Thursday, October 30, 2008

Obama is not the Messiah,

Drew Brees is.

I am so in love with this man. You think he can't possibly be that great, but he is. He's standing in London, about to spank the team that first broke him then fired him because he was broken, and what does he do?

On the edge of a soccer pitch masquerading as a football field, Drew Brees sold New Orleans.

"Just like London is one of those spots where people feel like they need to visit when they come to Europe," Brees said, "well, New Orleans is one of those spots that if you're European and you're coming to the States and you want to know where to go, hey, come to New Orleans. I think the culture is unlike any other in our country and, certainly, you want to share that with the world."
I know that he's just a football player and that one day he'll be traded off to another team or get pissed off and leave. When he talks about the city, though, I don't doubt for a moment that he's here to stay. New Orleans, broken as she was, wrapped her arms around him and said, "You're home."

So many people have done this in the last three years. It still gets me right in the gut when I think about it.

I never had a choice, but they did and they picked her.
"There are a lot of things that still need to be done. But, in a lot of ways, I think New Orleans has come back better than ever."
Thanks Drew. We love you, too.

And thanks to Cait at Shrimp Poboy for pointing this out. Don't know how I missed it last week.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Trent Reznor on New Orleans

From Offbeat magazine:

I grew up in Pennsylvania in a small town, and every time we’d come to New Orleans, it felt like another planet. It seemed like the weirdest place I had ever been. It wasn’t an overwhelmingly big city to me, but the culture, the tradition, the smell of the air, and the way it looks—things I never paid attention to like architecture. What I grew up seeing was steel row architecture. Houses you lived in, you didn’t see as art. They just functioned. And to see a sense of tradition, and the people I met. You can drink a beer outside! Oh my God! It was just mind-blowing.
There's more. What he says about New Orleans is filled with the inexplicable love and attachment that grabs so many people who visit this city and convinces them to stay. Growing up here, I knew I was in a different place, but didn't realize until I left exactly how different. I simply knew that I would be back, eventually. I really like these perspectives from "outsiders" who came inside, people who were grabbed by New Orleans and brought close to her bosom. Makes me feel less crazy.

I remember running into Trent Reznor at Decatur House almost every time I came home from school. There were always guys from big bands in some bar or another. They were in town to play at House of Blues or one of the festivals and hung out in holes to listen to great music. It was one of those cool, ordinary things that happen in NOLA. Trent lived here, though, and that somehow made him different. I never talked to him. He always looked really nervous. Maybe he was just there to score. Sadly, Decatur House is no more, so I guess I'll never know.

One more quick quote:
It was the first time I lived in a place and I really enjoyed being there. You never feel out of place.
Yeah, he gets it.

Props to oyster at YRT for the heads-up.


I guess you can't have everything

When I left for work this morning gas was $2.62/gallon. Now it's $2.44! WTF?

In other news, the Wendy's I frequent has misspelled "Rasberry" on their sign.

Ah, well.


Those Wacky Terrorists!

Al-Qaida-linked Web site backs McCain as president

WASHINGTON (AP) — Al-Qaida supporters suggested in a Web site message this week they would welcome a pre-election terror attack on the U.S. as a way to usher in a McCain presidency.
I'm sure there are Americans who would welcome that. Maybe not the assholes rooting for Gustav, but some.
The message, posted Monday on the password-protected al-Hesbah Web site, said if al-Qaida wants to exhaust the United States militarily and economically, "impetuous" Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain is the better choice because he is more likely to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This is terrible! How lucky are we to have such brave and selfless agents at the CIA, the FBI and the NSA to alert us to this upcoming danger!

Wait, what? They aren't involved?

Apparently, SITE Intelligence Group is in the business of giving sensitive intelligence to those willing to pay. And all the time, not just when there's such an "important" election at stake. Still, I understand that when the threat of a possibly imminent terrorist attack is intercepted, the American people need to know immediately that it will be John McCain's fault!

Oh wait...
The message is credited to a frequent and apparently respected contributor named Muhammad Haafid. However, Haafid is not believed to have a direct affiliation with al-Qaida plans or knowledge of its operations, according to SITE.
OMG! You guys! You almost had me, you betcha!

What a bunch of fucking idiots.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

October surprise?
Inside Obama's Secret Gay Muslim Mafia Love Nest

I've been thinking lately that McCain has been far too calm and sure of himself as he's getting his ass handed to him in the polls. I figure he must have something saved up. I bet it's better than Colin Powell.

Maybe this is it.

Who the hell is Mike Signator?

Some excerpts from Politico:

Technically, Signator's job is to provide "supplemental security support" for Obama's presidential campaign


For security reasons , Obama's presidential campaign refuses to reveal the details of Signator's role, but LaBolt said it brings Signator into frequent, close contact with the Obamas.


The campaign press staff — which at first denied that Signator worked for the campaign, then discouraged Politico from writing about him — declined to set up an interview.


According to Federal Election Commission records, Obama's campaign through the end of August had paid Signator $47,600. The payments, which began in March 2007 at $2,900 a month, dwindled to less than $800 a month in May of this year — a full year after the Secret Service began protecting Obama.
Since we're talking about Chicago, here, I'm thinking Organized Crime on this one. Maybe he's Obama's secret gay lover. That's why Michelle always looks so uptight!

