Schubin Chronicles

The twain have met

Rudy Giuliani now has just a month and a half left in office. I don’t think it’s going to be enough time for him to realize his master plan.

Aside from his being prevented from selling off our water supply and our hospitals, our prosecutor-mayor’s greatest failure in eight years as the city’s chief executive has probably been an inability to prevent us from jaywalking. It’s not for lack of trying.

In typical Giuliani fashion, he decided to go beyond forcing people to cross only with the light and at corners. In an attempt to speed midtown vehicular traffic, the mayor decided that even those proper forms of street crossing were to be outlawed in certain areas.

Police were assigned to prevent pedestrians from crossing on the sides of streets that were not in the mayor’s favor. As his preference alternated from block to block, a pedestrian would have to add two extra street-crossings per block just to stay legal.

The officers of New York’s Finest considered it one of their worst details. They refused to issue citations and didn’t even stop pedestrians from moving or climbing over barricades. When they were finally forced to ticket someone, they chose a law student. Her professors took on the case, and it was dismissed.

In Japan, I saw no jaywalking. In fact, at a street crossing in Nara, I watched a deer wait for the light to change and then look both ways before crossing a street. Nara has urban deer.

In Central Park today, I watched as a squirrel being chased by another glanced at my bike, calculated the speed, and scurried across in front of me. The chaser glanced at me and waited until I passed. New York has urban squirrels, but, like the rest of us, they jaywalk.

I was by no means the only person wearing shorts in the park today. The weather was delightful! Two days ago it was near freezing; tomorrow there could be another record high. The only indications that it’s mid-November are some barren trees and the low elevation of the sun. Even at noon, we cast long shadows.

I cannot recall so many temperature oscillations before. It has also been very dry. That’s great for bicycle riding but not so good for our water supply.

Normal precipitation for the period of the last 30 days in New York is 3.92 inches of rain. Instead, we’ve had 0.16 inches. Rain in the city doesn’t enter our pipes, but it must not have been very wet recently in our watershed, either. Our reservoir levels yesterday were at 50%; normal for this time of the year is 70%. Our water supply is vulnerable not only to terrorists but also to natural problems. Or has some terrorist figured out how to stop the rain?

George W. Bush wants to fill the nation’s petroleum reserve. I’d rather have our reservoirs full. I can go a lot longer without oil than I can without water.

(For those of you thinking that water pumps don’t work without energy, fuhgeddaboudit. The designers of New York’s water system relied primarily on gravity. Pumps are used only in tall buildings).

The high temperatures in the 48 contiguous United States today ranged from the 30s in parts of Washington state to the 80s in parts of Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas. In Afghanistan, with roughly one-twelfth of the area, they ranged from the single digits in the northeast to the 80s in the southwest.

Kabul, Kandahar, and Quetta have been in the news recently. Adak, Amchitka, and Quoddy have not — at least not in the media outlets most of us use. But Adak figured prominently in a September 11-related story in the Alaska Journal of Commerce last Monday.

Like New York, Adak is now a city. The municipal vote was taken on April 3, and becoming a city won 61-6. That figure is not in millions or even thousands. Six individuals voted against the idea.

Adak is on an island (also called Adak), the southernmost of Alaska’s Aleutian chain. Like Manhattan, Adak Island can sometimes feel pretty isolated.

Evergreen International Airlines has a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to fly to Adak on the condition that the aircraft used carries both passengers and freight. Unfortunately, in the wake of the September 11 attacks, the Federal Aviation Administration has banned the carriage of freight on passenger aircraft. Evergreen would like the government to make up its mind.

The “International” part of the airline’s name is because they fly to Russia. That’s not necessarily a very big flight from Alaska. The city of Diomede, Alaska is located just 2.5 miles from Russia. When the water’s frozen, it’s not a bad walk.

That part of Russia extends almost to 169 degrees west longitude. Attu Island, another one of the Aleutians in our country, extends almost to 172 degrees EAST longitude, 19 degrees farther west. I enjoy the fact that one might travel east to get from Alaska to Siberia.

