he is so sad!!! from daniel.gene's flickr
Mayor Mike accidentally said something really interesting on the phenomena of CEOs taking on $1 paydays during the economic crisis. The “You get what you pay for” sentiment rings true in ways he might not intend – it shows that the recession and the bailout were never just about CEO pay or corporate largesse- it’s also about democracy, and who controls the fate of our collective economic future.
Bloomberg points out that for these folks, cutting your salary is a desperate bid to stay in the driver’s seat after having your leadership totally discredited. It’s the last ditch against losing power, taking a pennance and hoping people move on. (even though you’ll keep your stock, and all that other stuff you bought with your life of excess) The real issue, then, is about who controls the companies that control our economy, who doles out the capital that makes the machine run. The inability to make any real demands on the people at the helm in the nation’s failing banks shows that our economy works on everything besides a meritocracy or democracy, and that it needs serious, systemic reevaluation.
The NYPD famously used the “broken windows” theory of crime control to crack down on ‘quality of life’ crimes in the early 90s, as the inroad for ‘cleaning up our city’ and paving the way for expanded elite control of New York City via rising rents, Business Improvement Districts and open hostility with undesireable elements of street life like vendors or the homeless.
The Wonkster reported on an interesting study on the theory that showed ‘quality of life’ crimes encouraging other quality of life crimes, but very rarely more serious crimes. The report demonstrates that the political popularity of the theory neccesarily derives from its protection of property owners who contribute significant sums to political campaigns and organizations like BIDs, rather than its relevancy as a serious crime-fighting technique. Additionally, the Wonkster points out that just because broken windows lead to more broken windows, this does not support the conclusion that police need to ‘crack down’ on property crime – less incarceration reliant responses might be more sensible and cost less in terms of people’s lives. Waging war on the folks that live on the street should not be the cost of a clean city.
worship. from somewhat frank's flickr
It was bound to happen. If you think or write about new media long enough, you’re bound to run into Jeff Jarvis, and his blog, BuzzMachine – particularly with all that ‘buzz’ he’s been getting lately.
The difficulty I have with Jarvis’ approach to media has nothing to do with the eroding foundations of the venerated journalistic tradition, but rather his approach to the look and feel of a new newsmedia world.
My main objection to Jarvis’ approach to media is that he collaborates with the owners of corporate media outlets to help them cut their workers’ jobs. Look, this is a guy that deifies the corporate giant Google (his next book is called What Would Google Do?), and that pretty much sets the tone for how he approaches changes in media production. The transition from broadcast centralized media to a link economy does offer incredible opportunities for the development of new knowledge economies, but organizing the transition within the corporate system just lets the folks that ran old media to continue profiting and puts lots of smart folks out of a job. (Google isn’t exactly this, but it does wield an immense amount of power, and I find it irresponsible to commit yourself blindly to its authority)
Treating the workers in a new media economy ethically is the first step to making sure that the new economy supports a more ethical world broadly, and I think any discussion of the creation of new media should consider the role of labor creating content, as well as the content itself. Jarvis seems primarily concerned with the owners and content, and that troubles me.
I’m not particularly happy with the idea of Brennan as the head of the CIA – but then again, I’m not particularly OK with the CIA in the first place. Anyways, there’s also a problem with the idiotic rhetoric of ‘opening a debate‘ about the use of torture. I definiately don’t take issue with debates – I’m pleased with the defeat of a challenge to NYU’s Coke ban in a debate, to cite the most recent example – but I’m fairly sure that any ‘national debate’ about torture will look nothing like a productive discussion about torture, or state violence. The terms of the debate will be left up entirely to people like Brennan – not only will he choose what people talk about, but also the forum in which they do it, and the terms in which it is described. The cacaphony of a truely national debate will be reduced to the talking points of a hoarde of ‘national security experts’ and other apologists for the exercise of US military power.
Here’s the point: I don’t think debate is a problem, but in the narrow, imagistic environment that constitutes public discourse, the idea of a ‘debate’ all too often only serves as a fig-leaf to media campaigns meant to justify some pretty fucked up stuff, and I’m not buying it.
staying around. from carbonnyc's flickr
Highly recommend Wayne Barrett’s Village Voice feature on Bloomberg and his third term – you get a sense of the collusive egomania required for someone like Bloomberg to run again. Barrett sees the move as a pure act of self-obsession, an argument I try to avoid for its narrowness, but it’s pretty persuasive in this case. Bloomberg co-ordinates his business interests, city office and charity donations into an independent economic force all of his own, turning them into a vast machine that serves himself and enough other rich and powerful folk to keep himself in power indefinately.
