Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Let's hear it for the Jew!

Baseball, baby!

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Friday, September 29, 2006

A Bit of Estrogen

To offset all that testosterone.

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Believe it or not, the best part isn't the video itself. It's that I found it when I visited Andrew Sullivan for his depressing take on the torture bill. He linked with the following words.

Testosterone and Brain Cells
29 Sep 2006 11:10 am

A case-study at YouTube. And I'm not embedding this one because he might find out and beat the crap out of me.

The man really does have the least self-awareness of any relatively intelligent writer I know (this does not include, say, the Thomas Friedmans and David Brookses of the world, who are both self-oblivious and dumb). How could anyone forget Sullivan's epic paean to testosterone, written before he had the manly virtues of war to focus on?

At that point [before testosterone injections] I weighed around 165 pounds. I now weigh 185 pounds. My collar size went from a 15 to a 17 1/2 in a few months; my chest went from 40 to 44. My appetite in every sense of that word expanded beyond measure. Going from napping two hours a day, I now rarely sleep in the daytime and have enough energy for daily workouts and a hefty work schedule. I can squat more than 400 pounds. Depression, once a regular feature of my life, is now a distant memory. I feel better able to recover from life's curveballs, more persistent, more alive. These are the long-term effects. They are almost as striking as the short-term ones.

Because the testosterone is injected every two weeks, and it quickly leaves the bloodstream, I can actually feel its power on almost a daily basis. Within hours, and at most a day, I feel a deep surge of energy. It is less edgy than a double espresso, but just as powerful. My attention span shortens. In the two or three days after my shot, I find it harder to concentrate on writing and feel the need to exercise more. My wit is quicker, my mind faster, but my judgment is more impulsive. It is not unlike the kind of rush I get before talking in front of a large audience, or going on a first date, or getting on an airplane, but it suffuses me in a less abrupt and more consistent way. In a word, I feel braced. For what? It scarcely seems to matter.
The Big T correlates with energy, self-confidence, competitiveness, tenacity, strength and sexual drive. When you talk to men in testosterone therapy, several themes recur. "People talk about extremes," one man in his late 30's told me. "But that's not what testosterone does for me. It makes me think more clearly. It makes me think more positively. It's my Saint Johnswort." A man in his 20's said: "Usually, I cycle up the hill to my apartment in 12th gear. In the days after my shot, I ride it easily in 16th." A 40-year-old executive who took testosterone for bodybuilding purposes told me: "I walk into a business meeting now and I just exude self-confidence. I know there are lots of other reasons for this, but my company has just exploded since my treatment. I'm on a roll. I feel capable of almost anything."

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Faces of Death

Photos were just put online from a feature I did earlier this year about various political blogs. Why is it that the more lefty you are, the less media savvy you are, almost without fail? Is savviness incompatible with progressive values?

Huffington Post. They give good photo.

The Politicker, about fifteen seconds before Ben Smith, seated, got poached by the Daily News. Apparently everyone at the Observer was making fun of the magazine's photographer, which I guess is why he made Ben look fat.

Daily Kos. Dunno where the rest of the Kos Nation got to. But nice product placement.

And, finally, The Notion, looking, let's face it, a bit drab.

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Pessimism VI


The New York Times reports:

The [military detention] bill’s ultimate passage was assured on Wednesday when Democrats agreed to forgo a filibuster in return for consideration of the [Specter] amendment [on habeas, which lost by a 48-51 vote]. Any changes in the Senate bill, however, would have made it impossible for Republican leaders to meet their goal of sending the bill to the White House before adjourning on Friday to hit the campaign trail.

Underscoring the political stakes involved, White House spokesman Tony Snow said today that President Bush will emphasize Democratic opposition to the bill in campaign appearances.

“He’ll be citing some of the comments that members of the Democratic leadership have made in recent days about what they think is necessary for winning the war on terror,” Mr. Snow told reporters en route to a fundraiser in Alabama, according to a transcript provided by the White House.

So let me get this straight: The Democrats give up the chance at filibustering one of the worst bills in recent memory because they were afraid that the President would paint them as soft on terrorism.

After the bill passes, the President plans to paint them as soft on terrorism.

What a spineless, worthless lot the Democrats in the Senate are. They deserve every lost Senate and House seat that comes from this.

A lot of nice speeches in the Senate today. In about a decade, when the state starts locking up activists as enemy combatants, those of us stuck in a hole with no hope of trial will have plenty of time to read them.

UPDATE: The piece of shit passed, of course. Glenn Greenwald says the same as above.

[I]t is still difficult to understand the Democrats' strategy here. They failed to try to mount a filibuster because they feared being attacked as coddlers of the terrorists. But now they are going to vote against the bill, thereby ensuring those exact accusations will be made, and loudly (the White House already started today). Yet at the same time, they absented themselves the whole time from the debate (until they magically appeared today) and thus lost the opportunity to defend their position. They make this same mistake over and over.

10 seats in the House maximum, 4 in the Senate.

UPDATE II: Pro-torture Democratic Senators:

Carper, Johnson, Landrieu, Lautenberg, Lieberman, Menendez, Nelson (Fla.), Nelson (Neb.), Pryor, Rockefeller, Salazar, and Stabenow

Be proud, New Jerseyans. Be proud.

I will donate to any primary challenger any of these dickweeds ever draws, provided I can afford it and provided it's not illegal. Hell, I'll contribute to their Republican opponents if they make a stink about this in particular, though I think that's very unlikely.

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More Wit and Wisdom from Fredric U. Dicker

I love this man (or whoever writes his headlines).

Hevesi Out Of Comptrol


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Hillary's Field of Meaning

First, I'm taking the LSAT Saturday, hence the very sporadic blogging this week.

Second, I just took a break and posted a few comments on Ben Smith's blog. I was happiest with the following, LSAT-influenced, observation.

the center of the piece is an argument that she's been a capable but undistinguished senator without clear beliefs, and that that's a problem for the presidency.
Today Clinton offers no big ideas, no crusading causes—by her own tacit admission, no evidence of bravery in the service of a larger ideal. Instead, her Senate record is an assemblage of many, many small gains. Her real accomplishment in the Senate has been to rehabilitate the image and political career of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Impressive though that has been in its particulars, it makes for a rather thin claim on the presidency. Senator Clinton has plenty to talk about, but she doesn’t have much to say.

To which I replied

Hm those kinds of considerations (how remarkable are her legislative accomplishments?) might be relevant for a Senator who's merely a Senator and pondering a prez run, but Hillary operates under completely different semiotic rules. She's iconic, for better and for worse.

Posted by: solomongrundy at September 28, 2006 11:52 AM

Brilliant comment. Somebody should get that Solomon Grundy guy a blog. And admit him to the law school of his choice.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

LunchBox back from vacation

And he changed the music.

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Monday, September 25, 2006

The Stiletto Bandit

There's a silly but very funny story in this week's New Yorker about "the stiletto bandit, a thief who has eluded N.Y.P.D. detectives since burgling the garment-district showroom of the French cobbler Christian Louboutin."

“He kicked through the wall,” Shawna Rose, Louboutin’s public-relations director, said the other day, pointing to a large, jagged crater just to the left of the office’s front door. “When I got off the elevator, I saw piles and piles of drywall and fibreglass. The door was wide open. My first thought, even though it wasn’t logical, was water damage.” The date was June 26th, a Monday morning. Rose went through the door, only to come upon a scene out of an especially hellacious sample sale. Shoeboxes and lids askew. Tissue paper everywhere. Lefts without rights strewn across the room, their trademark scarlet soles upturned like pools of blood in a Brian De Palma movie.
Did you catch that? Dude kicked through drywall to get his greedy, fashionable hands on their Spring line of unwearably avant-garde footwear.

Throughout the piece, the staff have an amusing admiration for the thief's aesthetic sensibility. "The robber, Rose realized, had selected his quarry with a finicky precision equally reminiscent of the Zodiac Killer and Diana Vreeland."

My friend and I were speculating about who the bandit might be. I was imagining a Leigh Bowery drag queen sidekicking through the drywall in a fit of retail-therapy hysteria (a high-fashion Robin Hood in Maid Marian's chunky flats?).

