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'You misread the community mindset around dot-org' • The Register

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The Internet Society's own members are now opposing its sale of the .org internet registry to an unknown private equity firm.

The Chapters Advisory Council, the official voice of Internet Society (ISOC) members, will vote this month on whether to approve a formal recommendation that the society “not proceed [with the sale] unless a number of conditions are met.”

Those conditions largely comprise the publication of additional details and transparency regarding ISOC's controversial sell-off of .org. Despite months of requests, neither the society nor the proposed purchaser, Ethos Capital, have disclosed critical elements of the deal, including who would actually own the registry if the sale went through.

Meanwhile, word has reached us that Ethos Capital attempted to broker a secret peace treaty this coming weekend in Washington DC by inviting key individuals to a closed-door meeting with the goal of thrashing out an agreement all sides would be happy with. After Ethos insisted the meeting be kept brief, and a number of those opposed to the sale declined to attend, Ethos's funding for attendees' flights and accommodation was suddenly withdrawn, and the plan to hold a confab fell apart, we understand.

ISOC – and .org's current operator, the ISOC-controlled Public Interest Registry (PIR) – are still hoping to push DNS overseer ICANN to make a decision on the .org sale before the end of the month. But that looks increasingly unlikely following an aggressive letter from ICANN's external lawyers last week insisting ICANN will take as much time as it feels necessary to review the deal.

The overall lack of transparency around the $1.13bn deal has led California’s Attorney General to demand documents relating to the sale – and ISOC’s chapters are demanding the same information as a pre-condition to any sale in their proposed advice to the ISOC board.

That information includes: full details of the transaction; a financial breakdown of what Ethos Capital intends to do with .org’s 10 million internet addresses; binding commitments on limiting price increases and free speech protections; and publication of the bylaws and related corporate documents for both the replacement to the current registry operator, PIR, and the proposed “Stewardship Council” which Ethos claims will give .org users a say in future decisions.

Disregarded

“There is a feeling amongst chapters that ISOC seems to have disregarded community participation, failed to properly account for the potential community impact, and misread the community mindset around the .ORG TLD,” the Chapters Advisory Council's proposed advice to the ISOC board – a copy of which The Register has seen – states.

Although the advisory council has no legal ability to stop ISOC, if the proposed advice is approved by vote, and the CEO and board of trustees push ahead with the sale regardless, it could have severe repercussions for the organization’s non-profit status, and would further undermine ISOC’s position that the sale will “support the Internet Society’s vision that the Internet is for everyone.”

With opposition to the deal growing within the internet community, and following an abortive attempt by PIR to force ICANN to make a decision this month, it looks increasingly likely that the .org sell-off will fall through.

In the ICANN lawyers' letter, the organization rejected PIR’s insistence that any decision be limited to technical security and stability considerations, and said all parties “have long recognized the unique public-interest-focused nature of the .ORG domain, and ICANN's contractual role in evaluating proposed changes.”

ICANN also rejected [PDF] “any artificial restriction on the scope of ICANN's analysis” and noted “the obvious importance to the public interest of its operation.” It concluded: “ICANN is reviewing PIR's request for change of control in light of all of the relevant circumstances, and it looks forward to your client's continued cooperation in this process.”

Both ISOC and Ethos have been relatively open about the fact that any deal would need to be concluded quickly. As such, the longer discussions persist, the more risky the deal looks. That’s not all, however: anger at ISOC’s board from its members is growing and the furor risks damaging the organization itself.

Public support is lacking

Under US law, for an organization to be tax exempt, at least one third of the organization’s revenue must come from donors who each individually give less than two per cent of overall receipts, something called the “public support test.” ISOC does not meet that test because the vast majority of its income comes from a single source: the sale of .org domains, paid through a separate non-profit organization, PIR, that ISOC controls.

There is an exception, however. An organization can retain public charity status if public support is at least 10 per cent of revenues but an organization must assert it is operating as a charity, rather than a foundation, and is actively working to get its public support percentage up to 33 per cent.

For this reason, every year since its inception, ISOC has included the same explanation in its tax documents for why it should be granted charity status despite not meeting the 33 per cent test: because it is doing great work with its members around the world.