Whatever. I'm sure I'll know Joe the Plumber's underwear size before I know who this guy is and why they're so dead set on keeping him secret.

Here's his picture:


Friday, October 17, 2008

This goes out to the Philosopher King

T.S. Eliot


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Concision is Overrated: Repetition is the New Concision

Concision is overrated. Repetition is the new concision.

Concision is overrated. Repetition is the new concision.


Monday, October 13, 2008

My NYC New Revenue Proposal: The Civilian Ticket Patrol

Okay, I am preparing myself for a veritable FLOOD of comments, not to mention people with pitchforks and torches outside of my door. Damn! I think they’re here. Read fast!

In the recent blog entry I’d posted about congestion pricing, I did something out of literati-wanna-be character for myself. I panned a plan without offering an alternative solution. I did so to stay on topic, of course, but also because I’d already skull-numbed Chappy and Bullet with two epic posts in a week. I’m sure the slight misuse of the oh so common words “autocentric” and “nary” didn’t help with flow. This blog entry will, in fact, offer one alternative solution to raising revenue in NYC whilst curtailing traffic and gridlock in Manhattan proper, if not the city at large. But, the content of this suggestion will doubtlessly ruffle enough feathers that there’ll be a virtual dirt nap in my blogging future. Here Lies Pockets, Rest In Pants.

A great number of cities and townships in the states now boast everyone’s favorite traffic control device, the red light camera, otherwise known as the Ticket Camera or #@!$%^&^%!! If you are unfamiliar, count your blessings and your money. This is a camera or set of cameras automatically snapping photos at an intersection with the express purpose of ticketing driver’s who violate red traffic signals. Photos are snapped, the license plate is captured in the image, and a high-priced summons arrives in the registrant driver’s mail along with a photo of her/his alleged infraction some time after. Gotcha! “But that was a harmless night of chicken plucking, birch beer, and the Wu Tang Clan. I can’t believe those bastards did this to me!”

Absent from common knowledge was the manner in which age-old laws and rules of law enforcement in many states had to radically change to allow for the devices. To use one east coast county as our looking glass, it had always been procedure that reports of crimes and violations could reach a sector car in one of three ways. A call could come in via police radio. A bystander could run up to the car and point officers in the direction of a crime taking place or a person in need. The cops could react to witnessing a crime themselves while on patrol, pretty much necessary for lesser moving violations. This permissible three-fer procedure helped to prevent corruption. Limiting the initiating sources made it difficult to manufacture false evidence convincingly. Requiring that written reports begin factually with one of only three starting points made it far more difficult to take random or rogue action. For the same token, the three-pronged procedure also quelled the bearing of false witness by citizens. A person would have a more difficult time pinning a false crime report on the neighbor kid who porked his daughter if the process had to begin by talking to the police. A person couldn’t run up with a trick photo of a banker boffing a zebra in the playground without the promise of cops investigating. In all three cases, however, it was expected of cops to be PRESENT to bear out the proper response action. They had to go to where the infraction was taking place. They had to get on-scene. In fact, an officer’s written report or summons, the sole official document of each such event, was so predicated upon the importance of an authority figure’s first hand knowledge of an incident, that almost any contradictory claim was readily dismissed and lack of proper police report could make or break one’s argument in court.

Well, the red light camera has no such police presence. While the photo itself still goes through law enforcement personnel before ever reaching an accused’s mailbox, the photo is no longer first-hand knowledge, but barley second-hand knowledge. In fact, given the boundaries of a photograph, it is a limited second hand knowledge at that. It’s like a slutty reputation in high school or a belief that Dr. Pepper contains prune juice. Sure, all knowledge is limited, but clearly the minor point here is that a photograph will always be more limited than the knowledge of an officer on-scene. In some cases, under older law, some red light camera photos would prove little different than hearsay. Seesaw?

Thus, in many states, this required direct change to major legislation. For some other states and counties it meant simple additions to laws. For still others it meant finding adjudicative justifications within existing bodies of law when legislation was slow to change. Some places simply shifted the onus of clear determination from the law enforcement level to an already backlogged judicial level, people showing up to fight all sorts of red light camera photos only to predominantly lose in the end. “Yes, I did run the red light, but as you can see in the photo, my penis was caught in the vent window!” What’s more, legislation change was not the limit to problems with red light camera philosophy. For instance, unlike a parking ticket where a vehicle is still, is it not counter-intuitive to presume true witness to a MOVING VIOLATION in a STILL photograph? The legal shift, middlingly justified by a government attempt to make roads safer, is certainly one in favor of big brother, big government, big revenue, and tech’ solutions over human ones.

It is because of these inherent fallacies in red light camera programs, that while acknowledging noticeable decreases in traffic accidents at equipped intersections, I have to disagree on a fundamental level with their application.

Don’t hoist me as the hero just yet. You are about to hate the playa.

What if, just what if, despite my distaste for red light camera programs, I asserted a newer, wider application of these changes in law? No, not stoning. Well…

My chief argument against congestion pricing in the post noted earlier was that it punishes the people already doing the correct thing, an unjust act of wrongfulness no matter how one explains its “need.” If I purport my assertion to be a blockbusting bill-killer in all future congestion pricing proposals, then I need to acknowledge my claim’s inverse. I need to support ideas which only punish wrongdoers and spare already error-free commuters any hassle. I have such an idea. I like it. I call it the Civilian Ticket Patrol. Bum--ba-duh-dump.

