Thursday, January 31, 2008

George Packer: "Hillary Clinton will hedge her bets on Iraq"

(I was going to work this into a bigger piece on JRE and Iraq, but, well, events got ahead of me, so I’ll just report on this point that seems to have, like so many substantive points in this race, gone underreported.)

Appearing on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show last week, George Packer, New Yorker writer and author of The Assassins' Gate, got to comparing the (then) three major Democrats left in the race. He had these two things to say (transcribed from the audio):

If a Democratic primary voter is concerned with getting out of Iraq as quickly as possible, then there is only one clear choice, and that is John Edwards.

. . . .

If you want to get out of Iraq as quickly as possible and you are trying to choose between Obama and Clinton—there is no way to choose.

I should note that Packer was not explaining his take on Edwards as a way of promoting him—quite the contrary. Indeed, Packer (a semi-repentant advocate of the 2003 invasion) believes US troops should not leave, as best I can tell, any time soon.

Instead, the man who just completed a multi-thousand word piece on Hillary Clinton sought to pay an odd compliment to the New York Senator by saying this: “Hillary Clinton will hedge her bets on Iraq.”

After reading that New Yorker piece (which focuses on Clinton, but also devotes a good amount of space to her now one remaining rival), I get the sense that he expects Obama to also “wake up” to what Packer sees as the necessity of an extended military commitment. Apparently, as he explained on the radio, because the US has enlisted so many collaborators that our government will not now—to any meaningful extent—allow to immigrate here, Packer thinks that we need to stay and protect them there. (I’m all for aiding the people who have risked so much in service to the US, but I question how much we are helping anyone by maintaining our current posture.)

Alas, after listening to him on WNYC, and reading his New Yorker article “The Choice,” Packer has made the choice now thrust upon me very much harder.

As if it weren’t hard enough.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

(heart) breaking news

The AP is reporting:

Democrat John Edwards is exiting the presidential race Wednesday, ending a scrappy underdog bid in which he steered his rivals toward progressive ideals while grappling with family hardship that roused voters' sympathies but never diverted his campaign, The Associated Press has learned

The two-time White House candidate notified a close circle of senior advisers that he planned to make the announcement at a 1 p.m. EST event in New Orleans that had been billed as a speech on poverty, according to two of his advisers. The decision came after Edwards lost the four states to hold nominating contests so far to rivals who stole the spotlight from the beginning — Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

The former North Carolina senator will not immediately endorse either candidate in what is now a two-person race for the Democratic nomination, said one adviser, who spoke on a condition of anonymity in advance of the announcement.

(Update: The Washington Post has reported the same.)

Just once—once—I would like to have my first choice still in the race by the time the primaries made it to my state.

The fact that one of the most progressive Democrats, and, according to previous polls, the Dem with the best shot in the general election versus any of the Republican frontrunners, has to bow out before any of the large states have voted, before any of the major urban areas have weighed in (I am not counting MI and FL since they were not sanctioned primaries), and before any state with a diversified economy could be heard from says that this system is really, really broken.

I say that with my heart. . . and my head.

Update 2: From the Department of Zero Class

Hillary Clinton went on air in Seattle at just after 7am PST (10am EST) and spoke of how Edwards had called her to say that he was getting out of the race. Clinton then made a blatant play for Edwards voters. This was well before John Edwards’s scheduled 1pm EST event where he is to make an official announcement.

It’s another example of HRC’s ambition drowning out any sincere desire she might have to embrace any of JRE’s issues. What a political tin ear. Ick.

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please sir, can I have some more?

I suppose you want your FISA update, don’t you?

Well, Tuesday saw the House vote out a 15-day extension of the PAA before they go the hell out of Dodge. That leaves this again up to the Senate, specifically the Senate Republicans, who now have to do a small twist (rather than a full pivot) if they want to accept for a fortnight what they just yesterday swore they would not.

(And if you want some more, you'll have to click on over to capitoilette. . . .)

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

a FISA carol

Thanks to some enlightened members of the Senate and the hard work of grass- and netroots organizers all over the country (world?), the Republican-sanctioned move for cloture on the SSCI version of the new FISA legislation failed, and failed soundly. Only a handful of Democrats went over to the dark side. The importance of all the phoning and faxing done by us average American defenders of the Constitution should not be undersold—several Democrats seem to have crossed back over the abyss to rejoin the likes of Chris Dodd and Russ Feingold on the correct side of this issue. Everybody give themselves a hand.

After that cloture vote, Majority Leader Harry Reid then proposed a 30-day extension of the despicable Protect America Act, but Republicans, marching to the beat of a partisan White House drum, rebuffed a cloture vote on that “compromise.” They and the administration apparently would rather see this self-described important tool in the GWOT™ expire than give the Senate time to debate any amendments that might be seen as a (minor) Democratic victory.

