Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Big Queasy

I developed a wicked ear infection from the Shark River Dive. Lord only knows what sort of bacteria is floating around in New Jersey channel water, despite the fact that sea life was abundant and the water clear as anything you would find in the Caribbean. After suffering silently for three days I had a doctor friend prescribe some Cipro-strength antibiotics. I looked them up on line and saw that they are usually used to treat things like the clap and other nasty bacterial infections. The ear feels somewhat better today but no diving for a couple of weeks for me. I even cancelled my NITROX class on Thursday because the thought of doing anything involving diving gives me an earache.

On the political front, Bush accepted “full-responsibility” for the post Katrina government failures which have delayed the rebuilding and intensified the suffering of the poor folks in the Big Easy. Unfortunately it is abundantly clear that “taking full responsibility” is a concept devoid of meaning for this president. While Bush spits out platitudes about rebuilding, the IRS has been instructed to audit the tax returns of thousands of New Orleans’s residents who claimed hurricane damage as a deduction on last year’s taxes, further delaying the refund checks desperately needed to assist residents in rebuilding. In fact, taxpayers form New Orleans were instructed to write “Hurricane Katrina Loss” in big red letters across the top of their tax returns, presumably so they could be more easily singled out for audits. (For more on this, click here.)

I guess the disturbing part of all this is the fact that while Katrina refugees are still sitting in the rubble of their houses anxiously awaiting federal rebuilding funds and tax refunds, information continually comes to light about how much chicanery was going on with the contracts doled out to the crazies’ friends by the Iraq Provisional Authority after the invasion. The government certainly wasn’t asking the hard questions then, were they? 60 Minutes ran a story a few weeks ago about a contract for security at Baghdad Airport that was paid for with two million dollars in cash, transported through the war zone in a duffel bag. In fact, nearly $12 billion in cash was shipped to Iraq and disbursed with virtually no financial controls or reliable accounting. The Administration also cannot account for over $8 billion transferred to Iraqi ministries.

Coalition Provisional Authority employees were seen tossing around football-sized $100,000 bricks of 100 bills inside the Green Zone, withdrawn from Federal Reserve accounts and flown to Iraq in the final days of the CPA’s control over the funds. That kind of money would have rebuilt a lot of houses in the Ninth Ward. Unlike the bureaucratic maze that poor, mostly black and uneducated Katrina survivors were forced to navigate to obtain rebuilding assistance, in Iraq, payments were made from the back of a pickup truck and cash was stored in unguarded sacks in Iraqi ministry offices…”
(Statement by Rep. Henry Waxman, June 21, 2005).

Once the corruption pertaining to these contracts came to light, did the government “take personal responsibility” for the problem and demand an internal audit like it anxiously audited Katrina victims? Not exactly. Paul Bremer’s first action after all of this nonsense came to light was to issue a CPA order immunizing U.S. contractors from any legal liability for human rights, labor or environmental violations stemming from their work in Iraq. According to the 60 minutes report there are currently 50 ongoing investigations involving suspected "fraud, kickbacks, bribery, waste."

Meanwhile, down in New Orleans, a number of reports have recently been released in a wierd sort of commeration of the one year anniversary of the disaster. Oxfam's report points out that $17 billion has been approved by Congress to rebuild homes in Louisiana and Mississippi, yet not one house has been rebuilt with that money in either state.

So where is this personal responsibility the President is taking and what form does it take? Is he grabbing a hammer and rebuilding houses like another (ex)president is in the habit of doing? Is he greasing the wheels of bureaucracy like he did for his contractor buddies in Iraq? Nah. He gave a speech that was long on rhetoric and short on substance then when the lights were turned off he split for higher ground.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Fundamentalist Fascism

Hussein's buddy Donald Rumsfield’s bizarre attack on the critics of the Bush administration exemplifies exactly how desperate the crazies have gotten as they careen deep into their second term. Rumsfeld has taken to framing the administration’s debacle in Iraq as a fight of freedom versus fascism. There is only one problem with the analogy; it isn’t accurate. A generally agreed-upon definition of fascism is "a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victim-hood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion." Paxton, Robert O. The Anatomy of Fascism. (Knopf Publishing Group, 2005). To me this sounds far more like the shenanigans going on in and around the White House than in the theocratic totalitarian regimes of Iran and Saudi Arabia. The unwillingness of the administration to frame its enemies as religious fanatics is disturbing. Perhaps because here at home we have a government run by violent religious fanatics? One wonders.

