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Monday, November 26, 2012

Tea Party Strategy for 2013 And Beyond?

Here's one angle arguing from a Tea Party perspective that Mitt Romney's defeat puts the Tea Party, fiscal conservatives and small-government libertarians in a better position in the Republican Party.
We are recovering, we are retrenching, and there is much to be encouraged about in the loss earlier this month.  Seriously.

Make no mistake about it, had Mitt Romney won, this would not have been our victory.  it is quite likely that the Tea Party and Constitutional conservative movements would have been discarded like this morning's coffee within moments of the victory speech.  We would have been shunted outside, left in the cold of night, to press our noses against the glass like the little child who isn't invited to the party.  Indeed, the Tea Party News Network ( declined to endorse Romney on the eve of the election, instead endorsing none of the above.

What is curious -- and which must not be forgotten -- is the eagerness with which our detractors -- our enemies, let's not kid ourselves -- have assigned blame for defeat to our side. We are called radicals, extremists.  If this is what we are called by the Republican establishment, then why are we not celebrating their defeat?  So, raise your glass...

(1)   Perhaps Obama's vote totals in 2012 will be the "high water" mark for Democrats for decades to come.  Future, white candidates may be unable to match the voter turnout of America's first minority President, even by giving away the store. That is because it is hard to imagine a Democratic candidate who could be more efficient than President Obama at buying votes through government-sponsored giveaways.  How will future Democrats run to the left of Obama? How will future Democrats appease a voter base now conditioned to giveaways and special constituency-driven handouts?  Future Democrats may drive away their base -- or at least, will be unable to match Obama's numbers -- merely by acknowledging the fiscal problems as to which uncomfortable solutions may have gained universal acceptance by 2016.  By this reasoning, Democrats could only gain more votes through a broad economic recovery prompting greater numbers of the middle-class and upper-class electorate to vote Democratic.

(2)   What is also encouraging is that it is also hard to imagine a Republican candidate who could be less effective and less beloved by the conservative base than Mitt Romney.  Here is a candidate who garnered little warmth and passion, and who was consistently passed over in favor of other primary candidates by 75% of the Republican primary electorate in polls until the Republican field was reduced to no more than five candidates.  If Obama 2012 represents the Democratic high water mark, Romney 2012 may represent the Republican low water mark, the absolute floor below which one cannot fall. 

Perhaps the Romney defeat is in part attributable to the refusal of the "base" -- whether it be hard-core conservatives forever and justifiably suspicious of Romney and the Beltway Republicans, or the Ron Paul libertarians treated scornfully at the national convention -- to turn out to elect the candidate of an Establishment that derides, disparages and disrespects them when not exploiting them.  But an alternative theory is implied by many Republican establishment strategists blaming the "extremist" or Tea Party wing of the party for the defeat in 2012.  This theory holds that Romney lost, not because the tea partiers or Ron Paul crowd didn't turn out in sufficient numbers, but because their very presence in the party turned other "moderate" voters and the legendary "independent" voters into indifferent voters who either didn't vote at all or were driven to vote for the incumbent. This is pure rubbish.  Whatever the theory, they are motivated by one thing: the desire to divert responsibility and blame away from the establishment political consultants and the milquetoast candidates (like Romney).  Without the Tea Party as scapegoat, blame necessarily -- and by default -- must go to the established strategists and the establishment candidate.  Make no mistake, 2008 and 2012 were their failures.  They should never be permitted to forget this.  RINOs -- not fiscal conservatives nor libertarians -- are the reason we will have eight years of Obama.

(3)   Further encouraging is the nature of exactly who lost in 2012. The loss to Obama was not by a fiscal, Constitutional conservative, but by the handmaiden of the dreaded, arguably unconstitutional individual health care mandate. Other high-profile losers were far from "tea party" candidates.  Missouri Senate candidate Todd "Legitimate Rape" Akin was actually supported by incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill in the GOP primary.  During the primary election, Akin was NOT supported by the tea party movement in Missouri.  That's why the Democrat incumbent wanted Akin to win: he'd be the easiest general election challenger to beat. Sound familiar?  As for losses by people like Allen West, understand that West was redistricted out and moved into a new district; his loss may, however, also illustrate a tactical failure to win on the ground.