So, what’s next? The House, which had already sent up a better FISA restoration last month (one that had no telecom immunity, among other small miracles), will likely vote Tuesday on its own 30-day extension. If that passes, the question will be to Bush/Cheney and the Senate Republicans: What’s more important, destroying the Fourth Amendment or scoring political points?

That is a question I dare not answer.

The Senate could also try to vote out a different FISA bill or short-term extension, but with the House only meeting this one day before the PAA sunsets, it is hard to figure how any Senate action could be turned into law before February.

Now let me rain on our parade a little bit. While the concerted efforts of all should be applauded, this is only a step, and a tiny one at that, toward surveillance sanity. There is still a good chance that when (and it is likely a “when” and not an “if”) a new FISA revision is allowed an up-or-down vote, it will contain many of the same indignities we rallied against on Monday. As Glenn Greenwald laments:

The only reason Democrats were able to hold their caucus together today to filibuster is because The Senators were offended that their inalienable Senatorial Right to vote on amendments was deprived by the GOP's premature Cloture Motion. The one (and only) "principle" that can really inspire many of these Senators to take a stand is the protection of their Senatorial prerogatives. Many of them don't actually have any beliefs other than that.

. . . .

Senate Democrats today took a stand for their procedural rights, not against telecom immunity or warrantless eavesdropping. After all, many of the Senate Democrats who voted to filibuster this bill were more than ready last week to vote for that bill, and they will vote for it again soon enough. Moreover, while they were upset that they were denied the right to vote on these amendments, many of them intend to vote against those very same amendments and will ensure that most, if not all of them, fail, so that the bill arrives at the White House in a form acceptable to the Leader.

I tend to share Greenwald’s pessimism, but I also like to remember the words of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come: These are only shadows of what could be—not of what will be.

What gives me the smallest amount of hope is that we only have to stop legislation—we don’t have to pass anything. Should the PAA expire, we simply revert to the 1978 FISA law—one that was already plenty permissive enough to allow for all the kinds of surveillance that the White House likes to pretend they need a new law to initiate. The original version just requires the smallest amount of oversight and records keeping—and that would stand in the way of what this group really wants to do with these sweeping spy powers.

Someday, I would actually like to see more oversight than that provided for in the 30-year-old law, but for now, I am content to stand by the original FISA act. We have been able to beat back attempts to codify a very bad set of new “GINOs” (guidelines in name only) twice this session, so there is always the chance that we can do it again.


Write: If you contacted your Senators yesterday and you liked the results, let them know. Thank them, and remind them that you will continue to watch progress on this matter, and that you expect them to continue to stand against telecom immunity and for our Fourth Amendment rights.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

let’s talk about sex. . . and FISA

If you tuned in last Thursday, then you might know that there is a crucial cloture vote on the revisions to FISA as reported out of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence scheduled today for 4:30 PM. As you probably have read by now, the SSCI version of the bill is bad news on may levels, the most obvious of which is the proposed amnesty for telecommunications companies that cooperated with the Bush Administration in breaking the original FISA law and violating the Fourth Amendment.

Republicans have moved for cloture to cut off amendments to this bill and to preclude a vote on a one-month extension of the (frankly terrible) Protect America Act, due to expire on February 4th. It is crucial to the legislative process and to our civil liberties that at least 41 Senators vote against cloture.

Now you think that would be easy, given that the Democrats theoretically control 51 seats, that this version of the bill gives Dick Cheney and his henchmen retroactive cover for past wrongs, and everything they want to exploit their power in the future. Alas, securing these 41 votes will actually require effort.

You can play your part. Call your senators. Fax your senators. Write your favorite presidential candidate—tell them all that this is important to you. (Information on how to do all of this can be found here.)

Senators Clinton and Obama are in Washington for the State of the Union speech, and have both said that they will be present to vote “no” on cloture. But, they could do more, as Ari Melber points out, each have several colleagues that have endorsed their candidacies, but who, at present, have not committed to a vote against cloture. It is crucial for any senator auditioning to be president to show some leadership skills on this issue. Both Clinton and Obama need to expend some political capital to make sure that the Senate does not vote out a bad FISA bill.

(For the record, as I noted on Thursday, former Senator John Edwards weighed in against telecom immunity and this version of the bill last week. I should also note that Republican Senator and presidential candidate John “Asshole” McCain is skipping both this vote and the SOTU.)

Now, perhaps you think this is all academic. “What’s the big deal?” you say. “I lead a clean life; this won’t affect me.” Well, think again.

Finally, if you still want to talk about sex. . . and race. . . then click through to my post on capitoilette.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

gray lady endorses gray lady

Thursday, January 24, 2008

woke up it was a FISA morning

This morning, at approximately 9:30, Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd continues his fight to prevent George Bush, Dick Cheney, rubberstamp Republican senators, and a troubling number of Democratic Senators from taking another bite out of the Constitution. In other words, he is fighting to stop the horrible SSCI version of the FISA revision that includes retroactive immunity for the telecommunications industry.

