Friday, November 07, 2014

Why Dems Lose Midterms



The preliminary numbers are in, and voter turnout was at a record low nationwide.

Conventional wisdom says that each party, Republican and Democrat, can count on roughly 45% of the vote, no matter what. The last ten percent is what you need to win an election.

First, I think the percentages have expanded a bit. I think Dems and Republicans can regularly count, other things being equal, on about 47, maybe 48% in every election.

So if 100% of the voting population (let's call it 200,000,000 just to make this easy) shows up, Republicans and Democrats can count on....carry the one...94,000,000 votes each. The battle for power then takes place over 12,000,000 votes.

If 50% of the population votes, the battle is over 6 million. If 40%, then 5 million, and so on.

As I said, that's conventional wisdom and with other things being equal. And those may hold true, given recent evidence, in Presidential elections.

After all, Democrats have won the past three Presidential vacancies on popular vote, with Al Gore capturing more votes than President Bush in 2000. Mind you, only 50-60% of the eligible population has bothered voting in those elections, as well as 1996, 2004, and 2012.

So you'd think midterms would just be Presidential elections writ small: in a 40% population, the battle should be over 5 million votes and races should be pretty close. But it's not.

You see, the drop off in population is assumed to be equal for both sides: the excuses transcend party affiliation -- too busy, family commitments, it's just the "local races".

That's pretty simplistic thinking, however. For one thing, Republicans tends to skew older, which means more are retired and living off Social Security with plenty of time on their hands. They aren't struggling to make a mortgage payment or to get the kids to and from school on time. Voting is, in fact, a small vacation from the day-to-day drudgery of listening to right wing talk radio all day.

In 2010, the voting demographics were such that roughly 65% of the voters were over 45. In 2014, that rate was also 65%. But in 2012, the rate was down to 54%, with young adult voters, between 29 and 45, grasping a 3-5% larger share of the vote. Young voters, 18-29, saw a spike in 2012 to almost 20%, up from the low teens in off-years.

Let's crunch numbers just a bit more: the percentage of older voters who voted Democratic versus Republican was essentially unchanged from 2010 to 2014. Republicans actually lost voters below 45 (about a percent net drop), particularly voters with families and children who may be supporting elderly parents...you know, the ones voting Republican?

What does all this mean? Simply put, it means that despite the Democrats excellent GOTV messaging and efforts, despite the social media presence that Democrats have, Republicans were simply able to move more voters to the polls from their base than Democrats were.

This suggests to me that conventional wisdom falls apart in midterm elections, that it's not about persuading uncommitted voters but in persuading your base to get riled up enough to vote.

Yes, riled up. This is the key to Republican victory and yes, it's a goddamn cynical way to run a campaign, but think about it for a moment.

The last six years has been about tarring and feathering Barack Obama, minimizing his accomplishments while maximizing any potential "scandals" into full blown crises.

Birth certificate. Benghazi. ISIS. Ebola. The Grand Deal on the budget blowing up and creating the shutdown (yes, that's on Boehner, but facts don't matter here, only perception), Sandy Hook and the subsequent ineffectiveness to pass gun control legislation somehow proving simultaneously that Tyrant Obama was coming for your guns but was still a weak leader (again, facts and perceptions don't match), the IRS "scandal" (again, Republicans tasked the IRS with the investigation, then triggered the trap), the NSA tapping phones.

And of course, Obamacare coming to take your Medicare away.

I want you to think about Yelp for a moment. Or YouTube. Or even your local paper. Who comments most on these sites? Who writes those Letters to the Editor?

Angry people. More correctly, frightened people.

Fear and anger motivate people more than persuasion and coaxing. The Democrats are starting to see that -- think about all those DNC emails you had streaming into your mailbox constantly, pleading for funds because OMG! We're going out of business! -- but we don't play that game particularly well.

It's hard to play a game of fear when you have the solutions in place already.

Too, this game is going to start showing diminishing returns for Republicans as well: angry white people are dying off, which is why you're seeing them make real attempts to reach out to minorities like Mia Love, literally a token attempt to make nice with the African American community. And women.

