Thursday, September 20, 2007

Government Fees - Tax or Theft?

There's this little thing that bothers me and I thought I'd air it out a bit today. Have you noticed that every time you go to do something with the government there are strange, overly large fees involved? Just two instances I've encountered today include a $2.00 fee to mail in your vehicle registration renewal (for "handling") and a whopping $2.50 charge per transaction at the DMV to use a debit card. Both of these things pissed me off for multiple reasons so I fired off a couple of letters. First is to the Jefferson County Kentucky Court Clerk over the registration renewal fee and the second is to the Kentucky Department of Motor Vehicles about the debit charge (my name has been changed to protect me):


Alan Evil

Bobbie Holsclaw, Jefferson County Clerk
P.O. Box 33033
Louisville KY 40232-3033

Re: $2.00 “handling” fee for mail-in registration renewal.

Dear Mrs. Holsclaw,

I was wondering if you could explain to me the $2.00 handling fee for registration renewal by mail.

First it seems renewing by mail would be much more efficient on your end as it could not possibly take an employee longer to open an envelope and process the renewal than it would take an employee to scream out a number, wait for the customer, talk with them, etc. So that’s a savings, right? Adding to the improved efficiency is the fact that you do not need a large, air conditioned space with waiting rooms, banks of lights, etc. A big plus of this is, of course, that we, the citizens, need but write a check and fill out an envelope thereby allowing us to save the hour or more it takes to renew in person most of the time and use this in a productive way.

Second, unless you are sending a full plate, the postage for the renewed registration and sticker could not possibly exceed forty one cents, throw in an envelope purchased in bulk and you might make it up to fifty cents. Of course, if you mailed in bulk the cost would be less, probably around thirty cents.

So what is the $2 for? Is it just a way to add expense to a convenience to increase your department’s coffers? If the process is more efficient and requires less manpower then it should either cost the same as the less efficient method or it should be cheaper. Please explain to me how it is $2 more expensive per registration renewal by mail as opposed to in person.

Alan Evil


Alan Evil

Division of Driver Licensing
200 Mero Street
Frankfort, KY 40622

Re: $2.50 per transaction debit card fee

To Whom It May Concern:

I noticed today while replacing my stolen driver’s license that the downtown Louisville branch has begun to accept debit cards for payment. I applaud this… or at least I would if your weren’t charging $2.50 per transaction to use a debit card. Where does that $2.50 go and why is it necessary?

Not only is the debit card more convenient (and more commonly used) than cash or check, it makes the job of your clerks easier and less apt to error. I worked retail for over 12 years and know this to be a simple fact. Not only is it more efficient at the counter, it’s more efficient afterward as, without any filling out of deposit slips, counting of cash, manual adding of checks, etc. the money from customers’ accounts is deposited automatically for you at midnight. All you have to do is print a summary for your records.

Either you are skimming this money to fatten your department’s coffers rather than requesting more funding (and higher taxes) as you should, or whomever set the system up is robbing all of us blind.

Have you ever had a convenience store charge you anything at all for using a debit card? The only time I know of charges being added to debit cards is at ATM machines run by banks other than the cardholder’s. I have seen really small stores requiring $5 or $10 minimum to use debit or charge cards, but not in many years. Every little podunk store in the State takes debit cards without charging $2.50 for each use (for a $45 license renewal that’s over 5%!). This sounds like theft to me.

As a matter of a fact, I know individual people that have credit card readers attached to their cel phones so they can sell at art festivals and the like and they don’t charge their customers a penny for this convenience. You can’t get much smaller than one person selling stuff in a festival booth.

I am sure the DMV does enough business that you could find a company that would charge a pittance (less than a percent) for debit card use. So why are you using a company that would simply rob us? Could it be cronyism? Lack of oversight? Some obscure rule that says you have to milk every penny possible from those you serve? As always, this fee is much more a burden on the poor than the rich, but this seems to be the way government works these days. You’ll cut the taxes for an industrial plant and raise fees that will be a disproportionate percentage of income of the poor. You’ll allow overloaded coal trucks to destroy our roads and then bump up the average person’s fees for everything concerning driving.