“Internet Society is organized and operated to attract new and additional support on a continuous basis. Internet Society involves both individual and corporate members in its activities,” the explanation reads.

The assumption from tax authorities is that a non-profit will only spend a short period of time – one or two years – below that 33 per cent threshold. But ISOC has never met the threshold since it took over .org in 2003, and has relied instead in a slowly increasing percentage: 13.9 per cent in 2013; 17.1 per cent in 2015; and 19.5 per cent in 2018.

In that sense, while ISOC is not in any way reliant on its members to function financially, it is reliant on their existence and the work they do to justify its tax-exempt status. The proposed .org sale is deeply unpopular with ISOC chapters, and any break between the headquarters in Virginia, USA, and its global members risks fracturing that corporate balance.

Transparency? We've heard of it

Tension has been simmering for a long time, as made clear by an earlier recommendation by the Chapters Advisory Council that the ISOC board improve its transparency and accountability.

That recommendation was rejected by the board chair who formally responded: “Let me point out that no matter how strict we make our bylaws regarding board transparency, the community will always need to put a certain level of trust in its trustees (thus the name).” It concluded: “In our humble opinion, this board already works in a very transparent way.”

That lack of transparency was never more clear than when the ISOC board claimed to have met for two weeks in November to discuss the Ethos Capital offer to buy .org, but made no mention of the proposal and only made ISOC members and chapters aware of the decision after it had been made.

With a spotlight on ISOC’s secretive deliberations – and with board members now claiming they are subject to a non-disclosure agreement over the sale – the organization has added skeleton minutes that provide little or no insight into deliberations. It is not clear when those minutes were added – no update date is provided.

“The primary purpose of the Chapters Advisory Council shall be to channel and facilitate advice and recommendations to and from the President and Board of Trustees of the Internet Society in a bottom up manner, on any matters of concern or interest to the Chapter AC and ISOC Chapters,” reads the official description of the council on ISOC’s website.

With Ethos having failed to broker a secret deal, and ICANN indicating that it will consider the public interest in deciding whether to approve the sale, if ISOC’s advisory council does vote to advise the board not to move forward with the sale, the Internet Society will face a stark choice: stick by the secretive billionaires funding the purchase of .org with the added risk of blowing up the entire organization; or walk away from the deal. ®

Sponsored: Detecting cyber attacks as a small to medium business

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satadru
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MIT's "Smart Diaper" alerts caregiver when it's wet

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MIT researchers outfitted a baby diaper with an RFID tag that emits a wireless signal when the surrounding material gets wet. The wetness "sensor" is actually a type of hydrogel that's commonly found in diapers to absorb liquid. As the hydrogel gets wet, it swells and its conductivity increases, triggering the RFID tag. The RFID tags are printed as stickers for around 2 cents each compared to other Internet-connected diapers in development with reusable sensors that cost as much as $40/each. From MIT News:

Over time, smart diapers may help record and identify certain health problems, such as signs of constipation or incontinence. The new sensor may be especially useful for nurses working in neonatal units and caring for multiple babies at a time...

(MIT AutoID Lab researcher Pankhuri Sen) envisions that an RFID reader connected to the internet could be placed in a baby’s room to detect wet diapers, at which point it could send a notification to a caregiver’s phone or computer that a change is needed. For geriatric patients who might also benefit from smart diapers, she says small RFID readers may even be attached to assistive devices, such as canes and wheelchairs to pick up a tag’s signals.

image: MIT News (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0) Read the rest

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satadru
6 days ago
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I was in a conversation with a Korean inventor two years back about getting some version of electronic diapers in the US, but this seems like a better idea.
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How The Mandalorian was shot on a virtual stage using the Unreal Engine

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Until I bumped into the first video below on YouTube this morning, I had no idea that a lot of The Mandalorian was shot on a virtual set using the Unreal Engine.

