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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Congestion Pricing, Book Quickies etc.

To follow-up something I touched upon last time, Juan Gonzalez, sometimes co-host on Democracy Now!, thinks Sheldon Silver -- leader of the state assembly -- is a hero for blocking Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan. This makes him a minority voice in the NY Daily News, which is not too surprising since the paper's editorial policy leans center/right, and targeting Silver provides good copy and political cartoons. But, the whole matter actually is pretty tricky, even if some policy on the matter would be valuable. Another viewpoint is useful.

Fair enough, but why no open vote on the matter? Why didn't JG address the matter? Does Sheldon save NYC City Council whenever it votes in support of something that is bad? Or, just something his (Sheldon and my own member unofficially stated their support) caucus (and/or their constituents) strongly opposes? And, does a tax on the rich really address a problem that in part must be faced by users, including those who drive when they could use mass transportation? The column references the apparent need for cameras and such in the failed plan, to catch drivers who don't pay or whatever, but there is a clear free rider problem here.

Such things simply were not addressed in the column, and I emailed him to say so. In the process, I served what might be called (and was in Scott Gant's book, We're All Journalists Now) a "citizen journalist" function. Nebraska's shield law (h/t Gant) covers anyone "engaged in procuring, gathering, writing, editing or disseminating news or other information to the public." In other words, it protects a function, not an institution per se. Gant argues that to only do the latter is in effect setting up a quasi-licensing system (also inequitable), which is exactly what the First Amendment's history says we must not do.

On the book front, btw, I have read and enjoyed some Carson McCullers before and liked this collection overall, but found the ending of the lead story -- The Ballad of the Sad Cafe -- rather shall we say lame? But, overall, even in that novella, McCullers' strong and often bittersweet writing comes through. Still, the story does end up in a pretty lackluster way, surely not very crowd pleasing ... and not just because of the darkness of the ending. You expect that with this author. It just is all very anti-climatic. I'll say a bit more below.*

Anyways, I saw a bus ad arguing that movies with cigarette smoking should not even be PG. I referenced Eric Alterman, usually a sane sort, calling Definitely, Maybe "cigarette porn" because of a few scenes (including a meet cute) involving smoking. I told this to someone I know who basically hates smoking (surely ashtrays), and she thought it silly. Smoking is an adult activity (surely, legally), surely, but movies have lots of adult stuff in them. PG movies at that. This includes some unhealthy things too.

So, don't want it in movies? Go ahead. 'R' rated? Bit much.


* The dark ending is foreshadowed at the very beginning of the story, so we suspect our antiheroine of sorts will come to a bad end. Fine enough ... again, par for the course with CM. Still, we get into the flavor of the story, good pre-WWII small town Southern town feel, are glad the 30ish woman at the center of things has soften a bit while still holding some of her edge (and her business acumen etc. supplies a bit of a feminist angle) and so on. Good local flavor, you can taste it.

Then, her reprobate long ago hubby comes back in town, she falls apart, and the "cousin" she helped for years pines for the guy & thus, is driven to rip victory from her (the hunchback jumps on her back at an ill-timed moment) during the final fight between the former (short time) spouses. The two leave town and she is left behind, a broken woman, and the ending is upon us. Blah.