Friday, August 10, 2007

Hey, yo! Bye bye until Sepember 12th or so.

That’s it until mid September kiddos. I’m gone. Outta here. On vacation. Resting. Chilling. Laying back. Cooling it. You get the idea.

I’ll be somewhere near a beach a good part of the time. And in the heart of Paris the rest of the time. And I’ll be thinking about anything but this blog.

I mean, I’ve had it for a while with subways that don’t work because it’s raining. With a President of the U.S. who can’t hear any voice that doesn’t say what he doesn’t like to hear. With a mayor whose ego is so bloated he’s seriously considering screwing up the next Presidential election for his own self-gratification. (Somebody, please, teach that man to masturbate like ordinary people.) With waiters who can’t wait, billionaires who can never feel rich enough, and my own slum-grade office space, straight out of Charles Dickens’ worst nightmare.

Sorry, no comments will be posted until my return

As most of my dozen or so loyal readers (and a few Crank haters) know, I screen reader comments at this blog, although only for obscenity potential libel, and threats of physical violence. Since I won’t be here, you won’t be able to post comments until my return, assuming you have any comments.

I’ll be back in September, mad as hell at something or other. Guaranteed.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Sweltering New Yorkers endure a forced march, traffic clogs the streets, and Mayor Bloomberg’s “congestion pricing” won’t fix it

I woke up at 5 AM this morning to the sounds of thunder and a loud tattoo of rain on the air conditioner outside my bedroom window.

By the time I got downstairs to breakfast, CNN was reporting that most of the West Side subways were suffering severe delays or had come to a dead stop due to flooding. Yeah, flooding. The City of New York is getting to resemble a third world country. It rains for two hours and the city's mass transit arteries suffer the municipal equivalent of a stroke.

As I write this, CNN has posted a story saying that the whole subway system, including that on the East Side, is kaput for the moment.

"Due to severe flooding throughout the subway system, there are extensive delays on all subway lines," said a statement from the Metro Transit Authority (MTA). "Customers are advised when at all possible to use bus service."
Bus service? You gotta be kidding!

I figured that it would be crazy to go down into the Number 6 subway line during this kind of mess. Unfortunately, I forgot that you should never put your trust in the Metropolitan Transit Authority. So this morning I hiked over to Fifth Avenue where there are bus lines that would get me fairly close to my office.

Lotsa luck! Where normally there are sometimes four or five people during rush hour waiting at the stop that serves me, there were now about 100 New Yorkers lined up for the next bus – more than could crowd onto a bus even if the bus arrived empty. A bus crawled right past them – already packed too full to take on more riders.

I started to walk. Bus stops further down the line were equally crammed with discouraged would-be riders. But I wasn’t the lone hiker. Platoons of grimly resigned people were trudging toward midtown. It was not a good day for a long walk. The temperature humidity index is supposed to make it feel like 105 degrees by noon today.

Meanwhile, Fifth Avenue was clogged – with buses, taxis, trucks, a few private cars, and lots and lots of limos and chauffeur-driven SUVs. Nothing was moving. Nada. Zip. The city has gridlock growing on its gridlock. The photograph above is just a bit of what I saw.

The goose egg nightmare

What effect would congestion pricing have? On a day like today, draw yourself a huge goose egg.

Desperate commuters from the outlying boroughs – and from the ‘burbs where there are also service “delays” today – desperate commuters can’t very easily walk the five, or ten, or twelve or 40 miles to the office. Even if it costs them two hours or more of extra commuting time in a gridlocked automobile, or an extra eight bucks, they’ll drive.

And on an “ordinary” day?

The guys in the limos won’t miss the eight bucks. The trucks have to get through, no matter what. The taxis will still be here. You may scare away a few automobile commuters, but you won’t achieve more than that.

To the extent that congestion pricing works at all, more hapless commuters than we have today will be driven into the dangerously crowded subways or aboard the jam-packed buses at rush hour. Which will simply make travel easier for limousine-riding billionaires like the mayor. They'll simply pay the eight bucks and laugh all the way to their power breakfasts.

Who wants a practical solution? Not the mayor.

A practical thinker might suggest that if Mayor Bloomberg really wants to get more people on mass transit, the first thing he’d do is work to improve mass transit. Improve the infrastructure and they will come. Drive them into the crumbling infrastructure with a punitive equivalent of a fine for driving and they will merely suffer.

The mayor might try to find way to help speed up construction of the under- construction- for-40-years Second Avenue Subway. Find funds to help the Metropolitan Transit Authority (admittedly not under his control) put more buses into service. Encourage cyclists instead of having his cops arrest them at every opportunity.

The city’s controller has already suggested something like this – a way to help out but still keep subway riding affordable for the average working stiff.

But don't count on Mayor Bloomberg for anything like that. Shuffling money around, even for a good cause, won’t get him the kind of notice he wants when he’s running for President. As reported at various times on this blog, the Mayor is definitely out to run as a third party candidate, which will make him the most arrogant spoiler in U.S. politics since Ralph Nader.

Oh yes, as if to confirm the matter once again, the New York Daily News caught the off-guard mayor talking about his presidential ambitions.

