Archive for the ‘Hidden Agenda’ Category

Service of Real Estate Interests

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Actor Liam Neeson has become the most visible spokesperson to save the horse carriage industry in NYC listing reasons ranging from polls of New Yorkers, 64 percent of whom want to keep the carriages, to the importance of the culture and history of the practice and the fact that only four horses have been killed in 6 million trips in traffic. He pointed out in his New York Times editorial that Mayor De Blasio hasn’t yet met with the operators.

In his New York Times opinion piece “Carriages Belong in Central Park” he concluded: “Before we lose this signature element of New York’s culture and history — instantly recognizable to the millions of tourists who visit our city and contribute to its economy — the least the mayor can do is come down to the stables and see how the horses are cared for. I urge Mr. de Blasio to meet the working men and women whose jobs are at stake and to start a dialogue that will safeguard a future for the horses that the majority of New Yorkers want.”

What I wonder is why, with so many crucial issues to address in a city such as New York, the Mayor picks on this one. One reason was covered in 2008 in a New York Sun article by David Pomerantz, “Company To Weigh In on Horse-Drawn Carriage Debate.” He wrote about the anti-horse carriage theme of a poster campaign by Manhattan Mini Storage: “The horse-drawn carriage industry is arguing that the advertising and fund-raising campaign is part of a plan to outlaw the carriages that ferry tourists through Central Park and on Midtown streets so the storage company can buy the land currently occupied by two carriage stables. The stables are situated near real estate owned by Edison Properties, the company that controls Manhattan Mini Storage.”

And then there’s the 100+ year old building on West 57th Street which housed Rizzoli Bookstore for almost 30 years. In spite of 16,000 signatures asking the Landmarks Preservation Commission to maintain the century old building, according to Gina Bellafante in “Better Off Elsewhere,” the commission “deemed the building…inadequately significant to keep in perpetuity.”

She continued: “The most visible legacy of the Bloomberg era surely will be the slender, glass and steel residential towers now going up 70, 80 and 90 stories over this reach of Midtown. In all likelihood it is one of these buildings that will eventually stand in Rizzoli’s place, a building intended to lure the wealthiest internationalists, who will rotate in and out of the city from Singapore, São Paulo, Mumbai, never staying long enough to pay local income taxes and turning the area, essentially, into the world’s costliest time-share. Ironically, One 57, perhaps the most audacious of these projects, lists Rizzoli on its website as among the area’s attractions, alongside the restaurants Daniel and Petrossian and the jewelers Bulgari and Van Cleef & Arpels.”

Seems to me the city is putting the cart before the horse: Is only one industry running things these days? Is this nothing new? Your thoughts?


Service of Cures That Don’t

Monday, June 4th, 2012

Fire retardant fabrics have been around for ages, though you wonder why as they seem to do harm, prevent little and serve no good purpose. If you’ve attended a home furnishings trade show in a windowless space, soon your eyes will sting and your throat will feel scratchy–a clue that something’s up. Could it be all that upholstery and carpeting?

In “Are You Safe on that Sofa?” in The New York Times, Nicholas D. Kristof writes that if there is a fire, toxic smoke is all you can expect from the so-called fire prophylactic.

He praises The Chicago Tribune for superb journalism for its investigative series, “Playing with Fire.” Kristof credits the series for revealing that these retardants were inspired by the tobacco industry: “A generation ago, tobacco companies were facing growing pressure to produce fire-safe cigarettes, because so many house fires started with smoldering cigarettes. So tobacco companies mounted a surreptitious campaign for flame retardant furniture, rather than safe cigarettes, as the best way to reduce house fires.”

Kristof continues: “The documents show that cigarette lobbyists secretly organized the National Association of State Fire Marshals and then guided its agenda so that it pushed for flame retardants in furniture. The fire marshals seem to have been well intentioned, but utterly manipulated.”

The plot thickens as he reports that the advocacy group, Citizens for Fire Safety “pushed for laws requiring fire retardants in furniture.” This group has three members, notes Kristof: The three major manufacturers of flame retardant chemicals. He notes that the group paid a doctor to lie about children who died in fires because there was no fire retardant on sofa cushions in their house. The kids didn’t exist.

