Yes Virginia, There Is a Misanthrope


In this year of smear campaigns, fake news, and alternative facts, divisive tactics and hurtful rhetoric, Virginians are being asked to vote for a governor. Someone who can bring us all together as we face the challenges before our beloved Commonwealth and attempt to move past the tragedies that have shocked this nation. Someone who can heal the divide that has sprung up across so many constituencies, whether they be along partisan, racial, or even gender lines.

I am not that person.

Let’s face it, Virginia: you don’t want that. If you did, you wouldn’t even consider either of the guys running for office. Hell, you wouldn’t even consider anyone who would consider running for office in this day and age. So why are you settling for some hack who wants to cozy up to El Presidente without having the stones to openly embrace it, or the guy who can blow half of his lead in the polls in just over a week right before the election?

What I’m offering you is a real choice. Both of my opponents will pretend they care about you, the little people, and then go on to fulfill some bullshit agenda set for them from on high. I refuse to make any sort of empty promises, because the fact is I just don’t care about any of you. Unlike some politicians I can name, I don’t hate any specific group of people; in fact, I don’t hate anyone at all. I have a general disdain for humanity, but to say I hate you would imply a level of emotional investment I just can’t summon. So right there you’ve got at least a 50/50 chance of being better off with me in office.

As for my platform, I plan to institute a Bobpublic. What does that entail? Basically I’m in this for me. That’s right, I’m as rare as a unicorn and twice as beautiful: I’m an honest politician. I’m telling you straight out the only thing I want from being in office is everything I can get out of it. I’d admit to taking bribes and kickbacks except that quite frankly the only things people could bribe me to do are the things I was going to do anyway, so is it really a bribe? Sure, legally it is, but is it ethically a bribe? Either way I don’t care, I’d take the money. I’d even take the money for the stuff I wouldn’t do, just like the guys who are already in office. And just like them, I’d call the former “fundraising” and the latter “my salary”.

You want specifics of my platform? Sure, why not. I specifically plan to do whatever I feel like doing. Usually whatever makes my life better, or whatever amuses me. This would make your life better because, unlike most politicians, I wouldn’t go out of my way to make life miserable for specific groups of people. If something bad happened to anyone because of what I did, I would just consider it an added bonus (but for the papers I would refer to it as a “positive externality”, because we all like our leaders to sound educated).

You want me to get involved in social issues? You got it. Just to tweak My Not So Humble Sister, I’ll let the Washington Redskins keep their name, but they’ll have to change their team logo to a pile of small potatoes. Can a get a witness from the congregation and a side of fries?

I’m all for prayer in schools, as long as everyone converts to Bobtism. This requires a special ceremony in which everyone is Bobtised in a bobtismal fountain. Services are every week day from 4-7 and well drinks are half-price.

Now everyone please rise, place your hand somewhere that makes you feel good about yourself, and recite with me the new Pledge of Allegiance:

I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag
Of the United States of Bobmerica
And to the Bobpublic for which it stands
One Nation, Under Bob
With Liberty and Justice for Bob.

My fellow Virginians, when you go to the polls this November 7, make sure to vote Misanthrope. Not because you want to, but because your fellow Virginians deserve it.

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Virginia Driving Test


Here at MNSHO, we have managed to obtain an advance copy of the recently updated Virginia written driver’s license test. I hate to say it, but this explains a lot.

 

Form VA-DMV-T-2014
Driver’s Licensure Test – Updated 2014

Please answer each of the following questions by circling the letter of the answer you believe to be correct. Please select only one answer for each question.

The left lane is…

a)      For passing
b)      Next to the right lane
c)      The lane I drive in when I feel like going slow and pissing people off

Turn signals should be used…

a)      To signal a turn
b)      To signal a lane change
c)      Intermittently and at random

Precipitation means you should…

a)      Drive more carefully
b)      Slow down
c)      Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here

Pedestrians are…

a)      Equally entitled to use the roads
b)      Subject to the same rules of the road as vehicles
c)      Speed bumps

Speed limits are…

a)      Mandatory
b)      For our safety
c)      A joke

The horn should be used to signal other drivers…

a)      Of an emergency
b)      Of a dangerous situation
c)      That they’re triggering your homicidal tendencies

