I Wish We’d All STFU About Paying Tolls

You ever read something that makes you want to bash your face into your keyboard (“this blog” is not an acceptable or creative answer)? Okay, me too. Today it came from an article about the cost of tolls, published in the Dallas Morning News. I managed to evade it when it was first published, but Facebook (my nemesis) kept pushing it to the top of my newsfeed. Dammit.

I love Texas, I really do. But this is A Blog About Things That Irritate  Me. Maybe one day I’ll submit “53.5 Reasons Why Dallas is the Best” to Buzzfeed. But here, all is fair — and hearing Texans talk about tolls (whether as consumers or as NTTA representatives) makes me want to cry.

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Expensive tollways!

First thing in this article….

The emergence of North Texas as Toll Road Capital, USA, represents failure of government of the worst kind. We have to pay for what we could do for free.

Oh, really? I forgot that the rest of America has free roads. They  just appear over night, constructed by the street elves that make each piece of material out of magic, hopes, and dreams. I think the author is a Dallas native, so I’m not pointing the finger at him for this…for some reason this idea runs rampant in Texas. It’s like “the man” has come to destroy our fun and make us pay for our roads. Meanwhile, we don’t have a state income tax — and has anyone else ever made the drive from DC to Boston? Because it is $$$ and each of those states charges income tax to their residents.

I once reported the story of a 34-year-old single mother who spent 27 hours in the Allen jail and then the Collin County Detention Center. Police wouldn’t even tell her, at first, why they were arresting her. It was all about a toll bill for $11 from years before. She said she never got it.

I ended up having to Google it, but this is the case he’s talking about. If we had a debtor’s prison in America, Sallie Mae would be the number one reason people are in prison, not drugs. What genius created the TX provision that says not paying tolls is theft akin to stealing money from a business instead of equating it to credit card debt? Did it seem more likely that people would pay their debts if they were criminally prosecuted, and hopefully subjected to prison? I hear the going rates for jobs in prison are excellent. What does NTTA say about this?

At present, individuals do not go to jail for failure to pay a toll. If a warrant is issued and someone goes to jail, it’s because they failed to appear in JP court to address a citation for failure to pay a toll issued under Section 366.178 of the Texas Transportation Code.

At present? Who the fuck do you think you are, NTTA? Capital One can’t throw you in jail for owing $500,000, but god forbid you owe $10 to NTTA…at present you can’t go to jail…but maybe later. Enough of this bullshit thing where NTTA is publicly run and privately run and no one really knows what’s going on. You can go to jail for not paying fines to the state, but you can’t go to jail for not paying fines to a private corporation. Get your shit together. And why is Texas allowing this to happen? Why not just garnish your wages like  REGULAR DEBT?

Here’s the thing. I’m not mad at the article (other than the ridiculous claim that non-toll roads are “free”). I’m pissed off that NTTA abuses its power – and I’m even more pissed off about people bitching about NTTA. I never hear people complain they’re going to jail. That is clearly a small, tiny portion of North Texas drivers. I’m pissed that people bitch and moan that roads should be free, that tollways shouldn’t have traffic, that the LBJ sliding scale HOV tolls are evil, etc. Just pay the goddamn toll. I’m one of a very few people I know of that actually pay the tolls. WHY?!

There’s this myth in Texas that everything is just different there. We get a tiny quarter inch of snow — it’s different than the snow anywhere else. We get a tollroad — it’s different than tollroads anywhere else. Not in the fact that you can, in a backwards sort of way, end up in jail. But because we have to pay the tolls. Let’s just take federal funding, charge an income tax, and call it a day…then we’ll see what you like better. If you’re going to complain about NTTA, complain about the weird public/private power it has, not that you can’t go places for free.

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A day in the life of an Addison resident


Detroit Continues Bending Over Backwards for Sports

I imagine you all have been eagerly anticipating the new Red Wings arena, so I’m pleased to inform you that the design for the new $450 million arena has now been released. $450 million sounds like a lot, but only around $280 million will be publicly financed. Chump change! I’m pretty sure we spend that on corn farmers in a single week.

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If you’ve never been, parts of Detroit look so bad that you forget you’re in America. So how is the city paying for this arena? Well, it kind of comes from the Detroit Public School system — the Downtown Development Authority, who is footing much of the bill, is allowed to take the school-tax funds for anything related to economic development. Because sports and stuff = thriving economy.

