson re-appears, wearing a fedora and ice skates.)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Top Ten Fridays - Eat These While You Can

Originally, this was going serve as my annual list of dishes to impress your big city friends. In light of the yesterday's depressing events, this is now a list of Twin Cities eats you must try before they are gone. Without any further adieu, and in honor of Shefzilla and the staff of Heidi's and Blackbird, my list:

Pho - Quang: Minnesota doesn't have a cuisine to speak of, but we have instead adopted Vietnamese. Quang is the place that does it best, particularly as it relates to the famed Vietnamese noodle soup.

Fish Tacos - La Sirena Gorda: Midtown Global Market is a rare gem, and you can't go wrong with any number of selections (it's impossible not to mention Los Ocampo here, so I just did). But the fish tacos at La Sirena Gorda are the best I have had. Normally a dish that over-relies on deep frying or (blech) charring, this version is rich and powerful by way of actual cooking.

Pastrami Sandwich - Be'Wiched: I've gone on and on about Be'Wiched, and I'm not going to stop. The North Loop staple is producing the best sandwiches in the cities. If you haven't had a real pastrami sandwich, you really should, and you should get it at Be'Wiched.

Sai-Oua E-sane (the sausage appetizer) - Lemongrass Thai: For my money, the best item on the best Thai menu in town. Worth a trip up north in and of itself, and the rest of the food does not disappoint.

Dessert - Heartland Restaurant: The menu changes daily, based on what the chef is able to order in fresh, so there isn't any one go to dish (except for all of them). One thing is for sure, you have to stay for some of the most cutting edge desserts you will find anywhere.

Grass Fed Ribeye - The Strip Club: It's hard to get a quality steak for under $30. Fortunately, TSC delivers with one of the best steaks in town for only $26. The key is that the place knows how to prepare grass fed meat (it should be cooked much rarer, so if you don't like pink, stick with lima beans, woman) and knows how to pair it with a simple vegetable. Of course, if you go, you'll want to try the Devil's Eggs as well. They're a hoot.

Gnocchi - 112/Bar La Grassa: Whichever of chef Isaac Becker's locations you prefer, the gnocchi is an unqualified hit. Gnocchi is a notoriously tough pasta to cook, and often comes out rubber, flaccid, or bland. Becker shows you what a great chef can do with a difficult starch.

Noodles - Tanpopo Noodle Shop: The broth is a special kind of savory, the noodles are perfectly done, and your chosen adornments will be well balanced. This restaurant is proof that a simple, elegant menu with affordable prices can result in an outstanding dining experience.

Yellow Dal Soup - Gandhi Mahal: Best $2 you will ever spend.

The Perfect Burger - Victory 44: The place is moving in a more progressive culinary direction, but the outstanding burger remains. It is one of the many dishes worth the trip to NoMi. Victory 44 is a gem.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesday Musings

Yeah, I'm one day late. But what do expect in this economy? Let's muse.

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Every time I turn on NBC's Olympic coverage, I get pairs figure skating. How many pairs figure skating events are there? How can that number possibly be higher than "one"?

One thing I find amusing is the costume dichotomy. Half the dudes dress like David Bowie in Labyrinth, while the other half look like assistant managers at Applebees. Maybe they're working the fry stand after they get done pretending to die on ice.

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I'd show you a picture, but NBC, in its infinite wisdom, is clamping down on social media coverage of the events. They are going after YouTube, and make it impossible to re-blog any of their photos. Good idea. No sense promoting the event to which you are dedicating 17 days of coverage.

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One my qualms with the hardline greeno movement is their willingness to attribute any and all weather phenomena to global warming. If it's hot, that's because of global warming. Hurricane's got you down? Blame global warming. Drought? Global warming. Floods? Global warming. Earthquakes? Global warming, of course.

Huge snowstorms across the nation? You guessed it. Global warming, or so says spirtual enviro-guru Bill McKibben. He writes:

But rising temperature is only one effect of climate change. Probably more crucially, warmer air holds more water vapor than cold air does.
And so on and so forth. Never mind that it still has to be cold in order to snow, like, by definition. The myriad weather phenomena on the east coast argue neither for nor against global warming. Conservatives are vilified if they ever suggest anything to the contrary.

