New York City Term Limits

October 9th, 2008

New York’s Working Families’ Party has put up an excellent website, ItsOurDecision.org, opposing Mayor Bloomberg’s odious plan to overturn term limits.  Their site includes a list on where each Councilmember stands on the issue, and an online petition on the homepage.

Subprime Judgement: The Financial Crisis and Bailout Plan

September 21st, 2008

My paranoid thought for the day concerns the timing of this crisis, and the motives of the various players. We assume altruistic, if unwise, motives for the political agents, but before Paulson was an altruist, he was (and still is, financially?) a self-interested investment banker. One wonders if the human heart (and pocketbook) can change its allegiances so easily.

Regarding the timing of this crisis, perhaps we can consider this the ultimate political hedge. Banks must know they are better off with a pro-business (”pro-free-market” is a false sobriquet with which we can finally dispense) Republican making the bailout than a pro-consumer Democrat.

Is this conspiracy theory a paranoid fantasy?  It’s not like all the major financial players are holding private meetings, hidden away from the public, over the weekend…

Oh wait, yes they are…

Congressmembers should not be meeting with Paulson and Bernanke. The GAO should be getting unfettered access to the books of any bank that is looking for a handout. This is a strict question of numbers.

Let’s just hope Obama has the guts to stand up to this nonsense.

There are plenty more notions in this line of thought, but one is hesitant to cry ill motives alone, without further proof. Then again, given the banks’ history of hypocritical, deceptive and self-serving incompetence, perhaps the proof is plain to see. If McCain thinks that Cox should be fired, shouldn’t also every other management team on Wall Street be fired as well, before another penny of taxpayer money is given to them?

7 Girls 7 Cups

August 30th, 2008

update the table

Getting Around New York City from the Last Hope

July 17th, 2008

I’ll be attending the Last Hope conference this weekend at the Hotel Pennsylvania in Manhattan this weekend. Here are my tips for out-of-towners trying to get around. The conference web site has ample instructions on getting to the conference, so this is an attempt to give fellow attendees some tips on getting around once they get to the convention.

Prepare to walk. New York City is a city of walkers and meant for walking. As walking is a primary mode of transportation, people get as fed up with inconsiderate walkers as drivers do with lousy drivers. Try not to get in people’s way or block up pedestrian traffic. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for directions, just don’t assume everyone is giving the right answer.

To get an idea of how far you need to walk, keep these rules of thumb in mind — each city block is about 1/20th of a mile North-to-South and 1/7th mile East-to-West. The “Streets” (e.g. 42 St.) go North to South and increase in number as you go North. The “Avenues” (e.g. 7 Ave.) go East to West and increase as you head West.

An important note on address numbers. Most address numbers on east-west are followed by an E (meaning East) or W (meaning West) as in 389 E 42 St. . All these address numbers start at the center of the island and increase as you go outwards, so if you are looking for 596 W 36 St., and you are heading East and you see the numbers going up, and the street signs say “E 36 St.”, you’re headed in the wrong direction. Avenue address numbers behave normally.

Like any good cartesian system, navigating Manhattan is best with two coordinates, so if you know the street something is on, ask for the nearest “cross street”. This should get you to the closest street corner to your destination. If your address is on a “street”, you want the nearest “avenue”, and vice versa.

New York is a terrible city to drive for yourself in, but a great city for getting driven around. Taxi cabs are plentiful and fairly inexpensive. If you share a cab with friends, then the divided fare is often less than the collective cost of the subway. I have found New York cab drivers to be honest and reliable. Sometimes they drive fast, so if it bothers you, tell ‘em to slow down. One of the most annoying behaviours I witness are people trying to befriend their cab driver. Keep the relationship professional and polite. They’re trying to make a buck, but they will be helpful if asked and they are able to help. Don’t forget to tip. Taxi cabs and their fares are strictly regulated. You should never be intimidated into paying more than the price showing on the automatic fare box. I’ll remind a driver to turn on the counter if he doesn’t do so at the start of a trip.