If our legislation has already been eased to allow "police absence / tech’ presence" style evidence in the form of still pictures, then it is not that far of a leap to do something similar with motion pictures. Video cameras can easily capture far more moving violation types than a still camera. Illegal u-turns, blown stop-signs, failures to yield, failures to signal, equipment violations, one-way street violations, illegal turns, fender-benders, these can all be SEEN on video. Video devices mounted in the grills and on the dashboards of police vehicles already do this during routine traffic stops. One merely needs to check out The World’s Scariest Police Chases or Cops to see how many precincts and sheriff’s offices use this tool to great evidentiary achievement. Well, instead of "police absence / tech’ presence," why not "police absence / citizen-tech’ presence?"

I reluctantly propose that we implement a system whereby city citizens with registered, insured, personal vehicles can choose to have their vehicles outfitted with similar motion picture capture devices at no charge. The system would need to be a closed system that disallows tampering. A driver’s only interface with the system would be a keypad that marks a starting and ending video time index to bracket a moving violation they’ve just witnessed, and perhaps a wireless upload switch to the police department or an ejectable, lockbox media to mail-in to the police. The device would need to be well hidden for citizen safety. The interface component would only work when the Citizen Patroller had her/his own vehicle parked, again with regard to safety. Video would be automatically time and date stamped and uniquely coded with the video capture unit number. Ejectable lockbox media would not be accepted at the police department if it showed any signs of breakage or tampering. I would suggest a wide angle lens set with a focal point broad enough to pick up street signs and oncoming cars. I'd also suggest a GPS feature to further add to the information gathered.

On the front end, citizen selection for the program would be key. Interested parties would be put on a waiting list. Nobody with outstanding parking or moving violations, criminal records or warrants would be eligible. No one without a current driver’s license would be eligible. Nobody with pending court cases would be eligible. Nobody with orders of protection or orders of protection against them or other legal documentation implying potential grudges would be eligible. No hunchbacks. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Participant citizens would receive training on the interface, training on what constitutes a moving violation, training on recognizing non-viable video capture (both technologically and with regard to the law), and training on safe use of the tool (CTP procedure). Citizen’s would NOT be pulling cars over or issuing tickets themselves. Citizen’s would NOT be patrolling, but merely capturing moving violations in their day-to-day doings around the neighborhood. Jeez, Louise, I “happen” across 10 creative moving violations a day just going from my apartment to the babysitter’s place. Good evidence, chained properly and resulting in adjudication against a violator would yield a percentage of the revenue collected on the ticket back to the video capturing citizen’s pocket. Money! Money taken from the “bad people” and given to the “good people.” Holy cow, I’m Robin Hood!

On the back end, more cops/legal officials would need to take more time to witness the video captured evidences. (Video takes longer to see than a photo.) These officials would be the sole deciders as to whether a ticket is warranted and issued on the video or not, just like red light camera photos, retaining the proper decisive authority where it belongs. Time and date stamps would determine the immediacy with which a video was received. Cops should be given the authority to simply throw away any video evidence that arrives long after the date stamp (preventing people from saving up incriminating evidence). Cops should be given a workable CTP database for cross-checking and the authority to discard any video evidence received from the same patroller on the same vehicle more than once, to prevent stalking, blackmail, entrapment, and varied forms of citizen corruption.

There would need to be oversight provisos aplenty. Any willful violation of CTP procedure and policy would result in immediate shutdown and removal of the apparatus from the citizen's personal vehicle at the owner’s expense, even getting towed to do so, if not her/his own arrest. Further, CTP procedure violators should be fined at least ALL monies collected through their actions on previous captures. Such violations should include but not be limited to

1) Speaking to the violator caught on video
2) Sending in more than one (or pick a reasonable number) video violations on the same vehicle
3) Any indication of device, data, or media tampering
4) The interruption of any police officer in the course of her/his duties
5) Evidence of entrapment.
6) Breaking motor vehicle law in order to capture some one else breaking motor vehicle law
7) Posing as a police officer
8) Expired driver’s license
9) Expired vehicle insurance
10) Expired vehicle registration
11) Failure to pay one’s own tickets
12) Video capture of the patroller’s own vehicle in a moving violation
13) Equipment used to spy.

For years police departments have talked about citizen’s being the eyes and the ears of their neighborhoods. They express actual regret in not being able to protect everyplace at once. They beg neighborhood watches to be on the lookout, commuters to keep eyes open for suspicious behaviors and objects, victims to report crimes against them, and building/business owners to install security cameras. The Civilian Ticket Patrol is an extension of that very want. While it utilizes an existing segment of law that I find somewhat deplorable, there are a great deal of long sought after complications that a program like this might well resolve.

Let’s examine.

The practice only punishes those who are breaking the law, as opposed to blanketing the entire area with new rules and fees that target innocents and traffic violators equally.

It spreads the eyes and ears of otherwise official units charged with preventing traffic violations out among as large and invisible a cross–segment of the city population as any city is willing to fund.

Unlike red light cameras which groups frequently document and post online to create a map of avoidable intersections, these cameras are mobile; they can be at any place at any time, a truly more effective deterrent to traffic violation than a stationary, visible camera.