Please convince me that there is a legitimate reason for this fee. In my opinion whoever set up your debit system should be fired and replaced with someone who at least is competent. If you were running a retail business and one of your employees set up a debit system that cost you $2.50 every time you ran a card, you would fire that person so quickly they wouldn’t even have time to gather up their children’s pictures off their desk. That’s how I feel about this and I’m one of the people paying your salaries.

Alan Evil

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


So today I went to my other house down in the part of Louisville known as Smoketown. My brother and I bought adjoining properties in 1991 believing the housing projects behind them were supposed to be torn down (Hope VI) and a light rail mass transit system was supposed to run up the street in front of them. And then Republicans took control of the Congress and Hope VI was unfunded and the light rail system turned into 6 "hybrid" busses.

So the city of Louisville managed to secure its Hope VI money for several projects before the Republicans could give it to the ultra-wealthy. Several housing projects came down in this city and were replaced with mixed income housing. The thugs concentrated in the ghetto and the ghetto is in my back yard.

I'm not all that sure if that has that much impact on what happened to me today but it does.

We were held up at gunpoint by three kids with a big revolver.


Monday, September 17, 2007


The News

I can remember many years back NBC News changing its format "to attract a younger audience." I was in my early 20's at the time and thought to myself, "Are they after first graders?"

What they failed to realize at the time was that by changing their format they were going to lose more viewers than they would gain. The reason we watched network news was to find out the main stories of the day from around the world. In their infinite wisdom they decided to have more sensation and less information.

Now we have Fox News. All day sensation and no information that is useful. It's sad. We were better informed back when we had three stations and a newspaper.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Louisville Cops "Community Relations"

I'm not a big fan of cops in general and Louisville cops specifically. More and more the police force has become a haven for failed jocks and thugs looking for an excuse to push people around and bash heads, especially "nappy" ones. I could go on for pages about them but I'll start with one post about last Friday.

I am renovating a house I own in the "historically black" section of Louisville known as Smoketown. I currently live in a part of town known as the Highlands but I lived in my Smoketown house for over five years so I'm pretty familiar with the neighborhood. Immediately across the alley behind my garage is a decaying housing projects called Shepard Square. Now I have spent many hours working on the roofs of my garage and house as well as many other exterior repairs that gives me a great view of the projects and as best as I can tell cops enter those projects for only one reason: to arrest somebody. There are no community patrols, no cops on foot or bicycle that regularly pass through, for that matter there aren't even cops driving around the area.

"But the police force is stretched thin," I hear you say. If that is true then why when I work in the wealthy white parts of town do I see regular (like every hour or two) patrols pass by? There is not a lot of crime in the cul-de-sac neighborhoods around the park, no crackheads cutting across the two acre lawns in front of the 10,000 square foot homes, but you can guarantee a cop is going to cruise by several times a day. Go to where the crack is being sold and the babies are being shot by stray bullets and you can't get a cop to your house within twenty minutes of a 911 call. Get mugged in the Highlands and the cops are there in minutes, get mugged in the projects and the mugger can walk leisurely away because the cops sure as shit aren't going to get there quickly enough to find him.

So last Friday I pull up to my house in the afternoon and there are cops everywhere. Cops on bikes, cops in cars, cops standing around. The first cop I saw crossed the street ahead of me on his bike and I thought, "Excellent. They're finally patrolling the area." Then I turned the corner and saw the cops were everywhere. They weren't in there getting to know the people, talk to the kids, or keep an eye on the crack addicts heading to the same three apartments they always go to for their rocks. They were in there to push people around. They were in there to be thugs. My brother was working on his building next door to mine and when he left to drive back to his farm in the country he was pulled over by vice squad who, of course, treated him like a liar and criminal until they realized he hadn't been buying crack. They were jarhead thugs out to push somebody around. Of course if there were patrols in the area they would've known he's there three or four days a week, parked in his yard, working in the building. For that matter, if they'd been paying any attention at all they would've seen him parked there all day, working on his house. He was parked in his yard on the alley in site of two of the crack dealing apartments. His view of the third one is blocked by a building while I've got a clear view from right next door.

