Tag Archives: politics

Dragging Down Obama

Check this: Karl Rove is trying to lead a challenge to Eric Holder’s nomination as AG of the US. I don’t think Rove or any other part of the GOP cares particularly about Eric Holder per se, they care about Holder’s connections to Clintons, who they would like to tie to Obama.  It’s an effort to re-inscribe the partisan frame around Obama and his Administration  – and points out the risks O took in bringing so many Clinton-types into the fold when building his Administration.

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The Declining New York City Power Center

Good ol Robert.  Finally put to rest.  from bckspcr

Good ol' Robert. Finally put to rest. from bckspcr

I’m totally fascinated by this too-quick New York Times article on the decline of the New York City power-centers.

The article shows one problem with eliminating term limits – it creates an inability to pick hard political battles like really saving the MTA when constantly in the running for a third or fourth term.  Regardless of the high re-election rate for incumbents, the media attention on a candidate for re-election means they shy away from real battles.

The main point of the article is more interesting.  It shows the dearth of symbolic resources for politicians in the city- Robert Caro’s point at the end that the issue is also one of ‘vision’ points out that no one really has a clear sense of what the city should or does look like.  Obama harnessed the decline of machine politics on a national level by latching on to a fundamental set of American Myths that propelled him to prominence.  In New York, the myths may be just as powerful, but they certainly don’t unite in the same way – glam NYC clashes withcorrupt or mafia New York, intersects with multicultural diverse New York.

The decline of hard-and-fast power centers, and the lack of real and easy symbolic center puts a particular emphasis on grassroots organizing.  Groups like the Working Families Party and sites like ChangeNYC will be the key to shaping the future of the city.  With no quick paths to power or easy levers to pull, the emphasis returns on creating coalitions and organizing disorganized groups with potentially converging interests against the developing rapid changes overtaking the city.

The Good Cop

I have no doubt in my mind that this NYT article on Rahm Emanuel would have been much different were it written about a Republican.  Seriously: for the past few years ‘industry ties’ has been a kind of buzzword for ‘corruption’ under the Bush administration, and I don’t see why that should change under Obama.  I don’t think that this provides evidence of a left media bias because Emanuel isn’t that left, which is really the point – the obsequious media coverage of the Obama campaign/administration, forecasting change and lauding the team of experts starts from some fairly shaky assumptions.   Mainly it rides a partisan/Manichean frame that associates the “last 8 years” with failure, and any ‘change’ with ‘hope.’  The other implicit assumption is that Obama-as-is is the only change we could ever really see, when in reality there could be many different Obama Administrations, depending on how much critical pressure the media and an organized opposition places on him.

Government Governs.

still scary. from capt Kodaks flickr.

still scary. from capt Kodak's flickr.

Welcome to the technocracy: Obama is looking to govern for the sake of government as a technocrat in the center, rather than the left-wing ideologue that both the GOP and Democratic bases mistook him for.

Instead, he’s appointing Democrats and Republicans including old political rivals.  History says that non-partisan apointments get the job of government done best – which should return attention to questions about what government should be doing, if anything at all.

In many regards, left criticism has been hamstrung by George Bush in the Oval Office.  Folks got very confortable with lambasting every policy failure as a failure of incompetence or stupidity.  No doubt things will continue to go wrong under an Obama Presidency, but we don’t yet have the language to describe any impending failure in a particularly useful way.  For instance – while the current Bush-created budget problems will no doubt make Obama’s policy agenda difficult to implement, the focus on that issue alone sets us up for another 4 years of blaming Bush, rather than making forward-thinking criticisms of Obama (who, as the inheritor of the Bush Imperial Presidency and a unified government, will be the most powerful president in modern history).

Hopefully cutting off the head of the Bush-king will encourage people to think about the role of government on the whole, and reflect on whether it needs to do as much as we think.  I am encouraged by people who would like to see police officers reduced to basic first-aid responders and directors of traffic, and I think we need to do more of this type of reflection during an Obama Presidency.

Livable Streets as Class War?

social control?

social control?

Streetsblog posted its own call to action about today’s hearing on remodeling Chatham Square which, when read in the context of CCRC’s much more detailed analysis, just seems a little flimsy, and flippant at that – Streetsblog groups local response under generic ‘opposition’, and pushes for the present plan as handed down by NYC DoT and friends, despite the fact that the main opposition seems to be from folks who don’t oppose the project, but rather oppose doing it NOW.

This case, and the recent rise of anti-bike lane activism in Brooklyn reveals how certain ‘green’ policies can work as a kind of class warfare, with the New Urbanist trend being only the latest of many architectural salvos for the city delivered from on-high by city administrators to the unwashed/ignorant residents, unable to see the social benefits of a overhaul of their street life.  Honestly, I’m not even totally convinced of the utility of green streets – transportation is a sizable but not immense part of CO2 emissions, and the green-streets improvements feel increasingly like a form of social control purpetuated by New York’s ascendent young, mobile and wealthy urban class with its ‘green’ mores (notably different from a serious environmentalism).

Not to say that ‘livable streets’ policies won’t work, but rather to say that they’ll work better if done in collaboration with the residents of those streets.  Instead of putting out calls for ‘advocates’ to descend on hearings to support “green here, green now.”

Transparency, Comments and Power

"d. None of the above"

'd. - none of the above'

First of all: a shoutout to techPresident for being a great resource for thinking about the relationship between technology and politics.  Full of consistently engaging and challenging work, and just generally pretty dope.

Anyways – the much-ado about Obama’s plan to use the internet to govern needs some fleshing out.  The key remains changing the internet from a tool of access and transparency into a tool for people (writ-large) to make decisions.  Questions remain about how to transform feedback and criticism into decision-making authority, and transparency into power for the people viewing.  As it stands, the folks in government being monitored by internet-tools often still have the authority to act as they please, even if hundreds of thousands of voices dissent.

At the very least, internet tools put into more explicit terms the incongruencies of power and time that define the modern bureaucracy.  In the same way that I think that Obama’s Presidency throws into better contrast certain types of exploitation (and makes certain new stridant critiques more sayable), internet transparency movements do the work of making critiques of state power more visible and potent.