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Bruno’s rear view

It is with great sadness that I read and listen to comments from many people about the conviction this week of former New York State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno on two corruption charges.

In essence, they contend that because Bruno used his political clout to funnel millions of dollars into local hands for projects from playgrounds to firehouses to business facilities to anything that could bear his name (*), it was OK for him to line his pockets in exchange for being such a benefactor with taxpayer dollars.

That is known as situational ethics. Lawbreaking is OK if everyone else gets theirs. Bruno’s attitude and daily play-by-play commentary on his own trial, along with such reprehensible forgiveness of his transgressions by people who like what he did for them, are a major factor in nourishing New York’s dysfunctional, pathetic political climate.

Bruno says he’s disappointed at the jury’s decision, even though he was found not guilty of several other counts. He should be disappointed in how his own greed and misfeasance led to him becoming a convicted felony.

Bruno, who among many pursuits is a lover of race horses and has been involved in that field, once was asked what he thought about criminal charges against two organizations he had long supported with my tax dollars — the Institute for Entrepreneurship and the New York Racing Association. He gave this thoughtful, statesmanlike reply:

“It doesn’t make sense to look up a dead horse’s rectum. You want to look up a dead horse’s rectum, go ahead; it’s not something I’m going to do.”

In light of the court results, he now might prefer that view than having to look us in the eye.

(*) Joseph L. Bruno Town Park in Hoosick Falls, Joseph L. Bruno Family Resource Center of the Commission on Economic Opportunity for the Greater Capital Region Inc., the Joseph L. Bruno Scholarship from the New York State Summer School of Orchestral Studies, the Joseph L. Bruno Theater in the Arts Center of the Capital Region, the Joseph L. Bruno Stadium at Hudson Valley Community College, the Joseph L. Bruno Pavilion at Saratoga Spa State Park, the Joseph L. Bruno Biotechnology Development Center at Albany Molecular Research, the Joseph L. Bruno Lobby in the Greenbush Area YMCA … . I can’t go on.


• More signs of the Apocalypse


Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, the Manson murder cult follower who pointed a pistol at President Gerald R. Ford in 1975 and later escaped from prison, will be set free on Sunday.

The now-60-year-old nutjob escaped from a female prison in Alderson, WV, in 1987, was recaptured about two days later, and got an additional 15 months in prison for the escape. Otherwise, she might have been released last year for good behavior.

She said she escaped so she could be closer to Manson, who is serving a life term in California for the 1969 murders of actress Sharon Tate and eight others.

• So speed ’em up, Joe

Picture 3

I live in an Upstate New York city just across the Hudson River from the State Capital. Thus, I get to hear and read about a lot more stupid government inactions actions than many people in other parts of the state.

The most recent deals with the decision by the State Liquor Authority (SLA) to reject an application for a liquor license by some local businesspeople seeking to open a wine/martini bar.

The reason: It is within 200 feet of a church, which automatically negates its request.

The problem: It is not within 200 feet of a church.

It is located across the street from a Salvation Army facility that most of the week is a food pantry. It holds one religious service once a week. But then, so does an entertainment venue on the same block, and no one is calling it a church.

Also, at least five other establishments on the same block hold valid state liquor or beer/wine licenses, and have for years despite the presence of the Salvation Army.

It took six months for the SLA to come up with this rejection. The right or wrong of it is obvious can be debated from various angles. What troubles me most is the excuse the SLA uses for its snail-like pace in considering license applications statewide.

During the period of months and, in some cases, years the applicants are waiting, they usually are putting time, effort and money into their facilities. A quick “No” by the SLA can dash all those hopes and lay waste to the money involved.

William Crowley, the SLA mouthpiece spokesman, says the agency has only 22 examiners divided among offices in Buffalo, Albany and New York City. They are responsible for reviewing all license applications. Crowley says the SLA received 5,315 applications between July 1, 2008, and July 1 of this year. The examiners also had to consider an estimated 7,000 applications for short-term permits, most of which are for caterers who, under state law, need a license just to serve for as little as an hour, one time. Thus, says Crowley, they can’t keep up with the workload.