"God no," she retorted without pause. "It can't be someone trashy. It has to be someone with exquisite taste. And size 38 feet. Although no woman I know with 38 feet could kick through cardboard, much less a wall. So a large man with a passion for small, fashion-forward women. Andre Leon Talley on a bender, say, or Hamish Bowles coked out of his mind finding it hilarious to steal a bunch of vintage wedges for his private collection."


Or hero?

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Activism in NYC this week

As a great man once wrote,

"People have been saying 'why bother' for hundreds of years. There'll always be people sitting at home saying there's nothing to be done. History proves otherwise."

Along those lines, here is Riseup's very comprehensive list of actions in NYC this week.

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McCain on Torture

Whereas This Week with George Stephanopoulos just ignored the whole torture debate (clearly the biggest story this week), and on Fox News Sunday Brit Hume yelled at Juan Williams for even using the word 'torture,' on Face the Nation they have John McCain on and are actually grilling him.

Q: Do these techniques even work?

John McCain: They work to an extent, but we have to be very careful because we have many examples of if you torture someone they'll tell you anything [to make you stop].

Q: But can you give a specific example of when torture has ever resulted in valuable information?

JM: Only what the president talked about in his speech. There has been some valuable info gained. What techniques were used i don't know. But we have to have the moral high ground and we cant' violate the Geneva Conventions, which we've stuck to for 50 years. That's why we didn't touch the Geneva Conventions.
Didn't touch them? Does he really buy his own BS? Maybe in the sense of "we no longer have to adhere to them" we didn't touch them, true.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

MP3 Blog Roundup

This is a pretty useful roundup of the big MP3 blogs (very indie heavy, but so is the MP3 blog scene).

The most glaring omission for me, though, was Moistworks, which is written by professional music geeks for aspiring music geeks. It's eclectic, funny, and well written (by good music journalists, with regular guest-blogging from young novelists). It's where I get a lot of the weird old tracks I listen to all the time.

And at the moment they've got posts about The Coup and an all-woman rap crew from Dakar, so Antid Oto should be feeling it.


Listened to the Dakar rappers, Alif. Very good stuff. Wolof is a perfect language for rap, way better than French or Spanish (they're too liquid) and to my ear better than English. As Megan at Moistworks wrote,
I've never wished so hard I could speak Wolof. "Addu Kalpin" is apparently about a gang of thugs robbing minibus passengers. The sisters do sound a little squawky and disapproving on this track, don't they? Wolof-speakers, liner-notes-havers, I welcome your insights. Also, Alif? It stands for the Women's Infantry Liberation Army. (Dude, you had me at hello.)

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Pessimism V

Does the thundering silence around here in response to all these posts mean that you all think I'm being too hyperbolic? That maybe it's a bit much to call Democrats disgusting?

I've read outrage on many, many blogs today. For example, Charles Pierce, who calls Democrats a "worthless passel of cowards"; Digby, who says "Democrats showed they are ciphers who don't have the stones to even say a word when the most important moral issue confronting the government is being debated"; soccerdad, who points out that "Reid looks like a moron for mocking Bush and the 'Do nothing Congress' only hours before the compromise"; and Glenn Greenwald, who decries the "the completely despicable -- and quite deliberate -- disappearing act of the Democratic Party...[who] consciously absented themselves from our political dialogue because they were afraid to take any position, and opted instead to anoint John McCain as their proxy."

And from Democratic leaders themselves? I visited the sites of the Democratic Senatorial Caucus and every single Democratic Senator to collect responses. Prepare to be dazzled.

From Harry Reid:


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Washington, DC — Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid released the following statement today on Republicans’ announcement of a deal on legislation to bring terrorists to justice.

“Democrats are united behind the need to work on a bipartisan basis to bring terrorists to justice, and to do it in a manner consistent with our laws, our values, and our national security. Hopefully, today’s press conference means that President Bush and the congressional Republican leadership have changed course and listened to numerous national security experts such as General Colin Powell. Five years after 9/11, it is time to make the tough and smart decisions to give the American people the real security they deserve.”

From Carl Levin:

Levin Statement on Military Commissions Compromise Between White House and Senate Republicans

WASHINGTON – Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., made the following statement today regarding the compromise language reached by the Administration and Senate Republicans on military commission legislation:

Senators Warner, McCain and Graham have done an admirable job of standing up to the Administration and have produced a compromise bill that, while it has a number of problems, is a substantial improvement over the language proposed by the Administration.

“One of those problems is a provision permitting the use of coerced testimony. This provision appropriately prohibits the use of statements obtained after December 30, 2005, through “cruel, unusual, or inhumane treatment or punishment prohibited by the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution,” but it inexplicably permits the use of statements obtained through these same methods prior to that date. This approach, which was insisted upon by the Administration, would put our own troops at risk if other countries decide to apply a similar standard and is abhorrent to American values. I support the language originally proposed by Senators Warner, McCain and Graham and approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee, which would exclude statements obtained by cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, without regard to when the statements were obtained.

“I also expect to work with Senators Specter and Leahy, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to address a provision that would eliminate the writ of habeas corpus for detainees in U.S. custody, even in cases where they have no alternative means to prove that they are being improperly held.”

That's it, folks. That's the list. Two. And the statements themselves are just sickening, though Carl Levin's at least expresses some ridiculous, misguided hope that two of the most egregious aspects of the compromise can be amended (although there are many more outrages he does not mention).

This exercise of sorting through all 44 Democratic Senatorial sites has made me reconsider my initial assessment of Democrats' motives. Last night I wrote that Democrats are "betting Americans care more about gas prices" than torture. But that assumes that they thought about opposing this torture bill and made a conscious decision that it was too politically risky: the brilliant leadership of a bunch of Erskine Cooneys.

Having considered it for a day, though, I now think it's clear I was being far too generous. Most of the Democratic caucus just doesn't care. Don't expect a filibuster. They're genuinely not interested.


They don't care.

With Congress planning to adjourn by Sept. 30, it is possible that last-minute snags could complicate or even prevent the bill's passage. But top Democrats in both houses indicated that they will not stand in the bill's path and risk being blamed for its demise.


If I'm going to scream at the majority who don't care, I should praise the few who do:

“They are many of us that are concerned about this habeas corpus issue,” Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin said Wednesday before the deal was unveiled. “We don’t know what will be in the final bill, but if they (Republicans) try to remove and extinguish up to 50 pending lawsuits where prisoners who have been held for years are asking (to contest) the charges brought against them, they’ll be some of us who’ll be ready to fight that on the Senate floor.”

This being election season, as soon as a reporter heard Durbin say that, she pounced on the political angle, asking whether in the run-up to Election Day, Durbin’s stance might be “a risky strategy” for Democrats “because it might make it look like you’re siding with terrorists?”

“Standing up for the Constitution can be risky at times,” Durbin replied.


I am not going to hope. But I should be careful not to condemn the Democrats utterly before they actually do fold, even if it seems obvious that they will. If this week passes and the legislation doesn't, they will have done their job for now. From the Boston Globe.

Most Democrats appear poised to support the bill, but some say they will insist on being given more information before supporting changes to the War Crimes Act. Representative Jane Harmon, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said she will insist that the president detail the interrogation techniques he plans to approve, and provide a legal justification for each one before the intelligence committee.

I'm not going to count on it (I don't think Jane Harmon has the power to insist on anything), but they do still have a chance to rescue themselves, and us.

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Grammar policing

Chris Clarke makes me really happy today, not least because the guy he filets totally deserves it.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Turns out the MTA will not be cutting service

NYC Transit wanted to, but Peter Kalikow put his foot down.

UPDATE: Yes, really. Stop giving me that look.

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Pessimism IV

Fucking. Morons.


Remember, it was just this morning we saw this:

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Wednesday that Democrats were "on the sidelines watching the catfights" among Republicans on terrorism legislation. He said they had little choice until the GOP settled on its position.

I don't usually make "and I'm never giving another dime!" speeches, but in this case it's warranted. If this shit is actually passed I'm going to turn my back on the Democratic Party for quite some time. They've spent this election season basically absent on anything I care about passionately, and at the moment I feel more disgust for them than I can express.

From the comments of the linked post, we get a careful parsing of the "compromise" definition of torture:

Serious physical pain or suffering means "bodily injury that involves"

(1) a substantial risk of death;

(2) extreme physical pain;

(3) a burn or physical disfigurement of a serious nature, not to include cuts, abrasions, or bruises; or

(4) significant loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty.