But when a greeno makes the argument that global warming causes snowstorms (floods, hurricanes et al...), it sticks? Why is this? The power of paradox.

Most people believe that hot tap water freezes faster than cold tap water (it doesn't). Most people remember when they learned this "fact". How has such a counterintuitive myth become part of our collective knowledge base? Because it is counterintuitive. The person dispensing the information is risking his credibility. In short, it's not the sort of thing anyone would lie about.

Same goes for arguing that global warming causes cold-weather phenomena. McKibben's argument about precipitation is very weak (in two years, he'll be talking droughts; I guarantee it), so he wedges it between banal anecdotes about winter sports and attacks on political conservatives.

And the non-thinking dolts who still read the Washington Post will nod in agreement and tell all their friends that global warming is causing snow storms.

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The left is falling over itself to pretend that Senator Evan Bayh's retirement is a wash for the Democrats. Nate Silver puts that noise to bed with this thoughtful analysis, putting Evan Bayh squarely in the middle in terms of value to the Democratic party. The gist: A moderate from a red state is at least as valuable as a liberal from a blue state. Indiana will now almost certainly send a conservative to DC.

Beyond his voting record, Bayh was a popular, moderate face for the party. He helped orchestrate the 2006 takeover for the Dems, and very nearly earned the Vice Presidential nomination. Ironically, while I don't buy the spin that Bayh is simply getting revenge on Obama, Biden's selection almost certainly had to do with the relative safety of his Senate seat. Now, both seats represent likely takeovers.

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I think Black Sheep pizza might become our Valentine's day tradition. No overpriced prix fixe menus from chefs cooking out of their element. No cramped quarters (at least no more than usual), and no brusque service. Oh, and the pizza is good, of course.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Get Ready To Be Hungry

As a white male blogger, I love sushi. I like the taste of it, the purity of it, the culture behind it. Warehouse type spaces with track lighting and earth tones evoke a sort of Pavlovian response. I'm no good at art galleries.

Nothing excites me more than bellying up to the sushi bar for a nice plate of...


This is real people. It's maker, Giapponese Sushi of Woodbury (snicker) claims this is Mango chicken. Credit the restaurant for a (presumably) honest representation of the dish, but why would you want what is pictured inside of you. At best, it looks like soggy chili fries.

According to the website, diners may also opt for grilled Hawaiian Walu. What's that?

***SPOILER ALERT***

Hawaiian Walu is a branding mutation of escolar. Escolar is notable for it's creamy texture, courtesy of an undigestable wax. Sound delicious? Consider the means by which an unidgestable wax might exit the body. None of them are fun, I assure you.

So why this aquamarine enema to customers? Because it tastes decadent (a sushi joint's gotta compete with Red Lobster's grease-fests somehow, I suppose), and because it's relatively cheap. Some sushi places offer it (though not, for example, Origami) because customers want it, but clearly label the fish for what it is.

So yeah, when Giapponese Sushi boasts that it offers "Kobe Beef Ribeye" (for $40, half the price of the cut itself), I wouldn't just take their word for it.

Worth the trip to Woodbury? You be the judge.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Monday Musings

Peyton Manning Failure! The narratives have been advanced! Let's muse...

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I can't muster the energy to assign 'C's and 'D's to the Superbowl ads, so I won't.

I would assign a 'D' to the trifling Tebow ad, which is an unbearably folksy treatment of an important issue, but for the absurdity of the responses to the ads. The National Organization for Women has accused Focus on the Family of supporting violence against women: Quoth NOW President Terry O'Neill:

"I am blown away at the celebration of the violence against women in it," she said. "That's what comes across to me even more strongly than the anti-abortion message. I myself am a survivor of domestic violence, and I don't find it charming. I think CBS should be ashamed of itself."

Sometimes, if you want to be taken seriously, you should be so serious, especially at the service of an utterly disingenuous argument. Going out of your way to appear a scold isn't going to win anyone to your cause.

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Okay, I'm on the topic. The Green Police ad didn't make any sense. If the Green Police are going to create a totalitarian state, you're better off buying a Hummer so you can them over.

Who was this targeting? If I hate the Green Police, I don't want to appease them. If I like the Green Police, then I am offended for obvious reasons. If the message is that you don't have to be a greeno screwball to make the world cleaner, then, you know, say that.

