Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hell on Wheels: Can E-Bikes Ever Go Legal? -- Daily Intelligencer

The current regulatory regime for e-bikes is nonsense.  Regulate them the same as mopeds, and then enforce the law accordingly.  In the meantime, prohibition is silly, but riders should be held accountable for the rampant wrong-way riding, lack of lights and sidewalk riding that we see regularly, especially among restaurant delivery persons. 
*cough, Ting Hua, cough cough*
After the 2002 federal law went into effect, Most states changed their codes to match it, but not New York. The DMV's website explicitly states: "A motor-assisted bicycle does not qualify for a registration as a motorcycle, moped or ATV and does not have the same equipment." Meanwhile, in New York City, a 2004 law aimed at minibike riders made it illegal to ride a "motorized scooter," which the city defines as any vehicle powered by a motor that is incapable of being registered with the DMV.
Updates: Wikipedia has a page (which needs some filling in) on e-bike regulation; the broader page covers international regulation, though I've linked specifically to the US portion.

You can read about NYC DOT's current effort to educate businesses and crack down on scofflaw behavior by commercial delivery bikes here.  This is for the broader subject of bicycle delivery, not e-bikes.  The state legislature needs to act to address e-bike regulations.

Bradley Manning Tried to Leak to the New York Times and Washington Post Before Turning to Wikileaks

I've said it before and I'll say it again. The New York Times of today
would have sat on the Pentagon Papers. Like they sat on warrant less
wiretapping. Like they sat on this. And for that matter, like they
refused to call well established (in law and historical reporting)
torture methods "torture" when the Bush administration made them

The Times is a well-written paper and a lot of extremely talented
people work there. But the management of the paper is as
establishment as it gets. This is not a paper that speaks truth to

So enjoy it for what it is, but never imagine you're as well informed
as you should be.

Subway/Bus Fares Go Up This Weekend; Inequitable Bridge Tolling Will Compound Traffic Woes

That Metrocard swipe is about to cut a little deeper.
New fare rates for subways, buses, Staten Island Railway (SIR) and Access-A-Ride will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, March 3.
The base fare for subways, local buses, SIR and Access-A-Ride is rising to $2.50 from $2.25; the base fare for express buses is rising to $6.00 from $5.50. The pay-per-ride bonus discount will be reduced to 5% from 7%, but will now be available for adding as little as $5 onto a MetroCard, down from $10 previously. A Single Ride Ticket purchased from MetroCard Vending Machines is rising to $2.75 from $2.50.

The 30-day unlimited-ride MetroCard will cost $112, up from $104. The 7-day unlimited-ride MetroCard will cost $30, up from $29. The 7-day express bus plus MetroCard will cost $55, up from $50. Unlimited-ride MetroCards purchased on March 2 or earlier must be activated by Monday, March 11, to obtain full value. Those activated after that date will allow travel through April 9 for 30-day cards and March 17 for 7-day cards. Any remaining time will be refunded on a pro-rated basis.

A $1 fee will be charged for each new MetroCard purchased at a MetroCard Vending Machine or station booth. At commuter rail stations, the $1 card fee will be applied to MetroCards providing bus and/or subway travel only; the $1 fee will not be applied to Joint Rail MetroCards providing subway, bus and commuter rail service. Customers can avoid this fee by keeping their MetroCard and refilling it at any vending machine or station booth. MetroCards now can be refilled with any combination of unlimited-ride time and/or pay-per-ride dollars. Customers turning in an expired or damaged card will be provided a new card at no charge. There are also exemptions for those who buy cards at out-of-system merchants or participate in the EasyPayXpress program or a pre-tax benefit program.
More information about fares on subways, buses and SIR.
I'm so old, I can remember when the state and city used to provide respectable funding for NYCT.  Now its a steady diet of debt and fare increases, and has been since the Pataki era.

But subway fares are not the only things going up.  LIRR and Metro-North fares will increase, along with the tolls paid at MTA bridges and tunnels.  And with increased tolls comes increased efforts to avoid tolls, and drivers clogging neighborhood streets to pack onto the free bridges into Manhattan.

Sam Schwartz has a plan that will help fix these problems.  While it explicitly will NOT fund operating costs, it is an equitable fix to a lot of interrelated transportation issues that would produce a steady stream of revenue for state of good repair and capital investments in both transit and the surface network.  This is a better plan than congestion pricing, addresses a broader range of issues, and includes carrots for the outer boroughs along with the stick.

The site seems to be having some issues, but bookmark it for later:

Post-Racial America!


Memorial Service for Martha Atwater ; Brooklyn Heights Forum on Street Safety

Brooklyn Heights Blog has the details on tomorrow's (Friday 3/1) memorial service for the Brooklyn Heights producer cut down on the sidewalk by a n out of control pickup truck last Friday. 

Another way to honor her memory, and to prevent this kind of senseless tragedy in the future, is to attend the BHA's meeting Monday night:

In light of the recent pedestrian deaths in the neighborhood, the Brooklyn Heights Association is having a meeting to discuss traffic safety in the area.  This Monday, 6:30pm, St. Francis College Board Room at180 Remsen St.

CB6 Landmarks/Land Use Committee Public Hearing TONIGHT

Note the public hearing aspect, as there is a variance on the agenda for a proposed residential build in the Columbia Waterfront neighborhood.  The link above has a picture of the site, which currently looks to be two lots with junk and a driveway.  I hope that the committee will require existing curb cuts to be eliminated in any approval.  Single family homes should not be getting private driveways.  And eliminating the curb cuts are a small price to pay for a zoning variance.  Restore that curb cut to public curbspace and improve the walkability of this block for all users.
  • PUBLIC HEARING on 96-98 Degraw Street (BSA Cal. Nos. 13-13-BZ and 14-13-BZ).
  • Discussion and formulation of a recommendation on an application (BSA Calendar Nos. 13-13-BZ and 14-13-BZ) submitted to the Board of Standards and Appeals on behalf of The Green Witch Project LLC and The Other Half, LLC requesting a variance to allow the construction of 2 three-story, approximately 3,100 square foot single-family residences pursuant to Zoning Resolution section 72-21 at 96-98 Degraw Street (Block 329, Lots 22-23), between Columbia and Van Brunt Streets.
  • Presentation and review of a Certificate of Appropriateness application submitted to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for a new roof deck with stairs, and new stairs to the rear yard at 226 Lincoln Place (between 7th/8th Avenues), Park Slope Historic District.
  • Presentation and review of a Certificate of Appropriateness application submitted to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for an extension to the existing rear yard extension at 226 Court Street (between Warren/Baltic Streets), Cobble Hill Historic District.
  • Presentation and review of a Certificate of Approrpriateness application submitted to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for the replacement of a front yard gas lamp and excavation of window wells in rear yard of 540 4th Street (between 8th Avenue/Prospect Park West), Park Slope Historic District.
  • Presentation and review of a Certificate of Appropriateness application submitted to the Landmarks Preservation Commission for the construction of a new roof deck and legalization of alterations to the parapet wall at 218-220 Baltic Street (between Court/Clinton Streets), Cobble Hill Historic District.
Tonight, 6:00 PM
Long Island College Hospital
339 Hicks Street, Room A
(at Atlantic Avenue)
Brooklyn, NY 11201

