New York, New York, it’s a wonderful town / The Bronx is up and the Battery’s down / The people ride in a hole in the ground … and the coyotes have now traversed this town all the way down to the Battery, in the form of Manhattan’s modern and posh Battery Park City, nestled in the southwestern tip of the island. Today a female coyote was cornered after a long pursuit by the NYPD at a sidewalk café in that neighborhood, shot with a tranquilizer dart and then delivered to the ASPCA. Continue reading Coyote Caught in Battery Park City, New York
Our previous story was really about the surprising development of coyotes showing up in Manhattan, which is a strange island nation about three thousand miles west of France. Queens, by contrast, is generally considered to be a part of the United States, albeit that due to its geography it is possibly even harder for coyotes to get to as opposed to Manhattan. Nevertheless, this is not the first sighting of a coyote in Queens. Continue reading Coyotes Now Colonizing Rooftops in Queens (and Why They Should Be Put on the LIRR)
“Act big and make loud noises.” In the bad old days of the Big Apple, this might have been excellent advice for those occasions when you needed to take a walk to the bodega to stock up on beer and cigarettes. (And let it please the Lord for those days not to return.) Now, however, it is part of “Five Easy Tips for Coexisting with Coyotes,” which is advice for city dwellers from the New York City Parks Department, regarding, well, coexisting with coyotes. Because, they’re here, they’re hairy, and, according to the powers-that-be, they are apparently more than welcome to stay.
The Eastern coyote is sometimes referred to as the “Coywolf” because of evidence that it emerged via hanky-panky between coyotes and gray wolves. Its territory stretches from Ontario and Nova Scotia in the north down through New England and into New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. And now you can add Manhattan’s Stuyvesant Town neighborhood, among others, to places where the Eastern coyote has set his or her paws. Recent sightings of coyotes there and in other Manhattan locations have caused minor media ruckuses as people follow the chase, but the real news if you ask me is that the Parks Department is quite happy with them being in the city, and is expecting them to be around in Central Park for the long term. They’ve been sighted to the north in Bronx parks for quite a few years, so it’s not like they dropped out of the sky, but—on the other hand—the thing about the Bronx is that it’s a contiguous part of the United States of America (as startling as this may be to Kansans) whereas Manhattan is, well, an island. This has kept New York City proper insulated from quite a few things, like deer (and their awful ticks), bears (at least at the time of writing), in addition to innumerable wholesome virtues of the heartland that have never been proven to survive the journey over the Hudson or Harlem rivers.
So how are the coyotes getting here? It’s suggested they may follow “a train line;” whether on a bridge or underground, I don’t know. Five years ago, one was seen waiting on the Jersey side of the Lincoln Tunnel, and apparently it managed to come up with the toll, because a little later there was a big coyote chase in Tribeca resulting in one tranquilized canid.
So, a carnivorous predator, skilled at hunting singly or in packs, is invading New York City, competing with those humans here who already occupy the niche. Yet the Parks Department is not treating this as the prologue to an apocalyptic disaster movie scenario, but instead simply as nature taking its course. Coyotes are part of the food chain, the narrative goes, and they will help control populations of rats, rabbits and the like. We need to practice our “Five Easy Tips” for coexisting with them and go about our business.
Well, why do I strongly suspect this isn’t going to end well? For my part, I love animals, especially canids. I’m exactly the kind of fool who, if I saw a coyote in Central Park, would probably try to make friends with him, offering him lunch at the Shake Shack and an evening of music at the Village Vanguard. After all, the NYC Parks Department assures me that “nationwide, only a handful of coyote bites are reported each year,” and there are millions of people across the nation, and zillions of coyotes. What are the odds?
On the other hand, there’s a rational person buried somewhere deep within my skin who starts whispering: “BUT, there’s a lot of room out there in the rest of the country. Coyotes and people might coexist pretty well in Arizona, but how are they going to get along on a crowded 6 train?” Or indeed, how will they get along when dowagers strolling down paths in Central Park start seeing their Yorkies getting chomped up like so much beef jerky?
