Friday, August 8, 2008

Muhammad And The MTA

Brooklyn imam Siraj Wahhaj is behind a campaign to advertise in 1,000 NYCTA subway cars this September during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Wahhaj is a former member of the Nation of Islam. He’s also the first Muslim to deliver an invocation at the U.S. House of Representatives. Several years ago, he was named as one of one hundred seventy unindicted co-conspirators in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and plans for the destruction of other buildings here in New York City. Nevertheless, Islam is one of the most revered religions in the world. There are, and will always be, radical individuals from all religions who don't extol the best virtues of their religion. That fact shouldn’t diminish another follower’s beliefs nor have non-believers think any less of that religion. Religious knowledge should always trump what we know about those who look to subvert an entire religion for their own goals. The Islamic group states its goal with these ads is to promote the true nature of Islam to non-Muslims. Hopefully, this is true. Knowledge is better than ignorance. The group’s ads will invite transit riders to visit to learn more about the faith. The imam’s expressed beliefs are certainly inflammatory to most Americans, but this is still the great country of America where religious tolerance and differing viewpoints are permitted. So long as the group’s ads don’t incite violence and are in strict accordance with the advertising policies of the MTA, they should be posted. New Yorkers will undoubtedly respond to these ads as they do to most other subway messages; either with a lack of interest or graffiti.

It’s Up To You Nude York, Nude York

"Nakedness in New York" is catching on in local restaurants, a comedy club and at a yoga studio. John Ordover rents out local eateries for monthly parties of about 50 people where a “no clothes permitted” policy (Pretty hard to have a Halloween party with those restrictions. Everyone would be dressed as either Adam or Eve!) is the dress code. The yoga studio has about 10 participants with two basic rules … no clothes and bring your own mat! As if comedians don’t have it tough enough, a few REALLY brave ones perform sans clothing at the People’s Improv Theater where audience members are invited to disrobe too. Should this trend grow, I wonder if one day, Manhattan's Garment District will turn into a nudist colony!

Digital Meters Don’t Matter

City Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Queens) wants all homes to have digital devices by 2011 to monitor utilities. He believes they’d offer usage info to cut consumer bills by 10% and enable Con Edison to reduce site inspections and better track outages. I guess “10%” is a nice number, but what conclusions is it based on? Assuming any future usage reduction percentage is next to impossible to calculate without facts. What's more, usage is more likely to rise as customers buy more electronics that require more electricity. Besides, consumers already get usage info ... on their bills. More importantly, people know exactly how much they pay out each month for electricity. What better gauge for New Yorkers is there than that? Likewise, Con Edison should be required to operate more efficiently without new monitoring devices. More importantly, Con Ed must respond to outages faster once meters (of any type) are reading zero. Politicians should lead by innovation and example to reduce energy consumption. Getting New York City residents to subsidize new meters now to register existing information is probably not the best way to do it.

Jewels In A Junk Pile

Arie Sharon and his wife Haya were forced into becoming treasure hunters in Staten Island. Arie is a jeweler who left his wife’s $20,000, 3-carat, anniversary diamond earrings in a cleaning solution container. An employee, who thought the jar was empty, threw it away. The couple contacted the Sanitation Department, who to their credit was sympathetic to the Sharon’s plight. The garbage truck that collected their refuse was found a day later. Fortunately for them, it hadn't yet dumped its load. The Sharons were permitted to sift threw the trash. 30 smelly minutes later, the jar with the earrings was found. Quite a “lost and found” story. With apologies to Ms. Marilyn Monroe, “diamonds in the dump were this girl’s best friend.”

Voting May Be Vexing This November

The New York City Board of Elections has money to buy and install federally ordered, touch-screen devices for the handicapped; one to each polling site. That’s good. Unfortunately, they claim they don’t have the money to hire people to run the machines. That’s bad. City Hall officials disagree about there being a budget shortfall. Why it’s so difficult to know what’s in the treasury, to appropriate funds where necessary and to do this without a deadline around the corner amazes me. Disagree? Maybe we should vote on it.

New Pork City

Look around you. See some folks who could afford to shed a few pounds? Think they might be from another state or tourists? Probably not. A federal government study concluded that 25.5% of the people in New York State are obese. That’s good (actually bad) for 19th place on their list. A statewide, county by county breakdown was not made available but by the looks of things around here, New York City is "carrying its weight for the state."

Brooklyn’s Buying Bang

The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office and the NYPD are shopping for guns. They’re offering $200 to anyone willing to surrender a working firearm; $20 for BB guns and air rifles. The weapons may be turned in at six local churches but curiously, there’s a maximum payout limit of only three guns per person. This makes no sense. If the idea is to remove guns from the streets, should it matter whether someone is looking to sell 3 or 300? Another problem for our government in buying guns is the New York City black market. It’s a shrewd competitor that typically pays out more for guns than we do.

Where The Price-Pain Comes From

New York City consumer prices rose 1% for the second consecutive month. This represents the biggest two-month boost in the last 26 years. Household energy was the major culprit. In June, we paid 10.8% more for electricity. That was the biggest increase since 1914! Rents increased .7%. Food increased .2%. Additionally, there’s the price increase on that thing called “gas.” We’re not going into how much that's risen the last few years. Perhaps it’s best we don’t go there ... not making the trip will save gas. Hang in there New Yorkers! Unfortunately, you ain't seen nothin' yet!

Ferry Foul Play?

IKEA’s new store on the Brooklyn waterfront offers free ferry service (courtesy of New York Water Taxi) between its store in Red Hook and Pier 11 in lower Manhattan. However, some Red Hook residents claim IKEA customers are being "hand-stamped" for priority boarding while local residents are denied service or forced to miss rides. As IKEA originally announced that ferry service would be complimentary and made no mention of purchase requirements, hand-stamping stories seem a bit odd. Let’s hope IKEA is being a good neighbor and isn’t caught red-handed, red-handing customer/ferry riders.