Forget Christie; How about big fat traffic jams?

Traffic JamOne unmentioned irony of the Chris Christie road-revenge scandal is that the powers-that-be finally found a traffic jam they didn’t like. Now, don’t get me wrong, having always lived in the NY metropolitan area and often having wanted to split a vein while in the midst of the NY/NJ road experience, I think that anyone who purposely exacerbates traffic problems should be confined to a small cell and forced to listen 24/7/365 to Nancy Pelosi’s nails-on-blackboard speeches.

I have to tell you though: it has always seemed that NY and NJ public officials have utter disregard — if not contempt — for drivers in their states. In fact, their policies have long had the effect of exacerbating traffic problems.

Consider a common NY/NJ driving experience. You’re traveling north on the New Jersey Turnpike — passing exits 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 — and then all of a sudden the road transitions into a parking lot that you’re trapped in for a hour and a half. The cause?

The turnpike toll plaza some miles ahead.

Of course, it’s not always that bad, although it can be during holidays, bad rush hours and when other complicating factors manifest themselves. But the point is this: where is the logic in collecting revenue by stopping traffic on a heavily traveled roadway in a densely populated urban area? With the Christie situation, it seems that some officials have finally discovered that traffic jams lead to wasted resources (fuel), diminished productivity and possibly lost lives (the 91-year-old woman who died in an ambulance stuck in the traffic). But politicians don’t seem to care when these problems are visited upon the citizenry in the name of a government cash cow.

Moreover, few remember that many tolls were only meant to be in place until the projects they were associated with, such as certain bridges, were paid off. Instead, they became de facto taxes that the government can raise almost with impunity. And for all of you folks dealing with politicians who propose instituting tolls with the reassurance that they’ll only be this or that much, understand how expensive they can get. The fleecing when crossing the GWB is now $13 dollars for cars, and the peak E-ZPass rate for trucks with 6 or more axles is $84. (Mind you, since most products are shipped via truck, we all pay for the latter through higher consumer costs.) And if you then travel the NJ Turnpike from the GWB to the roadway’s end (Exit 1, the Delaware Memorial Bridge) — a mere 113.8 miles — the turnpike toll is another $13.85. That means a round trip taking you back over the GWB will run you $40.70 in tolls alone. And while the average commute might cost $15 less, one still wonders how the common man could afford it.

Then there is the incessant construction that anyone who lives in the NYC metro area knows painfully well. You hit a traffic jam, and 15 minutes later you find out it’s because a lane or two have been closed. You then drive at a snail’s pace past one and a half miles of orange pylons — without observing any work or workers at all. But then finally you do see three union hacks doing their thing. This consists of one, let’s say, doing some digging. Another seems to watch him.

The third is eating a doughnut.

Perhaps I exaggerate slightly, but the proof is in the pudding. It took a mere year and 45 days to build the Empire State Building, and the GWB — which upon its opening in 1931 was the world’s longest main span in the world — was completed in only 4 years. In contrast, how long do you think it took to effect basic road repair on the 10-mile-long Cross Westchester Expressway (I-287) in NY?

More than 10 years.

And it was the usual story: many lane closures, traffic jams from Hell, and very little apparent work.

I concluded a long time ago that road repair in NY and NJ was basically a quasi-welfare program. In fact, I remember when, a generation ago, former NY governor Mario Cuomo appeared in TV spots encouraging people to vote “yes” on a “Proposition 1,” which allocated one billion dollars for road repair. I always wondered why Cuomo was so anxious to get that bond passed and where the money went — especially since NY roads still stink.

As should always be the case in government, the GWB affair should be sifted to the very bottom. But the real road scandal in NY and NJ involves government-authored traffic jams that neither Gov. Christie nor Gov. Andrew Cuomo seem to care a whit about.

Obama declares himself king of the gun grabbers

gunIn his usual theatrical style, on Wednesday on live television, President Barack Obama revealed his plans to implement his administration’s agenda for a new gun control policy that includes assault weapons bans, more thorough background checks of gun buyers, limited ammunition magazines, and government access to mental health records of potential gun buyers.

“In just one afternoon, the man who is suspected of okaying the smuggling of guns into the hands of the Mexican drug cartels — known as Fast and Furious — has ‘outed’ himself as the king of the gun grabbers. He’s also implementing the strategy of his former chief of staff, Rahm Emanual, by not allowing ‘a good crisis to go to waste,’” said police detective Jose Santos.

Obama’s proposal are allegedly the result of a rushed review process spearheaded by Vice President Joe Biden, that addressed law enforcement, dangerous firearms and ammunition, school and campus security, and keeping firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill.

Surrounded by children and their parents who support Obama’s gun-control agenda, the president recommended requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales; a tougher and more far-reaching assault weapons ban; limiting ammo magazines to 10-rounds; eliminating armor-piercing bullets, also known as cop-killer bullets; hiring more police officers; and instituting a federal gun trafficking statute.