As far as the species homo sapiens goes, it occurs to me that we sure have funny ways of measuring progress. Time was, progress was defined by pushing back the boundaries of unforgiving nature; now we pat ourselves on the back for allowing it to encroach again on our carefully built settlements. I’m all for controlling the rat population in New York City, but if we want the coyotes to achieve it, we should equip them with badges and flashlights and set them loose on Lexington Avenue. We’re not going to do that. Instead, we’re apparently going to attempt some strange détente of wildness and urbanity.
But then maybe that’s what New York City has always been about. Good luck to the coyotes.
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Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were murdered in Brooklyn yesterday, five days before Christmas. They were shot to death as they sat peacefully in their patrol car, eating lunch, and performing duty that would have found them without question coming quickly to the assistance of anyone in trouble in the nearby public housing project, as NYPD officers do on a routine and daily basis. The church that Officer Rafael (Ralph) Ramos regularly attended was reportedly packed this morning with those showing sympathy to his bereaved family. Ramos himself, a devout Christian, was to graduate today from the New York State Chaplain Task Force. His partner, Officer Wenjian Liu, had gotten married just two months ago. He and his bride were described today by a neighborhood acquaintance as having been “quiet and clearly in love.” Continue reading For Christmas in New York: Murder
Taking up an issue central to the platform of Mayor Bill de Blasio, the New York City Council this week introduced legislation that would ban the horse and carriage business in New York City. It remains to be seen if it will be passed. It’s likely no visitor to Manhattan would be unfamiliar with the sight—especially in and around Central Park— of these iconic horse-drawn carriages.
If the legislation passes, it should be emphasized that only the horses will be banned from the city, and not the drivers. The drivers might be offered job “retraining,” or apply for green aka Boro Taxi medallions, or perhaps drive proposed novelty electric vehicles in place of the horse carriages. The horses will be, well, put out to pasture, ostensibly.
Polls show New Yorkers want the horses and carriages to stay, so why are politicians pursuing an unpopular thing? It goes back to the Democratic primary contest for the mayoral ticket, where de Blasio committed to ending the carriage horse business and gained the support of the vocal anti-carriage horse lobby. De Blasio, himself a dark horse in that contest, went on ultimately to win, as frontrunner Christine Quinn and other competitors stumbled (and relatively few actual voters even paid attention). Whether the mayor really believes in the issue or just doesn’t want to be seen to renege on a full-throated promise so blatantly, he is at any rate now pursuing it by way of legislation through the City Council. It has also been suggested that the issue is less horses than real estate: The stables that currently house the animals sit on land between 10th Avenue and the West Side Highway that has shot up in value and is coveted by developers.
However, whether naive or no, let’s put the money issue aside and just take the animal rights angle. For many years there have been those who’ve said the very fact of having horses pulling carriages in New York City is cruel and abusive. Partly as a result of this, the business is highly regulated (New York might be the regulation capital of the world). There are rules about how long the horses can work, and under what temperatures; there are mandatory rest days, vacations in the country, and regular inspections by veterinarians. And New York certainly is the media capital of the world: the very notion that the horses are being misused and abused when their work is all performed in public would seem to defy commonsense. But the sense being employed here is not particularly common; it needs to be noted that many of the animal rights activists who oppose the horse and carriage business also oppose any service to people by any animals whatsoever, equating it to human slavery.
Horses have been utilized in the role of “beasts of burden” for thousands of years. It seems likely to yours truly that rarely have they had as much attention and care as they have while pulling these carriages for tourists in New York City.
The anti-carriage horse folks eagerly highlight some accidents and incidents over the years. And accidents naturally have happened, garnering much publicity, far more indeed than is generally given to the many, many more accidents that humans suffer in New York every day. No one has yet advocated banning humans from New York City for this reason. (Though perhaps this bears more serious thinking. Imagine, with no people in the city, how much cleaner and quieter it would be. Imagine the reduction in costs related to sanitation, medical services, water supply, policing …! Of-course, tax receipts would take a big hit … but it seems to me someone at least ought to crunch the numbers: this may be something the mayor will want to add to his platform at the next election.)