Of course, sports get another perk in Detroit — free water! Who owes the most money to the DWSD?
Palmer Park (city run golf course): $422,295
Joe Louis Arena (city owned arena, current home of the Red Wings): $80,255.25
Ford Field (city owned stadium, home of the Tigers): $55,803.94

Oh, okay. So who is getting their water shut off in Detroit? Just the regular consumers who owe over $150. Look, sports are important. They bring in so much money for Detroit. DWSD can’t just be shutting off the water at arenas and stadiums. Probably all those people not paying their water bills are busy spending their money at the stadiums!! Look at all that cash flowing in from sports! Miguel Cabrera alone is raking in $292 million; I can’t even imagine what that translates into for the Detroit economy. Trickle down!

Of course, the arena will create jobs — 1,100 of them, to be exact. Good! With only 165,488 unemployed people in Detroit, taxpayers will only need to shell out $38,700,000,000 for everyone in Detroit to get a job!

I think Mike Ilitch, the man behind this, has done a lot of Detroit. I don’t hate him. But I know that I do not trust this arena or its promises at all – I expect this to be more gentrification of the immediate area, and a lot less revitalizing. I do not trust that anything will be done correctly in the construction of this arena, given the water bill issue. Detroit has problems that run so deep it’s impossible to create 1,100 jobs and act like something is actually being done. There’s ways to backhandedly get $280 million to rebuild a stadium, but no one can make the argument that buying school and city buses that can actually run in the cold is economic revitalization? Jesus Christ — if you depend on the buses in Detroit in the winter, you’re screwed because half the time it’s too damn cold for them to come get you.

Cities don’t even make money off of stadiums, so this whole thing is a joke. I don’t believe that in an area without real public transit (sorry, PeopleMover), an expensive stadium will change life for most Detroiters. Detroit is a hockey town, but maybe it’s time people sit back and remember that Detroit is also a shipping town. Priorities.

 

 

In honor of next week’s TSA fee increase, here’s a fun game! Guess which ONE of these items I’ve had confiscated from my carry on…and which 2 I’ve flown with, no problems. Out of DCA. You know…the District of Columbia’s airport.

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I’ll be back next week with an entry about the misery that is the TSA — I’ve spent my week traveling back to Maryland, and delayed flights and bag searches take a lot out of me. In the meantime, follow me on Facebook or Instagram!

Which item do you think is the most dangerous?

Incredibly Irritating Things People Are Doing to Protest Hobby Lobby

Today is an entire day brought to us by The Onion, because the things I’m reading certainly can’t be real life. I lasted a whopping 3 weeks in retail, mostly because I have very little patience for stupid bullshit. Well, thank God I don’t work at Hobby Lobby! “Why, Manda?” you ask. “Do you use one of the 4 forms of birth control their health insurance doesn’t cover?” Pfft, please. I’ve spent the past 8 years working freelance as my own LLC — I don’t even have health insurance.

So what’s the issue? Oh, just people acting like a bunch of assholes by terrorizing people who are paid between $9.50-14 an hour, which is like 1/5 of what they should be getting to deal with stupid shit like rearranging craft letters to spell out pro-choice.

hobbylobbyWhen I had to sort shirts by size, I wanted to blow my fucking brains out. I bet the employees find this really endearing.

Oh, but don’t worry – in case you think that’s just stupid, they also brought condoms to hand out. In the store. Which DOESN’T MAKE ANY FUCKING SENSE. I might be out of the health care loop, but is there some magical PPO that gives you free condoms? Are Hobby Lobby employees banned from 7-11?? WHAT POINT ARE THESE PEOPLE EVEN TRYING TO PROVE? Do y’all know why I have this stupid stick in my arm? Partially because I don’t want kids, partially because I get blackout causing migraines if I’m not on birth control. GREAT. Once a month, I’ll just take your stupid condom and use it to help keep myself from chewing off my own tongue while I writhe around on the floor, crying over my cramps and vomiting until my migraine causes me to see nothing but black dots.

