Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The right-wing echo chamber pardons Nixon—again.

David Gergen painted Felt as a thug on the PBS News Hour this evening. All sorts of conservatives have been doing their best to impugn Felt's motives. It's their last chance to give Nixon a full pardon, I guess.

Rush Limbaugh said today that Felt was just a criminal who illegally leaked information. He opened today's radio rant crowing about how Felt's admission has taken money away from Woodward and Bernstein, as far as a future book goes. (Still bitter about Watergate, Rush? Good.) Fox News mentions that Felt was one of the ones convicted for authorizing illegal break-ins while investigating the Weather Underground, calling them "a radical group," not mentioning that they were responsible for the bombings of 52 buildings between 1970 and 1972. (You might expect more tolerance for such tactics from such staunch defenders of the Patriot Act, you know?) There's nothing on the Washington Times' web site but a couple wire stories so far; I imagine they'll offer some editorial smear against Felt, too. Check them tomorrow. Here are the links for the above-mentioned stories:

Rush Limbaugh's take

Fox News's take

Prediction: Tony Blankley of The Washington Times will feature a slur of Mark Felt in his next column. The right wing, lacking honor, has to feign indignation. It's all they've got.

The right-wing media echo chamber is already working hard on smearing Felt. Expect them to be in overdrive by tomorrow, June 1. This is their last chance to defend their hero, Richard Nixon, without whom Ronald Reagan's presidency would have ever been possible.

Is that you, Deep Throat?

The legendary whistleblower known as "Deep Throat" might finally be stepping forward. Mark Felt, age 91, claims that he was Deep throat. It's a breaking story, but since this is the first time anyone's ever claimed to be Deep Throat, I'm prone to believe it.

Here's a Salon article on it: Deep Throat Reportedly Comes Forward

Mad magazine posited that it was Gerald Ford. You gotta admit he had a motivation... Personally, I always suspected Soupy Sales. I'm pretty surprised that Mr. Felt came forth instead. I can't wait to hear what Bob Woodward has to say about it.

McDonald’s Australia introduces new “Big Plat” sandwich

BRISBANE, Queensland—May 27. Keeping with its policy of relying on as many local ingredients in its restaurants as possible, as well as keeping in sync with local cultures as much as possible, McDonald’s Australian markets will soon be offering its new Big Plat sandwich at its Australian locations.

“We’re very excited about this,” said Thomas Dunbar, spokesman for McDonald’s Australia. “The Big Plat looks to be the most distinctly Australian sandwich ever offered by any restaurant anywhere. On McDonald’s trademark sesame seed bun you’ll find 150 grammes of fresh, ground platypus meat, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, our special vegemite-based sauce and a slice of cheese made from milk taken fresh from lactating kangaroos.”

Dunbar says that the Big Plat will sell particularly well because not only does he expect it to appeal to the Australians’ pride in their unique fauna, but it will also be the only widely available sandwich known that uses platypus meat.

According to Dunbar, the test marketing showed there’s a strong interest in the Big Plat. “We tested it in our Alice Springs, Wagga Wagga and Nullabor Plain locations, and it did pretty well. We’re going national now, and we see no reason for results to be any different.”

The Big Plat will be available at all Australian McDonald’s restaurants by June 20. This is the first major addition to the Australian McDonald’s menu since the introduction of the widely popular Wombat McNuggets in 2001.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Memories of the Day-Glo Years: "Where's the Beef?"

Remember "Where's the beef?" It was the tag line for Wendy's, one of America's prominent fast food chains. (I have no idea if they're established anywhere else in the world, but they're pretty widespread here.) In 1984, they had a very popular ad campaign on TV where three old women ordered hamburgers at some fictitious fast food restaurant. The shortest, most cantakerous-looking woman lifted up the bun to reveal a small circle of meat that was maybe one fifth the size of the bun. This woman raised her head and squinted at the hapless, bored counterman, and demanded in a loud, creaky voice: "Wherrrre's the beef?" The old woman, Clara Peller, had never acted before, but this series of commercials gave her a kind of fame for a while in the United States, and there was talk about her capitalizing on this, perhaps taking bit parts in movies or on TV shows, but she died.