Keep in mind that it may be very hard to find a cab right at the Hotel Pennsylvania, as you are right across from Penn Station. Taxi cab stations are usually crowded and present a long wait. Your best bet is to walk a few blocks away from the busiest intersection and then to hail a cab. Just stick out your arm and wave to cabs that your see. All yellow cabs have dome lights on their roof to signal their availability. If the light is on, and it doesn’t say “off-duty”, then it’s available for a ride. When a cab stops, get in and then tell them where you’re going. They’re required to take you anywhere within city limits and can’t ask for the money up front.

I would advise most newcomers to avoid the subway system, especially during the late nights and weekends. Track maintenance and irregular schedules make the subways unreliable after midnight and during the weekends. North-South trips may be worthwhile if you’re not transferring, but as subway personnel are about as helpful as guards at Guantanamo Bay, you’re best going only if you’re with a native New Yorker. Anyway, if you take a cab, you’ll actually see the city.

As to city buses, I don’t use ‘em and they have a schedule and route system all their own, so ask someone to explain it to you if you get the inkling, but they’re mostly a slow waste of time except for some trips.

You’ll probably be sticking close to the Hotel Pennsylvania for the weekend, but if you get the urge to locomote, hopefully these tips will come in handy. New York City is a great city to explore, and some fresh air and a change of scenery will help clear the head.

The Case of the Missing Violet Blue

July 7th, 2008

This post was originally posted as a comment on BoingBoing, in relation to that site’s deleting of stories related to the sex columnist Violet Blue. I am posting them here, because, as the Violet Blue episode illustrates, BoingBoing can’t be trusted to maintain an impartial record.

Background on this, mostly via Google, can be found here, here, here, and here, among other places.

I really do hope this issue is addressed because, as the situation now appears to this outsider observer, it reflects horribly on Miss Jardin, and by extension to the other BoingBoingers. It would be a shame if BoingBoing’s integrity were to be seriously damaged by this scandal. BoingBoing is a strong voice for openness and transparency in our electronic society. It would be a shame if the greater cause of freedom in our modern world were damaged by these disreputable actions.

Let us consider the facts -

BoingBoing has been disingenuous in it’s own official pronouncements. When the official Boing Boing moderator, Miss Hayden, posted the official BoingBoing post on the matter, she dismissed the severity of the deletions by claiming media reports of over a hundred posting deleted were too high. It has been documented that at least seventy postings related to Violet Blue were deleted. Not quite a hundred, but a massive enough purging of the public record.

Insinuations by Miss Hayden and Miss Jardin that Miss Blue is somehow responsible for the deletions through bad behaviour are vile, especially as they fail to disclose or deny Miss Blue’s assertion that Miss Jardin and her were “casual” lovers for a brief time. Miss Blue claims ignorance of any misbehaiour, and Jardin and Hayden have darkly hinted that a failure to disclose is to protect the parties from embarassment.

What is most likely is that Miss Jardin deleted the posts in the aftermath of her intimate relationship with Miss Blue. One can well imagine that the break of intimacy might have been more jarring to Miss Jardin than to the libertine Miss Blue. Perhaps some embarrassment over the nature of their relationship troubled Miss Jardin. She suggests as much to the LA Times in comparing her own actions to those of her own father in destroying some of his own erotically-themed work.

It is hard to believe that some public action of Miss Blue prompted the deletions, since then Jardin would need no coyness in explaining herself. It is also unlikely that Miss Blue was banished for acting as a groupie, as has been suggested by many partisans of Miss Jardin - Miss Blue is a successful blogger and columnist in her own right, and not dependent on BoingBoing for attention, nor are there any other reports of Miss Blue behaving badly to get publicity. She writes for Forbes magazine, for goodness’ sake!

So the likelihood is that Miss Jardin’s actions are from personal animus towards Miss Blue, probably prompted by the breakup of their love affair. There is no evidence of any other behaviour by Miss Blue that would have bothered Miss Jardin enough to withdraw her own work from the public sphere.

