Archive | March, 2009

Red Light Cameras – One Step Further

31 Mar

Listening to Shredd & Ragan yesterday, city councilman Mickey Kearns indicated that the proposal to approve the installation of red light cameras in Buffalo (or, more specifically, to ask the state’s permission to move forward with red light cameras) was tabled. This afternoon, it was revealed that the measure was put to a vote and passed 5 – 3.

Red light cameras are not safety devices. They are revenue-generators. Any safety improvement that might be seen would be insignificant, and they take away police discretion.

Furthermore, given that we’re talking about the City of Buffalo, located in the State of New York, it’s more likely than not that the contract to install these things will go to the best-connected, the contract to operate these things will go to a friend of a brother of a sister-in-law’s. It’s more likely than not that the thing will not operate as advertised out of the box, and costly repairs will be needed before they’re operational. Then they’ll start pegging people’s license plates but not get their faces, which means if you lend your car to your friend and he runs a light, you’ll get the ticket and points.

If running red lights is such a big problem, stick some cops at key intersections to do a ticketing blitz. It’s a whole lot cheaper, quicker, and easier than new equipment and a whole new law to get around the fact that a cop is supposed to witness the violation he’s ticketing. If running red lights is such a safety hazard, start timing lights so that people are less likely to knowingly or inadvertently run them.

This is a money grab with an only tangential relationship to issues of safety. And ultimately, because it’ll be a private company running the system, they’re the ones who’ll be making out best.

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Deep Thought

31 Mar

Nobody gives a shit about this anymore. Nobody. It’s as repetitive and inconclusive as the Peace Bridge, Bass Pro, etc., ad nauseum.

Like an Albanian Blood Feud

31 Mar

Is the fight between Steve Pigeon and Sam Hoyt. A mailer such as this outside of an election cycle? Pretty much unprecedented.

The New York State Budget

31 Mar

Yesterday it was announced that Governor Paterson, Assembly Speaker Silver, and Senate Majority Leader Smith had reached an accord on a state budget. It raises spending while also raising taxes.

That is not the path that Albany should be going down. None of these alleged leaders has done a thing to change the three-men-in-a-room process. This would be completely within their power to do, and they know that public sentiment (among people who care or pay attention) is overwhelmingly in favor of rules changes.

From the Daily News:

Despite Paterson’s repeated warnings about the state’s fiscal crisis, total spending actually increases by $10.5 billion, or 8.7%, according to state leaders. The bulk of that, they say, is $7.2 billion in federal stimulus money that is required to be spent in the coming fiscal year.

The remainder includes $2 billion in spending cuts rejected by lawmakers as well as $1.3 billion in capital and debt service spending. Even without factoring in the stimulus money, state taxpayer-supported funding should grow by at least $800 million, Paterson’s office said.

Special interests and pet projects are well-represented. The people of the state of New York as a whole are not.

The proposed budget is as broken as the process that shat it out.

(Cartoon courtesy Marquil at EmpireWire.com)

Libertarian Candidate

30 Mar

Courtesy Marquil @ EmpireWire.com

Tedisco’s Experience

30 Mar

Courtesy Marquil @ EmpireWire.com

Tea Party Recap

30 Mar

Because they’ve been pushed down the page a ways…

1. My post about the anti-Albany tea party

2. An example of some nonsense that was there

3. Ostrowski does a j’accuse all over himself

4. Video highlights of the event

5. My interview with Rus after the tea party

GM and Chrysler – Last Exit Before Bankruptcy

30 Mar

McClatchy is reporting as follows:

President Barack Obama on Monday will reject requests for almost $22 billion in new taxpayer bailout money for General Motors Corp. and Chrysler, saying the car makers have failed to take steps to ensure their viability.

The government sought the departure of GM chief Rick Wagoner and said the company needed to be widely restructured if it had any hope of survival. It said it would provide the company with 60 days operating capital to give it time to undertake reforms.

The government will grant Chrysler 30 days operating funds, but said it must merge with another carmaker in order to remain viable. Talks with Italian carmaker Fiat are underway.

GM and Chrysler have already received $17+ billion in federal funding to stay afloat, and had a further need for federal bailout money in order to avoid bankruptcy. They had both submitted strategic plans for recovery which have been deemed inadequate.

The problems with GM and Chrysler are so long-standing and fundamentally structural, there’s probably little way they can be fixed without something drastic like bankruptcy. The problem is that the public’s already weak confidence with these automakers will only become weaker when questions about warranty service enter into it. The feds, therefore, have instituted a warranty guarantee program to avoid that problem.

Many are making much of the idea that forcing Wagoner out represents little more than communism. The difference, of course, is that under communism the government expropriates private industry without recourse. Here, the companies came to the federal government begging, hat in hand, for money – and they accepted it under certain conditions.

Chrysler already got bailed out once in the early 80s, and it repaid the government every penny. This is nothing new, and accusations that the government is just trying to run business is intellectually dishonest and silly. The government didn’t ask to bail out GM or Chrysler – the automakers made the plea.

When Chrysler needed that bailout it was in the wake of the 70s era energy crises which saw MPG trump HP in people’s purchasing choices. Honda, Toyota, and Datsun sold fun, fuel-efficient cars while Detroit was still making crappy gas guzzlers. Attempts to compete in the small car arena came too slowly, and more often than not, they were failures. GM’s horrific late-70s diesels still curse passenger car diesel acceptance in the US to this day.

Throughout the earlier part of this decade, GM, Ford, and Chrysler relied on the sales of gas-guzzling pickups and SUVs. People love them, and the companies’ margins were higher when they sold these vehicles. All of a sudden, when gas hit about $4.00/gallon, SUVs and pickups getting 15 MPG were unsellable, and domestic automakers were faced with a small handful of decent, attractive, fuel-efficient cars. It’s no surprise that the company that would put the Aztek to market would soon fail.

GM and Chrysler have made poor decisions, and built mediocre vehicles for many years. They’re also the backbone of American manufacturing. When they came begging for public money, they sacrificed a great deal.

Mia on the Tea Party

29 Mar

Peep Eating Contest at the Broadway Market

29 Mar