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Archive for June, 2007

As the Fourth of July looms on the horizon, with all it’s hyperbolic foaming and blowing about our heritage and our great country, I’m forced to write a slightly different post. I regret that I have come to the conclusion that Vice President Cheney is the antithesis of America and everything America stands for. No foreign terrorist, no spy, no communist operative, has done more to undermine the foundations of our civil society, our laws, and all of the things we hold dear and that our patriot ancestors fought and shed their blood for, than he has.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to provide some vast set of links to all the things that support this rather sweeping statement, I haven’t the energy to compile them. His actions in office are nothing but one outrage piled on another, the latest being that he and his office are not subject to any oversight regarding their use and storage of classified documents. Based on history I assume this will be superseded by other even greater assaults on our heritage and our freedoms, done in the name of “protecting our freedoms and heritage.”

A rational person who lived through the Cold War as I did is not at all eager to watch the phoenix-like re-emergence of Imperial Soviet Russia, which is being engineered by the ex-KGB-spy-master Vladimir Putin. Rights so recently won from the Kremlin, the disassembly of the communist central plans, freedom of the press, at least some limited transparency of government, freedom of religion, all of this is being curtailed, curbed, and revoked by the cold and calculating hand of an ex-spy.

What ho, in our own midst we have ex-CIA-spy-master Dick Cheney, attempting to fashion an Imperial America with governmental agencies allowed to spy on us, our emails, and our activities, revoking hapeas corpus for people who may be arbitrarily classified as “terrorists,” indeterminate detention without lawyers or a trial, relentless attempting to close down of any meaningful transparency in government, and on and on.

And now the Administration’s PR lackeys, taking a clue from Orwell’s 1984, are preparing us for “indefinite and ongoing war against Terror,” seemingly a key part of Cheney’s plan to create a long-term, permanent one-party Republican hegemony in American politics. And so far, we’re allowing this to happen.

Then the scary part: Look at the two of them. The same disdainful stare, the same smug half-smile . . . they’re drinking the same stuff, whatever it is. And it’s having the same effect on them both. The question is, will they continue to follow the same course? Very scary, in both cases.

UPDATE: an article in the New York Times on 7/9/07 highlights Cheny’s participation in the Oliver North testimony during the Iran / Contra hearings, shows that his proclivity to an imperial presidency started at least 20 years ago.  It shows what is in effect his profound distrust of the electorate.  He seems more Putin that Putin himself!

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In Part 1 on this subject, I noted some of the great benefits that would accrue to the environment if only 20% of the cars currently in Manhattan’s central business district were replaced by scooters or motorcycles. Based on a study by Sam Schwartz PLLC, a traffic consulting firm, the benefits included a 26,000 ton reduction in CO2 emissions, 2.5 million gallon gas saving, and 4.6 million hour reduction in traffic delays — every year. Gridlock Sam, they used to call him, when he was Commissioner of Traffic for the City, so I guess he knows New York traffic all right.

His report was a little piece of Mayor Bloomberg’s thrust to make New York more livable and more likely to retain it’s preeminent place in the American business community, and not strangle itself in it’s own wastes. The centerpiece of this initiative is “congestion pricing,” which means that incoming drivers would be charged an entrance fee:

The congestion pricing proposal is a central part of the long-range sustainability plan Mr. Bloomberg unveiled in April and could be a defining element of his legacy as mayor. The plan calls for charging cars $8 and large commercial trucks $21 to drive into Manhattan below 86th Street between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. The mayor says the plan would encourage people to leave their cars at home and would raise $380 million a year to improve and expand mass transit options like subways, buses and ferries. (NY Times)

London and some other European cities already have congestion-based tariffs, and at least in the European experience the seem to work.

I was pleased to note that in one interview one of the Mayor’s functionaries also stated that two-wheeled vehicles would be exempt from these fees. So, yet another reason to grab two wheels and scoot. But what happens when you’re there, however much it didn’t cost you to drive in? In either driving or parking, the numbers speak pretty clearly:

  • 250 square feet for a normal car, or van, or SUV;
  • 20 square feet for a scooter or bike.

So then, roughly 12 scooters per car. Now realistically, 12 scooters can’t actually ride in one car’s footprint, but they can certainly park there, but so what if the moving space reduction is, say, only 5:1? That’s still a whale of a lot of compression, and a whale of a lot of benefit to everybody. Or as my friend and co-rider Bob Saxler points out, why use 2 tons of steel and plastic to haul a couple of hundred pounds of payload around at 20 MPG on a good day, when you can use 550 pounds of bike, or 400 pounds of scooter, and get anywhere from 45 to 80 MPG? And enjoy it to boot?

Minneapolis, not exactly a hotbed of downtown scooters (think: winter for 5 months) still has several joint bicycle and scooter parking areas with set-in-the-pavement chain terminations, and every day I see them full. What would you rather do: walk outside 15 paces to your scooter, or 3 blocks to the ramp for your car? Think about it.

Finally, although you can get all kind of bike electronics to bolt onto big over-the-road cruising motorcycles, it’s pretty hard to do this on a small bike or a scooter. No i-Pod, no cell phone, hence no distractions that keep you from navigating the streets successfully, which is what your job is as a driver. So, things would get safer right away.

There is an increasing demand for two-wheeled motorized transport, and for good reason. Get in on the ground floor!

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