Monday, November 27, 2006

in praise of goo-goo dolls; in critique of the mayor’s puppets

What is it they say about trusting people who refer to themselves in the third person?

Well, in the case of “the writer Tom Wolfe,” who used an opinion column in Sunday’s New York Times to take it to Landmarks Preservation Commission chair Robert Tierney, you can believe every word.

As noted many time in the past year (here, for example), the only thing that Tierney has proven to be interested in preserving is his own job.

The blogger guy2k applauds Mr. Wolfe’s column, and hopes it isn’t the last of his attacks on the moribund LPC.

(hat tip: gem spa)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


OK, so, earlier today, I’m sitting in Aroma (what can I say, I’m a glutton for punishment), trying to get some writing done, and I look up to refresh my eyes/brain/neck/whatever, and I start reading the news headlines that subtly scroll below the inexplicable video loop of shots from an Italian air show and guys on trampolines that plays on the big flat panel TV that graces the western wall (no, not that Western Wall!), and I catch this headline:

Barbara Bush has Purse Swiped

What? And not “What?” like “Oh, the outrage!” but “What?” like “Who the hell cares?”

Well, obviously, for some reason, I do, because I hopped aboard the wireless Internets thingy that they have at Aroma to find out why this was news.

First, let me say that when I saw the name, I assumed I was reading about the mother. But, as I discovered, the Barbara in question was the daughter. . . and the daughter was in Buenos Aires.

Which lead to two other questions: Don’t the daughters have secret service all over them, and, what the hell is she doing Argentina?

To answer the first question, yes. But they didn’t see it happen.

Barbara Bush, 24, was "not in the immediate proximity" of the bag when it was stolen.

Really? Where was she? And what, your job description doesn’t cover the purse, so snatch at will? I don’t know about you, but just about every woman I know keeps a close watch on their bag when out on the town, unless they’re—hey, watch it! This isn’t Jenna we’re talking about!

All I can say to the Secret Service is: Good going, guys!

As to why Babs, and her twin sister, too, it turns out, were in Buenos Aires, well, that took a little more searching.

And, oh lawdy, look what I found.

First off, did anyone out there know that Jenna is working for UNICEF and living in Panama? Yeah, I’m not really buying that one, either. But wait, as they say in the news business, there’s more!

Jenna has also been seen recently in Paraguay, where, it turns out, George H. W. Bush has bought something like 99,000 acres near a rather developed air base near the Brazilian/Bolivian border. . . and he did it just after the Paraguayan government passed some sort of law that guarantees US troops and officials immunity from national and international war crimes charges.

And—stay with me now—there are now like 500 US troops and a bunch of mercenaries at this big airbase, and the land right next to this Bush estate, thousands of acres of it, is owned by. . . wait for it. . .

The Moonies!

Dizzying, I know.

Now, all that conspiratorial hilarity comes courtesy of Wonkette (from about a month ago), and they get it from a series of Latin American sources, who might or might not be basing reports on a piece in a state-owned Cuban paper, so, though I’m not saying any of this isn’t true, let’s just say the story is “developing.” (Yes, I’m winking at you, Matt Drudge, and by inference, at you, Mark Halperin!)

However, if you do a little more clicking, as some procrastinators might just find themselves doing, you will find stuff that says the Bush family apparently has purchased this land as an “ecological reserve,” and that this land just happens to sit next to some natural gas reserves and atop a fresh water aquifer bigger than Texas and California put together.

So, you tell me, is this a parable about of the evils of the Internet, or an example of how, if you know the right people, you can do well instead of doing time?

As for Barbara’s purse, to cut this long story short, it has put me in mind of a joke:

What was the difference between Barbara and Jenna’s experiences during their Argentine vacation?

Barbara had her bag snatched, while Jenna. . . .

Thank you very much. I’ll be here all week.

[ed. note: Actually, I may not be here all week, as I take some time to bake cupcakes and try to get some very high pressure writing done—wish me luck on both!]

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Great White Way

“I thought I was Yum-Yum and you were Pitti-Sing!”

US President George Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin worked out some kinks out of town before taking their new production of The Mikado to Broadway:

Three little maids from school are we
Pert as a school-girl well can be
Filled to the brim with girlish glee
Three little maids from school

Everything is a source of fun
Nobody's safe, for we care for none
Life is a joke that's just begun
Three little maids from school

Three little maids who, all unwary
Come from a ladies' seminary
Freed from its genius tutelary
Three little maids from school

Bush also tried out some new dialogue, improvising in his host’s presence that, in Iraq, like in Vietnam, “we’ll succeed unless we quit.”

Hey, The Mikado is a comedy, after all!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Nancy, and Steny, and Jack, oh my!

I know, I know, it’s already last week’s news—Steny Hoyer thumped Jack Murtha to take the Majority Leader spot even though Speaker Nancy Pelosi “threw her weight” behind Murtha. The official, oft-repeated takeaway from this is that Pelosi “lost” her first battle.

The reason I’m adding my two cents is because after reading a treasure trove of post-mortems on this, I still come up a tuppence short of folding money.