Because of jaw-droppingly bad “leadership” by Majority Leader Harry Reid, Dodd is forced to threaten filibuster against his own party. Dodd has shown real leadership on this issue, taking time away from his presidential campaign in Iowa, the last time this bill hit the Senate floor.

This time around, Dodd is out of the presidential race, but two other sitting senators are still claiming they have what it takes to lead us out of our Bush/Cheney-authored hell. Yes, I am talking about you, Barack. . . and you, Hillary.

You don’t need a vision for change, and you don’t need experience, you just need to be in Washington, DC, on the floor of the Senate, doing the job that voters elected you to do.

Why? Well, how about because a clear majority of Americans are opposed to telecom immunity and two-thirds believe that the government should have to get a warrant before it taps into the communications of its citizens (even if those Americans are calling overseas).

Or, how about because absolutely anything that Dick Cheney is for is something that you should be against. And Vice President Cankles has a hard-on (well, whatever passes for hard-on in his sclerotic world) for telecom immunity.

Or, how about because US code already provides cover for companies that can demonstrate that they acted in good faith, so telecom immunity is really Bush/Cheney immunity—pure and simple.

Or, how about because the only good faith that the telcos ever show is their good faith in the almighty dollar—if they’re so hell-bent on doing their patriotic duty, then how come they are disconnecting the wiretaps because the government hasn’t paid their bills?

Or, how about because your hard-charging competition for the Democratic nomination has dared you to step up and show America that you would really fight for our interests when Bush comes to shove.

John Edwards:

“In Washington today, telecom lobbyists have launched a full-court press to win retroactive immunity for their illegal eavesdropping on American citizens. Granting retroactive immunity will let corporate law-breakers off the hook and hamstring efforts to learn the truth about Bush's illegal spying program.

"It's time for Senate Democrats to show a little backbone and stand up to George W. Bush and the corporate lobbyists. They should do everything in their power -- including joining Senator Dodd's efforts to filibuster this legislation -- to stop retroactive immunity. The Constitution should not be for sale at any price."

Or, how about because it is just plain and simple the right thing to do—and if you can’t see that on an issue as clear as this one, then how am I supposed to trust your judgment down the line?

(Obama and Clinton have made “statements” opposing telecom immunity in response to inquiries made by Markos for his Wednesday post on The Hill, but BHO and HRC are both sitting senators, so it’s time they put their butts where their mouths are. . . or something like that.)

In December, both Barack and Hillary pledged to support Chris Dodd’s filibuster, but neither of them left their presidential campaigns to return to DC and actually do so. Today is their chance at a do-over. As Jason has noted, Obama, Clinton, and twelve other senators pledged their support for Dodd’s filibuster in December—why not give them a call to se where they stand (and where they are literally standing) today.

Fax / Phone

Feingold (202) 224-2725 / (202) 224-5323
Dodd (202) 224-1083 / (202) 224-2823
Obama (202) 228-4260 / (202) 224-2854
Sanders (202) 228-0776 / (202) 224-5141
Menendez (202) 228-2197 / (202) 224-4744
Biden (202) 224-0139 / (202) 224-5042
Brown (202) 228-6321 / (202) 224-2315
Harkin (202) 224-9369 / (202) 224-3254
Cardin (202) 224-1651 / (202) 224-4524
Clinton (202) 228-0282 / (202) 224-4451
Akaka (202) 224-2126 / (202) 224-6361
Webb (202) 228-6363 / (202) 224-4024
Kennedy (202) 224-2417 / (202) 224-4543
Boxer (415) 956-6701 / (202) 224-3553

(cross-posted on capitoilette, The Seminal, and Daily Kos)

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

John Edwards helps me blog for choice

Blog for Choice Day
Tuesday was the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and the folks at NARAL Pro-Choice America wanted all of us bloggers to say a little something about why it’s important that we vote pro-choice. I was out all day, so I thought I’d turn the keyboard over to Senator John Edwards:

Roe v. Wade was an important step on the road to full equality, opportunity and dignity for women. On the 35th anniversary, it is important to reflect how far we've come as a nation, but more importantly how far we still have to go.

I strongly support a woman's right to privacy and reproductive choices. That right has been under attack though -- by President Bush and his anti-choice agenda and by the Supreme Court, which has been moving the right-wing's agenda faster than we've seen in decades. The hard right turn of the Supreme Court is a stark reminder of why Democrats cannot afford to lose the 2008 election. Too much is at stake - starting with a woman's right to choose.

As President, I will guarantee the right to choose and ensure that women can make choices in their lives with dignity and can participate in our society fully, as equals.

Thanks, John!