So what does "serious" physical pain or suffering mean? Apparently only "extreme physical pain," plus certain horrible forms of injury and disfigurement, but it does NOT include the infliction of cuts, abrasions, or bruises.

NOTE ALSO that the infliction of physical pain or suffering, however severe, does not count as "serious" pain or suffering, UNLESS IT OCCURS THROUGH "BODILY INJURY," whatever that means.

I can't understand the paragraph about "serious" mental pain or suffering. But if the legal parsers turn for instruction to the language about "serious" physical pain or suffering, they will be inspired to define "serious" mental pain or suffering very narrowly indeed. We get a return here to extreme pain, organ failure, and death. The Bybee torture memo lives! In the years to come, we can look forward to learned disquisitions on the meaning of "serious" pain, "extreme" pain, organ failure, bodily injury, burns and disfigurements of a "serious nature."

So the fine print is terrible, and that's just the beginning.

The day (or hour) after this bill is passed, Bush will publicly announce his interpretation of Common Article Three. It will be the same flexible standard (linked to the "shocks the conscience" formula) that appeared in Bush's original bill. Only now, Congress isn't "stained" by putting that language directly in the legislation.

In one way this "compromise" is WORSE than Bush's original bill. Instead of redefining Common Article Three itself, the new legislative proposal gives the President carte blanche to do so himself, without any possibility of judicial review. So the governing interpretation of Common Article Three could turn out to be MUCH WORSE than what appeared in Bush's original bill. Not only that, but the bill gives the President a free hand in interpreting all of the Geneva Conventions. Get ready for some very creative interpretation of other Geneva provisions. (Expect that the Supreme Court's extension of Common Article III to suspected terrorists will be whittled away to nothing.)

All this of course is combined with the habeas-stripping provisions that deny torture victims any judicial remedy whatsoever, and the rewriting of the War Crimes Act so that torture (by which I mean torture rather than the administration's fancy definition of "torture") is no longer a federal crime.

And yes the bill does effectively block reference to Geneva even in criminal trials, since the ability to prosecute war crimes is extremely narrowly circumscribed in the ways we have seen.

Meanwhile, here's the election strategy. Awesome.

"We've got to go on the offensive," explained a senior Democratic aide, "and keep our eye on the ball -- and that's the economy"

"We're not going to win 15 seats on the war in Iraq," said another Democratic staffer, insisting it is the economy that will, in the words of Roll Call, "bring the party across the goal line."

Sen. Debbie Stabenow is quoted as saying the 2006 election "is all about jobs."

From that Washington Post article again:

Once Democrats do weigh in, their strategy is to show there is no daylight between the two parties on fighting terrorism, Democrats say.

We're going to legalize torture and do away with habeas corpus, but Democrats have cleverly avoided saying anything about that. They're betting Americans care more about gas prices. We're only torturing sand niggers after all, and occasionally locking up Puerto Ricans. BFD, right?

I leave it up to you to decide whether it's more depressing if they're right or if they're wrong. Either way, no one's interested in representing those of us who oppose. Fucking. TORTURE.


You remember when we were still debating whether or not the U.S. tortured people? Does that not seem innocent now?

It was barely nine months ago.

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The Revolution Is My Boyfriend

I'm super busy at the moment, so this clip from one of my favorite Bruce LaBruce films will have to serve as a placeholder.

"Marcuse believed that the workers and the prosperous, technologically advanced countries now have their needs satisfied beyond sufficiency to superfluity by the power elite, but much of what they receive is the satisfaction of false needs, while their true needs remain undisoverable even by themselves. Do you understand what I'm getting at? Let me put it in another way. The notion Marcuse calls surplus repression has to be fought by liberating ourselves from the constaints of dominant sexual practice. It's true that there will be no revolution without sexual revolution, but it's also true that there will be no sexual revolution without homosexual revoliution. Do you understand what i mean?"

"Wait a minute, Gudrun, you want us to have sex with black men?"

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A boastful, passionate, whispering, masculine kind of love

I really can't do better than the Gawker commentary.

Gay American, former Jersey mayor and current press whore Jim McGreevey kicked off his whirlwind talk show tour yesterday by submitting to a wildly awkward chat with Oprah yesterday (stunningly liveblogged by the Grey Lady -- just scroll down), during which he actually read aloud our favorite passage from his memoir, The Confession. The utter lack of emotion as he reads of "a boastful, passionate, whispering, masculine kind of love" is the kind of audio you want to listen to alone, in a darkened room, with nothing but tissue and lotion. It's followed by a sheepish eyeroll, which is almost as priceless as the seven second pause he takes before telling Oprah that making love to his wife "was special." Good to choose those banal words carefully, though we'd guess his wife would disagree.

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Gay GAY GAY buttboys

If you read the articles linked to below, you get to watch this video as a reward. Otherwise, not. Solomon doesn't get to watch it at all because he was hating on The Daily Show.

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Links about crazy shit done by greedy people in Brooklyn

Via NoLandGrab, Will at onNYTurf describes how the MTA is now planning service cuts to close their deficit, in a year when they gave away $50 million in fare cuts to tourists, and are trying or tried to give away far more than that to the Jets and Bruce Ratner. Fun shit. Don't say we didn't warn you.

And via mole333 at the Daily Gotham, a New York Magazine article about Brooklyn arson fires that have, as mole333 put it, the "amazingly convenient result of helping developers":

The [Greenpoint Terminal Market] blaze was only one of the many, many “suspicious” fires to hit the Brooklyn development zones of late. Within three months, from December 7, 2005, to February 24, 2006, there were eleven such fires along Prospect Heights’ “Pacific Street Corridor,” formerly home to single-story factories and flat-fix establishments but now part of the realty zone sandwiched between the escalating rent sprawl of Williamsburg and Fort Greene and the proposed Atlantic Yards megaproject to the West.

Location, location, location. The proximity of the afflicted Prospect Heights addresses raises eyebrows: 1033 Pacific, 1084 Pacific, 1198 Pacific, 1440 Pacific. Other fires were around the corner, at 530 and 600 St. Marks Avenue. Two more occurred at 461 and 658 Park Place, with another at nearby 683 Dean Street.


Greed kills, children. People haven't just lost their homes in these fires; people have died. And remember how I said this kind of blatant bullshit can only be fought at the government level? Well fuck you very much, Mayor Mike.

No issue, however, raises the ire of activists like the mayor’s assault on the fire marshal’s office does. It is a fire marshal who figures out how a fire started and whether it was set on purpose. By law, no fire can be certified as an arson unless a marshal files a report saying it is.

“This job is not for everyone,” says one marshal. But for the meticulous few who, through copious interviews and analysis of factors like “accelerant residue” and “burn patterns,” determine whether fire was the result of an “incendiary” process, the job has deep rewards.

Ed Burke, who was a Brooklyn firefighter and spent eleven years as a fire marshal, says that what’s going on at his old job is “unbelievable … You think it can’t get worse, then it does.”

“When you hear Chief Fire Marshal Garcia in front of the City Council saying arsons are not up, I just have to laugh,” says Burke. “Of course arsons are not up. How could they be up when only a fire marshal can call a fire arson, and there aren’t any fire marshals? Back in the late eighties, around the time of the Happy Land fire, there were something like 400 marshals. In the middle nineties, we had 292. Now we’re down to 80, and 20 supervisors. That means that at any given time, you’ve got 35 or so guys actually working, and two of those are Scoppetta’s bodyguards. And only eight of them are in the field.

“We investigated every fire, from a garbage can in a project hallway to a brush fire in Staten Island. Now we don’t. They stopped investigating all car fires until people started screaming. If you once looked at 1,000 fires and now you look at 500 or 250, that knocks out three quarters of your potential arsons right there. It’s sick what they’re doing with those numbers.”

Another marshal, still on the job, says, “The department keeps saying, ‘We’re doing more with less,’ but they never say exactly how much less is less. At night, when most of the fires happen, we have exactly four fire marshals working.

“Four! Four guys, in two cars, for the whole city!