Rather than devote an officer full time to walk around those projects and make friends and allies, the Louisville Metro Police feel they should come in once every few years and make sure everyone hates them. The kids trust the crack dealers and will look out for them because every time they've had a dealing with a cop they've either been ignored or threatened with arrest or watched someone they know get carted off in handcuffs. The crack dealers will give them five bucks to go buy candy and the cops will arrest their uncle. They're not busting the dealers for reasons I can't understand. If I can watch the courtyard behind my house for fifteen minutes and figure out which apartments the crack is coming out of (the crackheads are so obvious you can't mistake them for residents), why can't the cops? Oh, that's right, it's because they're never actually in the projects unless they're reacting to another shooting of a baby or serving a warrant against some poor loser that fucked up his parole again.

In the future I will write about the way Louisville (and Kentucky cops in general) drive and make a tenuous connection between the fact they feel traffic laws do not apply to them and the "I am the law!" attitude exhibited by cops shooting suspects in the back or assassinating political adversaries.

One observation I've made is that you can always tell from a distance the color of a driver that's been pulled over in Louisville by the number of cars behind it. White female driver = one car. White male driver = one car (unless they're a "wangsta.") Black driver (of any sex but not looking like a "gangsta") or a "wangsta" = two cars. Black driver looking like a gangsta = two to five cars. I've been making these observations since I moved here in 2000 and only once have I seen two cars behind a non-wangsta white person.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Dear Wrigley's


Dear Wrigley's,

I hate you! There, I said it. I hate you. You are a thief. You have stolen three important things from me: Spearmint Chewing Gum, Double Mint, and Juicy Fruit. All you left me is Big Red. What was my last choice in chewing gum is now my only choice. You just had to add aspartame to your product to “improve” it. Well, I’m one of those people who gets migraine headaches from aspartame.

I have known of my intolerance to aspartame since the early 1980’s when my girlfriend put a pitcher of Crystal Lite on the kitchen table. Crystal Lite contained NutraSweet and it was my introduction to it. It did not go well. Within a half hour I was curled in a ball of pain on her couch exhibiting all the classic symptoms of a migraine headache: hypersensitivity to light and sound and white hot pain in my skull. I had never experienced a migraine before, I only knew about the symptoms from my psychology courses at Tulane University. Since then accidental consumption of diet drinks and Wrigley’s chewing gum have been the only times I’ve been felled by a migraine. Admittedly it’s much less of an effect from gum than a soft drink. While driving to see my Grandma sometime last year I drank part of a 16oz diet Mountain Dew with a corn dog (which masked the horrible taste of the soda). By the time I arrived at her house I was sensitive to light and experiencing a good bit of pain and a disjointed feeling that was less than pleasant. Wrigley’s gum, on the other hand just makes my head hurt.

Oh you may go on about how you’ve “improved” the flavor of the gum but I say you’re wrong. The fake sweet of aspartame may last a little longer and make the gum less sticky but it does not make a better mint flavor, it makes a similar yet inferior flavor. The real reason you’ve put aspartame in your product is because it’s cheaper than sugar. So for the hundredth of a penny per stick of gum that you are saving by selling an inferior product, you will risk poisoning people with aspartame. At least in the case of people like me it’s poisoning and I have a long held suspicion that aspartame is bad for everyone who consumes it. At least when Coca-Cola pulled its “New Coke” stunt so it could add corn syrup to cheapen its product (and make its mouth feel and taste worse in the process) it wasn’t adding a chemical ingredient that is potentially harmful to its consumers.

There have been several scientific studies that have linked aspartame to migraines. The super mega giant Monsanto/NutraSweet has sponsored other studies that failed to find this link but these studies are suspect due not only to the obvious conflict of interest but also the very sloppy designs and short durations of the studies.

