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Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

Category: Autos

Ticket pic of the week: No, that's a little too far, back up a few feet

Garbage Truck parking problem in new york citry

New York City firefighters got a multi-ton surprise when called to the scene of this recent accident.

If you look through the windshield, you can just make out the garbage truck driver screaming, "OMG, I'm going to die! I'm going to die!"

He didn't.

The intrepid city crews got him out safely with a ladder, a very long ladder.

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Juno starts its long journey to Jupiter

You know, that statue hasn't moved the entire time I've been watching

Now, where did all those cattle go? They were right here just a minute ago

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Fire Department of New York

Illegal parking: One mayor's ultimate urban solution

Illegal parking is one of the most stubborn and annoying problems plaguing crowded urban America.

Authorities have tried tickets. They didn't even work on state Sen. Barack Obama back in Chicago years ago. Many cities have tried tow-aways. They've tried the incapacitating Denver boot.

But now Arturas Zuokas has devised a new strategy that pretty much guarantees a particular offending vehicle will not be illegally parking ever again.

Zuokas is the mayor of Vilnius in Lithuania. He was elected in April after two previous terms interrupted by some kind of bribery scandal. But that's not the issue here. The issue is illegal parking by rich people who ignore the laws with their fancy cars.

"What should the city do about drivers who think that they are above the law?" the mayor asks in the video below.

Zuokas is an inveterate bicycle rider and campaigned successfully on a platform including making it easier to get around in the city's narrow streets. Previously, he instituted bike lanes along the curb.

To discourage illegal parking, Mayor Zuokas got an armored military vehicle and drove over the top of one illegally parked car, a shiny Mercedes, as it happened. He completely crushed it into uselessness. See video here:

The fact that the mayor purchased the Mercedes himself and purposely parked it there to make this compelling municipal public service message does not detract from the object lesson that some Vilnius drivers no doubt learned.

Watch the mayor's face as he obliterates the offender. It reflects the same satisfaction that one or two American drivers may have imagined feeling at times while parked with hundreds of other would-be commuters on U.S. freeways.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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L.A. Carmageddon one week later: Was all that really necessary?

Carmageddon1

One week after Southern California was gripped with the "Carmageddon" media drama of an actual freeway being closed to all vehicles for nearly two days, traffic on the 405 is back to its normal creep.405 Falling Debris carmageddon 7-16-11

There was much advance talk of a likely municipal paralysis because of the unthinkable thought that every Angeleno could not go on any freeway at any hour to get in front of everyone else.

This doomsday scenario even crept into the passing national culture with late-night jokes about the reason for the closure: the regular need to sweep up shell casings from the city's highway shootouts.

The real reason, of course, was authorities wanting to demolish part of one bridge, there apparently being a surplus of such structures, according to the new administration.

And this being Democratic California, the protective politicians, who have their own drivers, had this cockamamie idea that regular LA drivers might not be up to the challenge of driving under a crumbling bridge.

First, some background for commuters outside Southern California.405carmageddon Sparks 7-16-11

Expressways here are called "freeways." This has nothing to do with the Founding Fathers. It is to emphasize the lack of tolls.

Officials knew they'd be mocked mercilessly if any word implying speed or rapid movement was used to describe the area's multi-lane monstrosities, which usually appear designed to carry upwards of 25% of the 16 million residents.

Great Weather Plus Too Many People

Not having a freezing climate, Southern California highway czars can tear up and build new lanes year-round. Same for constructing bridges to merge stuff on the side opposite where they now merge stuff. So they do.

In fact, they do it around the clock as well. Some of the worst LA traffic jams not on record occur in the middle of the night when construction crews jam six lanes into two to avoid creating the same monstrous traffic jams in daylight when TV camera crews are on the prowl.

California authorities are really into protecting citizens what with smoking laws and seatbelt laws and helmet laws and kiddie meal bans and cellphone laws. Under court order about 46,000 felons are about to be released to protect them from prison overcrowding.

San Francisco lawmakers realized recently they had yet to ban male circumcision. So, they're working on that protection. So naturally Golden state lawmakers are working on a law to protect Californians from laws to protect local residents from male circumcision.

To protect themselves against futile driver backlash, highway authorities for months have been warning area drivers through the media and with flashing highway signs about the impending big one, closing one of the nation's busiest highways from Friday night until Monday morning.

The hope was to inconvenience as few high-speed racers, illegal immigrant vans, drug smugglers and drunk drivers as possible.

Be Alert for Falling Girders

The media really bought into the sales pitch, day-after-day presenting the most dire scenarios and awkward alternatives because, hey, it's summer, no fires yet and who could dispute them?

But was all the horrendous hoo-hah really necessary?

Sure, there might have been some shattered windshields, shredded tires and crushed Coopers. And a few third-degree burns from welding sparks catching careless convertibles below.