What the Hell Happened to Bob Woodward? -- Daily Intelligencer

Bob Woodward is a self-important buffoon.  His reliance on access journalism makes Andrew Ross Sorkin look like Sy Hersh.
"His more recent books often compile interesting facts, but how Woodward chooses to package those facts has come to represent a barometric measure of a figure's standing within the establishment. His 1994 account of Bill Clinton's major budget bill, which in retrospect was a major success, told a story of chaos and indecision. He wrote a fulsome love letter to Alan Greenspan, "Maestro," at the peak of the Fed chairman's almost comic prestige. In 2003, when George W. Bush was still a decisive and indispensable war leader, Woodward wrote a heroic treatment of the Iraq War. After Bush's reputation had collapsed, Woodward packaged essentially the same facts into a devastating indictment. Woodward's book on the 2011 debt negotiations was notable for arguing that Obama scotched a potential deficit deal. The central argument has since been debunked by no less a figure than Eric Cantor, who admitted to Ryan Lizza that he killed the deal."
I don't think history will be as kind to the Woodward mythos as the last 35 years have been. 

Oh, and who could forget Woodward's disgraceful commentary on the Plame affair, when he tried to cover for his pals in the Bush administration?  The man nauseates me.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Elected Officials, Cobble Hill Association Attempt End Run Around Would-Be LICH Speculators

. . . by requesting a contextual downzoning for the site. Patch has more on the
story, which was also picked up by Curbed. It's a clever gambit that just might work by eliminating the
perverse incentive to kill the hospital for real estate millions.
Now, after some creative strategizing between Councilman Brad Lander and members of the Cobble Hill Association, a new 'contextual zoning' proposition could place height regulations and zoning restrictions on the medical center's property, possibly protecting LICH from a future sale.

Matching the contextual 50' height limit of the adjacent Cobble Hill Historic District would drastically reduce the value of the property to potential developers.

Strange Bedfellows: Right Wing US Chamber of Commerce Backs Increase In Gas Tax

It is rare that I find myself even in partial agreement with the
Chamber, so this was a pleasant surprise.
"The Chamber (of Commerce) supports reasonable increases in gas taxes
that are phased in and indexed to inflation," the group's president,
Thomas Donohue, told the House of Representatives Committee on

"From a business standpoint, if you need something that's going to
provide a good return, you have to go out and invest in it and buy
it," he said, referring to highways and other infrastructure that make
it possible to produce and move goods.

"That's why we're willing to pay more in gas and diesel taxes for
something we know is going to make us more productive and efficient
and lower our costs," Donohue said.
As a general matter I am opposed to regressive taxation. Gas taxes
are an exception, for two reasons. One, they are not purely
regressive. Plenty of poor people do not have cars or consume much
gasoline; owning a vehicle is an expensive proposition. Two, and the far
greater factor, is that auto-centric policy and driving behavior
produces a great deal of negative externalities (pollution,
congestion, sprawling development, national security issues) that must
be priced if we are to have anything approaching a decent system.

I don't have any illusions about the Chamber's motivations here, but we need to take our allies where we find them on this fight.

Donovan Richards Wins Queens Special Election | Politicker

First victory for the City Council Progressive Caucus which is co-chaired by our
own Brad Lander along with Melissa Mark-Viverito. Congrats to Donovan Richards and the CPC.

With all absentee and affidavit votes counted, Mr. Richards padded his
razor-thin 26-vote Election Day margin with another 133 votes, while
his main competitor, Pesach Osina, only gathered an additional 80.
This brought the unofficial tally to 2,646 for Mr. Richards and 2,567
for Mr. Osina, a wide enough margin to avoid an automatic recount. The
results will be certified next week.
We could use a more progressive council.  Check out the Progressive Caucus and help to make it so.

No Criminality Suspected

A woman was struck and dragged by a cab.  In Ray Kelly's world, that's just an accident.  How many people have to die before the NYPD takes car on pedestrian crashes seriously?
Despite witness accounts and other evidence indicating that the cab driver was speeding — not to mention the fact that the driver struck a person and dragged her down the street — the Post reported that no charges were filed. If NYPD protocol was adhered to, no investigation was conducted into this crash, which, at the very least, seriously disrupted the victim's life, and may have resulted in life-altering injuries.
Note to Chris Quinn and other mayoral aspirants: this city can do much better than Ray Kelly.

A Trickle of National Republicans Expirimenting With Populism

One of my biggest, screaming disappointments with the Obama administration was the economic team.  As soon as word came down that Larry Summers and Tim Geithner were to run policy, my hopes for progressive policy were dashed.  And correctly so.  Once again progressive policies would be marginalized, and the Rubinite financial policies would rule.  And so they did.  And the economic policy continues to disappoint, though its gotten a lot better since the disastrous days of 2009-2011.

So I actually welcome this Op-Ed from former FDIC Chair Sheila Bair in today's NYT.  Sheila Bair is one of the few examples I can point to of a reasonable, moderate and more or less honest Republican.  I don't think she carries much political clout, but nevertheless its nice to see this in print:
I am a capitalist and a lifelong Republican. I believe that, in a meritocracy, some level of income inequality is both inevitable and desirable, as encouragement to those who contribute most to our economic prosperity. But I fear that government actions, not merit, have fueled these extremes in income distribution through taxpayer bailouts, central-bank-engineered financial asset bubbles and unjustified tax breaks that favor the rich.
This is not a situation that any freethinking Republican should accept. Skewing income toward the upper, upper class hurts our economy because the rich tend to sit on their money — unlike lower- and middle-income people, who spend a large share of their paychecks, and hence stimulate economic activity.
All of which is true.  Republicans of course can not credibly run against those sort of policies . . . because those are all Republican policies.  But given the Beltway media obsession with austerity and kicking the poors, anything that shifts the national conversation to the left on tax policy is a good thing.  The Villagers stick their fingers in their ears whenever the dirty hippies talk about a more equitable tax policy - maybe they will listen when a Republican makes the point.

Of course, she does also bring up Bowles-Simpson, which is utter crap, but I'll let her slide on that one.  And credit where due - Bair was a pretty decent head of FDIC.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sandy Recovery Update: Reopenings

With both Fairway and the Red Hook Lobster Pound set to reopen this
Friday to much fanfare, Red Hook at least is getting its sea legs

In further good news, Gothamist reports that the New York Aquarium in
Coney Island will partially reopen in late spring.

For any family with kids, by the way, the Family Premium Membership that
covers the city zoos and the aquarium is one of the best deals going at $164 per year.
And supports some great programs - a win for all.

