The world seems agog at New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s latest attempt to forcibly improve the health of his subjects. He is proposing—and seems very likely to be able to fully implement—a ban on the sale of sugary drinks in containers larger than 16 oz at restaurants, movie theaters, sports arenas and street carts (i.e.: pretty much anywhere other than standard grocery stores, where fortunately you’ll still be able to take home a 2-liter Pepsi and embrace death by high fructose corn syrup).
A move like this is tailor-made for lengthy expressions of outrage over the incremental loss of freedom in modern American society. And, you know, have at it, by all means—but as for me (who happens to be a citizen of New York City), this particular effort is only good for chuckles. Is reducing the size of the available drink actually going to keep those who want to drink more from doing so? Are such people too dumb to realize that they can just order two 16 oz drinks in order to get the more fully-thirst-quenching 32 oz quantity which they desire? No one is really being prevented from doing anything here. It’s merely a perfect example of government nannyism run amok, expending pointless effort and over-regulating private enterprise with the vain goal of altering gluttonous human nature. A good knee-slapper is what it is.
Back in October, yours truly visited the Financial District in Manhattan and took some pictures of the rising structure which is now officially known as “1 World Trade Center” and reflected then on whether the originally-conceived name for the building, i.e. the Freedom Tower, might stick in general usage, despite the apparent effort to put that moniker in the past. I think there’s good evidence today that it is sticking. Take just the headline in the New York Post as a barometer: WTC’s Freedom Tower to rise higher than Empire State building today.
People prefer to use a name for something in the skyline rather than an address, and the people of New York will call it what they choose to call it. It’s not entirely clear to me why the owners (being the Port Authority of NY and NJ) chose to ditch the name “Freedom Tower,” but that’s what they did back in 2009. They did suggest that it was easier to get tenants by calling it “1 World Trade Center.” Did “Freedom Tower” seem too “in-your-face,” too defiant? Yet, “1 World Trade Center” was the name/address of one of the buildings that was destroyed on September 11th, 2001—the other one being “2 World Trade Center.” (In common usage, mind you, they were the Twin Towers.) Would you prefer to rent space or go to work in a building bearing the name of one recently destroyed by terrorists or in one bearing a new name? Go figure. Continue reading Freedom Tower becomes tallest building in New York City→
For some years now, a number of religious congregations in New York City that were short of worship space have taken advantage of unoccupied public school buildings, and paid a fee to use such space for their services. Other community groups and organizations do similar things. A win-win, you would think. However, the City of New York has long been suing to prevent churches—and only the churches, mind you—from utilizing public school space in this way. Something to do, I guess, with the terrible danger to innocent kids of merely knowing that the space they’re sitting in might have been occupied the evening before by a person who professes belief in God. Continue reading New York ban on church use of space in schools upheld→
This morning’s much anticipated and ballyhooed “Occupy Wall Street” march in the financial district, and attempt to shut down the New York Stock Exchange, attracted anywhere from a few hundred to somewhere between one and two thousand participants, according to the media.
In this city of New York, you can gather a crowd like that if you stand on the corner giving away free samples of some new protein bar. I mean, really. Considering the non-stop publicity and promotion of this event taking place (for free) in all outlets of the mainstream media, the level of participation is nothing short of dismal. This is not the 99%. It is more like the 0.000001%. In addition, as is well known, many of those in the hardcore membership of this OWS “movement” in New York are in fact from out of town. Take them away and you have a complete non-event. It’s a non-event anyway: the whole escapade of the past two months has been created by and remains dependent upon the wildly disproportionate attention of the media, in pursuit of a political narrative that suits their own preferences. (And we must not forget who in the political world supported it from the beginning.) Continue reading A note on OWS numbers in New York City→
In the early hours of this morning, the New York City Policy Department cleared Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan of hundreds of protesters, some of whom had been camping there since the “Occupy Wall Street” movement began two months ago. They were followed by an army of New York City Sanitation Department workers who moved in to remove tents, tarps and other accoutrements of the occupation, and to thoroughly disinfect the public plaza.