The shoulder should be used for…

a)      Emergencies
b)      Letting emergency vehicles pass
c)      Getting around slower traffic

When an emergency vehicle is approaching, you should…

a)      Pull over and let it pass
b)      Take careful stock of your surroundings and make room in the least disruptive means available
c)      Get behind it and use it to get through traffic faster

When there is an accident on the side of the road, you should…

a)      Proceed normally
b)      Drive cautiously to avoid hurting emergency personnel
c)      Slow down to a crawl and gawk

Merging…

a)      Is a normal part of the driving experience
b)      Should be done with care
c)      Is for suckers

Answer key:

It doesn’t matter what they answered. As long as they didn’t smear feces on the paper, give them a driver’s license.


On A Road to Nowhere


For as long as I can remember living in Virginia (so basically since I was 16), traffic congestion has been an ongoing issue. In particular, the debate has raged about whether and how to pay for road maintenance, road expansion, public transportation, the works. The most common answer has been raising the gas tax, but both Virginia and Washington state are discovering that this is becoming less viable as vehicles become more fuel efficient, particularly as people switch over to alternative fuel vehicles (darn those perverse incentives!).

Naturally, I wouldn’t broach the issue if I didn’t have a suggestion to offer, and naturally it’s one that would never fly in the world of real politik, but I’m going to throw it out there anyway. It seems to me what we have here is an issue of putting the cost in the wrong place (as usual), and even the attempts to switch the cost are being driven by (at best) political expediency and (at worst) political ideology. I suggest we get back to the original issue, determine where the costs are being created, and find a way to apply those costs to the people creating them in the first place in the most direct way possible.

The first step is this: consider the actual cost we are facing. The issue at hand is not one of too few roads, or too many cars, or too few people taking public transit. The issue at hand is choice in transportation. That choice is influenced, at least on the margin, by cost (convenience and accessibility obviously play a factor as well, but those are ultimately a factor of cost as well). The issue is not a matter of whether people are or are not purchasing gasoline, nor the purpose to which they put it. After all, I use gasoline to run my lawn mower, but that has no impact on the quality of the roads in Virginia or anywhere else; however if my neighbor down the street owns an electric car he uses no gasoline as he adds stress and traffic to the highways and byways. The same applies for buses, rail, or any other form of transit. Let the cost fall where it should, and let the revenue generated be applied to support the source that generated it.

How would we do it? One example that easily presents itself is the new toll lanes on 495. All that is required to use these express lanes is an E-ZPass, which can also be used on any road that accepts E-ZPass in VA or thirteen other states. Right off the bat you can start charging people for the roads they use, not the gas they burn, and you can even track where the funds are being generated so that you know which roads should get the funding for either repair or expansion. Taking this idea one step further, you could even set varying levels of tolls depending on the level of anticipated traffic demand in the area, charging more for high-traffic times and less for lower traffic times (somewhat like Metro does with their Peak and Off-Peak fares).

And hey, speaking of Metro, how about we stop subsidizing public transportation and actually charge people what it costs? I’m sure once we stop subsidizing the roads people will see the real value of public transit, since the real cost of public roads is significant but most people never see them, what with it being paid for out of taxes. Shift that burden onto drivers, and suddenly folks will actually be able to make a real apples-to-apples comparison: is it really worth the cost of driving to work considering the tolls, gas, cost of a car, parking, etc., or would you rather have the inconvenience of taking Metro? Speaking as a driver myself… I have no idea. I’ve never paid the real cost, up front, of driving on a road anywhere, so I can’t make a serious informed decision. I can only make a decision based on the reality in front of me, which is that roads are free, my car is convenient, and Metro is neither.

And of course that’s why it would never fly. Any time you try to shift the actual cost of a thing or service to the people who actually benefit from it there are howls of outrage. “It’s unfair!” “It’s regressive!” “Let the rich pay their fair share!” (That last one is my favorite.) Setting aside any argument about whether the rich actually benefit more from the existence of public roads (I didn’t realize they enjoy driving more than I do), let’s tackle the other two.

