Archive | January, 2008

Open Thread Tuesday

29 Jan

Here’s my reaction to Bush’s State of the Union address:

We had about 70-so people show up for the watch party at Founding Fathers last night, and everyone seemed to be having fun. At one point an impromptu “na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye” broke out, but not too many people went along with it. Anyhow, busy day, light posting, so consider this an open thread for whatever you want to discuss.

Gratitude

28 Jan

Erin from Eringoblog was subbing for a teacher who was out on leave, and you have to check out what her students did for her on her last day there. She should be very proud, and as I commented there, It’d be great if she could somehow put that on a resume.

State of the Union Watch Party TODAY!

28 Jan

A quick reminder that the WNY Coalition for Progress will be hosting the:

Third Annual Buffalo State of the Union Watch Party
Founding Fathers Pub
75 Edward Street in Buffalo
8pm on Monday the 28th

There will be food available (and a donation to defray that cost is most appreciated), and cash bar. We will again play State of the Union BINGO!

Next year, someone else’ll be giving this speech. Savor.

Photo credit: Calanan

The New York State Thruway: Fail

28 Jan

An audit by state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli reveals what we all suspected. The Thruway is not run efficiently, and is quick to pull the trigger on toll increases before prioritizing roadwork and otherwise critically assessing its expenses.

“It’s easy to raise tolls, but the Thruway Authority should take a hard look in the mirror before it pushes another toll hike on New Yorkers,” DiNapoli said. “Toll hikes are not warranted until the Thruway Authority examines its own spending. The Thruway is too important to the upstate economy to unnecessarily raise tolls and drive up the cost of everything from milk to heating oil, not to mention the impact on commuters.”

Congressman Brian Higgins added,

“Travelers along the Thruway are forced to pay for maintenance and improvements twice, once in the federal gas tax, which is paid by consumers and passed down to the Authority, and again through tolls.

DiNapoli pointed out that the Thruway has been lax in enforcing toll violations, and should jettison the Erie Canal system when a feasible means of supporting that extraordinarily expensive waterway is devised.

The Thruway Authority argues that the audit’s suggestions that certain “useful” but non-essential construction projects be deferred until 2012 would harm traffic flow and safety. Improving a state police barracks will do neither, and the Thruway Authority needs to be abolished – but in the meantime, it needs an overhaul.

The Authority – which essentially answers to no one, and is now run by holdover Pataki appointees – needs to start acting not just as a handy cash cow for Albany pols, and a dumping ground for things that toll money might help pay for. It needs to act like a provider of a service for consumers. The tolls need to be kept down. Monetize everything from EZ-Pass transponders to the toll plazas to the toll tickets with advertising. Install high-speed toll gates for every single lane, with license plate readers for those without transponders. Ontario’s 407 has no toll booths, and charges you an extra fee for reading your plate. That’s the model.

As with many things that are operated by the state, we’re using 1950s technology and ideas in 2008.

I don’t know if the Authority knows, or cares, but have you ever seen the lineup of cars at the Williamsville barrier on any given Friday afternoon in the summertime? Why is it that large trucks are permitted to use the EZ-Pass only lanes towards the left of the plaza? Why is it that even with the tolls that we pay and the federal money they get, the Thruway’s road quality is shamed by that of our toll-free neighbors on I-90?

Count the Thruway as one more of those things that Spitzer didn’t challenge head-on on day one. The Thruway is upstate’s main street. If it was toll-free, it would be a real shot in the arm to the cities that line up along its route, from Albany to Buffalo.

Mary Lou Rath Retiring?

28 Jan

That’s the hot rumor going around.

Do you know anything about it? Heard any rumbling about who might be running? So far, at TAP, the speculation has been Lynn Marinelli, Rath’s son & brand-new EC Legislator Ed III, and Dan Ward. Illuzzi says Dr. Barry and Susan Grelick are also interested.

The Artemis & Stag Show!

27 Jan

Caroline Kennedy for Obama

26 Jan

obama2.jpg

Key quote in the piece she wrote for this Sunday’s New York Times entitled “A President Like My Father”:

I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.