(4)  More encouraging is the drive by moderate Republicans, RINOs, Democrats and the media elite to call for Republicans to move to the middle, to embrace minorities, and so on.  At first glance this may not sound quite right.  But understand the logical failure in any argument that any of this advice should actually be followed. The army that is victorious in battle does not give advice to its enemy on how to win the next time.  Tom Coughlin does not advise Bill Belichick on how the Patriots can beat the Giants if they meet in another Super Bowl. The Nazi armies sweeping into France did not give friendly advice to their new captives in the infamous railroad car (in which the terms of the armistice ending World War I were dictated to the defeated Axis nations).  This is why when the spider tells the fly to "come closer," you know a trap has been set. No, the victorious army is only interested in total conquest, unconditional surrender, and extinction of the enemy if subjugation cannot be achieved.  So take the talking heads' advice with the scorn that you viscerally feel it has earned. The other side -- and that includes many appeasing, complicit Republicans -- wants to win total victory by turning the Republican Party into a Democratic Party clone, the better method with which to turn the GOP from the 48% party into a permanent minority, regional party.

BUT HERE'S THE REALITY: Republicans got outworked on the "ground war" side of the election.  Democrats prevail in door-knocking, delivering voters to the polls, absentee ballot drives, voter registration, early voting operations, you name it, they do it better.  Very notably, Democratic consultants are talking about how their strategy, their methodology, won the battle, while on the other hand the Republican defeat is attributed to a supposed repudiation of fiscal, Constitutional conservatism.  It is as if there are two unspeakable truths: first, that Democrats really won because they appealed to the basest, most selfish instincts -- or what Ayn Rand acolytes might identify as apparently rational economic self-interest -- of an increasingly selfish younger generation and segments of the population taught through generations to embrace the greed of the layabout culture of entitlement, and second, that Republicans really lost despite their message (as bland and uninspiring as it was) because Republicans don't know the first thing about campaigning, messaging or getting their own voters to the polls.

This presents a renewed appreciation among political elites for the ground war skills, too long ignored and disdained by those same elites.  Tea party organizations can step in to fill this skill set.  We can excel at the battle of the elbow grease.  However, now our efforts must be appreciated, must not be taken for granted.  There is a price for our support. But the next time we take the field for battle, we need to stop complaining about the rules, recognize the rules of the game, rededicate ourselves to learning how to fight and win along those rules.  Our challenge is not monetary, it is not even strategic or tactical; it is attitudinal.

STICK WITH WHAT WORKS.  Our principles are not the problem.  Our principles are our core and are the reason we've won where we've won.  We're winning the battle of ideas -- and among Americans who are "producers" and "caregivers" we are winning, have won, by significant margins.  The Democrats are winning the battle of tactics.  We don't have to adopt any changes to principles but we need to narrow the Democrats' tactical advantage. 

Remember that 2012 was not a social-issues campaign.  Republicans will not gain more votes by becoming pro-abortion (abortion advocates will vote Democratic anyway), pro-gay marriage or pro-immigration amnesty (ditto).  All three lightning-rod issues have brought devoted, obsessed single-issue voters into the Democratic fold.  These voters are often the most passionate Democratic voters even though they are single-issue voters.  It is foolishness if not insanity to suggest that any one issue switch will magically cause significant single-issue voters to switch their allegiance to the Republican Party. As for immigration, the amnesty advocates are either stupid or think we are stupid enough to take their advice.  Among Hispanics, two of the three largest lands of origin are Puerto Rico and Cuba.  Puerto Ricans are born citizens of the United States, and Cuban-Americans most often have parents who were granted asylum or refugee status prior to applying for citizenship. Providing a "path to citizenship" or legal status to illegals does nothing to help either Puerto Ricans or Cubans.  Is it thus any surprise that amnesty in 1986 failed to drive significant Hispanic voters to the GOP?
Comments are welcome.  Especially if you are Anonymous.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Is FEMA Picking Winners and Losers?