The Only Non-negotiable Plank In The GOP Platform

Serve the rich at all costs.  Jon Chait deserves a cookie for belatedly realizing the game. 
Part of the confusion is that Republicans have been saying for months that they really just want to stop tax rates from raising. They're happy — nay, eager — to make the rich pay more taxes by reducing their tax deductions. Certain conservative economists believe this as well. Since Obama is offering to increase revenue in exactly this way, his plan might seem inoffensive to Republicans. Republican economist Martin Feldstein proposed a deduction cap that would raise four times as much revenue as Obama is asking! Ezra Klein can't understand why Republicans won't accept a deal to reduce the tax deductions they've been calling a pollution of the tax code, especially in return for entitlement cuts.
The answer to this piece of the mystery is clear enough: Republicans in Congress never actually wanted to raise revenue by tax reform. The temporary support for tax reform was just a hand-wavy way of deflecting Obama's popular campaign plan to expire the Bush tax cuts for the rich. Conservative economists in academia may care about the distinction between marginal tax rates and effective tax rates. But Republicans in Congress just want rich people to pay less, period. I can state this rule confidently because there is literally not a single example since 1990 of any meaningful bloc of Republicans defying it.

20 Years Later: The Making of Pulp Fiction

Vanity Fair has a fantastic article about the groundbreaking film.  I remember seeing this in the theater in college and just being blown away.  Still a favorite 20 years on. 

Everyone except Harvey Weinstein, who wanted anyone but Travolta. Mike Simpson had given Weinstein a "term sheet" of Tarantino's demands, which included final cut, a two-and-a-half-hour running time, and final choice of actors. "One of the actors I had on the list was John Travolta," says Tarantino. "And it came back: 'The entire list is approved … except for John Travolta.' So I got together with Harvey, and he's like, 'I can get Daniel Day-Lewis, Sean Penn, William Hurt.' " By then, according to Simpson, "Daniel Day-Lewis and Bruce Willis, who was the biggest star in Hollywood, had both gotten their hands on the script and wanted to play Vincent Vega."
During a late-night telephone call with Simpson, the Weinsteins accepted all of Tarantino's deal points except one—the casting of Travolta. "At midnight our time, three in the morning in New York, Harvey said, 'Let's just close the deal, and we'll address that tomorrow in good faith,' " Simpson recalls.
Simpson told him, "You're going to agree to it right now, or there's no deal." Harvey erupted, but Simpson held firm. "We've got two other buyers waiting outside to get this," he said. (Ronna Wallace, of Live Entertainment, which had producedReservoir Dogs, had actually stormed William Morris security that night in an attempt to disrupt Simpson's call with the Weinsteins.) "You've got 15 seconds to agree to it. If I hang up, it's over," said Simpson. "Harvey kept talking, arguing, and I said, 'O.K., 15, 14.' When I got to eight, Bob goes, 'Harvey, we have to say yes.' Harvey says, 'O.K., fuck it.' "
At the end is a link to an interview with Phil Lamar, who played the unfortunate "Marvin".  That guy has had an unbelievably prolific career as a voice actor.

You Were Wrong: Chuck Hagel Edition -- Daily Intelligencer

I love this concept:
Welcome to the first installment of You Were Wrong, a new feature in which we ensure that pundits receive credit for their failed predictions.
Despite some unhelpful comments about gays and Israel and one of the worst confirmation hearings in memory, Chuck Hagel's nomination as secretary of Defense easily achieved clouture this afternoon by a vote of 71 to 27, and he will be officially approved by the Senate later today. Let's take a look at who was wrong about Hagel's nomination.
While I was not particularly excited about Hagel (I'd have preferred a Democrat) I couldn't see any way this nomination was going to be derailed.  Sure, Bill Kristol was freaking out.  But the vast majority of people don't give a shit what Bill Kristol thinks. 

Democrats weren't going to shiv the President on his pick. And Hagel was a fairly popular, media-friendly Senator with many years of national recognition.  Unless he was secretly the biggest jerk to ever stride through Congress, he had to have retained some friends in the GOP.

I would love to see YouWere Wrong as a regular feature where paid pundits are actually called on their bullshit.  While I am not a paid pundit, I do leave the comments open here and people are free to call me out when I'm proven to be completely wrong about everything. 

P.J. Hanley's Corp. Filed For Bankruptcy

UPDATED throughout.

The venerable bar's operating corporation filed for bankruptcy protection this past Friday.  Crain's was first to report the news, while I originally learned it from the Carroll Gardens Patch.

Hanley's owner James McGown is no stranger to bankruptcy court.  His South
Brooklyn Pizza chain and his East River Mortgage Corp (which
owned two Manhattan condos) each filed in 2012.

McGown also owns the Buschenshank beer hall on Court between Union and
Sackett Streets.

Carroll Gardens Police Blotter

An illegal stun gun, a pedestrian robbery, an iPhone snatched on the
G, a car break-in and a shoplifted inhaler.

The Carroll Gardens Patch has your crime fix.

1850s Era Railroad Mystery

It's been nearly 30 years since Belmar dive captain Paul Hepler of the Venture III discovered two 1850s-era locomotives in 90 feet of water five miles off the coast here, but the mystery of how they got to the ocean floor remains unsolved.

The Atlantic Avenue Tunnel Tour, as envisioned by Lindelof & Cuse.

Memories of the Saturday Night Massacre

Conservatives have tried for decades to turn Robert Bork into some
kind of martyr, and portray Democrats as extremist for refusing to
confirm Bork to the Supreme Court. We all owe the Senate of 1987 a
debt of gratitude for keeping that amoral extremist off the high

That Nixon promised him a Supreme Court seat is not at all surprising.
But no one should ever forget Bork's disgraceful conduct in firing
Archibald Cox. Robert Bork was a disgrace to the Bar.

A New Indignity For Long-suffering Mets Fans

The Wilpons (owners of the Mets) lost their shirts in Madoff's pyramid scam.

Now, older and wiser for the experience, they have apparently brought in AmWay to CitiField.

I guess the rationale is that people who buy Mets tickets will buy anything.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Calculated Risk: Market Update

As S&P500 index trades close to highs, a selloff today. Will we see
the return of some volatility in the market? I'm not sure if we'll
see a new high soon or if we'll see a painful correction first.

Calculated Risk has updated a couple of classic charts.

Martha Atwater Killed By Truck in Brooklyn Heights

Emmy-award winning TV writer Martha Atwater, 48, had just bought five cookies and exited Bagel Cafe in Brooklyn Heights Friday evening when the driver of a black Honda pickup truck jumped the curb and killed her.
But one thing from the initial coverage that stuck with me was this:
"The 53-year-old driver may have lost consciousness because of his diabetes, a police source said."
The police say there is no criminality suspected

It's an all too common refrain. At least on a weekly basis and sometimes more than once a day someone driving a car in our city mows down a pedestrian. 

