Angry New Yorker

Wednesday, April 30, 2003
Here we go again. More New York budget debacles. Same old tune, different tax rate.
State Budget Battle Gotham Gazette reports:
"In defiance of Governor George Pataki, the New York State legislature last night began passing a budget that would raise taxes to avoid deep cuts in education and health-care programs. The plan, backed by Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, restores about $1.9 billion in spending cuts called for in Pataki's budget, and legislative leaders say it will provide Mayor Michael Bloomberg with the help he needs to close the city's budget gap. To do this, the budget calls for a temporary surcharge that would increase the personal income tax rate on households earning above $150,000 a year from 6.85 percent to 7.5 percent. It would also increase the sales tax by a quarter-cent statewide. New York City could hike the sales tax an additional 0.25 percent, bringing the total sales tax in the city to 8.75 percent. [ed. note - a boon to Internet shopping where many NYkers now go to side-step NYS taxes.]
Pataki immediately assailed the legislative budget as "fiscally irresponsible." Pledging to veto it, the governor also vowed to politically punish Democratic and Republican legislators who support it, setting the stage for what many predict will be a tough battle in Albany this spring. " [more]

Is there any wonder that New York is a mess when the thinking in Albany is not, "how can we cut spending" but "how can we avoid not spending?" With this sort of logic, entrenched lobbying groups and a broken legislature, the current fiscal follies are inevitable.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003
The Rise of Ethics, Leslie H. Gelb
"Once marginal, morality has now become a major force in foreign policy. For all the problems this development raises, the United States and its allies are better off." [more]

The UN vs. U.S. Power
The UN's setup reflected the hopes of its founders, not the realities of world politics. And these hopes were no match for American hyperpower.

Why the Security Council Failed, Michael J. Glennon
From Foreign Affairs, May/June 2003

"One thing the current Iraq crisis has made clear is that a grand experiment of the twentieth century--the attempt to impose binding international law on the use of force--has failed. As Washington showed, nations need consider not whether armed intervention abroad is legal, merely whether it is preferable to the alternatives. The structure and rules of the UN Security Council really reflected the hopes of its founders rather than the realities of the way states work. And these hopes were no match for American hyperpower." [entire article]

MORE ON REPORTERS' BLOGS: Linda Seebach of the Rocky Mountain News writes:
"Speaking from inside what Glenn calls "Big Journalism" I'd like to come to the defense of the Hartford Courant and its decision not to let reporters have blogs. What are they vulnerable to? Loss of credibility."

Amazing gov't discovery: Junk e-mail is usually junk
Two-thirds of spam messages contain claims that are probably false, FTC warns Net users

WASHINGTON — Internet users skeptical of junk e-mails promising easy money, miracle cures and dream dates are right to be wary: The government says two-thirds of the “spam” messages clogging online mailboxes probably are false in some way.
The Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday that spam e-mails involving investment and business opportunities are especially dubious, with an estimated 96 percent containing information that probably is false or misleading."

FTC Measures False Claims Inherent in Random Spam
At Least One Form of Deception Found in Sixty-Six Percent of Random Sample

In a random sample of 1,000 pieces of unsolicited commercial e-mail (UCE) from three Federal Trade Commission (FTC) data sets, 66 percent contained false "From" lines, "Subject" lines, or message text. The study, which was conducted by the Division of Marketing Practices, is the first extensive review of the likely truth or falsity of claims appearing in UCE."
The entire report is available here: [False Claims in Spam Report [PDF 328k]]

Cabbie, my Cabbie!
Ok, what's the tipping point for you? When does the final straw get piled on that presses you to conclude, "That's it, I can't stands no more." I don't know, yet. But granting cabdrivers a 44% fair increase is right in the ballpark.

From The Daily News:
"Time to drive up the fare, cabbies say
by Pete Donohue, Daily News Staff Writer
A taxi drivers' group wants a huge 44% fare increase, saying hacks can't hack it on the money they make.
The New York Taxi Workers Alliance called for the hike yesterday, less than a week before subway and bus fares are to rise. The last taxi fare increase came in 1996 - just months after the last bus and subway fare boost.
" [more]

44%!! I wish I could "petition" someone for a 44% raise.

Bank ATMs. ATM stands for "Always Taking Money".
According to NYPIRG, "Despite a troubled economy and international unrest, bank profits soared past all previous records in 2002. Banks nationwide doubled their previous year's huge increase in profits in 2002, netting more than 90 billion dollars. Net income for banks supervised by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency rose 28 percent in 2002, up from a 14 percent increase in 2001. (1)"
A highlight from the report:

Almost all (99%) of the bank-owned atms surveyed surcharge and the average fee assessed by the bank-owned atms surveyed that surcharge is $1.58 (up from $1.49 in 2002). Banks that assess a surcharge fee of $1.75 or more include charter one, hsbc, key bank and m&t bank. The highest surcharge assessed by a bank-owned atm was $2.50.

100% (up from 88% in 2002) of the banks surveyed assess a foreign atm withdrawal fee and the average fee assessed by the banks surveyed that charge a foreign atm withdrawal fee is $1.21. The highest foreign atm withdrawal fees were assessed by bsb bank & trust ($1.75), charter one ($2.25) and key bank ($2.00).

Read the entire report, [more]

Monday, April 28, 2003
Spam, spam, spam, spam
Real Estate Secrets Revealed!!! Is your member memorable enough? Hot Teens! Ink cartridges! Zero interest mortgages! World's smallest digital camera! VlAGRA, Soma, Fioricet, Prescribed Online for Free! Quality Dental Coverage with Bonus Benefits Included! Look and feel 10-Years-Younger! For MARRIED eyes ONLY!! Need Cash for Your Home!! Health Care Protection for Everyone! Historic "LOW" Interest Rates Available...