Radical Rant

When I was in college I was a fringe member of various subversive communist groups including the League for the Revolutionary Party and the Workers World Party. Eventually I had to decide whether to go out and join the world or continue on with the class struggle. I was no big fan of communism; I found the people humorless and the ideology stifling, although as a sociology student I thought and still think that a lot of the Marxist critique of Capitalism is right on the money (haha). Most monolithic ideologies are stifling, come to think of it. Anyway, when I decided that I could stomach being a left-wing democrat, even though it meant accepting the obvious systemic inequities of capitalism, I consoled myself with the thought that at least in America we have a constitution with a fourth amendment and freedom of speech and that although the government is for the most part corrupt and self-interested, at least the judicial system is a check on the robber baron tendencies of the millionaires in Congress and the White House. I was able to cruise along with this happy fiction intact until I graduated law school and saw first hand the mockery the judicial system makes of the concept of justice, as the term is classically understood. The bias against the people is more clearly seen in the criminal justice system where young black men are sent to jail for five years for crimes that if they had occurred at Columbia wouldn't have even resulted in an arrest. Bail set on marijuana dealers at thousands of dollars, 5 years state prison for shoplifting, etc., etc. After 911, this country went bonkers. Completely mad. The government, which can't muster up enough energy to ensure that everyone in the richest country on earth has affordable healthcare, was able to overnight throw a net of security over this country so that any movement through the system can be, and probably is being monitored. We are now engaged in an endless war against "terrorists" and the government's legal arguments for why torture is acceptable conduct are actually being carefully considered by the Courts. We are over in Iraq for no apparent reason yet we can't spare enough National Guard troops to rebuild New Orleans because they are all over in Iraq torturing people and ensuring that the Islamic world will be waging jihad against the United States for the next ten generations. Perhaps that is why I want to run away to the woods. I find it harder and harder to justify American action since we are starting to resemble what we always excoriated in the rest of the world.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Last Thursday At Shark River

Last Thursday we all met at the Cheesequake rest-stop on the Garden Sate Parkway for our eagerly anticipated Shark River Inlet dive. Ryan was late because he was nabbed by the cops for speeding on the 440. Despite his impressive collection of badges and PBA cards the Highway cop gave him a ticket. In hindsight we should have recognized this as a harbinger of things to come. We proceeded to caravan down the GSP, past Asbury Park, exiting at 100b the exit for Ocean Grove. The best part of this dive is setting up tanks, weights and equipment right on the boardwalk where the wealthy summer people perform their after dinner saunter. You can see the envy and interest on their faces when we tell them that yes, we are not only going to dive where others are not even allowed to swim, but we are going to wait until dark before we enter the water.

We were suited up and ready at 8:30pm. The tide was supposed to be slack at that time but there was a noticeable inward current pushing legions of translucent jellyfish up the inlet towards the multi-million dollar homes that line the shore. We waited as the tide kept coming. Eventually we decided to splash in because if we waited too much longer, the tide would reverse, pushing anything in the water, including us, out to sea. I was the second one in and it became apparent to me right away that I was under-weighted. I had 24 pounds of weight on my belt but with the salt water, aluminum tank and 7mm wetsuit it wasn’t enough. I would get down to 20 feet and then immediately start to “cork” to the surface. Jane was having a similar problem. I had a fisherman under the bridge throw me an extra three pounds of weight which I stuffed into my BCD. It was enough for me to get down but just barely. Unfortunately, Jane was similarly underweighted and unable to stay under and she had to abort the dive. Once safely huddled on the bottom I realized that the current had indeed reversed and was pushing us toward the ocean at a rather rapid clip. This in itself was not much concern, we simply drifted along the bottom taking note of the lobsters, crabs, flounder, eels and other unidentifiable but prolific marine life trapped in the penumbra of our dive lights. Unfortunately, when doing an out-and-back dive the pleasant tumble in the direction of the tide eventually comes to an end and the return to the entry point is characterized by a vigorous attempt to swim against the force of the Atlantic Ocean as it rushes back from the inlet into the sea. This is difficult, to put it mildly. Add in five other relatively unexperienced divers and two dive-flag ropes which inevitably snared several of our limbs and pieces of our equipment, and a normally challenging underwater swim becomes a rugby-like free-for all with divers clambering over the rocks on the bottom and each other in a dash to get to the exit point and untangled from the ropes before the air runs out. Ok, it wasn’t quite that dramatic but it wasn’t the smoothest dive either. Louis lost a fin which immediately sank to the bottom and went skipping off down the sand in the general direction of Great Britain. Despite Ryan and I going in for another dive and trying to locate it, Loius ended the evening out a $150 set of fins.

