Tag Archives: Gulliver

Choo Choo Canned Heat Collectivism

George Will in Newsweek:

So why is America’s “win the future” administration so fixated on railroads, a technology that was the future two centuries ago? Because progressivism’s aim is the modification of (other people’s) behavior.

Forever seeking Archimedean levers for prying the world in directions they prefer, progressives say they embrace high-speed rail for many reasons—to improve the climate, increase competitiveness, enhance national security, reduce congestion, and rationalize land use. The length of the list of reasons, and the flimsiness of each, points to this conclusion: the real reason for progressives’ passion for trains is their goal of diminishing Americans’ individualism in order to make them more amenable to collectivism.

To progressives, the best thing about railroads is that people riding them are not in automobiles, which are subversive of the deference on which progressivism depends. Automobiles go hither and yon, wherever and whenever the driver desires, without timetables. Automobiles encourage people to think they—unsupervised, untutored, and unscripted—are masters of their fates. The automobile encourages people in delusions of adequacy, which make them resistant to government by experts who know what choices people should make.

Time was, the progressive cry was “Workers of the world unite!” or “Power to the people!” Now it is less resonant: “All aboard!”

Jason Linkins at Huffington Post:

One way of looking at high-speed rail systems is that they are a means by which distant communities get connected, economic development and jobs are fostered, and workers with a diverse array of marketable skills can improve their mobility and thus their employment prospects. But another way of looking at high-speed rail is that it’s some nonsense that came to a bunch of hippies as they tripped balls at a Canned Heat concert. That’s my takeaway with George Will’s latest grapple-with-the-real-world session, in which he attempts to figure out “Why liberals love trains.” It’s “Matrix” deep, yo

Sarah Goodyear at Grist:

In case you’re wondering about the provenance of that “collectivism” word — well, collectivism was a favorite demon of Ayn Rand, right-wing philosopher and the Ur-mother of libertarianism in the United States. Here’s a typical usage, from The Objectivist Newsletter of May 1962 (via the Ayn Rand Lexicon):

The political philosophy of collectivism is based on a view of man as a congenital incompetent, a helpless, mindless creature who must be fooled and ruled by a special elite with some unspecified claim to superior wisdom and a lust for power.

“Collectivism” also recalls some of the very worst communist ideas, including the “collectivization” of farms in the Stalinist Soviet Union — among the great atrocities of the 20th century (a crowded category).

Which makes it a pretty strong term to be throwing around when it comes to funding different modes of transportation in 21st-century America. But Will persists with his formulation:

To progressives, the best thing about railroads is that people riding them are not in automobiles, which are subversive of the deference on which progressivism depends. Automobiles go hither and yon, wherever and whenever the driver desires, without timetables. Automobiles encourage people to think they — unsupervised, untutored, and unscripted — are masters of their fates. The automobile encourages people in delusions of adequacy, which make them resistant to government by experts who know what choices people should make.

A couple of things here. First off, automobiles are not the only vehicles capable of encouraging “delusions of adequacy.” Bicycles, one might argue, are a lot more capable of encouraging such delusions — fueled as they are entirely by the body of the “unscripted” individual. Which is perhaps why they seem to enrage people in cars, who have to worry about gasoline and the like, so very much.

Second, let’s talk about modern air travel. What mode of transport is more capable of sapping the human sense of possibility, more confining of the untrammeled human spirit? Perhaps before Will goes after high-speed rail, he should call for the defunding of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Paul Krugman:

As Sarah Goodyear at Grist says, trains are a lot more empowering and individualistic than planes — and planes, not cars, are the main alternative to high-speed rail.

And there’s the bit about rail as an antiquated technology; try saying that after riding the Shanghai Maglev.

But anyway, it’s amazing to see Will — who is not a stupid man — embracing the sinister progressives-hate-your-freedom line, more or less right out of Atlas Shrugged; with the extra irony, of course, that John Galt’s significant other ran, well, a railroad.

Matthew Yglesias:

But I do think this is a good look into the psychology of conservatives. Maybe high-speed rail is a waste of money and maybe it isn’t. I think it’s plausible to say we should just spend the cash on better regular mass transit or whatever. But I’ve long struggled to explain the right-wing’s affection for status quo American policies that amount to massive subsidization of the automobile. A small slice of that is spending on roads. A much larger amount is minimum lot size rules, parking mandates, the whole shebang. It’s a bit odd, and my instinct had been to say that this just goes to show that conservatism has nothing to do with free markets and everything to do with the identity politics of middle aged white suburban conformists. But Will offers another explanation here. Automobile use is not a sign of the free market, but an actual cause of it. Driving inculcates habits of freedom, and thus coercive pro-car regulations are, in a way, freedom-promoting.

More Krugman:

A bit more on this subject — not serious, just a personal observation after a long hard day of reading student applications. (My suggestion that we reject all applicants claiming to be “passionate” about their plans was rejected, but with obvious reluctance.)

