Monthly Archives: October 2007

Alternatives to the traffic congestion charge?

A local group opposed the congestion charge (“Study Gives Alternatives to City Plan for Traffic,” William Neuman, NY Times, 2007-10-12) proposes alternatives:

Raising parking meter rates in Manhattan, creating more taxi stands and putting in place a series of other measures could achieve the same level of traffic reduction as Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan, according to a report by a group opposed to the mayor’s proposal.

“We’ve said all the way through that there are better ways to deal with traffic congestion,” said Walter McCaffrey, a former city councilman from Queens who is the spokesman for the group, Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free.

Mr. McCaffrey said the report was sent this week to the 17 members of a commission created by the State Legislature to study the mayor’s plan for an $8 charge on cars entering or leaving the area of Manhattan below 86th Street.

The commission is also required to consider alternatives to the mayor’s plan that could achieve similar results. The Bloomberg administration has estimated that its proposal would reduce the miles traveled by vehicles in the Manhattan charging zone by 6.3 percent.

The commission must make a recommendation to the Legislature by Jan. 31 on a plan to ease traffic congestion.

The report by Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free identifies 13 measures that, when taken together, it predicts would reduce traffic more than the mayor’s plan.

Chief among the measures is a proposal to increase greatly the number of metered parking spaces in Manhattan by putting meters on many blocks where parking is now free. The study also proposes raising the rate for on-street parking, doubling it in many areas and increasing it even more in the busiest parts of Manhattan.

The goal would be to create a higher turnover in parking spaces, in order to lessen the time drivers spend circling the block looking for parking. The report says that is a major contributor to congestion in parts of Manhattan.

I think we should do that anyway, but here’s where it gets iffy:

Hugh O’Neill, the president of Appleseed, an economics consulting firm, which wrote the report, said that the goal of the study was to find measures that focused on specific causes of congestion. The report also includes proposals that the city could carry out on its own, without the Legislature’s approval, which is needed for congestion pricing.

The report calls for the city to eliminate many of the thousands of parking placards that city employees use to get free parking.

It’s really amazing that the city would want to decrease the environmental effects of driving and then turn around and encourage its employees to drive. NYC has the most extensive rapid transit system on Earth; we could encourage our civil servants to use it.

Other proposals included more taxi stands and higher peak hour tolls. The mayor’s office had no comment.

Closing Time, Texas Style: “Texas Judge’s Decison To Close On Time Lead to Immediate Execution”

Of course, Michael Richard is in no position to say his right to due process was denied—because he’s in Hell now! Texas has some bizarre customs indeed (“Judge: ‘We Close at 5’; Texas Judge’s Decison To Close On Time Lead to Immediate Execution,” ABC News, 2007-10-12):

Four words — “We close at 5” — enforced by Texas judge Sharon Keller led to the almost immediate execution of convicted murderer Michael Richard.

Three hours after Keller refused to keep her courthouse open past closing time to receive the condemned killer’s request to stay his execution, Richard was executed.

What happened? Richard’s attorney’s computer broke down, so he needed a little more time to finish an appeal.

Richard’s attorney’s computer broke down, and when they called the courthouse asking for a little more time, just 20 minutes more, Judge Keller ordered the court clerk not to wait for the appeal that could have at least temporarily stopped his execution.

After the execution, prominent defense attorneys from across Texas signed an official complaint against Keller, asking the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct to disciplined or fire her.

It sounds like Keller was just really eager to execute someone.

Jackass makes scene tearing down Mexican flag

Here’s an “unedited video” on YouTube. A creepy looking veteran decided to tear a Mexican flag because it was flown atop a pub above an American flag. He left the Mexican flag on the ground, and ran off with the American flag. According to, the man said, “I’m Jim Brossert and I took this flag down in honor of my country with a knife from the United States army. I’m a veteran, I am not going to see this done to my country. If they want to fight us, then they need to be men, and they need to come and fight us, but I want somebody to fight me for this flag. They’re not going to get it back.”