On a few occasions over the years, horses have died while still in service. What’s not clear to me is whether—if the horses do not pull carriages—they will obtain the gift of eternal life. Do horses ever die in pastures? I confess that I’ve never seen it happen. Fully investigating the question will require a field trip, I guess.
But as much as people like seeing horses in pastures, I can’t help but speculate that if the need for horses to pull carriages in New York disappears, the result in the end will simply be fewer horses in the world.
I happen to be someone who is unlikely ever to pay the very high price to ride in one of these carriages, but I have to say that I do like seeing the horses. There is something calming about the sight of these beautiful, strong and placid animals clip-clopping through the park pulling their carriages. (The sight of the guys huffing and puffing on the pedicabs isn’t anywhere near as pleasing.) It is an antidote to the crazed hustle of the city. And, although I may not know much, I know this: If these horses are banned, then—whether it’s 10 years from now, or 20, or 30—there will surely come the day when people will be looking at photos of how New York City used to be, down through all the years of its existence, and will wonder why the horses and carriages suddenly disappeared. They will miss them terribly and envy the New Yorkers of bygone ages. There will be a campaign to bring them back, but it will not be so easy to restore this very small and special industry and craft once it has been wiped out. It is rather amazing that it has survived this long. In many places around the world, people would be going out of their way to protect such a precious and iconic treasure of their city, even if it didn’t make a profit; in New York, in 2014, we instead have to deal with an administration that is doing whatever it can to destroy it, despite the fact that it is thriving perfectly well on its own terms, without subsidies.
One compromise idea that pleases many people is to build stables for the horses in Central Park, so they don’t have to travel through the city streets from midtown to get there. The idea has not gained much traction as yet, probably because (1) space is obviously at a premium even in Central Park and no one wants to give it up and (2) in the end it wouldn’t satisfy the most radical activists because, you see, the horses would still be slaves.
As unlikely as it may be with the elected leaders we have chained ourselves to, here’s to hoping good sense prevails, for once. And failing that, a modicum of horse sense would do.
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April 16th, to be exact. New York City awoke this morning to freezing temperatures and something between a dusting and an icing of white stuff. At points west and north in the U.S.A. there are places that have been receiving more substantial quantities. But just for the record, we took a few photos. Continue reading Snow in April
A man in New York City was picked up last month on the charge of trespassing. He had been found by police sleeping in a stairwell of a public housing project in Harlem. It has surely been a very cold winter in New York, and I guess a stairwell there is one of the places where someone without a home of his own could find some shelter. Public housing projects in New York City generally have token and non-functioning security mechanisms, so that anyone can just stroll in off the street and do whatever they want in the stairwells—which is naturally catastrophic for the quality of life of all of the residents (and yet our new mayor is more concerned about banning carriage horses from pulling carriages, rather than fixing such a fundamental problem for so many poor city residents). The easy accessibility of a legally-prohibited sleeping space was arguably tragedy number one for this man, Jerome Murdough, although really it had come after all of those other tragedies that led him to his life of living on and off the street. Continue reading Man “Baked to Death” in New York City Jail Cell
A 35 year-old woman fell to her death from the 17th floor of a building on 57th St. in New York City last night (or early this morning). She was apparently leaning against the railings on her apartment’s balcony when those railings suddenly gave way. The details are no doubt still to be fully established. Obviously, tragic accidents occur every day. This one is in the news at all only because of the particular drama of such a fall in midtown Manhattan. The story itself is, truth be told, relevant only to the people personally involved, and the people who mourn the woman’s loss.