The cost of the package, senior officials estimated, would be roughly $500 million, some of which could come from already budgeted funds.

“Ironically, the price tag for Obama’s gun crime agenda is the same amount lost in the Solyndra scandal by the Obama administration,” said Mike Baker, a political strategist.

“I intend to use whatever weight this office holds to make them a reality,” said the president. “If there’s even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try.”

The National Rifle Association, anticipating Obama’s overreach and disregard for the U.S. Constitution, released a television advertisement accusing the president of hypocrisy. In the commercial, viewers are reminded that Obama’s daughters are protected by a detail of armed bodyguards when they attend school, but Obama denies that same right to American parents and children by his opposition to arming individuals who work in government schools.

“It is unfortunate that this administration continues to insist on pushing failed solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems,” the NRA said after meeting with Biden last week. “We will not allow law-abiding gun owners to be blamed for the acts of criminals and madmen.”

As part of its policy recommendations, the White House called on Congress to act on an old administration proposal to spend $4 billion to keep 15,000 cops on the streets. In addition, the president is proposing a new initiative that would incentivize police departments to hire more school resource officers and encourage schools to hire more mental health professionals. The president’s plan also calls on Congress to allocate resources to help schools, other educational institutions and houses of worship develop emergency management plans.

The White House proposals, even officials there admit, are not a cure-all for mass shootings. Among the suggested recommendations on the gun-policy front, only the ban on high-capacity magazines could have had a tangible impact on the shooting in Newtown, and it’s unclear what, exactly, the effect would have been.

Moreover, the administration claims it is pointedly not going after those weapons and ammunition clips that are currently and lawfully owned. The proposal would instead affect the future production and sale of military-style weapons or high-capacity magazines.

“We are not going to go after existing stock of weapons or magazines,” said a senior administration official. “We are going to limit it to the manufacturing of assault weapons and clips going forward.”

The White House nevertheless insists that its package of proposals has teeth. It would provide law enforcement with the mechanisms needed to go after the illegal transfer of weapons and help prevent those weapons from falling into the wrong hands. It would also stem the use of military-style weapons — the White House says its proposal would improve on the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, which was riddled with loopholes — and give schools and communities resources to address violence when it occurs.

“Gun-grabbing media, political and business interests are bad news. They use murderous acts of a few to generate opposition to the rights of the many. They mislead public opinion against the civil right to keep and bear arms,” stated John Snyder, an advisory board member of the National Association of Chiefs of Police.

Bank of America freezing gun manufacturer’s accounts

1357700211_8831_bank of americaYou might think that a professional outfit such as Bank of America operated based on stated policy and not caprice. But not according to owner of American Spirit Arms Joe Sirochman.

On his Facebook page, Sirochman tells of his adventures with the banking giant. Like other gun dealers and manufacturers, his business is booming currently — Internet orders are up 500 percent. This caused there to be an unusual number of deposits made to his business’ BoA account via his website’s e-commerce system, triggering an account freeze. This may not seem strange, as banks have security systems that temporarily freeze accounts when detecting anomalous activity. This happened to me once after using my debit card to make an unusual series of purchases; the freeze was irritating, but nothing a few minutes on the phone didn’t remedy. But this is where Sirochman’s story takes a bizarre turn. He writes (edited for style):

After countless hours on the phone with Bank of America, I finally got a manager in the right department who told me the reason that the deposits were on hold for further review. Her exact words were:

“We believe you should not be selling guns and parts on the Internet.”

Shocking.

Sirochman then told the manager that “they have no right to make up their own new rules and [regulations]” and that he is a licensed firearms manufacturer in conformity with all relevant laws. She said she understood and that the deposits would be released after they had a “[c]hance to review and clear them” (wink, nod?). Yet after two weeks of increased Internet business, reports Sirochman, only one third of the collected sales have been cleared. And this is a man who has been doing business with BoA for 10 years.

I support a company’s right to refuse to do business with whomever it pleases (freedom of association); although rejecting firearms manufacturers would make a bank boycott-worthy. But to accept someone’s business and then persecute him for political reasons — as appears the case here — is reprehensible. The funds will be released when the bank has a “chance to review and clear them”? As per my experience, your money is supposed to be cleared as soon as you inform the institution that anomalous charges aren’t the result of criminal activity.

And this isn’t the first time BoA has exhibited anti-Second Amendment tendencies. As CNSNews writes, “McMillan Group International was reportedly told that its business was no longer welcome after the company started manufacturing firearms — even after 12 years of doing business with the bank.”

Never fear, though, other types of business are still welcome. As an example, BoA is to some degree Sharia compliant, according to Sharia Finance Watch.

So gun manufacturers and owners aren’t BoA’s kind of people, but we know who is. Well, BoA, you’re not my kind of bank. I have gun and will travel with my funds to a different institution.