Friday, December 23, 2005
This guy or gal blogger is one of my favorites, and here is a very acute analysis of the way we saw the Hurricane.
Beautiful, right? Right?
Here's the way I chose to feel about things this morning, hoofing past Grand Central Station, after I saw the pedestrian mess that NYC had actually become (before this morning, I had taken cabs (for $25) or been picked up by cars right off the 59th St. Bridge; and when I went home, at 10 pm, the roads were relatively clear. Today, however, I walked the full four miles, all the way down the East Side, which was like Macy's on the Friday after Thanksgiving. And furthermore, when I came to this conclusion, oxygenated, happy, it was not known whether this thing would end this afternon or sometime in January. It was a metaphysical war zone.): The inconvenience I personally endured is worth it for thirty-thousand-plus people to have a slightly better life, with a more reasonable retirement age and decent medical care and a better future (sigh, but true) for their children. I cannot say the same for the other 6, 999,999 people and the 800 Billion dollars lost in no way whatsoever. I'm only talking about my experience, and that's what this is really about, it seems to me.
After much more than this, however -- say, no transit till Monday -- I'm afraid my liberal supermind would have checked out and the more practical pig-roasting baby-slayer would have emerged. And I think the rest of the city -- that hadn't already come to this reality -- would have felt the same way. And the riots would have filled the history books. And it all would have happened much too fast. But this is what it is. And, if nothing else, we have seen and felt in our knees just how important the transit workers are to the everyday functioning of the world's capital.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
One of the nice things to observe lately is how the media is beginning to emerge from its cocoon and, with the tentative first steps of a newborn foal, explore the unfamiliar landscape of a now -pervious President. Given this and assuming (read: pointlessly hoping) that Democrats can craft a loud and clear message, we may see some preemptive work by the good guys so the RW talking points aren't so predominant.
For example, they'll try to exploit the fact that Rockefeller and Pelosi were notified and paint them as hypocrites and cowards for not doing anything way back when. Even though they are hypocrites and cowards, in this case, there's nothing they could have done.
Rockefeller could have publicized the existence and actions of the program, but if he or any of the other members of Congress briefed on the program went public with their opposition, they would have been breaking the law. To fail to acknowledge that anyone briefed on this program essentially had no way to oppose or publicize the existence of the program without breaking the law is bullshit.
It seems like it's almost scandalous not to have a scandal these days. Tee hee!
We have a President here who is making a claim of unlimited power, for the duration of a war that may never end. Oh, he says it’s limited by the country’s laws, but they’ve got a crack legal team that reliably interprets the laws to say that the President gets to do whatever he wants. It amounts to the same thing.
I am not exaggerating. I am really and truly not.
September 11 started the war. When will it end? Maybe never. Where is the battlefield? The entire world, including the United States. Who is an enemy combatant? Anyone the President says is an enemy combatant, including a U.S. citizen–no need for a charge, no need for a trial, no need for access to a lawyer. What if they’re found not to be an enemy combatant? We can keep them in prison anyway, and we don’t have to tell their families they’re alive or their lawyers that they were cleared. What can you do to an enemy combatant? Anything you want. Detain him forever, for the rest of his life, because this is a war like any other and we have always been able to detain POWs for the duration of the war. But you don’t need to follow the Geneva Conventions, because this is a war like no other in our history. And oh yes–if the President decides that we need to torture a prisoner for the war effort, it’s unconstitutional for Congress to stop him. They took that position in an official memo, and they have not backed down from it. They have said it was “unnecessary” but they have never backed down from it.
They are not only entitled to do these things to people; they are entitled to do them in secret. When Congress asks for information about them, they can just ignore it. And they are entitled to actively deceive the public about all this.
They've been hit with three major scandals in four months: Katrina, Plamegate and now this. For how much longer will the public stand by him (if they ever are now)? The only thing Bush has been able to say is that it's neecessary for national security and that it's wartime. The only thing is, he's got failing marks on the first and the tide has turned on the latter. It's wartime, yes, but he got us into the war by lying and now a majority of Americans want us out and disagree with it. Yes, by fuck, I wish they were thiking about this three years ago, but, hey, you take what you can get.
I was too tired and too busy at work yesterday to get on here and talk about the strike. But, you all know about it. Most of you are in the middle of it. I think, too, that I was drained and stressed and fatigued and so it seemed frightening out of all proportion. Sitting around late last night, after taking a $16 cab home, my liberal mettle was certainly being tested. The people interviewed on the news -- ethnic people with accents -- were upset, incredulous, enraged that they were being forced to pick up the transpo tab out of their own pocket. They said the Union was selfish. They were righteous and they were cold.
And it's a tough question: on the one hand, you want to stand by unionized workers in most cases, and especially when they work for an agency like the MTA which, despite it efficiency, manages to screw a lot of stuff up; but you also want to support and empathize with people like me and people in worse situations and more children than me, who have to walk from the Bronx or pay $45 for a car service, whose employers aren't as understanding and generous as mine. (My boss was handing out $20s to anyone who needed a ride hom last night. I wound up cabbing it home and my guy, Leroy, was driving during the 1980 strike. That one lasted eleven days, something that will be met with riots in the street if it happens today.)
After a good night's sleep, I'm a little more firmly on the side of the union. This cannot go on much longer or it will be completely selfish, but, after reading this, I can see a bit more clearly where they're coming from.