Detroit 2008

26 Jan

I wasn’t able to make the time to go to NAIAS this year, so I’ll rely primarily on the work of others. Frankly, Detroit has been eclipsed in recent years by the Chicago Auto Show, which follows close on its heels, is located in a bigger city, and has a better facility. You think Buffalo’s Convention Center is a mish-mash of about seven different inter-related problems ranging from fugly design, small space, intrusion on the street grid, etc.? COBO Hall is a disgrace, given the fact that the major US automakers continue to be based in the neighborhood, and Detroit is supposed to be their big show.

Last year, the theme in Detroit was crossovers. Vehicles that are now on the road, such as the Mazda CX-7 and CX-9, the Hyundai Veracruz and redesigned Santa Fe, a redesigned Mitsubishi Outlander, GM’s Outlook/Enclave/Acadia, and others.

This year, we were meant to believe that the theme was “green”. That doesn’t necessarily explain why the redesigned 2009 Ford F-150 was named most “significant” introduction.

Toyota unveiled what can best be described as a Camry wagon – the Venza. I’m a big fan of wagons/sportwagons/hatchbacks, and this one is sort of cool-looking, but that front end…

BMW unveiled the 1-series convertible, coming to the U.S. market. While the Volvo C70 is stunning-looking and grown-up, and the VW Eos is a good value, available for under $30k, the 1-series starts out at $34k, but is decently equipped (read: you get a CD player) at close to $40k. This is for poseurs; people who don’t know much about cars, except that they want to be seen in a Bimmer.

Also from BMW is the 335d. On the outside, it’s a regular 3-series sedan. On the inside, it’s packing a 3.0L inline six-cylinder clean diesel engine that makes 265-hp, and 425-lb.ft. of torque. Translation? It’s a fast em effer, and will get about 34 MPG on the highway.

Honda unveiled a “prototype” of the next-gen Honda Pilot. Overdue for a redesign, this concept is just about production-ready, but I can’t imagine those eyeballs will make it into showrooms.

Honda also released its i-DTEC clean diesel engine, which will be released first, according to rumor, in the Acura TSX (which is little more than a rebadge of the European-market Honda Accord). Pair clean diesel power and fuel economy with Japanese quality, and more than a few people will be sold.

Ford introduced the Verve, which incorporates its newer, more European-influenced “Kinetic” design language.

Subaru introduced its new Forester. *Ugh*.

Volkswagen introduced something called the Passat CC. It’s like a Passat, only it isn’t. It’s like a Mercedes CLS, but its home is in Wolfsburg, not Stuttgart. What it will have on offer is something called a TSI engine. Already in use in Europe, the engine gives you more power with a smaller engine, resulting in improved gas mileage. The trick is, it uses a supercharger for low-end boost, as well as a turbocharger for higher-end power. It goes faster than the standard 2.0L turbocharged direct-inject engine, has more torque, and gets better mileage. Bizarro world, indeed.

Chrysler, no longer encumbered (or assisted, depending on your POV) by Daimler, unveiled some concepts:

The Jeep Renegade looks Muppet-like:

The Dodge ZEO looks like an angry momma eagle:

The Chrysler ecoVoyager is supposedly quite frugal with fuel, but looks somewhat derivative…

How about a fuel cell-driven Cadillac concept that looks pretty damn cool?

Finally, how about the Fisker Karma – a luxury hybrid sports car. You can have one for about $80,000, and it will do 0-60 in just under 6 seconds with its 4 cylinder engine mated to an electric motor…

There are two different modes available to drivers; the first, dubbed “Stealth Drive” is a pure electric mode which should allow the Karma to run off the lithium ion battery pack for 50 miles before the engine kicks into boost the juice. The second, a sports mode, integrates the four-banger for peak performance and, according to Fisker, makes the Karma sound like a combination of a jet fighter and an F1 car. The batteries themselves are placed smack dab in the middle of the vehicle, which lowers the car’s center of gravity and improves weight distribution.

Apart from the Dodge Ram, that’s about all I saw that was particularly interesting. The Mini Clubman S was released, but that’s not “new” in any strict sense. I don’t get all worked up over Corvettes, so I’ve ignored the ZR-1.

But I will leave you with this. The Audi R8 concept.

Dollar General

25 Jan

Least. Ambitious. Thief. Ever.

Ontario Recruiting WNY Nurses

25 Jan

Anyone else seen the billboards all around town recruiting nurses to go work in Ontario? I would have posted a picture, but it’s hard to take a snap at 55 MPH-ish.