A quick Google of “nutrasweet migraine” gave these results and many many more that re-enforced what I knew about NutraSweet and more. - "Aspartame consumption strongly associated with migraines and seizures" - "
Scientific Abuse in Migraine/Headache Research Related to Aspartame"
"Aspartame is Poison! Don't use it!"

It’s kind of hard to believe that we allow something with such questionable safety to even go on the market in the first place. Oh, wait. This is the United States of America. The land where giant corporations can do whatever they want because they can afford to simply overwhelm all opposition with their money and power. Monsanto in particular is a monstrous steam roller to opposition. Don’t get me started on Round-Up and genetically modified foods.

So in closing, Wrigley’s, I must ask, why do you hate me? You have taken away a small pleasure I have enjoyed for nearly 40 years. What have I ever done to you?


Alan Evil

Why I Don’t Listen to WFPL Anymore (previously posted elsewhere)

[I originally posted this piece on a local paper's bulletin board 5-11-2007]

Why I Don’t Listen to WFPL Anymore

1. The music behind station breaks.
2. Their seeming inability to properly segue.
3. State of Affairs.

I sometimes wonder if the staff and management of WFPL actually listens to their on-air broadcast. As a former disc jockey and long-time NPR listener in other places before moving here, the staleness of WFPL’s sound combined with a complete inability to smoothly transition from a show to a local spot to a national spot drives me insane. It is the most basic parts of running a radio station that are neglected and/or bungled by WFPL day in and day out, year ‘round. I know that I could do the job better by myself with an old analogue mixing console and knowing there is a staff there in a brand new building who can’t take care of these basics even with an automated computer switching system has driven me to turn off my radio and listen to NPR’s podcasts instead.

From 1988 to 1998 I worked in record stores. People always seem to think that would be a great job because you get to listen to music all day. Unfortunately this means you have to listen to other people’s choices quite a bit, especially in a large store. I cannot tell you how many albums have been ruined for me forever simply due to the fact I had to hear them day after day for months. Many of these albums I liked at first or at least I didn’t hate them but most of them I would be pleased to never hear again. Continuous repetition of any music (even that I like) breeds a desire for silence. WFPL has been playing the same short pieces of music for years when they do their spots for their corporate sponsors. There’s the noodling acoustic guitar piece, the bad techno piece, the mediocre ethnic electronica piece, an incredibly annoying Irish piece, some pop piece with a guy singing “Oh yeah” and “uh huh,” and others. They are always played at the same time, they are always the same chunk of the song (usually the drawn out ending), and they never change. For me this is a particularly vicious torture and one of the things I would never allow to go on if I were running the station.

“But they’re just a poor public station. Give them a break,” I hear you say. Well, I won’t. Not only is WFPL not a “poor” station they are affiliated with two, count ‘em, two music stations. That’s right, there are two staffs that only deal with music in the same building as WFPL but they somehow can’t come up with 30 second music bits to replace the stale crap they’ve been airing for the last few years. There is no excuse for playing the same music every day. None at all. You will almost never hear the same piece of music on an NPR program and if you do it was played weeks or months before, not yesterday and every day before it for years.

WFPL has also played the occasional show promo for several months in a row. One in particular that drove me batty was a spot that was obviously meant to be part of a series of spots for The World. Day after day, month after month they played the same spot with a guy that got up every morning and had a Coke and a cigarette and a girl that didn’t know when to stop reporting followed by Lisa Mullins. I would bet that there were spots including all the rest of the staff of that show but WFPL’s staff was too lazy to change the spots so this one spot played at least two hundred times.

As I mentioned earlier I worked as an FM dj. This was back in the 80’s and the station I worked at still had a 1950’s all-tube rotary knob mixing console. To go from music to the satellite news link required that I listen to the news feed on que while watching the second hand on the clock. The news feed would beep and I would bring up the fader. Commercials were on carts so to time the commercial after a song I would have to push a button and turn a knob. One expects a public radio station to screw up segues every once in a while, for the end of one piece to run into the next a little, or two things to play at once for a few seconds, or for there to be occasional bits of dead air. The problem with WFPL in this aspect is the screw-ups repeat. Not just a couple of times. Not just for a day. Usually the screw-ups continue for days on end.