No part of Alaska is west of Attu, but whether its west coast is the westernmost point of the United States is a matter of some philosophical debate. The other candidate is the west coast of Semisopochnoi Island, another Aleutian (near Adak) much farther east but as far in west longitude as one can go in the United States. After 180 degrees, west longitude becomes EAST longitude.

If one goes by the east/west longitudinal thinking, the easternmost point of the United States is on Semisopochnoi’s neighbor to the west, Amchitka Island. If not, it’s at West Quoddy Head in Maine, a lovely spot near Franklin Roosevelt’s Campobello Island (in Canada).

So, one candidate for easternmost point starts with “West;” the other is west of a possible westernmost point. I get a kick out of such geopolitical anomalies. There are many.

The town of Llivia is part of Spain, but it is surrounded on all sides by France. The reason is that in 1659 Spain ceded all of the villages in the area to France, but no one noticed that Llivia was a town, not a village. By the time the mistake came to light, it was too late. It doesn’t make too much difference these days. Both countries are part of the European Union, and residents on either side of the border speak Catalan rather than French or Spanish.

Last year, not far from Llivia, we stayed in a medieval convent in La Seu d’Urgell, literally the seat of the bishops of Urgel. The bishop of Urgel is co-prince of Andorra with the president of France. Today, Andorra is the world’s only democratic parliamentary co-princedom. It’s an independent country, but it doesn’t have its own money, military, or post offices.

French and Spanish money are both legal tender (and Euros should take over soon), and France and Spain provide military protection. The postal situation, however, is much more fascinating.

Mail within Andorra is absolutely free — no stamps required. For mail from Andorra to anywhere else, there are two sets of post offices, one French and one Spanish.

Letters to anywhere but Spain may be mailed from the French post offices; letters to anywhere but France may be mailed from the Spanish post offices. Neither French nor Spanish stamps may be used. There are French Andorran stamps and Spanish Andorran stamps, and they may be used only at the appropriate post offices and mailboxes. I’m not sure if this is part of the rules, but I was unable to use Spanish pesetas at a French Andorran post office.

Andorra is beautiful. We drove up into the mountains, and every turn revealed a new, gorgeous, Heidi-like setting. The biggest difference between the Andorran Pyrenees and the Swiss Alps seems to be that the pretty barns in the Swiss Alps are full of dairy cows, whereas the pretty barns in the Andorran Pyrenees are full of drying tobacco.

According to the CIA web site (the same one that doesn’t seem to know that India claims a border with Afghanistan), 0% of Andorra’s land is devoted to permanent crops. According to both our eyes and the tourist guidebooks we used, a lot of Andorra’s land is devoted, strangely, to growing tobacco. The CIA notes exports of cigarettes and cigars but no imports of tobacco. Are they the all-knowing agency that will provide the president with the information on the basis of which he can now send a suspected terrorist to a secret military tribunal?

As geopolitical anomalies go, Andorra is pretty large — about 180 square miles. The Most Serene Republic of San Marino, surrounded by Italy, is almost 24 square miles. The Principality of Monaco, surrounded by France except for its coast, is smaller than 3/4 of a square mile. Vatican City (a theocracy if ever there was one), also surrounded by Italy, is just 0.17 square miles.

Here’s a quick geopolitical-anomaly quiz:

1. If you head due south from Detroit, what is the first country you hit after leaving the United States?

2. What two countries of the world are separated by the Strait of Juan de Fuca?

The answer to the first question is Canada. The answer to the second is Canada and the United States (Juan de Fuca, himself, was a 16th-century Greek ship’s pilot and liar).

Two geopolitical anomalies were created by a treaty between the United States and Britain in 1846 establishing the U.S. border between Lake of the Woods and Vancouver Island. Like the 1941 Michael Powell movie starring Leslie Howard, Glynis Johns, Raymond Massey, and Laurence Olivier about Nazis in Canada hoping to escape to the U.S., it was the “49th Parallel” (although, strangely, the movie takes place where the border is much farther south).