Anecdotal evidence and the results of my ongoing investigation suggest that the Federal Emergency Management Agency ("FEMA") is either inefficient, ineffective or incompetent.  Take your pick.  All three may be right.

FEMA apparently has given out checks rather quickly to some, often on little proof other than blind faith in the fact of real damage, while other homeowners claim to have not gotten a FEMA inspection -- never mind a check -- despite putting in claims the week of the storm.  Even more puzzling are reports that FEMA has overpaid to compensate for car damage -- like paying someone $10,000 for a 2002 Taurus -- while giving the owner of that same car only $6,000 for home repair.  And there are further reports that FEMA checks were written very quickly in the days after the storm -- and before Election Day -- while aid dried up and FEMA representatives became absent after Election Day.

(Question: Where are the state and local authorities?)

The depth of the destruction and impact on residents must be seen, felt and smelled to be truly understood.  Nearly one month after Hurricane Sandy's epic storm surge washed over the Long Island and New Jersey shore, the Rockaway peninsula and Coney Island (which were overrun) and Staten Island, a dusty, dirty film continues to coat the roads and really, all surfaces, in what I will call the "Dead Zone," the area where water rose to such levels to make those areas at least temporarily uninhabitable if not life-threatening.

Save for NY1 and News12 (both Long Island and New Jersey's versions of the Cablevision news channel), the major news outlets are focusing on the "sexy" stories of Manhattan flood damage and the destruction of the Seaside Heights beachfront amusement park. The reality on the ground is far grimier and grittier.

The local buildings departments have condemned a substantial number of homes in New York City, Long Island and New Jersey.  In New York City, a red sticker means it's uninhabitable.  Most Staten Island homes on the South Shore within five blocks of the beach have yellow stickers, meaning they need remediation.  The Coney Island peninsula, including Manhattan Beach, Brighton Beach and Sea Gate, has suffered significant infrastructure damage.  While homes and apartment buildings may have electricity and heat restored, many traffic lights south of Neptune Avenue in Coney Island and Hylan Boulevard in Staten Island remain inoperable. 

The worst damage appears to have been sustained in the Sea Gate neighborhood, lying on the west end of the Coney Island peninsula, appears largely ruined. Many brick homes appear to be virtual teardowns.  This area was very close to the ocean and had previously suffered flooding in nor'easters.  The epic storm surge (over 13 feet), combined with the timing at both a high tide and during the full moon phase, and further combined with waves estimated by one offshore buoy to be 30 feet above sea level apparently packed a force strong enough to level brick, stone and metal structures.

The Staten Island South Shore remains hard hit and appears to be the area where daily life has been the most disrupted. There is the semblance of normalcy; buses are running, and there is a fully-open shopping center in the Oakwood Beach area (Hylan Boulevard and Tysens Lane) that itself appears to have suffered little to no damage.  But a major supermarket was virtually empty on Black Friday, with the number of shoppers which one would expect late at night. And no wonder, for this shopping center lies just three blocks away from a Dead Zone.  Go south those three blocks, cross a road called Mill Road, and one suddenly crosses into a different world. A dirt film covers everything, street lights no longer work, and portable generators power sharp, bright floodlights serving as beacons of a police presence that one finds on seemingly every second street corner.  There are now outdoor relief tents and virtual outdoor supermarkets on the sidewalks of Midland Avenue, the main drag leading from and perpendicular to the beachfront.  This area remains without power (except for generators). 

In the South Beach, Midland Beach and New Dorp Beach neighborhoods of Staten Island, these portable floodlights and a police car are a presence on many streets.  No doubt this is to help guard against looters.  However, the hardy residents insist on staying in their homes (if they haven't been condemned) to keep out looters, even in the face of going without lights or heat on the cusp of winter.  This fortitude, the desire to guard one's home, was actually the cause of several deaths in Staten Island; one family who evacuated their Tottenville home during Hurricane Irene in August 2011 only to find it ransacked after that storm decided to stay this year -- and three people either drowned or were crushed by falling debris.

