super hanc petram

Wednesday, October 27

Thursday Cat Blogging  


1000 of them  


et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam meam  

Jason Vartiek




Signed For One Reason  


25 Men, One Nation, One Dream, Realized  


The Daddy, The Ironman, Señor Octobre


I Believe in Miracles  



There are no words.


Monday, October 25

Let Me Die in My Footsteps  

As the fear-mongering reaches a fever-pitch, I find myself singing to myself more and more often Dylan's elegant response to our earlier confrontation with the nuclear threat. Back then, of course, it was far more likely that we would be attacked with nuclear weapons.
I will not go down under the ground "Cause somebody tells me that death's comin' 'round An' I will not carry myself down to die When I go to my grave my head will be high, Let me die in my footsteps Before I go down under the ground. There's been rumors of war and wars that have been The meaning of the life has been lost in the wind And some people thinkin' that the end is close by "Stead of learnin' to live they are learning to die. Let me die in my footsteps Before I go down under the ground. I don't know if I'm smart but I think I can see When someone is pullin' the wool over me And if this war comes and death's all around Let me die on this land 'fore I die underground. Let me die in my footsteps Before I go down under the ground. There's always been people that have to cause fear They've been talking of the war now for many long years I have read all their statements and I've not said a word But now Lawd God, let my poor voice be heard. Let me die in my footsteps Before I go down under the ground. If I had rubies and riches and crowns I'd buy the whole world and change things around I'd throw all the guns and the tanks in the sea For they are mistakes of a past history. Let me die in my footsteps Before I go down under the ground. Let me drink from the waters where the mountain streams flood Let me smell of wildflowers flow free through my blood Let me sleep in your meadows with the green grassy leaves Let me walk down the highway with my brother in peace. Let me die in my footsteps Before I go down under the ground. Go out in your country where the land meets the sun See the craters and the canyons where the waterfalls run Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Idaho Let every state in this union seep in your souls. And you'll die in your footsteps Before you go down under the ground.
There are two messages that I find most important in the song. First, that it is vital that we get out and see our country. It is gigantic, and its size and diversity are a great gift to us as citizens. We have to go out and visit our fellow Americans. To get out and meet people in red, blue and purple states. The second message is that there will always be fear mongers and they will always try to scare us back into our homes. There we are isolated and can be further harangued that the enemy is right outside our door. Circling back to the first message, by getting out and meeting our countrymen we make ourselves immune to the fear mongers. Now I am no peacenick. Our country does have very real enemies that have killed thousands of us and would like to do so again. But it is also true that those enemies are few. Very few when compared to our allies, and those who earnestly desire our help, but have thus far been let down by a scattershot policy. Our challenge as citizens is to recognize the real enemy from the scare campaign. Sadly, our government (and most others of any age) has a rather long history of ginning up foreign controversies that cause the populace to (on cue) rally 'round the flag and forget whatever 'populist boil' may be stirring the old melting pot at the time. It is neither easy nor pleasant to point the finger at elected officials and cry deception but if we allow ourselves to be frightened into submission, we end up with, well, Iraq. Everything is not a conspiracy. And a government official can be earnest is his concern over foreign threats and still be a fear-monger. But it is our own peculiar nationalism that assumes the politician will lie about domestic policies only to be totally virtuous on foreign ones. The current administration embraces the politics of fear and war with truly distressing glee. In many ways I look at next week's election as a referendum on whether we as citizens will be defiant to both the terrorist and the demagogue (yes one can resist both in the cause of defending the nation) and announce, in the face of a relentless fear campaign, that we will not go down under the ground.


Friday, October 22

On exorcising demons  

If the Sox wanted to beat the Yanks, they had to knock out their best hitters in the 8th and 9th to do it. If they want to win the WS they have to beat the Cards. Everyone remembers 1986 and the Mets, but the team that had actually thwarted the Sox in the series two times prior to that was the Cards (in '46 and '67, both in 7 games). Just as the Pats had to beat the Greatest Show on Turf to win their first Superbowl, the Sox have to go through the Cards to get the big monkey off their back. They can win it, but they've got to earn it.