This snappy ad campaign might have been completely forgotten about if not for the 1984 presidential debates, in which former Vice President Walter Mondale turned to Ronald Reagan and asked, "Where's the beef?" It was widely agreed that Mondale had made a snappy, clever use of popular culture to skewer Reagan, and he was thus rewarded in November with the electoral votes of his home state of Minnesota, the District of Columbia and... well, that's it. And as to Reagan: he never answered Mondale's question.

I don't know if Wendy's famous chief Dave Thomas backed Mondale that year, but he owed him big.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Who needs the "Freedom Tower" anymore?

When the World Trade Center was built in the early 1970s, it was part of a revitalization plan for lower Manhattan. The thinking was that if you build lots more office space down there, the economy would flourish. Looking back, those who argued that we’d be better off with more affordable housing in order to revive the area were right. Lower Manhattan is doing fine now, but the World Trade Center really didn’t do a whole lot to help, since all it did was contribute to a glut of office space in New York—office space taken up by people who largely commute to the city rather than actually live in it.

It’s true that much of the Twin Towers was empty. I don’t have any percentages, but there were whole floors that they couldn’t find tenants for. I heard a piece on NPR some years ago about how some kind souls had arranged for some of these empty floors to be granted as studio space for artists who couldn’t afford studio space, but even so, there was plenty of empty room in the Twin Towers and throughout Manhattan itself.

When those three buildings in the World Trade Center came down on September 11, plenty of the remaining office space in New York filled up. On the east side of Jersey City, which lies directly across the river from the World Trade Center, office buildings sprang up at a faster rate than they had been. That section of Jersey City has earned the nickname “Wall Street West,” due to all the financial offices that are now located there.

This “Freedom Tower” crap is crap. I have no problem with a memorial park down there, and I’m all for rebuilding some of the office space. But we don’t need any sort of sappy freedom-themed skyscraping collection of pipecleaners poking out of lower Manhattan. The reason there was all that fuss over it and the reason for that cheesy “groundbreaking” there last summer was to help Bush run on his “I’m fighting the terrorists” bluster-based campaign. Plenty of sound and fury, signifying nothing—whether they build this hokey waste of space or not.

It’s been nearly four years since those towers came down, and the most significant change in New Yorkers’ attitudes toward them seems to be that no one complains about how ugly they thought they were anymore. There’s also no great clamoring for a “Freedom Tower” to be built on that site among New Yorkers—though no one seems to be suffering from want of office space, either.

Donald Trump is a jackass who’s done more to hurt New York’s distinct art deco look than any other crass, grasping real estate mogul, but I have to agree with him on his assessment of the 1,776-foot (oh, please) Freedom (oh, please again) Tower. Now that the Bush campaign has squeezed all it could out of the fanfare over this would-be memorial, and now that Governor Pataki is in one of the most profound political tailspins in memory, I have a hunch this waste of space won’t come to be. I’d be okay with a seventy-storey pair of towers built on the site; I think that would suit the needs of everyone.

It's past time to do something about gerrymandering

Gerrymandering has always been a blight, but it’s been getting particularly bad lately, in light of Tom DeLay’s piracy of the Texas districts in 2003 and the famous 2001 redistricting in Pennsylvania that was declared so unconstitutional that they’d only let those districts stand for ten years.

An option I feel is better is the idea of non-partisan committees redrawing the districts. Iowa does this, and it works fine. In the 2004 elections, four of Iowa’s five House races were considered competitive, which is much better than most states. The one district that wasn’t was in heavily Republican western Iowa, so no reasonable person could possibly make an argument that this was the result of gerrymandering. And it’s not that the results of the races please me in a partisan sense—of Iowa’s five Representatives, four are Republicans. I’d rather see things the other way around, but I can’t complain about the integrity of their process.

