Saturday, October 15, 2011

From Albany Street to Zuccotti Park: Why I'm Not Impressed with the Occupy Wall Street Mob

I was walking around Zuccotti Park and the surrounding area today, to get a feel for what's happening with the Occupy Wall Street protest. It was educational, in a number of ways. I took several pictures along the way of various things that stuck out at me: The black flags of anarchists, the sign advertising a website titled “SocialistAlternative.org,” the guitar-playing Arab, the “We Shall Overcome” chorus, and the kid with a bandana who I overheard saying “Celebrating America is celebrating genocide and corporate exploitation.”

I left and visited the 9/11 Memorial, Having gotten a ticket up at the office on Vesey Street, and then walked down to the entrance on Albany Street. I walked through the garden, listened to the waterfalls of the reflecting pools, and found the name of a friend at the North Pool. His name was along the east side of the pool, and a strong wind from the west was blowing spray in my face as I tried to take a picture of it. I couldn’t help thinking my friend was messing with me.

Later, I walked around the protest site and north to catch the A train. It was then that I realized that the failing of the OWS protest, why it will really not matter in the long run, can be explained not by economics, or even politics, but by geography.

Non-New Yorkers may not be aware of this, but across Broadway from the park, and on the other side of the Brown Brothers Harriman building, is the NYC headquarters of JP MORGAN CHASE BANK.

I’m sorry; did I not type that clearly???? The headquarters of one of the largest banks in the world, Chase, is LESS THAN A HUNDRED FREAKING METERS from these protesters!!!! And yet, not a single protester is shouting within sight of the building, despite the fact that there's a large, spacious terrace-and-patio PARK surrounding it!!!! You know, the one with those ugly black and white "tree" sculptures??? You could probably fit more people in there than in Zuccotti!!!

Oh, and just for good measure, you want to know what’s across the street from Chase? THE GODDAMNED FEDERAL RESERVE BANK OF NEW YORK!!!!! I wonder if that guy holding the “Audit the Fed” sign was aware of that, or if he just preferred to stay where the cameras are.

But then, perhaps the reason they're not picketing over by these places is because the park has been fenced off, barricaded, and is patrolled by a battalion's worth of cops. Walking past it this evening, I was impressed by the presence, when the "action" was actually a block away. Clearly, the city and/or Chase decided to keep anything from happening on their turf, and the protesters are either too dumb to realize who is on the other side of the building with the big orange cube in front of it, or they don't want to risk being arrested by walking across the street.

And that's kind of it in a nutshell: These people, despite the black anarchist flags and the socialist web site signs, are not revolutionaries. They want attention, not confrontation. Glenn Beck is as dumb as a fence post if he's comparing these people to the French Revolution. Revolutions happen when people are so pissed off at the status quo that to die trying to change it is preferable to continuing to live under it. If these people are going to let some cops eating in vans and portable fencing keep them away from one of the biggest of the 'big banks', they are clearly not at that point.

Memo to the Mayor: Leave them alone, Mike. It’s mid-October; in another month, when the frost comes, they’ll leave willingly, without the bad press of evicting them. They’re a minor nuisance, nothing more.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Senate Passes Gay Marriage Law Exemptions For Churches

Vote is 36-26. Reconciliation and the signature by Cuomo, and then it is done.

Slainte.
If you'd like to watch the vote from Albany live, you can watch it here:

http://www.nysenate.gov/event/2011/jun/24/senate-session

NY Gay Marriage Bill to Come to Senate Floor

As I type, the procrastinating prigs who call themselves the Republicans in our state Senate have finally stopped stalling and are bringing the gay marriage bill to the floor. I say procrastinating, because that's all this hullaballoo about protecting religious institutions from being compelled to perform gay marriages ever was.

Consider: Suppose a Catholic priest on Staten Island is asked to perform a gay marriage, and refuses. Suppose the gay couple then brings suit in the New York Supreme Court for Richmond County, requesting that the priest be compelled to perform the ceremony. Want to know what happens then? The Archdiocese of New York offers a First Amendment defense, saying that the Church cannot be compelled by the state or the federal government to perform any ceremony.