The Levels of Choking and Panicking  

In an attempt to (temporarily) close the book on the ALCS before the start of the WS, there are but two questions to answer. First, did the Yanks choke or panic? Second, where does the 3 game collapse sit on the 13 levels of losing? Hopefully Simmons will address the latter today, and I e-mailed Gladwell to get his thougts on the former. Let's begin with Simmons since there are so many different instances of each (and it's so sweet to relive them).
Level XII: The Achilles' Heel
Definition: This defeat transcends the actual game, because it revealed something larger about your team, a fatal flaw exposed for everyone to see ... flare guns are fired, red flags are raised, doubt seeps into your team ... usually the beginning of the end (you don't fully comprehend this until you're reflecting back on it).
This, to me, is A-Rod slapping the ball out of Arroyo's glove in game 6. The Yanks were down having been dominated by Schilling all night and Arroyo was about to tag A-Rod and all but kill their chances for a come back. A-Rod, like a Litte Leaguer who doesn't want to lose, slaps the ball out of Arroyo's glove:

Without question this play revealed something larger about both A-Rod and the 2004 Yanks. From Simmons
The Buckner-Armbrister flashback play in Game 6 clearly exposed A-Rod as a liar and cheater of the highest order -- the kind who would turn over an "R" in Scrabble and pretend it's a blank letter. Warrants mentioning.
Additionally, the play showed (as is being discussed to my glee ad infinitum in the City yesterday & today (you know I always liked Mike Lupica ... really), this Yankee team had none of the pride and passion that made their predecessors so dominant. What would Paul O'Neill have done if one of his players had pulled the shit that Rodriguez did?
Level X: The Rabbit's Foot
Definition:Now we're starting to get into "Outright Painful" territory ... this applies to those frustrating games and/or series where every single break seemingly goes against your team ... unbelievably frustrating ... you know that sinking, "Oh, God, I've been here before" feeling when something unfortunate happens, when your guard immediately goes shooting up? ... yeah ... I'm wincing just writing about it.
A slight modification on this one is that every Yankee fan out there could look at the Bellhorn homerun and the A-Rod slap as calls that would have stayed the Yanks' way in seasons past but didn't this year. In past years the opponents would have been stewing that the Umps had screwed up two easy calls and it would have distracted the whole team. The Yanks would then smile inwardly, get that warm glow of knowing the gods are looking out for you, and put together a fierce two-out rally to bury the opponent.
Level VIII: Dead Man Walking
Definition:Applies to any playoff series when your team remains "alive," but they just suffered a loss so catastrophic and so harrowing that there's no possible way they can bounce back ... especially disheartening because you wave the white flag mentally, but there's a tiny part of you still holding out hope for a miraculous momentum change ... so you've given up, but you're still getting hurt, if that makes sense.
  • Games 6 and 7 of the [1986] ALCS (Red Sox-Angels), following the dramatic Game 5 when the Angels (three outs from the World Series) blew a 5-2 lead in the ninth inning (capped off by Dave Henderson's go-ahead homer with two strikes and two outs in the ninth, as policeman surrounded the field and the Angels bench was ready to run onto the field). If that wasn't bad enough, the Angels tied the game in the bottom of the ninth, had two chances with the bases loaded to score the winning run, then blew the game in the 11th. Then they flew cross-country to Boston to play Games 6 and 7, which they promptly lost by a combined score of 132-2. Talk about Dead Man Walking.
Could it be that game 4 did this to the Yanks? It's certainly possible. Rivera with a 4-3 lead to start the 9th and complete a 4-0 sweep of the Sox after embarassing them in game 3. Easy money, done it 1000 times before. This is why they play Enter Sandman when he comes out of the dugout. And yet he blows it. The next night, when they really needed him to come through, Torre puts him not so much to save the game (there was a man on 3rd with one out) as to prevent an actual loss. That is, keep the Yanks on life support. But here's the thing, Torre knew he couldn't expect Rivera to actually get out of the situation. They were fighting the tide. Later on, Señor Octobre strikes again. Finally there's a combination of two for Game 7. The sweetest thing about all of this is that the backdrop to the whole week was that everyone knew the Yanks would pull it out. Game 7, I feel, is these two together:
Level VI: The Full-Fledged Butt-Kicking
Definition:Sometimes you can tell right away when it isn't your team's day ... and that's the worst part, not just the epiphany but everything that follows -- every botched play, every turnover, every instance where someone on your team quits, every "deer in the headlights" look, every time an announcer says, "They can't get anything going," every shot of the opponents celebrating, every time you look at the score and think to yourself, "Well, if we score here and force a turnover, maybe we'll get some momentum," but you know it's not going to happen, because you're already 30 points down ... you just want it to end, and it won't end ... but you can't look away ... it's the sports fan's equivalent to a three-hour torture session.