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Is the AARP going to get offended because Betty White got taken down in a Snickers ad?

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American auto manufacturers are exploiting the Toyota recall. This is an understandable impulse, and Toyota has certainly handled this badly, but the logic is absurd. It's like a overweight middle-aged lady in an oversized Garfield t-shirt pointing to Peyton Manning's Superbowl loss as proof that she is the superior athlete.

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Speaking of the Superbowl, a message to Busters on 28th: If you are going to give the staff the day off, put something up on your website. One of my major pet peeves is restaurants that randomly decided to be closed without telling anyone.

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Speaking of things you can choose to take overly seriously, if you are a scold... The wife and I went to The Strip Club in St. Paul. The food there is excellent, and I am fast becoming a fan of grass fed beef. For $26, you can't get a better steak in this town.

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Friday, February 05, 2010

Top Ten Fridays: Decade's Oscar Snubs

While we're on the topic of what's wrong with the Oscars, I thought it would be worth taking some time to note where Oscar got things most egregiously wrong. In my opinion, and with all due respect to Bill Murray, the only real snub is failing to garner a nomination.

You miss out on the big dance. No glamour. No after-parties with hors d'oeuvres provided by Wolfgang Puck. No chance to caress George Clooney's man-stubble. So yeah, here's my picks, in list form.

10. Wall-E (Best Picture) - If the expansion to ten best picture nominations accomplishes anything, hopefully it will be to end the prejudice against animated films. Pixar has, flatly, put out the best work of any studio over the last ten years. Wall-E, arguably the greatest animated film ever made, lost out to a host of mediocrities, proof that animation will never get the respect it deserves.

9. King of Kong: Fistful of Quarters (Best Documentary) - The lamentable exclusion of masterpieces like Hoop Dreams led to a reform in the way Documentary nominees are selected. While films like Born Into Brothels and Man On Wire benefited from these reforms, the Oscars continue to ignore populist fare, even when it is brilliant and inspired.

8. Jim Carrey (Best Actor) - I can understand the snub for The Truman Show. Peter Weir has established an excellent track record when it comes to getting something more out of comedians, and Carrey's role kind of acted itself. But his performance in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind absolutely deserved a nomination. Most male leads simply can't compete with Kate Winslet's enormous talent (think Leonardo DiCaprio, whose career she almost accidentally ruined), but Carrey was with her step for step. Did any piece of his performance feel contrived or inauthentic? No, and that is the hallmark of a great performance.

7. Kill Bill Vols. 1 & 2 (Shutout) - These films arrived at a time when Tarantino was experiencing quite a bit of backlash. Films with political statements were en vogue, and Tarantino's movies are about, well, other films. How else to explain shutouts, not only in the major categories, but screenplay, editing, art direction, and cinematography? Which movie's visuals are more memorable, Kill Bill's or Girl With a Pearl Earring? For crying out loud.

6. United 93 (Best Picture) - While Paul Greengrass was the beneficiary of the annual "we can't just nominate the same movies for director and picture" nod, United 93 was shutout in favor of Babel and Little Miss Sunshine. The movie clearly got the shaft because of its political content, or rather, lack thereof. If Greengrass had interspersed the action with scenes of George W. Bush at Booker Elementary school, United 93 would have swept the ceremonies.

5. Mark Ruffalo (Best Actor, You Can Count on Me) - It's not as though the Academy overlooked this movie (it received nominations for actress and screenplay), so why overlook Ruffalo's yin to Linney's yang? His performance ushered in a decade of outstanding naturalistic performances by young actors, many of which have earned nominations (Gosling's turn in Half Nelson, for example) themselves.

4. Royal Tenenbaums (Art Direction) - You could make the case that great art direction does not call attention to itself, and Wes Anderson's films are therefore two self-conscious to merit consideration. But, then, you'd expect the category to play host to a variety of subtle films with an underlying beauty that... Well, whatever it is, I'm pretty sure the Harry Potter movies don't have it.

3. Carter Burwell (Best Score) - You'd think he'd at least get a make up call for his Fargo snub, but one of the great film score composers has yet to receive even a nomination for his work. Burwell approaches his work from a very tactical standpoint. As such, he does not have the definitive style of uber-composers like Philip Glass or Thomas Newman. His are not the sort of scores you buy as albums, but rather the ones that make movies better. Which is the point, no?

