Sunday, September 11, 2011

I Thought It Was a Little Single Engine Jet

On September 11, 2001 I was seventeen years old and a senior in high school...seventeen years old.  I went to high school in Staten Island, New York on the southern tip of Staten Island (here is a map).  Staten Island is just south of Manhattan, and for those who may not know the World Trade Center is on the southern tip of Manhattan...that's somewhere between 12 and 15 miles I think.

I was walking to my second class of the day and a friend of mine came up to me and told me a plane had hit the World Trade Center.  My very first thought was that somebody has screwed up and hit the towers with a small single engine jet that probably crumbled itself but that the towers were indestructible.

We went into class and sat down.  Nobody had any real idea what was going on yet.  Our teacher quieted us down and before anything asked if anybody had parents who worked in the World Trade Center.  Two of my classmates raised their hands.  He asked the two of them to please speak with him outside the classroom.  I don't remember who they were, and I don't know if their parents were OK.  I can actually still see them raising their hands.

The teacher came back in and gave us vague details.  Then there was a PA announcement from our Principal basically telling us that we could stay if we needed to, but it was OK if we all left.  Our high school relied on NYC trains and buses...not school buses, so we could just leave.  I walked home.  You could see the smoke in the sky from my high school.

When I got home I did what I think everyone else did.  I turned on the news...I didn't stop watching for days....and I had my hand over my mouth a lot.

I don't know how other people react now, ten years later, to these events.  They make me cry whenever I think about it.  As I write this the people on TV are reading off the list of those lost.  While I wish it was more of an understated ceremony, I am crying.

I was lucky enough not to have lost anyone that Tuesday.  I was a bit young to have friends who were responders or WTC workers.  I didn't have any family in it either.  I did have close calls.  My neighbor, Mr. Salatino, I believe he was a fire captain, and I believe he captained the fire-house closest to the towers.  He took that day off, for no reason.

My brother lost a high school friend.  He a firefighter who went into the towers.  He's the only person we know of that got lost.  I knew him too.

None of that really matters though.  We all lost a lot.

Now, I don't like when people try to make this tragedy solely a New York thing.  It's not.  I've heard people say you can't understand unless you live(d) here or know the people or walk by it every day.  I don't buy into this.  It truly is a worldwide thing.  However, I will say I believe the emotion I get, the feeling of loss and the feeling of pure sadness, is there because of proximity.

I truly can't put into words just how much everything surrounding this date upsets me.  I physically can't think about it without my eyes welling up.  It is the single worst thing that has ever happened in my lifetime and was my first real exposure to the world as a dangerous place.

I remember how I felt in the immediate aftermath.  They didn't show many of the things that happened down there that day.  But in the days and weeks afterwards, if you wanted, you could see some of the details.  I've spent a lot of time thinking about how I would have reacted had I been stuck in the floors above where the planes hit.  Something that isn't impossible.  In 2007 I worked on the top floor of a building across the street from where the WTC was.  I think about what I would have done.  I've seen pictures of people jumping.  Jumping from the top floors of a 90 story building, just to escape what was inside.  I don't know if I would be able to do that...I just don't.  One picture in particular haunts me.  You've probably seen it if you looked, here is a link if you haven't.  One man had jumped, and he was on his way down...head first.  He looked incredibly serene and peaceful.  He probably wasn't, but I like to think he was.  He had escaped something much worse.

It's this decision that brings me back to this past May.  To when President Obama announced Osama Bin Laden's death.  A lot of people cheered.  A lot of people smiled.  A lot of people said this wasn't right. I have never been one to choose vengeance, or to cheer someones death. It is simply immoral and illogical to cheer someones death. However, in this case...Osama Bin Laden presented these people with a choice, and this man chose to die.  Bin Laden caused this to happen many, many times.

I was 17 when this happened.  Me and people a generation younger or older had never really been exposed to this kind of evil.  We are too young to have seen Hitler or Stalin or Mao.  Hell, we were likely too young to know the Polpots and Milosevic's of the world.  This was pure evil to us.  I had never been exposed to anything like this before. This man, Bin Laden, he was my Hiter, my Mao, my monster.  He was the absolute vision of what evil was capable of and I truly hated him. So when it was announced that he had been killed, I smiled and clapped.  I didn't go outside and make noise, nor did I join the idiot college kids who were likely 6 years old on 9/11 who were drinking at ground zero. But I smiled, because the most evil man I will ever see had perished and could not do any more harm.  His body would disintegrate in the ocean at a slower and less dignifying pace than those on the planes.  He deserved much worse than he got.

I also remember discussions I had with friends in the weeks and months afterwards.  I specifically remember one night in my friend Scott's backyard.  Over some beers we were having a discussion about 911 and the war we were about to have.  A few of them said they would gladly join, and would welcome a draft and looked forward to fighting. I told them I've wave from Canada.  I guess I'm just not that brave.  It wasn't idle talk either.  Two of the fellas in that discussion went on to join the armed services.  One became an Air Force Pilot and another joined the Army and spent a couple of tours in the middle east. I'm proud to have known them.  They are far braver than I ever could be.

I went to the first baseball game in New York City after 9/11.  The Mets played the Braves on September 21, 2001.  I remember wondering if we were going to get blown up.  I recall the snipers on the roof and the dogs sniffing everything and that it took forever to get inside.  I remember Liza Minelli singing "New York, New York".  I remember the 21 gun salute in left field.  I remember the USA chants throughout the entire game for no apparent reason.