Stunts like unilaterally withholding property tax rebate checks (which, he, um, can’t do legally) are the real legacy of the Bloomberg Mayoral reign. He has vastly centralized power into the executive of city government, and sidelined the power of the City Council by leveraging his personal wealth and business connections.
Against this background of intimidation by Bloomberg’s money and clout with fellow billionaires, no viable candidate has fully stepped into the ring to challenge him. Any serious challenge would work wonders to undermine the rising hegemony Bloomberg exercises over the city, injecting dissent into the developing consensus that Bloomberg offers the last hope to our city.
from operators are standing by's flickr
I fully support it. Look, we have a whole transportation infastructure built up around the idea of moving people in cars, as fast as possible, in as large of numbers as possible. And if people riding bike break those rules, so be it. Streetsblog got it right when they said that cyclists need more safety protections – protections at the core of transportation infastructure, not just in helmet laws. Helmets are important (I wear one), but they only protect you against minor, single person crashes, and not the catastrophic collisions that occur between cyclists and cars.
Considering the state of the world environmentally, every single policy decision – be it in infastructure, or law enforcement – needs to be directed at the cause of averting total climate crisis. Cars, and the organization of transprotation in the city, crate a much more fundamental threat to wellbeing than rule-breaking cyclists ever could.
from Random Factor's flickr
Both major parties showed some serious lack of fortitude in their failure to reprimand either (soon to be frmr) Senator Ted Stevens or Joe Lieberman. While Uncle Ted will saw his day in court – and will soon he his day in prison – Joe will go more or less scott-free for his transgressions (which were of a different magnitude that Ted, but still).
The point is this: after an administration that tortures people to death, the first step towards making sure that rampant abuse of executive power and torture doesn’t occur again is open and earnest prosecutions of the folks at the top. The Senate’s unwillingness to even really second guess either of these folks – particularly Lieberman, who Greenwald points out as a head cheerleader for the downright evil shit both parties let go down in the last 8 years or so – signals that no one close to the President will be publicly or legally reprimanded for their crimes. And that is a disturbing precedent.
For a few I had been planning a post in my mind about how NYU had avoided high-profile controversy this year, after last year’s Polytech-Abu Dhabi-Provincetown Playhouse smorgasbord of public debates, but it looks like they managed to prove me wrong. Just in the last month, they’ve said and done a lot of stupid things:
Like “There will be no service cuts for students!” … which actually wasn’t true, and having the President lie to students never wins points.
Which, of course, never stopped Mr. Sexton – he also misled students on fair pay in a town hall.
Then, after the WSN did a pretty decent job exposing guard cuts on campus, NYU went out of its way to gag guards from talking to the press.
Now, NYU made headlines for more or less lying about its crime statistics on campus, on a day when they would have much rathered talk about the Silver Towers and making nice with GVHPS.
THEN there’s the Sexton pay package, which, it turns out is ANOTHER example of NYU lying to its students – in 2005, the university said that Sexton’s salary wasn’t increasing, but at the same time the University vastly increased other forms of compensation that nearly doubled his overall pay.
Not an expert on MTA business, but perhaps cutting service and making riding transit less appealing might *not* be the right strategy for saving a system that now relies on user fees? I think time will show that the viability of large-scale public works projects like the MTA subway system relies on Keynesian-style government investments, not by trying to squeeze more out of user fees for less service. This all depends on the state government folks doing the right thing and pushing for higher spending via targeted contributions from very high-income citizens in order to increase or maintain current MTA funding. Otherwise, the severe cuts might become a reality, and sustainable will be a pipe-dream.
Normally the target of ridicule for mediocre reporting and sycophatic relationships with NYU, the local Washington Square News has actually been doing a pretty good job of reporting and challenging the administration on a host of things, like:
Lying about crime stats
John Sexton’s Large large large compensation
Security Guard cuts on campus, and NYU’s attempted coverup
With the exception of the Coke ban article today, which continued a long and proud tradition of denigrating progressive movements on NYU’s campus. This article is seriously a failure of the journalistic enterprise, and Phoebe Kingsak should not be allowed anywhere near a newspaper for the extended future. Her article reads almost exacly like the pro-Coke op-ed published yesterday, and that’s an embarassment.
I do what I want. from motherpie's flickr.