The decision to do this at this juncture came as a surprise, not least because Mayor Michael Bloomberg has vacillated for the past two months over how to address the problems created by the encampment; though he had largely seemed on the side of allowing the situation to continue until it might naturally peter out (with winter coming and all). Continue reading The Bloomberg versus the Giuliani way on Occupy Wall Street→
Sexual assaults and other crimes have been rampant at the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York. An interview with one bright young lady residing there paints quite the picture. Her matter-of-factness about rapes and such-like is simply one of the most chilling things I’ve ever seen. Continue reading Zuccotti Park atrocities, but OWS goes on→
At Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan this morning, the New York City Fire Department moved in and removed generators and gasoline from the small encampment of protesters which has been hunkering in that location for about five weeks. Naturally enough, the tiny public plaza was never intended for the kinds of activities taking place, and fire codes were being violated all over the place in the name of heating and cooking. Until now, a blind eye had been turned to it. It is an interesting time to now turn an unblind eye towards it, one must say, with temperatures having just plummeted in the New York City area, and with actual snow being predicted for tomorrow night. Continue reading Occupy Wall Street: getting cooler, but not in the way they’d like→
Although a resident of Manhattan, I rarely have cause to go down to the Financial District near the lower tip of the island. As a general rule, there are only two reasons to go to that part of town: (1) just to look at things, i.e. as a tourist and (2) to go to work, if you should happen to work there. These days there’s a third reason, of-course: to protest the stinking capitalists (which many are currently doing by camping out in a public plaza nearby and stinking back at them).
Today (a Sunday) I thought I’d go down there for reason #1: tourism. Mainly, it’s been so long since I’ve been there that I wanted to see in person how far construction on the “Freedom Tower” had come. However, we’re not supposed to call it the “Freedom Tower” anymore, since that apparently scared people—and isn’t freedom a scary thing?— so it’s just “One World Trade Center” now. In any case, the last time I had been down there there was virtually nothing above ground. It has pained many of us for the past decade to have a big hole in the ground down at Ground Zero, and I wanted to replace that mental image. Continue reading A Visit to Wall Street and Environs→
You see these kinds of stories all the time, with schools or teachers running afoul of what is characterized as “the separation of church and state” (which is a phrase some people mistakenly believe resides in the U.S. Constitution, but no matter that now). God doesn’t belong in a public school classroom, we are told, and that goes double for the Bible, which is a manifestation of that specific Judeo-Christian God.
Although I’m not personally an advocate of this idea of actively expunging religious concepts from the natural life and thought that would take place in schools, I do understand the concept. It’s why, when passing a public school in my New York City neighborhood, I’ve raised my eyebrow at a sign that has long hung over the main entrance. It says: “Robert F. Kennedy Students Have KARMA.” That’s PS 169, of the New York City Public School system.
The students have KARMA? I think most of us know what the word means, but let’s go to Merriam-Webster for an official definition: It is “the force generated by a person’s actions held in Hinduism and Buddhism to perpetuate transmigration and in its ethical consequences to determine the nature of the person’s next existence.”
PS 169 is neither a Hindu nor a Buddhist school, but is, as mentioned, a New York City public school. So this is why my eyebrow was raised. Still and all, you see a lot of things in New York City, and you learn to keep walking. It was only one poster.
Recently, however, I had occasion to visit the same school on other business (voting). Walking through the lobby and hallways, I couldn’t help but notice that this “KARMA” concept was repeated. Again and again. It seemed to be all over the place, in fact, and in a myriad of different incarnations.
One posting says “GOOD KARMA,” with a picture of a scale, and the exhortation, “BALANCE OUT THOSE NEGATIVE VIBES.” We’re assured that “P169 HAS GOOD KARMA.”
Another (my favorite) says that “STUDENTS WITH KARMA REMOVE HATS GIVE ALL CELLPHONES, IPODS, ETC. TO MR. REEVES.”
Another sign—this one quite elaborately constructed in three dimensions—presents each letter of KARMA as the first letter of another word: Kind, Appropriate, Responsible, Mature, Accountable. There’s a big smiling sun perched alongside.
So, that’s the root of this. Further research found evaluations of the school on an official New York City government website, and documentation regarding the “KARMA” behavior modification program, which has apparently been in place since at least 2006. As in this report (.pdf):
The school’s philosophy is that achievement is inextricably linked to behavior, so to that end the school has implemented the ‘KARMA’ initiative in school, standing for kindness, appropriacy, responsibility, maturity, accountability. All activity in the school is linked to ‘KARMA,’ from clarity about which behaviors are expected in which location in the school, to a rewards and sanctions system, in which students can “buy” such things as leisure time on the computer, book bags and pencils with the rewards of good behavior. This is reinforced in every lesson, every classroom and by every member of staff.
“KARMA” is an acronym for these behaviors and attitudes that the school wishes to encourage. Clearly, though, the use of the term also plays on the original Hindu/Buddhist concept of consequences for ethical choices. In all, it’s really very clever.
However, imagine if instead of “Robert F. Kennedy students have KARMA,” the signs said, “Robert F. Kennedy students are filled with the Holy Spirit.” Maybe someone could come up with qualities worth promoting which corresponded with those letters; let me see … HOLY: Happiness; Orderliness; Levelheadedness; Youthfulness; SPIRIT: Sensitivity; Patience; Irony; Readiness; Imperturbability; Tolerance. (I make no claim to be an expert at this but you can get one for the right price.)