“I am not a conspiracy guy, but you can’t help thinking they made a conscious decision to get rid of us. It bothers me, because those fires on Pacific Street were extraordinary. In almost every case, you had doors kicked in and gasoline spread so flames immediately made their way up the staircase. Staircase fires are terrible. You can’t get out, people panic. The fire at 1033, where people died—we were late on that one. It had to do with our pagers. They suck. The mood here is very, very strained. It’s enough to make you cry.”

The repetitive profanity, incidentally, is because this shit makes me really, really fucking mad.

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Pessimism about Democrats' chances, part III

Digby lays it out better than I ever could. Summary:

It is retarded to let "moderate" Republicans fight your battles for you.

I predict that McCain and Graham are prepared to do the big el-foldo on all that and take the "victory" on amending the Geneva Convention which was never really in dispute in the first place. They will be heroes, the president will claim victory like he always does and everyone will get exactly what they need. (Man, I'll bet Joe Lieberman is kicking himself that he didn't get a piece of this. It's his kind of bipartisan deal.)
But what in the hell are the Dems going to do if McCain makes a deal and this thing gets to the floor? Are they actually going to vote for a bill that eliminates habeas corpus for terrorist suspects? Because if they don't, you know what the Republicans are going to be saying, don't you? After all, the saviors of the republic and guardian kinghts of the constitution say this bill is ok. The only reason the Dems can possibly have for opposing it now is that they are terrorist loving cowards.

The source of all the anxiety is an NYT article indicating, surprise surprise, that Warner, McCain, and Graham may be close to a deal with the White House.

The White House has argued that without more “clarity,” it will have no choice but to shut down a C.I.A. program for interrogating top terrorism suspects. But Mr. Warner, Mr. McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have argued against any changes in the language interpreting the article, saying such a change would invite other countries to reinterpret the Geneva Conventions as they saw fit, which in turn could endanger captured American troops.

The senators propose to provide clearer guidelines for interrogators by amending the War Crimes Act to enumerate several “grave breaches” that constitute violations of Common Article 3.

A dollar to the first person who can explain how paragraph A (what the Senators reject) and B (what they are now prepared to pass) are substantively different.

UPDATE: Jay Cost of the well-respected conservative site RealClearPolitics surveys the electoral map and finds, surprisingly, that Democratic candidates seem more competitive in House districts with strong Republican leanings than they do in more evenly balanced districts. His conclusion:

Simply stated, the fact that there are right now so many solidly conservative districts on the toss-up list is a sign either that Democratic strength is overstated or understated.

You all know what I think about that.

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In this excessively long thread, an anonymous commenter discusses Emily Dickinson's odd punctuation. Ladies and gentlemen, punctuation is everything. (Said in a Kiki voice while tapping one's ring against the side of one's empty glass to demand a refill.)

Take, for example, the grammatically valid sentence:

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Explained here. Thanks to Boris.

UPDATE: Katie Peterson takes exception to Anonymous's characterization of Emily Dickinson as "needing an editor."

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

One in ten NYC high school girls has chlamydia, according to the New York City Health Department.

Bravo, Bush and Giuliani sex ed policies. Bravo.

As an aside, how great is the Welsh language? "Be sure, use a condom" translates into "Byddwch yn siwr, defnyddiwch gondom," which is the same number of words, but twice as many letters and three times as many consonants.

(and yes, I've been waiting for weeks for the perfect chance to link to that Datblygu vid)

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Mark Green Post Mortem

Tom Robbins did a good Mark Green political obituary.

For me, the most interesting quote was the following:
A woman emerged from the subway wearing an ID tag identifying her as an employee of the New York State attorney general's office. "I'm for you," she murmured to Green. How many in your department feel the same way, the candidate couldn't help asking. "Everyone," she answered. "Everyone I know in my bureau is hoping you'll win."

I had really thought the Democratic establishment had soured on Green, but this suggests that the political hacks dislike him but the policy wonks recognize his competence.

I thought Robbins really overemphasized the likability thing. Most New Yorkers I talk to don't follow local political campaigns closely enough to have gotten a strong enough impression of him to dislike him (though I've heard "I could never vote for someone with such a sleazy tan" enough times to be depressed at the state of our polity).

My gut feeling is that two things really fouled him up: the belief that he's run and lost way too many times, and the loss of his once-loyal black base.

If I'd been Mark, I wouldn't even have run unless I had spent the last five years proving that the 2001 racism charges were false. For a decade he was the most popular white politician in the black community, and in one day in Brooklyn he lost it all. He shouldn't have run unless he had mended that relationship. What the hell was he doing the past five years that was so much more important than repairing his reputation?

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Shilling cause I was asked to

If this book sells 50,000 copies I get one of these.

Saying so makes Random House obligated, right?

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Atlantic Yards simulations

Interesting representations of what Ratner's project would look like compared to more community-friendly alternatives.

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Today in Left Behinds News

I only taught college classes for a total of about two years, but my experience was almost exactly like this. Via Pharyngula.

Also, Solomon and I are called "butt boys," and Solomon is further called "Mary" after he successfully induces a homosexual panic. Emma B. thinks "butt boys" should be the inspiration for the next generation of Left Behinds t-shirts, which leads me to wonder: did we ever make the first generation available? Couldn't we do it on CafePress for free? Wouldn't our reading public love a bright pink t-shirt with the LB/double-peacock logo?

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a design, courtesy of Emma B.

One question for the readers: do you think it would be better singular, that is, identifying the wearer as a "Left Behinds Butt Boy"? Or leave it like it is, so it's kind of a team jersey?

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Straight Talk from a Gay American

I might actually watch (or at least watch Youtube highlights of) Ol' Blowjob Lips on Oprah tomorrow. Will she probe his corruption? Explore the dark interiors of his pay-to-play scheme? Ram her moral indignation down his prevaricating throat? I am now on the record saying I sure would.

Those lips

According to Room 8, he's been getting fluffed by New York Mag.

"Noteworthy in former New Jersey Governor James McGreevey's monstrous NY Mag confession today is his frankness on the politician-donor tete-a-tete:"

All my financial contributors were vying for payback as well. My goal had been to raise $40 million for the campaign, which, unless you’re a Clinton or a Bush, is an obscene amount to pull out of pockets. You can’t take large sums of money from people without making them specific and personal promises in return. People weren’t shy about saying what they expected for their “investments”—board appointments to the Sports Authority or the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, for example, which were coveted not just for their prestige but because they offered control over tremendously potent economic engines, with discretionary budgets in the tens of millions. The plum was the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; directors there controlled a multi-billion-dollar budget. I tried to stay as naïve about this horse trading as possible. But I allowed my staff to intimate things to donors. This is the daredevil’s dance every politician faces.

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Friday, September 15, 2006

Hating on Obama, return of the repressed edition

I said I would lay off Barack Obama until he did something specific to piss me off. Oh baby.

Dems 'confused,' Obama writes in latest book

WASHINGTON -- In his new book, dedicated to his mother and maternal grandmother -- the women "who raised me" -- Sen. Barack Obama accuses fellow Democrats of being "confused" as the Democratic Party "has become the party of reaction."
"We Democrats are just, well, confused," Obama writes. He goes on. "Mainly, though, the Democratic Party has become the party of reaction. In reaction to a war that is ill-conceived, we appear suspicious of all military action.

"In reaction to those who proclaim the market can cure all ills, we resist efforts to use market principles to tackle pressing problems. In reaction to religious overreach, we equate tolerance with secularism, and forfeit the moral language that would help infuse our policies with a larger meaning."

On Bush, Obama relates two encounters with the president. "Both times I found the President to be a likable man, shrewd and disciplined but with the same straightforward manner that had helped him win two elections."

I don't have the patience to rip this apart as I should, and you're all smart enough to be pissed at it without my help. Suffice to say: fuck you, Barack.

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Home Town Girl Makes Good

Our own Emma B got a mention on today's Lunch Box. Check it out.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Today has been a little depressing.

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Holy fucking shit.

Holy. Fucking. Shit.

More than 2,200 women and girls have been brutally murdered in Guatemala since 2001. Up to 665 cases were registered in 2005; 527 in 2004; 383 in 2003 and 163 in 2002. In 2006, 299 cases have been reported between January and May -- a faster pace than in 2005.
According to Guatemala's Human Rights Ombudsman, up to 70 percent of murders of women were not investigated and no arrests were made in 97 percent of cases.