(Side note: did you ever imagine these five words appearing side by side in a sentence? "Black woman Republican from Utah"?)

They've done this before, of course, trotting out their "diversity platform" at the 2012 national convention, only to have the cameras turn to a predominantly...ok, ALL white audience. It sees like they rounded up every dark face in the hall, including janitors and ticket takers, and stood them up in front of the John Birch Society.

But I digress: it should be chilling to the DNC, the DCCC and the DSCC that Mia Love won her election this time around (it was her second try). She's young, attractive and precisely the kind of figurehead Republicans need to bring some youth to the party. She's in Utah, which will negate some of her opportunities to appear on camera regularly but she'll be pushed hard by the party to bring a fresh face to the image.

We may not have a lock on minority youth going forward, one of our base stanchions.

Democrats have four years to come up with a better plan than "We don't apologize for the amazing things we've accomplished, but please don't punish us for them!" The DCCC and DSCC in particular have to come up with leadership that's going to investigate thoroughly how to motivate our base, because our base disappears on us in between Presidential elections.

I think we're safe in 2016 so long as our candidate is a good one, a woman preferably (women really let us down in 2014) because that would energize the base the way Barack Obama did in 2008 (and in truth, Hillary would have, too). There's a lot of energy out there for a woman President and we ought to take advantage of that. We'll pick up a lot of Republican Senate seats that were captured in the 2010 midterms (see? There it is again) by Republicans who drove angry voters to the polls.

Senators like Ayotte (NH), Rubio (FL) and Toomey (PA) are in the sights, of course, as well as Kirk (IL) and Johnson (WI) who may end up getting beaten by Russ Feingold in a rematch. Even John McCain's seat is in play as the Latino population of Arizona has reached a point where they will be players in voting. There are 12 seats the Republicans are vulnerable in right now, and they have to defend an additional 13. Democrats only hold ten or so seats in that cycle, so they have cash to burn.

It's 2018 that becomes a challenge, mostly because (and its early, I know) Dems have an awful lot of seats in play -- 20 -- five of which could be deemed toss ups right now along with two Republican seats. Many of those seats were won in Obama's re-election landslide.

So how to get Democrats to the polls? There's the rub.

That issue could conceivably take care of itself over the next two years. Republicans have a knack for overdoing things -- remember privatizing Social Security? Bush's political capital? -- and driving our voters to the polls for us, and 2014 saw the election of a fresh crop of batshit insane Republicans, some of whom are even now Senators (a body that for the most part had remained immune to the Teabaggers, save Ted Cruz and maybe Rand Paul).

But that's not going to last until 2018, particularly if 2016 absolves Republicans of owning the mess they will create until then.

We don't do anger well. And we don't have bogeymen. Republicans have those people -- altho they seem to be open to making them our people now. Or they have those other people. Or terrorists. Or liberals. We don't do fear well either.

We do hypocrisy well but that doesn't drive people to get out and vote unless its such undeniable hypocrisy that you can't ignore it. That was 2006. Republicans were going to lose seats anyway as always happens in the midterms for the party in the White House, but they lost them in such massive fashion you'd think Dems would rule forever. That was in large part because of scandal after scandal after scandal bringing down Republicans left and right.

One thing I think might work is, rather than running from our record, getting out there and drumming it like a rented bass drum. We do good work, and one complaint that seems to stick in the electorate is "Both sides do it!"

Both sides work for the corporatocracy (partly true but reversible for the Dems). Both sides are corrupt (definitely true). Both sides try to hurt the little guy.

Demonstrably false but if we don't talk about the issues, about the work on the issues, Democrats will continue to lose the narrative.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Two Years' Vacation

A couple of points to be made about last night's midterm elections.

1) The election map last night was singularly antithetical to Democrats. To put it in terms conservatives understand, we were playing in their ballpark.  Of the seats in play last night, an aggregate 46% voted for Barack Obama in 2012. Many of the seats the Democrats defended (and lost) last night were taken in the 2008 Obamaslide and naturally reverted back to better reflect the redness of the underlying midterm electorate. Which brings me to point 2.