Hey Bubblehead, how many times do I have to tell you not to shoot your mouth off among strangers on elevators?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Aw c’mon, gimme an effin’ break! A blogger’s union? Who should I strike against? Myself? Qwaaack!

"In a move that might make some people scratch their heads, a loosely formed coalition of left-leaning bloggers are trying to band together to form a labor union they hope will help them receive health insurance, conduct collective bargaining or even set professional standards." --(AP story. Copy and paste the humongous link below.)

Look, dude, I lean slightly to the left, but that doesn’t mean I earn a salary writing this blog. It's a labor of love. Or maybe of insanity. At any rate, there’s no way I figure I could make two cents an hour with what I'm sending out into the blogosphere.

If I go on strike and actually succeed in doubling my salary, I’ll still have zero salary.

If I go on strike to force myself to pay me a salary and win, I’ll have to take money out of my left pants pocket and put it in my right pants pocket. This is probably true of 99 and 9/10ths percent of the bloggers out there.

And then with whom should we, as members of the Blogger's Union, compete for membership? The Newspaper Guild? Not that I have anything against unions, but in order for a union to work, you have to have employees and employers. Maybe we could ignore that and simply oppose any union that isn't our union. We could have a blogger-laborer’s song:

The newspaper union
Is a no-good union
Is a company union
Of the bosses (Hissss)

The Writers’ Guild fakers
And the journalist muckrakers
Are making by the bloggers
Double crosses. (Hisssss)

The Mudochs and the Newscorps
And the Bancroft Clan –
Got ze-ro resistance from the Un-ian
They spread lies in the atmosphere
And finance disaster here
To bring down the blogosphere
With a union.

Tell you what, boys and girls. I’ll work on improving this verse if you go home and re-think unionizing a workforce that mostly works for itself.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Poison-me-Elmo, Dora the Toxic Explorer, and the Deadly Cookie Monster: Killing our kids for the sake of a buck?

I’ve just noticed that Mattel has announced a recall of toys. Evidently, Mattel’s crisis management PR guys must be burning billable hours full-tilt.

It seems someone found lead in the paint on a whole bunch of Mattel toys. Just the thing you don’t want your kids touching or putting in their mouths.

Why is that? Well, according to the National Safety Council, lead poisoning can result in “reduced IQ, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, behavioral problems, stunted growth, impaired hearing, and kidney damage. At high levels of exposure, a child may become mentally retarded, fall into a coma, and even die from lead poisoning.” (URL at the bottom of this post.)

Now look, I’m not criticizing Mattel for recalling what may be toxic toys. In that respect they’re doing the right thing.

But they also must be aware that there may be hell to pay when the stockholders latch on to this. The stock, in Thursday’s generally upward-moving market, fell 40 cents, or 2.7 percent. Things could be worse if customers stop buying Mattel products.

Minimizing the alarm

No wonder they’re minimizing the matter, even as they announce that their stuff may be poisonous. To quote an AP article (URL at the bottom of this piece) that quoted a Mattel honcho:

"We require our manufacturing partners to use paint from approved and certified suppliers and have procedures in place to test and verify, but in this particular case our procedures were not followed," Jim Walter, Mattel's senior vice president of worldwide quality assurance, said in a statement. "We are investigating the cause to ensure such events do not reoccur."
Well, Jim, glad you’re finally “investigating.” But I can’t help noticing that “this particular case” covers 83 different toys. To me that’s eighty-three cases. Eighty-three times how many units have you sold? In how many stores? Equals how many possibly poisoned babies, toddlers and little kids?

Oh, sorry, Mattel is not offering that information.

Who should take the blame for this? Blame Old Man Greed, who has agents ready to poison all of us for a buck every step of the way.

Death for your kids: another fine
product of our outsourced economy

We manufacture hardly anything in this country any more. To save a buck – and put much of that buck toward profits – we outsource just about everything we manufacture and a heck of a lot of stuff we eat to some low-wage corner of the world, There, desperate people can manufacture or grow it on the cheap.

And our prime source of stuff that we once made and grew for ourselves? Why, China, of course. So far, we’ve learned that China has poisoned our dog food, China has poisoned our cat food, China may be poisoning our own human food, and now they’re poisoning our toys. What's next, pharmaceuticals?

Sometimes when this happens, China arrests the president of some poisonous outsource facility and puts a bullet in the back of his head. You can rest assured that this teaches him a lesson he’ll never forget. Guaranteed he’ll never poison us again. Instead, it’ll be someone else’s turn.

What do you do when the enemy
controls your war production?

Other results of outsourcing are just as grave. Roughly two decades ago, I had a chat with the officer of a small conglomerate that was buying up high tech companies and making them more profitable before spinning them off again.

His company had purchased a U.S. military subcontractor that made missile nose cones. Then they moved the manufacturing facility from the United States to Pakistan, which resulted in cheaper labor, lower overhead and higher profits for the conglomerate. Of course there was a small problem.


If we ever have to chase after Osama Bin Laden on the Pakistan border over Pakistan’s objections, what do we do? Call up the President of Pakistan and say, “Stop blocking those nose cone shipments? We need them to bomb you.”