But to think that real California freeway drivers need government protection from ordinary Southern California road hazards is ludicrous and presumptuous. Also patronizing.405 Carmageddon over Open Sign

Thousands of LA drivers each day on the 605 successfully dodge queen-size beds and couches. The 710 is known for 40-foot extension ladders sprawling across lanes.

Someone tests driver alertness on the 210 with indoor plant-lighting fixtures along the way.

And HOV lanes almost anywhere can provide that sudden adrenalin rush of a darkened Prius carcass just sitting there, having reached the end of its cord or something.

But the truth is veteran SoCal drivers could probably make better time wending their way through a bridge destruction zone, even dodging tumbling ten-ton cement cassons, than they do during a normal rush hour with its overloaded rental truck stalls, overturned avocado carriers, fuel truck fires and drivers trying to fix flats by staring.

Having failed to paralyze the metropolitan area for even a few hours, transportation officials gave up this time and re-opened the 405 freeway on Sunday about 16 hours early, enabling the mayor to make the evening news.

The next day they fretted that having successfully cried "Wolf!" in July, the same "OMG Battle LA II" won't work in several months when the other half of the surplus bridge is scheduled to come down.

But here's an alternative: Don't tell anybody which weekend. Leave the road open. And just do it. Chances are with only tons of cement rubble in the way hardly anyone would notice.

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A World War II mystery that offered lessons for handling Osama bin Laden

HOW MANY HIGHWAY PATROLMEN DOES IT TAKE TO RE-OPEN A ROAD?

405ReOpenCHPAlle JSchabenLAT

-- Andrew Malcolm

Follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or click this: @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available on Kindle. Use the ReTweet buttons above to share any item with family and friends.

Photos: Jeff Amlotte / Los Angeles Times; Reed Saxon / Reuters; Mario Anzuoni / Reuters; Jae C. Hong / Associated Press; Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images; Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times.

Ticket pic of the week: But are the meters running?

Greek Taxi Drivers protest the government's planned deregulation of the industry

What an amazing coincidence that every taxi in Athens would be enroute to the airport on the very same street at precisely the same time the other day.

Of course, it was no coincidence. When Greek cabbies strike, they don't walk a picket line. They clog the streets. For two days.

Their protest was aimed at Greece's troubled government caught between demands for strict financial reforms by its foreign creditors and EU governments and the Greek population, which doesn't like sudden stringencies.

The cab drivers were protesting the central government's plan to deregulate the taxi industry to encourage more competition and save money.

So, take the train instead.

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-- Andrew Malcolm

While you're waiting, follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or click this: @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available on Kindle.Use the ReTweet buttons above to share any item with family and friends.

Photo: Angelos Tzortzinis / AFP/ Getty Images.

Rep. Thaddeus McCotter joins the GOP race on July 4th weekend -- patriotic, yes, media-savvy, maybe not

Thaddeus-McCotter-Michigan-Republican

Michigan Rep. Thaddeus McCotter announced his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination today.

Who knew?

It may have been carried on local media, but CSPAN was running coverage of the progressive Netroots Nation conference, which took place in mid-June; CSPAN2 was in the middle of a tribute to historian Manning Marable; Fox News Channel had "Huckabee"; CNN had "Nepal's Stolen Children," with Demi Moore; and MSNBC had its prison documentary series "Lockup."

However, you can now scroll down for a video of McCotter's understated announcement.

Perhaps announcing a presidential candidacy at a music festival in a park in Whitmore Lake, Mich., on a holiday weekend was not the best timing to garner national media coverage for the 45-year-old father of three..

The event was neither live-streamed on McCotter's Facebook page nor his official campaign website, and fans were casting about unsuccessfully Saturday evening on Twitter for.... 

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Forget those Republicans for now, Obama's real 2012 opponent is The Economy

Obama tells Chrysler workers in Toledo their industry is important 6-3-11

It's not really that hard to do so far.

Just forget for a minute the expanding array of already, certain and maybe Republican presidential candidates. And forget the idea of a serious Democratic challenger to President Obama next year.

The incumbent's most serious opponent for reelection in 2012 is right now and likely still will be not a person but The Economy.

It's not good, despite all of Joe Biden's glib fundraiser promises. From the very beginning of his presidency, which sure seems like more than 870 days ago, almost every poll has shown the top concerns of Americans were economic: jobs, the economy, the deficit.

Yes, yes, Obama said and still does, creating new jobs is Job One, after endlessly reminding of the troubled economy he inherited, an excuse that doesn't seem to work anymore. On June 2, press secretary Jay Carney repeated all the travails and then stated:

"There is no issue that matters more to this president than the economic health of this country and the job security of Americans and job creation in this country. So he's focused on this very directly."

Which is, no doubt, why a Daily Economic Briefing has been quietly erased from....

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Weekly remarks: GOP's Lamar Alexander warns NLRB threatens new jobs; Obama hails U.S. auto turnaround

Capitol Hill

Weekly remarks by Sen. Lamar Alexander, as provided by Republican Party leadership

I’m Lamar Alexander, United States Senator from Tennessee. I’d like to talk with you for a few minutes about making it easier and cheaper to create private sector jobs here in America. 