2) In 2016, the map reverses. That election, before we even know who the candidates are, will see at least five or six seats that conservatives picked up in the 2010 reactionary midterm elections go blue again. Having 52 only (literally, only) seats now guarantees a minority status by 2017 as most of the states where Republicans gained seats in 2010 were carried -- and in big numbers, including Florida, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Illinois -- by Obama in 2012. Democrats will only be defending 10 seats, while Republicans will defend 24, meaning resources and money are stretched thin in a year that will see a) a Presidential election suck up more resources and b) a larger turnout which always...always...means Democratic victories. Which brings me to point 3.

3) Voter turnout in midterm elections usually lag turnout in Presidential elections by about twenty percent nationwide. While numbers are far from final, preliminary data suggests that trend probably continued in 2014. That Democrats were competitive in states like North Carolina with such low voter turnout means that Republicans are far from dominant. They're dominant in the way an NBA player would be against the girls' junior varsity captain: they sort of had everything set up the right way this time around.

So the watchwords for the next two years are "filibuster" and "veto". Expect a lot of right wing whining about both, and about Obama's golf game.

What? You thought they didn't read the maps? This is why they made such a big issue about it this year, to set up the next two years. In fact, Obama demonstrated to me a singular vision in avoiding the campaign trail. In 2016, he can look like a kingmaker.

The conservative strategy of nickel-and-diming the President succeeded to a degree. It was not as successful as they believe but it was more successful than it should have been. Democrats should have been out in front of him, taking the heat off him, especially these last two years. They weren't. This could not have but contributed to his lack of enthusiasm for them.

Now, back to filibusters and vetoes. First, understand that McConnell will do nothing about them. He can't. Not because he doesn't want to (altho he might not) and not because his base doesn't want him to (they do) but because without a Republican President, there's no point in changing a rule you'll benefit from two years down the road.

But suppose he does decide to trigger the nuke. Obama vetoes any bill that comes up the pipe. It goes back for an overturn. It might pass the House, but the Senate requires a 2/3 majority, too. 67 votes is simply not happening.

The likely outcome? A government shutdown over Obamacare. Again. Because shutdowns worked soooooo well the last two times for Republicans. They'll become an even more distant smear on the rearview mirror of America.

The other area of concern is the Supreme Court. Ginsburg is feeling her age, and its long been rumored she wants too retire. Likewise, Breyer. Here I think cooler heads will prevail and as long as the President doesn't want to upset the ideological apple cart (and John Roberts appears comfortable with the other eight justices, and I suspect he'll have some sway here), he and McConnell can horse trade.

Keep in mind, then, that the 2016 election looms large in the Court, and Scalia and Kennedy are both 78. I doubt they want to see 85 in chambers.

The takeaway from last night's election, however, is something I've hinted at and discussed in broad strokes but something America should contemplate as the far larger flaw in our process: turnout.

Nate Silver called last night's election the least important election in decades, and he's probably right at a national level. But as John Oliver noted, legislation is not being done at the Federal level at all. It's being left to the state and local governments, and this is where the money of the Kochs and Adelsons has been the most pernicious (remember gerrymandering? ALEC? Those are happening in state and municipals leges all around the country).

You see, it doesn't matter that there's gridlock at the top. That is precisely what the Kochs of the world want. Right now they are enjoying tremendous financial rewards given to them by the political party stupid enough to sell the birthright of a nation to them. They have lower taxes, a nonexistent regulatory body, and the ability to buy and trade people. Literally, buy and sell people.

The only way to stop them, the only way to take back our country, is to turn up and vote. Why else do you think the Kochs (NB. By "Kochs" I now expand the term to mean billionaires bent on destroying America) and their minions are putting up roadblocks to voting? It's the only way, the only way, they can maintain their hegemony long enough to siphon the nation dry and move on before they die.

As the saying goes, if the 99% voted, it wouldn't matter what the 1% wanted.

