Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Donald as The Carnival Barker

I had hoped that businessman Donald Trump might inject some fresh ideas into the presidential campaigns. Alas, he has let us down:
  • Fresh idea 1: President Obama's Birth Certificate does not exist. "Just wait," he promised, only to be embarrassed when the document was finally made public. Of course there was never any doubt where Barack Obama was born, with contemporaneus newspaper announcements, eyewitness accounts, and certification in accordance with the laws of the State of Hawaii, which together would satisfy any court in the nation. Trump knew that, but made so much self-promoting racket anyway, that the President asked the State of Hawaii to make an exception and provide certified copies of his original certificate of live birth. Big deal - those who don't WANT to believe it will still not believe it. Trump knew the facts and deliberately misled us all.

  • Fresh idea 2: Threaten to tax imports from China 25% if they continue to manipulate their currency. Oh, that sounds so fine! It will not happen, of course, because you do not want to pay 25% more for your next flat screen TV or HP laptop, and the US companies that make those products in China would never stand for it. Further, China would retaliate by imposing punitive tariffs on selected imports like machinery, generators, airplanes, medical equipment, and more, making equivalent products from other countries preferable in China. It's called a trade war. Those companies would squawk so loud that Congress would intervene. Trump knows this, so again he deliberately misleads us, promising what he couldn't possibly deliver.
Obviously, Donald Trump thinks we're stupid. Some people are, and they will be taken in, but I'm just disappointed.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I-Pass, I-Zoom, EZ-Pass Toll Transponders

Toll roads arise from the failure of politicians to agree how to achieve free and open highway travel for all. They are one more way that the wealthy person assumes an advantage over a person with less means. They add further insult by requiring the motorist to perform a dangerous stop/start at frequent intervals to fork over small amounts of cash. I have actually been in a collision at a toll station. I despise toll roads.

That said, toll roads exist and are often the straightest line between hither and yon. On a recent trip from Minnesota to New Jersey we knew there were plenty of tollways on the way, starting in Illinois, so we stopped our rented car at the first toll plaza in Illinois to buy an I-Pass transponder, knowing that it would be compatible with all EZ-Pass tollways on our route. "Buy" is a misnomer - we paid $10 as a deposit on the little windshield-mounted box, and another $40 as initial funding for our tolls, plus a credit card number for funding refills.

First Day:

What a disaster! The lady who sold me the transponder said it wouldn't work for 24 hours. But I couldn't wait, and she was right! We got stopped by crossarm gates, accused by signs saying "I-Pass Invalid" or "EZ-Pass Number Unrecognized," and ended up yelling at a tinny box or using a credit card to get the gate open. It didn't work in Illinois, Indiana, or Ohio, where we stopped for the night. I don't recommend even trying it for the first day.

From Then On:

In the morning (less than 24 hours from purchase) we left our hotel in Ohio and drove through an I-80 toll station to see "EZ-Pass Accepted, Toll Paid." From that point on it worked perfectly everywhere, certainly improving the quality of our trip. On the way back we drove through some Illinois "Open Road Tolling" stations at full speed, no need to go through special lanes. In fact, a daydreaming driver might not know s/he paid a toll at all. And, according to the State of Illinois at least, it's cheaper than paying with cash or credit card.

We used it in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania (though I-80 is not toll in PA), and New Jersey. In addition it works in Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Virginia, and West Virginia.