Yep. Spam is out of control. The FTC is holding a public Spam Forum this week, Tues. April 29th, through May 2 to "explore the issues regarding the proliferation of and potential solutions to unsolicited commercial email (UCE' or 'spam')." The forum will also look at how the unique qualities of spam contribute to and hinder both fraud and its prosecution." One interesting report the FTC will present is entitled "False Claims in Spam." According to the FTC, "the report describes a staff review of a random sample drawn from more than 11 million pieces of unsolicited commercial e-mail, commonly known as spam." Now that's a lot of spam! (See also; AOL Legal Department; Junk E-Mail Legislation; Charles E. Schumer, The Dark Side of E-Commerce: The Email Spam Epidemice, [reporting that "New York City residents receive 8.25 million junk emails a day and spend 4.2 million hours a year eliminating spam messages."])

More on Bruce and Free Speech
A friend writes... "[T]he point is that intimidation and punishment for expressing your views does, at some point, become a first amendment issue, particularly as the FCC proposes to allow further consolidation of the mass media in the hands of private interests with political agendas. If what happens after you've spoken makes it clear that you really should have kept your mouth shut, how does that promote robust, wide open and uninhibited speech?"

My response...
Granted, the issue of intimidation and punishment are certainly real, and I agree that media consolidation is serious, but they are not true first amendment issues, per say.
Media consolidation is rather a "policy" decision that incidentally implicates speech issues. And the Supreme Court has clearly held that while speech designed to intimidate can be regulated on 1st amendment grounds (holding this most recently in Virginia v. Black [01-1107], the cross-burning case decided earlier this month), it has also held that intimidation of you, ONCE YOU'VE HAD YOUR SAY, by others resulting incidentally from YOUR expressive/conduct or speech cannot be regulated on 1st amendment grounds (though it may, perhaps be regulated through other means, i.e. criminal law, etc.).

Maybe there's hope yet for NYC's city council
After all, even little Qatar in the Middle East is going "democratic" according the CNN.

Qatar to vote on constitution.
"DOHA, Qatar (CNN) -- In what local media describe as 'a major step towards ushering in democracy,' Qatari citizens go the polls Tuesday to vote on the draft of a permanent constitution that would grant legislative powers to a largely elected advisory council. In this small Persian Gulf state, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamid Bin Kalifa Al Thani has called on all Qatari citizens over 18 years to vote on the draft constitution. If approved, the proposed constitution would create a 45-member advisory council, with 30 elected members and 15 appointed by the emir. [more]

Sunday, April 27, 2003
R.I.P. NYC Subway Token, 1953-2003
For 50 years the subway token was a symbol of New York City. As of tomorrow, Monday, the only thing the New York City subway token can't be used for is to get you onto the subway. [more]. I have a few of each of the five different tokens used over that time sitting around here somewhere.

Bruce Springsteen's Comment on The Dixie Chicks
I respect Bruce Springsteen a great deal. He's been consistent through out the years and his music is a rarity in that it's both good and generally contains a message deeper than boy meets girl. A friend recently forward Bruce's comment regarding the Dixie Chicks' hulabaloo ongoing. Now I don't care about the Dixie Chicks, and don't particularly care what they said. But while Bruce is a great musician, he's no First Amendment scholar. Contrary to Bruce, The Dixie Chicks are NOT taking a hit for exercising their 1st amendment right to speech. They are, instead, taking a hit for the content of that speech which others don't agree with. There's a significant distinction therein.

The 1st amendment does not mandate agreement with your position. Nor does it directly protect circumstances other than those where state action is present. Rather, the 1st amendment merely safeguards one's ability to speak so that public discourse remains "uninhibited, robust and wide-open". What happens after you've spoken is not a 1st amendment issue.

As the Supreme Court has noted: "The constitutional protection does not turn upon 'the truth, popularity, or social utility of the ideas and beliefs which are offered.' NY Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 270 (1964), quoting N. A. A. C. P. v. Button, 371 U.S. 415, 445 (1963).
So, while the first amendment protects the right to "unpopular" speech, it doesn't protect you from others' non-violent actions responding to the content of your speech. Got that, Bruce?

4/22/03: A Comment from Bruce Springsteen
The Dixie Chicks have taken a big hit lately for exercising their basic right to express themselves. To me, they're terrific American artists expressing American values by using their American right to free speech. For them to be banished wholesale from radio stations, and even entire radio networks, for speaking out is un-American.
The pressure coming from the government and big business to enforce conformity of thought concerning the war and politics goes against everything that this country is about - namely freedom. Right now, we are supposedly fighting to create freedom in Iraq, at the same time that some are trying to intimidate and punish people for using that same freedom here at home. I don't know what happens next, but I do want to add my voice to those who think that the Dixie Chicks are getting a raw deal, and an un-American one to boot. I send them my support.