I asked attorney Steve Vaccaro of Vaccaro & White about blood tests for drivers of vehicles involved in crashes where fatalities occur.  "A driver can withhold consent to a blood test.  If the driver refuses, the police need a warrant signed by a judge.  To get the warrant, the police have to submit an affidavit swearing that they have reasonable suspicion of impairment, such as slurred speech, or the smell of alcohol or illegal drugs," Vaccaro said.

Now look, I'm a longstanding, card-carrying member of the ACLU.  But that standard is too strict. The very fact of a fatal accident should serve as probable cause to draw a blood sample.  I'm not suggesting that this driver was impaired.  But a police investigation that does not include blood work is woefully inadequate.  A blood test for any driver involved in a fatal accident should be standard operating procedure.  Justice demands no less. 

Streetsblog is following up on this story; they put up this post while I was composing mine, and I hope they will post the responses from the District Attorney.
As it happens the Tri-State Transportation Campaign today reported on the most dangerous roads in the tri-state region. 

CB6 Environmental Protection/ Permits & License Meeting Tonight

I have the honor of co-chairing this august committee.  We have a pretty full busy agenda tonight as usual, with both sides of the committee represented.  Address links below go to Google Maps.
  • Presentation by CUNY Graduate Center Doctoral Candidate Suzanne Stemple on the impact of water conservation efforts during rain events and the impact citizens can have on reducing sewage discharges into the Gowanus Canal.
  • Presentation and review of a new on-premises liquor license application submitted to the State Liquor Authority on behalf of Soi Thai Inc., at 194 5th Avenue between (Union Street/Berkeley Place) in our district.
  • Presentation and review of a new on-premises liquor license application submitted to the State Liquor Authority on behalf of Cooper Square 227 LLC, at 227/229 Flatbush Avenue between (Bergen Street/ Dean Street) in our district.
  • Presentation and review of an alteration to a current on-premises liquor license application submitted to the State Liquor Authority on behalf of Simmons Provisions of NY LLC, at 847a Union Street between (6th Avenue/7th Avenue).
  • Presentation and review of a new unenclosed sidewalk cafe permit application submitted to the Department of Consumer Affairs on behalf of Dinosaur Restaurants, LLC at 604 Union Street between (3rd Avenue/4th Avenue) to permit 6 tables and 36 seats.
  • Presentation and review of an unenclosed sidewalk cafe permit application renewal submitted to the Department of Consumer Affairs on behalf of Francesca Merchants LLC at 465 Court Street between(Nelson Street/Luquer Street) to permit 12 tables and 24 seats (aka the sidewalk cafe permit for Prime Meats, which was inadvertantly left off of last month's agenda).
Tonight, Monday 2/25, 6:30 PM
Old First Reformed Church

729 Carroll Street
(corner of 7th Avenue)
Brooklyn, NY 11215

Grand Central Bomb Scare Last Night

Bad:  working on Sunday. 
Worse: the 6 train skips 51st, walk nine blocks to Grand Central
Worse yet: all access to the subway taped off, and no one will explain why

Hence, missing the Oscars.  I assumed that someone was under a train, or police were pursuing a criminal suspect.  But no, apparently some asshole just called in a bomb threat

According to the Epoch Times, a man called 911 claiming a bomb would explode at about 9:20 p.m., but a 30-minute search yielded no explosives. Hopefully on Monday at least one of the agencies responsible for Grand Central will be able to confirm that it was just an extremely unfunny prank.
On the plus side, no one was hurt, and I got some extra exercise walking to the Bryant Park station.  Why didn't I just walk across town to Rockefeller Center in the first place?  I don't know.  My brain's transit map must have been on the fritz last night.

Do We Really Want to Live Without the Post Office? - Esquire

An excellent long form in Esquire about the history, present and
uncertain future of the US Postal Service. And how a that future was
needlessly jeopardized by a Republican congress and President Bush:

Take the most contentious issue: the seventy-five years' worth of
future-retiree health benefits that in 2006 a lame-duck session of
Congress legislated the postal service prepay over the following ten
years as part of a broad overhaul of the way the postal service
operates. No other government agency must do this, and most private
companies would have spread those payments over forty years. But the
postal service was flush at the time, and Congress figured out that
since health-care payments are counted as general government revenue,
it could use them to prop up its own books. (Five-and-a-half billion
dollars a year coming in from the postal service was $5.5 billion less
Congress would have to cut elsewhere to remain budget-neutral, as the
Bush administration was demanding.) But then the economy crashed and
with it the amount of first-class mail being sent around the country.
Suddenly a law designed to keep the postal service solvent in the long
term began bankrupting it. Of the $15.9 billion the postal service
lost last year, 70 percent — $11.1 billion — was in future health-care
We can already see how inconvenient life can be without a post office
in Carroll Gardens / Cobble Hill. It's a perennial quality of life
complaint. But at least we have offices in Park Slope, Red Hook, and
Downtown. Just think about the impact of shuttering post offices and
shutting down Saturday service on rural communities.

It's bad policy and its relatively easy to fix. Somebody tell the Republican
ideologues in the House of Representatives.

Oscars Opening Monologue

I didn't get to see the Oscars last night, let alone go to an Oscar party.  But the opening sequence was pretty entertaining. Click through to Mediaite to see the full 15 minute opening monologue and variety show.

"Throughout the opening, Shatner showed MacFarlane how his reviews would improve from "Worst Oscars Host Ever" to full-on raves (from everyone but Entertainment Weekly). It was certainly one of the longest and most elaborate Oscar openings in recent history, with enough highbrow and lowbrow moments to please most of the audience.

Dov Hikind Parties Down for Purim in ‘Black Basketball Player’ Costume | Politicker

You learn something new every day. I had no idea that Purim involved
an element of Halloween-like revelry.

What I already knew: blackface is never a good idea. Especially if
you're a political figure. Perhaps doubly so if your best known
policy position is favoring racial profiling.

Typos courtesy of my iPhone

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Carroll Gardens Woman's Death Under Investigation

According to the Carroll Gardens Patch:
At 10:33 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 22, police officers from the 76th Precinct responded to a 911 call at a Clinton Street home located near Sackett Street, and found a 55-year-old woman unconscious on the floor with head trauma.
The Daily News reports:

An autopsy on the former tabloid editor who died from a mysterious head wound at her Brooklyn home was inconclusive, officials said Sunday.  The city medical examiner will conduct further tests to determine how former New York Post letters editor Elizabeth Borst, 55, died.
Wow.  Terrible news.  The best we can hope is that it was a tragic accident.

