Best of 2009: “At the junction”

This was first published on June 24, 2009.

My first reaction when I saw this post on a blog called Infrastructurist (looks very cool) (via Boing Boing) was just to link to it on my Facebook page. I also lament the loss of these great — well, in some cases very large and grandiose, if not necessarily actually great — civic works of sculpture. I come to work, in fact, through the new Penn Station every day, and work in One Penn Plaza (yeah, me and those buildings!), overlooking (actually, straddling) the non-entity of a transport hub that now bears the Pennsylvania Station name as well as the depressing Madison Square Garden.

Pennsylvania Station

Then I went ahead and wrote this comment, and decided to recycle and touch it up a little here, for the benefit of my larger other audience.

To a large extent the manner in which the loss of these temples of transit compels so many of us is a testament to what we really think about a world ruled solely by utilitarian concerns. That latter, callous attitude toward the spiritual importance of environment on human existence, in the cities as much as anywhere else, is displayed by Alon Levy in the comments at the original post.

God help us in the soulless, bottom-line libertarian future that so many think they want!

Ironically, the utilitarian worldview is incapable of accounting for the long-term utility and welfare (in the microeconomics sense of the word) that derive from civic pride — the decline of which, from the 1950’s on, along with the decline in the quality of inner city life, surely must be linked to the decline of the humane in urban architecture.

And yet: As the (not so godless?) Alon says in a subsequent comment, “Ron Coleman, you’re the first person I see use the word spirituality to mean ‘preserving train station facades.’” Indeed: Many of these buildings were and are obsolete, and the cost of their respective upkeep, utility expense, restoration or retrofit, relevance to modern transportation need or all of the above would constitute a preposterous budget item for almost any public entity saddled with such costs. Only religious dogma, and perhaps theocracy, could justify such devotion.

Rail transport, despite its highly romantic appeal, is great for everyday commuting but is seldom of the choice of travelers from afar, for whom flying — even in its own diminished state as a culture and a humane experience — is a clearly superior choice. Most other travel remains, in America, highway-based, because Americans want to go where they want, when they want and with whom they want, and they want to get back home that way, too.

In addition, the cheap labor and lax or nonexistent building, fire, safety and access standards of the nineteenth century, which made it possible to erect and use these behemoths, are truly relics of a different age. So who is going to foot the bills to maintain these buildings as obsolete white elephants? Or is someone here volunteering for a special tax assessment so Detroiters can stare at their irrelevant grand terminal?

There’s the facts, Jacks.

I sure wish we had the old Penn Station here, though.

Comments at the original post.

Small beer

I hear a lot of conservatives screaming about the whole sit-down-and-have-beer-thing with the President and the Cop.  “How could you?!  After what he said about you!”

Easy, how could you.

He’s the President of the United States.  Why wouldn’t you want to have the chance to sit down with the President of the United States, regardless of the circumstances?  What other chance is there of that happening to Sergeant James Crowley?

I think it’s especially easy to answer here, where at the end of the day you’ve really suffered no harm and arguably have “one over” on him.  Crowley has nothing to lose, except the phony “respect” of the Loud Right.

Sky box

View out window of Woolworth Building

At the junction

My first reaction when I saw this post on a blog called Infrastructurist (looks very cool) (via Boing Boing) was just to link to it on my Facebook page.   I also lament the loss of these great — well, in some cases very large and grandiose, if not necessarily actually great — civic works of sculpture. I come to work, in fact, through the new Penn Station every day, and work in One Penn Plaza (yeah, me and those buildings!), overlooking (actually, straddling) the non-entity of a transport hub that now bears the Pennsylvania Station name as well as the depressing Madison Square Garden.

Pennsylvania Station

 

Then I went ahead and wrote this comment, and decided to recycle and touch it up a little here, for the benefit of my larger other audience.

To a large extent the manner in which the loss of these temples of transit compels so many of us is a testament to what we really think about a world ruled solely by utilitarian concerns.  That latter, callous attitude toward the spiritual importance of environment on human existence, in the cities as much as anywhere else, is displayed by Alon Levy in the comments at the original post.

God help us in the soulless, bottom-line libertarian future that so many think they want!

Ironically, the utilitarian worldview is incapable of accounting for the long-term utility and welfare (in the microeconomics sense of the word) that derive from civic pride — the decline of which, from the 1950’s on, along with the decline in the quality of inner city life, surely must be linked to the decline of the humane in urban architecture.