This can easily put a little extra money in ordinary people’s pockets without the lengthy governmental red tape of raising minimum wage, encouraging new local business, or creating jobs. Once up and running it is quite an immediate return for both city and citizens.

As stated before, a video system would capture far more types of infraction than a single, red light camera can.

Former New York City Mayor Giuliani, and to a certain extent, the now NYC Mayor Bloomberg have frequently asserted that the best action to curtail gridlock/traffic in Manhattan’s central business district would simply be for those on the road to follow the existing rules. New York City has signs at so many of it’s major intersections warning “Don’t Block the Box,” meaning, do not enter an intersection, even on a green light, if you cannot safely cross the entire intersection to the opposite side. A large number of these intersections have even painted a giant cross-hatching right onto the pavement so that drivers can see the “box” in question. Heck, many of the red light cameras in Manhattan were mounted for this express purpose. Much to the city’s surprise after implementing them, a great number of the red light scoffing culprits were their own city bus drivers. The point being, if officials insist that moving violations (not traffic volumes) are a direct cause of city gridlock, to the tune of implementing multi-million dollar systems targeted to decrease just one type of said violations, then they would have to agree that a newer system which targets MORE violation types in ALL areas would be superior and therefore more effective.

Sure, the Civilian Ticket Patrol would have its built-in limits. Civilian car to car video cannot accurately capture speeding, horn blowing, improper breaking distances, and so on. Such a system would even need to weed out the possibility of multiple videos captured of the same, distinct violation.

But, these circumstances are not why everyone to whom I suggest the idea is ready to string me up by my balls. People hate the idea because they like getting away with moving violations. “Come on. Everybody does it.” They have fervently convinced themselves that, if gone uncaught, a moving violation, even a serious one, never actually happened. They like putting a boot in the man’s ass. People mass-justify their own rule bending and breaking actions to such a vast degree that the idea of a factually legal driver is considered an outcast notion, an impossibility, and even a danger to other drivers. People like beating the odds. They seriously don’t mind paying a ticket or two over the years when compared to the twenty-thousand times they habitually got away with the same action. The Civilian Ticket Patrol would severely crop those odds. It might truly force a multiple offender to look at and to adjust to her/his own actions. If not, it might merely be a speedier path to getting licenses revoked, cars off the road, and nominal traffic flow in a thickly populated area.

All in all, we should not do it. My idea is not at all a nice way to collectively dis/allow folks to exercise American freedoms. Yet, if the only alternative is going to be congestion pricing or some other ill-begotten idea that charges everybody and punishes those who already play by the rules, I vote for my idea. The Civilian Ticket Patrol, gotcha!


Friday, October 10, 2008

Douchebaggery FTW!

If you saw this week's ridiculous Monday Night Football game, you should go read what Jeffrey had to say about it.

After five or ten minutes of jeers from the fans, Hochuli offered his explanation. The ruling, delivered in a confounding Sarah Palin-esque verbiage, seemed to state that, yes, the ball was coming out as the player was going down but since his hand was still kind of touching the ball as his knee hit the ground, Minnesota retains possession.
Seriously. It's a great post, even if you aren't a football fan or couldn't give a shit about the New Orleans Saints.


Kitten v. Toothbrush
One for the ages.

Go ahead and waste 4 minutes of your day.

You can thank me later.

Props to Cajun Boy.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Houston Texans prove me wrong

I'd like to think that I admit it when I'm wrong. I don't, but I'd like to think so. My standard excuse is, "If I was wrong, it was because key information was withheld."

Here, though, that's not the case.

I stated last month that if the Houston Texans could manage to host a home game this season, we could discuss the comparative rebuilding prowess of Texas and Louisiana. Well, they did.

But they cheated.

Officials expect that all eight of Houston's home games this season will be played with the roof open.
I realize I was not specific when I threw out my challenge.
Hell, when you manage to host a home football game before the end of the season, we can talk about who's better in a crisis.
They managed to do that and I will admit that they dealt with their football problem better than we did. One can only imagine what the Saints 05-06 season would have been like if Superdome officials had been as forward thinking as the folks at Reliant Park. "Fuck it," they would have said. "We'll just play with the son-of-a-bitch broken."

Texas: If it ain't fixed, leave it broke.

Though the Texans played well, they blew a 17 point lead in the last four minutes.

They choked, because that's what happens to dirty, sneaky cheaters.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What's in there? Kryptonite?
Kidney Stones and the Conscience Clause

I just made an appointment for a CAT scan. It's just kidney stones, try not to be too disappointed. After giving the nice lady (Cheryl) all the usual information the medical industry requires to make sure they'll get paid, I was asked for an emergency contact and then what I thought was a strange question.

Cheryl: "Would you like to tell me your religion?"

bullet: "Umm... No?"

Cheryl: "Ok, then we'll see you on Friday!"

The only reason I can imagine they would need to know my religion is in case I die or am near death. That is a scary thing to contemplate. I'm sure it's just another blank on the standard form, but still: What the fuck are they going to be shooting at me? Or filling me up with, since there's some kind of dye involved in the other procedure, a "KUB", which I've had before and it's lovely. Here I am using "lovely" to mean "the most painful experience I've ever had to endure". Last time it involved lying half naked on a metal table while the barium dye pushed VERY HARD on the enormous kidney stone that was, quite frankly, painful enough without the help. The other kidney was working just fine, but, of course, I couldn't go pee until they were done. To top it all off, the crap they gave me didn't even come out a cool color, just clear. It seems to me the least they can do is turn your pee blue or purple or something.