Friday, November 17, 2006

it’s demolition week

Thursday saw the beginning of the end of the Superior Inks building. At the corner of Bethune and West Street, the structure was originally built as a cracker factory for Nabisco (it was an annex to the National Biscuit Company’s main New York facility just north, in what is now the Chelsea Market). The 1919 building is the last remaining example of the kind of factories that used to line the West Village waterfront. It’s distinctive brick smokestack stood as a neighborhood landmark.

Of course, that’s “landmark” by local definition, but not by city designation. The Landmarks Preservation Commission resisted concerted efforts to landmark Superior Inks, even as other blocks in the area were brought under landmarks protection.

“It was sort of a special gift to this developer [Related Companies] that he got to not only knock down the building but build a very tall residential tower here,” said Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

What is it, you think, that Related Companies did to deserve such a gift? What gift do you think they gave “the city” in return for being allowed to fuck with the character of a neighborhood?

And this very tall and, until now, illegally massive residential tower the city is going to allow in place of Superior Inks? Well, from the looks of it, somebody’s got a kid in 8th grade drafting class. (How gifted!)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

wasn’t yesterday’s post enough for you greedy bastards?

Technically, these are different greedy bastards—but the folks that run this city remain the same.

I just received an e-mail from Andrew Berman at the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation that starts like this:


Closed-Door Decision Threatens to Undo Zoning Protections, Could Make Sweeping Changes to Landscape of Neighborhoods Across the City Without Any Public Hearing or Approval Process

Breaking News: GVSHP was shocked to learn today that the City has agreed to approve permits for a 45-story condo-hotel to be built by Donald Trump and his development partners.

This 45-story Trump atrocity is slated to go up at the corner of Spring and Varick Streets, in a neighborhood where the next tallest building would be 15 stories, and most buildings in the area are six stories or under. It would be the tallest building between midtown and the financial district.

Worse, this decision allows Trump to skirt zoning restrictions that were designed to prevent the overdevelopment of many neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs. It essentially allows Trump, and any developer that follows his lead, to re-zone an area at will without a public hearing by renaming residential developments “condo-hotels.”

Residents and elected representatives alike have condemned this charade, and yet—and yet—the Mayor doesn’t care. Mike Bloomberg and his appointees, in an insane drive to turn New York into a giant Wonder Bread and Cool Whip sandwich, are going to lie down for another developer.

OK, I don’t know about the sandwich, but I do know that, be it this Trump scam, or an “undulating glass tower” smack in the middle of the West Village, or the destruction of a gothic revival stable on the Upper West Side, or the demolition of a late arts-and-crafts garage in SoHo, or a wholly unacceptable boondoggle over at the Atlantic Yards site, developers have been allowed to pretty much make up the rules as they go, destroy the old and build the new without any respect for the people that currently live and work in the city, transform neighborhoods to meet their own megalomaniacal needs, and so, make money hand over fist.

And the more money that developers get to make, the more they have to shower on the politicians and bureaucrats that help them. It’s a vicious, ego-driven, greed-filled cycle that seems to be accelerating with each passing year.

Sure, there are small victories for individual neighborhoods along the way, but they are never permanent. The last year has proven that landmarks designation isn’t carved in stone, and that the city will overturn or ignore its own rulings when effectively tempted. And while the history of New York is filled with jerks and starts, and horrendous development mistakes, and land grabs that became landmarks, the current overall trend, style, tone, and pace of redevelopment is crasser, blander, meaner, and faster than New York has ever seen.

Without an intervention, I don’t see how this is going to stop (or, at least, slow down)—but I don’t see who is going to do the intervention. I applaud the work of dedicated groups like GVSHP and Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, but unless the money is taken out of the system, I see more battles and fewer victories in our future.

Yes, New York City developers, like Big Oil and Big Pharma, are another argument for clean election laws—or, more to the point, for full public financing of political campaigns. Perhaps then, with elected representatives not beholden to developers and their money, we can say to fat-cats and pols that love them something kulture killers like Trump would easily understand [WARNING: cliché coming], “You’re fired!”

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

NYC LPC: greed is good

Mr. Tierney said he was in “active discussions” with the Department of Buildings, urging it to develop a system that would delay rulings on building permit applications for buildings that are historic, but not designated as landmarks, allowing the commission time to consider stepping in.

That Mr. Tierney would be Robert Tierney, Chair of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, and that paragraph comes near the end of an article in today’s New York Times about the split decision made by the LPC regarding two historic buildings on the Upper West Side. The LPC extended landmarks protection to one, The New York Cab Company building, at Amsterdam and 75th, but, by an 8-2 vote, declined to protect another, the old Dakota Stable, at Amsterdam and 77th.

Both buildings were part of New York’s historic “stable row,” and were both built in the 1890’s, so why was landmark status granted to one and not to the other? Quite simply, because when the move to landmark the Dakota Stable site gained steam, the developer that owned the building accelerated removal of its historic elements.

In order to thwart the move to landmark the stable, the developer destroyed what they thought most LPC members would see as worth preserving before the commission could rule. And their strategy worked.

What happened to the old Dakota Stable is becoming the norm as New York City races pell-mell toward what Mayor Bloomberg calls “revitalization.” I have a different word for it: greed.