Anyway, my experience is that of the three modes of mechanized transport I use, trains are by far the most liberating. Planes are awful: waiting to clear security, then having to sit with your electronics turned off during takeoff and landing, no place to go if you want to get up in any case. Cars — well, even aside from traffic jams (tell me how much freedom you experience waiting for an hour in line at the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel), the thing about cars is that you have to drive them, which kind of limits other stuff.

But on a train I can read, listen to music, use my aircard to surf the web, get up and walk to the cafe car for some Amfood; oh, and I’m not restricted by the War on Liquids. When I can, I prefer to take the train even if it takes a couple of hours more, say to get to Boston, because it’s much higher-quality time.

Yes, your choices are limited by the available trains; if I wanted to take a train from beautiful downtown Trenton to DC tomorrow, I’d be restricted to one of 21 trains, leaving roughly once an hour if not more often, whereas if I wanted to drive I could leave any time I wanted. Big deal.

And don’t get me started on how much more freedom of movement I feel in New York, with subways taking you almost everywhere, than in, say, LA, where you constantly have to worry about parking and traffic.

So if trains represent soulless collectivism, count me in.

Atrios:

As Krugman says, trains really are the best way to travel, at least for travel times that are roughly competitive with air travel. That fact doesn’t automatically mean that therefore we should spend huge amounts of public money on it, but, you know, it does mean that people like trains for more reasons than their insidious collectivist promotion.

Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns and Money:

Manypeoplehave, for good reason, taken their knocks at syndicated columnist William F. George’s ludicrous column about trains, with particular emphasis on the substantial amount of government subsidies that facilitate “individualistic” car travel.    In addition, I’d note that the flying experience is a good example of Republican “freedom.”   For some distances flying is of course necessary and useful, although a good high-speed train network would reduce the number of routes that make flying more practical. For the ordinary person, however, flying is a miserable experience — more waiting in line than a Soviet supermarket during a recession, the potentially humiliating security theater, and incredibly cramped and uncomfortable travel.     But — and here’s the rub — people as affluent as Will can buy their way out of the worst aspects of flying, with separate security lines, private lounges, and first-class seating.   With trains, on the other hand, the experience for the ordinary person is infinitely superior but the affluent can obtain an only marginally better experience.   So you can see why Will hates it.   The fact that trains might represent more meaningful freedom for you isn’t his problem.

More Krugman:

Some of the comments on my various pro-train posts have been along the lines of “Oh yeah, try taking the train to Los Angeles.” But that, of course, misses the point.

I think about the trains/planes comparison something like this: planes go much faster, and will continue to go faster even if we get high-speed rail; but there are some costs associated with a plane trip that can be avoided or minimized on a rail trip, and those costs are the same whether it’s a transcontinental flight or a hop halfway up or down the Northeast Corridor. You have to get to the airport at one end, and get from it at the other, which is a bigger issue, usually, than getting to and from train stations that are already in the city center. You have to wait on security lines. You have to spend more time boarding. So if we look just at travel time, it looks like this:

DESCRIPTION

Suppose that I put those fixed costs at 2 hours; suppose that planes fly at 500 miles an hour; and suppose that we got TGV-type trains that went 200 miles an hour. Then the crossover point would be at 667 miles. It would still be much faster to take planes across the continent — but not between Boston and DC, or between SF and LA. Add in my personal preference for train travel, and I might be willing to train it to Chicago, maybe, but not to Texas.

Now, if we got vacuum maglevs

More Yglesias:

I endorse Krugman’s analysis, but in some ways I think the fact that you can’t get to LA on a train actually is the point. You can’t take the train from New York to Los Angeles. You can’t drive from New York to Los Angeles. You need an airplane. But LaGuardia Airport has limited runway capacity and many daily flights to Boston. Clearly, though, you can take a train from New York to Boston. So money spent on improving the speed and passenger capacity of NYC-Boston train links is, among other things, a way to improve New York’s air links to the West Coast.

Now a separate question is whether there’s any feasible way to actually do this in a country that doesn’t have a French (or Chinese) level of central political authority empowered to build straight tracks through people’s suburban backyards. The answer seems to be “no,” but the potential gains from greater rail capacity in the northeast are large and would (via airplanes) spill over into the rest of the country.

More Goodyear:

In the dark days immediately after 9/11, Will seems to have had a revelation about how a certain mode of transportation could help our nation be stronger and more secure. In an Oct. 1, 2001 column syndicated in the Jewish World Review, Will recommended three steps in response to the attack that the nation had just sustained. First, buy more B-2 bombers. Second, cut corporate taxes. And third? Let Will speak for himself (emphasis mine):

Third, build high-speed rail service.

Two months ago this columnist wrote: “A government study concludes that for trips of 500 miles or less — a majority of flights; 40 percent are of 300 miles or less — automotive travel is as fast or faster than air travel, door to door. Columnist Robert Kuttner sensibly says that fact strengthens the case for high-speed trains. If such trains replaced air shuttles in the Boston-New York-Washington corridor, Kuttner says that would free about 60 takeoff and landing slots per hour.”