Yet, what’s really remarkable is seeing the kinds of comments on this story that so many people have left, using in most cases their real names and Facebook identities. I don’t read comment sections anymore as a rule, but the first ones I saw on this were so horrible that I felt obliged to go on and see if they continued in that vein. And they did. Many of the most vile remarks were those directed at the dead woman because the story had reported that she was smoking on her balcony when the accident occurred. People felt it worthwhile to pause long enough on the page to leave brief derisive comments such as, “Who wants to date a woman who smokes and smells like tobacco – yuck,” or “She was a smoker. Poor judgment is par for the course.” Or something along the lines of “Tobacco kills!” Again, people using their real names, with photos and actual Facebook profiles attached (sometimes hugging a spouse or clasping their small child in their arms) stop to leave a random insult on a public webpage with a story about a woman who has just died. They are capable of being just that shameless. Continue reading Sad Commentary: A Fatal Fall at Sutton Place
Around nine o’clock this morning, it was already absolutely sweltering in the sun in New York City, and it’s headed up to 99 degrees today, at least. Try walking on the hot pavement when your entire body is spread out only four inches above it. The concrete and asphalt absorb the sun’s rays and radiate that heat right back out. Fuggedabout your feet; your whole body gets cooked so much it only needs mustard and a bun to finish it off. Continue reading Where Are My Fried Eggs?
Yesterday, Sunday, November 11th in New York City, the annual Veterans Day Parade (known as the largest in the nation) engulfed Fifth Avenue between 26th and 56th streets. For the first time in the history of this parade, what are officially known as “Military Working Dogs” (MWDs) were honored. A group of canines and their handlers, actual veterans of recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, marched up Fifth Avenue accompanied by signage and a decorated float. Photos (taken by yours truly) are below. Click on each for larger versions. May God bless each and every one of our veterans.
From the War of 1812 to the current war in Afghanistan, dogs have served alongside American troops. Although we usually think of German Shepherds and Dobermans, a vast range of breeds have served, including American Coon Hounds, Jack Russell Terriers, Mastiffs and mixed breeds. Continue reading Veterans Day 2012 in New York: Honoring Military Working Dogs
There’s a famous cartoon by Saul Steinberg, called “View of the World from 9th Avenue,” which was a cover for the New Yorker magazine in 1976. It shows 9th and 10th Avenues in Manhattan in detail with cars and people, and then the rest of the world receding in size and significance, with bare rocks designating esoteric places like Texas, Los Angeles and Nebraska, and China, Japan and Russia featured as gray shores beyond a Pacific Ocean which isn’t much bigger than the Hudson River. The concept has been imitated many times for other locales, and it’s amusing because it contains a truth about human nature: That which is going on closest to us seems most important, and we’re generally satisifed to have the vaguest notions about people and places farther away.
I believe that the same kind of distorted lens affects our perception of weather events. The storm that just occurred is so much worse than storms previously recorded in history (even if it’s not). There is a much greater number of storms and much more damaging weather these days in general than there ever has been before (even if there is not). And even the really, really smart people who are in charge of us seem to be susceptible to this “View of the World from New York on Halloween of 2012.” Mayor Mike Bloomberg said the other day that: “What is clear is that the storms we’ve experienced in the last year or so around this country and around the world are much more severe than before.” Governor Andrew Cuomo is quoted as saying: “There has been a series of extreme weather incidents … Anyone who says there’s not a dramatic change in weather patterns, I think is denying reality.” Well, indeed, what’s reality? Is it our immediate and emotional perception in the wake of a particular weather disaster or historical facts and numbers taken from a long period of time? Roger Pielke (professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado) has pulled out some of the latter:
In studying hurricanes, we can make rough comparisons over time by adjusting past losses to account for inflation and the growth of coastal communities. If Sandy causes $20 billion in damage (in 2012 dollars), it would rank as the 17th most damaging hurricane or tropical storm (out of 242) to hit the U.S. since 1900 – a significant event, but not close to the top 10. The Great Miami Hurricane of 1926 tops the list (according to estimates by the catastrophe-insurance provider ICAT), as it would cause $180 billion in damage if it were to strike today. Hurricane Katrina ranks fourth at $85 billion.