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Why I remain pessimistic about Democrats' chances, part II

Did you think I was being too harsh? Really? How about this?

WASHINGTON, Sept. 13 — The White House took a critical step on Wednesday in its effort to get Congressional blessing for President Bush’s domestic eavesdropping program, but it ran into increasingly fierce resistance from leading Republicans over its plan to try terror suspects being held in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Democrats have allowed Republicans to fight among themselves over the issues, and appear willing to allow the issues to come to a vote rather than risk charges of political obstructionism in an election season.
But Senators Warner, McCain and Graham appeared to be providing cover for the Democrats, allowing them to stay on the sidelines while the three senators, respected Republicans with distinguished military records, take on the White House.

“We think that this is a sincere effort, based on principle, by Senators Warner, McCain and Graham, to come up with the best legislation they can,” said Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island and a member of the Armed Services Committee.

Asked whether Democrats were worried that the Republicans might yield to the White House, Mr. Reed said: “I haven’t seen any evidence of that yet. What I’ve seen is that they’re approaching this looking at the substance, not just over weeks and months, but what’s in the best interests of the United States, what’s in the best interests of American military personnel who might years from now be held.”
The administration had also faced resistance over the N.S.A. wiretapping program. The Democrats had bottled up the administration’s proposals, saying Congress was being forced to legislate “in the dark” about a secret program that few members had been briefed on. They have repeatedly used procedural maneuvers to block the proposals from coming to a vote in the Judiciary Committee, drawing accusations of obstructionism from Republicans.

But Democrats, who appeared to realize the risk of being accused of thwarting debate on national security matters, did not stand in the way of the committee vote on Wednesday.

Disgusting, if true, though that last part doesn't feature any Democratic quotes and could just be the reporters' jaundiced view. In fact, the more likely explanation for Democrats' suddenly dropping their opposition is a combination of the reporters' explanation and the last paragraphs of the article:

Democrats claimed a partial victory on the wiretapping issue when they won Judiciary Committee approval of another measure that could effectively ban the security agency’s eavesdropping program.

That plan, drafted by Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, would affirm that the foreign intelligence law passed by Congress in 1978, requiring court approval for eavesdropping, as the “exclusive” means of authorizing wiretaps in the United States against suspected terrorists and spies.
That set the stage for the unusual spectacle of the Judiciary Committee — and its chairman — supporting two proposals that many lawmakers said would effectively nullify each other if passed.

They're not just capitulating. They're capitulating with the cover of incoherence. Muuuuuch better.

And the Republican turnout machine?

In the past two national elections, in 2002 and 2004, Republicans outperformed Democrats in bringing their backers to the polls, but many Democrats and independent analysts have suggested that the competition may be different this year, in part because of slumping morale among GOP activists. But Chafee's performance -- combined with reports of late-starting organization and internal bickering on the Democratic side -- suggest that the Republican advantage on turnout may remain intact even as many other trends are favoring the opposition.
"Their turnout operation is exquisite," a senior Democratic strategist said. "We are not going to match them."
About six months ago, the National Republican Senatorial Committee sat down with the Chafee campaign to construct a voter-turnout program. Weekly phone calls followed and a number of NRSC senior staffers -- including political director Blaise Hazelwood -- made regular trips to the state to ensure the structure was being built. They identified potential Chafee voters and pressed Democrats to change their party identification to "unaffiliated," a move that would allow them to vote in the Republican primary.

As the campaign wore on, Republicans began another slew of phone calls to unaffiliated voters to tell them that they could vote for Chafee and then immediately change their registration back to unaffiliated or Democrat. The RNC road-tested a new technology in the race that officials said is making their targeting program faster and more precise. It is based on a program that allows volunteers to call potential voters, note their political views and preferences on sheet of paper and immediately scan the results into a huge database known as the Voter Vault. Experts in the political practice known as microtargeting can then instantly analyze the results to determine which issues are moving voters and adjust their pitch.

Democrats simply don't have anything remotely close--and it's not like this sophistication is hard to come by. Just hire any goddamn marketing firm. They do this stuff all the time.

I refuse to get my hopes up for a party with neither the will to fight nor the machinery to compete.

UPDATE: I'm not alone in my pessimism. Read similar sentiments from paradox and Steve Soto.

UPDATE II: That's not even getting into vote-stealing. Watch the video of a study conducted at Princeton.

UPDATE III: You can still read the entire study at the link above, but for convenience, here's the YouTube of the video.

UPDATE IV: Matt Stoller points the finger at specific people responsible for the pitiful state of Democrats' voter-mobilization efforts.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Oh dear.

The eye of God.

(Thanks to Emma B.)

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Another gerrymandah contendah!

Remember how amazed I was at the convoluted shape of Nydia Velasquez's district?

Check out Ben Cardin's.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Today's Lunch Box

Again, very funny.

Any predictions how long they can keep this up? And who exactly is behind it?

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...and the polls are closed. Predictions?

US Senate
Hillary: 89%
Tasini: 10%

NY Governor
Spitzer: 90%
Suozzi: 9%

NY Attorney General
Cuomo: 42%
Green: 38%
The Gay Guy: 20%

Yassky: 30%
Clarke: 28%
The other guy: 18%
Owens: 17%
Solomon Grundy: 7%

CD-10: Ed Towns wins with 65%


AD 40:
Diane Gordon wins with 60%

AD 57:
Jeffries wins with 55%

I haven't looked at the predictions on other blogs yet. This is just my expert forecast.


I was pretty far off.

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"The strategy in Iran and Iraq is to get more troops there."

-Tony Snow in his press briefing a minute ago.

A reporter asked if he meant Iran or Afghanistan. I think we know what he meant.

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Don't Forget to Vote Today

And if you're in New York, vote for Mark Green (click here if you forgot where you're supposed to vote).

Considering how unlikeable most voters consider him, I'm not sure the Nothing Compares 2 U approach was smartest.

My ideal Mark Green final ad: David Dinkins reading the Daily News and New York Times endorsements. That would have been simple and effective.

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Who the hell is Sara Gran, anyway?

Anywhere else in the country, people say, “Gee, you really published a book?” In Brooklyn, they ask when you’re going on Charlie Rose and if you know Jonathan Lethem. If not, end of conversation, time to move on. Getting off the F train right now is a young woman whose first novel was just pre-empted by Vintage for high six figures. The New York Times Magazine is writing her profile, Marion Ettlinger is taking her head shots, and she’s preapproved for a co-op on Prospect Park West.

You try writing a book under these circumstances.

I'm trying. It's no harder than anywhere else.

The title of this post is designed to cause her maximum annoyance should she ever stumble across it, by the way. Her whole whiny article is about how hard it is to get famous with all this heavy-hitting competition around. You know what? It's also a lot easier to get published if you live right around the corner from every book editor in the country.

Or at least that's what I hear.

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September 11th, Evil, and my Favorite Novelist Defending An Ethical Atheist Worldview

PBS just ran a Frontline program called Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero. I tuned in just as they showed a clip of Bushie intoning "Today our nation saw evil," followed by a voiceover: "What was unusual about the president's words was his use of "evil" as a noun. Not merely evildoers or evil acts, but evil."

The various ways Bush has introduced a radical evangelical Christian cosmology into the mainstream are fascinating. My interest was piqued, and there were just enough smart observations (usually from humanities professors rather than theologians) to keep me going. But too often it felt like some interfaith roundtable exchange of "here's what my church believes" and "well, here's what my synagogue believes." And call me heartless, but I found some of the more sentimental I mean moving moments campy. I mean, they actually included a clip of a cantor singing voicemails from 9/11 victims, which he apparently does every morning. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to burst into tears or laughter as he arch-earnestly warbled "wassup mom, it's tiffany, how you doin" or whatever.