Over 50 percent of The Mandalorian Season 1 was filmed using this ground-breaking new methodology, eliminating the need for location shoots entirely. Instead, actors in The Mandalorian performed in an immersive and massive 20’ high by 270-degree semicircular LED video wall and ceiling with a 75’-diameter performance space, where the practical set pieces were combined with digital extensions on the screens. Digital 3D environments created by ILM played back interactively on the LED walls, edited in real-time during the shoot, which allowed for pixel-accurate tracking and perspective-correct 3D imagery rendered at high resolution via systems powered by NVIDIA GPUs. The environments were lit and rendered from the perspective of the camera to provide parallax in real-time, as if the camera were really capturing the physical environment with accurate interactive light on the actors and practical sets, giving showrunner Jon Favreau, executive producer and director Dave Filoni, visual effects supervisor Richard Bluff, and cinematographers Greig Frazier and Barry Baz Idoine, and the episodic directors the ability to make concrete creative choices for visual effects-driven work during photography and achieve real-time in-camera composites on set.

Here is an article about it on the Unreal Engine's website.

Image: YouTube

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satadru
6 days ago
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That's just amazing.
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cmlburnett
4 days ago
So basically real-time green screen.
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America Must Not Become Socialist, Lest We Abandon What Makes Our Country Awful

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According to a recent Gallup poll, the majority of Democrats have a positive view of socialism. With the rise of Bernie Sanders as the clear and obvious front runner for the Democratic nomination, it seems Americans are starting to warm to the idea of a more socialist America. But America must never become socialist, lest we abandon what makes our country awful.

If America embraces “Venezuelan-style” socialism, a term we all know the meaning of that I will refuse to explain, make no mistake — America will no longer be the land of the free that all of us wealthy white people know and love. Just take a second and think about it: healthcare that woefully lags behind the rest of the world, crumbling infrastructure, a corrupt and incompetent electoral process. And now, stop thinking about America, and start thinking about what it’s like in Venezuela. Under socialism, Americans might have to ration their medicine — and not just their insulin, like we currently do. Americans will be forced to spend hours waiting in long lines at the hospital, instead of spending that time with your family, huddled around the phone with a Kaiser Permanente customer service rep, as you try to understand why you were billed three grand for an x-ray.

Americans need to understand that a socialist government, while sounding good in theory, would ultimately result in totalitarianism. A socialist government could use its power to spy on its citizens, listening to their phone conversations, reading their email, even watching them through their laptop cameras. In America, our intelligence agencies can only do those things if they lie to Congress about it first. Our Founding Fathers created this illusion of checks and balances to keep every facet of our government equally unaccountable. If that feels undemocratic or authoritarian to you, know that capitalism allows for private tech companies, like Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft, to sell you the home assistants that make our surveillance state function. A socialist government would merely invade your privacy, forgoing all that juicy profit! The American free-market creates competition, and competition pushes these tax-dodging corporations to be better, so they can do worse by you, the public. And as we all know, private industry is far better at infringing upon your rights than the government.

A socialist government just can’t effectively govern — one only needs to look to Venezuela, the only socialist country I can think of. In socialist Venezuela, there is a question about who the rightful president is — is it the man the people elected, or is the puppet our government is desperately trying to install? Who can tell? It’s total chaos brought on by decades of American imperialism down in socialist Venezuela. Luckily, in America, we know exactly who our president is — it’s the man who was just declared innocent in a sham trial with no witness and a jury predisposed toward acquittal. No confusion, no instability — the president is the rapist reality TV show host. And yes, while it may be concerning that Trump is in lockstep with the legislative branch that was intended to limit his power, he is not a king. The ever-expanding scope of the executive branch ensures he has far more power than any 18th-century monarch could ever dream of — exactly as our Founding Fathers intended.

You will not find freedom in a socialist country, and it’s our freedoms that make America great. By no rational account, we are the freest country in history, and we have armies all over the world losing wars every day to defend those freedoms. The freedom for your landlord to charge you whatever they want. The freedom to pay back your exorbitant student loans over however many decades you decide. The freedom to walk into a grocery store and select one of the hundred different brands of cereal made by one of two global conglomerates. The freedom to vote for whichever candidate the DNC wants you to, if the iPhone app their idiot stepson designed somehow manages to function. And it’s that last freedom, the right to participate in our democracy, that’s the most important. In America, we believe that anyone with money can participate in our corrupt political process. One billion dollars equals one vote, no matter who you are.