Rather than honor the beauty of NYC’s historic building stock, renovating and repurposing, and making really handsome amounts of cash, developers opt for leveling lots and throwing up much bigger buildings—so that they can make absolutely obscene amounts of cash. All of this is done, alas, with the tacit (or not-so-tacit) blessing of the city’s elected officials, whose pockets and campaign coffers developers continuously fill.

Just such a scenario played out this spring in SoHo. As readers of this blog will remember, I was involved in trying to save the beautiful and architecturally significant Tunnel Garage. But, as neighborhood and national support for landmarking the garage grew, Donald Zucker Organization, developers of the site, rushed to demolish the building. (Now, with a vacant lot, Zucker fixer Bob Esnard—as a former deputy mayor, a man as politically well-connected as he is consistently dishonest—is seeking permission to dig four stories down and build nine stories up, citing what buildings law calls “hardship.”)

Of course, when Mr. Tierney talks of developing a system to save historic buildings, he himself is being a little dishonest. As Chairman of the LPC, Tierney has authority over a process called “calendaring.” A building that is calendared is placed on a list of sites to be considered for landmarks protection pending a hearing before the Commission. As I understand it, the Department of Buildings is loath to issue permits for alteration or demolition for sites that are calendared. If Robert Tierney wants to protect a building, he has the power to calendar it. It would then be up to the DoB and the City to enforce the laws and severely punish developers that fudge or break buildings code.

In fact, one LPC member who voted for granting protection to the Dakota Stable, Christopher Moore, said the city needs to “draw a line in the sand” to show developers that they can’t get away with such smarmy tactics anymore.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the direction in which most of the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the City are moving. With so much money too be made on this kind of slash-and-burn real estate, developers can afford to flout the law, maybe even incur a fine or two, on their way to doing pretty much whatever they want. With enough spare cash left over for campaign contributions, this seems to be the “system” that is here to stay.

Don’t believe me? Just read on through to the last paragraph of the Times article:

Jennifer Givner, a spokeswoman for the Department of Buildings, said late yesterday that Patricia J. Lancaster, the buildings commissioner, was involved in the discussions with the landmarks officials. But she said it was unclear if a new policy would be developed.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

once upon a Time (aka Time ain’t on our side)

I was in the subway yesterday, staring at the covers of the magazines at a newsstand while I waited for my train. My eye’s zeroed in on the cover of this week’s Time Magazine. There was a cover story about the elections written by pretend Democrat Joe Klein (yes, another intellectually bankrupt fake Dem named Joe), Why the Center is the New Place to Be, and while it at first got my hackles up, I then thought, fine, let’s call the Democratic position—the position that received a ringing endorsement last Tuesday—the center. I’m good with that. The Republicans have proven themselves to be the party of the extreme right; the Democrats have had to drag us back to the mainstream center.

This center has zero to do with (assholes) Joe Lieberman or John McCain, of course. This phony portrayal will be something all of us will unfortunately have to strain against for the next two years. This center is the center of long-time liberals, newly elected populists, and hard-working progressives. It is the center that wants to see us withdraw troops from Iraq, and hold the administration accountable at home. This is the center that wants to see a hike in the minimum wage and a drop in the price of prescription drugs. This is the center that wants to give the poor a leg up and see the rich pull their weight. This is the center that wants to live in hope instead of in fear; the center that favors ideas over ideology.

So, like I said, I’m fine with that. Or, I was, until I saw that Media Matters went and dug up the Time cover from November 1994—the one that announced that midterm’s Republican takeover of the House—and then I got a little less fine with it all.

I guess I shouldn’t have expected anything else—Time is hardly The Nation, after all—but I will never quite get over, I’m afraid, the double standard that seems to exist in the establishment media. This two-Time-ing, however, is especially fantastic when you do the math. As can be pointed out in a variety of ways, the size of this 2006 Democratic wave absolutely dwarfs the shift that the 1994 Time called a “Republican Stampede.”

I am especially fond of an analysis by Scientician that first rebukes Karl Rove’s latest whine that an additional 77,611 votes would have allowed the Republicans to hold on to the House, and then goes on to show that 70, 000 more votes for Democrats would have given the (already) landslide winners an additional 18 seats (or a shift of 35,000 votes from Dems to Repubs, because that’s how THE math works, Karl). The piece goes on to show that in 1994, the 25 Republican pickups were attained on a cumulative margin of fewer than 10,000 votes.

(It should also be noted that without Republican dirty tricks—voter suppression tactics like robocalls and misleading informational mailings and palm cards—many more close House races might would have swung Democratic.)

Oh, I could go on and on about this. If anyone was doing stampeding, it was this year’s voters, running pell-mell toward that big, blue, Democratic circle in that Venn diagram.

Isn’t it about time we all acknowledged this?

Monday, November 13, 2006

John McCain = asshole; Donald Rumsfeld = idiot

When I look at the metrics for this site, the who, what, and where my hits come from, one thing stands out above all others—the top two googled phrases that lead to my site are these: “John McCain is an asshole” and “Donald Rumsfeld is an idiot.”