“Here, I’ve decided that because you work for Hobby Lobby and make double what the average retail employee makes, you must be really, really stupid. So I bought you these condoms. Because you’re poor. And stupid. Also since I’m not a customer and I’m just here to hand out my free stuff, I’m sure your boss doesn’t want me here. Glad I could make your job more difficult and awkward, and possibly get you in trouble. #GoWomen!”

What a bunch of condescending tools. It’s just belitting the people who work there — and making their jobs and lives more difficult. How presumptuous to walk in, just knowing everyone is so miserable to work there and can’t wait for you to show them the light. How highly you must think of yourself.

Plus, let’s be real. You’re handing out something that goes on a penis. To women. Yes, you’re really helping this whole birth control thing. I’d be WAY more impressed if people went and bought like 10 morning after pills and handed them out. Stick it to the man!

planbMaybe “protestors” could spell out “Plan B” with craft letters, and directly below it fill a clear decorative vase with marbles and one-step pills.

The comments on each article I read (mistake number one: reading news article comments) suggested more crazy, creative, awesome things to do to protest. Like buy things and return them, over and over. That way real customers will have to wait and get angry! Or ask employees where things are and take up a lot of their time; it’ll waste the owners money (paying employees to help people who aren’t making purchases) and certainly won’t annoy the piss out of low paid staff who have to be nice to you.

Hey guys, I’m really getting into the spirit of all these awesome antics. I even have a suggestion! Maybe next we can take spray paint and just draw beautiful graffiti of a uterus over the front door of every Hobby Lobby!

 

Virginia Congressional Candidate so Wealthy, He’ll Drop $100,000 to see Kendall Jones’s Boobies

I thought ridiculous displays of wealth were a serious faux pas for politicians? Well, guess not if it’s for titties! Mike Dickinson, asshat of the CENTURY, is requesting fetish stories and nudes of hunter Kendall Jones to the tune of $100,000.

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Oh my freaking God. First the Prince William police try to take pictures of a teenage boy’s penis. Now this. I am embarrassed and ashamed to have been born in Alexandria. No wonder I claim Texas and Maryland as home.

Of course he’s super defensive and a total asshole…and then in a really bizarre twist, decides to quote Eminem in his own defense?

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Well, much like Eminem…sounds like Dickinson’s brain is dead weight. Maybe he’ll be satisfied with Prince William County’s teenage dick pics instead of boobs.

 

 

More Unquestionable, Irreversible, Irreparable Harm – Is There Anyone Left to Defend the NSA?

Oh, the NSA. My most hated government agency, always tied right with the DEA and TSA. Ever since Edward Snowden leaked their documents last year, I’ve felt pretty justified in my hatred. While they’ve still had their defenders, I feel like lately they’ve taken a page from OCT and worked hard to alienate everyone who could agree with them.

Now the Washington Post has published the results of a 4 month investigation into the NSA. Absolutely nothing in it is shocking; everything in it is disgusting. “But wait!” you say. “The NSA protects us from terrorists! And if you don’t have anything to hide, why do you care?” Well, here are some highlights.

Scores of pictures show infants and toddlers in bathtubs, on swings, sprawled on their backs and kissed by their mothers. In some photos, men show off their physiques. In others, women model lingerie, leaning suggestively into a webcam or striking risque poses in shorts and bikini tops.

That means pictures of your children. Pictures of your lake days. That picture you took alone in your room for your significant other. Pictures targeted for certain people, not for the world. We cry out when our children’s photos are taken in public by strangers, parents champion not having pictures of their kids on social media – so why not care that everyone is seeing your toddler in the bathtub? Oh, but what’s that? You’re an American, so this doesn’t apply to you?

If a target entered an online chat room, the NSA collected the words and identities of every person who posted there, regardless of subject, as well as every person who simply “lurked,” reading passively what other people wrote.

Oh. Well. That sucks. Damn globalization.

So…why are we not more upset by this? I’m sitting here watching the news (CNN and Fox!) and no one is talking about it. The NSA is, really, a bunch of criminals. Your right to privacy is your most important right – it goes beyond what your state says, beyond a country’s constitution. No one would feel like they were really living if they spent their entire life being monitored and watched.