Really? Let us, as they say, do the math.

• 5,315 applications received in one year
• 22 examiners
• 260 calendar work days in one year
That comes out to 242 applications per year per examiner, assuming a five-day work week. If we discount 15 days per examiner for vacations and stray holidays, that comes to about one application to be handled per day.

Doesn’t seem to be much of a workload, does it?

Now let’s look at the one-time applications.

• 7,000 applications received in one year
• 245 calendar days worked by each of 22 examiners
• That comes to 318 per examiner per year, or 1.3 applications per day.

Add it up, and we get 2.3 applications to be handled per day.

Whew! I bet those examiners are laughing their asses off have to lean back and uncap a cold one after maintaining such a blistering pace.

• E-Z pest (Parts 1 and 2)



Twice in recent weeks my wife and I had occasion to travel on New Jersey’s ugly boring convenient Garden State Parkway. We paid the usual tolls, followed the posted speed limits, and went on our merry way.

Shortly afterward, we received — on different days — notices of toll violations, one for her and one for me.

Not unusual to get different notifications since we had taken two different cars on our trips — one registered to me, one to her. But unusual in that the alleged violations had to do with the E-Z Pass toll lanes.

We don’t subscribe to E-Z Pass, for a number of reasons, chief among them the fact I don’t like the idea that a government or quasi-government agency can track my whereabouts (*), running a close second to my heartfelt belief that such agencies usually are riddled with incompetence.

Yes, the notifications had blurry photo images of our cars and the license plates were correct. However, we never use the E-Z Pass lane because we’re not authorized to do so, plus we’re not stingy or stupid enough to try evading a 25-cent toll. What would be the point?

So, I drew up a letter on behalf of both of us. It said:

To Whom It May Concern:

We have each received a “Notice of Enforcement Action” for alleged violations of toll lanes on the Garden State Parkway.

Both are in error.

• We are not subscribers to E-Z Pass.
• We do not use the E-Z Pass lanes.
• We did not avoid paying any tolls.

We suggest you look into your mechanized enforcement process to find your errors. Perhaps the situation is similar to the recent problems E-Z Pass experienced in the Buffalo, NY, area, in which large numbers of people were wrongly accused.

In addition, we are hereby requesting written withdrawal of these erroneous charges, for our records. The two notices are enclosed.

Thank you.

That should do the trick.


Well, I just heard from the State of New Jersey today about the E-Z Pass foulup screwup scam problem.

No, not the letter of apology and clarification I requested. It was a


in big black capital letters.

I’m now expecting a second such letter since this one only dealt with the original notice sent to my wife.

Once again, we’re off tilting at windmills in an attempt to get a government agency/business/other pest to rectify a problem of their own creation.

( * ) If that sounds like conspiracy theory paranoia, let me share a brief anecdote. When E-Z Pass first came into being, I was a senior editor at a daily newspaper here in the Empire State. The E-Z Pass people said no one should worry about their movements being tracked because that would never happen and no one would give out such information. One of our city editors had a long commute to work and used the Thruway on a daily basis. He signed up for an E-Z Pass card, drove on it for a while, then had one of his reporters go through a contact to get his E-Z Pass history. He had it in less than an hour.

Update: I eventually paid both tickets. A cop-out on my part, but since I have to use that same highway on a regular basis, I can’t envision myself trying to keep battling the State of New Jersey for unfettered and unharassed access even though it is in the wrong. And, for the record, I never received a human response to any of the three letters I sent, having to settle for mechanically-generated form letters that never did address the problem.

• Paper Wait, Part 4


Have I mentioned recently my experience with the U.S. Census Bureau?

[If you’ve missed the saga, read Paper Wait, Paper Wait 2 and Paper Wait 3. I’ll hang on ’til you get back.]

Well, I dutifully mailed out the completed American Community Survey form, which I have been told I must do under penalty of law, about 10 days ago. So, I was surprised when I got a phone call the other day from someone representing herself as being with said Bureau.