I plan to vote for a presidential candidate that I can trust to appoint staunchly pro-choice judges to every level of the federal bench. I also plan to vote for the presidential candidate that I can trust to appoint advocates for reproductive rights, privacy rights, and intelligent, scientifically sound sexual health education to all of the federal agencies concerned. And, very importantly, I am voting for the presidential candidate that offers the best plan to achieve truly universal health coverage—because access to good medical and gynecological care is also very important to a country that aspires to respect women and respect choice.

I am taking all of that into account on primary day (February 5th for me), and that is why I plan to vote for a presidential candidate named John Edwards.

(Check out many other bloggers great reasons to vote pro-choice over at Bush v. Choice.)

(cross-posted to Daily Kos)

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I support John Edwards—
and I’m not wearing pants!

David Letterman’s production company, Worldwide Pants, has cut their own deal with the WGA—which means that you can watch his show without feeling like a scab. It also means that candidates who understand how important unions are to America’s working men and women, and to our economy and our culture as a whole, can appear on The Late Show with a clear conscience.

John Edwards knows the significant role that unions have had in providing workplace protection and economic leadership. He has called organized labor “the most important anti-poverty movement in American history,” and has made strengthening the labor movement an important part of his campaign to end poverty and reinvigorate the economy. As is spelled out in his Plan to Build One America:

Unions made manufacturing jobs the foundation of our middle class, and they can do the same for our service economy. That's why Edwards has helped more than 20 national unions organize thousands of workers over the last few years. Union membership can be the difference between a poverty-wage job and middle-class security. Federal law promises workers the right to choose a union, but the law is poorly enforced, full of loopholes, and routinely violated by employers. Edwards supports the Employee Free Choice Act to give workers a real choice in whether to form a union, and making penalties for breaking labor laws tougher and faster, so unions can compete on a level playing field and the right to join a union means something. Edwards also supports banning the permanent replacement of strikers so unions can negotiate fairly.

So, it makes perfect sense that while Republican presidential contenders have been crossing WGA picket lines to appear on Leno, John Edwards will do his national late night star turn on The Late Show with David Letterman.

Edwards will attempt to run the establishment news media blockade and deliver his message directly to some 5 million viewers—and you can help.

Though most tickets for the Tuesday taping were distributed many months ago, the scene outside before ticket holders are seated often garners more attention than the studio audience. If Edwards supporters show up at the Ed Sullivan Theater to loudly and proudly greet the Senator when he arrives, tape of the scene has a good shot at making the local CBS news in a media market that reaches three Super Tuesday states. If the supporters outside are boisterous enough, some of the goings on might even make it on to the Letterman show—it has happened before.

So, New York Metro Area Edwards supporters, it’s time to take action!

Pry yourself away from your computer.

Put on your coat and hat—and your John Edwards ’08 buttons.

Come out and meet your fellow JRE supporters.

Come out and show JRE how much you support him.

Come out and show 5 million Americans you care about our country more than you care about squabbling celebrities. . . and show 5 million Americans John Edwards cares more about our country than those squabbling celebrities do, too.

What: John Edwards on The Late Show with David Letterman
Where: The Ed Sullivan Theater, Broadway at 53rd Street, NYC
When: 4 PM (one hour BEFORE the taping)

Show Corporate America and greedy media producers who wears the pants!

Stand up for John Edwards, and he will stand up for you.

(cross-posted to capitoilette, The Seminal, and Daily Kos

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Dr. King has some things to say about the 2008 campaign

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sat with the local newspaper in a Birmingham jail nearly 45 years ago, he began feverishly scribbling in the margins. King had just finished reading a letter penned by eight white Alabama clergymen that, while granting that there might be inequality in society, insisted that redress for such inequity “should be pressed in the courts and in negotiations with local leaders, and not in the streets.” In other words, they wanted Dr. King and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference to pull out of Birmingham and stop making so much noise about the injustice so that the entrenched powerbrokers could continue to negotiate in bad faith, while in reality doing nothing more than perpetuating the status quo.

What King wrote in the margins of that paper eventually grew into “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” In it, the Reverend said a great many things still of relevance today, but I will pull just a few lines that jumped out at me this morning:

I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes.

. . . .

You may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling, for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation.

. . . .

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

. . . .

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

. . . .

[W]e who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with an its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

Need I say more?

(cross-posted on The Seminal and Daily Kos)

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Friday, January 18, 2008

give today—so that everyone gets heard tomorrow

I can’t go into the weekend without taking a moment to contrast the candidate interviews aired on Thursday’s All Things Considered with the interview of John Edwards that aired on Wednesday (which I wrote about yesterday).

First up on Thursday was Barack Obama, who got to start his interview by answering a series of questions on the economy. After that, he was asked to detail his “vision” for the presidency, and that was followed-up with a chance to restate his relatively straight and well received answer to the stupid (and substance-free) “name your biggest weakness” question from Tuesday’s Nevada debate.