Level V: The "This Can't Be Happening" GameThe sibling of the Full-Fledged Butt-Kicking ... you're supposed to win, you expect to win, the game is a mere formality ... suddenly your team falls behind, your opponents are fired up, the clock is ticking and it dawns on you for the first time, "Oh my God, this can't be happening."
The beauty is that since everyone knew the Yanks would come back, the creeping death of Game 7 is all the sweeter. They didn't come back.

2004 Red Sox. Biggest comeback in sports history. So did the Yanks choke or panic? My reading of Gladwell's article is that they did indeed choke. It's hard to believe that a team could choke four straight games, but I think the important quote that elaborates how this could happen is this:
"When you go and interview them, you have the sense that when they are in the stereotype–threat condition they say to themselves, 'Look, I'm going to be careful here. I'm not going to mess things up.' Then, after having decided to take that strategy, they calm down and go through the test. But that's not the way to succeed on a standardized test. The more you do that, the more you will get away from the intuitions that help you, the quick processing. They think they did well, and they are trying to do well. But they are not." This is choking, not panicking. Garcia's athletes and Steele's students are like Novotna, not Kennedy. They failed because they were good at what they did: only those who care about how well they perform ever feel the pressure of stereotype threat. The usual prescription for failure—to work harder and take the test more seriously—would only make their problems worse. That is a hard lesson to grasp, but harder still is the fact that choking requires us to concern ourselves less with the performer and more with the situation in which the performance occurs. Novotna herself could do nothing to prevent her collapse against Graf. The only thing that could have saved her is if—at that critical moment in the third set—the television cameras had been turned off, the Duke and Duchess had gone home, and the spectators had been told to wait outside. In sports, of course, you can't do that. Choking is a central part of the drama of athletic competition, because the spectators have to be there—and the ability to overcome the pressure of the spectators is part of what it means to be a champion.


Wednesday, October 20

Suprised Eddie?  

If I wake up tomorrow morning with my head sewn to the carpet I wouldn't be more surprised than I am right now. Not really able to put it all into words, but starting in 2001 with the Patriots, being a Boston fan over the past 3 years has been pretty amazing. Being a Boston fan in New York for all that time has been even more amazing. I might be one of the few Sox fans that will not call in sick tomorrow. Lots and lots and LOTS of people I will flash my pearly whites (okay maybe they're a little off-white at this point) at tomorrow. Wow what a series. Four wins to go.


No, no a thousand times no!  

Via Juan Cole I see that Bush is showing that he does not understand even his own freedom is on the march justification for invading Iraq.
If free and open Iraqi elections lead to the seating of a fundamentalist Islamic government, "I will be disappointed. But democracy is democracy," Bush said. "If that’s what the people choose, that’s what the people choose."
Invade a secular dictatorship, kill the dictator and many civilians, allow civil war, jury-rig elections, populace installs sectarian dictatorship. This is the Greater Middle East Initiative? The logic of Bush's statement is akin to Rumsfeld's "free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things," kiss-off of the initial post-war turmoil that began our march toward the chaos that now rules Iraq. The entire purpose of Bush's radical (and to date disastrous) approach to the Middle East was to prevent any further extremist regimes from arising. Indeed, Iraq was to be the beacon of freedom that shook the fundamentalists from their seats of power. $200bn, 1,102 killed, 7,532 wounded, all so SCIRI can replace Saddam. Bang up job George.


