Thursday, November 10, 2016

Once More Unto the Breach



Given the remarkable results of the November 8, 2016 elections, it's high time to resurrect this thing and start shining the old spotlight again on areas where the local press, such as it is, falls down flat on its face by failing to ask the right questions of the right people at the right time and then following up relentlessly.


If the latest fiasco of an election has proven anything, it's that the American Fourth Estate has devolved into a fourth-rate amateur hour affair where solidly informing the citizenry of pertinent facts takes a backseat to the reporting of the unimportant and irrelevant. Some "news" sources can't even point to the insidious 24-hour news cycle as the cause, as they've become outright propaganda organs that simply masquerade as journalistic endeavors. We all know the usual suspects on this score.


So, in solemn recognition of this disturbing state of affairs, I think it's time to invent a new dance. It shall be called...


The Lynnwood Shakedown!


If you think I'm kidding, you'd be mistaken. I'm still working out the details but the various dance moves will allude to the numerous inventive ways in which dollars are hoovered right out of your wallet by the local gubmint.


For starters... well, where to begin? There is much to discuss regarding the latest raft of graft on our ballots, but I'll start with Lynnwood Transportation Benefit District Proposition No. 1, which was on your ballot if you live in our fair city. It passed with almost 57% of the vote per the county auditor.


It's estimated that it will generate an additional $2 million per year and be dedicated to transportation improvements as enumerated in the link above (routine maintenance, operations, construction, etc. that are related to transportation).


Now, one would think that before shaking down the locals for yet more cash, some belt-tightening would take place in the form of scuttling unnecessary programs.


Right?


You know where this is going.


Last I heard, Lynnwood University was still going strong. (If you're unfamiliar with this, exercise your Google kungfu and magic it up and then ask yourself if this is a necessary function of government and a wise expenditure of scarce taxpayer dollars).


I'd love nothing more than to furnish a dollar figure for you so you could see what this costs yearly, and then calculate what percentage of $2 million dollars that is so you could see how much less they could be shaking you down for. Alas, I couldn't find such a dollar figure. For some mysterious reason it doesn't seem to be broken out for inquiring minds in the latest city budget. Why on earth do you suppose that might be the case? Perhaps it escaped my eyes and one of you can point me towards it in the comments section below.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Idiocy

In case you needed further evidence as to the unsavory nature of the extortion devices known as "red light cameras," check out The Herald's latest installment in their ongoing quest to expose these things for what they are.

The topmost link in the article contains a scanned e-mail exchange between various government officials and red-light camera company officials. At one point, when the city's public works director basically comes out and says that the studies don't justify the cameras, the camera corporation official calls him an "idiot."

An idiot. Fancy that. (That remark came from the former camera company exec who was revealed to be the infamous "W. Howard" sockpuppet who falsely posed as a local resident in favor of these cameras.)

But remember, these things are really all about safety! Don't run red lights and you won't get a camera ticket! They're all about safety! If you're against them then you're a law-breaker wannabe! They're all about safety! If you're against cameras then you're the Antichrist! They're all about safety! Safety safety safety safety safety...

Mmm hmm. Sure thing.

If this is the kind of casual contempt with which a public works director is treated when he correctly states that an objective, empirical study does not warrant the insertion of these cameras... then what do you think these folks think of people like you?

Take note, ladies and gentlemen of Lynnwood. You've been played for rubes and these folks are laughing all the way to the bank at your expense. Remember come election time who's for these cameras and who's against them, and vote accordingly.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Herald Need to Know Feature

Whoo-whee! People's Republic of Lynnwood got a mention in the Herald!

And I can't thank them enough, because it means more people will sit up and take notice as I continue to document the frankly unbelievable stuff that happens here on a continual basis.

Many thanks to Scott North and The Herald for giving this little blog a mention. Much obliged.

To paraphrase, and for your information, the Herald's Need-to-Know series is intended to report information and let their readers make of it what they will; "...gather information and then get out of the way," as they put it.  This is a great approach and I'd encourage all of my readers to give them a look-see and check out all of the information they're getting into the public eye with this feature. It's a real mixed bag of topics, and the approach encourages reader participation, which can only ever be a good thing.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day Lesson for 2011


I've been saying for years that The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs should be mandatory indoctrination for electeds and government workers, so I was gratified to see a commentator on this opinion piece adopt the same position.

The problem is that even if elected and government workers understood the reasoning and wisdom behind that timeless and perennially applicable fable, the fact is that:
  1. They can just wave a magic wand and conjure up money out of nowhere;
  2. They know this, and;
  3. That's easier.
And as we all know, people who have no motivation take the path of least resistance whenever possible. Consequently, we have the farcical joke that is our government and civil service, because there is no motivation—no standards, no consequences, no incentives—for government workers to do anything other than the bare minimum that their job descriptions mandate… and depending on seniority, most of the time even that benchmark is unenforceable.

The rampant inefficiency, waste and incompetence that characterize government all begins with civil servants’ unions and ends with their aiders and abettors in the elected branches of government. The taxpayer who subsidizes these vast hoards of parasitical do-nothing bureaucrats is hermetically sealed out of this loop and is helpless to do a thing to effect reform of any kind.