Shortly after that bit of sentimental folly, or maybe after some theology professor discussed Moby Dick, no, actually I think it was just after Renee Fleming tried not to sound stupid as she explained that 9/11 "really made me think for a long time," there was finally a crisp gust of reason. Ian McEwan. My brilliant, beloved Ian McEwan finally spoke for the Left Behinds nation: (click here for his full, very good interview, in which he more explicitly criticizes extremist thinking of all types)

I don't really believe in evil at all. I mean, I don't believe in God, and I certainly don't, therefore, believe in some sort of supernatural or trans-historical force that somehow organizes life on dark or black principles. I think there are only people behaving -- and sometimes behaving monstrously. And sometimes their monstrous behavior is so beyond our abilities to explain it, we have to reach for this numinous notion of evil. But I think it's often better to try and understand it in real terms ... either political or psychological terms. There's something, at the same time, very, very attractive about this word. ... It's a great intensifier. It just lets us say that we thoroughly abhor this behavior.

But it's quite clear, as a species ... in our nature, we are capable of acts of extraordinary love and kindness, and inventiveness, and mutual aid. And, on the other side, we are capable of acts of extraordinary destruction. And I think it's inherent. I think one of the great tasks of art is really to explore that. ...

But I'm a little suspicious of the way we want to throw up our hands and just say, "Well, it's evil." It's us. You know? And any reflection on, for example, the Holocaust, probably our greatest, lowest moment in modern history, has to finally reflect on what it is we seem to be able to be capable of. Especially once we have the power of technology to kill on a vast scale. ...

I think we have to beware, too, of treating September the 11th as the only and most spectacular event of human cruelty. There have been many, many acts of cruelty. Some of them on an even larger scale. So I can't accept the notion that somehow this punctures our understanding of human nature. We have before us, in the 20th century alone, acts of unbelievable depravity. Deliberate, methodical, bureaucratic, technological destruction of human lives in the Holocaust, for example. ... And we see it again now in those men, in those awful lunatics with their fixed beliefs. We see it again. ...


I stand corrected. McEwan's lines actually came just after a professor of Islamic law declared "I believe that demons do exist. I think their will is contingent upon ours - in other words, they exploit our own weaknesses." I remember thinking "wait, did that guy really just say he believes in demons? Like with horns and wings?" before McEwan sauntered in as the voice of reason. Renee Fleming was actually just after McEwan, and she was not completely stupid (she prattled on relativistically about how "we live in a world of grey" not black and white, but whatever). He's just a tough act to follow.

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Why I remain pessimistic about Democrats' chances

I had this argument with my father on Wednesday, when I told him that at best I would give the Democrats a 2:1 shot to retake the House. (If you've been following my amateur bookmaking on this, this is actually a slight bump up in optimism from my previous 5:2 mark, which was in turn a bump from 3:1.) He said this was just because I had a pathological fear of Karl Rove. I said no, it's because of the Democrats themselves. (Although this is strictly speaking not 100% true. I do have a certain fear of Republican machinery, not Karl Rove per se but their truly awe-inspiring voter-identification and -mobilization infrastructure. Democrats aim to turn out Democratic-leaning neighborhoods; Republicans turn out individual Republican voters in those Democratic neighborhoods.)

Anyway, two items over the last week have helped convince me that Democrats just don't know what the hell they're doing. First, the much-telegraphed gambit to amend some bill or other with a "vote of no confidence" in Donald Rumsfeld. Matthew Yglesias took this apart pretty nicely.

It would be one thing if Rumsfeld were in office, then made some missteps, and then Bush fired him. Presidents sometimes hire people they wind up regretting. But Rumsfeld's been in office for almost six years. And Bush has gotten rid of many members of his national security team. Colin Powell, Richard Armitage, and Richard Haas were all ditched. A lot of your prominent "liberal" national security experts -- Richard Clarke, Rand Beers, Flynt Leverett -- used to work in the Bush administration (see also Anthony Zinni). Rumsfeld is around because Rumsfeld's policies are Bush's policies. Dumping him would, at this point, be a meaningless cosmetic change.

Of course Matt Taibbi did it even more neatly, in an article I've already quoted.

[W]hat Rumsfeld actually represents to the Democrats is a means of attacking the Republicans on the Iraq issue without having to explain their own vote in support of the invasion.
A typical comment will be one like Chuck Schumer's of last week: "There are growing doubts about how competently he's conducted the war." (How do you competently invade the wrong country?) And so the Democrats once again will make an effort to sound antiwar out of one side of their mouths, and pro-war out the other side; they will then close their eyes and hope that they pick up 16 seats before anyone notices. If that ain't leadership, what is?

An even more annoying example came in Congressional Democrats' reactions to the President's speech last weekend. For some reason all the coverage of that speech focused on Bush's plan to transfer Al Qaeda prisoners from secret CIA detention facilities (whose existence he had previously denied) to Guantanamo to face military tribunals, rather than the amazing part where he actually bragged about torture (which he had also previously denied). In fact, Eric Umansky pointed out in this week's On the Media (transcript not yet online but mp3 here) that the bill Bush sent to Congress would actually legalize abusive practices and indemnify CIA torturers against prosecution for past acts. (While we're on the subject, Umansky has a very good review of the media's failure to follow up on the administration's torture policies--arguably the most evil of all their bad policies--in the current issue of the Columbia Journalism Review.)

Anyway, Democrats' reaction to this bill were summed up in an article in the Times:

The Bush administration’s proposal to bring leading terrorism suspects before military tribunals met stiff resistance Thursday from key Republicans and top military lawyers who said some provisions would not withstand legal scrutiny or do enough to repair the nation’s tarnished reputation internationally.

Democrats, meanwhile, said they were inclined to go along with Senate Republicans drafting an alternative to the White House plan, one that would allow defendants more rights.
Democrats have essentially said they would back Senators Warner, Graham and McCain, leaving the Republicans to lead the fight against the administration, and allowing the Democrats to avoid political fallout from challenging the administration while maintaining their criticism of the administration’s handling of the war in Iraq.

“I think you’re looking for a fight that doesn’t exist,” Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the minority leader, told reporters.

First, this is verrrrrrry risky. Has Arlen Specter not caved on enough of these issues to have taught Senate Democrats the danger of trusting "moderate" Republicans? Andrew Sullivan writes:

Next week, I'm informed via troubled White House sources, will see the full unveiling of Karl Rove's fall election strategy. He's intending to line up 9/11 families to accuse McCain, Warner and Graham of delaying justice for the perpetrators of that atrocity, because they want to uphold the ancient judicial traditions of the U.S. military and abide by the Constitution. He will use the families as an argument for legalizing torture, setting up kangaroo courts for military prisoners, and giving war crime impunity for his own aides and cronies.

If you think this won't whip McCain, Warner, and Graham right back into line, you haven't paying any goddamn attention for the last four years or so. How much did McCain complain when the President announced, via signing statement, that he planned to ignore McCain's torture ban? That's right.

Second, Democrats should welcome this fight. They should welcome any fight. By allowing Republicans to fight the Bush administration for them they show themselves to be PUSSIES while allowing Congressional Republicans (the ones actually up for election this fall) to show themselves strong and independent of Bush.

I actually think that if the Democrats do manage to pick up 16 seats by accident, they'll be a lot more aggressive than they're showing now. We won't be listening to mealymouth Senate fucks like Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer but hardnosed House veterans like Henry Waxman and John Dingell. (The idea of Henry Waxman with subpoena power obviously scares the crap out of the White House.)

But Democrats are running this campaign--this campaign they are supposedly trying to nationalize--by picking only symbolic fights to stand in for issues people actually care about. Obviously they think Americans are idiots easily distracted by cheap symbology. I can sympathize with that, because after the last election it's hard not to have noticed that Americans are either idiots or unprincipled, selfish children. Unfortunately, in addition to not standing up for important principles themselves, the Dems currently in the spotlight don't seem to be a whole lot smarter than the national average. So I'm going to spell this out as simply as possible:

When you pander to people and insult their intelligence, at least try to hide it.

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I have a mole at the Department of Ed

To my commenters who can guess who it is, I ask you not to identify him/her. He/she passed me a hilarious internal memo from Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm, dated Friday September 8, in which she invites Department of Ed employees to train to save the city from Katrina-like destruction. By the time this happens, hurricane season will be long over. Also, be aware that if a hurricane hits New York, approximately 2/3 of the employees the city is recruiting to save us all will be Department of Ed employees. I love public-school teachers (I know several of them), but they're already overloaded. Is the city really planning to retrain them to keep order at all of its emergency shelters?

Text below the fold.

