Left Behinds

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

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Do You Suffer From Neurotypical Disorder?

Whenever I get sick I sincerely convince myself that everything is wrong with me (from AIDS to autism). In the course of my self pity party I stumbled upon this documentary.

My mother, a clinical psychologist whose 35-year field of expertise is developmental disorders, did not hesitate in dismissing the fundamental premise of the documentary, that the narration reflected Sue's true thoughts.

"Facilitated communication has been thoroughly debunked. It's almost always a fraud. This is so typical. Notice how the facilitated communication sounds suspiciously like some cheezy, flowery social worker, with that self help language that's so typical of social workers and so atypical of autistics who can communicate without facilitation. Not that the facilitators necessarily do it on purpose. It's like a ouija board, or if I made a documentary all about my cat in which I completely anthropomorphized her interior life. It's sad and desperate, really."

She hedged that it was impossible to be certain without interviewing Sue directly, but "the chances are maybe 1 in 1000 that that narration is actually mostly hers." She also thought that Sue almost definitely was a relatively high-functioning developmentally disabled person with some sort of chromosomal syndrome.

Assuming that diagnosis is correct, the film is really tragic for everyone involved.

Anyhow, in my research, I also found this very amusing site.

What Is NT?

Neurotypical syndrome is a neurobiological disorder characterized by preoccupation with social concerns, delusions of superiority, and obsession with conformity.

Neurotypical individuals often assume that their experience of the world is either the only one, or the only correct one. NTs find it difficult to be alone. NTs are often intolerant of seemingly minor differences in others. When in groups NTs are socially and behaviorally rigid, and frequently insist upon the performance of dysfunctional, destructive, and even impossible rituals as a way of maintaining group identity. NTs find it difficult to communicate directly, and have a much higher incidence of lying as compared to persons on the autistic spectrum.

NT is believed to be genetic in origin. Autopsies have shown the brain of the neurotypical is typically smaller than that of an autistic individual and may have overdeveloped areas related to social behavior.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Normal Disorders: 666.00 Neurotypic Disorder
How Common Is It?
Tragically, as many as 9625 out of every 10,000 individuals may be neurotypical.
Are There Any Treatments For NT?
There is no known cure for Neurotypical Syndrome.

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Sorry for my silence, but I've been really sick this week. Getting better so will resume posting.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I forgot about this guy

Solomon and I had a lot of fun with Christopher X. Brodeur's 2005 campaign for mayor. Unfortunately, it was in the days before we had a blog and I forgot all about him. Bouldin just mentioned him, though, so here it is, enjoy, Brodeur for Mayor 2005.

A few tastes from "100 INNOVATIONS FOR NYC":



The MTA must be shut down.


Any candidate who says otherwise isn’t qualified to scrub the few public toilets in town.

We’ll either fold the agency into the Governor’s office (so politicians can no longer escape the voters’ wrath) or we’ll consider making the head of the MTA an elected position, so the agency is no longer immune from angry voters. Unfortunately, I can write over 900,000 words outlining endless scandals of the MTA (which the media kept secret) and my specific details to clean it all up (and “it’s not a CITY agency” is a lame excuse) but you already know it needs to be put to sleep.

My first plan, is to make the subways free, saving us over $300,000,000 of your taxdollars a year (which is wasted simply collecting the fare!) INSTANTLY.

Few people seem to be aware that taxdollars---not the stupid subway fare---- pay for most of the subway anyhow, making fare-collection brilliantly counter-productive.

[....this one goes on for quite a while....]



Whoever the genius was who made most bathroom doors open IN (so I have to touch the filthiest doorknobs on earth to get out) didn’t know what he was doing.

My plan is simple:

all future bathroom doors must open OUT so you do not have to touch it with your hand. This will not only be more convenient, it will reduce the number of colds and other bacteria you catch from other people.

There is no problem too big or too small for me to fix.

Because I actually care about your quality-of-life.

Crazy, hm?



My apartment has a balcony and it's fantastic.

Everybody should have one, and as mayor I would require all new buildings to hava them. (Developers can't complain too much because it's a one-time-cost, which will bring 50 - 100 years of pleasure to the tenants.)

Wham! I just improved the quality-of-life of another million people!