2. Let The Right One In (Best Foreign Film) - This was beyond stupid. The film would have been a no-brainer, but for the process which requires countries to settle on one work for nomination. The Swedes, in their infinite wisdom, chose a different film, thereby screwing themselves out of a guaranteed nomination (and likely win).

1. Paul Giamatti (Best Actor) - Giamatti was snubbed for his role in American Splendor. Fair enough, it was an under the radar flick that was grim and angry to boot. Besides, his performance in Sideways was an easy make-up call. Until it wasn't. His bizarre exclusion ranks as one of the Academy's greatest slights, and makes you wonder if he's a closet Republican or something.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

What happened to the Oscars?

Usually, the release of the Oscar nominations, various countdowns to the Oscars, and the Oscars themselves constitute the height of the pop culture calendar. Cinephiles lament the paucity of independent nominees, while movie-goers cheer on their favorite blockbuster. All the famous people dress pretty for us, and we all band together to watch them.

Recently, though, it seems that nobody cares. Normally, I'd at least get an e-mail or two asking what I think about the nominees. I was almost certain I'd read a Facebook status update along the lines of "Go Avatar!" or "Coen Brothers got screwed!" or something. Not a peep.

So what gives? I've got theories. Here they are.

Years of Best Picture Irrelevance

The best picture category is the centerpiece of the whole ceremony. It used to be that Best Picture nominees would drive viewership, start discussion, and generate audiences for less-heralded gems. Movies like The Shawshank Redemption might have been relegated to the dustbin of history, were it not for Oscar acclaim.

In the early 1990s, apparently tired of nominating duds like the Godfather III and Dead Poet's Society, the Oscar voters discovered independent cinema, nominating films like The Crying Game alongside blockbusters like A Few Good Men. The films nominated for best picture from 1992-1999 represent some of the best work Oscar has ever honored.

Unfortunately, studios figured out how to game the system. Major, star-driven releases were given the indie treatment, releasing in December only to find wider distribution in January or February. Voters seem to have taken the bait, nominating preening crap like The Reader, Chocolat, and Babel.

These films may have made their margins, but they punished viewers who were naive enough to think the category was some indicator of quality. The occasional Juno or Slumdog Millionaire is not enough to maintain the Oscar's credibility.

In response, the academy decided to expand the field to ten nominees, in a pandering attempt to generate excitement. Unfortunately, while this tactic enabled Pixar to finally get an absurdly overdue nomination, it watered down the field to the point where The Blindside scored a nomination. Americans like events that are meritocratic, not egalitarian.

Obsession With Length

The Oscars are notoriously long, and the length is a frequent source of complaint among viewers. But the problem is better than the solutions. Cutting off actors mid-speech makes me uncomfortable. Having the host disappear for the final two hours disrupts continuity. Cutting out certain portions of the show guarantees you are taking away someone's only reason to watch.

In truth, the length of the show is fodder for jokes, but does nothing to keep viewers from returning. A neurotically paced show (like last year) zaps the fun out of it. I want to watch an writer whose work I respect get his moment in the sun. I want to watch singers perform the nominated songs.

Paris Hilton

Well, not her specifically, but the new era of celebrity culture for which she is the primary spokesperson. Celebrity has gone from being a fascinating phenomenon, with elusive actors appearing only briefly outside of their fictional roles, to a manufactured process.

It used to be that the Oscars were your only chance to see some of these famous people. Now, they are everywhere. We know what they wear to the beach, what diapers they buy for their kids, and from which African nation they prefer to adopt. The minutiae has eliminated the mystery, and taken some of the sizzle away from the Oscars.

Missed Opportunities in Minor Categories

It's tough to argue that people should sit through an awards show when they have no reason to care about more than half of the categories. In this respect, the academy has failed not only its telecast, but cinema itself.

Hoop Dreams is arguably the best documentary ever made, but was not nominated in its category. Let The Right One In apparently wasn't even the best Swedish film, and so failed to garner a nomination.