And yet:  As the (not so godless?) Alon says in a subsequent comment, “Ron Coleman, you’re the first person I see use the word spirituality to mean ‘preserving train station facades.’”  Indeed:  Many of these buildings were and are obsolete, and the cost of their respective upkeep, utility expense, restoration or retrofit, relevance to modern transportation need or all of the above would constitute a preposterous budget item for almost any public entity saddled with such costs.  Only religious dogma, and perhaps theocracy, could justify such devotion.

Rail transport, despite its highly romantic appeal, is great for everyday commuting but is seldom of the choice of travelers from afar, for whom flying  — even in its own diminished state as a culture and a humane experience — is a clearly superior choice. Most other travel remains, in America, highway-based, because Americans want to go where they want, when they want and with whom they want, and they want to get back home that way, too.

In addition, the cheap labor and lax or nonexistent building, fire, safety and access standards of the nineteenth century, which made it possible to erect and use these behemoths, are truly relics of a different age. So who is going to foot the bills to maintain these buildings as obsolete white elephants? Or is someone here volunteering for a special tax assessment so Detroiters can stare at their irrelevant grand terminal?

There’s the facts, Jacks.

I sure wish we had the old Penn Station here, though.

UPDATE:  There is hope, kind of — the new Penn Station.

Buchanan Ingersoll, Above the Law and the art of contemptible doublespeak

The Right Staff is Key

The Right Staff is Key

I have to excerpt almost this entire posting from Above the Law, because you have to read it to believe it.  This might just make a good comment at the blog, but unfortunately the comments section at ATL — which is still, in many respects, a remarkable thing, as David Lat himself will always be — is not a respectable place to be found.  So, check this out.

Back in November, Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney cut 15 to 25 staffers (though the firm declined to call them “layoffs”). Last week, it appears that the firm made additional cuts to its staff — and this time the firm is being clear about what is going on. Buchanan’s executive director Nolan Kurtz told Above the Law:

The firm eliminated about 25 to 30 administrative operations positions last week. Given the overall economic climate, we believe that it’s more important than ever to ensure that we have the right staffing in place firmwide.

The firm also announced the news directly to associates, on Friday. According to a tipster:

[Buchanan Ingersoll] announced Friday another round of cuts after several Harrisburg corp. and Philadelphia IP lawyers resigned…. Kurtz Buchanan told the [attorneys] that laying off staff was not because of the economy but good planning.

Will attorneys soon follow staffers into unemployment? Maybe. . .

Kurtz’s statement to ATL was far more diplomatic than our tipsters’ reports:

[W]e are also in the final stages of our annual attorney review period, which looks at work load, pro bono commitment, skill set and the overall needs of the firm. Much like any other firm or business, we continually review our personnel to ensure we have the best lawyers with the right skills and experience to deliver results for our clients.

We’ll let you know if the guillotine falls on Buchanan attorneys.

Good luck to former Buchanan Ingersoll staff.

No, really.  That is the entire journalistic commentary.  It could very well be that it has reached the point that ATL writers are utterly jaded, hopeless, and frazzled by the whole thing.

But I’m not.

Let’s take official statement number one:

The firm eliminated about 25 to 30 administrative operations positions last week. Given the overall economic climate, we believe that it’s more important than ever to ensure that we have the right staffing in place firmwide.

“The right staffing”?   Let’s get this straight:  In the previous economic climate, did Buchanan Ingersoll believe it needed to ensure that it had the “wrong staffing in place firmwide”?  Or only in certain cities?

Have you ever seen such a cynical, dishonest characterization of layoffs?  It’s not even “right-sizing” — which acknowledges, “We want to be the right size for now.  Last year’s right size is no longer right”  Rather, this is, “The right staffing needs be in place” — as if not only were this a qualitative change — no, a qualitative improvement! — but that the “staffing” of before… in other words, the staff, the people who worked on the staff, who supported their families by being Buchanan Ingersoll staff members — was, now that we can see clearly… WRONG.  It was the WRONG STAFF.  Ing.

Above the Law calls this “being clear about what is going on.”

That’s the first one. 

Read the rest of this entry »

“The People of Tomorrow”

Jack over at the The Missal has some thoughts about the Obama Era and the people who live in it.

Attorney Ronald D. Coleman