Despite the mishaps, seeing the underwater life at night in the Atlantic is fascinating and quite humbling. You realize just how much else is going on in the world and how small a part of our planet we actually see from day to day. Every time I dive in the ocean I think of how privileged I am to be living in the 21st century and have access to the technology which allows me to remain under the sea for far longer than the millions of people who have lived on this planet through the ages. I never understand people who don’t find diving fascinating. To me it is akin to going into outer space, yet in a manner accessible to almost everyone. I highly recommend it to those of you who read this.

Friday, August 25, 2006

From an Agrarian Utopian:

Ever wonder what the framers, in this case Thomas Jefferson would have thought of the banning of books on evolution from the public schools?

"I am really mortified to be told that, in the United States of America, a fact like this [i.e., the purchase of an apparent geological or astronomical work] can become a subject of inquiry, and of criminal inquiry too, as an offense against religion; that a question about the sale of a book can be carried before the civil magistrate. Is this then our freedom of religion? and are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule for what we are to read, and what we must believe? It is an insult to our citizens to question whether they are rational beings or not, and blasphemy against religion to suppose it cannot stand the test of truth and reason. If [this] book be false in its facts, disprove them; if false in its reasoning, refute it. But, for God's sake, let us freely hear both sides, if we choose." --Thomas Jefferson to N. G. Dufief, 1814. ME 14:127

One Last New York Moment

New Yorkers have a strange and irrational compulsion to defend their City against any sort of criticism, valid or otherwise and the facts be dammed. Of the two people who responded to my comment that I was looking to move out of the City to a more rural area, one compared me to the Unabomber and the other predicted financial ruin should I dare to try to make a living as an attorney anywhere outside of the First or Second Appellate Division. Listen guys, despite what you think the world does not cease to exist west of the Hudson River or north of the Bronx, (although I question whether anything except knuckle-dragging NASCAR loving inbreeds live in a variety of southern and some western states) and millions of people enjoy quite meaningful lives in the world beyond New York. Yet another friend of mine epitomized the insanity of the New York centric philosophy when he tried to argue with me that the food in Italy wasn’t really that good compared to some of the restaurants in Manhattan. Another guy I know on Staten Island basically dismissed the rest of the world with the comment: “Europe? I went there. I didn’t like it.”

Thursday, August 24, 2006

40 Acres and a Mule

This afternoon I will be cutting out of work early to dive the Shark River Inlet on the Jersey Shore. Ryan has set a meeting at the Cheesequake rest-stop on the Garden State Parkway at 5:30pm, too early in my opinion. The dive itself is only 18-24 feet deep and it is in a channel with quite a bit of boat traffic. Last year the dive was my first ever outside the quarry and it will be a good opportunity to get into some salt water. It is always a little strange to be at the shore during the work-week but I guess it beats watching tv.

Speaking of not watching television, I have been exploring the possibility of homesteading in either Pennsylvania, Maine or the Finger Lakes region of New York. The final location will depend on the job market of course but we are shooting for a target date of next October when I’ll be able to obtain my license to practice by waiving in on motion. In order to prepare for the rigors of country living I have been researching the art of making cheese and wine and reading about various utopian socialist communities from the 1800s. Books written about the back-to-the-land movement of the 1970s have provided a few hours of amusing reading; most hyper-educated city kids who bought their 40 acres and a mulecame back from the woods after a few years when they realized how difficult it is to make a living from black land dirt. Land is much more expensive these days, now that the entire country is being inexorably turned into a collection of sub-divisions and malls. For very cheap land one has to go to the smallest corners of Maine and there aren’t too many opportunities to practice law up there. We’re going to head down to the southern Pennsylvania area this week-end to gauge the real estate market near York. That way we’d be close to Becky’s parents for child-care and within commuting distance of Harrisburg yet we would still be in farm country.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Happy Monday