Thinning air traffic in the Boston-New York-Washington air corridor has acquired new urgency. Read Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker essay on the deadly dialectic between the technological advances in making air travel safer and the adaptations to these advances by terrorists.

“Airport-security measures,” writes Gladwell, “have simply chased out the amateurs and left the clever and the audacious.” This is why, although the number of terrorist attacks has been falling for many years, fatalities from hijackings and bombings have increased. As an Israeli terrorism expert says, “the history of attacks on commercial aviation reveals that new terrorist methods of attack have virtually never been foreseen by security authorities.”

The lesson to be learned is not defeatism. Security improvements can steadily complicate terrorists’ tasks and increase the likelihood of defeating them on the ground. However, shifting more travelers away from the busiest airports to trains would reduce the number of flights that have to be protected and the number of sensitive judgments that have to be made, on the spot, quickly, about individual travelers. Congress should not adjourn without funding the nine-state Midwest Regional Rail Initiative.

Now that it’s a Democratic administration advocating for rail, Will sees it not as a sensible solution for moving people from one place to another, but instead as a tool to control an unsuspecting populace:

To progressives, the best thing about railroads is that people riding them are not in automobiles, which are subversive of the deference on which progressivism depends. Automobiles go hither and yon, wherever and whenever the driver desires, without timetables. Automobiles encourage people to think they — unsupervised, untutored, and unscripted — are masters of their fates. The automobile encourages people in delusions of adequacy, which make them resistant to government by experts who know what choices people should make.

In his recent screed against rail, Will explicitly dismissed arguments that it would be good for national security. He also didn’t mention air travel. Maybe that would have reminded him of what he himself wrote nearly 10 years ago.

David Weigel:

Good get, but if we’re going to be talking about stupid ideas people had right after 9/11, we’ll be here all day. Will’s rail fetish was a passing fancy, and since then he’s come around to the conservative consensus that rail can never, ever work as a replacement for air travel, so rail projects are essentially boondoggles.

This is an odd discussion to have as the Atlas Shrugged movie comes out. The book and the film absolutely fetishize rail; the film makes it clear that rail will become necessary once gas starts to really run out. And this is something liberal rail adherents point out, too. But I don’t see conservatives coming around to HSR, which needs a massive manpower and financial and land commitment to get going, outside of that sort of crisis thinking.

Jamelle Bouie at Tapped:

This isn’t to play “gotcha,” as much as it is to note a simple fact about our world: We’re all partisans, whether we admit it or not. Reason’s opposition to the individual mandate has almost nothing to do with the substance of what is truly a center-right policy and everything to do with current political circumstances. The mandate was implemented by a Democrat. Reason, as a right-libertarian institution, is part of the conservative opposition to the liberal president. Likewise, Will’s opposition to high-speed rail is purely a function of partisan politics.

This isn’t a bad thing. Yes, partisanship can be taken too far and veer into ideological blindness, but, in general, it is a useful way of organizing our thoughts on policies and politics. Indeed, it’s how most voters process political information. Political commentary would be much more bearable if pundits were willing to accept the partisan origins of their biases and skepticism, instead of playing a game where we pretend to be open-minded observers.  Most are anything but.

Gulliver at The Economist:

Mr Bouie might be overstating the influence of partisanship a bit, and it’s hard for people to know exactly what is driving others’ opinions—or even one’s own. Still, partisanship is certainly a useful frame through which to view both the most ardent opponents and the most passionate defenders of HSR. There is political science research that shows that a president weighing in on one side of a given debate (as Barack Obama has with high-speed rail) dramatically increases political polarization on that issue. Of course, if Mr Bouie’s theory is correct, we should be able to point to some lefty supporters of HSR whose support seems to be driven primarily by partisanship—or even a few who, like Mr Will, have switched positions on the issue. Anyone have a nomination? Let us know in the comments.

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Buggin’ Out

Dorsey Shaw at New York Magazine:

Last night, The Daily Show devoted an entire segment to the very unfunny bed bug problem that’s sweeping New York. Thankfully, host Jon Stewart managed to bring the funny by including an informative, but disturbing clip from Isabella Rossellini’s Green Porno series that featured the actress dressed up like a giant bed bug who emotes while getting penetrated by a penis that is actually a knife. And you thought Blue Velvet was weird.

Gulliver at The Economist:

BEDBUGS have been resurgent in America since the mid-1990s. But the situation has gotten out of hand in recent years. New York City, where bedbugs have been found in movie theatres and clothing stores, has been especially hard-hit. Now, USA Today reports, even workplace infestations are on the rise:

Nearly one in five exterminators have found bedbugs in office buildings in the U.S., according to a recent survey of extermination firms by the National Pest Management Association and the University of Kentucky. That compares with less than 1% in 2007.

