Daily Office:

This week’s images were taken one afternoon not too long ago; they show the storefronts and other edifices on the south side of 86th Street between Second and Third Avenues.


Rental: From Sam Roberts’s story in the Times, this morning, about the dodginess of “1625” as the founding date of our fair city (Nieuw Amsterdam):

The first settlers apparently arrived in 1624 (or 1623) and encamped on Governors Island. In 1625, they shipped their cattle to Lower Manhattan, where more land and water were available, and a fort was planned there. In 1626, Peter Minuit made his famous purchase of Manhattan (except that he bought it from Indians who did not own it and that in their view, he was, like many subsequent residents of Manhattan, merely a renter, not an owner).

You gotta love it.


Supreme: Try to make some time — this evening, perhaps, or first thing tomorrow morning — to read the envoi of Times Supreme Court commentator, Linda Greenhouse. After nearly thirty years on the beat, she is retiring (to Yale).  


Warrant: Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court at the Hague, has submitted a warrant for the arrest of Omar Hassan al-Bashir, president of Sudan, charging him with genocide. It’s a first.

Morning, cont’d

§ Rental. When I was growing up, New York was founded in 1664, the year in which the English took over the place from the Nederlanders, as part of the treaty that ended one of the three so-called “Dutch Wars.” In a sign of things to come, the city took its new name from that compleat finkelstein, James Duke of York, later James II, later housegues of Louis XIV in exile. York’s subsequent career would have discredited the name, you’d think, while it was still recent enough to change again, but no. In the American Revolution (our only civil war) New York would be a British outpost, while sympathies during the Civil War (quite literally “the War of Northern Aggression,” and absolutely not a civil war in any plain-English sense of the term) ran distinctingly toward the Confederacy.

The choice of date for New York’s official seal is not, of course, an act of history. We know what happened when, more or less. The seal is an act of commemoration, in which we game the mirror to show us what we want to see. In 1974, the official date was pushed from 1664 to 1625 because an Irish city councilman wanted to efface our English heritage. It’s that simple.

As Mr Roberts points out, we’ve got a big date coming up next year (?): the quadricentennial of Henry Hudson’s exploration of the river that now bears his name. He did not “discover” it, whatever that means. Giovanni di Verrazzano did that in 1524. Hudson was an English sailor in the employ of the VOC: what we call the Dutch East India Company. Hoo. Ha.

Noon, cont’d

§ Supreme. In three browser pages, Ms Greenhouse packs the significance of more than a generation’s worth of the history of the most peculiar branch of American government, the ultimate arbiter of law. As she so intriguingly points out, the Court can pave a highway that the country declines to use (her example is the late Chief Justice Rehnquist’s interest in vouchers). Her conclusion?

At any given time, we may not have the Supreme Court we want. We may not have the court we need. But we have, most likely, the Supreme Court we deserve.

Night, cont’d

§ Warrant. Now it’s up to the ICC judges. So far, they’ve signed each of the warrants that the prosecutor has submitted before. This is a move to follow.

Sudan is of course a country that ought not to exist within its current borders, which are no better than post-colonial daydreams. Any military action short of an enforced partitioning of the country would be futile. Iraq, Pakistan … the list of sometime pink colonies (ie, belonging to the British Empire) that make no national sense is not nearly short enough.

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