Here's why: the corporatists can count on about a third of the vote to go their way, without any persuasion needed and a third of the vote to go against them as unpersuadable. In an off year, that's roughly 60 million of 90 million votes in aggregate they don't have to buy (I know the percentage split slightly differs in minions/opponents but in aggregate, its about the same).

Now imagine if 240 million people suddenly showed up to vote. Now you're talking about persuading not an additional 30 million but 80 million. and now you have to not only advertise on the local news shows and FOX but on sports networks and prime time television as many more of these don't vote because they work a couple of jobs and raise families and study for classes. You have to make a real effort and the cost/benefit ratio gets skewed against you.

There's only so much campaign money to go around, no matter how many billions you have banked.

And the other benefit of a 99% turnout: politicians wouldn't be able to pander to their base and expect them to lift the wagon over the tougher waters. They wouldn't be able to blame those people for our ills because  those people can and will actually punish them at the polls now. They wouldn't be able to smear another candidate for hoaxed behavior because, guess what? We'd be talking about the issues that matter and any politician who tried to deflect the conversation would find themselves quickly losing ground. 60% of the voting population is turned off because of "politics as usual" but if those 60% voted, it would no longer be politics as usual.

This is something liberals need to focus on: not the GOTV every two years or so, but a long term commitment to persuading people that its in their best interest to vote early and vote often, at least in the course of their lifetimes.

See, we win when they vote. It's as simple as that.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Real Ebola Epidemic


Let's look at some facts.

1) The current Ebola outbreak began last December in southern Guinea, when a 2 year old boy contracted the disease, likely from a fruit bat or perhaps consuming bushmeat (monkey), altho no one can be certain. Since December 2013, 5,000 people have died from the disease, nearly all of them in west Africa.

2) On March 24, 2014, Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF) opened up a treatment facility in Guinea. At that point, 59 people had died, and a further 30 or so had contracted the disease. Shortly after, MSF began soliciting volunteer healthcare professionals to work in their ever-expanding facilities. Generally, a volunteer will serve about 8 weeks on a tour. This means that dozens if not hundreds of people have been to the hot zone and returned without incident.

3) Indeed, the first case of Ebola appearing on American soil was Dr. Kent Brantly, followed quickly by Nancy Writebol, both contracting the disease in Liberia this fall, both treated and recovered. Since then, three other Americans have been evacuated to the States and have recovered. None infected anyone else. This includes the freelance photographer Ashoka Mukpo, who worked closely with an NBC news crew that included Dr, Nancy Snyderman (more about her later).

4) The first death from Ebola on US soil occurred in the case of Thomas Eric Duncan.  Not only was his case fatal (and mishandled all around) but he managed to infect two nurses caring for him: Nina Pham and Amber Vinson. Both have recovered.

5) A fourth diagnosed case of Ebola on American soil (Duncan, Pham and Vinson being the first three) occurred this past weekend when Dr. Craig Spencer returned from Guinea and became ill, but not before appearing in public, taking public transportation and engaging in some social activities, including bowling. He may even have sweated a little.

And now we get to the real epidemic over Ebola. You'll notice that for the better part of a year, doctors and nurses had traveled to and from the outbreak with nary a peep from anyone.

And then came Ken Brantly, and it seemed as tho spontaneously our own hot zone had sprung up. Despite the fact that evacuation protocols for a known Ebola case had been put into motion, despite the fact that we've handled worse epidemic outbreaks on American soil (hantavirus springs to mind) and contained diseases, the handwringing fem the diaper-clad set began, fomented in large part by the true epidemic of 2014, FOX News.

The fact that Dr. Nancy Snyderman, upon learning that her cameraman, Mukpo, had contracted the disease promised to self-quarantine for 21 days and then very publicly breaking her own promise, didn't help. FOX, sensing a chance to get a leg up on a competitor, made hay while the sun shined on Dr. Snyderman.

Turning the heat on the panic up a lot. You see, Snyderman returned in early October, just days after the Duncan case was blared around the headlines, including his transmission to Nina Pham.