A couple of fun, albeit short dives at Dutch Springs over the week-end. The visibility there seems to deteriorate as the season goes on despite the presence of Zebra mussels in the water. When you are hanging at a buoy looking down the visibility seems endless and the water aqua blue. However, when you hit the first thermocline at 45 feet the water becomes viscous and those green algae particles start to thicken. Once you hit 65 feet viz is down to 10-15 feet and it gets dark. Oh well, the Caribbean it ain’t. The second dive was back to the copter, although we didn’t do more than touch it before two of the divers I was with ran low on air and we had to call it after only 30 minutes. Tagging along with the advanced open water students gets me into the water but the diving is very restricted. A lot of the students in this class have issues with buoyancy as well. And what’s with not diving the plan? I was paired up with Arthur, who I knew, and this other dude, who I didn’t in a three-man buddy team. Arthur and I dive well together, but this other student was too green and kept swimming off to do his own thing. Personally, I try to keep within 10’ of my buddy all the time because I look at that tank on his back as my secondary air source should something go wrong. I probably should have said something but I didn’t. I had my first Nitrox class on Sunday night and I’m looking forward to that certification so I can stay down longer. Its all about staying down longer.

The NYC Scuba meet-up is tomorrow night. I think I’ll go and check it out although this week is kind of busy. Shark River on Thursday night with the same cast of characters from this week-end. At least I’ll be diving with one other person who doesn’t need the dive for an AOW certification. Hopefully the drive to the Jersey Shore will be worth it. It is a great night dive but being at the tail end of a group of divers may impact visibility. This year I am grabbing that lobster if I see him.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Shark Attack Summer

So tomorrow its off to Dutch Springs. I’ll be accompanying Ryan and his AOW students while they do a wreck and a neutral buoyancy dive. I’m not so thrilled about yet another dive at Dutch Springs but it will be better than sitting at home watching the grass grow. Going out there is actually a very nice way to spend a Saturday. The early wake-up, the drive through New Jersey on traffic free Route 78, stopping at the bagel and sandwich stores, then laying around the Pennsylvania countryside talking about diving in-between dives. Still, the Atlantic beckons. I have to get in a bunch of dives this fall since next year may be a tad hectic with little Wexford arriving in February. How soon before they start diving? Can I log a baptism as a first dive? Many questions need to be answered in this area.

In other news, war is raging over seas, terrorists are plotting the end of the human race, global warming is cooking the planet like a Pillsbury biscuit, yet the top news story this morning…Jon Benet Ramsey. Yes, just in time for the fall elections, a break in the ten year old child murder case threatens to distract an unfortunate number of already disinterested voters in swing states from paying attention to what is going on in the world outside of their television sets. Fifty-thousand dead Iraqi children barely merit a yawn from the overfed masses, but one dead white six year old beauty queen pushes the war right off the front page. I’m sure that lunatic they picked up in Thailand had something to do with it, after all he confessed! Why is the press so fucking stupid? Even the New York Times had the damn story above the fold this morning. Doesn’t anyone realize what is going on here? How easily Americans are distracted. We can’t handle negativity. The minute something inane and meaningless, yet titillating and perverse comes along, down the rabbit hole we go. Doesn’t anyone remember ‘shark-attack summer’ that enraptured America in the months prior to 911. I don’t give a shit who murdered Jon Benet Ramsey. There. I said it.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

DOJ: 25, ACLU: 1

It seems as if at least one member of the federal judiciary is finally crawling out from under her desk to wag her finger at the administration for its totalitarian program of random unauthorized surveillance of American citizens. District Judge Anna D. Taylor of Detroit Michigan proved that the third “co-equal” branch of the government can do more than throw an election for the Republicans. Taylor, 75, was obviously, not appointed by a Republican.She has been on the Eastern District of Michigan bench since 1979. Appointed by President Carter, she became one of the first African-American women to sit on a federal court.

In a lengthy opinion, surprisingly devoid of emotion, Judge Taylor found that the Surveillance program was a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment and that despite Congresses deferring to the Executive by the creation of the FISA Court and by allowing the President great latitude to fight the war on terror, “ all of Congress’s concessions to Executive need and to the exigencies of the present situation as a people have been futile”. The President, she noted, is created by the very same Constitution which also includes the Fourth Amendment.

