Saturday, May 12, 2007

Michael Yaki, you suck

Another clown to throw on the pile.

In an earlier version of an AP story on a briefing held by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, D.C.-based sports reporter Joseph White included this passage:
Jessica Gavora, vice president of policy for the College Sports Council, favors [a] new survey [to judge women's interest in sports] because schools have been cutting men's teams in an effort to comply with Title IX through other means. Gavora pounded the table in frustration when commissioner Michael Yaki mocked the cries of people who might say, "Oh my God, they cut the boys' pingpong club.''

"Where does the law force the university's hands when it has to cut back?'' Gavora said. "It forces it on the men's' teams.''
So Commissioner Yaki wants to dismiss the cutting of collegiate athletic programs with a sarcastic remark, huh?

Well, let's see what Mr. Yaki's all about.

We'll run a Google search on him and see what happens. Ah, yes, the first page that comes up: His bio page from a law firm in San Francisco. about this gem (bold added by me)?
Michael utilizes his experience representing the government in negotiations on many of northern California's most recent large-scale development projects, including Mission Bay, SBC Park, and the conversions of the Presidio Army Base, Treasure Island Naval Station, and the Hunters' Point Naval Shipyard.
Well, Mr. Yaki, the Giants surely get some of their players - maybe even some of their major leaguers - from college. What if their baseball program is cut? Hell, we can do away with collegiate baseball altogether. The park's already built and paid for, right?

Further down the page (again, bold by me):

Professional Accomplishments
-- Elected member of the San Francisco City and County Board of Supervisors, 1996-2001. Served on the board of directors of the San Francisco Transportation Authority, Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District, Association of Bay Area Government, Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and the California State Association of Counties

-- Chief of Staff to Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, 1989-96

(Let the record show that when I tried to right-click to copy, it told me, "Function Disabled!" However, Ctrl-C worked just fine.) OK, so we've also established this guy is a Democrat (plus he lives in San Francisco and graduated from Cal-Berkeley. Do you need anymore evidence?).

That's kind of funny, because the Democrats' Web site tells us - in the very first sentence on this particular page - they are "committed to keeping our nation safe and expanding opportunity for every American." By opting to go for a cheap (and decidedly unfunny) one-liner, Commissioner Yaki doesn't seems he's more interested in limiting opportunity for a certain segment of Americans.

Wait, let me read that again.

Yes, it does say "every American." Just wanted to make sure.

And whaddya know, Pelosi nominated him for the USCCR.

Just for shits and giggles, let's Google his name with athletics, just to see what happens.

Well, we got this trite op-ed piece penned by Commissioner Yaki (before he was Commissioner Yaki) in the San Francisco Chronicle. Seems a morning-show host friend of his got him a small role in some movie that no one's ever heard of. Listen, I'm all about politicians protecting their image, but if you can stomach enough of him to make it to the end of the interminable second graf, you'll see this:
The next day, my politician's instincts for self-preservation kicked in. What if this "psychological thriller'' contained scenes of debauchery? Dismemberment? Other forms of gratuitous political incorrectness? What if my character played a serial murderer? I frantically called Darian. She assured me that, no, there were no such scenes in the film, that she knew the producers, that they were excited that I accepted and that she would "kick their a--'' if I wasn't treated right.

At the time, Commissioner Yaki, you were on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, not the Chairman of the Board at the Christian Broadcasting Network. Give me a damn break.

Well, we managed to find out he's an avid bowler. Beyond that, he wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times ahead of Toyota's NASCAR debut, which throws around the r-word and confuses the intensity of Mr. I've Spent My Life With Ford, car owner Jack Roush, with ethnic bias. Apparently Mr. Yaki, a proclaimed NASCAR fan, doesn't remember not Talladega of a few weeks ago but Talladega of a few years ago, when American Jeff Gordon won in a Chevy and was pelted with beer.

After five pages of searching "Michael Yaki" paired with "athletics" then "sports," we found no indication that Commissioner Yaki has ever had any personal involvement in any sort of organized sports. Can we really expect him, then, to understand what it's like to pour your heart into a team and a program, season after season, only to learn that your school is taking away the sport you've been playing since you were 8 years old? Of course not.

We did find another gem from him, however, back in January.
Number one, politics is not for the faint of heart. Number two, politics is a free hedge clipping service. Every time you poke your head up, someone's there to chop it off. Number three, if you're going to throw a punch, you got to take a punch.

The old masters like Mike Royko excelled at using words to deftly slice those that deserved it.

I'm not that talented. Consider these words a punch to the gut.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Marion Barry, you suck

What happens when you combine stupidity and grandstanding? Sadly, it's not rhetorical; there really is a punchline: D.C. Ward 8 Councilman (and ex-mayor) Marion Barry says he's putting together a commission to study tolls for roads leading into the District of Columbia.

If only the idea were less ham-handed than Barry would have us believe.