We can start by helping companies make in the United States what they sell in the United States, but unfortunately recent actions by the Administration are making that hard to accomplish.

Last month the National Labor Relations Board moved to stop America's largest exporter, the Boeing Company, from building airplanes at a non-union plant in South Carolina, suggesting that a unionized American company can’t expand its operations into one of the 22 states with right-to-work laws, which protect a worker's right to join or not to join a union. But instead of making a speech, let me tell you a story. 

The story is about a White House state dinner in February 1979, when I was....

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May's disappointing jobs report in four capsule quotes

Obama watches Anthony Davis one employed American at Chrysler Toledo plant 6-3-11

April 2010: What Vice President Joe Biden promised about jobs last year:

Well, I’m here to tell you some time in the next couple of months, we’re going to be creating between 250,000 jobs a month and 500,000 jobs a month.

May 2011: What Don Lee reported today about jobs on LATimes.com:

The nation's job market took a sharp turn for the worse last month as employers abruptly curbed their hiring and the unemployment rate inched up — grim evidence that the economic recovery was faltering.

The new Labor Department report, which showed the unemployment rate rising to 9.1%, was bad news for millions of Americans seeking work and for the hundreds of thousands of newly minted college graduates whose prospects are increasingly uncertain.

But beyond those looking for work, the downturn in hiring signaled continuing troubles for the rest of the nation: A weaker economy — along with the increased risk of sliding into a new recession — reduces the likelihood that personal income will rise or that families will better themselves financially in other ways.

In recent days, an array of data have pointed to a slowdown in manufacturing and consumer spending, as well as persistent weakness in the depressed housing market.

Payrolls grew by only 54,000 in May, less than half what's needed to keep pace with growth in the working-age population.

The weak growth was all the more unsettling because it came after three straight months of solid payroll increases that averaged 220,000 a month and had led many analysts to believe the job market was finally turning the corner.

What Dow Jones reported today after the May jobs numbers came out:

U.S. stocks are on pace for a fifth straight weekly decline as a dismal jobs report added to the drumbeat of investor concerns about a slowing economy. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 111 points, or 0.9%, to 12137.

May 2011: What President Obama had to say today in Toledo, Ohio, about the latest disappointing jobs report:

 

 

 

-- Andrew Malcolm

Don't forget to follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or click this: @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available on Kindle. Use the ReTweet buttons above to share any item with family and friends.

Photo: Jeff Kowalsky / EPA (Obama watches one employed American, Anthony Davis, at Chrysler's Toledo plant, June 3).

Sunday shows: Pawlenty, Cantor, Nixon, Chiarelli to appear as guests

Republican Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty

ABC's "This Week" with Christiane Amanpour: Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-Ind.) and former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn.), Mort Zuckerman and Doug Imbruce, with George Will, Ed Gillespie, Jonathan Karl and Donna Brazile

Bloomberg's "Political Capital with Al Hunt": Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.)

CBS' "Face the Nation" with Bob Schieffer: Reps. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Gov. Jay Nixon (D-Mo.)

CNN Fareed Zakaria "GPS": Thomas Hoenig and Prince al-Waleed bin Talal

CNN's "State of the Union" with Candy Crowley: Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Tim Tetz, Paul Rieckhoff, Dale Beatty, Nixon and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.)

Fox News Channel "Fox News Sunday" with Chris Wallace: Reps. Allen West (R-Fla.) and Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), with Bill Kristol, Byron York, Nina Easton, and Juan Williams

NBC's "Meet the Press" with David Gregory: Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), with Alex Castellanos, Ruth Marcus and Harold Ford Jr.

-- Andrew Malcolm

Why wait until Sunday for politics? Click here now to follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or follow us @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available on Kindle now. Use the ReTweet buttons above to share this item with friends.

Photo: Minnesota's Republican former governor, Tim Pawlenty. Credit: Olivier Douliery / MCT

Weekly remarks: Eric Cantor says no more budget gimmicks; Biden hails Obama auto bailout

> Joe Biden talking to Capitol Hill reporters 5-11

 

Weekly remarks by Vice President Joe Biden, as provided by the White House

Hello, everyone. I hope you’re having a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend. I’ve got some good news for us today. Not only is our economy overall growing, but one of the important sectors of our economy is on the rise again: the American automobile industry.  

Just a few days ago, on Tuesday, Chrysler Corp. announced that they were repaying the taxpayers for the loans we gave them when we came into office.

And this announcement came six years ahead of schedule -– and just two years after Chrysler Corp. emerged from bankruptcy. You know, and it’s a sign of what’s happening throughout the American automobile industry.

It’s not just Chrysler. Also this week, GM announced that its Detroit Hamtramick factory will run three shifts for the first time its 26-year history. You know, that’s 2,500 more good, paying jobs.

In the words of Don LaForest, of the UAW -– and I want to quote him –- he said....

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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