To the outside world, these people go about their business. They drive around, or walk to the main drag to catch the bus.  No doubt, this is to get some heat, some entertainment, to be with friends.  (Without power, you realize how much you are "cut off" from the world if you depend on the Internet and social media for your social interaction.) But at home, their existence is in a dark, unlit, unheated home.

Unlike the Jersey Shore, where most ruined homes were second homes, the destruction in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, and much of the Atlantic shore in Nassau County too, was sustained by primary residences. For them, relief and a true return to normalcy will be slow indeed.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New Congresswoman's Dad To Plead On Bribery

According to this breaking report from the New York Post, former New York State Assemblyman Jimmy Meng will plead guilty later today to federal criminal charges of bribery.  Meng served one term in the State Assembly, and is the father of Grace Meng, who was just elected to the House of Representatives from the new northeastern Queens district (ex-Ackerman) following the 2010 census redistricting.
Jimmy Meng's case involved charges that he solicited bribes from a man to make the man's criminal tax charges go away.  According to court papers, the bribe money -- some $80,000 -- was to be placed in a fruit basket.  Food containers have become the apparent new modus operandi for elected officials to hide illicit money; former Louisiana congressman William Jefferson (now D-Club Fed) reputedly hid a large sum of cash in frozen vegetable boxes in his freezer.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Gringos Being Wrong on Republicans and Hispanics

There is a lot of foolish talk about how Republicans need the Hispanic vote in order to avoid political oblivion.  Most of these pundits ignore a basic saying: better to be silent and thought a fool, than to speak and erase all doubt.
As a Hispanic Republican from the Northeast, I am no more qualified than anyone else to divine political mysteries -- but I am also no less qualified than the "anglo" pundits and other "useful idiots" who reveal their biases and intellectual arrogance each time they play "identity politics" with this incredibly diverse ethnic category. (Note I do not use "group," as there is often little in common among the many ethnicities whose ancestors came from or through Latin America.)
First, the immigration issue is just flat-out irrelevant to most Hispanic voters.  That doesn't mean that immigration stances cannot affect the vote.  They can.  People who feel they are being pandered to on immigration may feel insulted and can just stay home.  Wonder why Romney's vote totals were several million less than John McCain's in 2008, and this while running against an unpopular incumbent? 
Why is immigration irrelevant to Hispanic voters?  Consider that two of the three largest components of the Hispanic voter base are Puerto Ricans and Cuban-Americans (the third being Mexican-Americans).  As most educated people should know, Puerto Ricans are natural-born American citizens.  They could care less about this issue -- and in fact should object to an open-borders policy on economic grounds that an influx of bilingual and blue-collar labor will reduce their prospects in the labor force. Cuban-Americans are the children of emigres, of whom most fled Communist Cuba and received asylum.  Far from being immigration hardship sources, both groups should gain from a fair and just enforcement of current immigration laws.   As for the third group, Mexican-Americans, most want amnesty for the obvious legal relief and economic benefits.  This presents the Republican Party with a conflict between the promise -- but by no means certain benefit -- of political gain, and the risk of alienating existing supporters and other potential supporters by rewarding the "moral hazard" of immigration lawbreaking and thereby making all other immigrants who applied and waited patiently (or got rejected) for visas and green cards feel like, well, second-class citizens.  
The real solution is to recognize that Democrats have been winning the battle in appealing to the economically rational self-interest of most Hispanics.  It is all about economics.  Someone who is poor and dependent on the government -- whether he works at a low-salary full-time job or exists solely on government programs -- will respond to being given "free" stuff. 
I argue that competing on the basis of who can give away more is a sucker's bet and an entirely unwinnable one.  It is a race to the bottom.  The problem is, once you are pricing your product at the "free" level, you cannot go below that except to actually give away (other people's) money in addition to free stuff.  In other words, once you decide to play that game, you have hit bottom.  With a thud.
As with all other immigrant groups before them, Hispanics who start to climb into the middle class and amass even the barest of assets, possessions which they actually own, rapidly realize that the government stops being their benefactor (if it ever was that to begin with) and view it as an oppressor, a predator, an uncaring force out to take from them any time they dare to hold on to any savings of their own.
In my own experience, very few Hispanics who work hard and aspire to either own homes or their own businesses need any help in being taught where their economic interests lie.  Their hardship makes them more aware of the raw, visceral instinct, the desire to simply be left alone by government.  Forget the "social issues." On economics, they are conservative, make no mistake about it. 
What my experiences have taught me is that Hispanics "with ambitions," as I'll call it, have a choice between being involved in Republican and conservative politics, and being totally uninvolved.  Successful outreach by the Republican Party will consist of little more than not pandering or condescending to Hispanics.  There are few insults as grave as to diminish someone's accomplishments by suggesting they need special treatment or mangling Spanish in an effort to show cultural sensitivity.  The practitioners of such tactics -- who are more prevalent in the Democratic Party, incidentally -- efficiently and effortlessly reveal their latent racism.  Downtrodden Hispanics (and other minorities) suffering from low self-esteem will accept, ignore or fail to recognize such insults.  But achievers, those with "skin in the game" and plenty of assets placed at risk, will recognize those insults and will not be inclined to forget them. 
In essence, the best way for Republicans to appeal to Hispanics, is to ignore their background altogether and treat them as they would treat any other American.  That, mi amigos, is true inclusion.
Eric Dixon is a corporate lawyer who practices in New York City and handles business, investigative and political matters.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Do Anti-Gouging Laws Kill People?