As for being unfair, I’ll speak as a driver once more when I say it’s unfair for someone else to shoulder the burden of paying for the roads I drive on. Every day I drive to work, someone else is paying for every mile I drive. That’s pretty much the definition of “unfair”. As far as being “regressive”, my understanding of that argument (and I could well be wrong here) is that it hurts people more the less they make. While there could be a kernel of truth to it, I would like to point out that the less money you have, the less driving you are likely to do. Ergo, the less likely you are to be hit by a toll. This plan is no more regressive than the gas tax or any tax on vehicles, and in many ways is less so, in that it only charges you for distance spent driving on public roads; any other use of gasoline (including time spent idling in traffic) doesn’t count against you. In many ways that would seem to me to at least be less regressive.

Is this a perfect plan? Far from it. But it at least starts to shift the costs where they belong, aligning incentives so that people will have a reason to consider the choices they make, and if nothing else it will more honestly generate revenue in line with the source of the costs. That’s a far better thing than simply waving a hand and declaring a fiat fix based on political whims.


Mad Max: Beyond the Capitol Dome


I live in Northern Virginia, and while it has its charms, including a diverse food culture, vibrant arts scene, and better looking people on average than anywhere else I’ve lived (Indianapolis, I’m shaking my head shamefully in your direction), there is one thing I could quite happily live without: the traffic. I know, it’s passé to complain about traffic in a major metropolitan area, but this isn’t like New York traffic, or LA traffic, or Chicago traffic, or any of those (I’ve driven them all, and yes they all suck, so please don’t write me and tell me how bad you have it.)

The problem with NoVA (as we call it) traffic is that it’s not city traffic, but it’s also not suburban traffic. It’s an awful mix of the two as people push the damn exurbs farther and farther out, and the government, tech sector, and other high-paying jobs draw more and more people from different parts of the country, so nobody drives the same way as anybody else. The result is akin to depriving an entire psych ward of their medication for an entire week: it’s never a good idea and it sometimes results in fatalities. There are a few common maneuvers that are becoming such a strong trend among the driving illiterati that I feel the need to make a special point of them.

I Don’t Know Where I’m Going But I Won’t Stop Until I Get There

I’ve noticed this one primarily among drivers in cars with out of state plates. They clearly have no clue where they are or where they are going, but rather than doing something sensible like pull over and look at a map, check the GPS or (dear God!) ask directions, they insist on rolling merrily along. Personally I couldn’t care, except that they’re also clearly afraid that they will miss their exit/turn/house/Burning Man Festival they are looking for if they go more than half the speed limit. The result is that they slow down everyone behind them, create mass frustration, and potentially riskier behavior in other drivers as they try to get around the asshole who can’t just pull over. Well done, sir.

This Is My Lane And I’ll Go Any Speed I Want

Related to the last one is the guy who seems to think it’s his job to enforce the speed limit by getting in the fast lane and going five miles an hour below the speed limit. Yeah, cause that’s not gonna cause an accident. Either this guy really does think he’s doing some sort of good (in which case he’s a self-righteous asshat) or he’s just an oblivious jerk who never learned how to drive (you get in the farthest right lane that you can while maintaining speed.) The flipside of this is the guy who drives incredibly fast until he’s right behind the guy ahead of him and then slams on the brakes. Between the two I actually fear this one more, but let’s be honest, either the cops or Darwin will take care of this guy for me.

I’ll Be Turning Any Day Now

I’m not bagging on the people who leave on their turn signal for six miles here (you know who you are), because that’s an international and quite possibly an interstellar phenomenon. I’m specifically referring to the people who commit one of two offences against common sense. The first is sitting at a turn for an inordinate amount of time without turning. I understand not everyone is as quick off the stick as I am, but when there’s not another car in sight, the light’s been green since you got there, and you still aren’t turning, what the hell is wrong with you? And no, I’m not making this one up, it happens to me on a daily basis. The second is even worse: the phantom turn lane. This is the guy who starts slowing down to make his turn roughly a half mile before he gets to the turn lane. If the turn lane were full of cars I could get behind that, but usually the douchebags who do this can clearly see the turn lane is empty, they’re just coasting to save that extra 1/1,000,000,000,000 gallon of gas and waste an extra five minutes of my day.

There’s some other things people do that torque me off, but I don’t see any point in calling them out for it since I do them too. I suppose it could be worse; at least I don’t ride on the Metro.