“It’s a national issue,” says Ron Harrison of pest control firm Orkin. “Not all of us have to go to work and worry about it, but we all have to be sensitive to it.”

Most cubicle dwellers and corner office executives are blissfully unaware of bug problems. And many wrongly think infestations take place only in the homes of unclean folks or in college dorms. But bedbugs can survive in a multitude of eek-evoking settings, such as offices, movie theaters and libraries

The Internal Revenue Service, the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, and even Time magazine have discovered bedbugs in their offices recently, according to the USA Today report. (The Economist‘s offices are still bedbug-free—at least as far as I know.) The problem, of course, is that bedbugs are highly mobile. They can travel on people and on the things that people travel with—suitcases, duffel bags, clothing, and so on. That’s why we business travellers have to be so wary. But there’s only so much you can do, right?

Jasmine Moy at The Awl:

So, I realized that my apartment was infested. Because never breathing again is not an option, I sought a solution.

Here is a short list of things that you should absolutely not do. Not only do these things not solve your problem, they’re expensive and time consuming.

1. DO NOT PANIC. Panicking leads to doing all of the things on this list.

2. Do not throw away your mattress. Even if you put a sign that says, “bedbugs!” on it, you never know who might pick it up, including someone else in your building, which means you’re making the problem bigger for yourself.

3. Do not buy a new mattress. If you haven’t thoroughly attended to the rest of your belongings, they’ll find your new mattress in no time.

4. Do not move. You’ll probably move them with you.

5. Do not bring all your clothes to the dry cleaner. It’s pointless, see above.

There are however a number of cheap ways to start combating the problem.

1. Get carpet tape (that’s the thick, double-sided stuff) and roll a line of it in your apartment doorways, which will keep them from getting in or out of your room/apartment. (Some have suggested outlining your bed with it, which seems extreme and is not aesthetically pleasing but would work as a preventive measure.)

2. Put the legs of your bed in small plastic containers and put ½ an inch of baby oil in the containers, which will keep bugs from getting into or out of your bed (they’re not good climbers).

3. Invest in mattress covers to cover your mattress and box spring.

4. Buy a gallon or so of rubbing alcohol and some spray bottles. Rubbing alcohol is your new best friend. It not only kills bed bug eggs, but also works as a repellent to keep them from laying new ones, and keeps them from biting you at night.

However, whatever the Internet says about being able to conquer the bugs all by yourself, I wouldn’t try it. Just as it’s unwise to get cut-rate Lasik, or fly to Mexico for plastic surgery, the risks outweigh the cost of paying a good professional.

My roommate had been working at a restaurant and the owner there recommended Mario to us. He was no-nonsense and comforting. He assured us that we weren’t dirty people and that we had nothing to be ashamed of. Just last week he’d seen a bedbug crawling on a guy’s shirt on the subway (oof) so really, you can get them any place! This somehow managed to make me feel both better and not-at-all better at the same exact time.

Before he could come and spray (fumigating almost never works in one shot, he said, and heating/freezing all your things costs a fortune and requires days in extreme temperatures, either below 10 degrees or above 115 degrees Fahrenheit), we had to take every object we owned, spray it thoroughly with rubbing alcohol, and bag it. Electronics could be given a once over with alcohol wipes. All clothes had to be put in the dryer for 10 minutes and bagged.

“When I get there,” he informed us, “I want all the bags in the center of each room, leave suitcases out, mattresses uncovered, all shelves and dressers empty. I will not touch your apartment unless this is done.” Yes, sir!

Over the course of the next week, as I carried load after load of laundry up and down my 5th floor walkup to the corner laundromat, I couldn’t think of anything worse that could happen to a person, short of terminal illness or loss of a limb. Even then, I assumed this had a silver lining: “Hey! Less body area to feast on!”

I sprayed myself head to toe in rubbing alcohol each night. I slept without covers and kept a flashlight next to my bed so that when I woke up in the middle of the night (I was being startled awake by nightmares several times an evening, go figure), I could try to catch them in the act. Why? I don’t know. Too afraid to kill a bug with my bare hands, I’d probably have just flicked it onto something else to burrow in.

Every morning I’d spend fifteen minutes inspecting every inch of my body to see whether a bite I had was a new one or not (some people mark them with pens, but that seems, to me, to call more attention to them than necessary).

You start looking for bedbugs on strangers on the train. You start imagining what kind of people let them get to the point at which piles of them are found in corners, and mattresses are covered like beehives. I was afraid to tell people I had bedbugs, afraid that if they knew, they wouldn’t want me in their houses. I wouldn’t blame them.

Bedbugs are, in a word, traumatic. But little by little, the bags started to accumulate. It turned out to be a great excuse to clean house. Any clothes that weren’t worth carrying up the four flights of stairs after their cleansing trip in the dryer went straight into a Salvation Army bin outside the laundromat. I invested in those vacuum seal bags, which conveniently also saved me a ton of storage space! I felt good knowing that all the clothes I was wearing were sealed in bags that no bug could penetrate.