From: Kathleen Grimm (Coastal Storm Plan)
Sent: Friday, September 08, 2006 8:12 AM
Subject: Action Requested - Coastal Storm Plan Registration

To: All Department of Education Employees

From: Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm

Subject: Hurricane Preparedness Registration

August 1st marked the first official day of hurricane season for New York City, and thanks to the updated Coastal Storm Plan recently announced by the Mayor, we will be prepared should a hurricane strike at or near our City. As part of our preparation, we must ensure proper staffing to implement the plan, and to that end, the City is currently recruiting approximately 68,000 of its employees.

Today, I am reminding everyone in our agency of our obligation to serve our fellow New Yorkers, just as we do everyday, but especially if a hurricane were to reach our City, and asking once again that you volunteer as part of our staff recruitment effort. It is imperative that all of us do our part to prepare and protect the people of New York City should a hurricane strike. Our agency is recruiting 45,000 employees; to sign up, please go to www.nyc.gov/coastalstorm.

The City's Coastal Storm Plan (CSP) calls for the evacuation of threatened coastal areas and may require the City to provide emergency shelter. The shelters are located outside evacuation zones in public schools and City University of New York buildings and will be run primarily by City employees. The City must draw on the talents of all of its agencies, including ours, to staff these facilities.

None of us could forget the devastation inflicted upon the people of the Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita last year, nor could we forget the overwhelming outpouring of support by the people of our City who came to the aid of those ravaged by those storms. New Yorkers have a great history of helping others, and by preparing properly in advance, we can safely and effectively guide our City through a hurricane.

Please join your colleagues in this immensely important effort by becoming a volunteer today. Attached to this letter, you will find a fact sheet that should help you answer basic questions about serving in the City's hurricane shelter system. For additional information and to volunteer, go to www.nyc.gov/coastalstorm.

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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Attorney General Polls: Green Surges This Weekend

According to this review of polls, Mark Green's numbers have been going exactly the way he'd want them to go, and he's now within striking distance of Cuomo.

He went from 38 points behind a month and a half ago to 12 points behind today (assuming the Green Papers and Quinnipiac polls are comparable, which seems reasonable, given the similarity of their 9/5 and 9/6 results). Mark has been (sort of) surging this weekend, closing the gap by 7 points the past three days. He's not there yet, but it's encouraging enough that one shouldn't give up on him on the basis of believing he can't win it. He can win it.

Democratic Primary Polls
Source Date Cuomo Green Maloney
Green Papers 9/9 47% 35% 18%
Green Papers 9/8 50% 29% 21%
Green Papers 9/7 52% 31% 17%
Green Papers 9/6 51% 33% 16%
Qunnipiac 9/5 53% 31% 18%
Quinnipiac 9/3 40% 23% 16%
Quinnipiac 8/29 42% 26% 14%
Quinnipiac 8/5 49% 21% 9%
Quinnipiac 7/22 57% 19% 5%

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Damn Dirty Hippies

Gatemouth just proclaimed himself a Clinton Dem, which prompted me to make an involuntary facial spasm, then look for compromising pics of Bill on Google.

What I found was something you have probably seen a million times, but is new to me. And I have to say, it made me feel affection for the old tomcat like it was 1992 again. I've been accused of being shallow before, but style is a language, and in this photo, Hillary's hideous tinted glasses are shouting "call me a feminazi as many times as you want, I'm still going to rule the world one day" almost as loudly as Bill's ridiculous hair and beard are singing his appreciation of smart women and the pleasures of her, his, and other bodies.

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Banksy's Wit and Wisdom

My friend Fycelle recently fulminated against the triteness of Banksy's courageous critique of Paris Hilton, whose vapidity has never before been pointed out by anyone, ever.

Like the world needs another fucking Barbara Kruger! Apparently Banksy has been inspired by those tote bags and fridge magnets in Camden Market, emblazoned with Kruger's classic fighting-talk slogans such as 'I Shop Therefore I Am' and 'Your Body Is A Battleground'. Anticapitalist art fuck off and die!

Paris, already enjoyable as a persona for her glacial nonchalance, is only being elevated by the amusing (and slightly hysterical) upset caused by her music career. I think the 'Every CD you buy puts me further out of your league' slogan is revealing - its her wonderful air of self-containment, even when doing something as precarious and potentially embarassing as attempting to launch herself as a popstar, that pisses people right off. I often hear the word 'talent' being banded around and it makes me blush - are people really so naive about pop? Like a film, a popstar is the work of a team of people across various creative disciplines, visual and aural. Paris is doing not bad and has so far given the world three and a half good songs, which is better than Banksy's piles of shit art and stencilling.
After the jump, Fycelle rounds up some more of his favorite political art.

Hey guys, I found more really great art!

Although I have to say, I kind of like the Banksy thing with the Vietnamese girl and Ronald McDonald, simply because it made me laugh the first time I saw it, in that nervous, "that's challenging my petrified ways of thinking" laughter that Adorno liked so much. It seems to be about the sentimentalization and other distortions of that iconic image, though the aspect of it that's a critique of multinational profiteering in southeast Asia or whatever is, indeed, trite.

I like Banksy's (inconsistent) visual wit, I hate his sloganeering.

Shortly after writing the thing about Paris, Fycelle (who is a film student in London) clarified that he is not opposed to all political art per se, just bad political art.

I am not averse to art by any means, and neither to the idea that things like it can sometimes be profound, but it's this shit that pisses me off. Like, once a friend of mine (whose parents call themselves marxists) told me that she thought the most important duty of art was to 'express a social and political message'. I think the exact opposite! The idea that art should be massaging our (trite) moral sensibilities is obviously outrageous, but this is what so much shit vying to be called 'art' prides itself upon, including Banksy. His bullshit stunts remind me of the class clown who picks on the weakest teacher and then looks round for approval from the other kids - it's like a form of posing. There is a quote, I think it's from Proust, which is something like 'Art that contains theories is like an object on which the price tag has been left'. I like it because I've always struggled with the premium placed on ideas and meaning in a lot of art discussion and especially in my shortlived art education - it says eloquently how much art like this diminishes itself by cancelling out its own mystery. Anyway, once I was able to to free myself from the anxiety caused by the poisonous idea of 'meaning' and focus on the surfaces - the formal and aesthetic qualities - in art, I found my appreciation became both wider and deeper. Two really good essays that helped me were 'Against Interpretation' and 'The Aesthetics of Silence' by Susan Sontag.
How adorable of Fycelle to struggle so mightily with the question of meaning in art! Reading that made me feel like a cynical old man, which prompted me to sit back in my leather armchair, take a puff on my pipe, and stir the embers of my study of the philosophy of art ten years ago, most of which I'm sure is completely wrong and oversimplified.

for kant, art (including poetry) stimulates a particular part of our brains that nothing else can, precisely because its ambiguities stimulate creative, associative, unpredictable thinking. it's a kind of pure reason that needs the occasional workout.

bad political art does not serve this function. there's a simple meaning and not much more.

of course, good political art comprises more than one heavyhanded political message. i'm thinking of the film maria full of grace, or some of felix gonzalez-torres' better pieces, for example.

there are many other theories of the purpose of art (especially relevant might be adorno's argument that good, critical art can be a particularly effective indirect critique of petrified ways of thinking), but i always liked kant.

If you know what I mean.

(I think I'm constitutionally incapable of writing "Kant" without soon thereafter making a dirty pun)

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Friday, September 08, 2006

Primary Endorsements That Are Even Funnier Than Ours (But Only Because They're So Much Longer)

I have only just read Gatemouth's endorsements, which are actually more like a series of very smart, funny essays on the various campaigns. I highly recommend reading them all in full.

The AG's Race: Part One (Kidney Punch), Part Two (The Homophobe v. The Racist), and Part Three (The Consolation Prize).

Gatemouth's Voter's Guide: Part One (Intro; Statewide and Congressional Races; Notes), Part Two (Judicial Races), Part Three (The State Senate), and Part Four (The State Assembly).

You might find it hard to believe that reading about the State Assembly could make you guffaw, giggle, and galumph, but you'd be wrong.

A+, Gatemouth, A+.

Also, is it possible that Gatemouth is in fact Matt Taibbi? That would for me be a handy consolidation of my platonic writerly crushes. Well, in Matt Taibbi's case, not so platonic, after I met him.