The second hour included the John McCain chapter of this series, which sounded more like an audio mash note than an interview. Michele Norris referred to the Asshole from Arizona as “very honest, very straight” and called his “straight talk” “courageous.” Norris also asked about how McCain could withstand all those “scurrilous rumors” (without saying what any of those rumors might be), why “people think they can do this” to McCain—and only McCain—and then ventured that after you “got through something like that. . . I imagine you emerge stronger.”

Puh-lease. Get a room.

It is hard for me to imagine that an NPR editor, confronted with the Edwards, Obama, and McCain interviews played side by side could even begin to call their coverage fair or equitable.

But that was yesterday—this is today. Today everyone who is confused, upset, or disgusted by the treatment John Edwards has received from the establishment media has a chance to start toward setting things right. Whether you are a dyed in the wool Edwards supporter or someone who is in favor of letting the voters rather than the media moguls and moneyed interests decide the election for you—or both—today is your chance to make some noise, for today we go for the gold. Seven million dollars worth of it.

And tomorrow, Saturday:

Those of you in Nevada, please get out and caucus!

Those of you in the New York area, please come out and rally!

Rally for the Middle Class
Saturday, January 19th, 11:00 am - 2:00 pm
Union Square, NYC (northwest corner of the park, B'way & 17th St.)
Wear your Edwards buttons, hats, stickers, etc.
Bring signs & banners (homemade ones are great!).
Also, bring your mobile phone & charger!

After the rally, there will be an opportunity to make calls to the voters of South Carolina and tell them why you believe John Edwards is a great choice for president.

Every voice counts. Every vote counts. Make this and every day count—from now till November!

(cross-posted on capitoilette, The Seminal, and Daily Kos.)

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Michele Norris wastes some of John Edwards’s time. . . and ours

As has now been acknowledged by practically everyone, John Edwards don’t get no respect. . . at least not when it comes to the establishment media. Not only is equal time for JRE pretty much an alien idea for media outlets, when Edwards does get airtime or column inches, reporters practically bend over backwards to avoid talking about his platform or proposals. To say that these reporters are too focused on covering the horserace is really an insult to sports reporting.

I have written in the past about the pettiness and whining that the New York Times tries to pawn off as equitable coverage; today, let’s examine what NPR calls campaign coverage.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Trump kills. . . with an assist from the city

As many have probably heard by now, an accident Monday at the Trump SoHo construction site killed one man—a married father from the Ukraine who fell some 42 stories—and injured several others. Though I live only about three minutes from the scene, I can add little to the facts reported by Jen Chung at Gothamist and Sewell Chan at the NYT’s CityRoom. Both stories are also illustrated with evocative and disturbing photos.

And I think that Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation pretty much sums up my feelings about the accident (though he is probably more polite than I would have been):

First and foremost, our thoughts are with the victims of this tragedy and their families and loved ones. But this is a tragedy that never should have happened. This building was illegal and never should have been approved by the City. But the City bent over backwards to push it through, and then the developers worked at lightning speed to get the building up while the legal challenge has been making its way through the system. This building was already a monument to greed and hubris; now, sadly, it will be a monument to tragedy as well.

What Berman alludes to and the news stories gloss over is that the developers of this massive tower (at 45 stories, it will be the tallest building between the financial district and midtown) created the sham designation of a “Condo Hotel” to get around the area’s zoning—which would have prohibited a residential building anywhere near this size. But at every juncture, the city, its institutions, and its leadership looked the other way, or, in many cases, helped push through this shameful project.

Further—while it should never have been approved, the project certainly should have been stopped once excavation began. It turns out, Trump and his backers, Bayrock and Sapir, are building on a burial ground.

Until the early 1960’s, a large portion of this site was home to a Presbyterian Church and its graveyard—one of the very first racially integrated graveyards in the country. When bones were unearthed early in the construction, the project should have been shut down, and the site should have been excavated by archeologists and preserved as a sacred and historical site.

But little is sacred in Michael Bloomberg’s New York. Little except, of course, the almighty dollar. The unprecedented and largely unchecked construction boom of this century has been welcomed and shepherded by Bloomberg under the oft-repeated excuse that he means to “revitalize” the city.

I, for one, think that NYC is pretty effin’ vital, and would be a lot more so if not for the rampant mall-ing initiated by former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and perpetuated by the current mayor.

Indeed, it is Bloomberg and his appointees at the Department of Buildings and the Board of Standards and Appeals (among others) that have bent over for mega-developers like Trump, unleashing shoddy, ugly, illegal, unnecessary, and un-contextual developments on some of the city’s most treasured neighborhoods.

And things don’t look like they are going to get better anytime soon.