As you can probably tell, I am very much looking forward to it.

More seriously, though, is the problem with the question, itself. This is a very Christian town. If I had told the woman that I am an atheist or that I had no religion, what would happen? One would assume that a professional would simply do her job, regardless, but the Conscience Clause bullshit shows that it's not always the case. She now has my name, address, phone number and SSN, any combination of which could be used to harass me. She could refuse to treat me. Or she could simply "lose" my appointment. Or my insurance. Don't even get me started on the procedure, itself. The possibilities are endless. I'm not saying that Cheryl (or anyone down the line) would do anything like this, only that they could. Would, could, whatever, it doesn't matter. That the possibility occurred to me in the few seconds between her question and my answer is just a small example of the fear I have as an atheist among Christians, some of them exceptionally crazy. I am terrified of what could happen if they knew. That's not right.

The very idea of a conscience clause is a load of bullshit.

Think about it this way: Any law that would permit a Christian pharmacist to refuse to dispense contraception would also permit a Scientologist to refuse to dispense psychotropic drugs. I take psychotropic drugs. I would be very upset if I couldn't get them. Though I probably would not end up in a hospital if I were denied medication, I know quite a few people who would, some if their medication schedule were merely disrupted by an asshole pharmacist. If that were to happen, I would advocate severely beating the offender. If it happened to someone I know, I would do it myself. I'm not kidding.

This would be especially true if I'm still in a ridiculous amount of pain because they can't give me an appointment until fucking Friday!

This was supposed to be a short, funny post about contemplating death by X-ray, but then I started to think about it.

I wonder if anyone else has.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Congestion Pricing: Be A Snot-Nosed Rich Prick

Yes siree, if you live in the U.S. of A. it’s coming for you, and the only thing you can do to stop it is to keep an ear to the ground and recognize the greenback beast in all its many incarnations. The idea of congestion pricing, adding new tolls to some or all inbound roads into a city or central business district in the name of traffic control, is a sneaky shape-shifter of an idea recently, but barely, shot down for New York City. I’ve no doubt that it will be revisited, mayor after mayor, snot-nosed rich advisor after snot-nosed rich advisor, and suggested as a solution to every deficit until kingdom come. Learn to fight it here.

Background snippet de jour: New York City is a city made up of five boroughs on four differing land masses. When most people think about NYC, they think of Manhattan, an island. Staten Island, a separate island, is also part of The Big Apple. Brooklyn (Kings County) and Queens are actually city counties on the westernmost geographic body of Long Island (yet a third isle), while the Bronx finishes the city to the north looking to cartographers like a mutant uvula dangling rudely from the mainland. Smaller islands like Rikers Island, Wards/Randalls Island, Roosevelt Island, Governors Island, Coney Island, and the like are also part of NYC. The Hudson River (tidal estuary), Harlem River, East River, Arthur Kill, Atlantic Ocean, and Long Island Sound are a web of water bodies that carve up the city into its component parts, making it no surprise that the metropolis is vivaciously riddled with beautiful bridges of every length and style. Long story short, all the bridges and tunnels controlled by New Jersey’s Port Authority, are tolled. Most bridges controlled by the city itself are currently free. While this has made for some controversy over the years, certain New Yorkers able to get from home to work and back sans toll, others being forced to pay a toll to get into their own neighborhood, it’s not all that difficult to track. Bridges and tunnels closer to the outside of the city or entering the city are tolled, bridges closer to the center of the city are usually free.

Well, borrowing from current practices in places like London and Stockholm, this year saw “congestion pricing” suggested and narrowly defeated in NYC. The idea was to add new tolls to all the currently free Manhattan inbound bridges between certain streets. Functionally, this would have eradicated all remaining free rides on any major bridge. It was meant, in part, as a deterrent from driving for non-city residents. Problem was, the bridges proposed for said tolls are right in the middle of the place, effectively cutting off more than half of the city’s resident drivers from their destinations. I mean, wherever you live, imagine, for the moment, that there is only a single boulevard you can take to get to your job. Then imagine that somebody slapped a big toll booth right on that road. Starting to get the picture? Mayor Bloomberg backed it, pushed for it, and financed an obtuse battalion of elitists to hammer it through. No dice, even as the lie evolved. It was originally brought up as an idea to curtail traffic in Manhattan, but soon became touted as a green initiative. Lie!

What kills me about it is not the suggestion. Ideas come and go. I don’t even horribly much mind that the idea became lumped in with green initiatives. The Bloomberg administration has done quite a lot, in fact, to push through and to support multiple green initiatives, despite a small budget burp early in his 9-11 proximal mayoralty that temporarily quashed the city’s massive recycling program. The congestion pricing idea needed a recognizable home and gravitated toward the easiest one to lie about. What actually feels like the ice pick in my brain, instead, was the argument used by congestion pricing opponents, the freakin’ people on my side! The main argument they chose to combat congestion pricing was such a poor and almost unrelated argument that I am actually amazed this tolls nonsense didn’t pass with flying colors.