A lot of other states are utter messes. Packing and cracking ravaged districts in Pennsylvania and Michigan during their 2000 reäpportionments, for example. It didn’t happen in Texas until the coup de Lay a couple of years later, of course, which is one of the vilest power grabs in memory. Many (but I’m sure not all) redistricting exercises have favored Republicans in recent years, but I’m sure that if things are left unchanged, the winds will blow in another direction. While Republicans will certainly overturn the unfairly-drawn pro-Democrat districts in Georgia, if they still control the state legislature after the 2010 census (which they likely will,) more changes will likely favor the Democrats. Consider New York, Illinois, and New Jersey, which in 2000 had Republican-controlled legislatures and Republican governors. Since then, the Democrats have taken over the state legislatures and governor’s mansions of Illinois and New Jersey, and there’s a good chance that they’ll take New York’s soon, too. These are big states with a lot of districts gerrymandered to favor Republicans. Changes in Southern states where Republicans have taken over the legislatures during the past decade might offset this, but then, they might not. Between those three states are 59 House seats, and gerrymandering could turn a whole lot in the favor of the Democrats.

Pennsylvania is a little different—Republicans, in control of the state legislature and the governor’s mansion in 2000, put together an appallingly corrupt, highly partisan plan for reshaping districts. If Pennsylvania still has a Democratic governor after the 2010 census, he or she could probably work out a palatable compromise with the state legislature, which will likely remain Republican-controlled. However, if the Democrats do manage to retain the governor’s post and take over the legislature by then, then Pennsylvania could be subject to corrupt packing and cracking that would favor the Democrats this time.

The case of California in 1990 was like that: a Republican governor parried a Democratic-controlled legislature and worked out a compromise of districts that pleased no one. In 2000, Governor Davis, a Democrat, struck a compromise of some sort that left the 1990 districts intact; if he hadn’t, California would have been a pro-Democrat redistricting free-for-all. Considering how much California favors Democrats, in 2010, there’s a good chance that that will happen.

Even though I feel the pendulum is due to swing my party’s way, I say enough! This has to stop! Florida has just proposed an appalling plan which, if implemented, would set up a nine-member panel consisting of three Republicans, three Democrats, and three people who have declared no party affiliation for the past two years, at least. This would mean that if you simply cease to officially call yourself a Republican, you could worm your way onto the panel as a nominal independent, working as a ringer for the Republican Party. This system too easily corrupted. We need completely neutral candidates to organize the redistricting—people like me, who either can’t or won’t put aside their partisan leanings, have no business having anything to do with it. It won’t prevent corruption, God knows, but I’m sure it will help, as evidenced by Iowa.

Arizona has adopted an Iowa-like non-partisan system as well, I understand. To look at its pro-Republican gerrymandered districts, you’d never know it, but their new system isn’t due to take effect until 2010. That’s two states; 41 to go (since seven states only have one at-large district, anyway. For now, at least…)

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Is Michael Crook dead?

Maybe from the neck up. Apparently, reports of his death have been greatly exaggerated. A report released on May 17 stated that Crook was assaulted by two men, purportedly members of the military. Crook was said to have died of head trauma, which was caused by these two men, who traumatized his head right in front of his wife and infant daughter. The fake wind-up site that Crook ran was called Forsake the Troops, which seems to have been designed to suggest that those who oppose Bush's Iraq War do so not because they think we shouldn't have invaded but because we simply hate the military. I originally wrote about Mr. Crook back in February.

The source of this information was Crook's own web site. Crook's site was registered in his name in Syracuse, New York, and a note said that well-wishers may email at noc@smishosting.com, or phone at (315) 558-4372. That telephone number does trace to Syracuse, New York; specifically to a cell phone. I have not called it, but 558 is a cell phone exchange in the 315 area code. No other source corroborates the murder of Michael Crook, though The Marine Corps Times has a couple of things to say about it—most interestingly that the Syracuse Police, whom Crook's website says have his killers in custody, say that no murder happened that night.