High MTA Leadership Turnover Has Consequences

The NY Times reports on the MTA's pitfall-strewn path to replace the Metrocard with contact-free payment:

[Jay Walder] helped execute a successful regional pilot in 2010 that allowed some riders to tap a single smart card to ride parts of the subway, bus, PATH train, and New Jersey Transit systems.
. . . .
But when Mr. Walder resigned suddenly the next year, accepting a private sector job in Hong Kong, the smart card lost its most vocal cheerleader. His successor, Mr. Lhota, shuffled the structure of the project’s team, transferring management responsibilities from the authority’s headquarters to its individual agencies, like New York City Transit and the commuter railroads.

One of the project’s catalysts, Charles Monheim, the authority’s former chief operating officer, also left the agency months into Mr. Lhota’s tenure.  [Michael DeVitto, the vice president and program executive for fare payment programs at New York City Transit] said he did not believe the turnover had hindered the project. Both Mr. Walder and Mr. Lhota declined to be interviewed for this article.
 I can't say definitively why Jay Walder left the MTA.  It could be he had a better deal elsewhere and took the opportunity provided by the changeover of the governorship to exit gracefully.  But the conventional wisdom, and the most plausible theory, is the new Governor, like the two before him, wanted his own man in the job.  (Inexplicably, Cuomo's man turned out to be an ambitious Republican who would abandon the agency a mere year into the job.)

I understand that an incoming leader wants to install their own people.  But that urge should be tempered by the quality of the person serving the previous administration and the benefit of continuity to the agency's mission.  It's a shame to push out good, effective executives like a Jay Walder or a Chris Ward to make room for an ally.  In that vein, I'm already on record that our next mayor should ask Jeanette Sadik-Khan to stay on at DOT and Carter Strickland to continue running DEP.  Don't fix what isn't broken.

But to the point of replacing the Metrocard: why not something based off of the EZ-Pass technology?  The MTA, the Port Authority and other road transportation agencies up and down the eastern seaboard already accept it.  Millions of people already have EZ-Pass accounts.  Barring that, let's license or buy a system that is already proven to work.   This isn't the moon shot; there are already working systems out there serving riders.

The Medicare CW Is All Wrong: We Ought To Lower The Eligibility Age

The American health insurance system is outrageously expensive and inefficient.
It's a natural monopoly that we're pretending should operate like a
market. The result is the sad, bloated wasteful mess we have today. If you haven't
already read Stephen Brill's magnum opus in TIME, you really should.

Here he is on This Week discussing healthcare finance with free-market
worshipper Steve Ratner and bumbling ideologue George Will:

Well, if you put Medicare in the context of the larger health care
system, and this is something that everybody at this table is going to
think that I should go to a mental hospital when I get finished saying
this, the government and all of us would actually save money if you
lowered -- I said lowered the age for Medicare. If the Medicare age
were 60 instead of 65, the economy and the taxpayers would actually
save money.
The best policy would be a pure single payer system. But lowering the
eligibility age would be a start.

Why do conservative ideologues and their DLC-type enablers want to
waste healthcare money? They're not interested in efficiency or
costs, they're interested in enriching their cronies and keeping taxes
low on rich people.

Amazing New York Shadow Dancing

This is Pilobolus performing a piece of their Shadowland work for a German television show.  Love the New York theme.

We saw a Pilobolus piece in Manhattan several years ago that was good but I wish it had been this one!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Game Of Thrones!

Oh boy.  Game of Thrones season three trailer is out:

And the Game of Thrones Season 2 box set was released this week.  Amazon has the combo Blu Ray/DVD/Digital copy on sale for the ridiculously low price of $29.99 (for now).

Sadistic people recommended Game of Thrones (and handed me a copy) when I requested a vacation read between graduating law school and starting my bar review back in 2005.  As millions now know, you can't put the books down.  It was torture.  Exquisite, exquisite torture.

Mayoral Candidate Transit Forum Nugget

The NYT posted a thin article on last night's mayoral candidate
transit forum. Not a lot of news in the article. However, Capital
New York's @danarubinstein tweeted a piece of welcome news (above).

Long term (and even new) readers may know that I've been a supporter
of the Cross Harbor Rail Tunnel for almost ten years. I learned about
the tunnel when I was working on a Clean Water Act case at the Rutgers
Environmental Law Clinic as a law student. Ten years. I'm getting

In any event, it was Mayor Bloomberg who planted the knife in The
Cross Harbor Freight Tunnel in 2005. We could use a Mayor who sees getting
trucks off our roads as a priority. Kudos to deBlasio for supporting

Updated:  Gothamist now has a post up with photos, links, and more coverage.

CB 6 Committee Votes for PARK Smart Zone, Brooklyn Greenway Extension

Streetsblog has a full report on the transportation committee votes from Thursday
night. Again, two good projects.

Little Statesmen and Philosophers -

Suppose that some pundit who has spent his whole career calling for bipartisanship, a compromise between the extremes of left and right, were to admit the plain fact that Obama is very much a centrist, who is in particular proposing deficit reduction through exactly the kind of mix of tax hikes and spending cuts "centrist" pundits demand — and that the GOP, by contrast, is an extremist organization whose extremism is almost solely responsible for the bitterness of the partisan divide. A pundit making that admission would in effect be saying that everything he has said and done for the past several years was not just useless but harmful, actively misleading readers about the state of the debate. He just can't do it.
The point is that a large part of the reason we're locked into such a mess is careerism. And yes, that's quite vile, if you think about it: politicians and pundits alike letting the world burn — probably unconsciously, but still — because their personal position would be hurt if they admitted to past mistakes.


Plastic Trash Bags: Scourge of the Seas

Plastic is the ocean's deadliest predator.

I make it a point to pick these up and bin them when I see them on the ground. Think of yourself as responsible for one bag a day, and save some marine creature from a miserable death. Also helps prevent our street trees from looking like filthy Dementors when tattered bags get trapped in the branches.

NYC DEP is piloting a couple of different approaches to trap litter at CSO outfalls and prevent these debris from entering our waterbodies.  The pilot is currently being implemented in the Bronx, and a test in the Gowanus is up next.

Another approach the city should pursue is a wider rollout of the BigBelly solar-powered smart compactors which send out a signal when they are approaching capacity.  These cans have greater capacity, allow for more efficient deployment of Dept. of Sanitation resources, and do not allow litter to overflow or blow away.

Is Sugar Toxic? -

An interesting read:

"[S]ugar has unique characteristics, specifically in the way the human body metabolizes the fructose in it, that may make it singularly harmful, at least if consumed in sufficient quantities.
. . . .
The fructose component of sugar and H.F.C.S. is metabolized primarily by the liver, while the glucose from sugar and starches is metabolized by every cell in the body. Consuming sugar (fructose and glucose) means more work for the liver than if you consumed the same number of calories of starch (glucose). And if you take that sugar in liquid form — soda or fruit juices — the fructose and glucose will hit the liver more quickly than if you consume them, say, in an apple (or several apples, to get what researchers would call the equivalent dose of sugar). The speed with which the liver has to do its work will also affect how it metabolizes the fructose and glucose.