Judge Taylor then goes on to find that the surveillance program is also unsustainable under the First Amendment the FISA enabling statute clearly states that that no American is to be considered an agent of a foreign power solely on the basis of activities protected by the First Amendment, like speaking on the telephone.

She further declared that the program "violates the separation of powers doctrine, the Administrative Procedures Act, the First and Fourth amendments to the United States Constitution, the FISA and Title III." As much as I’d like to continue to parse the decision and comment on her arguments more I just had a horrible flash-back to law school and I better stop now before my brain explodes.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Back to Diving:

I suppose I should write something about scuba diving since this blog was supposed to be about scuba diving. In fact, I am going scuba diving this Saturday at the quarry. I joined a meet-up group today for divers in the New York City area and they are running a boat dive to the wreck Iberia from the dive boat Karen. The Iberia is a French wood-hulled steamer that was sunk in November 1888 after colliding with the freighter Umbria in heavy fog off the southern coast of Long Island. She was owned by the Fabre Line and displaced 1,388 gross and 943 net tons. The Iberia was 255 feet long and had a 36 foot beam. From the book Wreck Valley:

"The Iberia, under the command of Captain Sagolis, was bound from the Persian Gulf to New York with a cargo of 28,000 crates of dates, a few bales of hides, and coffee, all consigned to Arnold & Cheney Inc. of New York. She developed engine trouble just a few miles off Long Island, New York where she lay at anchor for three weeks awaiting repairs. Once repairs were made she slowly started to make her way to New York. Meanwhile, on Saturday morning, November 10, 1888, the 520 foot long Cunard luxury liner Umbria, bound for Liverpool, encountered dense fog as she sailed out of New York harbor. The Umbria, which was under the command of Captain William McMickan, was sailing with 215 first class passengers, 67 second class, and 429 steerage class passengers. Captain McMickan reduced the Umbria's speed, posted a lookout, and began to blow the vessel's fog horn.
According to eyewitness accounts listed in a NEW YORK TIMES article "At 1:18 PM the form of a strange steamer loomed out of the fog, lying across the Umbria's path and headed northward. The Cunarder's wheel was reversed at full speed, but not withstanding the precautions that had been taken on board to prevent an accident, the Umbria had headway enough to ram her sharp steel nose into the stranger's port quarter and carry away the greater part of her stern. The piece sliced off included the overhanging part or 'counter,' and measured lengthwise on top, 14 feet". "This section holding the flagstaff with colors flying, drifted away on one side of the Umbria and the bulk of the disabled steamer floated away in an opposite direction".

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Fat Bastard II

One of the perks of this otherwise incredibly boring job is that occasionally a lawyer who is on the panel will come by and take a few of us adjusters out to lunch. Today 9 of us were whisked off to a fancy Italian Resturaunt where my dietary resolve collapsed under the weight of a nice tellagio cheese and a salad of summer figs accompanied by a scoop of home-made ricotta and several slices of prosciutto di parma. This was followed by a fresh sea bass cooked in a herb wine and butter (of course) sauce paired with some fresh clams, mussels and calamari. Mercifully, no one had the temerity to order dessert. I so infrequently get to eat anywhere where a lunch entrée tops $6.95 so I immediately justified breaking my diet for the indulgence. Was it worth it? I don’t know, I’ve been unable to keep my eyes open this afternoon to give the matter much thought.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Fat Bastard

So I went shopping for a suit yesterday and I had to confront the undeniable fact that since graduating from law school I really have turned into a fat bastard. I exercise often, at least 45 minutes of aerobic exercise (running or elliptical) four times per week but it hasn’t been enough to ward off the effects of declining metabolism and crappy diet. I must have gained about 30 lbs in the last five years. Of course, the major change in my diet from five years ago is that I am no longer a vegetarian. I was a vegetarian for almost ten years and I think it had a lot to do with keeping my weight in check; well, that and running 50 miles per week. I guess when you run that much you can eat everything you want. If I thought me knees and feet could handle it I’d up my running back to 1995 levels, but I feel every mile much more now. I’ve been forced to replace a lot of those road miles with the elliptical machine and even with walking on some days. I think I’m going to try an experiment and revert back to a vegetarian diet for a month. I will also increase my aerobics to five days per week and try to use weights three days per week. Perhaps by the second week in September I’ll be able to get into some more of the clothes in my closet. So far I ate yogurt for breakfast and a large salad for lunch. Kill me now.