Congestion pricing opponents, again and again, chose to harp upon the idea that to toll the many remaining free bridges between Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan was a thinly veiled stratagem seeking to disenfranchise Queens and Brooklyn residents, an unfair tax. Often, without actually saying it, the insinuation was that Queens and Brooklyn, being among the most culturally diverse counties in the entire nation, were being discriminated against by Bloomberg and an army of Manhattanites. Pah-leeeeese! Really? Ten-thousand perfectly logical counter-arguments that could have shown congestion pricing for the poor idea that it was; countless obvious, common-sense reasons, any one of which could have defeated congestion pricing initiatives for a long time to come if not forever, and these concave skulls thought that a watered down version of a race card was the way to go?! They chose a “taxation without representation” argument for a fee that was not a tax and a group of people who they themselves represented? You know, despite the fact that I seem to live in an urban honeycomb of modern liberalism, I do see racism and bigotry every day. It’s here, it’s there, it exists, it’s real, it deserves to be challenged and fought. But to buy the argument that congestion pricing would unfairly “tax” a cross-section of the community even partially based on class or race means I would also have to believe that Bloomberg and his money making robots actually had some sort of investment in discriminating, a Berlin Wall agenda that starts with tolls and ends with a force field. I’d have to believe that Manahattanites, a mosaic of races and classes in and of their own demographic, didn’t simply and selfishly want less traffic around their homes, but also wanted Queens to evaporate and Brooklyn to just go away. It makes no sense. I am insulted by the very people sent to debate for my best interests.

Look, there are forces at work out there that are going to piggy-back a highly unfounded congestion pricing scenario onto every cause, every bill, every earmark they can. They’ll call it something different each time. They’ll renegotiate the price. They’ll petition the feds for backing. They’ll “mitigate” the impact. They’ll take surveys until people are bored with the subject. They’ll cite new impact studies from every angle. It’s not about any of that. It’s about money and only money. It’s about a few too many powerful people who are too self-righteous to sit in traffic like the rest of us, or dare I say, deign to take mass transit. It’s about an endless history of government waste and questionable spending practices that listless entrepreneurs will try to balance by charging the very people who their inane spending habits affected the most. It’s an untapped source of revenue over which businesspeople like Bloomberg salivate as they stare longingly at those poor, untolled, engineering marvels. A makeshift race card defense isn’t going to fly every single time this power brokerage rears its ugly haunches to piss on us.

That said, ringing true to even the soundest of Queens and Brooklyn minds, it’s all phrased as opinion. Opinions don’t win dink! This blog entry is not about my opinion. Imagine that! It is about equipping you, the reader, with all the actual arguments that should have been brought to bear in New York. It is about sharing the layer upon layer of common sense that was ignored from both sides in our case, so that you can adjust to your own city’s attempt at congestion pricing with a full and proper arsenal. I’ve no doubt that some cities are going to sneak it through, but before they do, they are going to have to contend with you and each and every single GOOD point you bring up at the hearings before getting it done. I’ll give you what I can. Please give me yours. Let’s work this out.


First, let us just plainly and logically discount the notion that congestion pricing is a green initiative as proposed in NYC. Perhaps the simplest illustration I can borrow is the fact that all cars would be charged the same toll. Hybrid cars were not going through at half price. Alternative energy cars (like yet to be legalized hydrogen vehicles which only produce water as waste) are not getting through the tolls for free. There would be no pro-rate for cars that use less gas over cars that use more. There would be no 1955 singing Exxon team popping out of each toll booth to check under your hood and validate your energy prudence. If the heart of the matter is an ecological one, certainly no truly green mitigating provision was made in the congestion pricing proposal. Not green $8.00. Completely green, $8.00. Horse and buggy, $8.00. How stupid do they think we are?

Even if future editions of this farce crop up including discount provisions and passes, one still cannot justify the ADDED 40 minute to 2 hour wait that all drivers, hybrid, biodiesel, corn ethanol, and otherwise, would have to wait in the snaky line behind the toll booth. That’s not green. That’s not reasonable. If the current rush hour wait times on the highly tolled west side at the New Jersey bridges and tunnels are any indication, waits that take place on wide open highways, well then the waits through the easterly Chiclet-like neighborhood blocks, fully actuated traffic lights, industrial parks, double-parking, and bus stops are going to be all that much worse. When I am talking about 40 minute to 2 hour waits, I AM ROUNDING DOWN! People we are talking about a different kind of green here, dollar green.

Besides, that’s just the autocentric version of the “green” debacle. Though I am in full awareness that the people of our nation are exorbitantly far from green goals, what about those crafty, future Queens homeowners who will have participated in projects enough to completely neutralize or negate their entire carbon footprint? For every bit of gasoline they will have bought and for every molecule of pollution they will have shunted through their tailpipe, they will have also done something else on the homefront to reverse the curse. They will have planted trees and tended to flowers. They will have stuck a windmill on the roof, gone paperless with their bills. They will have taken to buying only green products, reduced, reused, recycled, minimized consumerism, ridden bikes locally, hosted Earth Day, become vegetarians, forgone AC, and donated to the DEP to clean up the East River. You mean to tell me that Inspector 12 is going to come monthly to their homes and fill out a certificate that allows them to cross that very same East River at a discount? No! “You are on four wheels and rollin’ lady, 8 bucks.” Congestion pricing has nothing to do with ecology. Were that the proposition’s only fault, it might have had a chance.

