Again we have the good folks at Rochester Turning to thank for the latest on Time Warner's manoeuvrings to force us all to pay more for internet. Thanks, friends.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
A rare event! The Mustard Street team together for dinner tonight, all except Tony. Tony, you have to come next time to make it complete! After dinner we picked our favorite blog entry from the past year.
The winner ...
Lucy's great sendup on a scene at the East End Festival. Not just our favorite, but we think Lucy's best. Here it is, enjoy it all over again.
Your Mustard Street crew: refreshed and energized to continue speaking Truth to power!
Posted by The Archbishop of Yentaberry at 10:26 PM
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, General Motors stood for, and advertised itself as, the "mark of excellence." (See old GM logo above).
Then the tribute it had to pay to the UAW began to take its toll. Eventually GM was paying employees not to work, through the union's infamous "Jobs Bank," an arrangement whereby the company couldn't reduce its workforce without continuing to pay the laid-off employees. As the cost of each car carried more and more of the expense to the company of lavish, monopolistic union contracts, it had to come out of somewhere.
It came out of quality. The cars looked cheaper, first the interiors, then the outsides, too. Then performance suffered. As Click and Clack, the Car Guys on Public Radio, once observed about another American car brand, GM owners have experiences -- repair costs and downtime in the shop -- that Toyota buyers know nothing about.
A lazy and complacent management became the UAW's enablers, acquiescing without too much bother even to the most outrageous union demands, as long as they kept their own high pay, bonuses and perks. "Hey," they reasoned, "we have a captive market, the people who can't afford better. They have to take what we give them." Through the ages, the classic mentality of the monopolist.
Eventually, GM gave up even the pretense, dropping the words "mark of excellence" -- first from its thinking, then even from its logo.
GM had found its market niche, with the other American car companies, as the maker of cars of last resort -- cars for people who couldn't afford a quality (i.e., Japanese or European) car. You could look at the ratings summaries in Consumer Reports, where for each aspect of performance -- styling, performance, safety, reliability, exhaust and electrical systems, handling, overall quality -- a little red circle stood for "best" and a little black circle stood for "worst." Except for Cadillac, priced to include the full labor costs with no compensating reduction in quality, each GM car stood in a field of black circles, alongside the Hondas and Toyotas with all red.
The cars were crappy, but the marketing strategy worked for GM and the other American car makers for about 20 years, with a captive market of people who couldn't afford better. Then along came the Koreans, who started selling quality cars that even people of very modest means could afford. And the bottom fell out for GM.
The company should have been allowed to die. When the host dies, so does the parasite that killed it. In this case, by making GM uncompetitive, the UAW. But instead of allowing the parasite to die, the government takeover of General Motors doesn't eliminate the problem, but preserves it. And, most astonishingly of all, at one point proposed to make the parasite majority shareholder in control of the host.
Just when you thought a GM car couldn't get any worse, brace yourself for the new era of America's answer to the East German Trabant.
And if you think this is bad, wait until we get Trabanticized health care.
We acknowledge the contribution of Lucy's Uncle Frank, for the historical perspective that helped inform this post.
Posted by Philbrick at 10:16 PM
Sunday, May 24, 2009
We haven't had much to say about Renaissance Square, or even thought about it very much. To political observers it offers this curious aspect: as a project whose obvious benefits -- a bus station and the urban community college branch -- are of interest almost solely to Democratic constituencies, including the trade unions who want to build it, the project is championed exclusively by the Republican County Executive and the Republican Board and CEO of the Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority. Its prominent detractors are Democratic public nuisance Louise Slaughter and the Democratic Mayor.
Especially without its arts component, Ren Square appears to offer nothing of tangible benefit to Republican constituencies.
Except for this: Ren Square makes sense. That's why it should be built.
Nothing else is going to be built there. (Neil Bauman must be smoking something.) What's there right now looks awful. If you're looking for Paetec's proposed building to anchor a revived downtown, think again. Arunis Chesonis, Paetec's CEO, said last week he's still committed to building downtown "as long as the state comes up with its $35 million." Translation, for the naive: "I'm not building anything."
Even without the theater, Renaissance Square serves necessary purposes. A bus terminal is needed there, not somewhere else. That's the spot where bus passengers want to alight, and need to, not up by the current Amtrak station. We wish it weren't so, because as a concept, we really like the idea of a combined train/bus facility. But that concept doesn't fit the usage or the need.