Christine Egan at Huffington Post:

Dear paranoid, irrational, germophobic humans:

We understand from recent media reports that some of you have become infatuated — dare we say, obsessed — with us lately. We can’t blame you, but this madness really has to stop.

We live together, and yet we don’t know each other at all. You’re so critical, so judgmental, so hateful, so unwilling to work on the problems in our relationship. It’s sad, really.

Now, we don’t want to get into a whole name-calling thing here, but we think you’re being hypocritical — and we don’t take pleasure in saying so.

But you go to the beach. You sit outside. Mosquitoes bite you. You scratch, complain briefly, apply ointments, and perhaps suggest to your host that he invest in screens. But do you fumigate the boardwalk, set your host’s front porch on fire and throw away the sundress, flip flops or Bermuda shorts you were wearing on the night you drank frozen margaritas in front of the beach bonfire and got 17 mosquito bites? No, you do not.

Even worse, you go back to the beach, weekend after weekend, summer after summer, year after year — only to get bitten again and again. As if that weren’t bad enough, you consistently exhibit this same masochistic behavior at the lake (hideous horse flies), the mountains (odious black flies), and yes, even in your own home: We hate to tell you this, but your filthy pets have fleas, and your bratty kids have head lice. (Which is just plain gross. Please keep them away from us.) And do you wage war against the millions of no-see-ums in your backyard? Of course you don’t, because they’re tiny and have a cute name. Personally, we no-see-the-attraction.

So why the hell are you in such a panic over us all of a sudden — particularly in urban areas like New York City? We don’t spread disease (thank menacing mosquitoes for West Nile Virus and those ticks for Lyme Disease), crawl around your kitchen counters (have you ever seen an earwig? talk about ugly), or cause you any major harm. All we do is nibble you a little, and hell, lots of you don’t even feel our bites or end up scratching at all.

Sure, we may inadvertently give some of you an impressive reddish rash (we can’t help it), but do us a favor and please don’t call us “disgusting” or “nasty” in public. That hurts our feelings. Who do you think we are, anyway, pubic lice? (The very definition of disgusting. And we know you’ve had the crabs, by the way. We live in your bed, remember?) Furthermore, do you have any idea how many dust mites you reside with every day in your McMansions with granite counter tops, media rooms and cathedral ceilings? No, you don’t. And you sure as hell don’t want to, either.

Nina Burleigh at Time:

For reasons still unknown, bedbugs really seem to like the state of Ohio. The problem is so dire in Cincinnati that some people with infested apartments have resorted to sleeping on the streets.

Cincinnati created a Bedbug Remediation Commission in 2007 and, like other local and national governments around the world, the city is trying to mobilize strategies to control infestations of the resilient insects, which can hide in almost any crack or crevice and can go a year or more without eating. On Aug. 10, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a consumer alert about off-label bedbug treatments, warning in particular of the dangers of using outdoor pesticides in homes. The Ohio Department of Agriculture has mounted a more unusual response to the crisis: it petitioned the EPA for an exemption to allow in-home use of propoxur, a pesticide and neurotoxin banned in the 1990s out of concern for its effects on children. (See the top 10 weird insect mating rituals.)

Although the EPA rejected Ohio’s propoxur plea in June, the agency has scheduled an Aug. 18 meeting with state and municipal leaders to try to formulate an abatement strategy everyone can live with. Among the meeting’s participants: representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and, no joke, the Department of Defense.

“We are hopeful that the outcome of this meeting provides a solution,” says Ohio agriculture secretary Robert Boggs. “Quite frankly, something needs to happen, and it needs to happen quickly.”

Adrian Chen at Gawker:

Sorry, we’re trying to be more copacetic about bedbugs. But, they’ve invaded the Empire State Building! Towering symbol of modernity? New York icon? Bed bugs don’t give a bed bug fuck. They’re taking it down, from the bottom up.The building issued this statement:

“Like so many other buildings in New York City, the Empire State Building had a small incident of bedbugs. The occurrence was specific to a uniform storage area in the basement of the building. The area has been treated and fully cleared.”

This tourist from Buffalo was pretty copacetic about it, though: He told the Daily News, “You would think that for $20 a ticket, it should not be infested with bugs.”

Wonkette:

Bedbugs! They’re destroying Freedom & Liberty even faster than Debbie Riddle and terror babies combined. In Ohio and several other states, the critters have become so unruly that local governments are calling on the feds — including the Department of Defense — to help find a solution.

Why is Defense the agency you turn to when plotting your War on Bugs? Because they issue Technical Guides on pest management and control. Also, bedbugs might become a national security issue because they scare Americans. Scaring Americans often leads to Americans declaring war, and war is the DoD’s bailiwick. See how that works?

Your Wonkette remembers early rumblings of Bedbug Fever back in the mid-aughts, before the problem reached Full-Blown Epidemic proportions. At the time we lived in New York City, which has since turned into a war zone in which bedbugs compete with cockroaches for territorial control. It’s like the Bloods and Crips all over again. Oh, and did you hear about those bedbugs who crashed the Manhattan movie theaters the other day? They’re worse than not-mosques.