I’m going to start with the absolute broadest reason why congestion pricing is titanically unjust, the reason lawmakers need to have smacked in their faces. It punishes the people who are already doing things correctly! Congestion pricing punishes the people who are presently doing exactly what the city insists that they do to battle congestion! The city wants people to take mass transit. Well, millions of them do just that. They are on a train in a hole in the ground every morning at rush hour and again at rush hour on the way home. They stand, packed, dangerously shoulder to shoulder, not a seat in sight, clutching belongings and unable to reach the nearest pole or strap to hang onto in the speeding subway snarl. They are crowd-pressed to teeter on platform edges as the trains roll into stations, already sardine-full of people from the previous stop, each clipped for two bucks a head to experience the luxury of this risk to life and limb and time and comfort and privacy. Commuters are herded up wide staircases with nary an inch to spare between their own faces and the stranger’s ass in front of them. The sheer mass of the populous sharing their commute, the mass that is mass transit, has so engorged the subway and buses systems that, in typical New York fashion, morning rush hour is actually two and a half hours long. Nighttime rush hour lasts from 4pm to 7:30pm without blinking an eye. Six full hours per business day of people-stuffing, strained backs, picked pockets, squeezed breath, spilled drinks, no seats, danger, dehumanization, and cumulative, inadvertent dry humping; and to this equation Bloomberg wishes to ADD all the people in up to 40% of all the vehicles in Manhattan?! I guess one of us must have bent his grandmother over at Thanksgiving.

Too personal? Perhaps. I mean, the idea of congestion pricing seemed pretty damned personal to me. How about my once pregnant wife, high-risk pregnancy, weekly appointments with her OB, the occasional extra appointment for a test or two here or there? Well, we live in Queens. Her choice of doctor (and we have to add the insurance company’s choice of doctor) was in Manhattan. You mean to tell me that you think it is perfectly fine to implement a congestion pricing scheme that would leave my pregnant wife only two real transit choices for every single appointment as well as for the “big day?” Choice number one, walk eight blocks, go up the subway steps, enter the subway system, up another set of steps, onto the train, 20 minute ride with rush hour bodies knit together like a big B.O. doily, change trains underground, 10 minute ride with rush hour bodies crushed to critical and sometimes urinating mass, up another set of steps, followed by a five block walk to the hospital. Choice number two, get in the car and wait 40 minutes to 2 hours to get through an $8.00 toll, per trip, and over a bridge that without the toll can take 5 minutes? Hey, I realize it is expensive to have a baby in New York, but you just took $416 out of that baby’s mouth. If you consider the time I spend waiting each day to make it through that toll, time I could have been at work after each doctor’s appointment, well even at minimum wage that’s an additional $371.80 you’ve taken from that child’s well-being. This doesn’t even count gas spent while waiting. Might not sound like much, and therefore it might not sound too personal, but let’s keep in mind there are 125,00 babies born in New York City every year. That’s 150,000 to 275,000 pregnant commuters at any given time. There's a hearing I want to hear!

Let us, for the moment, turn to discounting some of the lesser riddles embedded with the pro-congestion pricing pulpit. How about the idea that the intention of congestion pricing was to encourage people outside of the city to take mass transit? Well, we are getting closer here, but still untrue. Placing the toll booths on the bridges smack in the middle of the city means you are not looking to curtail outside cars from entering NYC, but that you are trying to curtail any cars, including the cars belonging to your own hard-working residents, from going to one particular area (the area where most of your citizens work). Bridges, sadly, form the perfect traffic bottleneck for toll booths. It makes sense that a money-monger would WANT to put the tolls on bridges, but if one is truly to encourage “outsiders” to opt for mass transit, than the toll booths logically need to be placed on the far more voluminous inbound roads on the outskirts of one’s jurisdiction. There would have to be sudden, expensive booth eyesores placed on each Nassau County road leading into Queens, the city’s largest county. Impossible!

Instead, bridges were the target, and perhaps luckily for naysayers. See, the proposed placement of the booths couldn’t have any better illustrated all the flaws with the idea. One key argument I never heard brought up to combat congestion pricing was its effect. In effect, as a proposed method to “curtail” traffic in Manhattan by 13% to 40%, such was not a curtailing at all. It was a manner in which to EXPORT the traffic to other boroughs within the same city. Up to a Manhattan-sized 40% increase in traffic would be diverted to the local roads and neighborhoods housing the very citizens who predominantly support NYC’s central business nexus. That flat traffic increase is then additionally lumped on top of the then 40% more monstrous bottle-neck caused by the toll itself. Mosquito infestation? Blah! We’ll fix it. Send 40% of those mosquitoes to your brother’s house. It’s poor business ethic, plain and simple.

I truly thought that Bloomberg, who ran as a Republican and later changed to a more Independent approach, was a person learning lessons. If so, it might then follow that at least some of those lessons would be the lessons of history. The congestion pricing proposal for NYC flagrantly ignored so many of the lessons of history that it became quite difficult to see anything inspired in the idea.