Meanwhile, the academy reflexively nominates holocaust porn in the short topic categories, period pieces for costume and set design, epics for art direction, score and cinematography, and (tellingly) special-effects extravaganzas for best makeup. Why should a viewer be interested in categories that seem only to double-down on other categories that are more relevant to them.

Bad Hosts

The Letterman fiasco was understandable, but has Whoopi Goldberg been invited back four times? Ellen Degeneres and Hugh Jackman were unmemorable. Billy Crystal, great as he was in the 1990s, overstayed his welcome. And as much as I'm interested in the Baldwin/Martin combo, how perfect would it be if Conan O'Brien were hosting this year?

No Love For Comedy

There are a lot of bad comedies, and the persistent release of fart movies, action stars in tutus, and SNL vehicles does nothing to legitamize the genre. All the more reason, then, to find room for films like Groundhog Day, Planes Trains and Automobiles, and (more recently) Knocked Up and The Hangover. The Hangover is far better than any of the films nominated last year.

The comedies that are recognized tend to be overrated art pieces (Shakespeare in Love). Making intelligent people laugh is difficult, and those films (and actors) that do so should be recognized above mediocre dramas.

Sean Penn

Enough of him already.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Light Rail Musings

For my non-local readers, this is a response to Johnny Northside's post on the debate over the possibility of light rail in North Minneapolis. As a NoMi resident, I felt inclined to offer my fifteen or so cents.

First of all, I should say that I generally oppose the expansion of light rail throughout the Twin Cities. It remains an expensive boondoggle, even if federal matching funds are provided, and the cost per rider is as exorbitant as it is well concealed from the public.

I am continually impressed by the degree to which certain people believe light rail to cure all social ills, from global warming, to infrastructure, to poverty, to traffic. The presence of light rail almost certainly impacts all of the above, but with very little return on investment, compared to other vehicles (no pun intended).

Alas, that ship has sailed. The man in the top hat has come and gone, and now everyone loves the sexy trains. We live in a post-Katrina world, where light rail will bring about change we can believe in. Light rail even donated $50 million to relief efforts in Haiti. This is an indisputable fact.

So I'll approach this issue as a choice between the two different routes on the table, one that cuts through the heart of North Minneapolis via Broadway and Penn (hereinafter referred to as Broadway), and one that bypasses the area via the edge of Theo Wirth park (hereinafter Theo Wirth).

Most NoMi activists seem to be excited about the possibility of light rail on Broadway. Their enthusiasm in understandable. Light rail means foot traffic. Foot traffic means business. Business means expansion and jobs and community pride and crackheads moving on to greener pastures. At least, in theory.

For all of the reasons above, I am inclined to support the Broadway option. I am, after all, a conservative, and a selfish person therefore. More money on Broadway means higher property values, better local entertainment options and, frankly, less of an eyesore.

There is also a justice issue, at least at a macro level. The construction of I-94 famously tore apart communities across the cities, from the Rondo neighborhood in St. Paul to Phillips in South Minneapolis and, of course, North Minneapolis, though to a lesser degree than the former.

While the same cities standing to benefit from light rail (suburban hot spots like Plymouth) also benefit from easy access to major thoroughfares (55, 394, 694, 100, 169), the worst areas of Minneapolis are often miles from any major highway. Were this an unintentional by-product of poor city planning, this would still be in need of remedy. That it is, for all intents and purposes, an intentional act carried out with almost surgical position makes it even more so.

So count me in, but with some caveats. There are valid and reasonable arguments for the other route, and supporters of the Broadway option would do well understand and engage them. Call me naive, but I would hope we all would want the best possible outcome for our entire region, beyond parochial interests.

The first two objections are self-explanatory. The Theo Wirth option would cost (marginally) less money and would result in (marginally) faster transit times. These are not negligible considerations. Two minutes may not seem like a big difference, but when we are discussing stops that are 15-30 minutes from downtown by car, that's a pretty large margin. And if we are going to spend more money, there needs to be some sort of financial justification.

There are also the frivolous, NIMBY type objections. In this case, they are particularly absurd. Some have expressed (or have been paid to express) concern that light rail will detract from the community's character, citing the decline of the Rondo neighborhood in St. Paul after I-94 paved over it. Per Northside's blog, someone was apparently concerned that her children would be able to play in the streets... On Broadway and Penn...

