Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Let them eat doughnuts

New Jersey Transportation Commissioner Kris Kolluri says that increasing the toll rates on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway in 2009 will cost the average highway user less than half the price of a strawberry doughnut.

Speaking at a public hearing on proposed toll increases for two of the nation’s busiest toll roads, Kolluri compared the increase to a doughnut he recently bought for his daughter.

“If we are willing as a society to pay $1.06 for one strawberry doughnut, I think it makes sense that we could ask ourselves to pay 50 cents more over 15 years to keep our bridges safe,” Kolluri stated at a hearing Sept. 23 at Camden County Community College.

His comments upset many of the 120 people present, local media reported.

If approved, toll rates on the turnpike and parkway would increase 50 percent in 2009, another 50 percent in 2012, and 10 percent in 2023 for heavy trucks as well as passenger vehicles. On the turnpike, truck tolls could increase from the current $26.55 for the entire length to $65.75 by 2023.

Kolluri is trying his best to sugarcoat the issue, but no amount of icing – strawberry or otherwise – can coat the bitter pill that commuters and truckers will have to swallow if these increases are approved.

Incidentally, the state paid Kolluri $140,740 in 2007, the equivalent of 132,773 strawberry doughnuts.

We’d like to send him a baker’s dozen. Razzberry flavor.

Editor’s note: The turnpike authority has called an additional hearing on possible changes to their increase proposal. The hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. to noon, Friday, Oct. 10, at authority headquarters, 581 Main St., Woodbridge, NJ 07095.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Don’t follow the hammer

I read in last week’s news that corporate India is in disbelief after a nutted-out mob of laid-off workers lost their minds and bludgeoned their CEO to death.

The boss – head of the Indian operations of Graziano Transmissioni, an Italian-headquartered manufacturer of car parts – died of “severe head wounds.” Other managers were beaten, but survived.

According to news reports, the attack followed a long-running clash between the factory’s management and workers who wanted better pay and permanent contracts. It seems that the 47-year-old honcho had dismissed them from a factory in a suburb of Delhi.

Those wounds were inflicted by dozens of crazed employees who had been canned by the company. Police said they were waiting outside of the factory as a negotiation was going on inside.

The boss had summoned some workers to cuss and discuss. One report said more than 150 workers who were waiting outside apparently heard a yell from inside. That’s all it took to send them rushing in. Chaos took over and someone clobbered the boss with a hammer. Now, the way this happened is likely how all mob killings go – several want to inflict death and the others are trampling along behind them mindlessly, just following the hammer.

In cases of mob mentality or herd mentality, people acting in a group lose their personal accountability in an instant. Why the heck is that?

We’ve watched it happening a lot here in the U.S. lately. For example, look at the freaked out electronic mouse-pushing herd, rushing from one investment to another – and with a click, it takes millions of dollars from one place and puts it someplace else in a second. Look at the lines of panicked gas-buyers rushing to top off their tanks so they can drive to the mall across town.

I am reminded of the quote from “Men in Black” movie with Tommy Jones and Will Smith. Tommy Jones’ character said: “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals.”