Or imagine if the signs said (God forbid!): “Robert F. Kennedy students follow the Ten Commandments.” Think of the heads that would explode. Picture, if you will, the ACLU helicopters swooping in to rescue the students before their helpless and innocent minds could be contaminated by such thoughts.
KARMA is assuredly a concept that has entered the common lingo, especially since John Lennon’s big hit record, but the same can certainly be said of concepts like the Holy Spirit and the Ten Commandments, which have been around for 2000 years and more. “Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Yet these words are proscribed in the public schools, while KARMA may be promoted?
It also needs to be noted that to the same degree as KARMA is a concept born of Hinduism and Buddhism it conflicts with Judeo-Christian beliefs. KARMA presumes a cycle of existence, of incarnation and reincarnation, that just doesn’t square with the Judeo-Christian belief in reckoning and justice from a particular God: the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God Jesus called “Father.” The idea of reincarnation and KARMA appeals to New-Agey kinds of Westerners who are more comfortable worshiping an impersonal creation rather than a personal Creator, but for believing Christians and Jews it is plainly unbiblical.
Therefore plastering the idea of KARMA all over a public school is not a neutral act. It displaces Judeo-Christian thought and symbology (although those thoughts and symbols have already effectively been banned).
So, where does this all lead? Am I writing this because I want KARMA stripped from this school and any other school that might use it? No. Personally, I’m not greatly incensed by the cutesy use of this term in a program intended to improve student behavior. Maybe the program works. It’s not the use of the Hindu/Buddhist concept that bothers me, but rather the zero tolerance afforded to the Judeo-Christian God and related concepts. It’s the double-standard.
Another posting I came across in the school was a quote from Malcolm X: “If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.”
No big argument here. But it also brought to my mind another old aphorism (often attributed to G.K. Chesterton but apparently from a Belgian writer named Emile Cammaerts):
“When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing. They believe in anything.”
It’s merely my fantasy, of-course but I sure would like to see that posted prominently in the school. I think it might balance out a little of their KARMA.
There are so many things that could be said today, on the tenth anniversary of the attacks of September 11th, 2001, but I’m failing to find words of my own that hold up. Rudolph Giuliani (the greatest mayor in the history of New York City long before 9/11: don’t let anyone tell you otherwise) said it the best for me today.
We’re used to terror threats, rumors and alerts, but if you trust the reports there seems to be a significant difference to the credibility attached to the current one, where New York and Washington D.C. are said to be targets of a plot to coincide with the tenth anniversary of September 11th, 2001. It’s no reason to panic, and I don’t see anyone panicking, but it’s worth remembering who this enemy is. If they do succeed in pulling off an attack, they will want it to be a monstrous one, intended to horrify and turn the stomachs of all decent people—intended to break hearts. Remember 9/11, remember Beslan, remember how they saw people’s heads off on video. Continue reading 9/11 Anniversary terror threat→
Well, not exactly. With gusty winds this afternoon, the city decided to “close” Central Park, due to the risk of falling branches. Two people have been killed by falling branches there in the past couple of years, so it’s by no means a theoretical problem. Still, closing the park today seems driven by a pronounced fear of litigation, the same fear which drives a lot of ultra-cautious decisions. In any case, it’s pretty difficult to close Central Park in practice, given its size and the enormous number of entry points. And it was pretty hard for New Yorkers (and their dogs) to resist the cool afternoon breezes today, and the desire to get out for a long walk after being cooped up by rain. Continue reading Central Park is closed?→
Solely from the perspective of our vantage point in the upper east sector of Manhattan, Hurricane (or Tropical Storm) Irene has been next to nothing. Expecting to wake up to screaming winds and rain this morning as the eye was approaching New York City, instead we found it to be lightly raining and barely breezy. The dog has had two quite pleasant walks already today. The sun has peeked out a couple of times. Continue reading It’s been a breeze→
I’ve lived in New York City (Manhattan) through 9/11, through blizzards, one major blackout, innumerable other storms and kerfuffles, but I’ve never seen anything like what I saw today. A line of people snaking down the block outside of a Dunkin’ Donuts.
What the heck is going on here?
As was the point of my post yesterday, the truly unprecedented thing which New Yorkers are having to deal with is the system-wide shutdown of all public transportation, which was announced yesterday by the mayor and governor and which began at 12 noon today. It will presumably last at least until Monday morning.