Saturday, April 26, 2003
From The Indianapolis Star newspaper:
Limits on leaflets trigger lawsuit
Lebanon's 'free speech zones' policy draws ire of minister intent on distributing literature

The above story is near-classic first amendment problem. First, there's a standardless discretion problem with official approval of the permit, and even a prior restraint aspect. Not to mention parks are a traditional public fora, necessitating strict scrutiny... and the regulation is not content-neutral (prohibiting distribution of porn, ads and solicitations). The state's interest "people don't want to be hassled while exercising or picnicking" hardly strikes me as a compelling interest when weighed against the historical philosophies underpinning the 1st amendment and traditional public fora.
Toss in the religious aspect of free exercise as a semi-red herring -- since the law effects religious exercise only incidentally and is not motivated or targeted at religion -- and it's chuck full of 1st amendment fun.
But the final kicker is that ""the Park Board spent a lot of time in coming up with a policy they felt was suitable for everyone."
In all that time did they consider passing the regulation by a city lawyer, or even a law student? ;-)

Riddle me this, Mr. Bloomberg... The website is extremely useful -- plenty of info that five years ago would have been either inaccessible, hidden in some office time forgot, or just a pain to access. So I'm thankful. Thanks.
But I noticed something very strange... and a bit disconcerting. The Major's webpage offers streaming audio in Windows ASX media format... essentially rebroadcasts of the weekly radio show the Mayor does with John Gambling on 77 WABC radio. Instead of the commercials that run during the live radio show, there's are city announcements during the breaks -- but, get, this... the announcements are all read by a woman with a distinctive upper-crust British accent. Now, wassup with dat?

Still the greatest city in the world? Still one of the most expensive, definitely.
Contrary to the city counsel and Mike Bloomberg, maybe raising property taxes does have an effect on people living in New York City.

According to the New York DailyNews - Your rent bill may be getting bigger
"New Yorkers who live in rent-stabilized apartments had better prepare for sticker shock. Landlord costs skyrocketed 16.9% last year, according to the annual Price Index of Operating Costs (PIOC), which was released yesterday. This is only the second time in 35 years the index - which helps the Rent Guidelines Board determine rent hikes - rose that high. In 1980, the index jumped 17%. Rising property taxes, fuel prices and insurance costs are to blame, according to the report, prepared by board staffers." [more]

But wait. There's more. Here are some stunning cost points from the 2003 Price Index of Operating Costs and 2003 Income and Affordability Study reports from the NYC Rent Guidelines Board:

    * The Price Index of Operating Costs for Rent Stabilized Apartment Buildings (PIOC) increased 16.9% this year.

    * Costs in pre-war buildings increased 18.4% and costs in post-war buildings rose 16.2%.

    * The “core” PIOC, which excludes the erratic changes in fuel oil prices,natural gas, and electricity costs,is useful for analyzing inflationary trends. The core rose by 10.6% this year.
    * Fuel oil costs increased 66.9%,the highest rise in this component in PIOC history.
    * Real estate taxes rose 14.8%, due to the strong rise in assessments and the increase in the tax rate.
    * The Utilities component increased by 21.7% due primarily to sharp increases in natural gas and electricity costs.

    * Insurance Costs grew by 40.5%,the highest increase in this component since 1986.

    * The Price Index of Operating Costs for Rent Stabilized Apartment Buildings is projected to increase 6.4% next year.

And from the 2003 Income and Affordability Study report:

    * NewYork City’s economy shrunk by 2.2% in 2002, compared to 0.3% in 2001.

    * The unemployment rate increased to 7.9% last year, up from 6.1% in 2001.

    * Manhattan saw the largest jump of the boroughs in its unemployment rate, increasing from 6.0% to 8.2% last year.

    * Inflation averaged 2.6% in the metro area in 2002,up slightly from 2.5% in the prior year.

    * Inflation-adjusted wages increased 3.0% in 2002, compared to 6.0% in 2001.

Manhattan Loop Nears for Bikes By JOSEPH BERGER
"In its modest way, it has been a quest as irrepressible as sailing a ship around the globe. New York's Magellans on bicycles have long yearned to complete a loop of Manhattan Island. The chief obstacle has always been that Manhattan's shores, unlike those, say, of Paris, were designed for commerce and commuting, and only in a few patches for pleasure." [more] Good new for bicycling in NYC. NYC is historically hostile to bicycles and bicyclists - despite a few tentative stabs to create bike lanes in the past.

My Constitutional Law II final is 10 days away. Will I ever master the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection and the 1st Amendment? Let's hope.
But here's an entire coursework of class recordings. Not my class, but still ConLaw II, Prof. William Araiza, Constitutional Law II AUDIO FILES. And a good selection of ConLaw II flowcharts here.

Thursday, April 24, 2003
Just came back from the Finnish Tourism Board, at 655 Third Avenue, which is apparently actually the Scandanavian Tourism Inc. office -- they handle Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

But get this... I go the desk at 655 3rd Ave. and here's the conversation that resulted:

I want to go to the Finnish Tourism office.
Am I expected?
No. (not unless Miss Cleo is working there).
The office isn't open to the public.
(I pick my jaw off the floor.) What kind of tourism board isn't open to the general public?
It's security.
Can I call them?
Hmmm let's check for a number. (They finally give me a number.)
(I call.) Can I come up I'd like to get some travel information.
No because of the building's security policy, but some one can bring a package of info down for me; what country am I interest in?
(Five minutes later someone comes down with a big envelope.)
Is it me, or is this whole "security" crap out of hand?

April 24, 2003
Pataki Takes Firmest Stand Against Higher Tax on Rich by AL BAKER

"ALBANY, April 23 — Gov. George E. Pataki, facing a huge budget shortfall, questions about his leadership and a new poll that showed his approval rating dropping fast, stood firm today in his opposition to increasing income taxes on New York's wealthiest residents."

Transit Chief Has the Style of His Boss by Joyce Purnick

"Maybe there is an unofficial school of applied politics secreted somewhere on the outskirts of Albany, a place where people who serve Gov. George E. Pataki have to take a required seminar in offensive politics...." [more]

According to Gotham Gazette: Audits: MTA Fare Unfair
"The state and city comptroller charged the Metropolitan Transportation Authority with hiding half a billion dollars to create the appearance of a deficit so it could raise subway and bus fares.
In a report, State Comptroller Alan Hevesi said that in effect the MTA kept two separate financial records - one public and one secret. The report charged the authority with moving $512 million from its 2002 accounts to books for 2003 and 2004.
" [more]

Wednesday, April 23, 2003
Pricing a new boiler... Our old American Standard oil boiler, which is at least 40 years old, has finally developed a fatal leak in its combustion chamber. A moment of silent appreciation for all the cold winter days and nights that ol' Bessy heated to comfortable warmth. ... Ok. This said, our old boiler won't be here next winter, but at least it's given up the ghost in a considerate fashion -- not in the middle of a freezing January night. Gorton Heating Corp. - Steam Valves Order from States Supply.