Living in the New York City metropolitan area the past two weeks has made productive people bear the brunt of both natural disasters (Superstorm Sandy and a strong nor'easter) and man-made disasters in horrible policy reactions to crises.  This is in the news because the recent storms hitting the Northeast, and particularly New York and New Jersey, are being blamed for oil refinery damage which has led to gasoline shortages in that region.  But are these anti-gouging laws worse that the problem they seek to address?  And are they making the gas shortages worse, the lines longer and your hardship even deeper?

New Jersey has been under an odd-even rationing system (that is, vehicles whose last license plate number ends in an even number can only get gas on an even-numbered calendar day) for more than a week, and New York City and Long Island will implement that rationing starting at noon today. 

(For your reference, check out an interesting guest opinion column today criticizing the New Jersey anti-gouging law and arguing that price gouging will actually be beneficial to consumers.) 

From personal observation, it appears that rationing does little to reduce overall demand, the impulse to hoard, or the gross inefficiency caused by waiting hours for gasThe logical first reaction is to get a full refill in order to wring as much inefficiency from the wait time. It may, over time, reduce the amount people drive as people gradually weight the costs and benefits of any car usage against the gasoline depletion and ultimate inconvenience of a wait (with the promise but not the assurance of a refill) necessitated by that use.  But what of people in the suburbs or rural areas, or people whose job necessitates driving around?  How much economic activity is lost -- never to be regained?  (Note that commercial vehicles are generally exempt, but many independent contractors drive personal, noncommercial vehicles for business use and are stuck in the odd-even system).

The impacts of the rationing are already seen in the behavior modification of less driving, and perhaps increasingly "efficient" uses of vehicles.  But at what cost?  Consider the immediate and easily recognizable costs of lost time, the related inefficiency, and a seriously degraded lifestyle.

There are downstream economic costs.  A business owner who now spends 70 hours instead of 60 hours a week to make the same net income will either pass that cost down to consumers, or cut back on other expenses.  Somewhere, someone will lose his or her job when owners cut back due to revenue declines or physical fatigue, or even demoralization at continued government policies that reduce or eliminate the marginal benefit of added work.  This is a perfectly rational decision.  Other businesses will pass on costs, and the price increases or declines in service quality, quantity or variety of offered goods and services will reduce the savings or standard of living of downstream consumers.  Somewhere, somehow, the price is going to be paid. 

But there are more problems.  An anti-gouging law is intended to protect the consumer from presumed exploitation by a business owner who raises prices at all following a natural disaster or other emergency event.   But the government presumption that businesses are exploiters leads to further, unintended -- and unproductive and harmful -- consequences.