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Mark Green's Endorsements

Antid Oto may be ambivalent about Mark Green, but I agree with the logic of some of Green's other endorsers.

For example, from the New York Times (after they discuss Green's professional accomplishments compared to Cuomo's record as a total hack):

Mr. Green has run for a lot of offices and has frequently been undone by his prickly personality. But when elected, he has always repaid voters by doing the job well.
I couldn't say it better, though I'd add that I also trust Green's commitment to social justice, based on his record.

The Village Voice, which hasn't endorsed, did do an important story about Cuomo's ties to a slum lord.

And, from the Daily News

Green served as city consumer affairs commissioner under Mayor David Dinkins, is an advocate in the mold of Ralph Nader and came close to defeating Michael Bloomberg for mayor in 2001. His accomplishments include petitioning the Federal Trade Commission to bar "Joe Camel" cigarette ads aimed at children. His plans for the AG's office include targeting abusive practices by HMOs and, as is standard for all candidates this year, attacking Medicaid fraud.

Green envisions an office that is oriented toward consumer protection and says that, at age 61, attorney general is his career "destination." Voters would have a good idea what they would get in choosing Green on Tuesday.
Who cares if he's behind in the polls? These endorsements could help him surge in this, the last weekend.

Green is the best choice.


In terms of blog endorsements, my favorite has got to be from Gatemouth:

Mark Green thinks he should be US Senator, would like to be Mayor, and now understands that, like Alan Hevesi, his future glory lies in the past, and it’s time to settle for one of those elected positions to which New Yorkers like to give life tenure. If he serves as long as Louie Lefkowitz or Arthur Levitt, he can maximize his pension while becoming a beloved alter kocker and having a state office building named for him which will eventually be turned into luxury condos.


Green worked for Ralph Nader, but in that distant point in time when this was not embarrassing to admit. Cuomo’s folks have apparently tried to use the Nader connections against Green, but Green actually tried to talk Nader out of running for President (and used their relationship in an attempt to leverage him). And seriously, does anyone really believe that Green will ever express the same opinions on Israel as Nader (even if he shared them), and how would he do so as AG anyway? While working for Nader, Green apparently compiled a solid record of muckraking, which he carried through to his positions as Consumer Affairs Commissioner and Public Advocate. He’s clearly been the gold standard in each of these positions, although that means he’s to be compared to the likes of Bess Meyerson and Bruce Ratner in the former, and Betsy Gotbaum in the latter. Arguably, this all translates into relevant experience for an AG; though Green seems more the sharpshooter than the Police Chief or DA.


Mark Green’s record is at least marginally more relevant to the job than Andrew’s. Andrew’s record of “public service” to the state of New York does not deserve to be rewarded. And, voting for Mark Green is the only opportunity voters in a statewide primary will have to effectively send a message that it is time to put an end to politics as usual as practiced by the Albany bi-partisan iron triangle. Voting for Mark Green may be the equivalent of cold showers and root canal, but no one ever said that growing up would be fun.

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Left Behinds Primary Endorsements: A Slate of Losers

As is often the case, half the people I'm going to endorse I can't even vote for, and I'm pretty sure every single one of them is going to lose. Politics kind of sucks sometimes. Anyway.

US Senate:

Jonathan Tasini
A pothole on the the Hillary-for-President highway. Do your part to widen that pothole just a smidge.

House of Representatives:

CD-10: Charles Barron
Seth Williams, a transient presence on Room 8, put it best:

[A]s a result of facing two paltry and absurd candidates who were buoyed by labor anger, [Ed] Towns now coasts to re-election even firmer in his commitment to business interests and less dependent on the working families of Brooklyn who so badly need his help.

If I thought Charles Barron had any chance at all of winning, I would say forget it. But the more votes that go to "Not Ed Towns", the more likely Ed Towns is to Not Forget About His Constituents. As much.

CD-11: Chris Owens
Like you couldn't guess. This is the one candidate I'm genuinely excited about--the only one I've donated to, I think. Meanwhile Andrews is a crook, Clarke is a liar, and Yassky will enable us into war with Iran. Sadly, while the latest poll shows the race a 4-way tie, I would predict either an Andrews or Yassky win at this point, based purely on machine ties (Andrews) and sick money (Yassky).

New York State Goverment

Governor: Whatever.

Attorney General: ?
Here I am forced to choose between two losers: Mark Green and Sean Patrick Maloney. I like Sean Patrick Maloney more, but he has no chance in hell of winning. But I think Mark Green would be a much more dynamic AG than Andrew Cuomo--his tenure as New York City Public Advocate was pretty impressive, until he threw it all away in one of the worst campaigns ever. If Mark Green weren't such an asshole, Andrew Cuomo might not have locked up the entire state's party machinery so easily. On the other hand, the fact that Mark Green is an asshole is what would make him a more aggressive AG.

Anyway, the basic question is this: if Mark Green is close enough that he might possibly win, you should probably vote for Green. But if Mark Green is going to lose anyway, don't hold your nose, just go with distant third-place finisher and much better all-around guy Sean Patrick Maloney.

Apropos of nothing, Cuomo is up 47-27 in the latest poll.


40th AD: Not Diane Gordon
I'm pretty sure we have heavy readership in East New York. That's why Maurice Gumbs keeps insisting no one in the district knows she was caught on tape soliciting a $500,000 bribe. Two months ago I called it the ultimate in chutzpah that she was still running for reelection. That was before I understood that she was going to win. Jesus.

57th AD: Bill Batson
I found this story about Hakeem Jeffries pretty damning.

Hakeem's latest flyer takes a pretty clear anti-Ratner stand. And yet when he thinks he is among Ratner supporters, he takes a completely different stand. A gentleman contacted me specifically to convey an anecdote. Here are his words (he spoke on the record):

Though I do not know Mr. Jeffries personally and have not had extended conversations with him on this issue, I feel I should relay to you what he told me around 6:45 P.M. on August 23, 2006. As I was waiting to get into the public hearing regarding the Atlantic Yards Project DEIS, Mr. Jeffries came down the line shaking hands. As he shook my hand, I asked Mr. Jeffries if he had a solid position on the project as it now stands. Mr. Jeffries looked me in the eye and said that he was "fully in favor of the project" and that he thought "it will be great for Brooklyn."

As I said, I don't know the man personally. I can only tell you what he told me that evening. I take him at his word, that he is fully in favor of the Ratner Atlantic Yards project as it is described in the current DEIS.

--Jeff Newell

Jeff emphasized to me that he was standing "in a sea" of people wearing red ACORN shirts, so it probably appeared to Hakeem that Jeff was pro-Ratner. Hakeem was presumably telling him what he thought he wanted to hear.

State Senate

18th SD: Velmanette Montgomery
I almost didn't endorse here just because I'm pretty sure Montgomery will win, and that breaks the perfect streak of the post. But Tracy Boyland is Bruce Ratner's candidate. I'm sure 90% of our readership who gives a shit already knew that, but for the 10% who don't I'm screwing up my aesthetics, and if you know me, you know that means something.

25th SD: Look elsewhere for insight. I haven't followed this one at all.

UPDATE (from Solomon):

I endorse Mark Green for Attorney General. As you wrote, he was a kick-ass Public Advocate. Let's not forget how many times and for how many good reasons he sued Giuliani, his first-mover opposition to NYPD racial profiling, his consumer advocacy work with Nader back in the day, etc., etc. The man has an excellent record, is smart as fuck, and was born to be Attorney General. Who cares if he looks funny or is something other than charming. Betsy Gotbaum is charming.

UPDATE II (Antid Oto writing):

NoLandGrab links to this slate and notes

a lack of confidence in the 'winningness' of the good guys. Remember, the only way to win this is to help out, not to sit around and pout. If you're not signed up yet to volunteer on primary day, contact your favorite campaign office or contact us to help out with NoLandGrab's efforts.
This is fair enough, except that I endorsed at least two of the candidates for tactical reasons specifically because I am convinced they are going to lose. Of the others there is only one, as I said, that I'm actually passionate about, and while I haven't been able to give my time (and can't on primary day, either, since I have to vote and then travel), I have given him money.

I would say this at NoLandGrab directly, except they don't have comments.

Also, seriously, don't tell me not to pout. I pout like a fuckin' champ. I pout artistically.

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