April 25th, Friday is Arbor Day. Go out and plant a few trees.
Trees New York will host the dedication of the World Trade Center Memorial Tree Planting and Tree Protection Streetscape in lower Manhattan on April 25th at 10:30 AM. The dedication will be held across the street from the Peck Slip Post Office on Peck Slip between Pearl and Water Streets. All are invited.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003
Section of Science and Technology Law - American Bar Association

San Francisco, CA.
2003 ABA Annual Meeting, Schedule of Events, Wednesday, August 6 – Sunday, August 10, 2003

How Green Was My Valley?

From the just released New York State and Metropolitan Area Employment Trends report:
"The New York State Department of Labor recently released revised employment data for 2001 and 2002. The revisions show that Statewide employment declined by a larger percentage then the preliminary data indicated. This was also true for many of the metropolitan areas in the State. Between 2000 and 2002 total employment in New York State declined by 2.3 percent and private sector employment declined by 3 percent". [more]

Saturday, April 19, 2003
Tree! Trees! One of the best places on the net for buying trees online is Musser Forests, Inc. We just planted a Japanese Whitespire Birch out front and a Redspire Calagary Pear, which is similar to the common flowering Bradford Pear seen on streets everywhere, but with a better shape and more resistance to pests. Don't forget to join the National Arbor Day Foundation. And plant trees!!

Wireless Communications and the Future of Cities

Presented by the Taub Urban Research Center at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. [watch the presentations.]

Humiliation and Rage Stalk the Arab World By NEIL MacFARQUHAR

DAMASCUS, Syria — For many Arabs, Baghdad was lost last week.
Sure, Saddam Hussein ranked up there in the pantheon of world-class tyrants, a torturer and mass murderer who slaughtered thousands of his people and waged reckless wars that beggared the rest. [more]

Ok, what is with this fixation on "humiliation and rage" in the "Arab World"? Like since when did the Arabs corner the market on humilitation or rage? Sure, the Iraqi's didn't fight a damn overall, but that's more due to who they were fighting for, than how much fight they had in them. But again, "rage"? Humiliation? Get over it. You want rage? Come to New York City. Every day is a test in absorbing some new outrage. You want humiliation? Try dealing with NYC civil servants every day. The Arabs don't know what rage or humilation are, frankly.


April 18, 2003 -- MAYOR Bloomberg this past week released his "shock and awe" budget, replete with supposedly devastating cuts to public safety, quality of life, and services for the needy. [more] Although the cuts will hurt, I don't think it will be as bad as the press trumpets. NYC government is incredibly wasteful, and while excellence is there, the average city worker is a poster-child of sloth.

The Ides of April Are Upon Us,
or Et Tu, Albany George

April 18, 2003, Since Tuesday, April 15, when Mayor Bloomberg proposed two executive budgets for fiscal 2004, reporters have produced sad scenarios about the impending loss of services, and the new or increased taxes that are likely to be imposed. [more]

Friday, April 18, 2003
Time to Ask, Who Needs Albany?

"Time to Ask, Who Needs Albany? SIXTEEN months into his mayoralty and 37 years after he first came to New York to make his fortune, Michael R. Bloomberg has discovered that the city's fate rests largely with a distant, often-uncaring Albany. That made him angry, Mr. Bloomberg said this week as he announced a worst-case budget for the next fiscal year that is already producing shock and ugh.

'"Angry we're not totally in control of our own destiny, unfortunately," he said. "We are very dependent on Albany and a little bit dependent on Washington. And that's not good.'

There is an almost irresistible temptation to reply: Duh! You just found this out? It has always been so. New York City can barely wipe its own nose without first getting Albany's permission." [more]

Which encapsulates why I've always thought that New York should be split into two states -- New York City, Long Island and Westchester and everything else.

Thursday, April 17, 2003
In a New York City Budget, Less Isn't Always Less

It is normal for city workers facing thousands of pink slips to conjure nightmarish visions of the woe to befall the city.

And yesterday was no different, with firefighters predicting slower responses to emergencies, teachers warning of slipping student performance and police officers fretting about a rise in violent crime. The gloom is blamed on planned reductions in support staff and overtime, not the firing of public safety officers or teachers, which Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg so far has not proposed.

But most outside analysts studying Mr. Bloomberg's plan to trim some 4,500 workers from the city payroll as part of $600 million in savings needed to close a budget gap are not nearly so pessimistic. [more]

A Mayor With No Control Over His City's Destiny
While the vagaries of Wall Street, war and the national economy are all out of the mayor's hands, what he controls the least is the political dynamics of Albany. [more].

It's bad, and it's only going to get worse. The jig is up folks. NYC is bankrupt, essentially. And there's no easy way out. Biting the bullet is the new pastime.


Agency Program Increases to $3.2 Billion
Mayor Calls on Albany Leadership to Help City in Time of Need... [watch Bloomberg's presention]

Friday, April 11, 2003
Goodbye New York City in a few years? Hmmm...

"Shaker Heights residents have easy access to the resources of a vibrant Cleveland, including the cultural riches of museums and the Cleveland Orchestra at University Circle, the professional business community and world-class health care institutions. Professional sports arenas abound, home to the Indians, the Browns and the Cavaliers. To view an area map, click here."