Really. Far and away. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t see that someone found me by googling McCain’s asshole-dom or Rumsfeld’s idiocy. It cracks me up, but it also makes me feel like there is something in the zeitgeist—something that McCain, anyway, is going to have to work against in his run for asshole-in-chief.

But when googlers google, they don’t always get every reference on this blog. So, as a public service, let me aggregate some of the past examples.

First: John McCain, asshole.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

And second, Donald Rumsfeld, idiot.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Now, since President Bush lied and played politics with the firing of Don of the Dead, we won’t have the Secretary of Fiasco to kick around anymore—but we still have that asshole John McCain.

In the span of one interview on Meet the Press, McCain managed to admit that he was completely wrong when he predicted a year ago that things would be substantially better in Iraq today, and then he used his newly-minted, straight-talking “credibility” to make a new prediction:

The question is, is what’s the solution? And I believe that a withdrawal or a date for withdrawal will lead to chaos in the region, and most military experts think the same thing. I believe that there are a lot of things that we can do to salvage this, but they all require the presence of additional troops.

I don’t know about which military “experts” McCain is talking to—most I’ve seen put it in writing advocate withdrawal, some slowly, some quickly—but one thing is for sure, he’s not talking to the American people. Only 8% of Americans advocate increasing the number of troops in Iraq. (Maybe the “straight talk express” should do a little less talking and a little more listening.)

And, since we won’t have Rumsfeld to act the idiot for us anymore, let us all thank our lucky stars that Joe Lieberman was able to convince enough Connecticut voters that he was for, as his TV ads said, bringing our troops home.

Appearing on the same Meet the Press as America’s foremost asshole, Backstabber Joe made sure to let us all know he is both a monumental idiot and a sanctimonious asshole, first by arguing that Tuesday’s election was not a big victory for his purported party:

The fact is that this was not a major realignment election in my opinion. This was the voters in Connecticut and elsewhere saying we are disappointed with the Republicans. We want to give the Democrats a chance. But I believe that the American people are considering both major political parties to be in a kind of probation because they’re understandably angry that Washington is dominated too much by partisan political games and not enough by problem solving and patriotism.

And then by mimicking McCain (and reneging on his campaign “promise”):

RUSSERT: Should we send more troops?

LIEBERMAN: I think we have to be open to that as a way to succeed, to achieve a free and independent Iraq, which would be an extraordinary accomplishment.

Extraordinary, indeed. . . some might even say impossible. . . but what do you say we all let McCain and Lieberman give it a try with the lives of thousands more Americans? After all, Americans are fed up with political games, right Joe? They want the kind of patriotism that can only be demonstrated with someone else’s blood.

I apologize for the scattershot nature of this, but I have to add: Did I not warn that one of the consequences of a Lieberman victory would be having to suffer through his regular self-promoting Sunday morning appearances? Sure enough, the touch-screens are barely cold from Tuesday, and Russert is back talking to the same two pretend mavericks we’ve had to endure for the last two, four, six years.

What will it take to get some of our new and/or true progressive Democrats on one of these shows? Well, let’s start by repeating this: Joe Lieberman is an idiot; Joe Lieberman is an asshole.

Friday, November 10, 2006

who you gonna believe?

Me or your lyin’ eyes?

Oh, wait, I meant to say, Adam Nagourney or Greg Sargent?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Bush/Rove unleash October surprise

Ooops. . . or maybe not.

Faced with the prospect of having every pundit on every show talking all day about a Democratic victory, the collapse of the conservative movement, and the failure of the Karl Rove election strategy, George Bush marched out at 1pm Wednesday to regain control of the news cycle.

He did it by firing Don of the Dead.

Suddenly, every news program, on TV and Radio, was talking about Bush, his decision process, and the relative qualifications of Rumsfeld’s replacement, Bush family farm hand (and former CIA director) Robert M. Gates.

My first reaction was one I often have when Bush brings in somebody “new”: Doesn’t this guy have any friends of his own?

Gates is a Daddy Bush retread—an aid to Scowcroft when he ran the NSC, DCI under B41, and now an underling to Bush Family fixer James Baker on this Iraq Study Group (also known as CYA4GWB). Prior to his current post as President of Texas A&M, Gates was Dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service, also at Texas A&M. Gates has the stink of Iran-Contra all over him, just like Bush 41, and is also suspected of having passed classified intelligence to Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war.

So, as you can see, he is the perfect guy to bring a fresh point of view to the current crisis.

My second thought was that this was clearly not something Bush and Rove just dreamed up this morning. Since Gates (who was previously Bush’s first choice for the DNI job now held by John Negroponte, but turned it down because he thought it was a needless level of bureaucracy) was on hand for his one o’clock roll-out, it is obvious his wooing had been in the works for weeks, and the final decision had to have been made several days ago (at least). So, as is always the case with this White House, the decision was not about foreign policy, or defense strategy, but about domestic PR. Bush/Rove could have announced this decision before the election (and might have even done his party some good by doing so), but instead decided to keep it in his vest pocket to pull out just when he needed it—and after the drubbing Team W took Tuesday, boy did he need it.

My third thought was, so this is why Deadeye Dick went hunting. Vice President Cheney can’t be happy that BFF Rumsfeld is being shown the door, and certainly didn’t look forward to having to comment on it. What better than to skulk off into the wilds of South Dakota (is it?), where a man can be a man with only his thoughts and a fully stocked SUV mini-bar to comfort him?