The Church would win in a landslide. NO court in this state, or any other state of the union, is going to decide that a religious institution can be compelled to perform any rite or ceremony if the institution expressly refuses to do so. And I seriously doubt any lawyer in this state would even represent the gay couple in trying, because the argument that they COULD compel the Church to ratify their union fails to pass an intricate legal test which we lawyers call "the straight-face test." (For that matter, I have a really hard time believing that any gay couple could be so abysmally stupid as to even desire to try to compel the Church to accept them, especially when they can go to St. Andrew's Anglican Church in Richmondtown and be welcomed with open arms.)

With this analysis in mind, the state GOP's insistence that addition language protecting the clergy and Knights of Columbus halls and other nonsense is revealed as a bunch of useless hype which only served as a delaying tactic. Governor Cuomo called 'bullshit' on that by bringing the legislature back for an extra week, during which time they debated every trivial bill, including the naming of a state vegetable, to avoid actually tackling the one substantive issue that might actually cost people votes come the fall. And finally, sometime this evening, the vote will be taken.

Some time ago, I opined that civil unions constituted an equitable compromise between liberal and conservative viewpoints on this issue. I said that, in the final analysis, I favored gay marriage, but that I thought that CUs were more achievable in the short term while still granting all the substantive rights of marriage to homosexuals; we'd just use a different term to keep Pat Robertson from screaming so loud. I can't say I blame gay rights activists for refusing to settle, and I admit that I forgot Commodore Maury's old axiom:

When principle is involved, be deaf to expediency.

The Russell Record congratulates the gay community of New York in achieving equal rights in marital law, and the New York Legislature for finally doing its job.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Regenesis

Greetings! Sorry it's been so long since my last post, but the recession took a toll on my employment status, and I've spent the last few months dealing with it. I've had to downsize a bit: Moved out of Manhattan to a less expensive suburb, stocking up on Dinty Moore instead of DelFrisco's, et al. But I've got a job, and it's a job within the legal profession, so I am a lot better off than a lot of attorneys who got purged in the bloodletting of the last few years.


I could say the experiences of the last few months were educational, but to be honest, most of the lessons were more refresher courses, reminding me of things that I learned at Canoe U, or in the Third Marines, or in my transfer to civilian life. Not having a job to get up for was very stressful for me, even at a time when I had a decent cushion in savings and was collecting a nice severance package. It took a month or so and several visits with a therapist to stop feeling sorry for myself and start eating again. My life devolved to working out, job hunting, and the local bars of Hell's Kitchen. In hindsight, I could have taken an art class at NYU, or had a doctor check out my shoulder and gotten rotator cuff surgery when I had no other obligations, as opposed to now. Oh well, water under the bridge.


I've dealt with this kind of thing in the past, and I guess that, after the previous experience, this pass wasn't as bad, and I was able to regain my wits faster. In terms of employment, I'd started looking at a bunch of different options quickly, not all of them in the legal world: I'd worked as a security guard in law school, and, before finding my current position, I contacted my old boss to see if I could get some hours. I also went to a hiring conference that had nothing to do with legal positions; I spoke with pharaceutical companies, fiberglass manufacturers, and construction contractors. A lot of people laugh at the whole "lawyer-working-at-Home-Depot" thing, and while I will admit it wasn't my first choice, it's what I was prepared to do to pay the bills. If I could crawl through mud and weed sidewalks, there's not a lot I think is beneath me. My dad worked two jobs to pay for my education; I can take a lower paying job to finance my own.



If there's anything I took from the experience, I guess I reminded myself that there is truth in the damned cliche: Tough times don't last; tough people do. We are in tough times, god knows; unemployment isn't going to suddenly nose dive between now and next November. But I was able to make my situation work by swallowing some ego and making some changes. I'm not saying it will work for everyone, but I'm going to make it work for me.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Value of your Values

Along life's road, we all run into rough patches, and we all make wrong turns. Sometimes we make decisions we will regret, and find that we've lost something of ourselves along the way. But when you come to those moment's remember: Whether it's your pride, your integrity, your self-respect, or any of your principles, these things are not like a ring that slips off your finger and is never found. They are like a house that you've always lived in, and now you've given someone else a mortgage on. Title may be clouded, but you still can redeem it. Whether or not you choose to is up to you. As these are values, they have value, and getting them back is never going to be easy. And there will always be those around you that will cluck their tongues and never let you live it down. Of course, most of those people, like Fox News consultant Newt Gingrich lording his virtue over Eliot Spitzer, either never had the values to begin with, or granted someone that lien a long time ago, but hell will freeze before they'll ever admit it. But if they matter enough to you to make the sacrifices necessary to regain clear title, nothing else will matter. Just don't give up.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day

"Some men go a lifetime not knowing if they ever made difference ...but the Marines don't have that problem."
Ronald Reagan 1985

For those who have died,

For those who shall die,

I am grateful.