Clinton spent his last months giving out pardons to felons and friends, but in the last few months of the Bush Administration, executive branchers spent trillions and trillions of dollars setting up shady loan deals with the people that ruined the US economy. The real upshot from these deals will be hemming in the incoming administration financially with a near criminal excess of unaccounted-for and unauthorized loan programs.
At this point, the Bush folks see the writing on the wall and want to do their best to restrain the new government by running up deficits then demanding budget ballancing in the next Congress. The military plays the same game with the defense budget, bloating requests for new spending to require cuts and then pigeonhole Obama as someone weak on defense. With Bush functionally out of office, and all eyes on the incoming administration, no doubt these problems will look like an Obama problem, which will be the first step to a planned GOP resurgence in 2010.
actually, fuck this. from tidewater muse's flickr
Buried in Glen Greenwald’s latest post about Obama Presidency prosecutions of Bush Administration war crimes (he’s in favor of them, I agree) is this comment about the notion of ‘bipartisanship’:
But our political establishment venerates “centrism” and “bi-partisanship” as the highest religious concepts. Those terms are, in reality, nothing more than vehicles to insulate government officials and the political establishment generally from any accountability. Their only real meaning is that cooperation within the political establishment is paramount, regardless of political principles and the rule of law.
‘Bipartisanship’ means agreement between the party-elites who on the one hand pitch themselves as the defense against the greater of two evils, but simultaneously expect co-operation from those evils when the time comes. In our two party system, we should openly recognize the difference between being elected and representing the real interests of voters; we should acknowledge this inherent failure of democracy when we talk about ‘bipartisanship’ as a political good.
Even if you don’t see ‘bipartisanship’ as the product of our decadent, mutually gratifying political system, the appeal for it now is particularly frustrating. The Republicans are being totally disingenuous – we just came off of 8 years of the 50%+1 political machine that railroaded legislation without even a hint of real debate or consensus, conceding to a call for bipartisanship now would only cement the horrifying legislative changes of the past two administrations.
Look, I know Obama is all about the transcendence and what not, but it’s time to play hardball. The ‘transcendence’ was not just over ‘partisanship,’ but rather a specific brand of partisanship that fed the Bush-GOP machine. Failure to push back with equal fervor would be the final victory of the Bush Administration.
This week, the President of NYU participated in one of his regular dog-and-pony town halls with the Student Senators Council. These events are rife with problems – they’re only a very weak form of student input, questions are filtered/censored by members of the Student Senators Council, and students have no way to independently verify whether their Administration is lying to them. (except when they get caught: during the meeting, the prez claimed that a report on pay discrimination at NYU showed no problems, which is verifiably false)
As promised, members of Take Back NYU! attended the meeting to break the monotony of jsex’s rambling, to some effect – the President got a little worked up, but finally made an (undiplomatic) response to TBNYU!’s demands for accountability, transparency and democracy at NYU. The answer, as he made very clear, is no, no, and no to each of the demands.
Despite much hullabaloo from campus media-types, every question submitted to the town hall was answered (including one about animal rights which moderator Whitney Petrie pretended didn’t exist, saying that all questions were answered before it was asked), and members of TBNYU! carried on a spirited debate with the Prez over the issues they’ve been pressing for over a year – perhaps the only open criticism he sees on a regular basis.
Criticism of TBNYU!’s tactics at the Townhall are as misplaced as they are disingenuous – the point of the campaign is that the President is wearing no clothes, that his high-minded claims to enlightened leadership are misleading, and that students should regard the administration as just one member of a large NYU community with competing interests in how the school is run. Students have an interest in affordable, accessible education, the administration has an interest in a larger university that expands their reputation and lines their pockets, and these interests are in conflict. Students should only take the administration seriously on the condition that the administration takes them seriously, and that has not happened.
worth millions! from numbphoto's flickr photostream
Real estate prices throughout the city keep going down – except in Willets Point, where the Mayor wants to avoid another development disappointment, and is buying up property at many times the assessed value. Despite the fact that the city is running out of money, apparently the EDC and Bloomberg feel A-OK spending millions on property that eventually will be sold back below cost to a private developer that then will profit more off of people paying rent above cost. The real absurdity is that those millions are perhaps more than the city ever spent fixing the streets, cleaning up toxic waste or performing basic city services in the Point. That money could go towards actual city services in the area to make it an independently vibrant and viable neighborhood, but instead it’s being spent to support a mostly private development scheme. It’s not quite a pyramid scheme per-se, but it reveals how the city government has been turned into a machine for artificially raising property values at the cost of just about everyone besides real estate developers.
The first question to ask during tonight’s NYU President’s Town Hall is: who designed your jankety-ass poster (above)?