The result of course didn't matter much to anyone, or so we thought. After all, it was just going to be an escape.  But it did.  We had to win. In the bottom of the 8th inning Mike Piazza hit a very, very long homerun off of Steve Karsay (himself a Queens, NY native) to give the Mets the lead.  I still consider it one of the greatest moments of my life (i'm balling right now) and NY sports fans list it as one of the best moments ever in NY sports.  I've never been to a playoff game, especially not a World Series game, but I can't imagine a crowd can go as crazy as that crowd did.  Have you ever seen fifty-five thousand people cry as hard as they can at the same time?  I did, at that moment. Here is an article on the game.

I don't know exactly why I'm writing this.  I guess I've never had an audience to share it with.  I guess I realize a lot of my readers aren't from around here so they might like a look inside my head.  I don't even know what I'm trying to express.  I'm just intensely sad today.  More than I ever thought I would be.

I miss my freedoms.  I miss not knowing evil.  I miss a lot of things. Oddly, I think most of all, I miss my skyline.  The skyline is what we have as New Yorkers.  And they took away out most prized part.  We are raising a new one, and it will be beautiful.  But every time I drive by lower Manhattan on the BQE (Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, just across the water) and I don't see them like I used to, or every time I drive to the Lincoln Tunnel on the Jersey Turnpike and those towers aren't there, I get horribly sad.  I used to be able to see them from Staten Island.  I'm glad I don't have that reminder every day.

I no longer like the "Never Forget" stuff that goes on.  There are football players putting it on their sneakers and people putting it in their facebook status.  It is just so pointless now.  That doesn't mean you should though.  The sentiment is right.  We should never forget.  Never forget those lost.  Never forget what those wonderful, wonderful first responders did.  And never forget the unity we had not only amongst ourselve but with the world afterwards.

I love New York.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

...Had Better Be Awesome.

I decided a long time ago that I considered life, albeit cliched, to be very, very short.  This led me to the surprising conclusion that I really needed to enjoy it and do what I wanted to do at all times.  My theory on life is essentially be nice, be selfish and compromise the two when needed.  You are gonna die, and don't have time to not maximize your enjoyment of every day.

With this in mind I have always been a live for right now kinda guy, the future will take care of itself.  It has always kept me in decent enough spirits...but I suppose at some point you need to plan.  Last month I made a change for the future at the detriment of now.

Any of you who follow me know it took quite a while to find a job.  An alum of  my school gave me a chance in mid June to work for his firm. It was a no-fault insurance litigation firm.  For those who aren't lawyers, or those lawyers who are fortunate enough to have never been exposed to it...this is the lowest of the low...completely mindless, completely form driven, completely useless mass "litigation".  I did not learn a thing and hated the work (though loved the people).

In late July a firm I had interned for in 2008 and interviewed with twice in the 10 months prior called to offer me a job.  They are a small corporate securities firm.  Corporate securities is one of the two things I wish to practice (the other is intellectual property).

Now, I had worked for them already so I knew their deal.  I knew it wasn't an ideal situation.  I knew they pay absolutely nothing.  I knew they had horribly long hours.  I knew for these reasons they have really high turnover, which they don't seem to mind for some reason.  I knew all this.  What I didn't know was that these would be the easy parts.

I like the work.  I'm constantly writing (more accurately, re-writing) SEC filings (think all the letters you heard in law school S-1, 20F, 8-k, 6-k), M & A agreements, stock purchase agreements, employment agreements, board resolutions, etc.  This is the stuff I wanted to do.  I like transaction work.  So, I am learning and the hours do fly by for the most part.

My gripe, and the unknown part of the firm, was my senior partner. There are two partners, Junior and Senior.  Senior is the 80 year old who knows all the clients.  Junior is the guy who works 80 hours a week actually getting stuff done.  Senior is quite literally the worlds biggest asshole.  Junior is a nice guy, though defeated.

All the associate live on edge because of Senior.  He is that boss that tells you everything you've done wrong and never, ever tells you that you did something right.  He nit pics, he insults, he's mean, he yells, he's condescending.

Here is a list of quotes that have showed up on the associates paperwork in just the last 10 days (only two of which on mine!):

  • "Inexcusable"
  • "shows 0 thought and 0 effort"
  • "You can't be serious"
  • "This is wrong, for a change" (sarcasm)
  • "A lawyer wouldn't do this"
  • "This was early, I'm not used to that"
  • "How could you possible have gotten this wrong?"

He is the worlds worst micro-manager.  Junior has been practicing for 30 years, but Senior still has final say and edits on all work that goes out.  When he calls, Junior runs.  He makes us rewrite all of our work seven or eight times, often "correcting" things he told us to do.  I used to think this was just a way to bilk the clients out of I know he's just insane.

Here is a short and incomplete list of some of the things he has had his secretary get a hold of the associates so that he could tell us:

  • Don't use paper clips, we use staples
  • When stapling, make sure the staple is at a 45 degree angle in the corner
  • Don't put papers down in front of him at his desk, hand them to him
  • When handing him papers, make sure the text faces him and not towards you
  • When manually putting track changes on paperwork for him, use red ink, not black
These were the only things said during the phone calls.

Beyond  his asshollery, we fear for our jobs.  He has a track record of firing people simply because he doesn't like them.  The female associates have it worse.  He is clearly sexist.  We all tip-toe around thinking one mistake will be our last.  And with a man who has 2,334 stupid, inane rules...mistakes are likely every day.