Closed and no batteries
The knock-on effects of this are massive. I thought the stores were crazy yesterday afternoon, but today Mrs. C. tried to get a modest few items at a local supermarket and witnessed madness and stripped shelves on a far more frightening scale. The issue, in my view, is not so much that people were running out to get things because there’s some rain and wind coming, but that they were running out to get things because—with employees unable to get to and fro work, due to the transport shutdown—they know the stores will be closing, and will remain closed until Monday morning. Continue reading New York City the day before Hurricane Irene→
It now seems certain that a massive catastrophe is going to hit New York City this weekend.
I am not, however, referring to Hurricane Irene. Neither am I imagining another great earthquake like that of a few days ago.
I am referring instead to the decision by Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Cuomo to have all public transportation shut down beginning at 12 noon tomorrow. (The hurricane, or whatever remains of it at that point, is due to be over New York City the following day: Sunday.) This includes all subway trains, city buses, commuter railways in the area—everything. As far as I know, this is completely unprecedented; i.e. for a complete system-wide shutdown to be announced a day in advance, for what will presumably be the best part of 48 hours. Continue reading Catastrophe to Hit New York City→
Sometimes it’s embarrassing to live in the media capital of the world. Anything that affects New York City gets massive news coverage, no matter how minor it is on a true scale. No wonder the rest of the country hates us. It remains to be seen whether there was any significant damage from this quake down near the epicenter in Virginia, but in New York City it was just an unusual and interesting experience. Personally, I was at home in my pre-WWI walk-up apartment building, when the room started to wobble. It was not so unlike when a big truck passes by, except that there was no sound of any truck—no sound of anything. And it was more wobbly. And it continued for an inordinate number of seconds. I immediately thought that it could well be an earthquake, although I’d never felt one before. However, it was so minor that I also doubted what I was feeling, and especially so after it had stopped. I looked out the window and failed to see hordes of panicking people. A remark by a talk radio host based in the city a couple of minutes later confirmed to me that I hadn’t imagined it and that it wasn’t an event limited to my building. Continue reading Obligatory NYC earthquake freakout post→
New York City, to those who love it, is very often beautiful, but only very rarely pretty.
There’s the strange beauty of an overcast day, with a low-hanging grayness shrouding the Empire State Building and the other clustered midtown skyscrapers. There’s the unique beauty of a subway car crammed with a motley herd of travelers — every race, creed, style of dress or undress, almost every economic class — sitting, standing, jostling, and (honestly more often than not) avoiding coming to blows. There’s the olfactory beauty of the varying and mixed up aromas of cooking that one encounters while charging down the street — the pizza places, the falafel stands, the donut shops and even the dirty-water hot dog carts (I don’t eat ’em anymore but I do like to smell ’em). Continue reading Spring in New York City→
Former mayor of New York City Ed Koch must have been feelin’ pretty groovy when the 59th St. Bridge was renamed in honor of Hizzoner. Koch is a big, likeable personality and a quintessential New Yorker without any doubt. Yet, it’s a little bit funny, this renaming of a bridge for him. Were the Koch years (1977 – 1989) such great ones for the city of New York, honestly? There were 2,246 murders in New York City in 1989 – the final year of Koch’s third and final term as mayor. By comparison, in 2009, there were 778 (the source I’m referencing doesn’t have figures for 2010 yet). Crime isn’t everything, but in New York City, it’s a helluva lot. The insecurity that rising crime gave to the city, from the mid-1960s on, fostered a sense of decay and futility, which fed itself and led to more crime. It ate at the city economically and spiritually; how could it not? It wasn’t all Koch’s fault, by any means, but he had three terms to make a dent in it. He didn’t. The annual murder rate remained well over 2,000 during the term of Koch’s successor, David Dinkins, but then started dropping dramatically under Rudolph Giuliani and his revamped policing strategies, beginning in 1994. Continue reading Lou Reed – New York→
The billboard is down, but the message has been sent, not least by all the attention given to the story in the media.
The anti-abortion organization, Life Always, bought the space on the billboard, which featured a picture of a young African-American girl, and the statement, “The most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb.” The billboard was in the elite area of Manhattan known as SoHo, known for its expensive boutique stores, galleries and restaurants. A Planned Parenthood center is also nearby.
The statement on the billboard may have been in reference to recently-released figures which indicated that the rate of abortion amongst black women in New York is 59.8% (the overall rate amongst all pregnant women was more than 40%). Nationally, while African-Americans constitute about 13% of the U.S. population, they account for 30% of abortions in the country (Guttmacher Institute). The persistently high rates of abortion amongst black women in America has led some to characterize the phenomenon as a silent genocide. Continue reading Abortion billboard removed in New York City→
Figures from the local Department of Health indicate that the rate of abortion in New York City has exceeded 40% in recent years. In other words, nearly one in two of all known pregnancies in the five boroughs of New York City ends with an abortion. (Via CBS News.)