On the eastern end of the straight part of the border, Lake of the Woods went farther west than expected, leaving a little bump of the United States atop Minnesota, accessible by land only via Canada. And, on the west end, Boundary Bay, a branch of the Strait of Georgia, went a little farther north than expected, leaving a stranded Washington community also accessible by road only via Canada.

The Minnesota bump is called the Northwest Angle. The closest it comes to a municipality is Angle Inlet. It’s in a pretty quiet part of the continent.

The few square miles of our Pacific northwest connected to Canada instead of the rest of Washington are in Point Roberts. It’s within the greater Vancouver metropolitan area. Given differences in laws between the two countries and local governments, there used to be quite a bit of commerce over that little border.

Point Roberts gets its water, power, and cable-TV service from Canada. The nearest pharmacy, hospital, and veterinarian are also across the border. If there’s a fire too big for the local volunteers to handle, British Columbia firefighters will respond. And high school is in Blaine, Washington, 23 miles and two border crossings away.

Prior to September 11, those border crossings were pretty much wave-throughs. They’re not anymore. What had been a half-hour trip can now take as long as half a day.

“It’s been like being a prisoner here,” the New York Times quoted Terrie LaPorte, one of the town’s 1,100 full-time residents, as saying. “Before, you would cross the border three, four times a day and never think anything of it. Now, you have to re-order your life to get in and out of here.” Business is down about 50%.

“South Park” can make fun of the differences between the way Canadians and those of us south of the border look precisely because there are no such differences. The “Blame Canada” song in “South Park: The Movie” was similarly humorous because the idea was so preposterous.

It’s true that a terrorist heading for Las Angeles had been caught some years back at another British Columbia-Washington border crossing. But that one connected a Canadian superhighway to U.S. Interstate 5. On the U.S. side of the Point Roberts border, there’s nowhere to go. Do we expect a Canadian terrorist to blow up the Point Roberts library?

When we visited Point Roberts long ago, we were shown the standard smuggling route. Contraband was brought to the Boundary Bay beach and left there. Then the smugglers drove across the border, walked to the beach, and picked it up. There was no fence across the beach when we were there. There still isn’t. Since September 11, some residents have been illegally walking, bicycling, or boating across the border to avoid the long waits at the official crossing.

The heightened security at the Point Roberts border seems about as useful as the very short-lived ban on curbside check-in of baggage at U.S. airports. My brother in-law recently returned home from some air travel. He noted that the emergency-instructions card shows the sequence for using an emergency slide as a raft. The last picture shows the rope connecting the raft to the plane being cut with a large knife. “I wonder where the knife comes from,” he wrote.

Today, for the first time, the official figures for the dead and missing at the World Trade Center dropped below 4,000. The numbers fall every day. They can never fall enough, but the steady reduction has been a positive note. Today’s New York Times notes that, more than two months after the attack, the fires are still burning.

The Red Cross now plans to use all of the $543 million collected by its Liberty Disaster Fund to assist families of the September 11 victims. That’s a substantial portion of the organization’s annual budget. There are now said to be 3,996 dead and missing and $1.3 billion raised (thus far) for the victims’ families.

That’s already more than $325,000 per family — in addition to any pensions, insurance, social security, death benefits, and other provisions (such as the percentage of profits that Cantor Fitzgerald is offering). As the number of dead and missing continues to drop and the donations increase, the amount per family will go up, too.

I have no objection to any assistance offered to the families of the victims of September 11. But I have grave concerns about other charitable needs. Will those who contributed to the Red Cross Liberty Disaster Fund also be making other donations to the Red Cross?

Two of my non-profit clients have been hurting badly since the attacks. In one case, it seems related to travel restrictions or fears, but in the other, it’s definitely a loss of donations.

Even before September 11, there were hungry people needing to be fed, homeless people needing to be sheltered, sick people needing to be cared for, indigent people needing to be defended, and so on. They haven’t disappeared since the attacks.

Please don’t forget your usual charitable contributions. Whatever you gave or did to assist the victims of September 11 doesn’t help all the others still in need. Thanks.

TTFN, Mark