It seems to me that the question of which route to support hinges on your perspective on safety. Locals who brave public transit in the toughest areas of this city will be quick to tell you that it's not all as bad as advertised. I more or less agree, insofar as Route 5 is depicted as a war zone on wheels by the media.

However, it is indisputable that this particular stretch of Broadway and Penn is the least safe in all of the Twin Cities. If it weren't so, nobody would be clamoring for the addition of light rail. You don't see residents near 50th and France crossing their fingers for the state to ram a big green train through their neighborhood, do you?

Convincing Plymouth residents that they have nothing to fear from a jaunt through a neighborhood that has seen four murders just this month is going to take more than raw assertion. Yeah, we live here, and yeah, we know that Molly the methwhore is harmless, and only became addicted when she was studying for finals at the U. But expecting suburbanites, who pay good money to turn a blind eye to paradox, to make such distinctions is unrealistic.

And the safety issue goes beyond the stops themselves. A direct route to the most crime ridden neighborhoods will leave suburban residents vulnerable to increased home invasions. In my own little square of the city (which is relatively safe, considering the extraneous geography), we see an uptick in break-ins due to our proximity to the 5. I can sympathize with property owners who have no desire to spend their tax money on a big shiny getaway car.

On Northside's blog, one commenter proposed a "zero tolerance policy for idiots". A nice sentiment, but how do you implement this in practice? Providing security for every rail-car will only exacerbate the cost disparity between the Theo Wirth and Broadway lines.

Other than that, travellers are left to the vagaries of Minneapolis law enforcement. Simply put, preventing crime is not a priority in this city. Our mayor is more interested in ending the blight of bottled water than he is in putting cops on the streets (contra his promise to add 50 cops, there are now fewer police officers than there were when he took office).

Our judges have shown a disregard for justice that frankly borders on contempt for innocent citizens. Who wants to risk getting mugged in a city where the penalty for the crime is $50 and probation?

There are aesthetic concerns as well. A peaceful jaunt through Theo Wirth (however romanticized the notion may be) sure seems more appealing than a trawl through Jordan and Camden. People will spend thousands of extra dollars for a car with cup holders and heated seats. You have to imagine a scenery disparity of this magnitude will factor into their transportation decisions.

Not only are these concerns valid outright, but they will inform ridership numbers. A ghost train benefits no-one (*cough* People Mover *cough*), and has the potential to cause real harm to the surrounding community. Further, a drag on ridership renders the entire enterprise meaningless for surrounding communities. My southbound trek on 100 is no fast if we can't alleviate the various east-west bottlenecks.

The answer, then, is to define the position as one that benefits all players.

First of all, as North Minneapolis goes, so goes Robbinsdale and Golden Valley. Sociologists generally agree that crime is a spreadable phenomenon. The laws of diminishing returns state that a jaunt down Victory memorial will be more profitable for a robber than the 23rd break-in this month of some poor elderly guy's house on Lowry and Fremont. A stable, viable economy throughout the area benefits even those who seek to vacate the area.

Second, the NIMBY argument makes a lot more sense when applied to Theo Wirth, the last undiscovered wonder of the city. It is arguably the last urban area here where one can feel truly alone. I can think of one constituency, particularly influential with Rybak's office, for whom this argument ought to be quite persuasive. Just sayin'...

Third, our advocacy needs help from other areas, and vice versa. For example, BJs strip club makes me queasy every time I drive by. It also operates illegally. The city would be within it's rights to shut it down at any time. It doesn't because it's been a good citizen (Lions club and all), but it does not benefit the community.

This is the problem with parochial advocacy. It is necessarily bound up in ideological preference, thereby dividing communities. NoMi should demonstrate a commitment to eschewing ideology if it is going to gain the cooperation of the state...

If this issue becomes a choice between cost and providing yet more transportation options for people who don't own cars, the former wins.

If this issue becomes a choice between those who are content with a certain level of crime and those who are not, the latter attitude wins.

If this issue becomes a choice between city and suburban interests, suburbia wins.

Reading the comments on Johnny Northside's blog, I'm not sure . I'm happy to help bring light rail to North Minneapolis, but if that requires buy-in to a foreign ideology, I'm content to wait on the sidelines.

Told you there were caveats.