Let's take a quick stroll over to Google Maps. Take a spin around the District of Columbia: The city is generally bordered by three streets (Western Ave., Eastern Ave. and Southern Ave.) and the Potomac River. Starting at its westernmost point, let's go around and see all the ways we can get into D.C.:

Into Northwest: Clara Barton Parkway, MacArthur Blvd., Westmoreland Circle, River Rd., Wisconsin Ave., Oliver St., Chevy Chase Circle, Nevada Ave., Broad Branch Rd., Pinehurst Circle, Greenville St., Oregon Ave., Beach Dr., Primrose Rd., the unnamed circle on 16th St., Northgate Rd., 14th St., 13th St., 12th St., Georgia Ave., Juniper St., Blair Rd., Piney Branch Rd., Cedar St., Maple St., Caroll St., Laurel St. and Walnut Ave.

Into Northeast: Kansas Ave., Sligo Mill Rd., New Hampshire Ave., Rittenhouse St., Riggs Rd., Sargent Rd., Michigan Ave., Vamum St., Randolph St., Rhode Island Ave., Monroe St., Bladensburg Rd., New York Ave., Kenilworth Ave., Olive St., Minnesota Ave., Quarles St., Nash St., Meade St., 51st St., Sheriff Rd., Division Ave., Hunt Place, Nannie Helen Burroughs Ave., Foote St., 61st St., Dix St., 63rd St., Maryland Park Dr., E. Capitol St., Central Ave. and Fable St.
Into Southeast: H St., 51st St., Benning Rd., Easy Place, Bower Rd., Stanley St., Beck St., Massachusetts Ave., Fort DuPont St., Pennsylvania Ave., Suitland Rd., 36th Pl., Branch Ave., Naylor Rd., I-295, Suitland Parkway, 23rd St., Wheeler Rd., Bonini Rd. and S. Capitol St.

Into Southwest: I-395, Arlington Memorial Bridge, Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Bridge, Francis Scott Key Bridge, Chain Bridge.

That's 85 entry points.

Additionally, the three roads that straddle the D.C.-Maryland line have a combined 96 turnoffs; presumably one could be on the far side of Eastern Ave., presumably in Maryland, and make a left turn into the District. (In fairness, some of those 96 are one-way outbound; but if I could skip a toll and there was no other traffic, I might be tempted. Also, in fairness, there are at least six roads that lead into D.C. but end or loop shortly after turnoff.)

So Councilman Barry wants to build 181 toll booths?

Not likely.

So Councilman Barry wants to build a set of five tollbooths for the entryways from Virginia?

Seven years ago, spurred on by Congressional action, the District took to studying how to reduce congestion on the 14th Street Bridge (I-395), the busiest of those five routes. In its own release, D.C. said it worked in conjunction with the Virginia Department of Transportation and various federal agencies. (D.C. did in fact build the original 14th Street Bridge back in the 50s; I tried to find just what the current agreement is as far as who does what, but was unsuccessful.)

So, presumably, Virginia would have to be somehow involved in this discussion. You think the Commonwealth of Virginia will stand for its residents being taxed without seeing a dime? Not likely.

Perhaps Councilman Barry wants the tollbooths just past the bridge, just far enough out of the reach of the Commonwealth. That, essentially, would be a toll to get into the city.

Fellow council member Kwame Brown had this revelation, according to the Times story: "You can't get into Philadelphia without paying a toll. If we're going to be a big city and act like a big city, most big cities have toll booths."

Far be it for Brown to let the facts get in the way of good posturing. Let's take a look at Philly for a moment.

Drivers crossing the Delaware River from New Jersey are subjected to tolls. All the major thoroughfares into Philly likewise have a westbound toll: the Ben Franklin, the Betsy Ross, the Walt Whitman. But this isn't only in Philadelphia; drivers on Rt. 1 pay a toll to cross into Morrisville, Pa., a Philadelphia suburb to the north. Furthermore, drivers pay a toll to cross the Commodore Barry bridge, which comes in near Chester and the Burlington-Bristol bridge that connects those two neighboring towns.

Tolls to cross the Delaware extend from the state of Delaware north to the northern Poconos.

Perhaps Councilman Brown would like his city to benefit from a toll on the American Legion Bridge, which doesn't even touch D.C.? Not likely.

His shortsighted comment - and Barry's shortsighted proposal - miss the point of tolls: To help pay for the structures that carry traffic, not to pay for the privilege of entering another jurisdiction.

Let's humor them for a moment. Let's imagine that they get their toll booths build, all 181 of them. What about the incredible backlog of cars that are now clogging streets in Maryland and Virginia? Late last year, Forbes ranked our commute the third-worst in the country.

"Not our problem," it's easy to imagine Barry saying.

Very well then. If the councilman wants his money so badly, then let him do something different: Make commuters pay tolls to get out of the city. Bridges in New York and Philly (as we've seen) collect inbound tolls, and the Massachusetts Turnpike collects them both ways. Let's see D.C. go against the grain and demand the opposite; they'll still get their money, after all.

What? That would clog up D.C. streets, you say? Well, we can't have that now, can we?

Good luck with your feasibility study, Councilman Barry. Just be sure you exhibit as much bombast when they come back with the answer that we all know already.

Not likely.