So young people, people of color, women, the LGBTQ community, the working class, and anyone else in the overwhelming majority who are considering voting for Bernie Sanders — mark my words. America is not, and never will be, a socialist country. We will become Nazis before we ever allow that.

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satadru
15 days ago
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Savage
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sarcozona
14 days ago
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acdha
15 days ago
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jlvanderzwan
15 days ago
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The worst part is that there's voters out there who can still be Poe's Lawed by this.

Starliner faced “catastrophic” failure before software bug found

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On Thursday, during its quarterly meeting, NASA's Aersopace Safety Advisory Panel dropped some significant news about a critical commercial crew test flight. The panel revealed that Boeing's Starliner may have been lost during a December mission had a software error not been found and fixed while the vehicle was in orbit.

The software issue was identified during testing on the ground after Starliner's launch, said panel member Paul Hill, a former flight director and former director of mission operations at Johnson Space Center in Houston. The problem would have interfered with the service module's (SM) separation from the Starliner capsule.

"While this anomaly was corrected in flight, if it had gone uncorrected it would have led to erroneous thruster firing and uncontrolled motion during SM separation for deorbit, with the potential for catastrophic spacecraft failure," Hill said during the meeting.

Starliner's December test flight had to be cut short due to a well-publicized timing error that delayed the spacecraft's service module from performing an orbital insertion burn. This caused the thrusters on board the service module, which provides power to Starliner during most of its mission, to fire longer than expected. As a result, the spacecraft did not have enough fuel to complete a rendezvous with the International Space Station, a key component of the test flight in advance of crewed missions.

At Thursday's meeting, Hill revealed the second issue related to software and thruster performance publicly for the first time.

However, as part of reporting on a story about Starliner software and thruster issues three weeks ago, a source told Ars about this particular problem. According to the source, Boeing patched a software code error just two hours before the vehicle reentered Earth's atmosphere. Had the error not been caught, the source said, proper thrusters would not open during the reentry process, and the vehicle would have been lost.

In a response to a query about this in mid-January, a Boeing spokesperson confirmed to Ars that software uploads were sent to Starliner "near the end of the mission." However, the spokesperson then downplayed the gravity of the situation, saying, "The final upload before landing's main purpose was to ensure a proper disposal burn of the Service Module after separation and had nothing to do with Crew Module reentry." Because this made the issue sound not serious, Ars omitted it from the published story.

But the public remarks by Hill on Thursday appear to underscore the seriousness of the issue, and the safety panel recommended several reviews of Boeing. "The panel has a larger concern with the rigor of Boeing's verification processes," Hill said. "As a result, the panel recommends that NASA pursue not just the root cause of these specific flight-software anomalies but also a Boeing assessment of and corrective actions for Boeing's flight-software integration and testing processes."

The safety panel also recommended that NASA conduct "an even broader" assessment of Boeing's Systems Engineering and Integration processes. Only after these assessments, Hill said, should NASA determine whether the Starliner spacecraft will conduct a second, uncrewed flight test into orbit before astronauts fly on board. (Boeing recently set aside $410 million to pay for that contingency).

Finally, before the meeting ended, the chair of the safety panel, Patricia Sanders, noted yet another ongoing evaluation of Boeing. "Given the potential for systemic issues at Boeing, I would also note that NASA has decided to proceed with an organizational safety assessment with Boeing as they previously conducted with SpaceX," she said.

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sarcozona
12 days ago
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Fuck Boeing
satadru
21 days ago
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Glad to see that NASA isn't taking Boeing's word for there being no culture problem...
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Thoughts and reactions following Andy Byford's resignation

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Andy Byford celebrated New Years Eve by thanking NYC Transit employees working to get everyone home safely. (Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit)

Over the summer, as he does from time to time, Gov. Andrew Cuomo sat down with the editorial board of The New York Post, and the conversation turned to the MTA. At the time, the Transformation Plan had recently been unveiled, and the governor had turned his attention to the signal system and complaints that the MTA had been addressing regarding slower train speeds. It was one of those moments when transit observers and advocates knew that the governor was stepping into a field Andy Byford had been mining, to great success, and concerns grew over fears that Cuomo and Byford would butt heads over a sensitive and important part of the MTA’s long road to recovery.