The Truth About Muslims  

Prior to 9/11 and due mostly to my interest in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, I had begun to research the history of the Middle East, ancient, medieval and modern. Initial Google searches pulled up Bernard Lewis's "Roots of Muslim Rage" article from the Atlantic. Enjoying the article, I read two of his books, The Middle East and The Multiple Identities of the Middle East. I found both informative and enlightening, especially the latter book as it shed some light on why the borders drawn by the British in 1919 are particularly unsteady. Now given that my interest in this topic was born out of an interest in one of the region's most bitter conflicts, I was initially willing to take some of Lewis's more sweeping statements about rage and humiliation at face value. However, after reading Multiple Identities some things began to unravel. Lewis takes great pains in this small book to point out that any Westerner who attempts to treat the Islamic world as a unit that is homogenous in mind and religion does so at great risk. The peoples of the former Ottoman Empire do not necessarily look at the world in the same manner as the peoples of the NATO alliance. Our nation-states have been at war with one another for centuries and we developed the concept of Nationalism in order to more concretely divide ourselves between "us" and "them." And yet, the premise of "Roots of Muslim Rage" is that all the peoples of the Empire are enraged by their standing viz. the modern West. One might call it a historian/sociologist split. And to me, Lewis the historian makes Lewis the sociologist look very amateurish indeed. Now comes an excellent article from the New York Review of Books by William Dalrymple that looks at Lewis against himself and other contemporary historians of Islam. At issue primarily is the interactions of Islam and the West.
The tortuous and complex relationship of Western Christendom and the world of Islam has provoked a wide variety of responses from historians. Some, such as the great medievalist Sir Steven Runciman, take the view (as he wrote at the end of his magisterial three-volume history of the Crusades) that "our civilization has grown" out of "the long sequence of interaction and fusion between Orient and Occident." Runciman believed that the Crusades should be understood less as an attempt to reconquer the Christian heartlands lost to Islam than as the last of the barbarian invasions. The real heirs of Roman civilization were not the chain-mailed knights of the rural West, but the sophisticated Byzantines of Constantinople and the cultivated Arab caliphate of Damascus, both of whom had preserved the Hellenized urban civilization of the antique Mediterranean long after it was destroyed in Europe. Others have seen relations between Islam and Christianity as being basically adversarial, a long-drawn-out conflict between the two rival civilizations of East and West.
Lewis's most recent writing adhere strongly to the latter position. And yet, as the US becomes more embroiled in Iraq and the region generally, I think it is vital that we ascertain a clear understanding of just how what one could broadly call the Ottoman and Latin worlds have actually interacted throughout history. Perhaps the best initial way to reframe our thinking in this regard is to place the two worlds in their proper context, and that is as two major subsets of the Hellenic world. In this frame far greater attetion would be paid to the Great Schism in 1054 than the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Equally important would be to reframe our understanding of Islam itself. It is on this issue that relying on Lewis too strongly is detrimental. From Dalrymple:
Underlying most of [Lewis's essays], however, is the assumption that there are two fixed and opposed forces at work in the history of the Mediterranean world: on one hand Western civilization, which he envisages as a Judeo-Christian block; and on the other hand, quite distinct, an often hostile Islamic world hellbent on the conquest and conversion of the West. As he writes in one essay, "The Roots of Muslim Rage,"
The struggle between these rival systems has now lasted for some fourteen centuries. It began with the advent of Islam, in the seventh century, and has continued virtually to the present day. It has consisted of a long series of attacks and counterattacks, jihads and crusades, conquests and reconquests.
It was this essay that contained the phrase "the clash of civilizations," later borrowed by Samuel Huntington for his controversial Foreign Affairs article and book.
Contrast this presentation (or any found in the mainstream media) with the following discussion of a book by Richard Fletcher, The Cross and the Crescent:
[Fletcher] emphasizes how the Prophet Muhammad did not think he was "founding a new religion," so much as bringing "the fullness of divine revelation, partially granted to earlier prophets such as Abraham, Moses or Jesus, to the Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula." After all, Islam accepts much of the Old and New Testaments and obeys the Mosaic laws about circumcision and ablutions, while the Koran calls Christians the "nearest in love" to Muslims, whom it instructs in Surah 29 to