"Blessed be the Lord my strength, which teaches my fingers to fight, and my hands to war."

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Maddow v. Bayh

Following up on my post from this morning, it's kind of weird to listen to Rachel Maddow rip Evan Bayh. According to the MSNBC host, Bayh was "probably the only Democrat who could've held that Senate seat right now," i.e., the moderate kind. (She apparently can't bring herself to say it.)

Yet it is those same moderate Dems that Maddow spends half of her air time taking to task for getting in the way of true progressives. She'll criticize Obama for not keeping his agenda far enough to the Left, and spit on the failed campaigns of the Blue Dogs because they ruined the health care bill, the jobs bill and a dozen other things, but then, without any sense of irony, fire a full broadside at a moderate Democrat for, of all things, not choosing to run again and hold his seat for Team Blue. A team which, according to Maddow, he never should have been on in the first place.

Thank god consistency isn't a necessity of being a pundit.

Decision 2K10

After an evening learning about Brazilian ju jitsu, I returned home with my sore shoulder to watch the shills of MSNBC dealing with the midterm elections. By the time I tuned in, they had already called the House for Republicans. Kudos to Todd Young, my classmate at the Academy and TBS, on his win in Indiana's Ninth District. I took a Nyquil to prevent the onset of a cold (it's not working) and ended up falling asleep on the couch. By the time I woke up and went to bed, NBC had called the Senate for the Democrats, resulting in a split Congress.

How to look at these results, aside from my personal happiness for Todd (sorry you missed the reunion, but we all understood), is causes me some difficulty. To a certain level, I feel a bit of vindication. As Evan Bayh posits in today's New York Times, "[i]t is clear that Democrats over-interpreted our mandate. Talk of a 'political realignment' and a 'new progressive era' proved wishful thinking. Exit polls in 2008 showed that 22 percent of voters identified themselves as liberals, 32 percent as conservatives and 44 percent as moderates. An electorate that is 76 percent moderate to conservative was not crying out for a move to the left."

Not to be too snarky, but in 2008, I warned Democrats not to overstate their victory. In a post on November 21, 2008 regarding Obama's cabinet choices:

"...I think the picks Obama has made reflect a great deal of savvy on his part, and an understanding of just what mandate for change he has got: The mandate to be someone other than Bush. That's basically it."

As I said before, the 2008 election, while a humiliation for the GOP that should have inspired some true soul-searching (as opposed to tea partying), was not a radical realignment of political power in America towards a progressive majority. It was voters taking out the bad economy, the bailouts and the war in Iraq on the village idiot from Crawford, Texas and anybody associated with him. Obama even framed the election that way: Hope and Change, or a third term of Bush.


And I also said that if Democrats pushed a decidedly liberal agenda, they would pay for it now.

Have the Democrats pushed so liberal an agenda? That's up for debate. On the one hand, the health care bill didn't have a public option, Gitmo is still open for business, the war in Iraq is still winding down according to the schedule Bush set, and the Supreme Court still has a conservative slant to it, so there have been a lot of things which haven't really turned to the left. On the other hand, progressives have a lot to be pleased with over the last two years. As has been only recently reported, Democrats have passed more bills since Obama's election than any other Democratic-controlled Congress and president since the Great Society. The health care bill, while imperfect from liberal eyes, is a bigger step toward universal coverage than anything in this country's history (albeit something Democrats could have achieved decades ago if they could have stopped fighting among themselves). There are greater regulations on Wall Street than there were when Wall Street tanked our economy three years ago. Two new justices on the Supreme Court. New protections for the environment. All in all, a lot for Democrats to be proud of. So whenever I hear someone on the Left complaining about what a disappointment Obama has been or talking about running a primary challenge to him in 2012, I wonder what country they have been living in for the last two years.