Apparently, some wingnuts think the actions undertaken by the nutcase on the video was, uh, okay. (Apparently, wingnuts think stealing is okay under certain circumstances.)

First of all, if you’re so hyper-patriotic that the position of the flag relative to another flag matters to you, get your head checked. Also, the owner of the bar apparently didn’t mean any insult to the United States. He was flying an American flag; he probably knows there are jingoistic asholes like Mr. Brossert who have such small dicks that they’ll start a fight because of a perceived swipe at their country. I doubt he wanted trouble.

Finally, the one thing nobody is remembering, is that the First Amendment guarantees you the right to fly the flag any which way you choose. So, when it comes down to it, the only crime that was committed was vandalism and theft, and that was by Mr. Brossert.

If you care, here’s the federal law about displaying the flag.

Stupid laws

Strange laws on the Suncoast” from (2007-10-11) had the be the most poorly written article ever, but some of the choice quotes in it were great. A local moron was swearing in front of children, so he got arrested for leaving a mud puddle in front of his house for more than 24 hours?

Sarasota’s city attorney says some of the laws in the miscellaneous section of the city code need to be updated. Some of them need to be changed and some removed completely.

Same thing in Bradenton. Should you really go to jail for leaving a mud puddle in front of your house for more than 24 hours?

When 45-year-old Christopher Haupt was arrested Saturday at the grand opening of Payne Park for swearing in front of a group of kids, some people were surprised that such a law existed.

Sarasota city attorney Bob Fournier says it may be a little old fashioned, but probably here to stay. “I certainly don’t want to condone that type of behavior and I don’t think city commissioners do either, so I’m not so sure that one is antiquated.”

The site should be Never use terrible grammar and diction like this in front of your kids:

Most people we spoke to agree with him. “It’s a rule you have to have because some people go nuts won’t stop and at that point doesn’t freedom of speech get involved with other people especially minors,” says Jay Warren.

Thank you for that nugget of wisdom, First Amendment Savant Jay Warren. (God, I hope that’s a misquote.)

Here’s another bit of local wisdom:

There are other strangely-worded laws. For example, one city ordinance prohibits a woman with a reputation for bad virtue from lounging about and behaving in an inappropriate manner. “See now you’ve got to define questionable virtue and bad reputation. Are you going to ban Lindsey Loman and Britney Spears and how about Hilary Clinton,” said another resident.

Holy shit, kids! Britney Spears and Lindsay “Loman” being compared to “Hilary” Clinton? Does Hillary walk around dressed like a hooker now? (Guess which one of the three is running for President of the United States.)

For more dumb laws, used to be fun. Now, of course, just check to see what the latest White House initiative is.

Hidden costs to the congestion charge?

NY1: “MTA Finds Hidden Costs In Mayor’s Congestion Pricing Plan” (October 8)

MTA officials say Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan project would wind up costing hundreds of millions of dollars more than originally thought in transit service upgrades.

A commission created to evaluate the plan estimates the agency would need to spend more then three quarters of a billion dollars over the next five years. That money would go toward new buses, subways, and station renovations to accommodate the thousands of commuters, who are expected to take public transportation to avoid paying $8 to enter portions of Manhattan.

The MTA’s concerns come as the agency is trying to raise support for a fare hike on trains, buses and subways.

The commission’s recommendation on congestion pricing is due in January. The measure requires support from City Hall and Albany.

NY Times: “M.T.A. Says Mayor’s Plan to Ease Traffic Will Cost $767 Million to Accomplish” (Robert D. McFadden, October 8)

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, in a report to a commission created to evaluate the mayor’s plan, estimated that expanded transit service and capital improvements for city and suburban riders who would give up their cars to get into Manhattan over the next five years would cost $767 million.

The total, the authority said, comprised $284 million in 2008 and 2009 for 367 new city and suburban buses, 46 new subway cars and many station renovations and service enhancements; $163 million for other subway and bus improvements from 2010 to 2012, and $320 million for two new bus terminals in Queens and Staten Island.