The second question to ask is: what will NYU do to help students through the economic crisis that threatens their income and access to student loans?
I think I know what the answer will be. Since last March, NYU has been developing an official line on student tuition that goes something like this: pay up or go home. The administration has embraced a free-market model of education that abandons the presumption that higher education should be available to all, and instead embraces brutal economic determinism to limit access to its resources. Expect any questions about finances, financial aid or tuition to come down to this: John Sexton’s ‘dreams’ for NYU come before anyone else’s dreams for their education.
President Sexton has repeatedly told students that their best option for coping with tuition is to leave – expect that argument to reach a more extreme, more callous extreme during the Town Hall, with the lively and friendly presence of Take Back NYU! members to lighten the mood.
lol jsex, lol indeed:
Marty! from vivaantarctica's flickr.
The string of folks sticking in their current city government positions demonstrates the absurdity of the term limits extension – it’s a wave of incumbents staying in place (including Mr. Playmate Markowitz) rather than seeking the offices that they originally said they would pursue, the opposite of the good-government argument about voters choosing whoever they thought was the best candidate for the job. Instead of seeking open races for the right job, incumbents self-selecting for races they know they can win by force of political inertia.
But that was the purpose all along, and the best reason for folks to push incumbents out of office whenever they get the chance. While not the same as forcing them out via term-limits, supporting an extension or taking advantage of one provides a compelling display of self interest at the cost of voters, and a good argument for getting them out of office ASAP.
Wow, I cannot count the number of times before this election that I heard about the impending failure of young people to vote, how little they care, and how they fail their country.
And it was always bullshit. Not only did they turn out in numbers substantially larger than the general populace, they have for a long, long time. In 8 of the last 9 elections, folks under 30 turned out in higher numbers than the population at-large. The apathetic young person is a dangerous myth, because it keeps radical folks with power from even attempting to create their own change, because they believe they will be stifled by their own peers.
This election tore down powerful myths about American politics, lets do away with the myth of the unmotivated, demobilized college student as well.
at Union Square. This was really fun. from RubyVroom's flickr
Perhaps the most heartening local item regarding the Obama win was the pretty decent sized street protests that arose after the win. Obama’s victory speech kicked off a night of celebration, and in New York, that means a night of dealing with the NYPD. A bunch of folks got arrested in Williamsburg, St. Marks and (I suspect) uptown.
At Union Square folks were climbing statues and lightpoles waving flags and cheering, bullhorns were broken out, but nothing wildly violent or interesting happened to justify the fairly substantial police presence hanging around.
Still, the cops came – and it wasn’t just in the name of ‘law and order.’ A friend got arrested at St. Marks around three a.m. after an officer snatched a flag-bandanna he was wearing off his face, and he chose to walk away from what amounted to an illegal stop (legal stops require reasonable suspicion, which there was none). As he left, an officer tackled him from behind, cuffed him, and stuffed him in the car.
For all that’s uncool, it gets better. He was booked at the station by an officer proudly wearing a McCain-Palin T-Shirt, and later standing in line to see the judge to receive his charges, an officer leadig him and several other folks around told everyone that “Next time you should just vote for McCain.”
I’ve already written about the police stuff I saw right after the election, but this took things to another level – and it’s why we need to keep calling bullshit on the NYPD when stuff like this happens.
so so much. from mickeleh's flickr
I had the unfortunate pleasure of watching MSNBC all night – both election parties I attended had it on (really loud). These people were riding Obama/Howard Dean/David Axelrod all night, and it got really absurd. Welcome our new leaders and bow before them! Here’s choice quotes from the night:
Chris Matthews: “The second battle of Gettysburg has gone the same way as the first” - McCain = Confederacy?
“It would be hard to see McCain climbing over or boring through Ohio now”
“If you put the word hope before they American people, they’re willing to take it and do something with it”
From David Axelrod: “We didn’t want to accept the dreary math of red states and blue states”
“The thread has broken” – Joe Scarborogh
MSNBC only asked black people about what the election meant for the nation.
Keith Olberman had a terrific white guilt moment where he prattled on to the nation how much he loves Jackie Robinson, MLK and Jesse Jackson.
My favorite: There was a whole 5 minutes of Chris Matthews swinging on Howard Dean’s nuts, but it was too absurd to write down. Chris: “Howard, how is it that you were so awesome? Tell me just how beautiful you think you are?” Reply: “Well, Chris, very beautiful. Gorgeous you might say. Admire our black President, if you please.”