Look no further than our perennially favorite example of Lynnwood. During the worst and most persistent economic collapse since the Great Depression, civil servants' unions repeatedly and relentlessly balked at even taking token measures like furlough days in an effort to show good faith with the taxpayers who were forcibly funding their lavish government-employee lifestyles. The unions would have none of it, and owing to the criminal fact that the city has contracts with those unions, there was little the city government could do....

.... Except that there was plenty the city government could do. "It's out of our hands" and boo-hoo-isn't-that-horrible was the bullshit story we were given, but the reality is that budget time presented a perfect opportunity to deal decisively with these parasitical, ungrateful, do-nothing bureaucrats in one fell swoop — by enacting the significant, long-overdue lay-offs that the Mayor proposed. It was a Golden Opportunity to make cuts to rampant frivolous spending in this city that were eons overdue and, more urgently, were persisting through an economic depression -- a time where there was no possible means of justifying their continuance.

And what happened?

"Do-Nothing Bureaucrats Local #666" and it's myriad counterparts came unglued and pulled out all the stops and then some in order to attack, smear, stymie, hobble and cripple the Mayor by *ANY* means possible. The City Council squealed with glee at the state of affairs, sold the citizens down the river by hopping straight into bed with those unions, rolled right over did their part as the unions' submissive tool — whatever it took to undo the Executive Branch and the check-and-balance it represented to their irresponsible use of their legislative power.

The process was complete when the Mayor — popularly elected by the voters not once but twice — was stripped of his executive ability to institute desperately needed lay-offs. Council proceeded instantly to arrogate that responsibility to itself and then laid off virtually nobody and imposed a frenzied orgy of taxes in order to continue to fund the mostly intact civil service. Naturally, the taxpaying residents, employers, and workers were presented with the bill.

And if those taxpayers were at the end of their financial ropes due to unemployment forcing the premature exhaustion of their savings and retirement accounts, and losing their homes, etc.? The message was clear: “Tough friggin’ luck, suckers. This is Lynnwood. Know your place. Shut up, pay up, and maybe we’ll consider reducing things when the economy rebounds.”

It's a sobering lesson and one worth remembering this Independence Day. We enjoin one and all to remember it well come November.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Red-Light Cam "Analysis," Lynnwood-Style

The Herald has been doing some first-rate reporting lately, shining a spotlight on Lynnwood's continued use of flagrantly extortionist photo-enforcement devices. Scott North's July 1st article should be required reading for anybody concerned about this issue.

North sums up the reality in a perfect one-line zinger: "Bottom line: It's premature for anyone to say red-light cameras have caused an outbreak of traffic safety in Lynnwood." (I would prefer to have substituted the word "impossible" for "premature," but let's not quibble.)

Now, on the face of it that doesn't really say anything that any intelligent and honest person didn't already know. So then why should this article be required reading? Because it highlights and underscores the extraordinary lengths to which this city will go in order to try to justify these devices and present them in a favorable light, despite basic common sense and overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Way back in the Paleolithic Era when I was a young lad in college, I majored in a fairly math-heavy discipline and statistics was a basic part of those studies. Consequently, I nearly laughed out loud when I saw Lynnwood's "analysis" document, which you can read for yourself at the above-linked Herald article (click on it and look for the Adobe Acrobat link near the top).

This is one of the most blatant and pathetic exercises in desperate spin-doctoring I've seen in a very, very long time.

Where to begin... Well, first off, you'll note that the city did not simply provide the base data and allow the reporter to draw his own conclusions. Rather, the city "helpfully" drew some conclusions for him in the form of percentage decreases in total collisions and total injuries.

This is a gloriously hamfisted attempt to influence the reporting! And to a statistician, it's nothing short of hilarious. I'm reminded of a child trying to make the case to his parents that pizza is actually a health food because it features all the major food groups, so of course we should have it every night for dinner, etc.

Specifically, the report concludes with two figures that show a 9% decrease in total collisions and a very dramatic-seeming reduction of 32% in total injuries, implying that these significant-sounding reductions are all thanks to the cameras. Who can argue against cameras that cause such significant-sounding reductions in collisions and injuries, right?

I can! First off, the cameras may well have contributed to the reduction in collisions and attendant injuries, but not for the right reasons. To the extent that they create an environment overtly hostile and predatory to motorists, they encourage potentially tens of thousands of people to avoid Lynnwood entirely. I guess I have to concede this point to the camera cheerleaders -- ensuring that there are fewer people on our roads is indeed a sure-fire way to reduce accidents. Of course, it's also a perfect way to sabotage the many businesses and employers that reside in this town, which is particularly counterproductive considering how catastrophically dependent the city is on sales tax and employee head taxes, but nevermind all that.

Secondly, there were no benchmarks presented at all -- just a few selectively chosen figures cherry-picked by the city. Without knowing how non-camera intersections have fared during these same time periods, or how other municipalities have fared, these figures don't say much of anything.