It ignored the countless news broadcasts, two toll hikes ago in 2001, that showed New Jersey drivers furious over NYC inbound tolls going up as they commuted to work, but surprisingly showed Manhattanites who were happy as pie and grossly over-thankful for the increase, figuring the hike would keep more cars out of “their” city. It didn’t, at least not until 9 months had passed and even then to a tune of a trivial 2%. Such broadcasts overtly laid those Manhattanite desires right out for everyone to hear. Do we really think those desires faded in just five or six years? Do Manhattanites deserve special treatment over others in their own city, OUR city?

It also ignored the history of the bridges bringing the city together as a single entity, a story founded on more than just matters of transit, money, trade and traffic, but one deeply rooted in culture, immersion, freedom, and empowerment. The History Channel even ran an ironically recent special on these giant NYC bridges and how they made the city whole. Cast in the light of bridge-building past, the congestion pricing proposal cannot hope to achieve any greater reputation than that of purposeful division.

I guess it also doesn’t help that the proposal ignored years of widely publicized complaints from Triborough Bridge users. In a nutshell, users of this bridge are chiefly New York City residents who are forced to pay a toll to get both to and from work within their own home town, the folks whom I’d mentioned earlier as being charged to get into their own neighborhoods. The Triborough Bridge, a bridge with three legs (plus) that actually reaches three city destinations, while placed perfectly to service three boroughs, is also at a cross-purposed niche in the city geography. It is both near the center of the city and used as an entry point. It is controlled by The Metropolitan Transit Authority and tolled much as the New Jersey crossings are despite the fact that no end of it touches New Jersey, no end leaves NYC, and it stretches across the same river as all the free bridges. The weirdness of the Triborough’s status aside, years of complaints from commuters have yielded years of responses from city officials. For decades now the typical response had been that if Queens residents wish not to pay Triborough tolls to enter Manhattan, they already have another free alternative, the 59th Street Bridge (Queensboro Bridge). Well, that response seems to imply that if Queens residents had no alternative, the Triborough Bridge toll would be eliminated. Did I say implied? The wording of this repeatedly visited response, when stated officially, is practically a promise. Under congestion pricing, there would be no alternative. Yet, was there any provision to address this historical fact, any provision that would have city officials and the MTA make good on their promise? Nope. In fact, it is more likely the Triborough Bridge toll would need be nearly doubled to match congestion pricing on the other bridges. VoilĂ ! Another turbulent verbal history of citizen voice verses government rationalization ignored as Bloomberg’s skirmishers beseeched Albany to pass the bill.

Perhaps the easiest reel of history for our representatives to have shelved was the common sense episode. Tolls, for the most part, are meant to help pay for new thoroughfares. They offset new bridge costs and new highway costs, ensuring that public projects eventually pay for themselves. Specifically, they are a plan to guarantee that those who foot the bill are those who use the road, and not an additional tax hike on six million people who stayed at home summer Fridays picking their toes. Sometimes, tolls are instead worked into a broader shard of the revenue system, not only paying for the road over which one travels, but additionally helping to pay for related initiatives, like transit in general, or unrelated initiatives like public schools, police protection, and the Mayor’s penis pump. In either case, there is an unavoidable chronology in the purposing of tolls. In the first case mentioned, tolls have a built-in end date. They are placed for a number of years and then removed when the road construction and maintenance costs have been superseded. New York City need only look to its near neighbor, the Southern State Parkway for this example. In the second case mentioned, tolls are placed when the road is built and are planned to remain in that location indefinitely. NYC’s other near neighbor, The New Jersey Turnpike, is a shining and despicably expensive example of this usage. However, does anyone care that in neither case is a road allowed to remain free for a century and then get tolled later on? That’s a step backwards! A twelve year old kid can tell that's a decision that moves in completely the wrong direction. This concept is consumately un-American. To find its like, one has to stretch for examples all the way across the Atlantic Ocean or into nations with whom we would never share economic policy. We are not Stockholm on the Hudson. You know, the plain common sense of it is that Manhattan traffic will not be viabley curtailed. For every vehicle you get out of the area, another one will take its place eventually, usually from within Manhattan by people living there. Where do we get off suggesting a rigid policy that even distantly approaches the ideal of, “If you want to drive here, you have to be rich...and we're willing to move backwards to enforce that?”

In the end, maybe the folks on my side in Albany had it right. Maybe all these many solid arguments were just too common, too easy to overlook as non-points and non-politics. Maybe the “race card” or the “unfair tax” approach had more on the ball than I’d realized. I mean, after all, it is one more well known lesson of history that Robert Moses, power broker who saw to the construction of the Northern and Southern State Parkways, each stretching east over Long Island from NYC, sought to prejudicially exclude. All the cross-street bridges over both parkways were purposely built too low to allow buses to pass thereunder. It was an artifice specifically employed to disallow poorer people (urban minorities) from making their way to Long Island. That’s a bit of a Berlin Wall, a kind of lowbrow force field. Well, what is Bloomberg, but a rich power broker? I personally don’t hear a speck of bigotry in his speeches. That shows he’s careful, careful enough to tailor every quip, careful enough not to use language that divides. It begs the question then, why he as such a careful, rich, power broker would elect to back a policy that so clearly lumps him into historical association with another who deliberately sought to divide, maybe even conquer. Aren’t appearances everything?