Thought four is that now task number one for the new Democratic majority in the Senate will be the confirmation of Bob Gates—something that, in spite of his slightly hinky past, will likely sail through. Is there a better way for beltway pundits to welcome in the era of divided government than with a “victory” for the President?

And now for my fifth thought: let’s stop talking about Bob Gates! I know, it’s not fair, I just got to have my say, but now that I have, I would like to try to focus on the new Democratic majority and their agenda for a hike in the minimum wage, real ethics reform, Congressional oversight of mis-, mal-, and nonfeasance—both foreign and domestic—a repeal of the Dungeons Act, and a rewriting of Medicare drug benefits so that they benefit Medicare recipients instead of Pharmaceutical companies.

I don’t mean to sound like a Pollyanna, but if we keep our eyes on the ball, maybe the Democrats we just sent to Congress will, too.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

hooray for the good guys; boo for Lieberman

Well, as I lay me down to sleep, it is looking like Democrats will have done better than I predicted in yesterday’s post. Fantastic news, but I am greedy.

But first, let me talk about some of the shockers. Representative Jim Ryun lost in Kansas—Nancy Boyda is the new Democrat from KS-2. Grassroots candidate Tim Walz kicked Gil Gutknecht out of MN-1. And, the biggest surprise to me, hands down: long-time Representative Jim Leach lost in Iowa—Democratic activist Dave Loebsack is the new Democrat from Iowa’s 2nd district.

I would also like to say a provisional hip-hip-hooray because it is looking like Democrat Jerry McNerney is going to knock off enemy to all things living, Richard Pombo in CA-11.

But there were some guys I really wanted to send packing, and for a variety of reasons, they’re still here. There’s Tom Reynolds in NY-26 who was helped by a Rovian intervention and an influx of FEMA money. . . and a less than impressive campaign by Democrat John Davis. Reynolds is as guilty as anyone for covering up for Mark Foley, and he deserves to be gone.

Staying in NY, I am also disappointed to see Peter King still ensconced in the 3rd. He’s an unapologetic Bush enabler from a district that should know better. And I really thought fighting Dem Eric Massa was going to toss out John Kuhl in NY-29.

(It would be wrong of me not to rejoice at the success of Kirsten Gillibrand in NY-20—defeating the corrupt wife-beater John Sweeney—and also commend Michael Arcuri for taking an open seat away from the Republicans.)

It is when I look north, however, that my blood really starts to boil. The thought of suffering another six years with the sanctimonious and self-interested Joe Lieberman is almost enough to suck all the joy out of this fantastic evening. As of this moment, it is looking like the Democrats might actually take enough Senate seats to make it worth Joe’s while to stick with the Democrats, but should Montana or Virginia surprise us come Wednesday, I will stand by my prediction of a turncoat from Connecticut. (And, it is still possible, that even though he may “caucus” with the Democrats, Lieberman will never vote their way on the issues—everything he said in his victory speech pointed to such problems.)

But beyond having to see his face and hear his voice, it is what Lieberman did to the House races that will make me hate him every time he steals a moment in the public eye. The Democrats picked up one House seat in Connecticut (Chris Murphy had a relatively easy time ousting veteran Republican Nancy Johnson in the 5th), but they should have picked up three. As I write, the Courtney-Simmons race in CT-2 is still too close to call, and the race in CT-4 has been awarded to incumbent Republican Christopher Shays.

Shays is what passes for a moderate Republican these days—hardly the worst of the worst—but he voted to support the war and helped enable the Republican majority on many, many votes. Anyone who lives in the northeast who was paying attention would know that, for the last month or so, Chris Shays was in total meltdown. He was trailing in opinion polls lately, and he seemed to have no idea what to do about it. He changed his position on the Iraq war, and started flailing at his opponent, Westport selectman Diane Farrell. In a year where the Republicans had no competitive candidate for the Senate seat, if Lieberman had stayed out of the race, that alone would have likely changed the mix at the polls and given Farrell the win.

But, it gets worse. The Lieberman for Lieberman candidate actually campaigned with Republican Shays. It is because of Joe Lieberman that the Republican beat the Democrat in CT-4, 50% to 48%.

OK, I’ve vented. Now, assuming Joe has no more surprises for us in the next few days, let’s move forward and usher in an era of real accountability, legislative oversight of the executive, and civic-minded action.

To each and every one of you that voted, or worked on a campaign, or gave money to Democrats, or helped in any way to get us back to a place where we can at least hope for a brighter tomorrow, thank you. And to each and every American, whether you realize it or not, you have taken a small step back from the precipice. Congratulations!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

endorsements, predictions, pleas

I know you have all been waiting for this, just not knowing what on earth to do or who on earth to vote for until you heard from me. Well, I’m going to make it easy for you: vote for the Democrat.

Though I have plenty of problems with plenty of the Democrats running in many races here in New York, and in all of the other races I’ve been following, in almost every case—no, make that in every case—what is at stake in this election far outweighs the differences I might have with any one candidate on any number of issues. It is essential to restore Democratic majorities to both houses of Congress, but just as importantly, it is crucial to restore (or make sizable gains towards restoring) Democratic rule to statehouses as well.