Thirdly, the percentage delta decreases mean absolutely nothing considering how small are the numbers of collisions and injuries. A figure like 32% sounds so significant! So huge! My God, it's a full third and that's just enormous!

Except that it's none of those things. It's 30 as opposed to 44, and distributed as it is among the numerous intersections in question, it only amounts to a half handful of reductions per intersection. Suffice it to say this reduction doesn't rule out mere chance -- and that's the understatement of the year.

And finally... how does the city explain those intersections where collisions or injuries increased after the installation of red-light cameras? It's right there in their very own figures.

I could go on poking more holes in this "analysis," but at the end of the day, the real bottom line is that all of this presumes that the figures presented are actually correct -- and considering Lynnwood's established reputation of misinforming people regarding the validity of photo-enforcement evidence against them, I have every reason to doubt the the veracity of these figures, right out the gate. (See Robert Mak's report from last December if you doubt that -- visit the link, click on the video and scroll ahead to 9:50 and see what David Andree's experience was -- talk about an eye-opener.)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Bill to Ban Photo Enforcement Extortion Cameras Dies in Committee

In case you were wondering whether Olympia actually gives a rip about what the people of this state want, the answer would appear to be "no," at least when it interferes with the government's ability to shake the citizenry down for cash.

You may thank Rep. Judy Clibborn, Chair of the Washington House Transportation Committee, for single-handedly killing a bill that would have made photo-enforcement extortion cameras illegal.

This should give every citizen of this state pause, and here's why:

1: Photo enforcement cameras make the roads more dangerous.

I know, I know... there was a recent huge "study" that "proved" they actually make the roads safer, right? Yes, well... you need to consider the source. That document was written not by a traffic engineer, indeed not by any kind of engineer, but by a government-employed "public policy" person (i.e., a spin doctor). Whose bridge would you drive your car across? One designed and built by an engineer employing the scientific method and valid statistics? Or one designed and built by some "public policy" bureaucrat employed by strapped-for-cash government which has grown dependent on camera revenue? I rest my case.

Besides, just use your common sense, for the love of God. I ask you, what do you think is more dangerous: a three-second-long yellow caution light? Or a four- or five-second-long yellow caution light? Obviously, a short caution light is way more dangerous. So if safety is really the driving force behind these cameras, then why do camera corporations insist on shorter yellow caution cycles of less than four seconds on intersections with cameras? And more pointedly, why does government put the public in danger by accommodating that demand? Clearly, they are out to maximize the chances of somebody running a red light so they can snap a little piccie and generate revenue. And if, in so doing, they're also making it more likely that there will be accidents, perhaps with death, dismemberment, and so forth? Well, I guess that's considered to be an acceptable trade-off.

Finally, in promoting an atmosphere of driver paranoia, the danger is elevated all the more. Drivers approaching red-light camera intersections are more apt to brake hard (hello rear-end collision) or gun it in an effort to avoid being in the intersection at all costs. Doesn't seem too safe, does it? And further, they are obsessed with watching the traffic signal, which means they're paying less attention to things like other cars, kids riding bikes, pedestrians, etc.

2: Photo enforcement cameras promote an atmosphere of presumption of guilt rather than innocence.

On its face, this used to be about as un-American as it could get. But not nowadays, apparently.

Contrary to the relentless, facile and utterly disingenuous propaganda put forth by camera corporations, it is not only law-breakers who get ticketed. On the contrary, right here in Lynnwood there was a driver who was objectively not breaking the law but received a camera ticket anyway, and even though the photo evidence proved that no infraction occurred, a ticket was issued anyway, and the city told him the evidence was against him and was reviewed by three employees including an officer under oath!

He took a day off of work to contest it in court, whereupon the prosecutor reviewed the footage and dropped the charges on the spot. KING-5 News in Seattle did some first-rate reporting on this and you can see it all for yourself right here.

I don't know about you, but if this happened to one citizen, that's one citizen too many, and I have a bit of a hard time believing that it's an isolated occurrence.

Can you afford to take a day off of work to contest a patently bogus ticket? More importantly, should you have to? Is this the United States or the Soviet Union? What's to prevent some camera revenue-addicted city like the People's Republic of Lynnwood from just setting those cameras to take random pictures at all hours of the day and night and issue tickets just in the hopes that the recipients will find it more cost-effective to fork over the dough than lose even more in the lost day's wages that it would take to contest it?

Don't tell me this isn't a bald-faced shake-down racket. I wasn't born yesterday. And neither were the citizens in the legislative districts whose representatives co-sponsored this bill, which was allowed to die in committee thanks to Rep. Judy Clibborn.

----------

So, folks... if your kid is out riding his bike or crossing the street some day and gets mowed down and turned into hamburger in a traffic accident caused by a too-short caution light, or by a driver preoccupied with staring at the traffic signal because he can't afford an extortion ticket... just remember that that's apparently A-OK with our government. You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs, after all.
Rear-end Collision
Politicians Laughing All the Way to the Next Biennial Spendathon
Soufflé omelet as served in Olympia