So, I'm stuck.  I have a job that pays nothing (though the same as the last job), works me 60 hours a week, and has a man who I genuinely wish harm to running things....but it practices what I want to practice and could conceivably lead to a better job at a good mid sized firm with a good salary.

Almost every single day is miserable (Senior is in the office only 3 days a week, though calls from home when he isn't) but I'm determined to muscle through.  Within a month I'm going to start applying to firms again.  I have to get out of here as soon as possible...but I can't just leave.  I have to have somewhere good to go.  That is the point.  I'm sacrificing now, for the future....something I've never done before.  It had better work out...and being a lawyer had better be awesome.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream.

Many of the fine folks I regularly exchange 140 characters with share with me a certain affliction.  A few of us are insomniacs.  My mother informs me that even as a child I never slept.  This includes infancy up through adolescents.  I suppose it's been a problem for me all my life.

However, for the past few years the problem had dissipated.  I was able to lay down in bed and fall asleep with little trouble.  I may have taken a bit longer than others, perhaps an hour, but I could plan accordingly and get to sleep.

That changed about a year ago.  We'll label last year as turbulent and leave it at that.  At one point last June I was awake for 3 days straight. I was absolutely exhausted and sick because of it...but I just could not fall asleep.

At that point I decided enough was enough.  I started taking any of the many sleeping helpers (happy-go-sleepy pills) that you can get without a prescription. It was the only thing, at the time, that could get me to sleep.

Over a year later, I am just now trying to get off of them.  It's not like an addiction or anything like that. It's just, I haven't chanced not being able to fall asleep since then.  I don't know exactly why, but every time it got a bit late and I wasn't asleep, I just took the PMs.  Eventually I simply took them every night at ten o'clock that way I could be asleep by midnight or one if I was lucky.  Sometimes it didn't work, but usually it did.  Three PMs or two cups of the Quil will knock anyone out.  Prior to the last few nights, I had not fallen asleep without the aid of some sort of sleeping drug or alcohol before 3 am since last year.

I bring this up because right now I am absolutely exhausted (excuse any errors).  For the past four nights I have not taken anything to help me sleep.  I have not fallen asleep before 3 AM.  I get up for work at 7.  So I've had sixteen hours of sleep in span where I was supposed to have thirty-two.

It appears there is nothing I can do about it.  My roommate asked the basic questions: are you eating too late?  Do you do too much right before bed?  Have you considered not watching TV?  Perhaps you shouldn't hang out in your bedroom during the day.  All the things I've thought of before and tried to remedy.  None have worked.

I don't know what it is exactly.  As I've discussed here several times, I hate being alone.  Prior to last year I hadn't slept alone in over two years.  I really despise sleeping alone (I don't like the dark when I'm alone.  I suppose that's childish.  It's not fear...I just don't like it).  I know that when I turn the lights out and teevee off I start to think about all the bad things that have/are/will happen.  I tend to think about the past.  I know that must play a roll.  But I don't do that all of the time and often times I simply don't turn the teevee off at all.  Perhaps I'm scared of those thoughts.  Perhaps until I have exactly the life/job/relationship I want I will be perpetually terrified of tomorrow.

After all, if I don't go to sleep then the next day can't get me.

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Ghost In Love.

I just finished reading a book called Ghost In Love by Jonathan Carroll. It was a great book.  If you're looking for a wonderful author who writes beautiful fantasy that deals mostly with life after death, fate, love, inter-worldly connections and how we all tie together -- this is your man.

In this story Mr. Carroll developed a character named Danielle who was given the opportunity to choose between living in the present and living the rest of her life as it would, or choosing a time from her past...a moment, an hour, a day, a week...and spending the rest of her life living in that moment, feeling those things...until she died.  I won't tell you what she chose -- read the book.

This naturally led me to start thinking if given the choice, what "moment" would I choose.  When I sat down to start thinking about it I figured it would be easy, but I was wrong.  It's certainly easy to think of great moments in your life, though not all of them.  What is much more difficult is thinking of one so great, so fulfilling, so happy...that you'd be willing to live it forever.  Just think that'd have to live it forever.

With that in mind, I came up with three possibilities.  Don't worry, they are all PG-13 and below.

My first isn't a moment, it is a week.  It was 1996, I was twelve and my family went on a cruise with several other families we knew.  Each of these families had several children of their own and we all stuck together throughout the trip.  I was twelve and so was a buddy of mine there.  He had two older was fifteen and one was eighteen.  There was another family there with a couple of sons who were around fifteen and seventeen.

Despite the age disparities we all stuck together and traveled as a group. As was typical with my parents we boarded the boat, on I guess a Sunday (do cruises start on Sundays?) and said see you Saturday.  Our group spent the rest of the week carousing the clubs, Jacuzzi's, swimming pools, restaurants, etc.

What I recall most was a girl we met on the boat.  She was around seventeen or eighteen.  In fact, she spent the week sleeping with one of my friends who became her sort of "cruise boyfriend".  I forget her name but I can picture her like it was yesterday.  She was kinda short, which was about the same height as me at the time.  She was dark, dark tan with beautiful long brown hair and an incredible body.  It was a cruise so she wore only a bathing suit and short jean shorts all week long.