He quotes a toxicologist who points to growing evidence that retardants “don’t provide safety and may increase harm” and who asks why they aren’t used in planes if they are so effective. Children who play on the floor breathe in dangerous dust from the chemicals and they can alter brain development in a fetus.

Kristof wraps up his op-ed piece saying that the purpose of these flame retardants is to make three companies rich. “The lesson is that we need not only safer couches but also a political system less distorted by toxic money.”

If there are laws that require furniture to use fire retardants this means that a manufacturer can’t sell a line of clean, organic fabric-covered sofas and chairs. Apart from paying someone to reupholster your sofa with untreated textiles and keeping children off the floor near upholstered furniture, what to do?

Service of What You Don’t Know May Hurt You

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

We’ve had a stream of similar posts lately-a sign of the times.

My EZ Pass bill triggered today’s topic. I love the concept. When I don’t have to wait in much of a line to clear a bridge, road or tunnel toll I celebrate my EZ Pass gizmo. To sign up I had to give my credit card number and I guess I checked “autoreplinish.” Used to be they kept $25 in my account and as I used the service, they’d suck out more money to bring it up to that amount–which now is $30. Why not $50 or $100? What a great way to collect a bunch of interest. I wonder who decides how much they can set aside from each account. sent me this tidbit about a petition created by Eric Schlosser, who wrote “Fast Food Nation,” and Gary Hirshberg, chairman of Stonyfield Farm. It urges the FDA to require labeling of genetically engineered foods. What triggered this petition on The FDA is about to approve for human consumption the first genetically engineered animal–salmon–for sale in supermarkets.

According to Schlosser and Hirshberg, “The salmon is engineered to produce growth hormones year-round that cause the fish to grow at twice the normal rate.” Holy smokes! Salmon is considered a healthy brain food. Who wants to eat something that might cause something that shouldn’t grow, to grow at twice the normal rate in us? The men want the FDA to label this fish “genetically engineered.” They note that Russia and China do along with 38 other countries. Wonder why the FDA doesn’t do this automatically.

On the subject of food, I read Julie Gunlock’s article, “Lunch Nazis on the attack,” in The New York Post. She wrote about a state lunch inspector who tossed out the contents of a lunch bag a mom packed for her four year old because she judged that the meal violated the Agriculture Department’s nutrition guidelines. In the preschooler’s bag was a turkey sandwich, banana, chips and apple juice. What she was given instead, wrote Gunlock: chicken nuggets. They are fried and processed, no? Doesn’t a mom get to determine what her child eats? How come the state–this was in North Carolina–has the right to toss out perfectly good food? Shouldn’t the child have been given back the banana, chips and apple juice which belonged to her? And wouldn’t there be negative impact on a young child from the image of someone throwing out the food her mother made and gave her?

Snake oil salesmen have been around forever, but it seems that the government is not only turning a blind eye, but joining in. Can you share other instances that we should be aware of so we’re not hurt by what we don’t know?

Service of Hidden Agendas

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Pundits were discussing why NJ Governor Christie wants a referendum on gay marriage rather than a senate/house vote [that’s happening now]. The Governor says a referendum is the best way to learn what the citizens want. One political analyst noted that the Governor really has a different reason: To bring out the conservative vote in the 2012 election as it’s likely these voters would choose Republican candidates.

Another example of a potentially hidden agenda involves adding the option for voters in the New York metro area to place their votes well ahead of an election as Florida does. Why doesn’t this happen here?

I thought setting up voting systems ahead of the one day might be costly but according to the political fat-chewers, the real reason might be that both political party leaders are concerned that if too many people vote, it will affect the outcome in a way none can predict. That makes them nervous. Isn’t democracy about everyone voting so as to be heard? Don’t politicians pay lip service to the concept and urge us to vote?

Can you name some hidden agendas of a political, business or personal nature? How do you tease out the motivation, line of thought and accurate rationale of the canny dissimulator so as to make the right decision yourself?

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