Not to mention the possibility that Osama himself, as you read this, may be, umm, appropriating missile parts for his own purposes.

If we’re going to fix the problem we need a law that insists that every item sold in this country – and I mean every item – should come with a clear label that designates the country of origin. And we’ve got to ban outsourcing for defense.

And finally, we've got to ban outsourcing, period, from any country were there is a history of selling us impure or poisonous products – before all of us end up either economic prisoners of foreign suppliers, or poisoned by them.

The Republican Kumbaya tango

That noise you hear in the distance is the loud groaning of big business Republicans, wanting to know why we all can’t be nice and international and sing Kumbaya. Funny how they (and yes, some Democrats as well) turn into a bunch of hippies who want to buy the world a Coke whenever what’s really at stake is guarding huge profits at the expense of Americans. And that includes American kids who could be poisoned by their toys.

What’s next? A doll called Lucretia Barbie?

Check out these URLS:

(Note, I’m having linking problems that are making me very, very cranky. If the links don’t link, just copy and paste ‘em. That usually works.

The list of 83 potentially poisonous Mattel toys:

News report on same:

What lead poisoning does to your kids:

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

“Subway rider Bloomberg?” NY Times reveals my cranky doubts about the mayor's commute were well founded.

Late in June, I crankily noted that Mayor Bloomberg’s supporters say he rides the subway to work every morning. But I had my doubts. I wrote on this blog:

Some of his supporters will rush to tell you he rides the subway himself. Yeah? How often? And at what time of day?

I get on at Lexington and 77th Street, same place as Bloomberg would get on if he takes the subway to City Hall from the station closest to his multi-million dollar private mansion. Funny, I never seen him on the platform. Not ever.

Hey fellow Lexington Avenue Line riders, how often have YOU seen Bloomberg on the subway? (I used to see the late former Mayor Abe Beame on the subway about once every month. He also boarded at Lexington and 77th and he was indeed a regular mass transit rider. Moreover, he was even shorter than Michael Bloomberg, which is saying something.

So it’s not hard to believe that if Bloomberg rides the subway to work at rush hour, people would spot him there.) But finding Bloomberg on the subway at rush hour is about as likely as running into the tooth fairy.

Well guess what, folks. A team of New York Times reporters staked out the mayor’s mansion – not the official residence, which he shuns sleeping in, but his own private mansion on East 79th Street.) Were they inspired by The New York Crank? I dunno. But guess what?

They discovered

• Mayor Bloomberg only commutes via subway part of the time. And not a big part of the time, either.

• Even when he commutes by subway, he gets driven via SUV to the subway.

• He not only gets driven in a high fuel consumption SUV, but another SUV always accompanies his own SUV. That’s two SUVs to get the billionaire Mayor’s hind end to a subway

• He doesn’t even go to the subway station closest to his personal mansion – the same station I use – which may explain why I’ve never seen him there. Instead, he gets driven more than a mile to a less crowded subway station where he can catch a faster train.

All of which makes him as much of a typical commuter as I am free of cranky moods and loathing for this mayoral phony.

This is the man who piously tells us to stay out of cars to reduce traffic and pollution in New York.

He sanctimoniously tells us that an $8 charge for driving south of 86th Street will decrease congestion – which it will, for himself and his co-billionaire friends in their own SUVs, for whom $8 means less than eight cents to you and me.

Meanwhile, those New Yorkers who can’t afford a chauffeur-driven ride to the subway and an $8 tax for accepting it, sweat it out in the real commuting world.

What’s Michael Bloomberg’s real reason?

I’d be willing to hazard a cranky guess at several secret Bloombergian motives:

1. Despite his protestations to the contrary, it is evident that Michael Bloomberg is considering a run for the Presidency as a third party candidate – sort of a Ralph Nader spoiler with a few billion extra bucks in his pants pocket to blow on screwing up the election and throwing it to a Republican successor.

2. Here in New York, his school reorganization, despite Mayor Bloomberg's own advertising to the contrary, isn’t achieving much of anything. To claim he did something important, he’s grabbing at straws, like an $8 daily automobile use tax. (Disclosure of sorts: I do not own an automobile. You’d have to be crazy in this town just to pay the garage rental of $600 a month and up, not counting existing taxes and New York automobile insurance rates.)

3. Mayor Bloomberg is after the half billion bucks the Federal government will award the city if he enacts his plan, no matter how ill-advised the plan is or how much damage it does to the middle class. He may need the dough – plus the revenues his daily automobile use tax will generate – to balance his budget, since he doesn't plan on kicking in any of his own personal loot. Please remember: I dunno this for sure. I’m only speculating

4. With a daily tax on people who need to drive below 86th Street plus the half billion of federal greenback largesse for enacting the plan, watch him declare if he runs for President that he never raised taxes. Even though the $8 fee is a tax on every person who buys something delivered below 86th Street, or who pays for services below 86th Street.

So what can I say to Mayor Bloomberg? Only one thing:

Liar, Liar, yer pants on fire.

Check out this New York Times blog:

Or read the whole Times article here:
(Sorry, you'll have to copy and paste this one into your browser)