Big Smoke

'cause it's hard to see from where I'm standin'

I Spit at You

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The narrative for Obama’s Tuesday press conference has been split between him being an irritable dick and a spineless pussy… like the narrative has been for everything he’s done since entering office.

But either aside, I took issue with Krugman’s interpretation of Obama’s answers as there could be no right answer – and the reason for such is this: Both he and the pundits at the conference were trying to spin Obama’s words instead of listening to his policies.

I watched the thing on Youtube (the only full video transcript being some “watchdog” group called Earth2Obama that recorded C-SPAN) and what struck me was not his answers – he just explained his position four times over the course of an hour with enough dropped hints to drown the room – but the smarmy, baiting questions asked of him.

Asks Fox News and again by CBS, did John McCain influence his words today? “Only I’m the President.” Hint. And both had the audacity to make a snide comment afterwards, too; Fox with the “will you invite Iranian diplomats to the embassy on the Fourth of July?” and CBS with, “aren’t you giving them fodder to blame us for meddling today?” Damned if you do…

Asks AP and again by NBC, will he draw a line in the sand against Iran? “This is the Iranian people’s fight.” Hint – drawing a line is how we got into some other problems.

Asks USA Today and again by ABC, is the health insurance public option non-negotiable? “Who would it harm?” Hint. Retorts USA Today, “won’t that drive private insurers out of business?” “I thought private companies were more efficient than government bureaucracies.” Hint.

Every question was directed towards pinning him to a policy or a number: What’s the upper cap on unemployment? What’s the most we can take before we intervene in Iran? Is the public option sacrosanct? The political fallout from being held to one of those is far more severe than the steady hand at the till of policy-making and diplomacy. There is a time for hard lines, sure, but the questions were not made in good faith.

Sanford, You’re Off the Hook

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(6:42:22 PM) A) MJ and Farrah in one day ????
(6:43:05 PM) B) srsly
(6:43:37 PM) A) this is soooo insane 2 pop icons in one day
(6:44:09 PM) B) and not the right ones.
(6:44:36 PM) A) idk…its like if Marilyn Monroe and Elvis died in the same day back in the 60’s
(6:45:28 PM) B) Only if Elvis was a pederast.
(6:46:17 PM) A) pederast…pill popper…pill popper…pederast
(6:46:36 PM) B) pfft
(6:46:40 PM) B) what pop star isn’t a pill popper?
(6:47:20 PM) A) good point
(6:48:42 PM) B) MJ is practically guaranteed hall of fame status for most awkward eulogy ever
(6:49:10 PM) A) yea thats gonna be awkward…I’ll bet that funeral is gonna be screwy
(6:49:32 PM) B) and not in the “damn, lookit the catfight” like James Brown
(6:49:54 PM) A) yea or who the baby daddy like Anna Nicole’s
(6:50:07 PM) B) we’re so crass, it’s terrible.
(6:51:10 PM) C) Well I heard not too long ago that MJ recorded a ton of albums
(6:51:15 PM) C) to only be released after his death
(6:51:20 PM) C) so that he can basically live on forever
(6:51:38 PM) B) after Billy Jean, what else needs to be said?
(6:51:43 PM) B) or ever mentioned again, for that matter?
(6:52:42 PM) A) this is so crazy
(6:55:11 PM) A) like damn man…damn
(6:57:02 PM) B) and yet, this, for all its unexpectedness, feels so… inconvenient.
(6:57:50 PM) A) yea farrah fawcett I guess because it was so documented was expected Michael in the same day pushes it over the edge
(6:58:40 PM) B) where the only classy thing to do is ignore it. Sorta like how, you could invent a new revolutionary cancer treatment but if a poodle slips off a window ledge and kills you, that’s how you’re remembered.
(6:59:20 PM) A) oh werd
(6:59:32 PM) B) now it’s like, you mention Farrah Fawcett and somebody is guaranteed to mention Michael Jackson
(7:01:25 PM) A) thats so weird because farrah was the top story for half a day
(7:01:38 PM) B) you know who the winner in all this is?
(7:01:41 PM) B) mark sanford
(7:01:48 PM) A) People Magazine

Meanwhile, Tehran still burns…

A Change of Pace

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I dunno what’s worse: That I didn’t suspect SC Gov Sanford of having an affair, or that I kinda wish the story actually was that he just wandered off on some personal discovery trip.