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He Got His 15 Minutes On An Emergency Exit Slide

Radar Online:

Q10001425
CRIMINAL COURT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK
PART APAR, COUNTY OF QUEENS
_____________________________________
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK

STATE OF NEW YORK
COUNTY OF QUEENS
V.

STEVEN SLATER
DEFENDANT
_____________________________________

POLICE OFFICER THOMAS EDDINGS OF PORT AUTHORITY, TAX REG#: 042792,
BEING DULY SWORN, DEPOSES AND SAYS THAT ON OR ABOUT AUGUST 9 2010
BETWEEN 12:07PM AND 12:18PM, IN BACK OF TERMINAL 5  JFK AIRPORT, COUNTY OF
QUEENS, STATE OF NEW YORK

THE DEFENDANT COMMITTED THE OFFENSES OF:
PL 120.25 RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT IN THE FIRST DEGREE
PL 145.10 CRIMINAL MISCHIEF IN THE SECOND DEGREE
PL 120.20 RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT IN THE SECOND DEGREE – DNA SAMPLE
REQUIRED UPON CONVICTION
PL 145.00-3 CRIMINAL MISCHIEF IN THE FOURTH DEGREE
PL 140.10-A CRIMINAL TRESPASS IN THE THIRD DEGREE

IN THAT THE DEFENDANT DID:  UNDER CIRCUMSTANCES EVINCING A DEPRAVED
INDIFFERENCE TO HUMAN LIFE, RECKLESSLY ENGAGE IN CONDUCT WHICH CREATED
A GRAVE RISK OF DEATH TO ANOTHER PERSON;HAVING NO RIGHT TO DO SO NOR
ANY REASONABLE GROUNDS TO BELIEVE THAT HE HAD SUCH RIGHT, INTENTIONALLY
DAMAGE PROPERTY OF ANOTHER PERSON IN AN AMOUNT EXCEEDING ONE THOUSAND
FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS;RECKLESSLY ENGAGE IN CONDUCT WHICH CREATED A
SUBSTANTIAL RISK OF SERIOUS PHYSICAL INJURY TO ANOTHER PERSON;HAVING NO
RIGHT TO DO SO NOR ANY REASONABLE GROUND TO BELIEVE THAT HE HAD SUCH
RIGHT, RECKLESSLY DAMAGE PROPERTY OF ANOTHER PERSON IN AN AMOUNT
EXCEEDING TWO HUNDRED FIFTY DOLLARS;KNOWINGLY AND UNLAWFULLY ENTER OR
REMAIN IN A BUILDING OR UPON REAL PROPERTY WHICH IS FENCED OR OTHERWISE
ENCLOSED IN A MANNER DESIGNED TO EXCLUDE INTRUDERS

THE SOURCE OF DEPONENT’S INFORMATION AND THE GROUNDS FOR DEPONENT’S
BELIEF ARE AS FOLLOWS:

DEPONENT STATES THAT AT THE ABOVE DATE, TIME AND PLACE OF OCCURRENCE THAT HE IS INFORMED BY STEVEN GULLIAN, JET BLUE PILOT THAT THE DEFENDANT STEVEN SLATER DID ACTIVATE THE AIRCRAFT EMERGENCY ESCAPE SLIDE ON DOOR R-2.  DEPONENT IS FURTHER INFORMED BY STEVEN GULLIAN THAT THE DEFENDANT WAS WORKING AS A FLIGHT ATTENDANT ON JET BLUE FLIGHT 1052 FROM PITTSBURGH.

DEPONENT IS FURTHER INFORMED BY JUNE DONOVAN OF JET BLUE SECURITY THAT THE DEFENDANTS ACTIONS CAUSED DAMAGE TO THE EMERGENCY ESCAPE SLIDE AND DID CAUSE A DANGEROUS CONDITION TO THE GROUND CREW WORKING BELOW THE AIRCRAFT.  DEPONENT FURTHER STATES HE WAS ADVISED BY JUNE DONAVAN THAT THE COST TO REPLACE THE EMERGENCY ESCAPE SLIDE IS IN EXCESS OF $25,000.  DEPONENT STATES HE IS FURTHER INFORMED BY JUNE DONOVAN THAT SAID ESCAPE SLIDE IS DEPLOYED AT THREE THOUSAND PSI AND CAN CAUSE SERIOUS PHYSICAL INJURY OR DEATH IF IT STRIKES THE PEOPLE WORKING UNDER THE AIRCRAFT.