It was special because while Dennis (the older friend) was her "cruise boyfriend" she kind of took me under her wing and pretended I was her other little cruise boyfriend.  Now, of course she wasn't actually treating me like she did Dennis, I was after all twelve...but she taught me a lot and made me feel really special.  I hadn't had confidence like that in all my life.  I did things that week that I'd never done before.  I sang karaoke, I stayed out until 3 in the morning with groups of grown girls, smoked a Cuban cigar, I kissed a girl unprompted for the first time, and I'm pretty sure she put me through puberty in one week.

She showed me things that I hadn't known before.  She triggered my interest in women and taught the introductory things a boy needed to know.  Yes, I was incredibly attracted to her...but it was more than that.  She made me feel better about myself.  And I think I could spend the rest of my life on that boat with her.

My second is closer to a moment.  I remember a morning in bed with my then girlfriend.  I will not mention which one it is.  I am a bit of a deep sleeper.  It is difficult to wake me up in the morning.  The only way to successfully do it without getting unconsciously swung at is by moving my head.  Just jostle my head a little and I'll wake up.  What this makes possible is movement, motion and sound without me waking up.

However, this morning I did wake up...I just didn't open my eyes or move for a while.  I suppose I wanted to enjoy the morning coze a little bit longer.  What I didn't expect was what is perhaps the sweetest thing that has ever been done for me.

She, believing fully that I was asleep, rolled over and laid on her elbow so that her head was off the bed and hovering above mine.  She kept a hand free and stroked by hair.  As she did this she started whispering to me.  She told me how she loved me so much it hurt some times.  She told me that she would do anything for me and that me being happy was all that she wanted.  She said that no matter how tough things got, no matter how hard anything ever seemed that we would get through it. She told me she'd never let me leave her.  She told me she sometimes worried that she isn't enough, but that she always had and always will, try her best.  For the first time in our relationship, she completely opened up and became that sap that already was, and she never could be.

I laid there for a few more minutes pretending to sleep and gathering myself.  After a while I pretended to wake up.  I didn't want her to know I was listening.  She would have been embarrassed.  I never told her that I heard what she said.  I hope she gets to read this so she can know I was listening.  I think I could live those thirty second for the rest of my life.

My final one involves my last girlfriend.  We met in 2008 on a law school softball trip to Virginia.  We were to ride in the same truck with three of our classmates for the seven-eight hour drive.  I remember, prior to meeting her, the driver actually gave me his phone so I could call her to tell her to come down to the truck.  It was the first time we spoke.

I am of the taller variety and everyone else in the car was not.  I thought this entitled me to shotgun since I'd need to stretch out my legs and back.  Another friend of mine, Dan, didn't agree.  He threw a kinda fake, kinda not fake hissy fit and sat on the sidewalk saying he wouldn't get in until I got in the back seat.  I didn't feel like dealing with this, so I obliged and went into the to her.  I suppose I have him to thank for everything that has transpired since.

The first thing I noticed about her was her grey-blue eyes.  Then I realized she was a living replica of Aphrodite from Botticelli's Birth of Venus (a nickname that lasted).  I was intrigued.

We spent the next seven and a half hours flirting playfully.  We didn't stop laughing the whole time.  She told me about her Rangers fandom, which I am too...and how she was a Padre and Chargers fan.  After she got knocked out of a geography based car game...she helped me cheat by looking up answers on her blackberry and flashing them to me when it was my turn.  When my back started hurting after hour 4 and I leaned forward to put my head between my knees to stretch...she started rubbing my back for me.

Then we arrived at the softball tournament and we never left each others side.  We warmed up before games together, had catches, drank beers, nurtured various clumsy injuries and ate together.  I remember her fixing my hair for me Saturday night before we left for the bar.

By the time the ride home started on Sunday we knew what was going on.  She drove the first couple of hours on the way home while I slept in the back seat.  Then she switched to the back seat next to me.  We spent the next 5 hours holding hands and sleeping on each others shoulders.  We didn't stop for two and a half years.

I think I could ride in that car for the rest of my life.

So those are my moments.  I honestly can't say for certain which one I would choose.  Perhaps you can help me figure it out.  I would also love to hear what you might choose as your eternal moment.  The place where you would stay for the rest of your life if you could.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Tale of the Douchebag Cops

My pops was a proud member of the New York City Police Department.  I know it's a huge surprise for a mick to be a cop.  He started in the 9th precinct (otherwise known as the "shithouse") back when it was famous for being where cops went to get shot.  After seventeen or some odd years walking the streets he was able to finagle his way into a sweet fingerprint detectives gig in the 123rd precinct on Staten Island...a wee bit safer.

Anywho, he was the kind of cop who never did anything crooked.  He was the kind of cop who hated having a ticket quota and went out of his way to not screw people over.  He once told me that he used to go to the local high school and fill his ticket quota there...except he would purposefully write the license plate number wrong or the wrong kind of car on the tickets so that if the kids were smart and read they could just throw it away and forget about it.  If they were dumb and didn't thoroughly read it then they simply had less money to spend on drugs or other stupid shit.  He reasoned he wasn't taking anything away from parents who had actual bills to pay.  

I'm not here to praise my square edges main point is I grew up with a healthy respect for the police department here in NYC.  That is what made this past Wednesdays shenanigans so disappointing.

I got home from a night of not drinking because of antibiotics to a nervous and clearly distraught roommate.  She called me over asking for advice.  Apparently, on her walk home from the train she heard a loud crash behind her only to turn and see a guy on a motorcycle had collided pretty fiercely with an ice cream truck.