Y’know, as a change of pace from the usual political scandal bullshit. Wandering around Appalachia or Argentina just to get away from his family – now that would at least imply a depth of character. This is just stupid.

Lord, Just Get Me Through the Day


You just can’t phase New Yorkers; their Somebody Else’s Problem mantra is too strong for even terrorists to punch through. Any oddity, sufficiently repeated, can become routine. Take my commute, amidst the pleas to help the homeless, the Mariachi men and the breakdancers:

3 train local coming inbound from central Brooklyn, the conductor wouldn’t open the doors at each stop until he had warned the straphangers not to enter his car but choose another. Those with headphones or resolutely irresponsive were soon met with a woman going through a rather violent episode, accosting and harassing them off her car while she methodically trashed it, to the bemused stares of onlookers smirking at the spectacle.

Not one to let crazies stop the system, tho, this continued stop by stop until we had reached Atlantic Avem whereupon two bored and distracted-looking officers cajoled her off the train as the conductor cited the ever-euphemistic chant that the “train was being held in the station for a police investigation.”

“So that’s what a ‘police investigation’ is,” says I.

“Who knew?” replies a man a dead ringer for of Black Eyed Peas. “It’s always causing delays right about now.” For good measure, the next three stops were skipped – to keep on time, of course.

The sixth car on the uptown A train had a small blue Jansport bag, unowned as it were and unclaimed, flanked by two hoods – a white guy with spiky hair and black t-shirt and a large, rotund Latino guy – traded jokes about what could be in it – a bomb? Drugs? Drug money? – until the white guy promised upon leaving the train at 34th to notify the conductor; after all, If You See Something, Say Something. Just not before your stop.

The conductor came over and the latino guy, now cracking jokes with the midwestern tourists sitting next to him, moved to hand the bag to her. “I don’t want that shit!” she exclaimed, before barking into her comm unit for cops to remove the bag. None immediately forthcoming, she returned to her cab and the train doors closed. The latino guy shrugged. His civic duty was done! And now they got his fingerprints all over it. Watch it be drugs; just watch.

The tourists got off at 42nd, thanking our intrepid citizen, and ever more straphangers got on. One woman spied the empty seat and suggested to us onlookers that, bomb threat notwithstanding, ain’t nothing in that bag more important than a seat during rush hour or more dangerous than what’s been sitting in that seat (or touching the poles) all day. We concurred. She stuffed the bag under the seat.

At 59th a cop came on to collect the bag, duly handed over by the Latino guy. He looked at it. Spoke into his comm unit, “children’s bag.” Left with the bag. If it was a bomb, it’d have had the opportunity to detonate in at least three major transfer stops. But who’s counting?

Safety Measures

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The one thing that struck me upon hearing about the DC Metro collision was how much of the NYC subway system’s safety measures were designed for the specific purpose of ensuring that couldn’t possibly occur.

In NYC, any train that goes beyond its allotted section of track is automatically stopped: You can see this in action by checking under the signals on the track after a train goes by. The second the train leaves that section, a small metal bar rises under the signal that literally trips the next train’s emergency brakes should the train run the red signal.

Thus, the track is split up into sections that can only be used by one train at a time, and the trains automatically leave a trail of red signals behind them as they fill up the sections. DC has a similar system, but the difference between the two is that NYC’s system does it analog via the tracks. DC does it digital via the trains. Thus, NYC has old trains from the fifties which are as safe as any other, and DC has the ignoble task of upgrading trains in order to keep such a safety level.

The only way for an NYC train to collide with another is for the train to speed fast enough that when it trips the red signal the brakes are unable to stop it within the next section of track, and this doesn’t usually occur because the block of track before the red signal is yellow, which trips the emergency brake if the train runs it going faster than 20.

There are places where it’s possible to collide two trains – namely, places where the signals are too close together, and thus the sections are smaller – and several minor collisions have occurred over the years, but not at all compared to derailings and other aspects of bad train handling. The last time NYC saw a major train collision was in 1918 – the Malbone Street Wreck – which is what fomented the system in use today.

Firing into the Crowds

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Moussavi has declared that he’s ready to be martyred, and for good reason: The gloves have come off in the crackdowns, with “security” forces and Basijis (pro-regime paramilitary militias) firing into the crowds.

Basijis firing into the crowd

Basijis shooting a student on camera

Security forces firing machine guns at a crowd (BBC Persia)

Protester shot dead by police

Protesters shot by police

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