The authority improved its earlier wage proposals, dropped its demand for concessions on health benefits and stopped calling for an increase in the retirement age, to 62 from 55.
But then, just hours before the strike deadline, the authority's chairman, Peter S. Kalikow, put forward a surprise demand that stunned the union. Seeking to rein in the authority's soaring pension costs, he asked that all new transit workers contribute 6 percent of their wages toward their pensions, up from the 2 percent that current workers pay
Yet for all the rage and bluster that followed, this war was declared over a pension proposal that would have saved the transit authority less than $20 million over the next three years.
It seemed a small figure, considering that the city says that every day of the strike will cost its businesses hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenues. But the authority contends that it must act now to prevent a "tidal wave" of pension outlays if costs are not brought under control.
The union kinda got shanghaied and on what seems to be an out of whack principle in the first place. To save $20 M they cost the city, what, $500 M? It's tough to feel sorry for the transit workers since the demands of 15,000 people is really screwing over four million people. But this is what unions are here to do and it's kind of nice to see people on bicycles and roller blades. New York loves being put out because it gets to maintain its image as resilient. Etcetera.
This morning I walked with Nick all the way to the QB Bridge, but some yuppies picked us up to get in the HOV Lanes. It was interesting and I'd like to do more of that if this goes on.
Any good stories?
*On edit* the rest of the story gives the MTA credit for foreward thinking in terms of revenue and cost of pensions. And Anthony highlights some fine points in the Comments Section. I'm just not smart enough to know what to do here, so maybe I'll be on the union's side today and then back against them tomorrow.
Monday, December 19, 2005
Today is total and utter bullshit. Up way too late, with too much borrowed Pernod, talking about too much King Kong. One of those mornings when you wake up almost completely by accident and realize you would have slept another three or four hours, well beyond your wake-up time, were it not for fate. One of those mornings when the first thing you think about is going back to bed as soon as you can.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Hic Kongus. That's stupid.
I just got back from King Kong. And I'll be back out for Asssscat in a moment (I tried to link to the appropriate web site mentioned above, but, through the url guess game, came first to this, which I didn't have the patience to browse but which is probably worth it for those of you with a steel-willed sense of humor), but a pop back home for a slice and a smoke is just the thing on a cool Sunday night. 'Tis the kind of night that makes you want to run. To sprint past cars and streetlights till the breath flees ye. I didn't, but, still, I felt the urge. The urge to run.
May have had something to do with King Kong. It was assuredly an event. I find that I actually only pay money to go see the kinds of movies my righteous voice would rail against. (In print, railing comes more naturally than in mind, I think.) But this was nice. It's so interesting that the state of CGI is not yet seamless but near to it, so that half your consciousness is dedicated to analyzing the artificial attempting to look real and the other half is panting about the action, and some strange, spiritual third half is integrating the two. Movies themselves are artificial trying to create real, whether in the "Remains of the Day" fashion or in the Fellini way or in something else in the middle. King Kong is a fantastical story made realistic and, further, made to look like a realistic modern version of something created first in another time. It was almost as much a spectacle to see the recreation of 1930s New York -- something we're supposed to know through news reels and films of the time, but really don't know any more than anything else we've never lived through -- as it was to see the invention of Skull Island and all the oversized creatures that prowl there. Dinosaurs, spiders, you know. Overall, these were great and some of the most disturbing monsters were the "uncircumcised worms" that leapt from the river to suck up men by their heads. And the creepy crawlies that moved so disgustingly across the surface of things.
The movie itself is a world unto itself, and, though there was sap aplenty, I'm generally forgiving of a film that lives within itself. I think this did that. It was corny and sometimes overwrought (Hayes and Jimmy have an almost uncomfortable mentor-student relationship that is, generally, laughable) but it had enough steam behind it to kind of propel one's suspension of disbelief even beyond the melodramatic. You have to take it for what it is. And the action sequences were some of the most frenetic and inventive I can remember seeing. Though our sophisticated movie sense -- which was birthed with Star Wars but yet remembers stop-motion animation as the most advanced effect of its time -- is constantly on the lookout for chinks in the computer generated world, there were occasions when all that is swept away. (I think this may be why cartoons and total computer animations like "Toy Story" still complete themselves and their world better than the Titanics and Pearl Harbors of today, and will probably live on as more timeless than these show-offy affairs locked into the peak of their time's technology.) In another time not far from now, say with the kids born today, they'll know almost nothing else, and special effects won't be so special as they are, well, the way things are. Specifically, King Kong's face and expression and simplicity of movement is impressive. The kind of impressive you realize after your heart sinks with his anguished grimmace. That's good. That's movies. And to come back around, these are the most moving and alarming moments because they are the most human. And they are the most human because they used advanced technology to exactly replicate the expressions and simple movements of a real human. So there's a dog chasing its tail thing here that is worth exploring more than I have the time or brain power for.
At a certain point and for a certain amount of time, it will become all the rage to make movies done completely with motion capture, with real people playing fake people that are made to look again like the real people, slightly enhanced or altered, that played the part in the first place. Integration and smooth surfaces in an age struggling to get ahead of itself in order to look back on what it is constantly trying to get away from. Plus the T-Rex is friggin' cool.