(Should I even point out how much safer I just made NYC in case of fires? Freddy Bloomberg’s plan is to ignore the issue---just like all other issues. He believes that in the event of a fire, you should find the key to the window gate that leads to your fire escape, [Don’t forget to hold your breath, and use a flashlight in case the power’s out!] and then struggle to open it while your home fills with toxic smoke, then climb thru the window out onto the fire escape! Great plan! My plan is a LITTLE more simple and intelligent: in the event of a fire, you walk over to the balcony door, turn the handle, and step out into fresh air! Crazy, hm?)

Just go try and read the whole thing. It's AMAZING.

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Whose fault is racism?

I'm working out of town this week, in a hotel that delivers USA Today with breakfast. Lucky thing, because I never ordinarily read USA Today and might never have learned who's really responsible for white racism:

Black people.

In fact, in the days before rap music and BET white people never, ever mimicked black people in derogatory ways.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Energy through charcoal

Via John, a umpteen-thousand-word article on how to meet most if not all of our energy needs (and cut CO2 emissions) by burning biomass for charcoal. There's a lot of detail, but to me the most impressive element is the political awareness: we're wasting a lot of time subsidizing corn-based ethanol because farmers need it (and because ADM wants it). ADM has money; corn farmers have Iowa. Fuck ADM (seriously, fuck ADM with a golf club), but we're never going to get around farmers as a political force, not with our primary system.

Farm income depends a lot on subsidies, but we're paying for things that don't do us much (if any) good. It's time to stop wasting that money and get something useful for it. So what can farmers make that they ought to get paid for?

Rather, what problems can they solve, above and beyond keeping folks fed? The obvious issues are:

1. Too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and
2. A dearth of storable, renewable energy.

#1 is the big global-warming issue. Farmers can help solve it, but they didn't make it; the problem was created by others. Since CO2 reduction is a public good, it looks like the ideal farm price-support program for the next half-century: we can tax greenhouse-gas creators to pay farmers to offset the damage, and pay farmers some extra to return the atmosphere to a stable state. Just pulling the atmospheric CO2 level from today's 379 ppm down to 350 ppm (a level which would probably stabilize Greenland and Antarctica) requires the net capture of about 230 billion tons2 of carbon dioxide. If we can get 1.72 billion dry tons of biomass per year (720 million tons of waste and another billion dry tons of biomass crops), about 770 million tons would be carbon3; even if we took it all, released nothing back to the atmosphere, and added twice again as much effort from the rest of the world, we'd still be at the job for around a century. Paying farmers to take carbon out of the air and put it in the ground, out of reach (e.g. as charcoal mixed with earth) could be the ultimate price backstop for anything they grew. The risk of price collapses due to bumper harvests would be a thing of the past; sequestration would be the ultimate backup "market" able to absorb anything beyond marketable quantities.

#2 favors products which can be stockpiled. Light gases such as methane can be stored in underground formations, but liquids can be stored in tanks most anywhere and many solids can just be heaped. And to solve the greenhouse problem, the fuels must be able to deliver sufficient energy to the user to replace what we'd otherwise require from fossil fuels. Ideally, much of the carbon leaving the system should be produced in a form which can be stored indefinitely. Charcoal certainly meets that requirement (it is used to carbon-date campfires up to 10,000 years old, and perhaps older).

When all is said and done, here's the bullet-point program:

If Congress decided that this was a desirable future, what policy initiatives should we have? I'd suggest this program for the nation:

* Finance the fastest practical development and pilot test programs for solid-oxide fuel cells, molten-carbonate fuel cells and especially direct-carbon fuel cells. Processing systems for biomass carbonizer off-gas to feed SOFC's should be a priority.
* Block the issuance of permits for any coal-burning powerplants without plans for full carbon sequestration.
* Require most new vehicles to be PHEV's.
* Promote or require plug-in facilities for new or renovated construction.
* Some sort of net metering or other feed-in law is required for the grid.
* Get rid of all preferences and mandates for alternative fuels; incentives should be created by taxes on oil, coal and natural gas.

Points 2, 3, and 6 would take a hell of a political fight, but that fight has to come anyway.

One takeaway lesson: don't take any politician seriously if he or she mentions ethanol in remarks about global warming or energy independence (unless he/she is talking specifically about developing better cellulosic [non-corn] ethanol technology, which could be legit, maybe). Such a politician is full of shit.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Last minute protest notification

ASSEMBLE FOR RIGHTS NYC OPPOSES NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly Restrictions on Political Speech in the Public Spaces

WHAT: Rally to voice opposition to recent New York Police Department proposals that would restrict public gatherings

WHO: Assemble for Rights NYC

DATE: Monday, November 27, 2006

TIME: 10AM to 11AM

WHERE: NYPD Headquarters, One Police Plaza

More details here.