So there you have it: white supremacist Michael Crook made a fake web site about a fake anti-military movement, and now he seems to have faked his own death. The worst part about all this is that people are still falling for it. So many comments I've read about Michael Crook (or whatever his real name may be) have more to do with indignant offense taken at what his site said than about the apparent fakeness of it. Hordes of suckers continue to fall for Michael Crook's hoax, giving attention to this loon, and worse, serving to squelch the discussion that we Americans need to have about what we're doing in Iraq.

Mission accomplished, Mr. Crook?

State-sponsored killing in Connecticut disappoints death booster.

Upon hearing that Connecticut was going to kill its first person in 45 years, serial killer Michael Ross, the sister of one of his victims was thrilled. But come the killing, which happened on May 13 at 2:00 AM local time, this woman said, "I thought I would feel closure, but I felt anger just watching him lay there and sleep after what he did to these women. But I'm sure I will feel some closure soon."

Yeah, I'm sure you will, too. You just keep telling yourself that, and closure will come. Nothing like the good ol' sin of wrath to bring you to peace. Nothing like taking an eye for an eye. And nothing like giving a killer exactly what he'd been explicitly asking for these past several years: state-assisted suicide.

Marie Hilliard of the Connecticut Catholic Conference was up in arms about the possibility of state recognition of gay marriage recently—but has been quiet about last week's killing. Republican Governor Jodi Rell had been receptive to pleas to inserting a definition of marriage as necessarily being between a man and a woman into the recent legalization of civil unions for same-sex partners in Connecticut (though she opposed civil unions, despite this compromise,) but when it comes to killing people, Governor Rell was gung-ho—while the CCC was eerily quiet. To their credit, they raised a fuss about this back in January, but I guess once they got their intolerant definition of marriage approved in Hartford, they were sated. Odd that this prominent Catholic organization was more concerned about stopping marriages than they were about stopping this killing. The CCC was more outspoken about its opposition to civil unions than it ever was about the death penalty or this state-assisted suicide. For the record, Connecticut's population is about 44% Roman Catholic. I've done some research, but I can find nothing indicating Governor Rell's religious affiliation, if any, and the lack of this information I'd say is a credit to an otherwise lousy governor.

Keep the killings coming. Just wait 'til they're out of the womb to do it, right?

La bêtise, c'est de vouloir conclure.

P.S.: Perhaps the words of Jesus Christ himself would be of interest, since we're talking about the involvement (or the lack thereof) on the part of the Catholic Church. It seems that Christ takes a different side on this matter:

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
—Galatians 5:14-24

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Playing the rube card in Virginia

Virginia's gubernatorial race is heating up with allegations of bias toward accent. Former State Attorney General Jerry Kilgore is accusing Lieutenant Governor Tim Kaine of making his Appalachian accent an issue in the race. Kilgore refuses to debate Kaine because he claims debates are just an excuse to get him to talk—ostensibly so Kaine can make fun of Kilgore's accent. Kaine is accusing Kilgore of ducking the debate. He's even created a web site called www.jerrytheduck.com to address Kilgore's ducking. Click that link and you can not only read Kaine's arguments, but all y'all can hear Kilgore speak, so's ah reckon y'all kin make up y'all's minds.

Honestly, Kilgore ought to be ashamed, playing the rube card like this. Doesn't he have any substantial issues to rely on?

Stigmatizing education like this only inspires people to stay uneducated, spend less on education, and thus deny children the opportunities that education could offer. Seeking short-term gain, Kilgore is hurting the state of Virginia in the long term—as well as the rest of the country. He's disgraceful.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Tony Blair: Keep that Stiff Upper Lip...

A couple of novelty grenades went off at the British consulate in New York early this morning, at around 3:30 or so. Police Chief Ray Kelly says they’re “novelty grenades” that were filled with black powder—homemade grenades, basically. It’s probably no coïncidence that this happened on Britain’s Election Day, at around 8:30 Greenwich Mean Time. But what could be the M.O.? Who could be behind it?

The first thing that flashed into some minds was the horrible bombing that happened in Spain on their Election Day. Some speculated that this bombing might be along those lines, designed to punish the sitting government. But if that’s true, then wouldn’t it make more sense to commit the terrorist act in London? Why in New York, in a building that has nothing to do with the conduct of elections in the first place?