DEPONENT STATES THAT THE DEFENDANT DID ADMIT TO HIM BOTH VERBALLY AND IN WRITTEN FORM THAT HE INTENTIONALLY ACTIVATED THE AIRCRAFT EMERGENCY SLIDE AND DID EXIT THE AIRCRAFT VIA THE EMERGENCY SLIDE.  DEPONENT FURTHER STATES THAT THE DEFENDANT MADE A FURTHER ADMISSION THAT HE WALKED ON THE AERONAUTICAL AREA UNTIL HE WAS ABLE TO FIND AN UNLOCKED DOOR TO EXIT TO THE STREET AREA.  DEPONENT FURTHER STATES HE IS THE LEGAL CUSTODIAN OF SAID AREA AND THE DEFENDANT DID NOT HAVE PERMISSION OR AUTHORITY TO ENTER OR REMAIN IN SAID AREA.

Heather Robinson at Huffington Post:

And I gotta say, the guy made my day.

The funny thing is, I was seated on this flight yesterday — JetBlue #1052, Pittsburgh to JFK — next to a lady who was scared to fly. At the outset, she pulled out a rosary and started praying (that’s not unusual, especially on a flight from Pittsburgh, which is a heavily Catholic city).

As we ascended, the turbulence was a bit more intense than typical, but nothing to be alarmed over. She was crossing herself and fidgeting, so I told her, “There’s nothing to worry about. I’ve been flying multiple times a month all my life and this is normal.”

She thanked me, and we got to talking a bit. I told her the same thing — “it’s totally normal”– when we heard the bump of the wheels coming down prior to landing.

It was when we stood up to disembark — in those annoying moments when everyone is waiting to be released from the metal can we’ve been packed in together — that Steven Slater commandeered the PA system and issued his rant. I didn’t take notes so the following is not exact, but a paraphrase: “F— you! F— all of you! I’m f—— through with this! I’VE HAD IT! I’ve been doing this for 28 f—— years and I can’t take it anymore. And for the f—– a—–who told me to f— off: f— you! That’s it! I’m done! F— you all!”

At that point the older Catholic lady looked back at me and crossed herself, and I told her, “No, that is not normal.”

College students sitting nearby were laughing. One of them mentioned that a flight attendant had been bleeding and speculated that that might be “the guy” who’d just engaged in the rant.

I missed Slater’s inflation of the emergency chute, and didn’t know until I woke up this morning about his racing home to Belle Harbor, Queens in his silver Jeep Wrangler and hopping into bed with his boyfriend (leave it to the great New York Post to get those wonderful details).

Overall, it got me to thinking: in a way it’s a shame things like this don’t happen more often. Let me explain: in an age when, for good reason, authorities are constantly on the alert for terrorists and mass shooters, when any highway altercation, we are warned, can escalate into a gunfight, when eighty-year-old women are forced to relinquish their knitting needles and nursing mothers their bottles of milk at airport screening because of dread of vicious acts of brutality, Americans must restrain ourselves and behave obediently at all times in public places. Current mores leave no room, no outlet, for the venting of frustrations, or for freewheeling, spontaneous behavior of any kind.

No one who would engage in deliberate violence against another person is doing so because of petty frustrations; obviously, something deeper is askew in such an individual. But what about the rest of us? The “normal” decent people who feel fed up with the lack of civility, the many little humiliations, of everyday life? People who would never dream of doing anything violent, and who–because of the actions of a few truly evil people–are prevented from expressing normal frustrations, normal anger, out of (often justified) fear that someone might “go crazy,” show up packing a gun, etc.? Sometimes we need to get in someone’s face and tell that jerk to f— off. Likewise, sometimes people just need to get out of a situation, to take an escape, when doing so does not harm anyone else.

Gulliver at The Economist:

The ramifications for Mr Slater are serious, and he faces charges of reckless endangerment and criminal mischief. Who knows what damage the slide could have done to somebody on the ground, etc. But only a heart of stone could fail to sympathise. Indeed Mr Slater could well end up lionised by fellow flight attendants for telling a surly, unco-operative passenger exactly what he thought. And he should also be praised for the manner of his departure. If you are going to effectively jack in your flying career, then speeding down the emergency slide, beer in hand, is no bad way to do it.

Joel Achenbach at WaPo:

I think we all want to pull a Slater now and then. We want to activate the escape slide. Maybe at work, maybe at home. We want to shout “It’s been great!” and grab a beer and slater on out of there.

Flight attendant Steven Slater got arrested, of course, because you’re not supposed to deploy the emergency slide on a plane except in an emergency. But you can just picture what might have happened (and the Times story goes into some detail): Some passenger for whom the rules don’t apply, who perceives himself as more important than everyone else, leaps out of his seat before the plane has reached the gate. Slater tells him to sit back down. The passenger refuses and yanks his oversized bag out of the overhead compartment and bonks Slater on the head. Slater, temporarily deranged, uses the public address system to point out that this man is a total and complete arsehat of the first order. Slater at that point surely realizes he has future in the airline industry. What’s he going to do? Emergency slide!

But what makes him an instant legend, of course, is the beer. He grabs the beer on the way out. That’s the “Animal House” meets “Airplane!” note. No wonder he’s an instant Internet icon. His name will become a verb, just watch.