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Usually it takes more than a month to be proved right

Okay, half right. I said there would be no quick treaty action to halt the disappearance of the world's fish, that part I got.

United Nations negotiations on fisheries have ended without a global ban on trawling methods which destroy coral reefs and fish nurseries.

Conservation groups and some governments had argued for a ban on bottom-trawling, which drags heavy nets and crushing rollers on the sea floor.

Negotiators could only agree on a limited set of precautionary measures.

Last month, leading scientists warned there would be no sea fish left in 50 years if current practices continued.
In 2004, a report compiled for the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and other environmental groups concluded that bottom-trawling was "...highly destructive to the biodiversity associated with seamounts and deep-sea coral ecosystems and... likely to pose significant risks to this biodiversity, including the risk of species extinction."

In the same year, 1,100 scientists put their names to a petition supporting the demand for a moratorium.

All this scientific evidence could not convince enough UN delegates that a moratorium was needed.

The eventual deal which goes forward to the General Assembly mandates governments to adopt unilateral "precautionary measures" to ensure their bottom-trawlers do not cause significant damage to marine ecosystems.

On the other hand I said it would be the fault of the United States, and that part I didn't get.

Conservation groups accused Iceland in particular of blocking further protection. Iceland is already under fire from the conservation lobby over its recent decision to resume commercial whaling.

"The international community should be outraged that Iceland could almost single-handedly sink deep-sea protection and the food security of future generations," said Ms Sack.

Not that the fish care whose fault it is.

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

This year, be thankful you're not in this family.

I don't even know what to think.

As Devin K. Hoerauf's robbery trial in Rockville was wrapping up Tuesday afternoon, the 19-year-old accidentally dropped a bag of marijuana on the floor when he stood up at the defense table.

The judge's assistant noticed a plastic bag containing "a green, leafy substance" and pointed it out to a Montgomery County deputy sheriff, who picked it up and added two misdemeanor charges -- possession of a controlled substance and possession of paraphernalia -- to Hoerauf's criminal history.

To make matters worse, his mother, a defense lawyer, was by his side at the time -- representing him.
Hoerauf first appeared before Boynton years ago on juvenile charges. He pleaded guilty this summer to second-degree assault after an incident in Silver Spring. He was charged with robbery in June after he and some friends were suspected of stealing bikes from a group of younger teenagers near the MARC train station in Germantown.

Yikes. Quite the record for the child of a defense lawyer. He must really, really hate her, right?


According to the recording, Gwyn Hoerauf, his mother, said jail was not the answer to her son's problems.

"I'm going to say it in a very crass way, and I hope he forgives me," she said.

"He is brain-damaged, your honor. I don't mean he's just a defendant who does dumb stuff. This is a boy with an IQ in triple digits. His brain is glued together with Silly Putty. He can't think his way out of a paper bag, but he can do physics."

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Rumsfeld also personally authorized torture.

In writing.

MADRID (Reuters) - Outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized the mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the prison's former U.S. commander said in an interview on Saturday.

Former U.S. Army Brigadier General Janis Karpinski told Spain's El Pais newspaper she had seen a letter apparently signed by Rumsfeld which allowed civilian contractors to use techniques such as sleep deprivation during interrogation.

Karpinski, who ran the prison until early 2004, said she saw a memorandum signed by Rumsfeld detailing the use of harsh interrogation methods.

"The handwritten signature was above his printed name and in the same handwriting in the margin was written: "Make sure this is accomplished"," she told Saturday's El Pais.

You're all shocked, I know.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Have A Very Left Behinds Turkey Day

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

PS Pepsi Challenge

I'm posting today's Lunchbox partly because it's funny, but mostly because does anyone else find his "turkey gobble" strangely erotic, like some secret lesbian siren song? Now that I think about it, his sex appeal is a bit lesbionic (which is not a dig).

Also, I love Rangel's draft bill. He's definitely there to keep us progressives happy, in a meaningless sort of way.

After checking out the Blue Tiger Dems site, it seems more like the Blue-Haired Tiger Dems (oh snap!). Seriously, it's very senior-oriented. Which is cool by me. Everybody knows seniors disproportionately vote.