Roommate, being trained in CPR and seeing nobody else was willing to do something made the fatal mistake of coming to the aid of the felled bike enthusiast.  I'm told he was in pretty bad shape....bones exposed, bleeding profusely and the like.  Needless to say he was shocked, so was she, and roommate was simply concerned with calming him down and trying to get him some help.

However, while tending to him he took out a bag of something, handed it to her imploring her to take it.  Both of them being pretty frazzled she took the baggie and threw it in her bag so in an attempt to calm him down and get a phone number she could call for him.

After the ambulance and cops arrived she came home.  She forgot she had taken the bag and upon remembering, at home, took it out only to notice it was a big bag of drugs.

Roommate, thinking I was somehow competent because I read a statute book or two, waited for me to ask what she should do.  I said the hassle free thing to do is flush it down the toilet.  I said the "right" thing to do was bring it to the precinct so they can arrest this dude.  I would have flushed it.  Roommate, being a good and decent human being, decided to bring it to the precinct...I went with her.

We arrive with our big bag of drugs and present it to the guido doogie howser asshole that clearly graduated high school the night before whose uniform didn't even fit because he weighs 125 pounds soaking wet.  He had absolutely no idea what to do.  He was the picture of incompetence.  Not only that but he started lecturing roommate on how you never take shit from strangers and "you should have flushed this down the toilet" ---- never mind that you're a cop and that's illegal and she was just trying to do the right thing.

So he humpty-dumps over to his "superior" "officer" to show her the big bag of drugs.  They inspect it for a little while and she comes over to ask roommate the story and does so with a huge bitchy attitude.  She then says "why did you bring this here, I have 30,000 things to do".  I almost stole her baton to beat her with it.

She then asks roommate for identification, which we understand is necessary, but roommate was really nervous and just wanted to make sure this drug pedaling motorcycle dude wasn't going to find out who she was or where she lived so she hesitated in giving her ID and wanted to ask a few questions to make sure that wasn't going to happen.  Well this contemptible and clearly criminal maneuver by my arch-roommate angered said really bitchy cop to the point where she started yelling at roommate and roommate started to tear up.  I mean, most drug dealers do usually bring their big bags of drugs to a they were right to be suspicious....huh?

I then stepped in and asked the cop, calmy I might add, "why are you yelling?  She will give you her ID, she just wants to make sure this guy won't be able to find her".  Cop then turned to me and started yelling at me. I fought off the urge to steal her gun and pistol whip her with it and yelled back "calm the eff down" and further explained the situation.

Roommate was assured it's police records and gave them her ID.  At which point a third cop and second Doogie Howser reject came over to yell at her for ten minutes about why she shouldn't ever take stuff from a stranger.  I mean literally yell.  She explained that she wasn't concerned about the baggie, or herself, she was merely trying to calm this severely injured man down and take care of him as best she could. Well let me tell you, this was absurd behavior according to Doogie Howser II and should never have happened.

Finally, afer that douche was done with his lecture, an officer who was actually at the accident came over and treated roommate with respect. He assured her that they needed her information only so the D.A. could get in touch with her and that he could see she was nervous and that she had nothing to be nervous about.  He actually knows the injured guy - apparently they go to the same tattoo parlor.  The officer told roommate she didn't have to worry about him because he would "personally break his [motorcycle guy] other leg if he tried anything".  He also told her she did the right thing....finally.

Needless to say roommate was upset.   She was treated terribly because A) she tried to do the right thing and, B) she was scared of a criminal.  On the walk home we agreed we'd never do anything like that again.  These cops did more bad than good.  I'm sure we weren't the first people to be treated that way simply for inconveniencing the cops (ya know, making them do their jobs).  I wonder how many people don't report illegal things, or turn over evidence, or turn over dangerous materials simply because the cops will treat them like shit and accuse them of things.  These cops acted disgracefully.  NYPD cars drive around with the letters CPR down the side and they stand for "courteous, professional, respect" - none of that was present in the 114th precinct.  

Friday, April 15, 2011

The One About Moderation Being Mediocrity.

I shall start, as I should almost any time I speak, by saying I wish to offend nobody.  If you fall within the "moderate" group I am about to malign, I apologize.  It is not personal.  I realize this likely won't be a popular post with some....get over it.

I will state my main point right off the bat.  Political moderation (by which I mean the political ideals moderates hold) is hurting America more than anything else and the "respect" given to moderates is overblown and dangerous.

It's simple really.  Just because something is pragmatic, possible, and a compromise between two opposing sides...does not mean it is the right thing to do.

It truly bothers me that those who call themselves moderates are automatically given a stamp of approval and looked at as those who have the wisdom to guide us.  This is simply not the case.  What moderation does is hold us back from completely curing problems or creating progress.  The fact is, a great amount of really good policies, no matter which side of the aisle, are politically to the left or right.  Just being "in the middle" does not mean something is a good idea.

Look, I get it.  Politics is the art of the possible and moderate, pragmatic ideas are what can pass.  I am certainly not lobbying for continued bickering or blind disagreement between the left and the right. However, this moderate approach makes for very watered down legislation that rarely gets us where we need to go.

Now, I'm not attempting to insult those in the middle.  What I would argue is that those in the middle are there for reasons that tend to lead to bad policy.  In my experience, most of those who identify as somewhere in the middle tend to fall in two camps: those who have given up on the political process, and those who are uninformed (there are of course exceptions).