Christine Quinn, who is the Speaker of the New York City Council and the councilmember representing the district that includes Trump’s murderous building, has been basically AWOL on this issue. Though the community has appealed repeatedly to Quinn’s office for help in defending the quality of the neighborhood and integrity of our laws, the Speaker has stonewalled, foot-dragged, and triangulated her way through the confrontation—selling out her constituency so as not to offend real estate interests that will no doubt play a large part in financing Quinn’s all-but-declared run for mayor when Bloomberg moves on.

Take a look at Quinn’s statement on Monday’s tragedy:

I want to express my deepest condolences to the family of the worker who was killed in today’s accident at the Trump Soho construction site, and my thoughts and prayers remain with the two others who remain injured at St. Vincent’s Hospital. I continue to monitor the situation closely, and we will remain in close contact with the Office of Emergency Management, the Department of Buildings, and all other relevant agencies as we work to determine the cause of this terrible accident, and to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

Do you see even an ounce of leadership in that statement? It is an army of words in search of a purpose. It is fence-sitting claptrap that might even make our junior senator blush.

Contrast Quinn’s statement, if you will, with that of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer:

The accident at the new hotel at 246 Spring Street is another example of the dangerous conditions created by rushed construction in Manhattan. My office did an initial investigation of violations at the site and discovered that there were two Class A violations issued on Oct. 26, 2007. These violations are considered high risk. However, the construction was allowed to continue unchecked and the Environmental Control Board hearing to review the violations was not scheduled until Jan. 24, 2008.

This is unacceptable. The death and injury of construction workers and the compromised safety of emergency responders and surrounding community should not be considered the cost of doing business in Manhattan. Any type of high risk violation should necessitate a halt of unsafe work until the violation is cured. I will continue to investigate this matter and look to see rapid response from all relevant city agencies. I applaud the fire, police and other emergency responders for their bravery and for putting themselves at risk to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers.

The Times reports that the Trump project has actually accrued 11 construction-related citations since construction began last May. And yet, in every case, construction was allowed to continue. After all, there are a couple of very viable lawsuits against this project (that have themselves been repeatedly stalled by the city) awaiting their day in court, and Mayor Mike, his commissioners, and his wannabe successor can’t have the law getting in the way of another monument to their greed and hubris.

(cross-posted on capitoilette)

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Monday, January 14, 2008

numbers you won’t see in the Times

The latest New York Times/CBS News nationwide poll on the presidential races, national issues, and Bush’s favorability was released today, and while the Times’ main article about the poll trumpets some rather predictable narratives, there are many—many—other stories buried in the numbers that were apparently not deemed interesting enough for “casual” readers. . . . More on those numbers over at capitoilette.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

do not adjust your set

This post is indeed in orange in recognition of the sixth anniversary of the day men and boys were first shipped off to the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Since then, over 700 prisoners have been detained, abused, and deprived of some of our most deeply held and basic rights. In six years, not a single “terrorist” held at Guantanamo has been convicted, in fact, not a single trial—if you can call the star chamber process established by the Bush administration a “trial”—not a single trial has been completed. Hundreds are still being held—with no recourse, no habeas rights, and no way to disprove any of the charges against them. In fact, many are not even told what those charges are. In the words of the ACLU’s Caroline Fredrickson, “After six years of holding these individuals without charge, Guantanamo Bay can be viewed as nothing short of an American dungeon.”

Legislation has been introduced in Congress that would close the detention facility and restore due process rights to those being held at Guantanamo. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced S. 1469, the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility Closure Act of 2007. The bill requires the president to close the facility within 120 days of enactment - during which time detainees would be charged and sent to either the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Ft. Leavenworth, KS, or transferred to another country that will not torture or abuse them.

"Senator Harkin worked diligently to craft legislation that properly shuts down Guantanamo Bay and ends the indefinite detention of those being held. This is a major step in restoring the American image as a beacon of freedom in the world," said Christopher Anders, legislative counsel for the ACLU. "Senators Clinton, McCain and Obama have all spoken forcefully about shutting down the detention facility during their presidential campaigns but none have yet signed on to Senator Harkin’s legislation. Talk on the campaign trail comes easy, but signing on to the legislation would be a real commitment to shutting Guantanamo Bay."

Please use this unfortunate anniversary as an opportunity to call your senators and ask them to support Senator Harkin’s bill, S.1469. The Capitol Switchboard number is (202) 224-3121, or you can find more information about contacting your senators at

Thank you.

(Please check out something completely different—still orange, but completely different—on capitoilette.)

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

what’s a guy got to do to get a #%&*$! cubano these days?

It’s spring in January, and the warm weather puts a man in mind of some pork. Unfortunately, this city is pretty much determined to prevent me from having it. In the last year, we lost Havana Chelsea, which was good, but—not to argue with its old sign or anything—not home of “the best Cuban sandwiches.” That prize, in my estimation, went to Brisas del Caribe. . . which [sigh] closed about one year ago.