Citing congestion pricing projections provided by the city, the authority said 78,000 motorists in the city would shift to mass transit, while only 2,500 from the Mid-Hudson region served by Metro-North and 3,500 served by the Long Island Rail Road would take trains. It said it was premature to estimate how many of the 170,000 commuters who crossed bridges and tunnels each day would give up their cars.

I wonder why this comes as a surprise actually. We knew we’d have to upgrade service sooner or later. It just now happens to be sooner.

This puts NYC in an interesting dilemma though. Much of our rail transit actually runs at capacity, at least according to current guidelines, which means that adding more people to the services means overloading the system.

There is, however, the obvious fact that this “unfunded” spending will at least be made back. It’s times like these when it’s responsible for the City or State to take out debt.

The “Left”

So, Congress is getting a little concerned that the war isn’t going well. Even some Republicans have pulled their heads out of that orifice where most of the Republicans’ ideas come from. Great idea, I guess. Of course, I love when The Washington Post (“House Passes Bill on Pullout,” by Jonathan Weisman, October 3, 2007) tries to report on something political:

The House, with overwhelming, bipartisan support, voted yesterday to give the Bush administration two months to present to Congress its planning for the withdrawal of combat forces in Iraq.

The 377 to 46 vote was the first salvo of a new legislative strategy adopted by House Democratic leaders, away from partisan confrontation and toward a more incremental approach to war policy that can bring Republicans to their side. The withdrawal-planning bill had met fierce opposition this summer from ardent Iraq war foes, who scuttled an earlier vote by saying it would do nothing but give Republicans political cover for their support of President Bush’s policies

This time, amid the stirrings of a bipartisan centrist coalition on Iraq, Democratic leaders stared down the antiwar left and went forward with the vote. With Senate leaders stymied in their efforts to force a change of course in Iraq, House Democratic leaders faced a choice of whether to continue pushing firm timelines for troop withdrawals, as many liberal Democrats want, or to search for bipartisan comity, even after the Senate had failed to find it.

Wait a second. A 377 to 46 vote to give the administration two months to present a plan about withdrawing troops from Iraq is staring down the antiwar left? What the hell is the anti-war left anyway? Everything to the left of Rush Limbaugh?

What is The Washington Post saying? First of all, one thing is clear: antiwar in this case means being against the current debacle in Iraq. It doesn’t mean being against war in general. Some pretty hefty Republican troglodytes have come out against this war, including no doubt some that might have loved many other wars including Vietnam, Desert Storm, Korea, Afghanistan, and maybe some that haven’t even happened, like a hypothetical nuclear holocaust during the Cold War that would have hastened the Second Coming.

More accurately, The Washington Post was trying to say that the motion to withdraw wasn’t as strong as some who are against the war would have wanted. Some would like the U.S. out of Iraq in two months. They could have just said that without using the loaded term “antiwar left.” I expect that from Fox News or The New York Post, not a respected newspaper.

Frank Rich on Clarence Thomas

Great title: “Nobody Knows the Lynchings He’s Seen” (by Frank Rich). Oh, seriously, I’m not going to read Clarence Thomas’ book. The guy, frankly, bores me. Heck, Scalia may be a right-wing nut, but at least he’s colorful. Thomas, on the other hand, generally comes across as a not-so-thoughtful bullshit artist at best.

One of Thomas’ big gripes in life is affirmative action. Ironically, he likely benefited from it. Which, I guess, makes him one of affirmative action’s biggest mistakes. He made it all the way to the Supreme Court, after all.

One bit piqued my curiosity:

Mr. Thomas seems ignorant of this changing America. He can never see past his enemies’ list, which in his book expands beyond his political foes, Yale and the press to “elite white women” and “paternalistic big-city whites” and “light-skinned blacks.” (He does include a warm mention of Mr. Thurmond, a supporter in 1991, without mentioning that the senator hid away a child fathered with a black maid.) Always eager to cast himself as a lynching victim, Mr. Thomas is far more trapped in the past than the 1960s civil-rights orthodoxy he relentlessly demonizes.

Light-skinned blacks? Paternalistic big-city whites? What the f—?