I completely understand being disillusioned and discouraged about the political process.  It's dirty, childish and seems to never get anywhere with no change in sight.  I've almost been there myself (voted for Nader once...shhhh).  However, these are not the kind of people who I want making policy, or deciding who gets to make policy.

Now, I also classified a portion of moderates as ill informed or ignorant about the issues. I stand behind this statement as does Newsweek. Newsweek recently conducted a poll, albeit not a very scientific poll, of different political stances showing that as people from each side of the aisle got closer to self-identifying as "in the middle" they knew less and less about American government and history.  This isn't to say moderates are dumber, of course they aren't, but it is to say they are apathetic and less informed (again, there are exceptions, I realize these are generalizations).

Those who tend to study, those who inform themselves, those who are passionate about what our problems are and the solutions to those problems...tend to be impassioned enough to choose a side.

I happen to be a liberal, so I think liberal policies tend to be better ideas. There are conservatives, and they happen to think conservative policies are better ideas.  In some instances I am correct and in some instances conservatives are correct.  The result of compromise isn't correct merely because it is a compromise.

Obamacare (I hate calling it that because the bill looks nothing like what he wanted) was a compromise and yes it will cover many more Americans but it will likely do so at great expense.  Had a liberal policy, such as single-payer been adopted, it would have covered everyone and cut per capita health care costs by about two-thirds.  That would have been far superior than the moderate compromise of Obamacare.  

::Scratches head trying to think of conservative version of the above::

Alright, I'll give this one a try.  I happen to be conservative on the problem of illegal immigration.  I think an amnesty program, including earned amnesty, is a bad idea.  We tried it in 1986 when President Reagan compromised and agreed to a blanket amnesty with stepped up efforts at border patrol.  Obviously, this did not work.  A better plan likely would have entailed strict enforcement of illegal immigrant employment laws.  Once you dry up the illegal jobs there is no reason for illegal immigrants to come here.  This would also reward immigrants coming legally.  This policy, I feel, would have been better...but through the art of compromise, we got a watered down version that did little to fix the problem putting it off for another day.

Of course I realize that sometimes a compromise does turn out to be the best policy.  For instance, I believe gun control would be best left to each state to determine what is appropriate for their constituents.  I don't believe guns should be banned altogether (some people hunt and some towns have a very small police force).  I also don't believe guns should be available everywhere (banning guns in NYC would be a wonderful idea, they serve no legitimate purpose).  Here, in my opinion, a compromise is the best answer.  However, not because it is a compromise, but because it seems like the best policy.

This leads me to a finer point I'd like to make.  I believe there is a distinct difference between a "moderate" and an "independent".  A moderate wishes to compromise.  He/she wants to take both sides of a policy proposal and somehow combine them so we get some mix of both worlds.  I believe this leads to mediocre policy and only puts off the problem for a later time and a ballsier legislator who will likely never show up.

On the other hand an independent analyses the problem, chooses the policy that will best cure the problem while disregarding whether the proposal came from the party they tend to agree with.  This is the exact kind of person I want making policy.  This is how problems are solved. Moderation isn't the answer, political independence is.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

On Ineptitude.

You know those days/nights when you realize you haven't grown as much as you thought you have or that you are not nearly as strong as you had recently been perceiving yourself?  Yeah, fuck those. The last couple of nights, particularly between the hours of midnight and 10 am, have been a clusterfuck-my-head-up-fest of epic proportions.

I'm sadly not as able to handle certain aspects of my life, in particular my past, as I want to be and it's beginning to effect my future and that's disappointing.

For the record, here's a list of adjectives I'd currently use to describe myself:
  • immature
  • pathetic
  • confused
  • small
  • fucking stupid
  • self destructive
  • handsome (gotta be one in there)
  • fucking confused
So there's that.

I rarely have people in my life who fully understand my very special blend of insane herbs and spices or the reasoning behind it that befuddles even me.  Nobody currently in my life has ever gotten there. In fact, there is likely only one person who has ever fully been able to walk the fall corn maze of my mind and come out the other side. Perhaps if I go sit on a half wall by Madison or the swings they'll be there to help me?  Probably not.

2011 may be that rebuilding year that I need to go through on my own. Do things by hand, building everything back from the ground up. All wonderful and clich├ęd metaphors....they have to have lasted so long for a reason, right?  

Here's hopin.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Um, which room is liberals anonymous in?

The Tree has not been political in a while.  It had a run of a year or so where it was dedicated solely to politics.  Several posts a day, covering the news of the day or just some pet project of mine.  It was good...but it was it stopped.  I had decided to make this a very non-political personal blog because A) I didn't feel like being "controversial" and B) if you know me, you know I like writing about myself.  But, I suppose since politics is important to me, it should play a small role in my personal blog.

So, I will write three political posts over the next week starting with this one.  I will begin by saying I'm sure someone, somewhere, possibly (probably) even someone I know and like we'll think I'm an idiot, will be insulted or offended, or disagree completely.  That's fine.  Just know that for people I know and like, I don't personally judge a person based on their politics even if I think they are wrong.  If you feel I've villainized you or your beliefs, I apologize, but I still like you so don't hold it against me.  If I don't know or like you, then I don't care if I hurt your feelings, so that's cool too.