Ali Baba and the 400,000 Thieves?
US moves to tackle looting - Looting has reached "epidemic proportions"

US forces in Baghdad say they are taking measures to try to end the serious security problems in the city caused by looting.
The Americans are setting up a civil military operations centre at the Palestine hotel and have appealed for Iraqis running the public services in Baghdad to come forward and aid them. [more]

Axes and Taxes Putting Pataki Into a Free Fall
by Andrea Bernstein

April is turning out to be cruel indeed for Governor George Pataki.

The first day of the new month—the day on which the budget is due, but never arrives—brought snow and tens of thousands of angry health-care workers to Albany. The Governor’s erstwhile best friend in the labor movement, Dennis Rivera, denounced state cuts in health-care spending. [more]

"Scalia defends legal views": Today's edition of The Daily Mississippian reports on Justice Antonin Scalia's speech at the University of Mississippi School of Law yesterday . While today's edition of The Clarion-Ledger notes "Scalia: 'Living Constitution' could mean less freedom." And report on Justice Scalia's speech yesterday from a "How Appealing" reader in attendance.

The Ironies of War - What we have witnessed is unprecedented in military history.

by Victor Davis Hanson

The Marines just rolled by the battlefield of Cunaxa, where in 401 B.C. 10,000 Greek mercenaries suffered one wounded in their collision with the imperial troops of Artaxerxes. On the northern front Americans passed near Gaugamela where Alexander the Great’s shock troops destroyed the enormous army of Darius III at a loss of a hundred or so dead before descending on Babylon. Ours may be the richest and most educated generation in history, but some things never seem to change: The West still fights — and wins — in the East, in the same old places. [more]


First Amendment Issues Range from Corporate PR to Internet Porn


What U.S. Supreme Court term would be complete without a First Amendment case on pornography? Certainly not this one, as the justices dial up the touchy issue of Internet access at the public library.

That case, United States v. American Library Association, No. 02-361, is among five this spring that test the limits of free speech. Besides Internet porn, the First Amendment disputes offer a rich mix of issues: corporate speech about global trade, fraud in charitable solicitations, and campaign funding by ideological groups. And, for the first time, the court will consider whether the sidewalks outside public housing projects can be made into a no-speech zone. [more]

Free Wi-Fi Hotspots in Lower Manhattan

The Alliance for Downtown New York will be installing free wireless internet access in parks all over lower Manhattan. Starting May 1, you'll be able to get free bandwidth at City Hall Park, Bowling Green, South Street Seaport, Liberty Plaza, Rector Park, and the Vietnam Veteran's Plaza. Byrant Park is already "wired." Someone is also providing wireless access in Tompkins Square Park and Madison Square Park. [more]

Force Majeure- What lies behind the military's victory in Iraq.By Fred Kaplan

So when and how did the U.S. military get this good? The elements of swift victory in Gulf War II have been well laid-out: the agility and flexibility of our forces, the pinpoint accuracy of the bombs, the commanders' real-time view of the battlefield, the remarkable coordination among all branches of the armed services (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines) and special operations. But these elements, and this degree of success, have not been seen in previous wars, not even in the first Gulf War 12 years ago. Three major changes have taken hold within the military since then—a new war-fighting doctrine, advanced digital technology, and a less parochial culture. [more]

Condensed Apple Sauce
Consumed whole or reduced by 75 percent, Johnny Apple's copy positively zings with cliché. [more]
By Jack Shafer

It Adds Up (and Up, and Up)


WHEN Jon Green was growing up in rural Massachusetts in the 1970's, his family's phone service consisted of a party line shared with several neighbors. A simple rabbit-ears antenna captured all of seven television channels.
Today, like many middle-class Americans, Mr. Green and his wife, Stacie, carry cellphones, and their home in Maynard, Mass., has a land-line phone, cable television and a high-speed connection to the Internet, each offering an array of extra services. The connections they have come to consider necessities are discreet if not invisible. The tangible reminder is the stack of bills the Greens must pay each month. [more]

New Gigs for the Wizard of Baghdad

If New York political leaders are as shrewd as they want us to believe they are, they will lose no time in tracking down Muhammad Said al-Sahhaf and signing him to a personal services contract. Gov. George E. Pataki, in particular, could use him as a tonic for approval ratings that have begun to look a bit wan. ...

Iraq's Information Minister gets a Web site
- Jeanette Watson, Section Editor

Known for his relentless optimism that Iraq would emerge victorious in the war with Iraq, the now notorious information minister has become an online star, CNET reports. Fans of Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf have set up a Web site,, featuring his most famous quotes, CNET reports. In addition to quotes and photos of the infamous Sahaf, the Web site has also set up a t-shirt shop where visitors can purchase one of four t-shirts with Sharaf's quotes emblazoned across the front. Five American Internet and media entrepreneurs set up the site.

Thursday, April 10, 2003
At what point will New Yorkers decide that living here just isn't worth it anymore? In other words, how long will NYC-centric jingoism be able to fuel our own self-delusions that New York really is the capital of the world? Stay tuned...

Where democracy needs to be rescued
Paul Craig Roberts

While American neoconservatives use "the war on terror" to impose democracy on the Middle East, two New York Law School professors urge us to rescue democracy here at home. In a newly released book from Yale University Press, "Democracy by Decree," Ross Sandler and David Schoenbrod show how the plaintiff's bar and judges have used consent decrees to take government away from elected officials.

U.S. Military Campaign Called 'Textbook'WASHINGTON - This time, military historians are studying what went right: the Patton-like audacity of the three-week charge into Baghdad, fewer U.S. lives lost than had been feared, success in undermining Saddam Hussein without dreaded street-to-street city fighting. ...