Other reasons given by BoingBoing, such as the “expense” of keeping these posts public are also fatuous. That this reason is officially cited by BoingBoing brings into question, again, their own truthfulness about this episode.

There is also considerable contradiction in the account of how the deletions were decided upon. At first, the action is depicted as one decided upon by mutual consensus, while later it has been asserted that the BoingBoing bloggers work independently and usually without consultation, and that the deletions were unilaterally done by Miss Jardin.

So the appearance is of Miss Jardin destroying her own work in petulant repudiation of a spurning lover, a depiction even more pathetic in that the spurning lover is oblivious to the original offense. One can well see why Miss Jardin has not been more forthcoming. Her actions were reckless and immature, and perhaps priggish. In the absence of any credible evidence otherwise, one must come to the sad conclusion that the evasiveness of Miss Jardin and BoingBoing is not in deference to Miss Blue’s easily embarrassed sensibilities, but rather out of embarrassment for their own bad behaviour.

We hope that Miss Jardin will put this matter to rest by a full and honest accounting. The openness of the discussion that this comment is a part of gives one hope, but just in case, I’m posting them on my own blog. As this recent episode makes clear, BoingBoing doesn’t have the best track record recently as an open and transparent public forum.

I am even sympathetic to Miss Jardin in her dilemma. No-one likes their intimately private life made public, particularly in such a unflattering way. I hope that she will consider the example of Lady Godiva. Sometimes riding naked through the town’s square can be the best thing for one’s reputation, if the cause is noble.

-Addenda in response to BoingBoinger’s comments, the numbers and names refer to the post numbers and the monikers of the posters.

@mdhatter,1546 - I made factually-based speculations, not insinuations.

What happens with BoingBoing is my business. It is a publication of far reach and its integrity is a matter of public interest. When its integrity is brought into question, the actions that bring that integrity into question is everyone’s business, no matter how personally embarrassing the underlying reasons for those actions may be.

@1545 Archeaopteryx

A putative private lover’s quarrel is not my business, but as I explained to mdhatter, an important public forum’s integrity is my business. I merely cited facts to speculate on the likely cause of the resulting scandal. If BoingBoing is going to delete its archives on the basis of personal romantic involvement, that is a matter of public interest.

Miss Blue has claimed there was a sexual liaison and Miss Jardin has not denied it. If it were untrue there would be no reason for her not to deny it.

And to use some other slang, mdhatter, I just find it skeevy that Miss Jardin might be using a subject’s sexual acquiescence and acquaintance as a criteria for their inclusion in BoingBoing.

Finally, Arch, if you are going to try to use my own words against me, use them properly  My language is neither rude nor the motive capricious, as suggested by the word petulant.  My speculations are rather unpleasant, but I have tried to express myself without vulgarity or personal rancor.

Buggle

January 18th, 2008

I’ve been spending way too much time lately playing Buggle at the Casual Collective website.  It’s essentially a competitive chain-reaction game.

It takes a couple of tries to get the hang of it, but once you do, you’ll find it an entertaining diversion.  It’s sort of like combative Tetris,  jujitsu Tic-Tac-Toe, or Connect Four mixed with Laser Tag.

Just get a free account and try it.

Pass the Ammunition, and the lip gloss

January 17th, 2008

I went out drinking with some Conservatives the other night. All the men were circumspect in their support for the War in Iraq. The women were more gung-ho in their desire to see American troops visit exotic locales and shoot stuff.

It’s easier to advocate shooting when it’s not your ass being shot at.

Happiness is…

January 15th, 2008

Happiness is having your wife sew on a new button to an old pair of trousers.

Gone With the War

January 15th, 2008

Who would have thought that Gone With the Wind was an anti-war novel?