In animals, or at least in laboratory rats and mice, it's clear that if the fructose hits the liver in sufficient quantity and with sufficient speed, the liver will convert much of it to fat. This apparently induces a condition known as insulin resistance, which is now considered the fundamental problem in obesity, and the underlying defect in heart disease and in the type of diabetes, type 2, that is common to obese and overweight individuals. It might also be the underlying defect in many cancers."

When I was growing up … wow, did I have a crappy diet.*  The fridge was always stocked with sodas: orange, grape, black cherry, root beer, Vintage cola and the juice-like sugar concoctions known as Hi-C and Hawaiian Punch and we always had a ton of junk food: Yodels, Ring Dings, Doritos, potato chips, Cheez-its, pecan twirls, cookies, poptarts, toaster strudels, sugar cereals and so on.

My wife's childhood experience was the polar opposite.  Now we have a pretty good balance in our household: mostly healthy food, with a smattering of processed crap.  I still eat too much sugar - my love of pie and pastry is legend. But on the plus side, I almost never drink soda, and we rarely have it in the house.

* We also usually had some kind of fruit - bananas, oranges, apples, pears, peaches, grapes, plums and/or strawberries as well as OJ, apple juice and/or grape juice.  And typically canned vegetables, plus fresh corn and tomatoes in the summer.  Whatever was in season or on sale. Mom and dad were neither epicures nor nutritionists, but they weren't monsters.  

Weekend work impacting 13 subway lines (but not the F or G)

F and G running a normal weekend schedule.

Typos courtesy of my iPhone

Friday, February 22, 2013

Capitalism! Amazon Style

Our apartment is great.  Love living in an old brownstone, the character, the high ceilings, etc.  But a 100+ year old building has its quirks.  We have two closets in the shared hall where the dumbwaiter once was, and two more in the apartment that a previous tenant built out of wood.  They're not wired and don't have any lights.  We bought a two-pack of these battery powered LED motion-sensor lights at Costco a few months back and I mounted them in the hall closets.  Life changing.  Fantastic.  I finally got around to a Costco shop on Monday and couldn't find the lights this time.  Mazzone's didn't have them either.  But then I remembered Amazon has virtually everything under the sun, and sure enough here they are.  I just ordered another pair of these lights for our clothes closets.

Full disclosure, if you click that link, decide you want these and buy them on the spur of the moment, Amazon will credit my account a few pennies or whatever it is their affiliate program pays.

Why I Won't Pay To See 'Zero Dark Thirty'

And neither should you.  I'm sure it's an entertaining film and I'm interested to watch it, but I'm not going to pay to watch propaganda.  Torture expert Ali Soufan:

"Portraying torture as effective risks misleading the next generation of Americans that one of our government's greatest successes came about because of the efficacy of torture. It's a disservice both to our history and our national security.
While filmmakers have the right to say what they want, government officials don't have the right to covertly provide filmmakers with false information to promote their own interests. Providing selective information about a classified program means there is no free market of ideas, but a controlled market subject to manipulation. That's an abuse of power."

Kalamazoo Gals Book Event @ Retrofret Vintage Guitars

Something interesting that landed in my inbox and looks like a cool event.  Rosie the Riveter meets rock n roll. 

"On March 2, 2013 during Women's History Month, from 5 to 8pm  Retrofret
Vintage Guitars will host an informal gathering, discussion and book
signing to celebrate the women guitar builders of Kalamazoo and Mr. Thomas'
book "Kalamazoo Gals – A Story of Extraordinary Women & Gibson's Banner Guitars of WWII."

This unique book event will be held  at the equally unique Retrofret
Vintage Guitars Shop in the historic industrial Gowanus Canal section of
Brooklyn. Retrofret's Steve Uhrik (owner & master luthier) and Mamie Minch (head of repair) invite you to our shop from 5 to 8PM that evening."

I'm continually amazed by the variety of business and happenings going on right under my nose but just out of sight.  There's so much going on around here, and the landscape ever changing, you could never be fully aware if it all. 

The Case for a Higher Gasoline Tax -

It absolutely galled me that in the wake of 9/11 we had an incredible opportunity to make major structural changes to wean America off fossil fuel dependence but, due to a deeply flawed President and his black-hearted puppeteer Dick Cheney, we got wars of choice and tax cuts instead.  

Of course higher gas taxes help change behavior.  But even better if we dedicate the funds raised to improving transit accessibility, transit efficiency and walkability of communities.  One policy change could do so much for this country.  I'll never forgive Bush 43 for failing us all. But look, if Ronald Reagan could do it, and Bush 41 could do it, we should be able to shame the modern GOP into doing it.  With no further elections on his horizon, Obama should be making the case for an increase in gas taxes

"Raising the tax has generally succeeded only when it was sold as a way to lower the deficit or improve infrastructure or both. A 1-cent federal gasoline tax was created in 1932, during the Depression. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan raised the tax to 9 cents from 4 cents, calling it a "user fee" to finance transportation improvements. The tax rose again, to 14.1 cents in 1990, and to 18.4 cents in 1993, as part of deficit-reduction deals under President George Bush and President Bill Clinton.
A higher gas tax would help fix crumbling highways while also generating money that could help offset the impact on low- and middle-income families. Increasing the tax, as part of a bipartisan budget deal, with a clear explanation to the public of its role in lowering oil imports and improving our air and highways, could be among the most important energy decisions we make."

Trio of NYC House Members Warn Obama They Won’t Back Cut-Based Sequester Bargain | Politicker

More of this please.  I'm not as familiar with Serrano, but Nydia Velazquez and Jerry Nadler are two of the best reps in all of Congress.  From The Politicker:

"Three members of New York City's congressional delegation have signed on to a letter vowing not to back any White House bargain to avoid the $85 billion in automatic budget cuts known as the sequester that includes cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Both parties have been at an impasse over the cuts with Democrats favoring debt reduction through tax increases and Republicans wanting spending cuts. President Barack Obama has repeatedly expressed a desire to make a deal ahead of the March 1 deadline that includes both tax increases and proposals to reduce the costs of social programs. Now, Congressmen Jerry Nadler, Jose Serrano and Nydia Velazquez have all signed the pledge promising not to back any deal including the compromises being called for by the White House."

The President has been all too willing to sell out the promise of Social Security and Medicaid in a wrongheaded quest for some "Grand Bargain" with the GOP.  That is a fool's errand. We are only fortunate that the Republicans are so obstinate and out of touch that they rejected Obama's offer in 2011.

UPDATE:  Via the Working Families website, you can sign on too.  I was proud to do so.

McCarthyite Demagogue Ted Cruz - Updated

EDIT: So frustrating.  Posting from phone email with a picture is unreliable.  There once was a post here!  I'll replicate as best I can below, with an update.

Ted Cruz is a dangerous demagogue, but there may be a short-term advantage to his ugly behavior becoming the public face of the GOP. 