The government scrutiny fuels (no pun intended) the public perception that gas retailers are greedy and somehow profiting unfairly.  This subtly encourages a temptation for the consumer to cheat the gas station owner, to try to escape without paying, to otherwise ignore rules such as to cut in line, and that type of thing.  The rule of law, the sense of fairness, will deteriorate further.  In a society where our re-elected President Obama has exhorted Americans to "pay their fair share" and degraded business owners' efforts on their own behalf, arbitrary government policies which inflict hardship or create a sense of injustice threaten to produce more lawbreaking and antisocial behavior, not less.  The danger is that more and more people will feel that they are being robbed. (Whether they should feel this way is not relevant.  I only acknowledge the existence of the sentiment and do not attempt to deny the sentiment and dismiss the people feeling it by imposing my judgments of reasonableness upon them.)  That sentiment will lead to harsher reactions, to less hesitancy to pass on costs or to withhold benefits from others.  I can see charitable contributions and investments drying up, in both an economic and emotional reaction. We will have hoarding, not merely of gasoline but of almost any asset or resource.  Even sleep.  And some are even resorting to violence against the police.

But the very worst collateral consequence may be one that is ultimately infinite and not capable of being measured in dollars.  What happens when car owners start losing sleep because they are waiting on line four, six, even eight hours a week?  This time comes out of another productive -- or essential -- activity: sleep.  At our core, humans need three things: food, water -- and sleep.  How do you measure the efficiency of rationing against the infinite human loss of life or serious injuries caused by sleep-deprived drivers?   

Do people need to be driving off highways and causing major accidents, killing and maiming dozens of innocent unfortunates in the wrong place at the wrong time, for our elected leaders like Governor Chris Christie and Mayor Mike Bloomberg to realize that command and control economic policies spark an uncontrollable chain reaction of misery?

The solution is not to fight people, to fight demand.  The solution is to open up supply.  Let gas station owners charge whatever they want.  Those who abuse consumers will soon pay a heavy price when they are shunned by their former customers.  This will encourage gas station owners to stay in business, wholesalers to deliver gas, and refineries to get back in business.  Elected leaders should spend their energies working on the supply and supply chain problems, instead of fighting their people.  The major Northeast metropolitan areas cannot spark any economic revival when their governments act like the savage bikers out of the dystopian, post-apocalyptic movie "The Road Warrior."  Governments must serve their people, not treat them like the enemy for the sin of wanting to drive.  Otherwise, we may see a new form of "road rage."

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tea Party A Winner With Obama Victory

President Obama's re-election is not a defeat for the Tea Party movement.  On the contrary, it shows the electoral weakness -- if not the outright inviability -- of Republican candidates who either abandon or run away from the Tea Party.

Mitt Romney ran to the middle in his campaign.  He did not run as a conservative.  The major news media outlets bought the Democratic line about Romney's conservatism, incredibly ignoring the clamor of the grass-roots base since the Iowa mid-summer 2011 straw poll (if not well before) that Romney was perhaps the least conservative candidate (other than Obama's appointee to the ambassadorship to China, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman) in a then-crowded Republican primary field.  Even well into the summer of 2012, grass-roots discontent with Romney was reported widely by the media.  His portrayal as a conservative was a Democratic strategy which worked very well, together with the media's incredible complicity.  The truth was that Romney ran a race befitting his true nature; Romney is a moderate with few core principles, and campaigned like one. Like most GOP establishment candidates since Reagan, he also was the type of person whose nature did not easily "connect" with "average" Americans.  Not surprisingly, he ran into defeat.  Establishment Republicans now succeed in spite of their principles and personality, not because of them.

While he was clearly preferable to Obama, let's not forget that Romney was the preferred candidate of virtually no one within the tea party movement at this time last year. One reason: Romney was the architect -- and stubborn defender -- of the Massachusetts health care mandate.  Romney was hardly a classic tea party candidate, and his embrace of the movement was clearly one of desperation and necessity. Those true colors shone through, and to the extent tea party support was less than we would have hoped, one could hardly blame the bedrock of our movement for being less than totally enthusiastic about his candidacy. 