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Do you think the people who are responsible for passing the legislation allowing this are comfortable being spied on? They aren’t. Glenn Greenwald covers this in his (amazing) book, No Place to Hide:

When the Senate Intelligence Committee’s chair, Dianne Feinstein, insisted that the NSA’s collection of metadata does not constitute surveillance…online protesters demanded that she back up her assertion with action: Would the senator, each month, publish a full list of people she emailed and called, including the length of time they spoke and their physical locations when the call was made?

SPOILER ALERT: The answer was no.

The way I talk in front of a group of strangers is different from the way I talk in front of a group of close friends, which is different from the way I talk when I’m with just my little sister. I’m sure you are all the same way. The best thing you can do to demonstrate how incredibly uncomfortable people can get when they lose their privacy is to walk around recording people. Why do you think we’re so uncomfortable with the idea of Google Glass?

At the point, it’s almost comical. Is there anyone left to defend the NSA? Probably not, but if you think they’re swell, I’d love to hear why.

Thanks so much to everyone who has helped make my attempt to become a blogger so successful! Please feel free to donate funding to help me get my blog off the ground, or donate love by allowing me to pop up in your Facebook newsfeed.

 

Do You Bleed Burgundy and Gold?

I really don’t want to hear about the Redskins anymore, mostly because I hate football. But I am considering opening up a side business if they lose their patent appeal. I’m going to sell a higher quality version of this shirt, and I’m going to be mega rich…who wouldn’t buy it?

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Can You Help My AK Pick a Filter? I Don’t Know if I Should Go With XX Pro or Valencia. Also, Target Pretends to Care about Guns

Look, I support your right to have a gun. I even support your right to open carry your gun. But I do not support you in your endeavor to be a complete and total asshole. Remember back in May, when those open carry assholes decided that instead of Instagramming pictures of their burritos at Chipotle, they’d rather IG pictures of themselves holding assault rifles at Chipotle? What you probably don’t remember is all of the normal, sane people who elect to open carry in Arizona and don’t cause a general ruckus. Mostly because they, you know, don’t violate the law and jeopardize a business’s licensing just to make their point.

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Now Target has decided to request their customers do not bring guns into their stores, even in states that allow open carry. Um, are the open carry people who bring their assault rifles into places like Starbucks and Target actually anti-gun people who are doing their best to make gun laws as restrictive as possible? Because they’re doing a bang up job convincing people that they’re insane. Fortunately, Open Carry Texas (whose work at appropriate places, like the Alamo, I respected), made a Facebook response to Target to clear up how they feel. Texas OC clarifies that they won’t stoop so low as to interfere with or infringe upon the rights of a private corporation; they even bring up their MONTHS LONG policy of not acting like a bunch of dipshits carrying weapons into fast food establishments. They do decide to point out some important information that Target may have overlooked, though:

Time and time again, businesses that have asked guests not to bring legally possessed, self defense firearms into their establishments have seen their employees and customers victimized by criminals preying on the openly defenseless.

That sounds awful, right? Are you, as a casual reader of this information, curious about the studies that prove this, other than “time”? You aren’t alone:

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Yeah. You’re reading that correctly.
Reader: Do you have any studies to back that up?
OC Texas: Go fuck yourself.

Are they just in some contest with the Hobby Lobby owners to see who can be the most universally disliked group of people in America? What possesses a real organization to not support their comments with stats? And then to be rude when someone inquires about it?

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Open Carry, y’all might want to buy this book

 Then there’s the part where Target didn’t actually ban guns. They basically just said, “Hey guys, we think it would be really super cool if you stopped bringing your guns into our stores. We aren’t going to abide by any state laws and post the required signs that keep our property gun free, we’re going to just ask nicely.” Why? Because the people who are offended by guns haven’t taken any gun classes and don’t know the difference. Newsflash: Nothing has changed, here. If you’re legally allowed to carry in your weapon, you’re still legally allowed to bring it. You’re just a rude asshole if you do it now.

photo (1) Here I am, Instagramming myself leaving the NRA shooting range — looking totally normal, unlike some people.