Democrats should make gains across the board today, but when it comes to the sate elections, for legislatures and Governors, the importance extends past this election, and past any specific laws that might come down the pike in the next couple of years. What is at stake, state by state, is electoral redistricting. Redistricting, by law, will happen again after the 2010 census, but, because of a seriously questionable decision by the US Supreme Court in a recent case stemming from Tom Delay’s corrupt mid-decade gerrymander in Texas, Congressional districts may, in some states, be reshaped before then.

While the High Court did not specifically endorse political gerrymandering, they didn’t completely outlaw it, either. By allowing most of what Delay and his cronies did in to Texas, the Supremes left the door open to more off-year shenanigans. It is the majorities in each state legislature that control the shape of newly drawn districts. What Delay engineered in Texas cost the Democrats five seats in the US House of Representatives—therefore, it is extremely essential that Democrats and not Republicans have the upper hand in this process.

Further, in most states, there is an office that controls the nuts and bolts operations of each election (in many states, it is the Secretary of State), and this too has been politicized and corrupted by Republicans. The myriad irregularities and blatant voter suppression that occurred in Ohio in 2004 was engineered by partisan Republican Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell (currently running far behind a Democrat in his attempt to become Ohio’s next governor). Many fear similar events this year. As states and localities struggle to comply with HAVA (the euphemistically titled Help America Vote Act), there will be countless opportunities for partisan Republicans to influence the system in countless ways. Be it paperless touch screen voting machines, cleansing voter rolls, absurd requirements for registration forms and voter ID, or the closing of polling places, the Republican party has worked overtime to bias the system to produce Republican victories. So, when it comes to these down-ballot offices, again, make sure to vote for the Democrat.

In New York, we do have another option. New York State allows candidates to run under multiple party banners, with all votes for a candidate counting toward the total. With that in mind, we can vote for Democrats here, but remind them that our vote is for a more progressive agenda by pulling the levers under the heading for the Working Families Party.

WFP usually endorse the Democrat in the race, but not every time. In this case, they have chosen to endorse Hillary Clinton for Senator and Elliot Spitzer for Governor, and, in this case, in this year, I can hold my nose a little less tightly by voting for these “moderate” Democrats as candidates on the Working Families line.

WFP has also endorsed embattled state controller Alan Hevesi. Hevesi has been caught up in a scandal about use of state employees to chauffer his seriously ill wife that has made his once 30-point lead in the polls almost completely evaporate. Make no mistake, what Hevesi did was wrong, but it is a little less cut and dried than the tabloids would make it seem. I will spare all of you the details, and just say that Hevesi’s opponent is not only unqualified for the position of state controller, he has some absurdly unworkable plans for New York’s finances. Hevesi, on the other hand, has done a respectable, if not perfect, job with a Republican Governor Pataki-designed tax code and state finance scheme that can only be called, like the Governor himself, stupid and incompetent. Vote for Alan Hevesi on the WFP line.

In my particular neighborhood, I do have a choice, between long-time Democratic State Senator Martin Connor and WFP candidate Ken Diamondstone. Not only is Diamondstone likely the more liberal of the two, Connor, once the minority leader, has been on autopilot for years. My dealings with his ineffectual and amateurish office over the last thirteen months has only confirmed my belief that Connor has more than used up his allotted time on the public payroll.

* * *

As for predictions, there are people far more expert than I who will make far more accurate predictions, but after reading what a lot of them have to say, I tend to buy into the general line—at least as far as the US House goes: the Democrats will take control, picking up between 20 and 30 seats. I would hope for more, and a 35 or even 40 seat pick up is possible, but given the shape of the districts and the generally low quality of establishment media coverage in many of these districts, that big a wave seems unlikely.

As for the Senate, I will be more definite. I expect a Democratic pick up of five seats, resulting in a 50-50 split. In a way, this is my worst nightmare. This gives the Democrats no real power, but it gives Republicans something to point to and run against two years from now. And, should one of those 50 Democrats be Joe Lieberman, I fear that the Senate will, in a short time, shift to become 51-49. . . Republican.

Democrats should also make gains in gubernatorial races, but without guessing exactly how many the Dems pick up, let me just say that I think they should have picked up more (I am thinking specifically about the lost opportunity in California).

Let me also just give a shout out to the so-called Fifty State Strategy put into action by Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean. The reason Democrats have been able to capitalize on the Republican meltdown to the extent that they have—the reason some 45 or 50 House seats are in play—is, in large part, because Dean made it a point to build infrastructure in every state, and recruit competitive candidates even for races that were supposed to be safe for Republicans. Had the DNC pursued its old strategy of targeting only the most competitive races from their early 2006 standpoint, and then pumping all of their money into those races, the Democrats would be praying to pick up 15 seats at best. Kudos to Howard Dean. May the folks at the DCCC and the DLC understand this, set their egos aside, and also reach out to shake the hand of the Party Chair.

* * *

Finally, vote, get out the vote, and protect the vote.