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A Different Different Class

This has been my jam for the past few days. He has now written the two best pop songs ever written about class.

There are two versions on Youtube, a mock-karaoke and a live version. The live performance is probably only for die-hard fans.

I wish all pop music were like this, seriously.


What the hell, here are the lyrics.

Well did you hear, there's a natural order?
Those most deserving will end up with the most?
That the cream cannot help but always rise up to the top,

Well I say, “Shit floats”.

If you thought things had changed,
Friend, you'd better think again,
Bluntly put, in the fewest of words:

Cunts are still running the world,
Cunts are still running the world.

Now the working classes are obsolete,
They are surplus to society's needs,
So let 'em all kill each other,
And get it made overseas.
That's the word don't you know,
From the guys that's running the show,
Lets be perfectly clear boys and girls,

Cunts are still running the world,
Cunts are still running the world.

Oh feed your children on crayfish and lobster tails,
Find a school near the top of the league,
In theory I respect your right to exist,
I will kill you if you move in next to me,

Ah, it stinks, it sucks, it's anthropologically unjust,
Oh but the takings are up by a third,
Cunts are still running the world,
Cunts are still running the world.
(Cunts are still running the world)
(Cunts are still running the world)

The free market is perfectly natural,
Do you think that I'm some kind of dummy?
It's the ideal way to order the world;
“Fuck the morals, does it make any money?”

And if you don't like it? Then leave.
Or use your right to protest on the street,
Yeah, use your right but don't imagine that it's heard,

Not whilst cunts are still running the world,
Cunts are still running the world,
Cunts are still running the world,
Cunts are still running the world,
Cunts are still running the world,
Cunts are still running the world,

Cunts are still running... the world.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Can One Single Politician Live on the Minimum Wage For a Month?

I love the idea of the Union rep in the second of these videos.
I'd love to see how much the heating bill is for the White House for one day. Let's see if the President could get by for one week on $5.15 an hour.

That's a brilliant idea. I am upping the ante and throwing down the gauntlet. If one single Dem or Republican candidate for any office can live for one month strictly on the minimum wage, I will donate a zillion dollars to their campaign.

John Edwards, I'm looking at you.

Based on offensive drivel like this and this, I also encourage every staff member at the New York Times and New York Magazine to live on minimum wage for a month. Even a week. Including income-appropriate housing and services. However, I won't make the same pledge, since my antipathy for them trumps my commitment to the greater good.

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Union fun

Why is it that union representatives inevitably seem more prepared for the camera and more genuine than Democratic politicians putatively trying to represent the same values? Screw media training; recruit these guys as candidates. You talk about what you stand for and why. Is that so fucking hard?

Via Ezra.

I'm looking at you, Barack.

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The Adam Green Coverup

Has anyone actually seen Adam Green's final numbers for his bid to unseat Hevesi?

The Board of Elections is really dragging its feet. Now I'm not one to call out 'conspiracy,' but isn't it possible, just possible, that this concession speechwas premature?

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Zak Smith's Gravity's Rainbow Illustrations

As I just mentioned, I'm writing a little something about them. This post is not that, it's just my free associations about his project.

Basically, he made little tiny postcard illustrations for every single page of that little book by Thomas Pynchon (whose new novel, by the way, Michiko Kakutani pretty much trashed). I remember seeing them at the 2004 Whitney Biennial and thinking they were hilariously pretentious, but after reading this interview I'm warming to Mr. Smith. I hate to think it's for as shallow a reason as the fact that he's adorable and clever and sarcastic, but knowing myself, that's very possible.

Don't you guys think that Emma B should date him? Now that I think about it, does she know him?

Anyhow, my first impression was that the illustrations were slapdash sketches for a half-baked comic, artworld opportunism banking on punk/comicgeek street cred. In the context of the Biennial, can you blame me? But after spending more than ten minutes with them, I don't think that's fair. Smith spent a year making three or so little postcard illustrations a day. The illustrations themselves are unabashedly earnest in a way that only a 30-year-old still sporting his adolescent green mohawk would ever try to be. But some of them really work, like this

There are 3 big shoes in the illustrations, all of which were based on observation of actual shoes and all of which get a lot of attention. I think they're kind of a good example of a time when the subject was kind of mundane but the picture nailed it.