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Finding Love on Dallas Area Rapid Transit: I Don’t Want Your Dirty Tennis Ball, But I Do Miss the DC Metro

My best friend and I were in Dallas for the first time ever (a weeklong vacation that would ultimately result in my permanent residence in the city), and being under 25, we decided to rely on public transit (this was before the days of Uber). When we asked the hotels we stayed at if they knew anything about DART, they acted like we were out of our minds. We didn’t listen to them…how bad could it be? Well. Our 3:00 pm stroll through West End Station was peppered with calls of “hey white ladies!” and “Hey you white girls, what are you doing here?” from men who came and stood too close to us. It was bizarrely aggressive behavior for the middle of the day, and something that could certainly have been stopped by ANYONE IN UNIFORM coming up and just saying hi to us. Neither of us were afraid, but we were definitely uncomfortable – largely because we both realized if anything were to escalate, there were no people readily identifiable as employees of the transit system or the city to come to our aid.

Flash forward to this past weekend, when I’m minding my own business on my  phone. I can’t even try to tell this as a story, so here it is in script form.

Guy: Are you taking my picture?
Me: Are you…talking to me? What? No.
Guy: Do you have a boyfriend?
Me: Yes.
Guy: really? What’s his name?
Me: Andrew.
Guy [reaches underneath the seat and grabs something from his friend sitting in front of him]: You play tennis, right? I got you this. [procures a dirty, used tennis ball.] You can have two boyfriends, you know.
Me: What? No, no thanks. I don’t play tennis, and I don’t think Andrew would like that.
Guy: You could. [gets off train]

While that story is just funny and bizarre and not scary, it goes to my point that every time I go on DART I’m asked on a date. Sometimes it’s weird and WTF like that, other times it’s creepy and while I’m being recorded and then while I’m being followed off the train. Those times are less humorous. They also take place earlier than 9 pm.

Despite the knee-jerk accusations of DART defenders, I’m not racist, classist, or sheltered from what public transit is like. Obviously I took Metro quite a bit when I lived in DC, and I still take Metro, MARC, and Baltimore’s Light Rail when I go back. I have even fully relied on the Detroit public bus system to get around town. I lived/gypsied all over the DC area, frequently in areas where I couldn’t even get a pizza delivered to my home, but I’d say living in Oxon Hill and using the PG side of the green line was really the highlight of my slumming it. Every place I’ve lived in Dallas has been cheaper, safer, and I can get any food brought right to my front door.

So why is it that when I take the light rail in Dallas, I long for the days of sitting on the green line, wondering if my car will still be at Branch Ave (spoiler alert: not always)? Even though DART has lower crime numbers than Metro (and we’ll get to that in a minute), the aggressive and harassing behavior of my fellow passengers is way more worrisome on DART.

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Perplexing, and yet I found it more welcoming under this sign than on DART

I have been wondering if there is just so little intermingling between classes and races that my being a single white female simply makes people more likely to same something to me. Indeed, most of the harassing behavior I deal with on DART comes from people who feel the need to point out the color of my skin. Even when I lived in areas of PG that were 1% white, less attention was drawn to my race.  I’m still trying to understand Texas racial and social norms, and I don’t know how to interpret this.

I’ve also felt, especially in the cases of going home in poorer areas of the District (specifically living in Landover once the train was passed Eastern Market, and living in Oxon Hill once the train passed the baseball stadium) and in being on the bus in Detroit, that there’s a little bit of a feeling like, “hey we all live here and we’re all on this train so let’s get along and keep to ourselves and roll our eyes at each other if someone acts a fool.” Not to say I always felt super safe on Metro or the Detroit bus, but when it was 8:00 at night and I was clearly coming from work, taking the Detroit bus down Jefferson or riding Metro through Addison Road, no one really ever said much to me other than, “Oh, do you live/work around here?” And these are locations that make the DART system’s criminal activities look like preschool.

At the end of the day, DART is super safe. Allegedly. As I am beginning to understand it, DART is responsible for hiring their own officers and, presumably, doing their own crime statistics.  WMATA does the courtesy of publishing per station crimes. I can’t find that for DART. It makes me feel like something sketchy is going on here…that little chart contains very little information.

I don’t like to call for more police presence, but I do wish that there were (some? any?) Dallas PD at the stations, or that DART employees other than the train drivers were visible (existent?). There also aren’t any huge, easily visible maps at most of the stations. Want to guarantee you look like you don’t belong and become an easy target? Look like you don’t know where you’re going. Easy to do on DART! They want to spend all of this money expanding their services when they can’t even get it right where it’s already set up, and that’s a shame — because traffic sucks out here.