“All wars are sacred,” he [Rhett Butler] said. “To those who have to fight them. If the people who started wars didn’t make them sacred, who would be foolish enough to,fight? But, no matter what rallying cries the orators give to the idiots who fight, no matter what noble purposes they assign to wars, there is never but one reason for a war. And that is money. All wars are in reality money squabbles, But so few people ever realize it. Their ears are too full of bugles and drums and fine words from stay-at-home orators. Sometimes the rallying cry is ‘Save the Tomb of Christ from the Heathen!’ Sometimes it’s ‘Down with Popery!’and sometimes ‘Liberty!’ and sometimes ‘Cotto, Slavery and States’ Right!’ ”

-Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind, ChapterXII

But it is Scarlett O’Hara who hits the nail on the head with her naive reaction against jingoism:

When first she looked at the crowd, Scarlett’s heart had thump- thumped with the unaccustomed excitement of being at a party, but as she half-comprehendingly saw the high-hearted look on the faces about her, her joy began to evaporate. Every woman present was blazing with an emotion she did not feel. It bewildered and depressed her. Somehow, the ball did not seem so pretty nor the girls so dashing, and the white heat of devotion to the Cause that was still shining on every face seemed–why, it just seemed silly!

In a sudden flash of self-knowledge that made her mouth pop open with astonishment, she realized that she did not share with these women their fierce pride, their desire to sacrifice themselves and everything they had for the Cause. Before horror made her think: “No–no! I mustn’t think such things! They’re wrong–sinful,” she knew the Cause meant nothing at all to her and that she was bored with hearing other people talk about it with that fanatic look in their eyes. The Cause didn’t seem sacred to her. The war didn’t seem to be a holy affair, but a nuisance that killed men senselessly and cost money and made luxuries hard to get. She saw that she was tired of the endless knitting and the endless bandage rolling and lint picking that roughened the cuticle of her nails. And oh, she was so tired of the hospital! Tired and bored and nauseated with the sickening gangrene smells and the endless moaning, frightened by the look that coming death gave to sunken faces.

She looked furtively around her, as the treacherous, blasphemous thoughts rushed through her mind, fearful that someone might find them written clearly upon her face. Oh, why couldn’t she feel like those other women! They were whole hearted and sincere in their devotion to the Cause. They really meant everything they said and did. And if anyone should ever suspect that she– No, no one must ever know! She must go on making a pretense of enthusiasm and pride in the Cause which she could not feel, acting out her part of the widow of a Confederate officer who bears her grief bravely, whose heart is in the grave, who feels that her husband’s death meant nothing if it aided the Cause to triumph.

Oh, why was she different, apart from these loving women? She could never love anything or anyone so selflessly as they did. What a lonely feeling it was–and she had never been lonely either in body or spirit before. At first she tried to stifle the thoughts, but the hard self-honesty that lay at the base of her nature would not permit it. And so, while the bazaar went on, while she and Melanie waited on the customers who came to their booth, her mind was busily working, trying to justify herself to herself–a task which she seldom found difficult.

The other women were simply silly and hysterical with their talk of patriotism and the Cause, and the men were almost as bad with their talk of vital issues and States’ Rights. She, Scarlett O’Hara Hamilton, alone had good hard-headed Irish sense. She wasn’t going to make a fool out of herself about the Cause, but neither was she going to make a fool out of herself by admitting her true feelings. She was hard-headed enough to be practical about the situation, and no one would ever know how she felt. How surprised the bazaar would be if they knew what she really was thinking! How shocked if she suddenly climbed on the bandstand and declared that she thought the war ought to stop, so everybody could go home and tend to their cotton and there could be parties and beaux again and plenty of pale green dresses.

op. cit., Chapter IX

Shut Up, Spend, Oil

January 15th, 2008

Here’s a couple of items from the Internet that deserve mention:

  1. One fellow succinctly explains why a website should never play music for visitors unbidden
  2. Further proof that lotteries are state-sponsored huckstering and defrauding of the poor.
  3. Oh heck, the picture below just gives me chills in so many ways. The caption from Yahoo reads, “President Bush, left, holds the King Abdul Aziz Order of Merit that was presented to him by Saudi King Abdullah, right, at Riyadh Palace, Monday, Jan. 14, 2008 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)” capt9a5bcbd2f9c442d3ac7ba5d556a80998us_bush_mideast_saum124.jpg

Sleep well, kiddies.