A few weeks ago (the final nails in the coffin of my listening to WFPL) their sponsor spots were interrupting programming, including cutting into the middle of Daniel Shore’s commentary on All Things Considered. This happened every day for days. For several weeks the promos for future NPR shows were being run over by the local spots… at every single break. There was even a point where the promos for local shows were still running when the same voice came on to tell when the show was on. In other words the local voice was talking over herself. This didn’t happen once or twice, it happened for weeks at every break!

I lived in New Orleans and in Savannah, Georgia before moving to Louisville and I rarely heard on-air screw-ups. I have driven all over the country listening to NPR stations and have never heard the rigorous lack of human involvement that Louisville has. When screw-ups did happen in other cities you knew there was someone sitting in that studio because they came on air and apologized for screwing up. Here in Louisville the wrong show will play in the evening or two shows will play at once or there will be dead air for an hour (except for automated local spots) and there is noone at the station to answer the phone. Even during the daytime when you know the staff is there, there will be dead air or the wrong show playing and nothing will happen until I (amazing I’m the only one to do this) call in to the station and tell them. "Hey, did you know you're not on the air?" "We're not?"

Would it be so hard to find someone to sit in the studio and listen to the on-air broadcast? Would it be so hard to get the music staff of the other two music stations to submit new music for WFPL’s local spots and then change them regularly? No, it wouldn’t be. There is a staff member with the title of “music director” at WFPL. What does he or she do? There is a “programming director” who I would imagine is supposed to take care of the segues. Why doesn’t he or she do this rather simple job? I do not know. I get various answers when I e-mail the station but none of them explain why this continues. So I have given up and turned to podcasts.

There is a third reason I don’t listen to WFPL but if the first two reasons were taken care of it would only mean not listening for an hour every day: The local show State of Affairs. Generally it’s an hour long call-in show that runs four days a week with nightly repeats and one day a week re-runs. My problem with the show is the host. She never questions statements made by her guests, especially the Mayor and police chief. I have had the mayor tell a bald faced lie when I called in with a question. When I tried to disagree with him I was cut off. As a result I realized he seemed to have “just” visited every single location people called in about and things were being done where ever the problem was. Every time. She never questions him or shows any doubt. The police chief has used the “few bad apples” line on her show to answer the obvious problem of police officers driving like maniacs and he even told a caller that he basically deserved to be pulled over and harassed because he wore black clothing and had long hair. Not a word from the host. I personally think the show should either be scrapped or seriously revised but the buddy system at the Public Radio Partnership will never allow it. The last people that should be given a free ride are politicians but if they come on State of Affairs they are going to get one.

In conclusion I am left with this minor little protest which will change nothing. In the past I have written WFPL to be dismissed with sarcasm or told the music director would look into it or that they were sorry but nothing changes. Therefore I move to the world of downloads and streaming audio and leave 89.3 FM to pass me by.

[postscript: It's now about three months after I wrote this and I've been fairly good about avoiding NPR. My girlfriend does not share my desire to boycott the station (though she agrees the music is annoying) so I regularly hear some of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. I believe I may have heard new music on these shows of late so I may be forced to send them some money next fund drive.]

Monday, July 23, 2007


So herein you shall find current posts and various bits and pieces I have written in the past as I have time to post them. Here's some basic info:

Who are you?: My stage, art, and internet name is Alan Evil. The umbrella name for my various artistic pursuits is the Institute for Psychic Reform.

What art?: You can see and hear my work at You will find numerous recordings of live performances, photographs, paintings, and a long history of my artcar.

Why do you talk big noise?: Because sometimes you've gotta shout to drown out the stupidity that surrounds you.

Aren't you a bit late with this blog biz?: Yes. Yes I am. I've been posting my views all over the damned place and I think I should concentrate my wisdom in one easy to find location for my masses. You know. Masses.