Big Smoke

'cause it's hard to see from where I'm standin'

If David Weigel’s so smart, why isn’t he running the country?

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“If Bill Clinton’s so smart, why can’t he save the Democrats?” asks David Weigel on Slate, before he completely misinterprets Bill Clinton and the Democratic party. To wit,

[Bill Clinton] had an airport-hangar-sized room to win over, and he did—by talking about why health care reform needed to pass.

[…]

Ah, this is the stuff that Clinton really knows but doesn’t say. He just implies it. Massive progressive reform isn’t going to happen anymore.

But, even watered down, Obama’s health care bill was massive progressive reform and, clearly, it happened. Yeah, it competes with the original Social Security for modesty, but damn, it got passed. And while polls say people hate Obama’s bill by name, they also say they love the shit in the bill. Such is our national network news.

Clinton has been in the peanut gallery giving sage advice for years, it’s true. But let’s not kid ourselves: If there weren’t term limits, he’d have been president in 2001, not George Dubya. And while I hate the premise of Weigel’s article (why isn’t Bill Clinton Jesus? – it kinda reminds me of people thinking Obama was Jesus during the campaign), it’s an opinion piece. But even as an opinion piece, it can’t keep the rhetoric straight: Is Bill Clinton looking for big policy reform a la health care (like he lauded, promoted and had himself attempted during his terms) or does he want Democrats to give up on those and focus on “micro-ideas about what could fix the economy?”

I think that, to Clinton, those aren’t mutually exclusive, and to listen to him on the Daily Show this week, he’s clearly about a hair’s breadth from demanding that Democrats get bolder – in their policy, in their politics, in their invective. That they should exploit their political gains. Y’know, kinda the opposite of what they’re doing. The very last thing the Democrats should be doing is what Weigel suggests, to “stop dreaming, get busy tweaking.”

Oh, and by the way, David: “How do you fix things when the natural majority party doesn’t want the government to govern?” I’ll have you know there have always been far more voters registered Democrat than any other party. We are the natural majority party, and we damn well want the government to govern.

Free Floating Anger

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The trial’s begun over a cop knocking a Critical Mass participant off his bike two years ago and it looks like the biker might win this one.

Now, I’m by no means a fan of Critical Mass, but herein lies the dangers of indicting a whole movement in a legal trial that demands the specificity of one single actor: Sure, on the whole they’re counter-productive to their cause and incendiary, but policemen must always be consummate professionals else they look like dicks, and in this case officer Pat Pogan looks like a dick. Mainly because he is one.

While I’m calling people dicks, I’d like to get something else off my chest after n+1 arguments about this, where n is too many: Yes, people protested George W Bush, myself among them. Yes, a number of them did things slightly less than savory, tho specific instances outside of shouting matches with parade police elude me at this moment. (They certainly didn’t brandish loaded firearms in Town Hall meetings.)

But there’s where the similarities end. The anti-war and anti-globalization protests were attacking Bush’s policies. The anti-tax protests today are attacking Obama.

Never mind the hypocrisy of claiming the illegitimacy of Obama’s status as a citizen as he won a mandate majority of the vote, when the previous president actually got fewer votes than his competitor and was handed the election in an unprecedented decision by a state governed by his brother. Never mind the Tea Partiers claiming taxation without representation after they voted (and lost). Never mind the hypocrisy of Medicare recipients protesting against government health care, unemployment and welfare recipients protesting against government spending, and anti-tax zealots protesting tax cuts. Never mind the deficit hawks who voted for two wars right after a massive upper class tax cut.

Because they’re not attacking Obama on his policies. That’s the difference. They’re attacking Obama. When liberal protesters had placards comparing Bush with a monkey, they were criticizing his judgment, not his heritage. Just like Clinton, where a year’s worth of policies were held up not because of any legitimate reason of governance but because of the political ramifications when he tripped and fell into an intern. Except this time Clinton’s not just “Black” but Black. Which apparently makes all the difference in the world with some people. Or to quote Gene Wilder in Blazing Saddles:

You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know… morons.

Slumlords and Bigots

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The Voice has been doing two articles on the city’s worst landlords (something it writes on fairly regularly, and for the most part the culprits tend to fall into one of three narratives:

  • Real estate sharks who over-leveraged during the housing boom.
  • Real estate sharks whose business model involves converting rent-stabilized apartments into market apartments.
  • Orthodox Jews who discriminate against non-Orthodox Jews.

Perhaps Lieberman is more right than he thinks: Perhaps East Jerusalem isn’t so much like Queens as Washington Heights (and Williamsburg) are like East Jerusalem. Two of the three listed are basically aggressive efforts at mass eviction*. All you need’s a bulletproof bulldozer and the similarities become apparent.

On a more positive news front, Obama and Pelosi** have won the first battle for health care in this country in over 50 years, despite the McCarthyite Red Scare and the John Birch Society-esque race baiting (and misogyny and gaybashing and…), making yet another historical step forward under Obama’s belt – making the grand total three now: Being elected and not shot, saving us from a second Great Depression, and now doing more for Health Care than Clinton and indeed anybody since LBJ.

