Monday, August 27, 2007

"If Mr. Livingston is Correct"

The editorial page of the NY Times has become what William Buckley used to say about the Yale faculty: that he'd rather be governed by the first one hundred names in the New Haven phone book. So it goes with the Times and its editorial observations. This is, after all, the one year anniversary of the Duff Wilson's infamous 6,000 word disgrace of a story about the three lacrosse kids at Duke. We still are awaiting the paper's editorial mea culpa but we're not holding our breathe.

Let's just say that the Times' judgment is suspect on a wide range of matters, and the nosedive into red ink (with a drop in area market share from 29% to 24%), is a reflection of the way in which the paper remains out of touch with average New Yorkers. Which brings us to yesterday's editorial on the congestion commission.

That the Times could describe the panel selected as "a mostly thoughtful and impressive one," is a fair indication of it's lack of perspective; and its failure to call a spade a spade about the selection of pro-congestion tax lobbyists by all of the law makers except Speaker Silver is egregious, considering its normal disdain for lobbyists of any kind. We guess it all depends on who the lobbyists in question are.

But if this is the case, than the Times is exhibiting a gross hypocrisy. The fact remains that lobbyists of all stripes, and we should know, represent "special interests." This is true whether you like some of the interests and despise some of the others. So, if your the Times, it's okay to appoint reps to the commission who have a vested interest in one particular outcome? How are these ringers going to be "thoughtful?"

Of course, the Times is being less than honest in this discussion. To deconstruct: "We like congestion taxes-just like we like all taxes, except when we're accepting tax breaks for our own corporate interests-and since we support the mayor's plan we have no issue with the appointment of 'thoughtful' ringers to the congestion commission. Imagine if some of the law makers had appointed Walter McCaffrey, Richard Lipsky and a slew of anti-congestion industry figures, with only one lone law maker appointing congestion pricing proponents?

Fahgettaboutit! The paper would be screaming like a stuck pig, and probably calling for some kind of independent investigation. Can we get any clearer a demonstration of the oxymoronic nature of journalistic honesty here? And the position of El Diario is not much better; and hasn't been since the mayor dropped an adverti$ing bundle on the paper in his first campaign.The reality is that the commission remains a stacked deck, as Councilman Fidler originally described it.

But what really got our juices flowing was the suggestion by the Times that the commission follow the guidance of Red Ken Livingston, an anti-Semite and America hater that the paper gave over its editorial page to last month: "if Mr. Livingston is correct," brays the paper, than we will all be convinced that, as London goes, so goes New York. Give us a break. The Times still refers to Livingston as a populist; another indication that without double standards the paper wouldn't have any standards at all.

What needs to be done here is simple. The mayor's plan, and any alternatives need to be put to the test by the undertaking of a comprehensive and independent environmental review. But this is not all. We also need to examine all of the fiscal implications of the congestion tax, and do so within the context of the lack of accountability and transparency exhibited by the MTA when it proposed a fare hike last month; or perhaps the Times has forgotten its previous positions here?

Which brings us to the continual use of the 6% solution mantra. The Times concludes its confusion and collusion here by saying; "The federal government has warned that its pledge of $354 million in assistance depends on achieving an approved plan that reduces traffic by 6 percent, as Mr. Bloomberg's proposal would." (added emphasis) Says who? What about Mr. Bush's surge? Will the Times buy into General Patraeus' argument if he tells the Congress that the surge is working?

So why do we have have such an easy suspension of disbelief in this case? The Times needs to do much better in serving the interests of its readers (and its former readers who are beginning to out number the current ones). Only an independent evaluation of the congestion tax will shed light on the serious questions that have been raised by opponents of the mayor's plan. What's everyone afraid of?