Cruz combines a spot-on impersonation of Joe McCarthy with the worst traits of Lyndon B. Johnson (mendacity and ruthless ambition).  The rumor is that he wants to hold statewide office in Texas and the Senate win was a fluke.  His abrasive and belligerent demeanor may serve him well in the TX electorate, but don't have broad appeal on the national level. 

Short-term advantage aside, by all accounts Cruz is as intelligent as he is ambitious, and if he can morph his McCarthy impression into a Reagan shtick (after a detour into TX state politics) we will be in for some trouble down the road.

Things I Learned Last Night

Reminded that we have a great Transportation Committee (led by Tom Miskel) at Community Board 6.  PARKSMART expansion to the Atlantic/Court/Smith Street commercial corridors and the Brooklyn Greenway expansion and Van Brunt sharrows all passed unanimously.  On the the full Board next month where I expect all will pass easily as well.

There are multiple challengers to DA Charles Hynes in the Democratic primary this year. I had never heard of Ken Thompson before, but saw him speak last night and was impressed.  Clearly a talented and passionate guy.  Hynes is a pretty broadly popular incumbent, so I don't know how good his chances are this year, but he's definitely one to watch.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mayor Bloomberg Wishes the Press Would Let Obama Golf in Peace

Bloomberg is right, and Ed Henry is a petulant clown. Ed's idea of
hard-hitting journalism is to turn the WHCA into Tiger Beat or

"Mr. Obama and Mr. Woods golfed last weekend and some media outlets
were frustrated that they were not granted a glimpse of the two
together. Indeed, Fox News' Ed Henry, president of the White House
Correspondents Association said they were just "asking for is a brief
exception, quick access, a quick photo-op on the 18th green." He
added, "It's not about golf—it's about transparency and access in a
broader sense."

Transparency! Ed Henry couldn't care less about executive privilege
abuse or secret memos justifying extra-judicial drone killings but by
God if the President plays golf with a celebrity the public must see

Just like Bill Hemmer, Ed Henry was obviously a tool when he was at
CNN, but didn't truly let the mask drop until Fox News picked him up.

Palate Cleanser

Otterly adorable.

And here is an otter dunking a basketball.,,20675562,00.html

Typos courtesy of my iPhone

The Greatest Robbery Of All Time

That's what all the talk about "saving" Social Security amounts to.
Ronald Reagan and his boy Alan Greenspan (and various and sundry
coconspirators) engineered an enormous shift of the tax burden from
the wealthy to the lower classes in 1983. The catch was, in the
future the burden would shift back. And people like Pete Peterson
have armies of minions fighting to make sure it never happens.

> "Starting in 1983, the payroll tax was deliberately set higher than it needed to be to cover payments to retirees. For the next 30 years, this extra money was sent to the Treasury, and this windfall allowed income tax rates to be lower than they otherwise would have been. During this period, people who paid payroll taxes suffered from this arrangement, while people who paid income taxes benefited.
> Now things have turned around. As the baby boomers have started to retire, payroll taxes are less than they need to be to cover payments to retirees. To make up this shortfall, the Treasury is paying back the money it got over the past 30 years, and this means that income taxes need to be higher than they otherwise would be. For the next few decades, people who pay payroll taxes will benefit from this arrangement, while people who pay income taxes will suffer.
> If payroll taxpayers and income taxpayers were the same people, none of this would matter. The trust fund really would be a fiction. But they aren't. Payroll taxpayers tend to be the poor and the middle class. Income taxpayers tend to be the upper middle class and the rich. ... When wealthy pundits like Krauthammer claim that the trust fund is a fiction, they're trying to renege on a deal halfway through because they don't want to pay back the loans they got."

They won't rest until we're back to feudalism or worse.

Alan Simpson and Bernie Madoff -

Krugman nails Alan Simpson (intellectual equal of Homer Simpson) and in doing so indicts the incestuous Beltway Journalist  crowd who love him:

"Simpson is, demonstrably, grossly ignorant on precisely the subjects on which he is treated as a guru, not understanding the finances of Social Security, the truth about life expectancy, and much more. He is also a reliably terrible forecaster, having predicted an imminent fiscal crisis — within two years — um, two years ago. Yet he remains not only respectable among the Beltway crowd; as Ezra says, he's lionized in a way that looks from the outside like a clear violation of journalistic norms:"

As an aside, we should scrap the term "Simpson-Bowles" in favor of "Bowles-Simpson" … because its a heaping pile of BS. 

Judge Issues TRO Enjoining SUNY From Closing LICH

WNYC via paco at the Cobble Hill blog. While only a temporary
measure, this is good news.

PMFA: Bareburger Taking Shape On Court Street

As always, PMFA has the goods on a new restaurant in our walkable smorgasburg:

> "Customers will be able to create their own burger by choosing either beef, lamb, wild boar, elk, bison or ostrich and pairing it either with brioche, multi-grain roll or tapioca rice bun, to name just a few of the choices."

But no bear.

Typos courtesy of my iPhone

Brooklyn Bridge Park Updates

Outsourced to the Brooklyn Heights Blog.
  • Brooklyn Bridge Park announced a lineup of concessionaires for the Park this coming spring and summer.  Pizza and beer at Pier 6!
  • Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy is accepting applications for 2013 Volunteer Docents through March 31. “If you love nature, landscape design or Brooklyn history, this is the opportunity for you.”  I love nature, but sadly am absolutely maxed out on time commitments.
  •  Claude Scales' morning walk photos from BBP capture some beautiful vistas and seabirds. The photo above was taken from this post.
  • Photo gallery of the new Squibb Park pedestrian bridge, which is rapidly approaching completion.
Bang!  Four posts for the price of one.

Peter G. Peterson Is A Horrible Person

The man's boundless, rapacious greed is astounding. No matter how
much he has, he always wants more, and his life's goal is to pillage
Social Security. It's not enough for him to wallow in Scrooge
McDuck-like treasure vaults. He will not rest until the rest of us
have nothing.

"Now Peterson wants to loot Social Security. For decades he has warned
of a "Pearl Harbor scenario" in which spending on Social Security and
Medicare causes an epic economic meltdown. Fix the Debt is only his
latest project pushing the message that the deficit poses a
"catastrophic threat," and the media have been content to echo his
warnings. But people should know better than to be frightened by this
chorus of calamity. Peterson is no master of prediction when it comes
to economic crises. When an actual threat to the economy—the $8
trillion housing bubble— loomed ominously overhead, Peterson said
nothing, even as credit markets froze, subprime lenders filed for
bankruptcy and economists like Dean Baker shouted from the rooftops.