As for shoes and fate--well in the South they say if you meet a stranger, look at their shoes.

Ok, why? Well, the theory is, your clothes change all the time, but your shoes don't change as much, so they've been through what you've been through and show the signs of it.

Not that I imagined any of this at the time, but a big thing in the book is Slothrop trying to hold onto his sense of himself despite being rootless and changing clothes and roles all the time. So maybe when we think of Slothrop's shoes we're thinking more about trying to remember everything he's been through as opposed to how when we see his Hawaiian shirt or his zoot suit or his pig suit or his moustache we just think about what role he's playing at the moment. Ok, that's my Shoe Theory.
That's actually, like, insightful.

And then some of the pics are just cool-looking, like this illustration for this passage:

based on

He knew there were six carbon atoms with a hydrogen attached to each one - but he could not see the shape. Not until the dream... Kekule dreams the Great Serpent holding its own tail in its mouth...

And because I like comics and I like pretty boys, I like moments like this

based on
...your blood spurting from the flaccid stub of artery, the snowy roofslates fallen across half your bed...

As Zak says,

my project was to draw my understanding of the scenes as written. The sentence says "you"--when I read the word "you" then I understand it as referring to Zak Smith. If Alan Greenspan were doing the illustrations we would then have a picture of Alan Greenspan being ushered into the Volkswagen.

There's actually one other place where Pynchon uses second-person--near the beginning he says something about "you" getting your arm blown off--so there's me with my arm blown off--but I'm facing left so people didn't recognize me from my haircut.


So why did I think it was slapdash? It was partly just the fact that there were so many jumbled together in a little room, and they were so cluttered and tiny. And it was partly because some of them look like this.

As Zak pretty accurately says,

I think a lot of the best stuff I did on GR comes at the intersection of Pynchon's ideas about death and my own sort of punk/metal thing. The Angel of Death in the center of the last page is pretty nice--I might get a tattoo of that--and page 748--the "ravens of death have now tasted of the poison of god" is pretty fuckin' sweet if I do say so myself.
I trashed at least a hundred, I should've trashed about a hundred more.
Anyhow, here's the whole project.

p.s. This is to give Emma B. that extra incentive to pursue him when she's in NYC next month:

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Zizek Tonight

Slavoj ŽZizek

when: Mon 11.20 (7pm)
where: Tilton Gallery (8 E 76th St, 212.737.2221)
(RSVP required) info@jacktiltongallery.com

Though when Neda Cole and I saw Alain Badiou there on Friday, nobody was checking RSVPs. But Alain Badiou, Alain Badiou who maybe five people in NYC have actually read, was thronged. We had to push our way through the crowd yet were among the last people let up, and as we were walking up, some geeky little grad-student-looking man actually tried to pull Neda down the stairs in order to get her seat. It was the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show. And then it was so crowded in the actual room that some old man who was essentially giving Neda a lap dance kept rubbing his scalp absentmindedly, so that dandruff chunks big enough for my myopic eyes to spot cascaded down her blouse.

Which is all to say, i recommend standing in the back.

I can't go because i have to finish this Pynchon/Zak Smith review. But if you have a penchant for geekyhot, Badiou at least was a smorgasborg, like a critical theory Jdate. I spent most of the lecture making eyes at a sublimely pouty-lipped young man across the room.

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

We've come a long way since the Pullman Strike

Or not.

UPDATE: I've never had warmer congratulations to offer. SEIU deserves all the credit in the world for an incredibly tough victory.

That does remind me, though, of a query for our union-connected readers: What happened with the UNITE HERE action we commented on about eight months ago? A couple of months ago I saw (and neglected to mention) that a lot of those locals did negotiate contracts, but did they include the nationwide card-check agreements that were supposedly the heart of the whole thing?

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Friday, November 17, 2006

I've had this song on the brain all week

For the weekend.

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So what do you think you're supposed to do?

And for 12 years, the media didn't call a duck a duck, because that's not something we're supposed to do.

There's your dysfunctional Fourth Estate right there.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Patch 'em up. Ship 'em back.

It's great that prosthetics have advanced so far. But this part gives me nightmare visions:

Once, a soldier who had lost a limb in battle would have been pensioned off or transferred to a desk job. Now, though, some are being passed as fit for duty and are being allowed to return to the frontline.