With the baby coming though I can’t really be so selfish as to carry around a spare tire and so naïve to think that it isn’t having an effect on my heart and overall health. Plus, it will probably help my diving. Looks like it’s off to the quarry this coming Saturday for some semi-deep wreck diving. Shark River next week.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Working 9 to 5

The last hour of work on Friday afternoon has to be the longest 60 minute period of time known to man. It is impossible to engage your work in any meaningful way with the specter of the week-end perched on your shoulder like a drunken parrot. My big dilemma today is what to do after the whistle blows. In the scheme of things this is a relatively small problem when compared to the challenges facing the working poor and Joe Lieberman. I am sure I’ll come up with a creative and amusing way to spend Friday night; I always do. I went to the C&D party last night. It was good seeing all my former co-workers, but they all seemed a little too tightly wound. Maybe its me. After all the biggest decision I make all day is what to have for lunch. Life in the slow lane.

The Lieberman juggernaut has taken a page from the Dick Cheney playbook and is fear-mongering on the war. I suppose Joe’s best strategy is to try and peel off all the Republican votes from Schlesinger. Lieberman all but accused Lamont of treason yesterday. With the shampoo bandits freshly apprehended at Heathrow, Joltin Joe obviously thought it a good time to put a plug in for the White House’s war on terror. I don’t know why Lieberman gets under my skin so much; maybe because there are so many Americans that still hew to his center-right ideology and that fact I find intensely irritating. I find myself shouting at the television whenever I see his wrinkly face.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Snakes on a Plane

Here it is August 10, 2006 and we are getting the first report that Al Qaeda was planning a 911 celebration involving toothpaste and hair gel. I suppose I should be outraged but the discovery of this latest plot merely depresses me. More long lines at the airport, more privacy restrictions, more infringements on my civil rights. I also suspect we will be uncovering a few more of these plots in the run up to the fall elections. (see this). If I sound cynical please forgive me, I suppose I shouldn’t expect my government to manipulate information to perpetuate its hold on power. Unfortunately, this government has lost all of its credibility on this issue. Nevertheless, if it weren’t for our invasion and occupation of Iraq and the monstrous propaganda machine required to keep the public support (Just who makes all those yellow “support the troops” ribbon magnets, anyway?) we could have been focusing our efforts on the eradication of Al Qaeda as an institutional threat. We will never be able to eradicate hatred, but it takes planning and no small amount of organization to pull off an attack. If we had spent a small percentage of those hundreds of billions of dollars we spent running around in the desert on say, training a generation of Farsi speaking operatives or even propagandizing a generation of Islamic youth, we might be better equipped to handle these matters before they get to the operational stage.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Sadness of Lieberman

I’ve been mulling over Lieberman’s defeat all day. Thinking about it too much, actually, if the growing pile of actual work on my desk is any indication. Lieberman clearly deserved to lose this election but it wasn’t because of his support of the Iraq war. Lieberman deserved to lose because in the end he was unable to distinguish Washington D.C. from Connecticut. The erstwhile Senator from the Nutmeg State is completely unable to accept the fact that his center tightrope balancing act was not welcome in the current political climate. As Sydney Schanberg put it on Salon today, being a moderate is only effective if your opponent is willing to compromise. Clearly, this gang of thieves running the Whitehouse is disinclined to compromise about anything. When your opponents won’t even take baby-steps in your direction, what you as a senator think of as compromise appears to your constituents as capitulation. Lieberman first began to lose his Joementum when his constituents realized that Joe was obviously relishing his role as the right wing moralist of the party. (This was at some point in the year 2000 right about when he decided, along with Gore, to allow the contested Bush ballots to be counted in Florida.)

Joe, in this, the Republic’s darkest hour your thoughts aren’t even with the people. We don’t want to compromise, we want a fight. We want to wrest this country back from the religious crazies and war mongers and give it back to the people. It is very telling that you named your new campaign. “Connecticut for Lieberman” rather than “Lieberman for Connecticut”. Kind of says it all right there. Because its all about you Joe, isn’t it? Who are we that we deign to think we can knock a sitting senator off his throne because he doesn’t represent our interests. My goodness, isn’t this the Democracy you and your Republican amigos are trying to shove down the Iraqi’s throats at the point of a gun? So now you’re pulling a Rudy Giuliani and trying to make an end-run around the legislative process because it doesn’t suit your personal interests. You are willing to take a hacksaw to the Democratic party by ignoring the voters (remember the voters Joe? ) and continuing this campaign because, in your words, we need less partisanship in Washington, not more? Well bugger-off Joe. You lost. If you keep going with this campaign the only winners will be the Republicans in November.