The housing crisis provides a good window into the way Peterson
operates. In 2007, Blackstone owned the Financial Guaranty Insurance
Company, the world's fourth-largest insurer, which had branched out
from municipal bonds into home-equity securities and subprime mortgage
debt. FGIC went belly up in 2010, but by that time Peterson had sold
most of his shares in a Blackstone IPO that netted $4 billion. Again,
Peterson left oth- ers holding the bag. The AFL-CIO had warned the
Securities and Exchange Commission that the Blackstone IPO was riddled
with problems: the firm was structuring itself to avoid regulation and
its real assets and values were unknown. Perhaps Chris Cox, George W.
Bush's man at the SEC, should have listened. A year later,
Blackstone's value had dropped 40 percent. Today, it is trading at $18
a share, showing no signs of the recovery that other Wall Street firms
have enjoyed.

Blackstone shareholders may have been miffed, but Peterson walked away
with $2 billion (on top of the fortune he already made from the
carried interest tax loophole, which allows fund managers to be taxed
at 15 percent rather than the standard 35 percent)—and pledged to
spend half of that to convince Americans they have to take a harsher
route to prosperity."

This kind of greed is unfathomable to me.

Galaxy S3 Bug Results in Crashing When Text Is Copied

Zing!  Ladies and gentleman, Mr. John Gruber. Be kind to your servers. Try the veal. 

Galaxy S3 Bug Results in Crashing When Text Is Copied

First reported to Samsung back in October, still a problem. You'd think if anyone would have a Copy function that worked perfectly, it'd be Samsung. (Via Terence Eden.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Palate Cleansers

Not a Brooklyn squirrel.  Image via Naked Capitalism

I love animals, but the sloth is one of my absolute favorites. I've

seen one in a tree but I would just about die of joy to be as close as the one in the linked video.  When I was in Costa Rica for a belated honeymoon a few years back, a woman at a wildlife sanctuary unexpectedly handed me an injured baby howler monkey to hold while she dealt with other business.  An unbelievable experience.  Brooklyn's squirrels have their charms, but it's not quite the same.
Extra bonus - baby platypi(?):

Image Credit: the (ahem) I Fucking Love Science Facebook page (don't blame me, that's the name - and well worth Liking for all the cool stuff that will magically appear in your feed)

MTA Makes MetroCard Refills Easier

Most of the media coverage of this has been a hamfisted mess.  This is the important part:

A MetroCard that holds both dollar value and unlimited ride time will use the unlimited time first. The dollar balance remains on the card to be available again once the unlimited time on that card expires. Also, each MetroCard can hold one additional refill of unlimited ride time that will take effect once the first unlimited period expires.

The new card provides the added flexibility for customers who now only need one MetroCard throughout the region. If you have an active Unlimited Ride pass with dollar value added to it and want to use an express bus, the PATH system or AirTrain, the value on the card will be available to pay for your additional fare.

Got that?  If you have an Unlimited Ride card, you can add cash to the same card for use with the PATH and Airtrain.  It's a relatively minor improvement, but it is an improvement. 

The Mystery of Israel's 'Prisoner X'

I've been following this spy story for the past week. Gawker provides
a pretty decent summary. Fascinating.

Misplaced Optimism

I was foolish to even entertain the notion that CNN would get better. 

"The source added, "Soledad is talented at producing in-depth, serious pieces of journalism, and is a tough interviewer. That doesn't seem to fit the direction the network is going.""

Pull the levers of power - Daily News

Worth considering. I do not like or fully trust the new scanners.

Typos courtesy of my iPhone

West Side vs. East Side (Access): Upper West Side May Get Metro-North Stop | Observer

This is good. The Co-op City station alone will get a lot of people out of their cars. 

"West Side Access, as the plan is being called, would involve building a number of new stations within New York City, on the West Side and the Bronx, which would see direct service to Penn Station operated by Metro-North Railroad. The plan has been under consideration for decades, but will finally be added to the MTA's next five-year capital construction program due out in 2014, according to Newsday. Compared to the $8.24 billion East Side Access project, West Side Access would be downright cheap: in the "hundreds of millions of dollars," according to MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan."

If really like to get a peak at the rest of the contenders for the MTA's next 5 year capital plan. 

Friends Of Hamas

Even in death, the loathsome, odious Andrew Breitbart reaches from
beyond the grave to fling poo.

The guy was a world class jerk and the legacy he left us is a Keystone
Kops brigade of incompetent, amoral liars.

Never underestimate the impact a single belligerent drunk can have on
the national discourse.

Daily Intel has more on the smear generated by Andy's crew of mendacious imbeciles

NYCHA Chairman: Parking Minimums “Working Against Us”

It's amazing how poorly this story was framed in the press. In the
tabloids and elsewhere, the lede was THEY WANT TO TAKE PARKLAND AWAY

But that's a bunch of nonsense. Breaking up superblocks, eliminating
surface parking lots and reintegrating "the projects" into the
surrounding city is good policy on its own.

Infill development is good policy on its own. That this would
generate revenue for sorely needed upgrades to dilapidated public
housing assets is icing in the cake.

Still waiting for City Planning to get smart and eliminate parking
minimums. Where are the free market libertarians when you need them?

EPA questions Bayonne Bridge environmental assessment by Coast Guard |

This is a false dichotomy:

"Proponents of the $1 billion bridge project proposed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey say it is critical to the port's health in the so-called post-Panamax era, when ever-larger ships will travel directly to East Coast ports from Asia upon completion of a Panama Canal expansion sometime next year. If the bridge remains an obstacle, they say, cargo will shift to other East Coast ports, jeopardizing thousands of jobs and billions in economic activity.

The healthy ports coalition, the New Jersey Sierra Club and others say they support the bridge project, but want safeguards to insure that the largely poor, minority neighborhoods surrounding ports in Newark and Elizabeth do not raise asthma rates and cause other health consequences. The coalition, in conjunction with the Newark-based Eastern Environmental Law Center, has threatened a lawsuit if its concerns are not addressed, a move that could significantly delay the time-sensitive bridge project.

Environmentalists have also called on the Coast Guard to produce a more in-depth, farther-reaching study of the project's consequences, known as an environmental impact statement."

No one is looking to block this project. The Coast Guard and various other interested parties are trying to slide the project through on the cheap without considering what mitigating measures should be taken. 

Of course there will be impacts. And there are things that can be done to ameliorate those impacts. Be grateful the EPA is around to keep these people honest. 

Speaking of mitigating measures, when will we see the Cross-Harbor Freight Tunnel resurrected?  

Would be great to get started on it before the Port Authority (formed with the purpose of building the cross harbor freight tunnel) celebrates its 100th birthday. Only eight years away. 

Drug OD fatalities up for 11th consecutive year; not one was due to marijuana - Boing Boing

Our obscene national drug policy.  Big companies like Purdue Pharma (maker of OxyContin) spend a lot of money, get the approved uses of their heroin analogues vastly expanded, and some doctors hand them out like Halloween candy.  Many people die. But we put people in jail for marijuana. 

"Federal data to be released this week through theJournal of the American Medical Association shows that drug overdose deaths rose for the 11th year in a row. Most were accidents involving prescription painkillers (specifically, opioids like OxyContin and Vicodin)."

It's a goddamn travesty.