James Poniewozik at Time:

Move over, Sully Sullenberger, there’s a new folk hero in the skies. OK, maybe not a universally acclaimed hero. And not a “hero” in the sense of, like, saving lives, or stopping a terrorist, or really doing anything traditionally considered “heroic.” Still, Steven Slater—the JetBlue flight attendant who reportedly had an altercation with a passenger who injured him in the head, cursed her out over the PA, then deplaned, with a beer, via the emergency slide—is the talk of the country today. (And, I’m guessing, the talk of late-night TV for a while to come.)

There are a lot of reasons Slater’s exit might have struck a chord: general frustrations with work, the economy, or the rudeness of strangers, or specific irritation with the breakdown of airline civility. But above all, the Slater story is fascinating because it provides an irresistible image of screw-you liberation: the put-upon employee telling off some jerk, kissing off his job over a PA system, then taking off. Grabbing a beer. And going down a slide. A freaking slide! Yabba dabba doo!

Obviously, Slater’s was not the most level-headed course of action. He flew off the handle, freaked out in front of a plane full of passengers and caused inconvenience and expense to others by abusing an emergency exit. I don’t endorse that. Don’t try this at home, kids stay in school, &c.

But it may be the impracticality, the ballsiness, or the craziness of Slater’s gesture that makes it so fascinating. Quitting your job dramatically, after all, would seem to be the last thing you want to do in the middle of an economic downturn. Maybe that’s the appeal. Slater may have had his personal reasons for cracking, but there was a kind of ’70s, mad-as-hell-not-going-to-take-it,  Take This Job and Shove It sensibility to his rebellion, and people responded to it: over 11,000 people had joined the Free Steven Slater! page on Facebook by this afternoon

Glynnis MacNicol at Mediaite:

Steven Slater, the Jet Blue flight attendant who lived out the dreams of every worker frustrated with their job (and probably most people frustrated with the state of flying in this country) with his dramatic, expletive-laden exit “not only from the plane but, one imagines, also from his airline career,” has landed on the cover of all the major New York City papers.Not surprisingly the New York Post wins for headline, though it fails to pack the full punch one normally hopes for. Meanwhile, the NYT, who put the story below the fold on A-1 sans a picture, wins hands down for their write-up:

Mr. Slater asked for an apology. The passenger instead cursed at him. Mr. Slater got on the plane’s public-address system and cursed out the passenger for all to hear. Then, after declaring that 20 years in the airline industry was enough, he blurted out, “It’s been great!” He activated the inflatable evacuation slide at a service exit and left the world of flight attending behind.

Roger Ebert, meanwhile, thinks Slater is a hero fit for our 2010 time: “Predicting JetBlue’s batshit flight attendant becomes a folk hero and guests on cable and talk shows. A Sully for 2010.”

Chris Rovzar at New York Magazine:

When we first read the story of JetBlue steward Steven Slater, who went crazy yesterday after a passenger rudely bonked him on the head with a piece of luggage, our takeaway was simple: This guy’s going to become a folk hero. This morning in the Daily News, columnist Joanna Molloy decided it had already happened, that his status as a populist icon was already sealed. “How many of us have wanted to say Take This Job and Shove It? I’m As Mad as Hell, and I’m Not Gonna Take It Anymore?” Molloy asked. “Slater did it, and he did it with flair, cursing back over the plane’s public address system at the obnoxious passenger who conked him on the head with his suitcase, then releasing the emergency exit slide and jumping out and disappearing across the tarmac. He even had the presence of mind to toss his carry-on luggage down the slide first.” She even predicted: “There’ll probably be a song about him online today.” There isn’t quite yet, but of course there will be.

So what has the Internet wrought on this new icon so far?

• This morning he is both the Nos. 1 and 2 topics on Google Trends, and is trending on Twitter.
• There are already the requisite Free Steven Slater T-shirts.
• Unfortunately, they are not yet available on FreeStevenSlater.com.
• There are multiple Steven Slater fan pages on Facebook, the largest one with at least 12,000 fans.
• There is already a PayPal-linked Steven Slater Legal Defense Fund, if you care to chip in.
• There’s a movement to contact JetBlue directly on Slater’s behalf (though, judging by the fact that the airline waited nearly a half-hour after Slater’s escape from the plane to alert authorities in order to allow his full getaway — and enough time to have sex with his boyfriend before getting arrested — we suspect JetBlue is already at least a little on his side).
• Dealbreaker is already pushing to find Slater a new employer.

Of course, as Steven Slater is bound to find out soon, in the Internet era, folk heroes have about the same enduring presence as the feeling of cleanliness you get from a moist airline towelette. So to the man of the day: Sell that TV interview now, get the biggest payout you can for pictures in a celebrity weekly (we wanna see that boyfriend you were doing when the cops showed up!), and nail down at least one endorsement deal for Xanax or something. Because this isn’t going to last.

UPDATE: Byron York and Ann Althouse at Bloggingheads

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