To put things into even starker perspective, consider that from August 1954 through August 1955, the East Coast saw three different storms make landfall – Carol, Hazel and Diane – that in 2012 each would have caused about twice as much damage as Sandy.
While it’s hardly mentioned in the media, the U.S. is currently in an extended and intense hurricane “drought.” The last Category 3 or stronger storm to make landfall was Wilma in 2005. The more than seven years since then is the longest such span in over a century.
Another and broader point made by Pielke is one I will make in my own way: Since the beginning of time, the weather has been killing us. It’s been blowing us away, drowning us, and parching us. It’s destroyed our houses, wrecked our crops, and even forced us at times in large numbers to migrate. The occurrence of extreme weather events on a periodic basis is one of the most reliable features of the climate across much of planet earth. If such events stopped occurring, then that would be “climate change” indeed. Our tendency—all the more so in the modern age when we feel so relatively invincible—to want to live in places that are especially vulnerable to extreme weather events, like right on the edge of huge bodies of water, only increases the potential for damage and loss. Continue reading Post-Sandy: Weather, perception and public policy
Clearly this storm has been a disaster for many who badly need assistance and prayers. Here at Cinch HQ in NYC we can only be grateful not to have lost power or suffered any other significant damage. Were it not for seeing it on the news, we wouldn’t even know it had been such a damaging storm. Would that everyone could say the same thing.
In terms of New York City at large, it seems the damage to the subway system is the biggest single issue hanging over the recovery effort. Shutting down the system was meant to avoid serious flooding by salt water, but it occurred anyway, and that’s a very big deal which will impact service for quite some time and cost plenty to fix. Continue reading Sandy: aftermath of the tempest
‘Tis well I remember Hurricane Irene from 14 months ago. I remember going out just about when it was predicted to have been at its worst. The rain had stopped and light was breaking through the clouds; it seemed for all the world like a nice day. I thought: “Wow, this must be the eye of the storm.” But no: that was the storm — at least in our neighborhood.
I’m so tempted to say “Deja-vu all over again.” Yet, it’s clear enough from news reports that low-lying areas by the sea are getting inundated, and no one can say this storm isn’t going to be very serious for many people. But as far as dramatic effects in the heart of New York City … well, there have been passing summer thunderstorms that created more of a stir. We’ve had breezes, the occasional howling gust, and some moderate but intermittent rain. The focus in the media right now on a single crane slightly dislodged in midtown seems to sum things up; there’s a distinct lack of news, at least in Manhattan. Continue reading Sandy: an update from within the tempest
They waited at the landing
And they tried to understand
But there is no understanding
For the judgement of God’s hand
So goes one of the final verses of Bob Dylan’s song, “Tempest,” released this past September 11th. It describes the sinking of the Titanic, but makes no mention of any iceberg. There is only the “tempest” cited in the title. It’s an unusually long song, and Hurricane Sandy is predicted to be one unusually long storm. Make of it what you will!
At this hour (10 a.m.) from my vantage point in the center of New York City, things are quite calm and very strange. Breezy, for sure, with some raindrops in the air but no torrents. What is very odd is knowing that, effectively, everyone is at home. You can almost never say that in New York, on any day, at any hour. This strange state of affairs is thanks to the complete shut down of public transportation. It is only the second time that’s ever been done in anticipation of inclement weather, the first time being August of 2011, when it was done for Hurricane Irene. That turned out to be an overreaction. This time, if the meteorologists are half-way correct, it will not be an overreaction.
In New York City, amidst the walls of skyscrapers, I think most of us tend to feel immune to the vagaries of weather. The worst blizzards imaginable can strike, but in a few hours as if by magic the streets are cleared and the sidewalks swept. If you use the subway or your legs to get around, you are barely inconvenienced by such events.