Budget Pie in The Face
Albany missed its deadline for reaching a state budget last week, for the 19th year in a row. *Sigh* Is there any doubt that New York State has the most disfunction state government in the union?
Unable to depend on hoped-for state aid, Mayor Michael Bloomberg says next week he will release a proposed budget that includes another billion dollars in cuts, and 15,000 layoffs. The hits just keep on coming...

Monday, April 07, 2003
Older entries - March 27, 2001
NYC DOT is no friend to me
I'm not sure what's happening at the NYC Department of Transportation, but I know this the DOT is no friend to me. In fact, DOT in my mind stands for - Dedicated to Obliterating Transit Shortcuts.

I don't know if the DOT is conducting some widescale experiment, or if knee-jerk public policy has simply gotten out of control, but every time I figure out a shortcut the DOT's squad has time and time again stomped on it by adding new stop signs and stop lights.

Back in my old neighborhood of North Flushing, the DOT installed no fewer than five stop lights and two four way stop signs in a period of six months. I can't figure it out. Traffic hasn't increased that much in the area, but all of those new lights and signs were on shortcut routes.

Another example is near the 59th street bridge, specifically the shortcut route leading to and from the upper level between the bridge and the LIE. They were beautiful things, my now gone bridge shortcuts. I'd get off the LIE at the Vandam exit, make a right at the light, drive up Vandam past the Queens correctional facility, hang a left a block before the Queens Blvd intersection, zip down four blocks with no stop signs or lights, make a right at La Guardia Community College, make a left and a final right onto the bridge. Now there's a new stop light at the corner of La Guardia CC, and another under the LIE cutting off the reverse shortcut.

If this continues, mark my words, there will be a stop sign or light at every intersection within NYC in a decade. Is the DOT getting some kickback from the companies making stop signs and traffic lights? I doubt it, but what else explains this newly found fastidiousness for halting traffic where ever possible? You tell me..

Posted by Rich Santalesa on 3/27/01; 2:55:49 AM

Older entries - April 19, 2001
Dude! Where's my car??
April 17, 2001

National Amusements, Inc.
Dedham, MA 02026-9126

Re: Shoddy customer relations at College Point, Whitestone NYC theatre

Dear National Amusements,

Although it stopped playing at other movie houses in the U.S. some time ago, "Dude, where’s my car?" is apparently enjoying nightly performances at your College Point Multiplex Cinema in Whitestone, Queens, New York if our recent experience there on the night of Friday, April 13, 2001 is any indication.

After paying $8.75 each for three tickets (see attached) to the 10:10pm showing of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", we left the theatre to spot a tow truck from All Boro Collision Inc. latching onto our car at 12:10 a.m. not more than 100 feet from the theatre’s front entrance.

Once the initial shock of transitioning from "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" to "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Tow Truck" wore off we simply could not believe our eyes. We believed our car to be parked properly, and nearby warning signs were located so high on the posts as to very difficult to read – especially for anyone rushing to catch a movie. Further, the fact that the theatre’s lot is constantly patrolled by a guard in a SEB Security car lulled us into a false sense of security, and mislead us into believing that your security personnel is on hand to safeguard us and our cars – not to target them for towing contractors.

Indeed, had the three of us (myself, my fiancé and her sister) not been able to scrape together $108 in cash on the spot to pay the ransom (see attached receipt from All Boro Collision), our car would have been scuttled away leaving us in essentially the middle of nowhere sans transportation (your College Point theatre is located in a rather desolate industrial area).

After All Boro unhooked our car, two of us returned to the theatre to complain to the manager. Not only was this a complete waste of effort, as his attitude was not apologetic in the least, but it was painfully apparent to us that he could have cared less about our plight, or the ongoing nightly towing operation –this is hardly surprising given that National Amusements receives a portion of the proceeds from the towing contract given to All Boro Collision, as the truck operators confirmed while they were preparing to tow away several other cars.

In conclusion, for a business like yours that relies on people from surrounding areas, I can’t imagine a more stupid business practice or a worse public relations move than to be continuously towing the cars of paying patrons. Or rather, make that former patrons, as I have no intention of ever spending any money at your theatres, other operations or affiliates again, and I will do all I can to inform, educate and alert others in the New York city area to the shady towing practices taking place at one of your establishments.


Richard Santalesa

Older entries - April 26, 2001
Goodbye Fourth Amendment. Hello police state.
In a 5-to-4 decision this past Tuesday, the Supreme Court gave a major blow to the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment, which reads in its entirety:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

The case in question is ATWATER et al. v. CITY OF LAGO VISTA etal. in which Ms. Atwater, a resident of Lago Vista, Texas, was stopped by a local policemen for not having seat belts on her children, a misdeamonor punishable by a $50 fine in Texas. The officer berated her, and then arrested her, handcuffing her and putting her into the police car. The children would have been taken to the police station as well had neighbors not come out to care for them. The car was towed and impounded.

Atwater had her mug shot taken and was placed alone, in a jail cell for about an hour, after which she was taken before a magistrate and released on bond. She was charged with, among other things, violating the seatbelt law. She pleaded no contest to the seatbelt misdemeanors and paid a $50 fine.

Atwater sued, stating that the police should not have arrested her for a law whose penalty is only punishable by a fine. The Supreme Court argued, in what I think will be recognized a milestone in the erosion of our rights, that "The Fourth Amendment does not forbid a warrantless arrest for a minor criminal offense, such as a misdemeanor seatbelt violation punishable only by a fine."