Over the weekend, Post reporter Nolan Hicks shared pieces of the transcript from that meeting, and it is a prime example of the relationship that had developed after nearly 20 months before Byford and Cuomo. The governor attempts to minimize Byford’s role in fixing the subways while promoting the Subway Action Plan and then he turns his attention to signal timers. The governor claimed that the union brought concerns with signal timers and the steep penalties for tripping red signals to him, and after months of a very public effort by Byford and his team to fix exactly these faulty signals and recalibrate timers, he was the one to fix the problem. Said Cuomo:

I met with the union, and I said, ‘How do we fix this issue where the trains are slower?’ And what we agreed to with the union is we would bring in an outside consultant, the unions would get on a train, the designers would get on a train, everyone would work together, come up with speed limits, fix the signals to calibrate to those new speed limits and the union would be comfortable with the speed limits, comfortable that the signals were actually calibrated. So if it said 20, it actually happened at 20 and that was the resolution.

If that sounds familiar, well, that’s because it is nearly exactly what Andy Byford’s speed unit and the Save Safe Seconds campaign was already doing, as Aaron Gordon subsequently pointed out, except, as Gordon said, “Cuomo wants to add an expensive consultant for reasons.” In a way, Cuomo already had his consultant in Byford. After all, that’s why the governor imported Andy from Toronto, but Cuomo and Byford could not co-exist. And the governor wanted to do things his way.

I chose to highlight this part of The Post’s transcript because the signals are reportedly one of the key issues that pushed Byford to resign for good this time. Even though the legislatively-mandated signals report, essentially demanded by Cuomo as part of the congestion pricing push, landed with a thud late in the day on New Year’s Eve, Cuomo recently sidelined Byford and his team from the discussions on recalibrating signals, and that was one of many last straws for New York City’s most prominent Plymouth Argyle FC fan. Now, Byford is out, and much to the chagrin of transit advocates around the city, Pete Tomlin, Byford’s signals man, is going with him.

The turf war over signals was but one issue among many that led Byford to leave, and I believe it’s accurate to consider him pushed out. After all, if your boss were to take your job and remove all of your responsibilities from it while indicating how unhappy he was with your public profile, how would you respond? And that’s exactly what happened with the MTA’s transformation effort, as Byford wrote in his resignation letter:

“The Alix Partners MTA Transformation plan called for the centralization of projects and an expanded HQ, leaving Agency Presidents to focus solely on the day-to-day of running service. I have built an excellent team and there are many capable individuals in Transit and others within the MTA family, who could perform this important, but reduced, service delivery role.”

Transformation was a clear-cut demotion, to a position beneath the stature and skills of Andy Byford, and he simply wasn’t going to take it any longer. Many at the MTA has said to me that the transformation plan seemed uniquely designed to minimize Byford and his role even as the New York City Transit President was enjoying success fixing the subways, and The Times also reported that Cuomo wanted Byford out. I have also been told that Byford (along with other internal MTA candidates) was not permitted to apply to the open COO role when Ronnie Hakim departed the MTA, and it was clear the writing was on the wall. The governor could not co-exist with someone of Byford’s popularity and success. As I think on this news, one week later, it all just seems so unnecessary.

I’ve struggled quite a bit with the reaction to Byford’s departure. There’s a lot to say about it, and none of it particularly optimistic. I’d like to think, as Eric Goldwyn argued for City & State, that Byford’s departure will accomplish exactly what we hope it will: that New Yorkers will wake up to the problems with a state-run transit agency and a state chief executive who won’t listen to anyone else and that local politicians will begin to support transit planning decisions rather than oppose them. But I am instead left pondering the question Nicole Gelinas asked: “Why would anyone take over after Andy Byford fled the MTA?” What qualified outsider will willing join a toxic work environment that Byford, a very competent and qualified and well-respected man within the industry, left so quickly? Who will save us from ourselves and the electoral decisions we have made? Railway Age took this one step further and unleashed a loud and angry takedown of the man who ousted Byford and his decisions.