And now we have lost the dearly beloved Sucelt.

This leaves La Taza de Oro in Chelsea and. . . well, I pretty much don’t know what. Not in lower Manhattan, anyway. (I’m talking about a good roast pork sandwich—I can list several bad ones.)

The search for information on the Sucelt lead me to what is possibly the most depressing blog in New York. . . not that I didn’t spend hours relishing it, mind you. This guy gets a full hats off, not just a mere hat tip.

The closings of venerated and distinctive little places like the Latin diners, or old bars, butchers, and repair shops—the places that make New York a city of neighborhoods—to make way for drug chains, commercial banks, and big box stores have been accelerating at an alarming rate in recent years. I think that it pre-dates 9/11, and can really be traced to the suburban aesthetic and thinly veiled racism of the Giuliani administration. Mayor Mike Bloomberg has done nothing to reverse the trend—likely because the Boston-born billionaire has a similar white bread worldview.

Though there are plenty of other reasons to never want to see either of these megalomaniacs become president, this is really enough. Any man that keeps me from my pork could never get my vote.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

pop quiz

Which presidential candidate said the following last night?

. . . politics isn't a game. This campaign is about people. It's about making a difference in your lives. It’s about making sure that everyone in this country has the opportunity to live up to his or her God-given potential. That has been the work of my life.

We are facing a moment of so many big challenges. We know we face challenges here at home, around the world, so many challenges for the people whose lives I've been privileged to be part of. I've met families in this state and all over our country who have lost their homes to foreclosures. Men and women who work day and night but can't pay the bills and hope they don't get sick because they can't afford health insurance. Young people who can't afford to go to college to pursue their dreams.

Too many have been invisible for too long. Well, you are not invisible to me.

The oil companies, the drug companies, the health insurance companies, the predatory student loan companies have had seven years of a president who stands up for them. It's time we had a president who stands up for all of you.

I intend to be that president, to be a president who puts you first - your lives, your families, your children, your future. I believe deeply in America, in our can-do spirit, in our ability to meet any challenge and solve any problem. I believe in what we can do together. In the future, we will build together. There will be no more invisible Americans.

(The answer can be found over on capitoilette.)


Friday, January 04, 2008

Iowa caucus random wrap-up

For people who appreciate the finer points, here are a couple of additional decimal places:

Obama: 37.58%
Edwards: 29.75%
Clinton: 29.47%
Richardson: 2.11%
Biden: .93%
Uncommitted: .14%
Dodd: 0.02

That rounds out to Obama 38%, Edwards 30%, and Clinton 29%. Or, if you care about the delegate count (which you should, even though the establishment media won’t), Obama 16, Edwards 15, and Clinton 14. . . I think (it’s complicated).

Dodd and Biden have withdrawn from the race; Richardson vows to fight on.

I’ll admit that I am not filled with unbridled joy by the “Obama wins” headlines, but I can’t help but feel great about the overwhelming turnout of Democratic voters—212,000, up from 125,000 four years ago. And 22% of those caucus goers were under 30, which outperforms their demographic representation by a few percentage points, and establishment expectations by leaps and bounds. Congratulations all around—now y’all better show up for the November general!

More numbers: All three of the top Democrats garnered more votes than Republican winner Mike Huckabee.

Of course, how does the New York Times cover the events of Thursday night? The headlines evolve as the morning wears on, but they continue to echo the same theme: “Obama takes Iowa. . . Clinton falters.” Times writers have apparently been freed from their roughly one-week-long requirement to cover the “strident populism” of John Edwards.

Indeed, most of what I have read and heard this morning seem, dare I say, pathetically over-eager to relieve the reporters and their outlets of the “burden” of having to cover a three-way race. After all, there are only two fighters in a boxing ring or two teams in a professional sporting match; three is just so complicated!

Indeed, it might come as a shock to the establishment media, but this is the beginning and not the end of the primary election cycle, so today’s assessments are more post-partum than post-mortem. Still, I like what Ezra Klein has to say:

The talking heads on MSNBC just spent a few minutes puzzling over John Edwards' concession speech. "It had no concession," they fretted. It didn't talk at all about the horserace, or the vote totals. Instead, Edwards spoke of the downtrodden, the uninsured, the insecure, the exploited, the oppressed, the wronged, the scared, the hungry, the homeless, and the poor. It was a fitting speech. It was not about the candidate or the race, but about the ideas, and the individuals they are supposed to help. In that way, it was Edwards' candidacy distilled to its core: A search for justice, a cry for equality, a demand for empowerment.