This first post will be on defining liberalism.  I'm not talking about classic political science liberalism for all you poli-sci majors...I'm talking about modern era big D Democratic party side liberalism and what it still is or at least should be.

I too often see mischaracterizations of liberals and modern liberal politics.  It happens on both sides of the aisle, but mostly (and understandably) on the right.  Basically, anything that is liberal in this Fox-news, post Woodstock, stuck in Vietnam War, tea-party having, paradigm shifted political considered "far-left" even by those who consider themselves "moderate".

You want to know who I consider to be mainstream liberal?  Nancy Pelosi.  That is a mainstream, died-in-the-wool, not too far left, not too close to the middle...liberal.  Also, she has the largest balls in the Democratic party.

I can see my "moderate" and right-wring brethren sighing now but just listen for crying out loud.  I'll make the case and show you.

An example of a far left, progressive liberal is Dennis Kucinich.  An example of a moderate Democrat is Harry Reid.  An example of a mainstream liberal is Nancy Pelosi.  The reason why is simple...the policies they would support.

I'm going  have a hypothetical "debate" in my head where these three are on the stage and I ask them to raise their hands for the policies they support.  The purpose is to show you the left wing political spectrum.

If I asked anyone who supports registration of guns, keeping social security public, and supporting a progressive tax system (all fairly moderate positions, pretty much pre-requisites for the left side of the aisle) you would more than likely get all three to raise their hands.

If I asked whoever supports the idea of single-payer health care (medicare for all), returning to Clinton era tax rates, (3 percent difference I believe), and supporting gay marriage/women's right to choose (all mainstream liberal political policies that you find in just about every single other first world, purely capitalist, industrialized, western nation) to raise their hands, you would get Kucinich and Pelosi on all. However, you likely lose Reid on single payer, and possibly lose him on gay marriage and some women's rights.  I believe he'd support the Clinton taxes.

If I asked whoever supports cutting the military budget by 50%, treating all capital gains as regular income, returning to tax rates of the 40's through the 70's (top marginal tax rate ranging from about 70% to 90%, it's now about 35%), or breaking up large banks who are "too big to fail" (all very progressive policies that are to the left of mainstream) to raise their hands, you would get a gleeful Kucinich on each one, you would not get Reid on a single one, and you might be able to get Pelosi on the capital gains, but likely no others.

See what happened there?  As the policies slide on the scale to the left you quickly lose Reid, slowly lose Pelosi and never lose Kucinich.  This is the actual political scale of liberalism...not what the media and those who consider themselves moderate or republican would likely lead you to believe. Pelosi, and mainstream liberalism IS NOT far left.  They hold basic liberal beliefs, that most other capitalist nations practice, that are in no way fringe politics.  They hold some beliefs towards the middle, some beliefs towards progressivism...but are mostly somewhere in between.  That's me!  You might call "liberals" the "moderates" of left wing politics, lying somewhere in between progressives and moderate Democrats.

Ever since there losses on civil rights and the embarrassment of the Vietnam War the right wing of American politics has done an absolutely astounding and admirable job shifting the political scale to the right. Now, as you'll see in a later post, things that were once Republican policies (the public option was originally Nixon's idea) are now considered liberal and things that were once so far right as to be considered fringe politics (Patriot act anyone?), are now the beliefs held by virtually every nationally elected/campaigning Republican leader.

My point isn't to villainize those beliefs or for that matter Republicans. If you hold them in good faith, more power to you.  What I take umbrage with is how I am labeled or regarded in this spectrum.  If someone asks me what I am politically I begrudgingly call myself a liberal because I'd say 80% of what I believe falls in line with where Pelosi is, so it's just easier.  I do support some progressive policies (capital gains, breaking up banks), some "moderate" policies (Clinton era tax rates) and yes, even some Republican policies (federalist gun policies, immigration, criminal justice), but by and large, I fall in line with mainstream liberalism.   But when I do say I'm a liberal, or explain what policies I support, I'm painted as far left or extreme somehow.  I do not like this, especially considering it is completely wrong.

I understand different parts of the country feel different ways about things and that it's hard to see from a very liberal district or a very conservative district that this definition of mainstream liberalism is accurate.  If I said this to my own brother (him being to the left of Kucinich) he'd yell at me.  If I told this to some of you who are more conservative, you'd yell at me.  I get it.  That's fine.  But if you just take a step back, turn off Bill-O and Wolf Blitzer, and look at the full spectrum, you'll see it.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Take Me Out to the Ballgame...

You always get a special kick on Opening Day, no matter how many you go through. You look forward to it like a birthday party when you're a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen. 
Joe DiMaggio

Today is the most important day of the is Opening Day.  And while it is said that today everyone has a chance, as a Mets fan, I know this not to be true.  That doesn't matter.  Above being a Mets fan, I am a baseball fan.  So, while I know in my heart the Mets will falter, likely embarrassingly so, I hold out hope for a wonderful baseball season.  It begins today.

I recall opening day in my Little League meant a parade.  We would start on the southern tip of the island (of Staten) and march every single team  (probably 60 teams) to the field where everyone would crowd the outfield of the DeYoung Field and listen to the national anthem and some director from little league HQ's give a speech.  It was fun.  However, in 2005, after 17 years of organized ball, I hung up my cleats.  Now Opening Day is strictly about the big guys.