Do they really believe this? Or realize what this means out in the real world? The four dissenting justices, Justice OConnor, with whom Justice Stevens, Justice Ginsburg, and Justice Breyer joined, certainly did. The police can now stop your car for any minor infraction and then arrest you, and search you and your car. The fourth amendment is dead, my fellow citizens.

The dissenting justices, in a strongly worded opinion, stated:

"The Fourth Amendment guarantees the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The Court recognizes that the arrest of Gail Atwater was a pointless indignity that served no discernible state interest, and yet holds that her arrest was constitutionally permissible. A full custodial arrest, such as the one to which Ms. Atwater was subjected, is the quintessential seizure.... But instead of remedying this imbalance, the majority allows itself to be swayed by the worry that every discretionary judgment in the field [will] be converted into an occasion for constitutional review. It there-
fore mints a new rule that if an officer has probable cause to believe that an individual has committed even a very minor criminal offense in his presence, he may, without violating the Fourth Amendment, arrest the offender. This rule is not only unsupported by our precedent, but runs contrary to the principles that lie at the core of the Fourth Amendment.... Although the Fourth Amendment expressly requires that the latter course be a reasonable and proportional response to the circumstances of the offense, the majority gives officers unfettered discretion to choose that course without articulating a single reason why such action is appropriate. ... The Court neglects the Fourth Amendments express command in the name of administrative ease. In so doing, it cloaks the pointless indignity that Gail Atwater suffered with the mantle of reasonableness. I respectfully dissent "

And there you have it, folks. Circle April 24, 2001 on your calendars.
That's the date of the official passing of the fourth amendment as we
know it.

Posted by Rich Santalesa on 4/26/01; 1:25:20 AM

Older entries - June 6, 2001

The subwoofer - Worst invention of the 20th Century
What's your nominee for the worst invention of the 20th century? Income tax? The machine gun? That ol' favorite, the A-bomb? While all three are hardly crowd pleasers, I nominate the subwoofer. Time was we all got by happily listening to stereos with regular woofers to handle the bass chores.

But in perhaps one of the most misguided examples of placing commerce before common sense and community, some wise guy invented the subwoofer, which reproduces bass in the sub 100Hz range. Sound below 100Hz is deep and penetrating and travels great distances -- it's how whales and elephants communicate over great distances. But the subwoofer when added to a car stereo is a rolling annoyance, guaranteed to fill everyone, except the driver, with murderous thoughts. The problem is that low frequency sound has tremendous penetrating power. A 20Hz soundwave has a wavelength of 56 feet, which for all those who slept through college physics, means the waves pretty much go through anything. It's why you can hear and feel a car's subwoofer from blocks away.

Life in NYC has never been easy, but over the past few years as car subwoofers have dropped in price life is becoming downright jarring. For instance, just last Sunday morning I woke thinking I was having a heart attack. Some friends of a neighbor's son down the block had driven up in front of his house, and while waiting for the kid to come out their subwoofer-equipped stereo pounded the block like a squandron of Dolittle's B-24's over Tokyo. It rousted me out from sleep and I thought the pounding was in my chest. It was a panic-filled minute before I realized, with no small relief, that the rumble was coming from outside and not my ventricles.

Who the hell needs this shit?? If ever there was a quality of life issue in this city, subwoofers rate right up there with panhandlers and graffiti. Hey Mayor, stop fighting with your wife for a few minutes and do something about this! I just checked and I don't see the freedom to "rattle the fillings out of your neighbor's head" listed anywhere in the Constitution as a God-given right.

Posted by Rich Santalesa on 6/6/01; 3:47:38 AM

Older entries - June 28, 2001
NPR -- How stupid are they getting over there?
Question of the day... who's gone on vacation at NPR for the past months? The "feature" stories on Morning Edition are getting more insane each week it seems to me.

This morning's story was about Open Adoptions, which is perhaps the stupidest idea I've heard in the past year. Essh... this country is truly turning into a bizarre place.

Note to NPR, please, get a grip.

Older entries - July 13, 2001
God damn MetLife!! Stuyvesant Town joins the luxury rush
Although I've never lived in Stuyvesant Town on Manhattan's East Side, I always thought I might one day, given that it was created by Met Life (Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.) decades ago as a source of housing for the working- and middle-class in New York, thereby demonstrating in action the company's committment to the community. It was a noble and generous act. The rent for apartments in ST was and is generally below market, in some cases substantially, and as a result the waiting list is long and it takes years to get one. Parents here in NYC would add their kids' names to the waiting list while they were still in high school, in the hope that by the time they graduated from college an apartment would open up. At last look there were 5,000 people on the waiting list, and rents currently average $1,000 a month -- a bargain in today's real estate market.

But MetLife essentially announced today "get the hell out! we want to make mo' money!" when it stated that as apartments become vacant they'll be removed from the rent stabalization roll and turned into, wait for it, "luxury rentals." Now how MetLife will transform housing designed and built for the middle class into "luxury housing" not only highlights the paucity of construction here, but also points out that soon simply having a roof over your head will be considered "luxury."

Let MetLife speak for itself:

"We take seriously our obligation to our shareholders to maximize our business," said a company spokesman, Kevin Foley.
Roughly 25,000 people in the various MetLife buildings now. According to the NY Times "The new market-rate rents, ranging from $2,100 to $4,200 a month, are geared mostly for annual incomes of $100,000 and above. Those sums are out of reach for the civil servants, office workers and other middle- class residents traditionally housed there."

MetLife's been around for 130 years and its ironic that its website proclaims "Over the years, MetLife has made a difference by supporting urban renewal projects and community financing. The company's social commitment and its commitment to the security of its policy holders have proven to be good business."

So much for "social committment." MetLife, you suck!!

