Monday, March 26, 2012

Too Much Value


A few weeks ago I came home from the supermarket with a 5+ pound piece of hamburger meat at under $2.00 @ pound was significantly cheaper than the dog food that I would have otherwise bought for feeding our pair of ShihTzu.

Upon seeing this, my father has a negative outburst, simply from the size of the package of meat. I explain to him that this was actually less then half the price of what he was paying for dog food, aka Alpo or Caesars. He had some difficulty accepting this, but days later was coming home from the market with hamburger meat and not dog food, admitting to me that I was right. Dog food was an overpriced racket, pricier for food that we humans would not eat unless ordered at gunpoint or otherwise highly desperate.

Thinking about it got him to see things my way, but it was the initial sight of all of that meat that I got for the money that provoked the initial negative reaction. All of that meat- just so much and thus all of that value for the price, even though he had not known the price, and even when told, still persisted with the negative reaction. Instances as this certainly say something about how human minds work.

This is what happens on a larger scale, a prime example of this being New York City's aborted Westway Project to replace the outdated West Side Highway with a modern interstate highway, the southern part buried in tunnelway within new landfill extending Manhattan an additional block.

It was to cost $2-3 billion, of which 90% was to be paid by the Federal government

It would have created some 93 acres of new land, much of which was to locate new real estate development with a simple extension of the street grid to a waterfront promenade rather than the cul de sac development to the south, of Battery Park City, providing a perpetual source of additional property tax revenue to the City of New York.

Nonetheless it was quickly attacked as a "boondoggle" by a political campaign behaving as if obvious to these benefits, and seeing it as a source of funds to transfer to NYC's much used, much run down, and much poorly managed MTA subway system- never-mind the idea of doing that with the new Manhattan extension development tax revenues, let alone simply reducing the wasteful corruption within the MTA which would yield way more funds than aborting Westway. By their own figures on their website, the "Straphangers' Campaign" which vigorously protested Westway, got far more funds for transit by other means than aborting Westway.

Westway came under vicious attack as "too expensive": never-mind the studies leading to it concluding that its concept of an outboard alignment tunnel via landfill -- that it, located at the outer edge of the new landfill -- was the most cost effective as there were no utilities to move, with construction bypassing the existing WSH-12th Avenue-West Street corridor, while ultimately providing all that new largely taxable land. Of what was not taxable included a new Westway State Park in an area lacking waterfront parkland between 72nd Street and Batter Park.

The legal arguments were questionable. It was attacked for attracting traffic and thus somehow increase pollution, never mind that it was simply replacing an existing 6 lane 1929 specification freeway with a 6 lane modern interstate highway with the same number of through lanes, but with shoulders and improved merge lanes. The clean air argument was finally thrown out of court as it should have particularly with the new Westway tunnel which would do much to shield the area from this road corridor's traffic. So the 'environmentalists' indoctrinated to believe that much needed transit refurbishments were best funded by cancelling highway projects irregardless, caught upon a new idea, that Westway presented an unacceptable impact to the population of Striped Bass fish that amongst other areas, lay eggs along the existing sea-wall where Westway would extend Manhattan- being attracted there by a sewer outlet! It was hardly a natural habitat-hatchery, along a mile of so of hundreds of miles of Hudson River, with the Westway tunnel and landfill probably serving to improve the Hudson River environment by better shielding it from Manhattan run-off, while maintaining a traffic light free highway for the vast bulk of the vehicular traffic reducing brake dust emissions. Despite the long term environmental benefits of the proposed Westway Highway Tunnel, the stripped bass issue would be more of an excuse than a reason, thus relatively little attention was given to simply dropping a few junked rail-cars into the water to serve as new underwater hatcheries.

September 11, 1985 shall remain an infamous date in New York with its State legislature would voting to surrender to this sort of 'environmentalist' sophistry and "trade-in" Westway.

On the surface it reflected a frustration over the officials inadequate consideration of the numbers of fish affected, a point that the legal opponents used to bludgeon the project in the courts, and an 'environmentalist' movement clearly not interested in Westway's many environmental advantages, but totally dedicated to convince people to forget the great many other better ways to fund transit -- like opening up the MTA's books, to reducing corruption, including so many other corrupt wastes of funds as the 911 induced wars and of course that cigarette-pharma market protection racket of the 'war on drugs safer than alcohol and cigarettes.

Notably, it was a mere one year after Westway's cancellation when the mainstream media used the fatal cocaine overdose of University of Maryland student and draft pick for the Boston Celtics Len Bias as the excuse to embark upon spending 100s of billions addiction on prosecuting the 'drug war' including constructing countless new prisons- with then NYS governor Mario Cuomo bragging about building more new prisons than any previous NY governor, and NY Senator Alfonse D'Amato voting to transfer some of the Wednesday funds to 'anti-narcotics' police overtime while sending the message that the only two class of human consumables safe enough to allowed for retail sale without labeling the ingredients are alcoholic beverages and Tobacco.

And to think of that great swath of people against Westway on supposed fiscal grounds who supported the drug war, such as Cuomo's failed 1982 challenger, Lew Lehrman.

In hindsight, the great disproportionate (think of word published per amount of funds involved) media campaign against Westway was a conditioning to get people to acquiesce to spending far greater sums on the drug war and other such wars, particularly post 911. A recent Village Voice front page claiming that the west African Iboga plant root bark alkaloid Ibogaine may be a miracle drug 'if they survive the trip' as if it were especially dangerous, reinforces my perception of these mainstream "muckrackers" (of which the Village Voice was a major editorialist against Westway) as pseudo-progressive lock-step campaigns of disinformation and distraction.

Such forms of journalism, IMHO work to no small degree to shape popular opinion bringing this phenomenon of 'fiscal conservatives against Westway, but so little else.

With the flip side of disproportionately too little reporting on other things that government spend upon, people on the "left", as those on the "right", are being less educated than trained.

"... if they can survive the trip"

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