For rail passengers, let's do what Syracuse has done, quite successfully: move the railway station out of the city. We should move it to the airport, for a combined rail and air facility. This makes much more sense. A study last year showed that 90% of rail passengers to the Rochaster Amtrak station are visitors to the area -- their destination isn't downtown. There are relatively few rail passengers. Visitors by train can be picked up, or get a cab, more easily from the airport than from downtown. A shuttle service quite efficiently could serve those few whose destination is downtown. This makes far more sense than proposing to shuttle a high volume of bus passengers from the current railway station to Main and St. Paul.
But we digress.
The other laudable purpose served by Ren Square is the downtown community college campus. MCC has had to make do for too long with its current facility, and very many of the students who use the downtown campus have excellent reasons to be needing a campus that can function at its peak. The community college already has had to wait too long. It has done so in the expectation of an ultimate result worth waiting for -- a first-class downtown facility. This is a goal worthy in and of itself. Quite apart from which, to snatch it away now, at the last minute, after years of patience and cooperation from the college, is unconscionable.
The money's there. Build Ren Square.
Posted by Philbrick at 9:47 AM
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
There's nothing about Pope Benedict we didn't like.
What's this business about a "Palestinian" state?
We prefer the model enunciated best by our hero, the late, great, Menachem Begin:
"The Jews will yield to no one but God!"God trumps even a Pope we like.
Posted by The Archbishop of Yentaberry at 9:32 PM
Monday, May 11, 2009
That Democratic Slate Doesn't Have Many Democrats
The Greece Democrats announced their slate the other day. By their reaction to simply filling out a slate, it appears their campaign may have made the mistake of peaking too soon. Jo Meleca-Voight, gay marriage advocate, teacher and head of the Greece Teacher's Association (union) political PAC, was very proud that they actually found people, most would assume Democrats, willing to put their names on the ballot.
The only problem is there aren't that many Democrats on that slate. Their Supervisor candidate, Union Boss Dan Maloney, is a Democrat, and 3rd ward candidate Shawn Levin is also a Democrat.
1st ward candidate Karen Byfield is registered in the union based Working Families Party. 2nd ward candidate, former school board member, and former head of the Greece Police Union, Joe Moscato is a Republican (apparently mental health evaluations aren't part of their background check) as is NEA member and 4th ward candidate Karl Nielsen.(is anyone else seeing a trend, union boss, union activist?).
Let me see if I have all of this. 2 Democrats, 1 Working Families Party member and 2Republicans -- 4 out of 5 union bosses/activists. Let's hear it for that diversity of opinion that Democrats are so proud of.
That's a real cause for celebration!
Posted by Fat Tony at 9:57 PM
Friday, May 8, 2009
People who can afford the most children seem to control how many they have. Conversely, many who can't support themselves, let alone any offspring, often exercise little or no control when it comes to procreation.
If we here at Mustard Street were mean-spirited conservatives, we might suggest that, as with so many of the depressingly familiar social pathologies, this phenomenon has nothing to do with income, and everything to do with behavior.
However, as enlightened, progressive people, we realize that there are plenty of folks who don't have access to what we once so quaintly called "family-planning" advice, or the funds to put that advice into practice.
Our suggestion to the government of Monroe County is that, in light of the extra $5 million the State just made available for day care, the County compensate by taking $5 million from elsewhere in the welfare budget and spending it on an aggressive birth-control outreach and resources program. This should include full information about abortion services and funding for those who choose that course and can't pay for it themselves.
Such a program, resulting in fewer people needing government-paid day care in future, will pay for itself over and over. Not just in the budget for day care, but across the board for the entire welfare-state spending agenda. This is the single wisest investment local government could make.
Posted by Philbrick at 8:42 AM
Monday, May 4, 2009
Chairman Morelle Better Have Something Up His Sleeve Or It Will Be A Long Campaign For Democrats
I'm not sure what to make of the news, or lack thereof, concerning Democrats running for office in Monroe County. The Democrat and Chronicle had an interesting piece on this year's election.
Despite the headline stating that the loss of incumbents in some towns throwing a wrench into races for supervisor, the article states that Democrats have candidates in only 9 out of 19 towns. I think those 9 candidates they have includes at least 2 or 3 incumbents. There are now 37,000 more Democrats than Republicans and they only have candidates in less than half of the races!
There has also been shockingly little news about candidates for the county legislature. The candidates announced so far appear to be second or third stringers.
We will be watching and reporting on local races as details become availble. But for what has been billed as a Democratic assault on the local Republican party doesn't appear to be living up to expectations.
Posted by Fat Tony at 3:08 PM