Ok, Ok

I'm going to lay off the City for a while. New York has exasperated untold millions of people since Peter Stuyvesant was pegging around the downtown area. Here's some quotes rom the movie "Blue in the Face":

"I think one of the reasons I live in New York is because...I know my way around New York. I don't know my way around Paris. I don't know my way around Denver. I don't know my way around Maui....I've been thinking of leaving for...35 years now. I'm almost ready."-- (Lou Reed)

"I'm scared in my own apartment. I'm scared 24 hours a day. But not necessarily in New York. I actually feel pretty comfortable in New York. I get like Sweden. You know, it's kind of empty." Lou Reed

On to other things.

Lost His Joementum

First step toward taking back the House and Senate accomplished. Lieberman shows how self-absorbed he is by taking a page from the Republican play-book and ignoring the law by asserting he will run as an "Independant Democrat". Hopefully his amigos in the Democratic party will crush this before it gets started. He really should just get the hell out of our party and run as the Republican he is.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Things I learned on the Bike Path

On Sunday I went for a 5 mile run followed by a 30 mile bike ride. I rode from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, up the West Side greenway, across the top of Manhattan on Dykman Street, then down the East Side. I came to several realizations along the journey. The first is that it is always a good idea to bring a spare tube when riding through the trash and broken glass strewn across the bike path at 155th Street and Edgecomb Avenue. I learned the hard way that patching an inner tube while the neighborhood crack-heads cruise by looking for something to steal is not fun. For everyone who has argued with me over the last week that New York has become a safe comfortable place to raise a family I dare them to go for a leisurely walk in East Harlem and then tell me that the bad old days are a but a memory.

The second thing I learned is that paying $10 for a rear derailleur adjustment does not guarantee that said adjustment will hold through 25 miles of urban riding. A tip of the hat to the Tribeca Bike shop for doing the adjustment while I waited, a wag of the finger for being so sloppy as to not check their work before letting me out the door.

I also learned that many people with bicycles, especially the bikes that have all that stuff on them, many, many of those people are absolutely fucking crazy. When I was disembarking form the ferry I accidentally nudged, and I do mean nudged, a guy’s bike which was in the rack next to mine. I immediately apologized to the owner who glared at me and then shot me the finger. Well, ok, whatever, I replied and then walked away. Another lesson: don’t turn your back on an angry lunatic. As we were getting off the boat he came up behind me and slammed the font tire of his bike into my rear derailleur (which, as I note above, was not working so well already) and then stood there staring at me. I just said, “whatever, dude” and got on my bike and rode away. There are a lot of angry morons in this City. Maybe some of you accept this sort of behavior as normal for New York, but it pissed me off. That man belonged in a jail cell, far away from civilized people who do not incite physical altercations with random strangers over non-events.

So, Sunday was full of learned lessons. A few more: No one fat, ugly or poor apparently resides on the West Side of Manhattan between the Battery and Fairway at 125th Street. However, when I got above 125th Street throwing garbage in the park and drinking in public are much more prevalent Sunday activities than the running or bike riding done in the lower half of the island. What is wrong with people? Why do people think that they can trash their surroundings? Does no one give a crap that we all have to live in this City together? I wish we could bring back public flogging for littering; it really is a criminal activity when you live in a city of 10 million people all sharing the same spaces.

Friday, August 04, 2006

My Precious

This is deeply disturbing, yet at the same time it looks totally natural.

I'm Back

Sorry friends, I’ve been a lazy blogger this week and I know how much you all hang on the edge of your seats awaiting the latest installment of the ZOS. Frankly I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather this week; I’ve caught a nasty cold, in August, and I ate a Canadian bacon cheeseburger the other night that has been killing me, literally I think. Why did I order medium rare ground beef in a diner with questionable air conditioning on the hottest day of the last 50 years, you ask? I’m afraid I don’t have an answer, but boy I wish I had ordered the Turkey Club instead. Apparently the worst of the heat is over, although today’s 87 degrees is still hot enough to drain the life out of you. Becky has gone to her 20th high-school reunion in Buffalo this week-end which leaves me free to prowl about the bowels of the City, assuming my own bowels can hold out until quitting time today. (Sorry, I’m about as funny as Mel Gibson at a bar-mitzvah today, ba-dum-bump!).