My hunch—and I have no information—would be that it’s a domestic job, done by Americans. Whether it’s by Americans who hope this will punish Blair for joining Bush’s war or whether it’s done by Americans who want to put fear in people’s minds so that they’ll favor the opposition Conservative candidates is impossible to say. At any rate, anyone who sees al Qaeda in this is barking up the wrong tree.

As to the British elections today: I’ve been hearing rather ho-hum predictions. Labour is expected to lose seats while the Tories and Liberal Democrats are expected to gain. Blair will keep his job, but with a drastically weakened mandate, and he’ll likely be forced out next year. Turnout is expected to be low. Voters seem to be upset with Blair, but they’re not so desperate that they’d throw the baby out with the bath and invite a Conservative government in.

I haven’t studied these elections enough to comment with much detail, but I’ll just repeat everything I’ve been reading and say that this sounds likely to me.

It’s a pity that Blair threw so much of his potential away by hitching his wagon to an unlucky star like Bush, who has not only been at least partly responsible for bringing down the government in Iraq, but the governments in Spain and Italy, as well. Britain’s government will almost certainly be weakened by this, and Mexico’s might also suffer, with President Fox not being esteemed highly for his “friendship” with Bush. Hard way to learn a lesson.

Monday, May 02, 2005

The 2005 Five-Borough Bike Ride

Welp, I did it: all 42 miles of the 28th Annual Five Borough Bike Ride. I got there at starting time, eight o'clock. I figured I'd be early, having left at seven, but the trains are a special kind of screwed up early on Sunday mornings. No big deal, though, since the beginning takes a long while to get through. With 30,000 or so cyclists clogging Broadway, most will have to wait a while before they get a chance to advance.

A light rain started falling while we were waiting. I'd rather be moving when it's raining, but still, it wasn't insufferable. In fact, the weather was perfect for a ride like this: mid fifties in the morning, and then it got up to 65 later on. We crowded Broadway until Herald Square, where we switched to Sixth Avenue. From curb to curb, there were cyclists. Cops were stationed along the route, telling pedestrians that it was pointless to even think about crossing. Some did it anyway, either darting across or weaving their way through where the crowds of bikes slowed to a stop. At 57th Street the cops were stopping us en masse, letting pedestrians cross. After a few had made it, they let us go again, and we hit Central Park South.

Central Park was easy riding, though crowded. The rain picked up a bit, but we kept going. Many riders wore ponchos, but I learned my lesson in 2000: you really can’t stay dry on a bicycle in a rainstorm, and if you keep going long enough, you’ll dry out eventually. The park roads were slippery. Someone wiped out on one of the wet bends in Central Park; you really have to watch that. Through Central Park it rained some more, but by the time we got to our Bronx crossing—at around 140th Street or so—the rain had petered out.

We left the Bronx after a few blocks and then back to Manhattan. We started wending our way toward the FDR Parkway. I remember passing a police tow truck parked by the road. The driver was sitting in the front seat with the radio on really loud. A woman on the radio was singing Do You Know the Way to San José? I don’t know if it was Dionne Warwick. I was tempted to stop and listen, since it’s one of my favorite songs. Someone once described it as “the happiest song about failure ever written,” which I find is apt. I’m not a big fan of failure—nor of success, for that matter. What I mean by that is what Rudyard Kipling said: If you can meet with triumph and disaster | And treat those two imposters just the same… you’ll be a man, my son! Triumph and disaster are illusions, and ultimately don’t mean much. Philosophically, this ride agrees with me: you might come in first, or last, but on the whole, it doesn’t matter. (Of course, you could also crash your bike, like some did, and be carted off in an ambulance, so I guess that’s a disaster that does mean something, so… um… I should think about these things before I wax sophomoric, shouldn’t I? Ah, well…)