She asked me some identification questions — address, phone number, etc., which was interesting considering that the Bureau had mailed me all paperwork I’ve been discussing, and she had, after all, reached me by phone. After satisfying her curiosity that I was indeed at that moment in the abode she was curious about, she launched into a prepared spiel about the American Community Survey and its legendary special qualities.

After several attempts, I was able to insert a verbal wedge and get her to stop blathering on.

“I mailed out the completed survey about 10 days ago,” I informed her.

“Oh, well, it’s not marked down that we’ve received it,” she replied.

I felt like saying, “Well, I did,” but I decided to simply wait, silently.

“Maybe it’s still working its way through our intake system,” she offered.

I remained mute.

“Well, I’ll just mark it down that it’s in the system and we’ll wait. We might have to call you again if there’s anything we can’t read on any of the answers.”

I couldn’t maintain silence.

“Virtually all the questions were multiple choice, so all I had to do was make a check mark in the appropriate box. Do you think that would be hard to read?,” I noted.

“I’m not sure,” she said. “I’m not involved in that part of the survey.”

Oh, how I wish I wasn’t either.

• Paper Wait, Part 3

Yet another missive from my friends at the U.S. Census Bureau, a little edgier in tone than the previous letters, but still with a lingering hint of friendliness.

They still would like my cooperation — even if they swear they don’t know who I am since I was “randomly selected” — in completing a lengthy form they call “The American Community Survey.” Oh, and they remind me I still am required to do this bit of homework under penalty of law, thank you very much.

As a freethinking American, I remain curious what will become of the information they are demanding requesting from me, under penalty of law.

And, once again, they are spending my tax dollars to harass encourage me to divulge all sorts of private information about me and my spouse. Although they want to know all about everyone who lives in my house, I think I’ll risk withholding information on The Other Beings who co-habit our space. I don’t want to get their tails and whiskers all a-twitter over the indignity of Big Brother prying inquiring into our lives, under penalty of law.

In this latest communication, I am told that information coerced from elicited from me, under penalty of law, will help my government plan — in addition to the aforementioned “new schools, hospitals, and fire stations” — “programs to reduce traffic congestion, provide job training, and plan for the healthcare needs of the elderly.”

All good things for a government to be doing. And to do so, I suppose I’m being unnecessarily intelligent stubborn in asking what these survey questions have to do with those topics:

• How many times have I been married?
• How many times has my spouse been married?
• How are the two people in the household related to each other?
• What are the household residents’ ethnic origins?
• When did the residents move into the current residence — you know, the one that has been selected “at random” to interrogate quiz, under penalty of law.
• What is my monthly condominium fee, if applicable?
• Has anyone in the household ever served in the miltary?
• What kind of work do the residents of the household do?

I could go on, of course, but at this point I don’t see how the responses to any of these questions can help my government plan for “new schools, hospitals, and fire stations” or create “programs to reduce traffic congestion … and plan for the healthcare needs of the elderly.” Even under penalty of law, nothing occurs to me.

Another troubling item is the declaration in the latest letter that “The Census Bureau is required by U.S. law to keep your answers confidential.” That is about as vague a statement as you can get, unless the Census Bureau has, while I was sleeping, been assigned the task of planning the nation’s highways, running the health care system, handling public safety programs, and building new schools. The information it is demanding requesting, under penalty of law, obviously will be shared with someone outside the Census Bureau. Many someones, no doubt.

I wonder if there will come a day I receive a letter telling me the Census Bureau has cross-tabulated all of my answers having to do with my finances with those I have filed with the Internal Revenue Service and telling me they aren’t precisely the same — even though I wrote the world “estimated” on my “American Community Survey” form. That surely will tell me whether the Census Bureau, under penalty of law, actually kept my information confidential.

• Paper Wait, Part 2

Not only have I now received another Census Bureau letter concerning “The American Community Survey,” I also received a questionnaire I am informed I must fill out and return, under penalty of law.

It tells me information gleaned from the survey will be used to help plan “where new schools, hospitals, and fire stations are needed.”

To accomplish this, the Census Bureau is demanding to know how many times each member of my household has been married.