I would like to urge everyone to call friends and family today to make sure they have all done their civic duty. You can, and should, urge them to vote for Democrats, but above all, urge everyone to vote.

If you need help finding your polling place, use this great web resource.

If you see anything you think is untoward or irregular at your polling place, don’t hesitate to point it out to a poll worker and, if possible, to a Democratic poll watcher. If you have a camera, take a picture or a video, and then send it electronically to Video the Vote. Georgia over at dKos has also posted great advice and a list of vote protection resources.

Thank you, and. . . go team!

traitor Joe

The headlines read “Lieberman says he won’t be beholden to Republicans if he wins,” but that’s not really what Joe says.

Lieberman has said (in so many words, usually) that he’ll caucus with the Democrats if returned to the Senate, but here’s what Joe said on Monday about his long journey from Democratic primary loser to Lieberman for Lieberman Party front-runner:

It's taken me as an independent-minded Democrat and really empowered me to be more independent

Just so we understand, since he used to be, nominally, a Democrat, when Joe says he’s going to be more independent, it means he’s going to tilt more often than he already has toward the Republicans. In a Senate filled with Democrats and Republicans, where Lieberman will theoretically owe whatever seniority he has to Democratic leadership, the independence Joe seeks to establish will be independence from Democrats. And unless Joe plans on abstaining from every yea or nay vote, and saying “no comment” in every interview, what will establish Lieberman as independent from Democrats will be votes for or with Republicans, and statements that either support President Bush and his party, or, at the very least, attack Democrats and their positions. (In fact, one very good reason to keep Lieberman out of Washington would be to keep him from clogging up the “Democrat” slot on the Sunday morning talk shows—maybe we could get some real Democratic positions articulated there instead.)

Lieberman is definitely, to my mind, signaling all of that, but I think he’s even hinting at more. I think Lieberman is laying the groundwork for yet another adventure in opportunism. Should the Democrats take five seats from Republicans in today’s elections, the Senate will be split 50-50. But with that divide, all ties will be broken by the Vice President, which means Republicans retain their functional majority for deciding things like committee chairmanships.

Now, it is no secret that, should Lieberman win on Tuesday, and should the Senate split be that close, Republicans will woo Joe Lieberman (who has already received baskets of cash from Republicans), either with a committee chairmanship as a reward for switching parties, or with the promise of the Secretary of Defense slot (should Bush drop his election season charade and move to head off a full-scale revolt by the military). If Lieberman were to take a cabinet post (likely the highest office he could ever hope to attain at this point in his career, and maybe his last shot at it), his vacant Senate seat would be filled by an appointee of the Governor of Connecticut (who, if the polls are correct, will be Republican Jodi Rell*), meaning Joe’s replacement will be an actual Republican.

In sum, if Joe Lieberman is elected to the Senate today, Connecticut, and America, will either get Lieberman acting like a Republican, Lieberman switching to be a Republican, or some other Republican.

Nobody wants that. Instead, if you live in the Nutmeg State, vote for Ned Lamont, the nominee of the Democratic Party. If you have friends or family in Connecticut, give them a call, and urge them to get out and vote for the Democrats—all of them, all of the real ones.

*I don’t want to slight the Democratic nominee for Governor of Connecticut, John DeStefano. DeStefano is head and shoulders a better choice than Governor Rell, and DeStefano was endorsed by both the Hartford Courant and the New Haven Register, but John has had trouble getting his message out because of all the noise generated by Lieberman’s insurgent run at the Senate. So add Jodi Rell to the list of Republicans Lieberman has helped.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Cheney to America: go fuck yourself

Remember back in the summer of 2004 when the man who is just a heartbeat from the—oh, who are we kidding?—Dick Cheney told the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee to go enjoy his own company? Well, two years later, the Veep is thinking: share the love.

In the span of one short interview, Vice President Dick managed to make it clear—on two separate occasions—that he really doesn’t care about what American’s might think, or what Congress might do, or about the law of the land, for that matter.

First, Cheney asserted that, come hell, high water, or even a Democratic majority in Congress, the policy on Iraq would be not just to stay the course, but to do it “full speed ahead.”

It may not be popular with the public — it doesn't matter in the sense that we have to continue the mission and do what we think is right. And that's exactly what we're doing. We're not running for office. We're doing what we think is right.

How steadfast and unaccountable of you. And, speaking of unaccountable, should Cheney be called on account, called before a Democratic Congress to testify, well, he just won’t go. . . even if subpoenaed.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You’ve talked a lot about the consequences of the Democrats taking over congress in the last week. Nancy Pelosi said this: “we win, speaking of the democrat, we get subpoena power.” If you’re subpoenaed by the Democrats, would you go?

CHENEY: I have no idea that I’m going to be subpoenaed. Obviously, we’d sit down and look at it at the time. But probably not in the sense at that Vice President and President and constitutional officers don’t appear before the Congress.

Oh really?

As if you needed another reason to vote tomorrow—and to vote for Democrats—big swinging Dick just gave you two.

Change our course in Iraq. Hold those in the White House accountable. Show obnoxious chickenhawks like Cheney whose country this is. Vote Democratic on November 7th.

(Need more reasons? Really? Then have a look at Sunday’s New York Times.)