Barack Obama won tonight, but, in a sense, John Edwards' campaign also triumphed. The progressivism of the race, the focus on ideas, the courage of the Democrats -- all were products of his early example. He began the campaign by talking about poverty, announced his candidacy in the mud of New Orleans, set the agenda with the first universal health care bill, and closed Iowa speaking of the uninsured. This is Barack Obama's victory, and it's richly deserved. But Edwards, running as a full-throated populist, set the agenda and finished second, ahead of the Clinton juggernaut. He said his role was to speak for the voiceless. He now barrels towards New Hampshire with ever more volume. And while his shot at the nomination is long at best, his candidacy, even if it fails, will have been far more successful than most.

Time Magazine also sees some life left in the Edwards campaign.

BBC Radio is leading with two stories this morning: The Iowa Caucuses and Britney Spears. (I kid you not.)

Oh, and, lookie here, NPR’s Morning Edition uses Chris Lehane as their Democratic analyst opposite Republican Mike Murphy—without disclosing that Lehane is an advisor to Hillary Clinton’s campaign (and, if you have any doubt about his affinities, just listen to him spin).

As for personal spin: I was correct in predicting Clinton’s third place finish, and was also right on the money with McCain’s 13%. If I had anything else to trumpet, you know I’d be trumpeting—read that as you must.

More on Mr. 13%: It looks like Senator John “asshole” McCain has earned himself a revised nickname: The Hundred Years’ Asshole.

And, finally, I watched all of the speeches, victory and otherwise, on CSPAN, and was amused by what various candidates chose as their walk-off music. For instance, Edwards went with Bruce Springsteen ("The Rising"), and Obama went with Stevie Wonder ("Signed, Sealed, Delivered"), but was that John Philip Sousa’s "Liberty Bell March" that I heard as Mike Huckabee stepped from the stage? You say you’re not familiar with the "Liberty Bell March?" I bet you are.

(cross-posted on The Seminal)

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

not quite an endorsement. . . but damn close

That doesn’t mean me—I quite clearly endorse John Edwards, and I encourage each and every one of you to vote for Edwards if you get the chance—I am, in this case referring to Michael Moore, who has interviewed Barack Obama and John Edwards one-on-one (he wanted to interview Hillary Clinton, but she refused), and has posted a lengthy glimpse into his thoughts on the race. We pick it up about half-way through:

And then there's John Edwards.

It's hard to get past the hair, isn't it? But once you do -- and recently I have chosen to try -- you find a man who is out to take on the wealthy and powerful who have made life so miserable for so many. A candidate who says things like this: "I absolutely believe to my soul that this corporate greed and corporate power has an ironclad hold on our democracy." Whoa. We haven't heard anyone talk like that in a while, at least not anyone who is near the top of the polls. I suspect this is why Edwards is doing so well in Iowa, even though he has nowhere near the stash of cash the other two have. He won't take the big checks from the corporate PACs, and he is alone among the top three candidates in agreeing to limit his spending and be publicly funded. He has said, point-blank, that he's going after the drug companies and the oil companies and anyone else who is messing with the American worker. The media clearly find him to be a threat, probably because he will go after their monopolistic power, too. This is Roosevelt/Truman kind of talk. That's why it's resonating with people in Iowa, even though he doesn't get the attention Obama and Hillary get -- and that lack of coverage may cost him the first place spot tomorrow night. After all, he is one of those white guys who's been running things for far too long.

And he voted for the war. But unlike Senator Clinton, he has stated quite forcefully that he was wrong. And he has remorse. Should he be forgiven? Did he learn his lesson? Like Hillary and Obama, he refused to promise in a September debate that there will be no U.S. troops in Iraq by the end of his first term in 2013. But this week in Iowa, he changed his mind. He went further than Clinton and Obama and said he'd have all the troops home in less than a year.

Edwards is the only one of the three front-runners who has a universal health care plan that will lead to the single-payer kind all other civilized countries have. His plan doesn't go as fast as I would like, but he is the only one who has correctly pointed out that the health insurance companies are the enemy and should not have a seat at the table.

I am not endorsing anyone at this point. This is simply how I feel in the first week of the process to replace George W. Bush. For months I've been wanting to ask the question, "Where are you, Al Gore?" You can only polish that Oscar for so long. And the Nobel was decided by Scandinavians! I don't blame you for not wanting to enter the viper pit again after you already won. But getting us to change out our incandescent light bulbs for some irritating fluorescent ones isn't going to save the world. All it's going to do is make us more agitated and jumpy and feeling like once we get home we haven't really left the office.

On second thought, would you even be willing to utter the words, "I absolutely believe to my soul that this corporate greed and corporate power has an ironclad hold on our democracy?" 'Cause the candidate who understands that, and who sees it as the root of all evil -- including the root of global warming -- is the President who may lead us to a place of sanity, justice and peace.


Michael Moore (not an Iowa voter, but appreciative of any state that has a town named after a sofa)

Throw in the Nader endorsement of Edwards and Obama’s choice to slam Al Gore, and JRE has pretty much got the left flank of this battle wrapped up, right? OK, not quite—but what does your gut tell you?

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