Never mind that Snyderman didn't contract the disease. Never mind that Duncan didn't infect his family, with whom he shared close contact for the better part of a week. We now had a transmitted case of Ebola on American soil and a celebrity doctor flouting her own rules (and to be sure, perhaps she shouldn't have made a promise she wasn't going to keep.)

The panic that these two incidents created should have been a wake up call to MSF to alter their guidelines for returning volunteers to be acutely aware of the very real epidemic of panic that had been whipped up in the States. By all accounts, for instance, Dr. Spencer followed the guidelines existing at the time for monitoring, except that he rationalized a sluggish feeling as jet lag as opposed to getting to a hospital or doctor immediately.

That he then took a very public form of transportation -- the NYC subway -- and engaged in some socializing after two months in the bush made his case almost automatically a scare headline.

And we Americans will panic at the drop of a hat. Just ask any ammosexual: after six years of Obama's presidency, they still have all their guns (and many more) but swear they will be taken away.

We really are children. Colleges have revoked acceptances of African students, Syracuse University barred an appearance by a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer who had returned -- three weeks earlier and Ebola free -- from the region, and Harvard has imposed stern limits on students and faculty from traveling to West Africa. A school in Cleveland was shut down and disinfected after it was learned a staffer was on the same flight as nurse Vinson. Parents in Mississippi, which suffers from a far worse epidemic of ignorance, threatened to keep their kids out of school after it was discovered the principal had traveled to Zambia, 3,000 miles from the nearest Ebola outbreak.  A Maine teacher was put on 21 day paid leave just for visiting Dallas for a conference.

And then there's this...

Panic will kill more Americans than this disease. Mark my words.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Peek Inside the Conservative Mind

WARNING: Below, you will be exposed to toxic thinking and noxious conclusions from right-wing partisans. A Level Four HazMat suit is recommended. The CDC will NOT be available for protection. You have been warned. Proceed with caution. Should you experience nausea, vomiting, tearing eyes, a rise in blood pressure SHUT DOWN YOUR BROWSER IMMEDIATELY and seek expert medical attention from Doctors Jack Daniels or Jim Beam.






The Ebola crisis is, in point of fact, a manufactured crisis. Media outlets, tired of covering insipid and meaningless political horse races found a sexy and dangerous news item and not only ran with it, but decided to tie it into the politics of the day.

The prevailing wisdom, of course, is this crisis reflects badly on the CDC. I suppose when you push a false narrative, it has to. After all, the CDC is supposed to be on top of "crises" like these, and handle them with aplomb.

Tell that to the 20,000 AIDS victims who died before the CDC even got their boots on back under Reagan.

In point of fact, the real enemy of the American people is, not surprisingly, the GOP, and Texans specifically. It's no surprise that this outbreak occurred in the state least able to handle an outbreak. Texas has great hospitals -- the heart transplant was practically perfected in Houston -- and clearly there's enough oil money down there to import the finest doctors who want a live of luxury.

Before we get into this too deeply, let's take a look at the timeline of the outbreak:

On September 15, Thomas Eric Duncan becomes exposed to the Ebola virus when he accompanies a pregnant friend to a hospital in Liberia, who believes she is miscarrying. According to the cab driver, they tried four hospitals. None would see her (this echoes later in the tale. You'd like to think the States would be different...). The next day, the friend dies.

On September 19, Duncan leaves Liberia to visit family in Texas. He cannot fly directly to the States, so he flies to Brussels, then DC, then Dallas. He is not symptomatic. Much has been made by the lunatic reactionary fringe of the fact that Duncan "knew" he had the virus, as he quit his job on September 4, and arranging a visa to the US, but that's patently untrue. The visa was of long standing and his girlfriend had moved here long before the contact.

That Ebola was an unmanageable problem in Liberia may have contributed to his decision to leave, but there is no evidence that Duncan even saw a doctor prior to Dallas, much less received a diagnosis. Indeed, all reputable sources point to the September 15 trip as the first time he even sets foot in a hospital and that was for his neighbor.

On September 24, Duncan is symptomatic: fever, and nausea. Two days later, he decides to go to the emergency room, since a) he has no insurance and b) Ronald Reagan mandated that no emergency room may turn away a patient without treatment.