Posted by Rich Santalesa on 7/13/01; 4:08:38 PM

Older entries - September 28, 2001
Life goes on. Slowly.
Back when I thought I'd one day be a successful writer, as I read books and works, I'd write down particularly memorable or well-crafted quotes and passages in my journal.
In the past two weeks my thoughts have kept returning to a passage I remembered scribbling down long ago from John Gardner's (a terrific, underappreciated writer and medieval lit professor who died a decade ago) Freddy's Book.

"It was a curious venom, the poison that flowed from the Devil. Say that all human life is idiotic, all human feeling an absurdity, effect without due cause; say that to weep at the death of one child after the deaths of a million million children -- centuries of corpses, centuries of mothers gone berserk and wailing, each father turning sharply, heart leaping, at the voice he's mistaken for his own dead child's -- say that all this is a shameful humiliation, an outrage not to be put up with; say that love and sorrow, considered from the peak of the mountains of eternity, are as paltry and insignificant as the wild, ravishing hyming of blue-glinting flies on the four-day old corpse of a mongrel."

The passage is a small part of a large pastish of a book within a book, but suffice it to say the piece that struck and that stuck with me was the imagine of centuries of mothers gone beserk with grief. How much pain the world has seen is immeasureable. How much grief incalculable -- divide by zero. Solace and succor are ever in short supply. And yet. And yet life, the world, does go on. On the one hand that it does so is reassuring, and on the other it is an outrage not to be put up with. "The world should stop!! we rage. How can life continue in the face of this horror... " this refrain echoes on the lips of people through the ages as each litany of horror is added to the immense list.

The book within the Freddy's Book chronicles the fictional battles of a 16th-century Swedish knight against the devil. We've all heard the old maxim that "the smartest thing the devil ever did was to convince people he didn't exist." I don't think so. The smartest move the devil ever makes is to remove doubt from the mind and thereby convince men they are RIGHT. Very little "evil" happens in the world through the works of men set out to do evil. It occurs all too readily, however, in the actions of men who are convinced they are absolutely right.

Pride is one of the seven deadly sins, not because it's inherently evil to take just pride in one's work, it's not, but because unchecked pride clouds the mind to the possibility that one might be wrong. Hilter thought he was absolutely right. Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, , were no doubt convinced they're path was right. This is not to say there is no "right" way, but that cutting off arguments, and disregarding dissenting views is a sure path to evil. Then again, I could be wrong.

But life does go on. Last night a large flock of geese flew over me while I was walking to school. They almost seemed within reach, and in the aftermath of the emotion, pain and confusion the events of the past weeks engendered, these birds oblivious to our trauma and listening only to the pull of the seasons and the endless cycle of nature filled me with a kind of calm that's been in short supply lately. Life goes on. It always does.

Posted by Rich Santalesa on 9/28/01; 2:47:18 PM

Older entries - July 23, 2002
So, who wanted to retire anyway, Mr. Ebbers?
Watching the stock market these days is like passing a car wreck -- it's difficult to turn away from the carnage. It's also been utterly depressing. WorldCom, Enron, corporate crooks and malfeasance. Greed in the face of massive temptation.

It's difficult to even open my monthly mutual fund statement. I look at what's left, very little, and realize I'd have had more fun spending my coin on a new car, throwing parties, or stuffing the cash in my mattress. Virtually anything else would have provided a better return.

Everyone knew the frenzy would end. Everyone knew it would end badly. Few envisioned it would end like this.

The road ahead's going to be rocky. Goodbye retirement. Hello dropping at your desk.

Posted by Rich Santalesa on 7/23/02; 12:28:56 PM

Older entires - August 1, 2002

We need more Trumans
I just finished David McCoullough's biography of President Harry S Truman (the S stands for nothing, just S), and think anyone who reads the book will come away the richer for the experience.

Truman was the everyman president, who transformed himself and the country through decency, determination and simple nose-to-the-grindstone hard work. And he was a pretty good piano player to boot.

Posted by Rich Santalesa on 8/1/02; 12:13:44 AM

Older entries - August 5, 2002

Enough with stupid September 11-driven security idiocy!!
I can't stand idiocy. This alone probably makes me, on many levels, ill-suited for life in New York City, but there you have it. And after the September 11th attack of last year idiocy in the ersatz pursuit of security is rampant in New York city. Here're a few examples. You be the judge.

In many buildings in Manhattan you can no longer meet someone in the lobby. Now, you need to meet them outside. Think that adds to anyone's security? I don't.

Second, virtually no commercial buildings are accepting flower deliveries or hand-delivered packages to the concierge's desk. The reason, security. Unless someone hides killer bees in a bouquet of begonias, why the ban on flowers? Or alternately, what the hell is a concierge for if not to accept packages? Today, for example, a friend ran a presentation uptown to drop off at company x after 5p.m. But the concierge's desk at the building where company x is wouldn't accept it. The three dudes at the desk, let's call them Moe, Larry and Curly, cited security reasons. Hey, guys, the business of America is business, not security. Take the freaking package already. We have jobs to do.

If this idiocy continues soon the Post Office won't accept letters. Security and all that, you know.

Frankly, I'm sick and tired of it. Yes, yes, it's a dangerous world. But it shouldn't be an idiocy-filled world. Give us policies that ACTUALLY bear some semblance of rationality in its linkage to security and I'm Johnny-on-the-spot. Otherwise I'm Johnny-getta-your-stupidity-outta-my-face. Here's your package, pal.

Posted by Rich Santalesa on 8/5/02; 5:31:25 PM

Big, big fiscal trouble is coming. But so far only politic wonks are paying attention. Come May, however, when the mayor and state budgets are proposed the wailing and gnashing of teeth will begin in earnest. Mark the date on your calendar.

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