I’m not so optimistic that this battle won will finally nail the coffin of the Republican Party, and I’d like very much to believe that their extremism and fear-mongering and incitement to violence (up to and including a call to arms against the government as illegitimate, itself a treasonous accusation) is mere desperation that they have finally lost touch with the people – and I yet do indeed believe that the Tea Party Movement, filled with bigots as it is, is mere Astroturf under the hands of moguls with power to lose – but what I see shocks me, and I just wish it over and done with.

*And the last – the over-leveraging – is proof positive that rich people have no concept over how much they’re truly and directly screwing the poor, because I’d much more easily accept that they’re ignorant rather than they don’t care. If it is indeed the latter, then I don’t need to advocate violence – violence will come anyway.

**And might I say how much it sickens and angers me how much casual vitriol and cavalier hatred has been directed towards Nancy Pelosi’s gender – as had been previously laid on Hillary Clinton – not unlike how Barack Obama, since entering office, has dealt with every single piece of cynical badgering that Clinton had to put up with, plus an unending torrent of race-baiting that has flowed down to just about every Black member of Congress, to say nothing of liberals in general. Are we really so backwards as a people?

The Corrupting Influence

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I, like, many people to the left of the Democratic party tend to caucus Democrat, vote Democrat and become active in the Democratic party. It’s the closest thing this country has to a populist party (as counterpoint to the Republicans’ party of money) and as such tends to have the most representative of this nation’s representatives – especially considering its checkered past with ward politics, xenophobia and racism amongst the different factions of the working class.

But having largely gotten past those hurdles, what I see destroying the Democratic party is co-option with the GOP. The Democratic party still attracts the same people, but I see vibrant New Yorkers full of spit and anger – Al Franken, Andrew Cuomo, Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer – either turning into politically-debauched players – Bill Clinton, Barney Frank, Chuck Schumer, Chris Dodd – or thrown out of the proceedings altogether – Dennis Kucinich, Howard Dean – based on how willing they are to play to money.

I see the same with Barack Obama: His fantastic rise is marred both by the decimation of liberals in his cabinet like Van Jones (and the shocking influence Goldman Sachs has over the US Treasury) and by the nagging worry that even then – even with all the compromises – he may be Jimmy Carter’d for attempting to push what little regulatory reform he is still working on.

Not that any of this is new. Anybody who’s been alive in the last 40 years knows this narrative. What gets me is how, like conservatives have declared racism ‘dead’ because we elected a Black president (forgetting all the shit we talk about him now), it’s almost immediately become passe to point out the raging class war going on – as if we’ve made a U-turn in the 90’s and ended up back in the 80’s again, where ‘liberal’ is a bad word – because Democrats are in office and thus classism cannot exist. It’s hard not to be cynical in witnessing the denigration of what is and by all rights should be a historic movement in American history.

It is unfathomably depressing how we went from gloating that the Republican machine that gave us the deregulators and short-sighted neo-cons was all but dead to now, with unlimited power for money to get its message heard (and the amazing ability for the electorate to believe anything they’re told), watching the Republicans – with their barefaced alliance with money and in spite of their utter inability to govern – diligently continue to bury what chance this country has of digging itself out of ruin.

And it all has to do with what keeps people in office. Bogged down by lobbyism, media propaganda and overall poor education, I don’t see a progressive means for lifting ourselves, vibrant as the new Democrats are, out of this dysfunctional hellhole: It’s a Democratic majority but it’s a Republican system; still the very same one they’ve worked on and perfected all these past 40 years. Their hubris got them voted out (but not before destroying the country) but their system is still in place, giving anyone still willing to play their game immense powers over those doing it honestly. If reform comes (-if-), it’ll be excruciatingly slow; a gradual process that will take decades, and that angers me.

It’s at times like this that it’s not hard for me to want Obama to use the extended executive rights of his office (granted to his office by the Republican machine, natch) to by decree shut the flow of money down, damn the consequences: Declare an emergency – a national crisis of faith! – and bring in international inspectors to determine that elections are held free and without the taint of farce.

That’ll be the day.

We’ve Been Here Before

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The State Department got involved with Google’s issues with China, and China took note.

Setting aside the sovereignty issues of imposing what they view is an explicit attempt by America to undermine their media control – in that the US views Twitter, Google, YouTube et al as tools to encourage citizens of the world to clamber for freedom of press and expression – they simply point out that only once in their history has a foreign power succeeded at breaking into the Chinese market.

So the question I suppose is, is internet addiction as powerful as heroin?

How the World Turns

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The NYTimes reported that the numbers are in and NYC is now experiencing a 16-year high in unemployment at 10.3%.

A 16-year high, eh? What was 16 years ago?

Oh, right: Clinton’s first year in office, dealing with the recession the elder Bush left him.

Funny how that works.

Good news, though: The state bailed out the city of Philadelphia – the libraries stay open.*

Just minutes ago, the Pennsylvania State senate passed bill 1828 by a vote of 32 to 17. For all of you who have been following the saga over the city’s budget crisis, this is indeed the legislation that was needed for the City of Philadelphia to avoid the “Doomsday” Plan C budget scenario, which would have resulted in the layoff of 3,000 city employees and forced the closing of all libraries.

Posted yesterday at 4:26pm. Truly 11th hour saviors.

*And to hammer the point home of the importance of literacy, this is the first comment: “Good luck to you and your library’s..”

Ouch.

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