The Huffington Post warns of "Gridlock in America" today. Maybe they're right. But as the liberal shills on MSNBC pointed out (and as I have alluded to in the past), these newly elected Tea Partiers, as well as the more established GOPers they caucus with, are going to be under immediate pressure to make their promises of fiscal restraint and smaller government a reality. None of them seem to want to identify programs or departments they will cut in order to balance the budget or how to increase revenue without raising taxes, but the grace period in which they could stonewall on these questions is now running out. When they take office, real choices are going to confront their campaign promises, and a lot of those angry voters who sent them to Washington are going to be expecting results.

Good luck, Todd. Semper Fi.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Navy Trounces Notre Dame

What else is there to be said about Navy’s victory over the Fighting “Irish”?

Sometimes too many words can spoil a moment. So, without further ado:

From my position in Section 146 of the New Meadowlands, I witnessed one of the greatest football games of my life. That I lived to see us not only beat, but DOMINATE Notre Dame for four quarters, and leave no one with any doubt as to who was the better team when the alma mater was played, was the closest I‘ve ever come to witnessing athletic nirvana. I was a little late getting to the stadium, so I missed our goal-line stance and first touchdown. But from the ND field goal in the first quarter, to the interception by Navy with 1:59 left in the first half, to the exodus of green sweatshirts at the end of the third quarter, I was there, watching with joy.

For the most part, the ND fans I encountered were respectful and gracious. Of course, there wasn’t much reason for trash-talking on their part midway through the first quarter. The ride back to Manhattan was also pleasant, inasmuch as our train was packed with midshipmen and their families, enjoying the newly sounded liberty call: the Commandant of Midshipmen gave an uncharged weekend off to the Brigade in celebration of the team’s accomplishment. (Try explaining that concept to a junior at South Bend.)

However, once I got home and began reading some of the various ND support sites and the amount of trash talking they had done before the game, I started to get irritated. Or maybe contemptuous is a better description. Chief among the complaints were those discussing the Navy Defense. The South Bend Tribune’s article was typical … Navy blockers stay low, using their opponent’s natural size advantage against them. The Tribune, ND supporters, and even some members of ND’s coaching staff have voiced complaints about it, accusing us of chop-blocking, a personal foul under the rules of American Football.

It's true that there is a fine line between a legal block low and a personal foul, but consider: Back in the dawn of time, when the gods of sports first conceived of Yankee football, they created these smaller men with black-and-white jerseys and little yellow handkerchiefs to ensure that the game is played cleanly. As a result, these men, called "officials," watch carefully for infractions of the rules, particularly when one team has a reputation for a certain infraction, justified or not.

And do you want to know how many times the officials saw us make an illegal block in this game?

Not. Once.

Missing one or two calls might be understandable, if irritating. But ND has been whining about our blocking ever since we beat them in 2007; you'd think that, given their feelings on the subject, the refs would be watching for it, right? And yet not one flag???

How do ND fans explain this??? "Well, the refs must have just swallowed a bunch of whistles."

As if Navy’s blocking scheme and referee blindness caused your quarterback to throw two interceptions.

Or kept you from scoring on fourth-and-goal from the one yard line.

You outweigh us on the line of scrimmage by forty pounds, if not more, and you can’t score from the ONE F*CKING YARD LINE, but you want to whine about blocking that DID NOT ELICIT A SINGLE FLAG THE WHOLE GAME???

Part of me can understand the Domer Denial: It’s one thing to lose, and another thing to be dominated. Most Irish fans didn’t dispute, prior to Saturday, that Navy has a good team. But Notre Dame didn’t just lose on Saturday; they got stomped. The game was simply not a competitive one; we beat the Irish on Saturday the way the Irish used to beat us.

I know; I was there. Many, many times.

And if Notre Dame can’t produce a competitive effort against Navy, can they really expect to be competitive against Texas? or Ohio State, or, god help us, Boise State??? (I know, it feels weird just typing it...)

Reality can be a very painful thing to experience, and the Irish faithful are sampling that pain today. The hopes and dreams with which they greeted the Twilight of Weis and the Dawn of Kelly were clearly overly optimistic.

Notre Dame will field a national championship team again one day, but that day is still a lot farther off than most of Her Loyal Sons want to accept.

This is, of course, the kind of reality that Navy has known for a long time. We just don’t whine about it as much.