Then we reëntered Manhattan and headed down the FDR's southbound lane, blocked off specially for us. Right off the FDR was where the first rest stop was, where they gave us free bananas and oranges and Balance bars. Balance bars with caramel in them—is that what athletes eat? That doesn't seem right, somehow. I remember an old episode of the kid’s show New Zoo Revue, in which Doug, one of the human characters, was getting into jogging. To get short bursts of energy, he kept eating candy bars. Henrietta Hippo was very impressed with the notion of an exercise regimen that included candy, but wise old Charlie Owl told Doug that he was nuts and that he shouldn’t be training with candy, but rather with fruits and vegetables and the like. I can’t remember how we found out that Charlie was right; I’m sure Doug didn’t die or anything; the show wasn’t like that, but I’m sure Doug wound up laying off the candy when the half hour was over. I remember watching this when I was ten, thinking, “Doug is an idiot. I’m no athlete, but even I know that you don’t eat candy bars to get into shape.” Imagine my surprise to find out, a quarter of a century later, that Doug was right all along! Candy bars are good for you! I hope the beer industry has enough sense to get into the act.

Then we headed down the FDR, through the tunnel toward the Queensboro Bridge, which Simon & Garfunkel made famous in their 59th Street Bridge Song. It might have been nicer to have had the lane that was right on the river, but still, it was nice to be as close to it as we were. The route pulled off the FDR and then up to the bridge, which is a murderous climb that I, after a winter of physical inactivity, decided would be better walked, part way. I was not alone in this decision; there were plenty of us who acknowledged our lack of fortitude and bravely wimped out for all to see. Those climbs up to the bridges are rough, though! I bet I could have handled it better if I hadn’t just biked fifteen miles. Fifteen miles, and 27 to go. The weather had cleared up nicely, too.

On the other side of the Queensboro Bridge you’ll find Queens, which isn’t too surprising. One of the ride marshalls was standing on the highway, flagging us to take a right turn, calling out, “Welcome to Queens. No talking!” I heard the same joke last year, and loved it. This year I wasn’t talking, anyway, having strained my voice on Wednesday trying to sing Cabaret in karaoke. Those notes are tough! Small wonder most karaokists stick to Neil Diamond and Billy Joel; they’re a lot easier to sing. So here it is Monday night and I’m warning you: don’t try any Kander & Ebb tunes unless you know what you’re doing, or you could wind up like me, still with laryngitis (or whatever this condition is. Strained voice, or something.)

Once in Queens we turned north again to a park where the second rest stop was. I didn’t stay long; just enough to make sure my water bottle was full. There were more bananas and oranges there, but I’m not sure about candy… er, energy bars. (Those things do taste pretty good, though. Imagine a Snickers without the peanuts or nougat.) We headed south again, through Queens. I had no idea where we were, only able to orient myself by catching occasional snatches of the Manhattan skyline through the Queens buildings. Not that I really needed to, of course; with 30,000 riders, you were never alone, always in a sea of orange-vested cyclists.

The third rest stop brought more bananas and oranges and water, plus real, substantial food: bottled, drinkable yogurt and those bright orange crackers with peanut butter smeared inside. That was lunch, and I found it quite agreeable. They were also giving away soda to all who wanted it—oh, that might seem silly, but it was diet soda, which is of course healthy. I mean, where else can you get your essential daily phenylkeutonics and aspertame? Mm! Better living through chemistry—any athlete will tell you! Some enterprising soul had also set up a grill on the side of the parking lot, selling hamburgers and hotdogs and shish kebabs. It smelled good, but I didn’t partake, choosing just to stand in the glorious smoke for a while. Maybe a little too long, because one of the marshalls started announcing that the rest stop was closing, and that we all had to move on.

We hit the road again—which road, I’m not sure—and headed south to Brooklyn. Through Queens we had a few families with kids cheering on the riders, but in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint and Williamsburg neighborhoods, the locals were considerably more blasé, apart from a group of Hacidic kids who gave us a rousing cheer from the balcony of their school.