As for the overall movement, it bears repeating that Romney was hardly an effective or charismatic advocate of tea party principles of fiscal responsibility, Constitutionally limited government and free markets; even on the latter point he was open to charges of being more of a crony capitalist and eager government interventionist on regulatory and overcriminalization issues.  If anything, Romney's avoidance of the tea party platform -- and his subsequent defeat, however narrow in the battleground states -- illustrates that the tea party principles remain the only part of the Republican ideological core which has not been sharply rejected in a national election.  Obama's victory is far from a defeat for the tea party movement; if anything, his victory "clears the field" of moderate, liberal-lite candidates (aka, RINOs) to allow a true principled leader to emerge.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Criminal Trial Pressure Drives Defendant College Dean To Suicide

A St. John's University dean under trial for embezzlement was found dead in her home this morning of an apparent suicide, one day after testifying on her own behalf in a widely-covered criminal trial in Brooklyn federal district court.

Trial pressure can be extremely difficult to withstand.  The pressure of being investigated, prosecuted and imprisoned can be a unique and rare ordeal, comparable to battlefield stress or life-endangering work such as police or fire department duty.  This is something which I have assisted people with in the past.  Trials can and have reduced strong men to mere shells of their former selves.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Postpone the New York City Marathon

The still-emerging human and financial disaster from Hurricane Sandy compels a postponement -- but not a cancellation -- of the ING New York City Marathon scheduled for this Sunday, November 4th.

I have a different perspective as a professional marathoner, native Staten Islander and entrant in Sunday's New York City Marathon.  There are several reasons to postpone it, and really only one questionable economic rationale to proceed with it as scheduled.  From a purely racing standpoint, when dead bodies are likely to remain undiscovered within shouting distance of the start of the race, it is too disturbing for serious runners to actually perform.  Real runners who train 30-60 miles a week for several months are running a marathon for time, not to have their photos taken or to sightsee.  Real runners know that this week's tragedy is a huge distraction that will diminish their ability to run well, and most will welcome a postponement for that reason. The New York Road Runners Club should be making this point; alas, the NYRRC has become more of a philanthropic organization, devoted to furthering pet causes on other peoples' dime, and it has destroyed much goodwill by maintaining that this race should be run.

(Full disclosure: I am also entered in the November 18th Philadelphia Marathon, which I find preferable on just about every level.  Therefore, I lack the deep personal compulsion to run this race.)

As for our first responders, including policemen, firemen and paramedics, they are physically exhausted from a week of preparations and then cleanup after Sandy. The Marathon will divert their attention and scarce energy. Besides, the Marathon will be held five days after Sandy hit the region. Earthquake survivors have been known to survive without food and water for as long as seven days (some even longer), so it is possible there are yet-to-be-found survivors. Any diversion of resources from finding and rescuing these people -- whom I suspect remain holed up in attics of flooded houses on Staten Island's South Shore -- would be an act of depraved indifference.  Incidentally, both the NYRRC and the New York Police Department have recognized the strain of road running events on city resources; as NYRRC members will attest, there are fewer races run on the streets of New York City, or even within Central Park, now than in past years.

Finally, a postponement would allow for sponsors and vendors to enjoy a second wave of economic activity from returning runners and their families and friends.  Granted, this benefit comes with a corresponding cost to runners who are not residents of the New York metropolitan area and who would incur repeat hotel and travel costs, but see my point above about the performance concerns of serious runners.  Besides, when the number of runners has tripled in 20 years to more than 47,000, there is surely enough demand to compensate for anyone who decides to stay away from New York.  Sponsors would also benefit from avoiding the negative backlash that being associated with this year's Marathon may bring.  These reasons overwhelm the concerns (the excuse, really) of lost economic activity voiced by New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and New York Road Runners Club President Mary Wittenberg. 

I am willing to expand on these sentiments to anyone wanting further information; please contact me by e-mail at