This could be different—indeed it’s already different by virtue of the subway shutdown—but still I think the deepest concern with regard to this storm is for people in other locales, places where they are almost certain to lose power, perhaps for many days. With the power lines underground in Manhattan, I’m not sure what disastrous sequence of events would have to take place to cut off power here.
In any case, I will continue checking in here as whim and circumstance dictate.
Now I’m going to take the dog for a walk.
One more verse from “Tempest” by Bob Dylan:
Smokestack was leaning sideways
Heavy feet began to pound
He walked into the whirlwind
Sky splitting all around
Addendum 11 a.m.: In truth, a quick walk around the neighborhood shows that about 50% of businesses are open, and there are plenty of people out and about, searching for the storm. I guess eventually it will probably find us.
In a press conference this week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York was defending the actions of the police officers who shot the gunman outside of the Empire State Building last week, killing him but also wounding nine innocent bystanders.
Now, I don’t condemn the police for the wounding of those people, simply because I know how densely populated is that area with tourists/commuters/people-selling-things-to-tourists and you name it. Simply put, if you point a gun straight-away in any direction there and fire it the bullet is going to find someone’s body, whether within close-range or down the block. The choice of the gunman to point his gun at the police took away their option not to fire. Using semi-automatics, they fired 16 rounds between them. Yes, they should have been able to do the job with less, but it’s difficult to seriously fault them given the abrupt and terrifying circumstance. I’m assuming at that close-range that many of the bystanders who were hit were hit by bullets or fragments of bullets which had already passed through the killer’s body. The video doesn’t show the officers firing wildly all about. Again, given the density of human flesh in that neighborhood, injuries to bystanders were inevitable. Thank God no one else was killed.
But that’s not why I’m interested in what Mayor Mike Bloomberg said at this press conference. In response to some critical question about the actions of the police officers, the famously pro-gun-control mayor is quoted as saying the following: “Let me ask you this: If somebody pointed a gun at you, and you had a gun in your pocket, what would you do?” It’s a rhetorical question, of-course, meant to defend the actions of the police officers.
It is a funny question on more than one level, coming from him. Firstly, due to the strictness of New York City’s gun control regulations (which he would only be inclined to make stricter) it is almost impossible to conceive of a situation where that reporter would legally be able to have “a gun in [his] pocket.” Merely getting a permit to own a handgun and keep it locked up, unloaded, at home, is a matter of enormous difficulty in New York City, and the authorities are under no obligation to issue it to you at all, even if you jump through every hoop successfully. They can simply say, “Ah, we don’t like your face,” or, “We don’t feel like it today.” It is in their discretion.
And getting a permit to actually carry a loaded handgun on your person in the city is many times more difficult again, and the city actively discourages people from even attempting to do so. It’s long been a matter of contention among those who are interested that you pretty much need to be a Hollywood star, some other kind of super-celebrity or mega-wealthy character in order to be anointed with such a permit. No doubt there are exceptions, but the deck is heavily stacked against any Joe or Jane Schmo, and the Second Amendment be damned (as indeed it is in New York City).
So Mayor Bloomberg’s question —If somebody pointed a gun at you, and you had a gun in your pocket, what would you do?—is kind of ludicrous on the face of it. The answer is: “Mr. Mayor, I wouldn’t have a gun in my pocket, thanks to you and your ilk, so I guess what I would do in that situation is die.”
And indeed, many people have died and do die in this city and others like it for the want of being able to defend themselves against murdering thugs.
Mayor Bloomberg’s question is also funny because it presumes, you’ll notice, that there is a moral right to pull out a gun and defend yourself if someone is threatening your life with one. “If somebody pointed a gun at you, and you had a gun in your pocket, what would you do?” The question presumes not only that anyone would use their gun to defend themselves in that situation, but that it would also be the right thing to do. Continue reading “If someone pointed a gun at you …?” – Mayor Bloomberg’s interesting question
Update 10:45 a.m.: So, although reports continue to be somewhat contradictory, it does appear at this point to have been an isolated shooting, based on a personal motive, unconnected to terrorism. The picture will be clearer after a few hours, but I think it would be pointless for the likes of yours truly to continue updating at this point.
