Saving Landmarks from Lovelocks

I’m thinking of starting a nonprofit. It will be called GOTCHA, which stands for Guardians of the City’s Historic Architecture. Its mission is for members to patrol landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty, catch couples in the act of defacing these sites with one of those stupid “lovelocks” (a padlock to signify lasting love) and cheerfully throw them over the side.

Landmark Brooklyn Bridge

The beautiful Brooklyn Bridge

Really, what is the mindset of young adults (and they are almost always young) who think it’s OK to attach junk to an extraordinary public treasure in order to mark a relationship which is significant only to them? I already can’t walk the bridge without stumbling over tourists planted in the middle of the walkway, poised to stab my eye out with a selfie stick. Now I get to see scores of cheap, colored padlocks—often with accompanying graffiti—hanging from the beautiful cables of an engineering marvel, placed there by people with no respect for public heritage. I want to wring their self-centered necks.

They won’t always have Paris

Paris has several times had to remove millions of locks from its landmark Pont des Arts footbridge over the Seine. Their weight actually collapsed some of the bridge’s parapets. In the weeks following, hundreds more locks appeared, forcing Paris to add protective guards to the bridge that make defacing the structure more difficult–and also diminish its charm.  A few years ago, a group of lock pickers here in New York went up on the Brooklyn Bridge and removed many of the padlocks that were degrading both the structure and the view. Just days later, new locks appeared (although, thankfully, not as many as in Paris).

The landmark Pont les Arts bridge jammed with lovelocks

The Pont des Arts bridge in Paris jammed with lovelocks

But perhaps Gretna Green

This ridiculous phenomenon is happening to landmarks all over the world. On the Ha’penny Bridge in Dublin, along the Wild Pacific Trail on Canada’s Vancouver Island, on an overpass at Taiwan’s Fengyuan railway station. Sensing a commercial opportunity, a private business at Scotland’s Gretna Green (the Las Vegas of the 18th century) decided to go with the flow and sell special, lightweight padlocks to lovers so they can deface the historic place without causing too much damage. I wonder how the people who live in the village, as well as other visitors, feel about that.

So who wants to join GOTCHA? In the interest of keeping you out of prison, I promise to protect your identity—at least until the Russians hack my server.

On Taxes and Public Service: Being My Own Pundit

When Ben Franklin remarked that “nothing is certain except death and taxes” he didn’t anticipate the spectacle of a major party candidate bragging about being a tax dodger during a presidential debate. Donald Trump asserted that he was “smart” for not paying federal income tax. To my mind, that’s not smart at all, especially for someone who is supposedly a great business person. He should understand that taxes are our communal  investment in America and that public service is an honorable calling.

Hillary and Trump Debate Public Service

Hillary crosses into Trump territory for the initial hand shake — a varsity wrestling move.

Taxes make it possible to be a great nation. To hold elections. Conduct commerce. Make laws. Taxes pay the heating bills in the House of Representatives. They provide schools to educate workers for Donald Trump to hire. Taxes build roads and subways so people can get to Trump’s job sites. Water and sewer systems to keep Trump’s golf courses green.

Public Service versus Career Politicians

Taxes pay the salaries of public servants, whom Trump derides as “career politicians.” George H. W. Bush (R) had an outstanding public service career, serving as a congressman, ambassador, director of the CIA, vice president, and president. So did Gerald Ford (R), who served in the House for 25 years before becoming vice-president, then president due to the scandals of Richard Nixon, whom Ford pardoned at the expense of his own legacy because it was the right thing to do for the country.

Franklin Roosevelt (D) served in state and federal positions for 35 years. He was elected president a record four times, created the economic miracle that dug us out of the Great Depression, and navigated our nation through the heinous Second World War. Jacob Javits (R-NY) served in Congress for 30 years; Everett Dirksen (R-IL) for 34 and Robert Byrd (D-VW) for 51.

Well, you get the idea. And I get the point that Trump is trying to make, albeit artlessly. But there is a difference between public servants and careerists, just as there is a difference between smart businesspeople and a scofflaw huckster. And Donald Trump is the latter.

To Watch or Not to Watch? Debating the Debates

Years ago, in a very funny book called Parliament of Whores, conservative political satirist P. J. O’Rourke dubbed television news “the fourth branch of government.” That was never more true than now, when 24/7 cable produces pseudo-news hour after hour, in pursuit of eyeballs and clicks. And the industry is salivating over the current election debates.

How television will cover the debates

A satire of politics and Washington

Yes, internet commentary is ubiquitous (and often crazy) but it tends to be more authentic than television because it lacks the pretense of serious journalism beamed out by CNN, Fox and their clones. The endless and shallow commentary offered up by people whose main objective is to sell advertising has worn me out, and I imagine many others too.

So what to do about these debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump? Do I watch and grit my teeth as Trump distorts truth with impunity? Shall I sit on the edge of my sofa, stomach in knots, while Hillary is interrogated yet again about “her damn emails?” This morning I thought not. But as the day goes on and the time of the first debate nears, I find myself circling the flame, feeling that it is somehow irresponsible not to watch. Or perhaps I am simply justifying a need for spectacle, like the ancient Romans who flocked to the circus.

The Debates Are a Form of Living History

Hillary Clinton brings ample experience to the debates.

Hillary Clinton speaks at UN Women’s Conference

It doesn’t really matter. Much as I’ve complained about this election, I can’t not be part of history. And it is history, regardless of who wins. Certainly I hope to see Hillary Clinton in the White House, and not because she’s female. I would not lift a finger to elect a Sarah Palin or a Nikki Haley. In fact, I would campaign against them. I want to see Hillary become president because she is a feminist who has always acted on the conviction that women and children matter.

So my solution is to watch the debates, but to boycott the commentary. It’s all biased one way or another and I’ve heard it all by now anyway. I’ll decide for myself who scored points about what, and how I think each candidate performed. I hope other voters will do the same.

P.S. O’Rourke, a traditional conservative, says he is voting for Hillary.