Usually I see these week-ends sans-a-wife as periods of personal enrichment and relaxation but they invariably end up with me marinating in something or other and then neurotically cleaning the house. I have received several objections to my characterization of New York as a shit-hole so I’d like to clarify: It is an over-priced, over-crowded, dirty shit-hole full of self-absorbed, self-aggrandizing people for the most part oblivious to the world beyond its borders. Fortunately, it is also a wonderfully diverse colorful place where anything can happen and where I can get anything I want at any hour of the day or night. So, I guess it is a mixed bag after all.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

New York, Love it or Hate it?

Here's another weigh-in from Mr. X of middle-east fame taking issue with my description of New York as a "shit-hole". My answer follows:

"A wasteful bloated state government yes. A government of three people yes. The most dysfunctional state government in the U S - I wouldn't argue over that. Under the last two mayors city government has run reasonably well, been trimmed down and has been scandal free. The mayor has made some political missteps recently (the Con Ed deal, and the unsurprising disclosures about the 2004 convention).
But a shithole? Even with all the waste, the amount I pay in state and local tax is at least commensurate with the value of not having to own an automobile. The staggering list of museums which have their own cultural affairs budget line are required to have 'pay what you wish' admission, it doesn't take much courage to visit the Metropolitan or Museum of Natural History for 25 cents, I know someone who regularly does it. Just think - I can trace my lineage back to Adam and Eve (they didn't eat pork, and Adam was circumcised!) and none of my ancestors have ever owned an automobile. I am the first in the line that ever learned to drive.
How about those Adirondack campgrounds you like so much. How much public open space does this state have compared to neighboring ones? I bet we are close to the highest per capita in the U S. It is sad how little there is, for example, along the spectacular Maine coast.
You should have seen the Times article about property taxes over the weekend. You are better off living here - the average home in northern new jersey is subject to about $6,000 in property taxes, and what do THEY get for it??
It was fun seeing New York through the eyes of my Viennese friend. We didn't discuss it, because my friend is increasingly oblivious to anything that doesn't involve opera, but the middle class standard of living here is so much higher and the cost is so much lower. Born in Minneapolis, we went to College together at Columbia ca. 1970. He comes back about every two years. I think he is amazed by the cultural diversity, both high and low, and the clean and more ordered place that it has become even over the last ten years. How would you like to live in a city with a summer climate roughly like ours, where virtually nothing is air conditioned? "

I say:

If you lived in any boro other than Manhattan, which many millions of New Yorkers do, you would not only own a car but would also be subjected to random ticketing and towing, often without an actual reason. Dave has gotten at least 4 tickets for failing to display a muni-meter receipt right side up in his windshield, when the ticket has in fact been present and right side up. Simple corruption on the part of the brownies but a real expensive hassle for the recipient of the ticket. As far as property taxes go, explain the difference between paying an average rent of $2,700 for a small one bedroom apartment in Manhattan versus paying $6,000 in property taxes for a spacious home in new jersey. The museums are nice but again for those middle class New Yorkers who can't afford to drive in and park in a garage they might as well be on the moon the way "mass transit" runs on the week-end. I agree, Manhattan is a wonderful place but it is really a wonderful place for two types of people, the very well off and those who were lucky enough to secure a rent controlled apartment back in the day when such things existed.
As for the wild-life and the Adirondaks, ok I'll give you that one, although I have visited other states that do a nice job with their parks without an income tax (New Hampshire). As for "clean and orderly", read one-dimensional and boring. The entire City is becoming one large New York related theme park from Times Square to the East Village, from Williamsburg to the Seaport. I suppose there are some native New Yorkers around, somewhere, perhaps on the Upper West Side, but they have for the most part been replaced by 20-something year-olds from Ohio who come here, not with dreams of making it in literature and art, but with goals of partying in wall street bars and then moving to the exurbs to raise a family. The sense of community is gone (with exceptions, always there are exceptions). It is frightening to me that I find Staten Island to be the most authentic New York experience left in this City. So sad, so sad.