So, signing off, with a prayer for the recovery of those who are being treated for their injuries as a result of this morning’s events.
Update 10:28 a.m.: Local TV now interviewing people outside kvetching about not being able to get where they’re going.
Two are reported dead, counting the gunman. Eight others reported injured.
Suspect was reportedly fired from his job yesterday, according to local CBS News television. They also report that it was the manager of the business who was shot and killed by the gunman, at about 9 a.m. today.
Update 10:15 a.m.: NY Post says it was a “dispute between coworkers” which spilled out onto the street.
Update 10:09 a.m.: Shooter was “disgruntled employee” of a business located at the building, according to a report on NBC New York.
At least 10 people shot at the Empire State Building in New York City this morning, including reportedly the gunman. In addition to the total lock-down by the NYPD around 34th St. and 5th avenue, the FBI is on the scene. At this stage all the injured are said to have been taken to hospitals.
Based on watching the police activity on TV and laying down of markers, it appears that at least some of the shooting took place right in front of the building on 5th avenue between 33rd and 34th. Some victims reportedly found in the lobby.
The obvious remark is that no one would start shooting at that location unless they were fully prepared to lose their own life in the process. It is one of the iconic sites in Manhattan were there is always a police presence and an expectation of possible terrorism. If anything, at this point, it is surprising the gunman managed to shoot so many people. But at this point what we really know is nothing. Will update this post if it seems justified.
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.
As to the broader question of the rise in power of the health fascists, I believe the decisive turn in that battle was fought and lost (or won, depending on your point of view) years ago, and it too happened in New York. Continue reading New York Nanny Bloomberg takes a really big gulp (but this battle was lost long ago)
James Kirchick (h/t Mick Hartley) writes on all that was left unsaid at a memorial service for Christopher Hitchens in New York last month.
The service began with an opening speech by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, who set the tone for the event when he mentioned, in passing, Christopher’s “curious prowar stance before the invasion of Iraq.” We would hear next to nothing about Iraq for the rest of the 90-minute service, a glaring omission considering that the war to overthrow Saddam Hussein, second only perhaps to his crusade against religion, was the defining topic of the last decade of Christopher’s life. An impressive array of people performed readings of Christopher’s best work; some of which—Tom Stoppard from a Nation piece on the Prague Spring, Tom Mallon from a Vanity Fair dispatch about North Korea, Christopher Buckley from the memoir Hitch 22—were deeply moving.
But not a single one of the readings was about Iraq, never mind the looming threat of Iran or the hypocrisies of the antiwar movement, topics that consumed Christopher and gradually drove him away from the Nation (which, he concluded, had become “the voice and the echo chamber of those who truly believe that John Ashcroft is a greater menace than Osama bin Laden”) and the left in general. One of his most memorable polemics, the absence of which at the memorial was surely attributable to the fact that it would have offended most of the people in the room, was his evisceration of filmmaker Michael Moore and his Fahrenheit 9/11. This “silly and shady man,” Christopher wrote, had produced a film which represented “a possible fusion between the turgid routines of MoveOn.org and the filmic standards, if not exactly the filmic skills, of Sergei Eisenstein or Leni Riefenstahl.”
Christopher never apologized for his support of the war, or expressed the slightest doubt that he had been wrong in backing it, but the memorial service tried to whitewash this episode as if it were akin to an embarrassing crime he had committed.
Good for the people of St. Louis, Missouri, for throwing the first major parade welcoming home veterans of the war in Iraq. I sincerely hope we see this being repeated around the country. (Including and especially in New York City, by the way. I really don’t understand why Mayor Bloomberg claims he needs permission from the Pentagon to have a parade on Broadway. This is something that the people want to do. It is inappropriate—at the very least—to allow generals in Washington to overrule it.) Continue reading Parade in St. Louis for Iraq War veterans
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