At Texas Presbyterian, Duncan tells a nurse he recently arrived from Liberia but that information does not get passed along because, Texas (In NYC, by contrast, emergency rooms routinely have maps of the world that staff can refer to on which disease outbreaks by nation are charted.) Conservatives have gotten this part wrong endlessly, preferring to point to one interview where the TPH staff said no one was aware of his recent travels. Malpractice suit number one.

TPH, suspecting a low grade virus, send him home with a prescription for antibiotics. Antibiotics, it should be pointed out, are completely ineffective against any virus. Malpractice suit number two.

Two days later, on September 28, EMTs are dispatched to Duncan's home who bring him to the hospital. None of the EMTs have developed Ebola symptoms, we should note. And they would have had less reason to suspect Ebola than the hospital staff. Protocols were followed.

It's not until September 29 that the CDC receives even the most cursory notification of a possible Ebola case, when a relative of Duncan's calls them. He gets shuffled about, and the CDC has not confirmed this phone call, although the State Department, to whom the relative was referred, does acknowledge receiving a call, but that the relative and others who State interviewed denied that Duncan was exposed to Ebola (possibly fearing deportation, or at the very least, quarantine, I suspect).

September 30, four days after the first hospital visit, Duncan tests positive for Ebola. Up to 20 people would have come in contact with him prior to protocols being put in place. The hospital executives have admitted that the initial response to Duncan's case was pathetically, almost laughably, bad.

As you now know, two nurses contracted Ebola from Duncan. One, Nina Pham, was symptomatic as of October 12. It's possible that she came into contact with Duncan's bodily fluids before the protocols would have been triggered, as Ebola may, and I stress may, not have been diagnosed yet (altho the mind wobbles at how you don't put full hazmat gear on for a vomiting patient, no matter what the condition).

Also on October 12, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins orders a watch list of people who came into contact with Duncan be created.

Yet, a moron, one Amber Vinson, gets on a plane the very next day from Cleveland back to Dallas. Malpractice suit number three.

Stories vary about whether the CDC okayed her travel. Vinson and her partisans have suggested the CDC cleared her. The CDC, however, maintains they tried to persuade her not to travel but ultimately relented for her return to Dallas, for reasons unknown.

Mind you, the responsibility for Vinson self-quarantining would have been TPH's and the Dallas department of health, not the CDC. Dallas authorities had already quarantined the Duncan family. The Jenkins order suggests they could have done the same as they identified potential patients.

But it's the CDC's fault. Of course. Because they are the Federal government run by the black guy in public housing.

Never mind that the combined budget for the CDC and the National Institutes of Health were cut 44% in the budget deal last year that re-opened the Federal government.

(And a side note: if this had happened in 2013 under the shutdown, the Republicans would have been revealed as the treasonous bastards they are, since the CDC would have been completely prevented from doing anything except maybe issuing warnings.)

Never mind that we still don't have a Surgeon General, who might have been able to move more quickly on this matter and certainly brought more resources to bear to deal with this problem, because the NRA has vetoed the most recent candidate.

And never mind that the last time the Feds imposed a mandatory quarantine on ANYone, they ended up getting sued (altho a judge threw the case out.)

This is not an epidemic. This is not even an outbreak. We may still see a few more cases in the States, but for the most part, by October 1, the disease was back under control. It's more like a wildfire than a flu. But you'd hardly know that watching the conservative media like FOX News or CNN.

The missteps here are many, and kudos to the CDC for admitting they could have been quicker on the draw -- they could have -- but the bulk of the evidence suggests the problem lies in Texas: in it's poor healthcare system, lack of universal health insurance, and "damn the rules, I'll do what I want" rugged individualism.

Also, the fact that Duncan was not white may have played a role in his treatment at the hospital. I would like to think not, but I'll keep an open mind because this is Texas, after all.

All this occurs over a backdrop of precisely one Ebola death, the fellow who brought it here, and two additional confirmed cases.

Keep in mind that in the same time frame that this "crisis" has unfolded, there have been a thousand deaths by gun in this country.