We were well past the halfway point by the time we got to Red Hook. I was starting to feel tired, and probably wouldn’t have covered the remaining twelve miles if it weren’t for the ride. Thirty miles in one day is pretty good for me, since I usually hover around twenty miles for my own sojourns. The crowd moved on down to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, one lane of which we had all to ourselves. The road was in good shape and it was sweet riding over the knolls. Eventually the Verrazano Narrows Bridge heaved into sight, which was close to the end of it all. I knew from last year that the incline leading to the crux of the bridge is awfully tough, so after pedaling constantly along most of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, I saw a triangle of green grass between the expressway and an exit ramp, so I pulled over and laid down. The sky had cleared up and the breeze was gentle. I propped my legs up on the concrete barrier and relaxed. Some other riders stopped there, too. One said, “We better not get too comfortable; we’ll never get back up.” I did manage to get back up, though, and pulled back onto the expressway, on toward the bridge.

The Verrazano Narrows Bridge is a somewhat mystical construction to cross by bicycle. You can kind of get the same feeling from it in a car, but you’re going to fast to really drink it in. It’s a steep climb to the top (I popped the bike into its lowest gear and, I confess, I walked it part of the way.) As you climb, it gets colder, and the winds get harder, blowing in all different directions. Last year there was a fog blowing across the bridge, but not this time. It was just cold. It’s worth it to stop and look out over the harbor; that’s something you can’t do in a car. Then it’s a nice, easy roll down to Staten Island, the fifth and final borough of the ride.

From your entry to Staten Island, it’s another three miles to the ferry. That’s an easy ride along Staten Island’s northern shore. The road was still mostly flooded from the heavy rain on Saturday night, but they were passable. The real issue is waiting for the ferry. They run two ferries per hour, filling each one up with cyclists and their rides, and it’s still a hell of a wait. I got in line at about 3:30, and I didn’t board the ferry until 6:00. When I got on, there was still a multitude on shore behind me. While waiting, I risked my weak throat and struck up my first conversation of the ride with a man who runs numbers for the Quebec tax department. We compared American and Canadian tax systems for a while, but eventually turned to more scintillating conversations about bike rides. He told me about an annual six-day, 600-kilometer ride in Quebec that sounds interesting. Maybe one of these days. For now, it was work managing these 42 miles. I hope to be in shape to manage the New York Century ride this coming September 11. We’ll see. I’m a slow, deliberate rider: I won’t come in first, but at least I’ll finish. Eventually.

Whitehouse for Senate!

U.S. Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse is running to take the job of Senator Lincoln Chafee, Republican of Rhode Island. He started his campaign with some fiery rhetoric, sounding off against the Republican position of selling off Social Security, doing the bidding of the drug companies, and working to make life easier for credit card companies—as well as the rest of the debt industry. Whitehouse reminded Rhode Islanders that Chafee famously wavered over whom to vote for in the 2004 presidential election, and finally decided on Bush. Whitehouse said that Chafee “will vote for Bill Frist. I will not.”

Whitehouse seems like a solid candidate for the Senate, from what I’ve seen, and I wouldn’t mind having a guy like this in Washington. Of course, the only way he could do it would be by knocking out the most liberal Republican in the Senate. I have to admit that I’d be able to admire Chafee if he weren’t caucusing with the Republicans, if his presence weren’t making it easier for the likes of Bill Frist and George W. Bush to advance their ideas.

Am I a partisan? You bet. There was a time I could consider voting for a Republican, and there in fact have been a couple Republicans I’ve voted for in the past. But the modern Republican Party has declared war on the Democratic Party, so it seems foolish not to take a side.

I’d be sad to see Chafee go, in a way. He’s a Republican in the classic sense. His father, Senator John Chafee, was also a Republican, and also a decent leader. Lincoln Chafee took over his father’s seat when he died in 1999. But when the Republican leadership damns my party as being enemies of freedom, I don’t see how I can tolerate them or anyone who sides with them.

If Chafee is shown the door, then Senators Collins and Snowe over in Maine ought to consider defecting à la Jim Jeffords, if they don’t want to go all the way and become Democrats. The Northeast is growing understandably hostile toward Republicans—and it’s understandable, considering how hostile the Republicans have grown to the Northeast.