dispute not with the People of the Book [that is, Jews and Christians] save in the most courteous manner...and say, "We believe in what has been sent down to us and what has been sent down to you; our God and your God is one, and to him we have surrendered."
Fletcher also stresses the degree to which the Muslim armies were welcomed as liberators by the Syriac and Coptic Christians, who had suffered discrimination under the strictly Orthodox Byzantines:
To the persecuted Monophysite Christians of Syria and Egypt, Muslims could be presented as deliverers. The same could be said of the persecuted Jews.... Released from the bondage of Constantinopolitan persecution they flourished as never before, generating in the process a rich spiritual literature in hymns, prayers, sermons and devotional work.
Recent excavations by the Jerusalem-based archaeologist Michele Piccirillo have dramatically underlined this point.
Life for the minority sects in the Ottoman Empire wasn't wonderful, but it was better than under the boot of either the Eastern or Latin rites.
There was of course no shortage of travelers on both sides who could see no good in the infidels among whom they were obliged to mingle, and deep tensions often existed between Muslim rulers and the diverse religious communities living under their capricious thumb. By modern standards Christians and Jews under Muslim rule—the dhimmi—were treated as second-class citizens. But there was at least a kind of pluralist equilibrium (what Spanish historians have called convivencia, or "living together") which had no parallel in Christendom and which in Spain was lost soon after the completion of the Christian reconquista. On taking Grenada on January 2, 1492, the Catholic kings expelled the Moors and Jews, and let loose the Inquisition on those—the New Christians—who had converted. There was a similar pattern in Sicily. After a fruitful period of tolerant coexistence under the Norman kings, the Muslims were later given a blunt choice of transportation or conversion
What I find strikingly noteworthy and informative in today's climate is the following:
Early Byzantine writers, including the most subtle theologian of the early church, Saint John Damascene, assumed that Islam was merely a heterodox form of Christianity. This perception is particularly fascinating since Saint John had grown up in the Umayyad court of Damascus—the hub of the young Islamic world—where his father was chancellor, and he was an intimate friend of the future Caliph al-Yazid. In his old age, John took the habit at the desert monastery of Mar Saba, where he began work on his great masterpiece, a refutation of heresies entitled The Fount of Knowledge. The book contains a precise critique of Islam, the first written by a Christian, which John regarded as closely related to the heterodox Christian doctrine of Nestorianism. This was a kinship that both the Muslims and the Nestorians were aware of. In 649 a Nestorian bishop wrote: "These Arabs fight not against our Christian religion; nay, rather they defend our faith, they revere our priests and saints, and they make gifts to our churches."
As a beacon of freedom to the world, we in the US do ourselves a disservice if we adopt Lewis's stark view that our interactions with Islamic world are, in fact, confrontations with The Other. It is true that the majority of governments in the region are currently cotrolled by fanatical regimes, and perhaps Lewis is unable to differentiate the people from their government, but the victory of the NATO alliance in the Cold War shows that the best way to oust a fanatical regime is to engage its people on the basis of our similarities above and beyond the necessary confrontations with the regime over our differences. It is not an either/or decision (much to the chagrin of our more hawkish elements). At least, not if we actually want to spread freedom and liberty in the world. Most importantly, we must keep in mind that the current prevalence of fundamentalism in the Middle East is no deeper-rooted than was Communism in Eastern Europe in the last century.
There is a serious point underlying such anecdotes, for they show that throughout history, Muslims and Christians have traded, studied, negotiated, and loved across the porous frontiers of religious differences. Probe relations between the two civilizations at any period of history, and you find that the neat civilizational blocks imagined by writers such as Bernard Lewis or Samuel Huntington soon dissolve. It is true that just as there have been some strands of Christian thinking that have always been deeply hostile to Islam, so within Islam there have been schools of thought that have always harbored a deep hostility toward Christians, Jews, and other non-Islamic religions and civilizations, notably the Wahhabi and Salafi schools dominant in modern Saudi Arabia. Until this century, however, the Wahhabis were a theological movement of only localized significance and were widely regarded by most Muslims as an alien sect bordering on infidelity—kufr. It is the oil wealth of modern Saudi Arabia that has allowed the Wahhabis to spread their narrow-minded and intolerant brand of Islam, notably by the funding of extremist Wahhabi, Salafi, and Deobandi madrasas across the Islamic world since the mid-1970s, with the disastrous results we see today.