THAT'S a crisis.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

The Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living for a Human Being

The cool inky darkness of a late September morning slipped past me like motor oil as I plunged my pedals earthward, propelling myself up the moderate incline of the bridge to another borough.

I hate riding this bridge, yet it is a lifeline to most of the cycling events in New York City. This bridge has dual anxieties: at once, it is both a lonely ride this early in the morning, yet a ride to be terrified to share the roadway on. The bike and pedestrian path is very narrow and at its pinnacle, there's a very short fence. It would not take much to fall hundreds of feet into the icy maelstrom below.

This bridge, it creeps me out every time I cross it. Cross it, I must. It seems pointless to ride a subway for an hour to get to a starting line when a ten minute bike ride through Harlem serves the same purpose.

I'm lit up like a Christmas tree when I ride this time of the morning, in an hour that I can count on the fingers of one hand. It's quiet. It's peaceful. I ride slowly, deliberately feeling each millisecond of each pedal stroke, assessing how my legs feel. Sometimes, the bridge wins and I end up walking my bike part way across, a function of too much too soon before I've warmed up. Most times, my bike wins.

The noise and vibrations of the roadway transcend to the bike path, as the bridge is a major trucking thoroughfare. Sometimes, the chain link fences along the roadway will rattle as if a gangbanger dragged a 2x4 along the metal wires, a function of heavy wheels and metal bridge joints in the road bed.

And did I mention the stairs? There are stairs to climb or descend, depending on your point of view.

This year, I've had three bikes.



(You may recall a post from a few months back about my accident. That bike, Shadowfax, was totaled, so I replaced that boy with a new girl.) The blue girl, Tiamat, has not been on a ride yet. I only just purchased her and I've been busy with other things.

I made a choice this year to do the "touristycle" thing: all the NYC rides that attract people from all around the world: the Gran Fondo and Five Boro Bike tour, Escape New York and yes, the City Century.

In their own ways, each of these beat me, or more to the point, I let them beat me. The accident didn't help, to be sure. It's a little disconcerting when I realize how close I came to being dead, and never even saw it coming until it happened. I heard a screech, felt something smack me on the ass, and next thing I know, I've got a new bike. A split second, maybe a hundredth of a second, was all that stood between me and a grave. That threw me off any momentum I had built training to that point. That was what? The end of June? 

But more than that, I learned this year that I didn't even know myself that well. 

Its funny. I pride myself on my "nosce te ipsum", knowing myself. And I suppose I should have known that, once in these events, I would go flat out. That's who I am: I have two speeds -- full out, and fuller outer. 

So I burned out. I cracked hard on some hills. I finished them all but I forgot the first rule of riding which is to ride within yourself.

On the Fondo, I found myself racing the sweep wagon, the vehicle that organizers will send out along the route at a pace that should coincide with the slowest possible speed a rider can finish in the allotted time. That was a little embarrassing, particularly as it caught me just ahead of the finish line, but I guess they figured by the time they stopped me and loaded my bike, I could have been across the line on my own steam. My legs were jelly when it passed me, but when it passed me, I found the few strands of muscle fiber left and cranked my way over the finish.

But there was a lot more to the season than just these rides. I made several training rides that I'm very proud of, including the ride that saw my bike destroyed (if I had finished that ride cleanly, it would have topped out somewhere north of 85 miles and would have positioned me perfectly for a century). I did some other tours and rides that I completed, not just finished, in style. Beer at the finish is a powerful incentive. 

I saw some beautiful sunrises, and took some awesome photos. I met and chatted with hundreds of people, many of whom I've seen from time to time out on their bikes, too. I had a lot going on in my life, and though cycling has always been a way to put those aside, this year it almost became an encumbrance: gearing up, watching weather reports, maintaining my bikes, figuring out routes (that one, especially after the accident, was troubling). 

It's October now. The oily darkness smears across the sky earlier and lingers later now. I'll still ride, probably into December, but it will be once, maybe twice a week. I'll revel in the freedom even if it now means keeping one eye and one ear cocked to the rear.

And dream of next year.