Baseball has always been my life.  It is my favorite sport to watch, favorite to play, favorite to talk/argue about, and favorite to attend.  It is both a thinking mans game and the physically hardest to do.  Physicists have written that hitting a moving round ball with a round bat squarely is the hardest single achievement in sport.  My sinking batting average as pitchers got better, as well as my transformation from a lead off batter to a relief pitcher, can attest to that fact.

Me, two hours after the Mets lost the last game at
Shea Stadium and therefore missed the playoffs.
Notice the guys 10 rows down doing the same thing as me.
Some of the most fun or moving moments of my life have been spent at a baseball game.  I once watched a Yankee game from the dugout while sitting next to Chip and Dale.  I once saw John Olerud hit for the cycle.  I ran around the bases at both Shea and Yankee stadium...neither of which exist any more.  I was at the first baseball game in New York City after 9/11 when the Mets defeated the Braves on a 8th inning Mike Piazza go-ahead HR that made all 55 thousand people cry.  I attended the final games at both Shea and Yankee Stadiums.  

The sun slowly setting on the last game at Yankee Stadium.
I may hate this team, but I will always love this stadium.
It is a long season, and yes, during the Summer, especially seeing as how the Mets are usually fading at that point, I do lose interest for a short time.  But once September kicks into gear and I have to root against the Yankee and the Phillies, and for the Cubbies and the Twins, I get back into it.  And the World Series is easily the greatest thing ever.

Alright, a little business right now.  Prediction time.

AL East:  Boston Red Sox
AL Central:  Detroit Tigers
AL West:  Texas Rangers
AL Wildcard:  Minnesota Twins

NL East:  Philadelphia Phillies
NL Central:  St. Louis Cardinals
NL West:  San Francisco Giants
NL Wildcard:  Cincinnati Reds

World Series:
Boston Red Sox over Philadelphia Phillies in 7.

The Cardinals will overcome their injuries and barely fight off the young Reds for the NL Central.  The Red Sox will cruise with the best team in baseball.  The Rangers will fight off the pesky resurgent Angels.  And the Twins will have their annual September surge into the playoffs.

The Phillies will dominate the NL all year.  The Giants will not be dominant but will win in a very weak division.  The Reds will surprise a few by competing for the Central, but will settle for the Wildcard.  The Tigers will pull away late.

The Yankees will not make the playoffs.  They cannot do it with only 2 pitchers (Hughes and Sabathia) and if they want Felix Hernandez mid year they are likely going to have to give up Hughes...which still leaves them with 2 pitchers.  

The World series will be offense versus pitching at it's purest.  The Red Sox stout lineup (with the possible mid-season addition of the current Mets SS Jose Reyes) pinned up against the 4 aces of the Phillies staff. It will go 7, but the Red Sox will win because of Josh Beckett out dueling Roy Halladay, as Mr. Beckett typically steps up his game in the post-season.  

Take all that to the sports book in Vegas.

Let's Go Mets! (I USED to sound just like these kids and their accents)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Twitter Be Crazy

Well, apparently we have a crazy on our hands...or at least a screw loose.

So, instead of explaining the story once an hour for two days I decided to write it in a blog post so I can just direct folks here.

Last night, ON ST. PATRICK'S DAY NO LESS, I received a random e-mail from some person saying our twitter "friend" @fmn1986 was not truthful.  I don't know the person who e-mailed me, they got my e-mail from this blog and e-mailed me specifically because they noticed we (meaning me and FMN) were making plans to meet.  I was told she was a young college student in Michigan and certainly not the NYC assistant district attorney she claimed to be.  I was told she lives in Michigan, not NYC, and she is not married.

After consultation with some members of our twitter family, I spoke (gchatted) with FMN.  She admitted the e-mail was true and apologized profusely.  I was told by her that she started this story a few years ago as an escape from a bad time and it basically snowballed on her.  She would not go into detail over why she did what she did, or what the circumstances were....saying "I can't get into it right now".  If her words were true, she is deeply troubled and deeply apologetic (though, also quite dramatic)...but who the eff knows if her words are true.

She could either be continuing to BS me, or is genuinely a confused/troubled albeit loopy college student with a crazy creative mind and a lot of time on her hands.

I have never met her in real life.  We chatted via e-mail and texted each other.  We made plans to meet a few times but they were always cancelled or something came up at the last minute and we never ended up meeting.

She did tell me that the name she gave out was actually her name.  She is a real human being, just not what she said she was.  I think she took all her accounts down.  That picture on twitter was not her picture. When I spoke to her last night I asked that she send me a photo right now as possible proof she is a real person.  She did.  I believe it.

I have no idea how she knew a surprisingly good amount about the legal field, or areas where people lived, or how she kept up with the level of detail she did within her story.  As I've said to a couple of you, the 1/10th of me that isn't intensely creeped out is kinda impressed.

I did e-mail the person who randomly e-mailed me back, asking how they knew and if there is anything else I should know.  She told me she followed FMN too and was confused by all her details, like vacations/jobs (I knew ADA's didn't get out at 5 o'clock)/etc.  As creepy as FMN is, this person seems just the same.  She apparently did "research" and found out and confronted her or something.  I don't fully know and don't plan on finding out.  But apparently she was right about FMN because everything is gone.

So, there you have it.  Feel free to comment any questions.  And FMN, if you read this, you're better off not commenting.

[Edit: I want to point out as a grown adult, I don't take all this very seriously.  I find it funny and have been making jokes all day.  Though creepy, it's all very amusing.  Now, ON WITH YOUR DAY!]