Tuesday, October 5

See New York City by subway?!?!?  

This CNN story has got to be one of the most ludicrous missives I've read in a long, long time. See NYC by subway? If you like tunnels. Miles and miles of unadorned tunnels. I love the subways here. They are a truly fantastic way to get around the city. That is, you get in, travel to your destination and then you leave. Staying in them is not a way to 'enjoy' the city.
You can have an extraordinary tour of New York -- complete with panoramic views, music, art and even food -- without ever leaving the subway system.
First, panoramic views. There are elevated parts to the subway system but the views from them are fairly fleeting. Moreover, there are no elevated parts to the system left in Manhattan so the panoramic views are all in the outer boroughs and you need to know exactly when and where to crane your neck in order to see them; oh and you'll need to be sitting by a window and on the right side of the train also; the article does not provide the necessary details on these crucial points. "Music, art and even food." Music? There are the occasional worthwhile musicians from the Music Under New York program, but most of the time it's several people using poorly tuned instruments (or trash cans as drums) performing less than melodic by eardrum jarringly loud cacophonies. My favorite are the steel drum players that just sort of bang away tunelessly. Man can that sound carry in a low ceilinged concrete and steel enclosure. Art. Not graffiti, mind you. Art. The article talks about the mosaics. I too like the mosaics. I especially liked the mosaics that were on the wall of the Delancey St. station on the F line (transfer for the J, M, & Z lines) but those were inexplicably removed over the course of a year, replaced by something resembling a Times New Roman font printed on an Imagewriter II. Food. Um, look, if you're going to eat, eat above ground; this is New York City for Chirst's sake. Whatever you do, do not, DO NOT, partake of the fare proferred by the, "unsanctioned entrepreneur peddling something slightly more exotic," unless you have a hankering for an equally exotic intestinal reaction.
For the best views, however, you'll need to leave Manhattan, where the system is largely underground, to access the elevated lines. Start your trip on an early autumn morning, taking the D train across the Manhattan Bridge, where you'll be greeted by the sight of its better-known cousin, the Brooklyn Bridge. A 7 a.m. sunrise shimmers over the East River, and looking south through the train windows, you'll be saluted by the Statue of Liberty, four miles (six kilometers) away. To the north is the familiar Manhattan skyline, anchored by the distinctive shapes of the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building.
A 7am ride on the D. Where do I sign up? This is not the most absurd suggestion in the article, and that should tell you something. I'm sure all the early morning commuters will love you dashing from one side of the car to the other to take in the North/South views on your 45 second trip across the Manhattan Bridge. When you get off the D at 7:15 in the middle of the massive 4th Avenue, Flatbush Avenue, Atlantic Avenue acre of asphalt have fun finding place that's open where you can get some breakfast. I do not recommend the vacant lot across the street where the new Nets Stadium will allegedly be built.
But a ride over the East River isn't the only spectacular view a subway trip offers.
You mean there's MORE??? The article really goes off the rails here.
Far on the eastern portion of Queens, the A train begins its 31-mile (50-kilometer) run, but not before passing two of the city's most interesting landscapes.
New York is the safest large city in America, but people from Peoria are simply not going to be comfortable on the A. The A is easily the craziest line in the city. Evangelists, panhandlers, musicians (not the sanctioned ones), dancers (professional and otherwise) and the guys with batteries and small electronic toys for $1 all ride the A in alarming numbers. However, after you spend $35 to get out to JFK from your midtown hotel so you can take this little trip, here's what you have to do.
Transferring from the A to the Manhattan-bound L train at the Broadway Junction stop, riders get an aerial view of Brooklyn rooftops as the train winds and twists like a roller coaster on a 50-foot high elevated track ... transfer to the Queens-bound G train at Metropolitan Avenue [this is a local that runs about once every 45 minutes if you're lucky] ... change to the Queens-bound No. 7 ... passing through the ethnically diverse neighborhoods ... you'll find riders speaking everything from Spanish to Pakistani Urdu to Korean ... Glimpses of Manhattan are visible between cars ... emptying out at the last stop. By now, it's afternoon [You've been underground for 95% of this trip and intentionally done this during rush hour. Having fun yet?] ... stay on the No. 7 [this is misleading, you have to get off the one you're on and go up and over to get to a train going back to Manhattan, a 45 minute trip] and double back into Manhattan ... change to the No. 4 train at Grand Central.
Ahh the Lexington line. Dante did not include the Lexington line in one of his deeper circles of hell, but rest assured it is there ferreting the damned about their eternal torture. And they're packed in like sardines at all hours of the day on this, the most overcrowded line in the city. A recent advisory told commuters on the 4 express (i.e. skips a lot of stops on the way downtown) that they would be better off taking the local train to work in the morning because it will get them to Wall St. faster. There are no words to describe the sadistic nature of the bureaucracy that would try to pack yet even more people onto the downtown 6 in the morning.
Farther up, look for mosaic tile works at 96th, 103rd, 110th and 125th streets on the local line.
Construction permitting, the 4 will rip past these stations in about 3 seconds and you'll have no chance to enjoy anything on the station walls. Especially since you'll be standing in the middle of the car with three people between you and a window.
Yankee Stadium at 161st Street and River Avenue. Get off here and wind your way back to Manhattan via a series of transfers that will make you feel like a real New Yorker: Take the D to 145th Street, then head back uptown for just a couple stops, to 168th Street, where you can switch to the downtown Nos. 1 or 9.
This series of transfers will take you until doomsday. By the way, remember when we said it was afternoon back when we were at Shea? It's now about 8:30 at night.
After a dozen hours in the subway, any tourist would be exhausted, even though the day's trip was not even half the system. But some people think riding the train is as much fun as reaching any given destination.
Holy Hosannah. Listen. I use the subway for everything here. I really and truly love it. I take it to work every day, I take it to go out at night and I take it home during "late night" service hours. It is absolutely fantastic. But it is also nothing more than a series of tunnels blasted through the schist on which the city is built. They're not pretty and while they're not filthy, they're not clean either. It's a wonderful utilitarian system but it is also a system on the verge of collapse that needs many billions of taxpayer dollars to get it performing well enough to survive the next 50 years. If you're in town on vacation, splurge and take a cab where you're going. Odds are you want to stay in Manhattan anyway. I live in Brooklyn in a quiet little neighborhood off the F line; I love it, but there isn't too much for a tourist to do there. And that elevated section that goes over the Gowanus Canal, not that pretty.