"The mindset, even as early as five years ago, was if a soldier had impairments such as an amputation, they are unfit and they may be at risk to others around them if put in a combat situation. That has changed," says Colonel Daniel Garvey, Deputy Commander of the US Army Physical Disability Agency.

"If a soldier wants to remain on active duty, we are going to find a job for him. That is a cultural change for us."

When the other leg goes, fuck it, slap another prosthetic on that one and send him back again. Better yet, if the hand goes replace it with a chainsaw. That would be AWESOME.

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(ht: Liza)

Where do they keep finding these guys? Is there a batshit registry?

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After a while, you run out of ways to say "the fix is in"

Racing to give their approval to Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards mega-development before Gov. George Pataki leaves office Dec. 31, state officials have approved the project’s final environmental impact statement.

The document approved on Wednesday by the Empire State Development Corporation outlined an eight-million-square-foot development — a project that is the same size as the first plan unveiled by Forest City Ratner in 2004, but 8-percent smaller than the plan put forth in a draft impact study this summer.

The changes made nearly mirror those recommended by the City Planning Commission at the close of the public comment period in September.

“The state heard the voice of [city officials],” said Jasper Goldman, a spokesman for the Municipal Arts Society. “But no one else seems to have been listened to — especially not the communities that called for better-designed open space, a workable traffic plan, a bigger reduction in scale and more affordable housing.”

I mean, once it's in it's hardly ever taken back out again.

More from Norman Oder, who follows this stuff closer than almost anyone, here, here, and here.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

As Eustacia says, now I feel bad for laughing

I've prepared a little chart to illustrate what it's okay to make fun of:

The racism of American frat boys


The poverty of Rumanian peasants (while not paying them shit)


The homophobia of rodeo performers


The disability of a one-armed man


It's kind of surprising that Sacha Baron Cohen didn't get that.

(I know I objected to PC criticism of this very film's humor within the last week. Whatever. Call me a hypocrite. I just think there's a difference between embarrassing people by showing what they actually said and outright misrepresenting them. I honestly thought that village was a Hollywood set. And how hard would it have been to find a village A) with the right look and B) desperate enough to accept being distorted--with full consent--in exchange for, I don't know, a little more than six bucks a head? How about $50 each? For a village of 1,000 that's $50,000, a quarter of a percent of the movie's $18 million budget.)

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Bush personally authorized torture

In advance of looming Congressional hearings, the CIA covers its ass:

The Central Intelligence Agency has acknowledged for the first time the existence of two classified documents, including a directive signed by President Bush, that have guided the agency’s interrogation and detention of terror suspects.
The contents of the documents were not revealed, but one of them is “a directive signed by President Bush granting the C.I.A. the authority to set up detention facilities outside the United States and outlining interrogation methods that may be used against detainees,” the A.C.L.U. said, based on its review of published accounts.

Now Chris Dodd "regrets" not filibustering the Military Commissions Act? Now he and Pat Leahy want to draft a bill to restore habeas corpus? Too bad Bush will simply veto such a bill. Too bad, you fucking weak little cowards, that when you actually had your only chance of stopping the thing you were too scared of the electoral consequences to stand up for the principles you now admit you have. Now Bush can simply stick anyone he chooses down a hole forever, and we may never know what he's done or be able to dismantle the gulag he's established outside the law.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I'm getting a little tired of this

This CW annoys me.

Ask thy father, and he will show thee: advice that, at long last, George W. Bush seems to be taking. ... The American people, as politicians like to say, spoke last week—and spoke in no uncertain terms. The 2006 vote does not suggest an eagerness for a sharp left turn. It seems, rather, to be a plea for a shift from the hard right of the neoconservatives to the center represented by the old man in Houston. The re-emergence of Iraq Study Group voices such as Baker, Gates and Alan Simpson—all longtime friends of Bush Senior—is not unlike the entrance of Fortinbras at the conclusion of "Hamlet." These are 41's men, and the removal of Rumsfeld—an ancient rival of Bush Senior's from the Ford days—is a move toward the broad middle. The apparent triumph of pragmatism over ideology on Iraq was welcome news, at least to the public. In the new NEWSWEEK Poll, 67 percent favor Bush Senior's internationalist approach to foreign policy over his son's more unilateral course.
As the war has gone badly and the years have ticked by—2003, 2004, 2005 and now much of 2006—the senior President Bush, the man who managed to capture just 37 percent of the vote in 1992, has grown in stature. Raising taxes and capping domestic spending in 1990, refusing to exceed the United Nations mandate after expelling Saddam from Kuwait, and deftly managing the end of the cold war and the reunification of Germany loom ever larger.