Saturday, November 04, 2006

when you pull stuff out of your ass, it’s probably going to be. . .

On Saturday’s broadcast of the NBC Nightly News with John Seigenthaler (sorry, no link, transcript not yet available), the anchor leads off a segment on Tuesday’s elections by quoting some abysmal poll numbers for Republicans—numbers that show two-thirds of Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction and that Americans favor Democrats over Republicans by something like a 19% margin (I do not know which poll he was referencing, so I am working from memory). Seigenthaler then introduces their elections “analyst,” MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, and asks, “Chris, could those numbers be wrong?”

(Yes, my jaw went slack right there, but wait. . . .)

Matthews chooses not to answer or really even acknowledge the question, and instead launches into this little pearl: If the Democrats regain control of Congress on Tuesday, Wednesday’s foreign headlines will read “Bush loses control of US Government,” and that will stoke the already rabidly anti-American world press and seriously hamper US diplomacy.

Seigenthaler left these assertions unchallenged, thanked Matthews, and moved on.

Given the state of establishment media insights this season, perhaps it would be best if we abandoned terms like “analyst” and “expert,” and replaced them with something like “cosmetics laden Republican sock-puppet who makes shit up.”

Friday, November 03, 2006

the company he keeps

Back in 2000, when President “elect” Bush was filling his cabinet with Republican retreads and cronies from daddy’s administration, I remarked, “Doesn’t this guy have any friends of his own?”

Jump ahead six years, and the wildly unpopular (not just socially, but politically) Georgie-boy has mostly been told to stay away by campaigning members of the president’s own party. But, undaunted, and ever the Party animal, Bush has hit the trail anyway, using taxpayer funded Air Force One for a whirlwind tour of campaign stops in places that were all solidly safe for Republicans two years ago, but now all qualify as dangerous to desperate for the GOP.

Who is in such sorry shape that they will risk a photo-op with Mr. 34%? Let’s take a look:

Last week, President Bush made appearances on behalf of Rep. Don Sherwood (PA-10), a man who is fighting allegations that he a) had a mistress, b) tried to strangle her, and c) paid her to keep quiet, in installments, with the largest part of the payoff due after November 7.

Bush also stumped for Sen. George Allen (VA), a man who has been photographed hanging out with Klansmen, has publicly used a racial slur during the campaign, has privately used the N-word all of his life, posted a confederate flag in his room, took offense at the public revelation that his mother was Jewish, allegedly cut off the head of a deer and stuffed it in the mailbox of an African American family, allegedly beat up his sister and abused his first wife, and had his campaign staffers rough up an independent journalist/blogger for asking an unfriendly question. (And those are just the highlights.)

Then, on Thursday, Bush flew up to Montana, where three-term Senator Conrad Burns is famous for being Jack Abramoff’s number one patsy. Burns took more money from Abramoff than any other legislator, and he and his staff ate free meals so often at Jack’s restaurant, one consultant remarked that without Abramhoff, Burns and his staff would starve.

Bush finished his day in Nevada, where long time Reno Representative Jim Gibbons is facing charges that he assaulted a cocktail waitress last month in a Las Vegas parking lot, and later threatened her if she didn’t keep quiet. Gibbons, who is married, admits downing “a couple” of drinks with the waitress and three other women (one of whom called the evening “flirty and dirty”), but insists the assault was nothing more than him helping her up after a fall. (911 tapes and security video are in the hands of the Sheriff, who is an open supporter of Gibbons.)

And those are just the friends Bush thought worthy of the trip (you know how he hates to travel). Then there are George’s phone buddies, like the Rev. Ted Haggard, head of the 14,000 strong New Life Church in Colorado Springs, and president of the National Association of Evangelicals, who has a regular weekly teleconference with President Bush. Haggard stepped down from his lofty posts Thursday after a former male prostitute went public with claims that he had a three-year tryst with the married father of five. The escort says he has tapes of voicemails and a letter from Haggard, and also says he saw the Reverend use crystal meth.

The prostitute says he only went public because he recently discovered that the man he knew as “Art” was actively campaigning for a Colorado ballot initiative that would ban gay marriage.

In 2006, these are George Bush’s homies.

And what about the old gang—daddy’s buddies? Bush announced this week that he will stay the course and keep vice-president in charge of torture Dick Chaney and secretary of quagmire Donald Rumsfeld around to make sure the remainder of his term goes just as swimmingly as the first six years. . .

. . . 'cause that’s what friends are for.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

put a sock in it

I don’t even want to dignify this “controversy” with a post, but since the radio and TV “news” won’t leave it alone (of course they won’t—John Kerry is a celebrity, the war in Iraq is an issue—why do we even bother to call them “news divisions” anymore?), let me just quote Keith Olbermann on this one:

[The White House is] either too stupid to realize John Kerry referred to President Bush and not the troops, or it‘s too sharp not to try to turn it into more false-flag waving.

The bumper sticker:


As for Senator Kerry—don’t quit your day job. No, seriously, dude. Senator from Massachusetts is looking great for you.

(Plus, I had to post something just to use that picture!)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

seven days from now, so much could be different

. . . if six days from now, you vote for a Democrat.