Over the past week, as the dust from Byford’s resignation has settled, I’ve noticed the reticence with which politicians have approached this move and the rhetoric behind their statements. City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who is very likely to run for mayor on a platform that calls for city control over its transit system, started a #BringBackByford campaign but transitioned that to a pledge to re-hire Byford if he can wrest control of the buses and subways from Albany. Countless other local pols chimed in with similar sentiments, and the mayor outright embarrassed himself all week calling on Byford to reconsider. “Why don’t we try and convince him to stay?” the mayor asked Brian Lehrer’s audience last Friday. This was a deeply surreal back-and-forth, ignorant of the larger political dynamics at play, and one that warrants a closer look:

Mayor: So, I think the State of New York should get to it to try and convince Andy Byford to stay. Look, Andy Byford has done an amazing job and he put forward a plan that really was transformative. I think his presence was a big part of why we were able, last April, to pass the first plan in memory to actually fully fund the MTA and fix it. And I think, you know, we need him, going forward, and why not try and keep him?

Lehrer: Have you launched some kind of effort to try and keep him? Have you appealed to him?

Mayor: No it’s just the first – I am talking about it now for the first time because it dawned on me this morning that when I thought about history a bit, there have been people who were getting ready to leave and changed their mind or were persuaded to come back. And I think this is a case where he’s a singular talent and he’s obviously getting a great outpouring of support from New Yorkers. Why don’t we try and convince him to stay?

Lehrer: This seemed to happen once already. He was going to resign in October and Governor Cuomo convinced him to stay, right?

Mayor: Well that seems to be the case. I wasn’t in those backroom discussions, but look, I think New Yorkers want him to say, I want him to say for sure. I think the City Council wants him to stay. My appeal to the State of New York is, get in a room with him, try and get him to stay, see what it’ll take to get them to stay. Maybe there are some changes that would be possible that would convince him he could continue on in a productive, positive manner. I don’t think guys like Andy Byford grow on trees. I think he’s a pretty special talent and he’s proven he can handle New York City. Let’s try and keep him.

Lehrer: When you say the State of New York should get in a room with them, you mean Governor Cuomo?

Mayor: Yeah, and whoever else from his team that has been working with Byford. I don’t know who are the people most active in dealing with the MTA, but unquestionably if he needs persuasion that a lot can be achieved – I mean, look again, anybody looking at the outpouring of support in the last 24 hours, he doesn’t have to wonder whether he has popular support or the support of the elected officials of New York City. We all want him to stay. So I think it comes down to the State trying to figure out what’s it going to take to get him to change his mind. I don’t think it’s an impossible equation. I’ve seen harder things done.

Besides laying bare the reality that the mayor has no idea what’s happening within the MTA, the transit system used by millions of his constituents on a daily basis, and that Brian Lehrer seems to have a far rosier view of the Byford-Cuomo dynamic that reality dictates, the mayor’s words and everyone else’s seem to willfully ignore the reality here. Andy Byford is leaving because Andrew Cuomo wanted him out of the way. Only Jumaane Williams and Council Member Antonio Reynoso directly named the governor, and everyone other politician tried to tip-toe around the powerful head of New York or pretend the problem was something else, as de Blasio did. Does this bode well for the future?

All hope shouldn’t be lost though. As a variety of transit activists told Curbed New York’s Amy Plitt, Byford laid a very strong foundation for future success, and while many within the MTA are rightly feeling discouraged right now, the agency should be able to continue to build on Byford’s successes if the right people are given the right support and the right opportunities. There is no way to sugarcoat Andy Byford’s departure. It was far too premature and represents a big blow to New York City. But the governor is allowed to make these decisions. It’s #CuomosMTA, after all, and if everyone is going to push him to take charge, that means accepted the good with the bad for as long as we can. Right now, New York City is worse off for it, but if this becomes a catalyst for increased attention on the politics of transit, perhaps we’ll have won a pyrrhic victory.

Ultimately, your commute won’t get worse tomorrow or next week or next month, but will it get as better as Byford had promised? That tantalizing reality now remains out of reach, and it didn’t have to be like this.

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satadru
28 days ago
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