Monday, October 4

Dick Cheney. Trial Lawyer.  

It's probably too late for Edwards to be able to work this information into his debate prep for tomorrow night, but one question sure to be raised is about tort reform and trial lawyers.  Apropos Max links to this pdf report by Public Citizen. The report opens:
Business lobbyists and their political allies have created a perception that America's legal system has run amok. They point the finger at consumer and patient lawsuits, which they imply are concocted by "greedy trial lawyers." They argue that lawsuits have detrimental effects on society and the economy, and effectively suggest that people should turn the other cheek when their rights are violated. President Bush and Vice President Cheney mimic these erroneous claims and make attacks on the legal system a central part of their campaign stump speeches. "See, everybody is getting sued," says the President, and the lawsuits are "junk and frivolous."
Then in paragraph three of the introduction, the report drops the key nugget viz. tomorrow night:
Oddly enough, Vice President Cheney, who frequently attacks lawyers in his speeches, typifies the hardball litigation stance of corporate America. During Cheney's five-year tenure as its CEO, the Halliburton corporation filed over 150 lawsuits, seeking money from other corporations, individuals, and insurance companies.
So Cheney filed 30 lawsuits a year as CEO of Halliburton.  I don't know how many Edwards himself or the average trial lawyer files annually, but I would love to see Cheney confronted with this.  The text of the report is about 20 pages with another 20 pages of tables and end notes.  Worth a skim. Here's the summary table from the report of lawsuits filed in four counties in 2001:
JurisdictionPhiladelphia, PAArkansasCook County, ILMississippi
Number of Business Lawsuits64,69820,868137,89045,891
Number of Individual/Trial Attoney Lawsuits19,7514,78626,9387,959
Ratio of Business to Individual Lawsuits3.3 to 14.4 to 15.3 to 15.8 to 1


Bush Wins Second Debate  

I've been ruminating on it this morning and can't think of any circumstances under which Bush will not be declared the winner of Friday's debate. The media will require of itself that the outcome of the debates also be balanced, and since Kerry won the first exchange, Bush must win the second debate. In all likelihood the debate will be a draw since there's no way Bush's team will let him look like such a fool twice in a row. Additionally, we know the press will never deign to actually examine the domestic proposals of each candidate, so Bush will be allowed to stand up straight, throw out "ownership society," "tax cuts," and some new take on "fuzzy math" as a joke, while Kerry will perform in much the same manner as the first exchange. The result is two men who seem reasonably intelligent disagreeing on the best way to balance the budget over the next decade. Since the bar has now been set impossibly low for Bush ("will he actually start to drool this time?"), his performance on Friday will be spun as having been "solid," and as such he will have "bounced back/rebounded" from the initial disaster. I have an image in my head of a Cokie Roberts-style media analyst delivering an assessment. "President Bush needed to rebound from his lackluster perfomance in the first debate and he seems to have done just that. He challenged Kerry early on over the issue of [probably tax cuts] and laid out his message that [again probably tax cuts] were working and Americans were going back to work. He was positive and upbeat and reminded Americans that he had bold new proposals for his second term." I am actually making myself sick as I type this. Anyway, Bush will "rebound" Friday and the final debate will be a draw. Kerry may wind up being the loser overall since he was never able to deliver the "knockout blow" that is suddenly required of him. Needless to say, nothing will prevent the media from reestablishing the "strong leader" meme after Friday night.


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