Ugh. There's lots to make you vomit there. But perhaps worst of all is the fantasy that George Herbert Walker Bush believed in restrained foreign policy. Just read the shit the CIA pulled in Latin America during a span of time that includes his year as its director. He was a board member of the Committee on the Present Danger, for crap's sake. The whole fucking family thinks meddling in the affairs of other countries is our absolute right as Americans. Robert Gates, the new apparatchik brought back from the dead, was hip-deep in Iran-Contra, the entire purpose of which was to meddle in Nicaragua. James Baker (along with Poppy) is, as part of the Carlyle Group, an open war profiteer, most recently seen using his position as Special Presidential Envoy supposedly charged with getting nations to forgive Iraqi debt to try and coax a $1 billion investment out of Kuwait. He's been futzing with Iraq since before the first Gulf War.

This is not a shift from neoconservativism to moderation. This is a shift from a foreign policy that straddles the line between deluded Wilsonianism and corporatism to one that's 100% about global capital. I suppose you could call that a change from "ideology" to "pragmatism," but only because at this point "pragmatically smoother for certain corporations" couldn't possibly be any worse than "completely and utterly bugfuck insane." I have this vision of Dick Cheney painting the walls of his undisclosed bunker with his own feces and insisting the irregular shapes he creates are his new counterinsurgency plans for Iraq. Toning everything down to the Dirty War/black ops level would have to be an improvement, at least for Americans--but that doesn't mean it's in any way a return to "moderation."


It occurs to me that the difference between Poppy and Junior is perhaps best understood as one not of philosophy but of tactics: a question of how many Americans' hands to dirty. Poppy preferred proxy wars and deniable torture; Junior, the petulant little autocrat, wants everything done under his direct control. Poppy's method does have the advantage of killing fewer brown people in aggregate (compare 80,000 dead in Operation Condor in the entire southern cone of South America to 650,000 dead in Iraq alone) and far fewer Americans. It also allows for more interference in more places at once. Junior's method, however, is arguably more honest and transparent, probably because although Junior likes secrecy and lying as much as the next would-be despot, he is too stupid for real guile. Maybe Newsweek just prefers Poppy's professionalism.

Thanks to an anonymous commenter for additional poop on Gates.

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The Hills Have Penises

I have conservatives in my life who periodically forward me the latest conservative funnies, usually involving Hillary. For example, I just got sent this deeply, embarrassingly unfunny animation called "You ain't woman enough to run this land."

My favorite, from a couple years ago, was probably

It's kind of brilliant how it so succinctly encapsulates the punch line of all the jokes, i.e., "HILLARY HAS A PENIS."

What is with that? Why does this one joke in infinite iteration endlessly delight fans of Rush Limbaugh? Hillary is not even a particularly manly woman. I mean, Will Ferrell's impersonation of Janet Reno always got me giggling because he looked exactly like her (the real Reno's surprise guest appearance on SNL, breaking through a cinderblock wall to confront her doppelganger, just about sent me to the hospital), but Hillary's a perfectly feminine woman. Perhaps less so in her college days, but c'mon.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Goddamnit I like Charlie Rangel

I've said it before, I know. But he's genuinely funny. I'm sure everyone's heard this already:

Mississippi gets more than their fair share back in federal money, but who in the hell wants to live in Mississippi?

His first apology didn't really fly:

I just love New York so much that I can't understand why everyone wouldn't want to live here.

So here's this morning's stab at it:

For all of you from Mississippi, I'd like to extend my deepest apologies. I promise I'll visit as soon as I find a food taster. My brother David Dinkins isn't available.

Thank you, folks! He'll be here for the next two years.

It's going to be fun having him in a position of real power.

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Creepiest. Global Warming Story. EVAR.

Okay, the article doesn't tie this to global warming explicitly. But what else can you think about freakiness that appears to be caused by unusually mild winters? Remember how the beetles formerly held in check by cold winters are eating through Canada's forests? Well check this out:

To the bafflement of insect experts, gigantic yellow jacket nests have started turning up in old barns, unoccupied houses, cars and underground cavities across the southern two-thirds of Alabama.

Specialists say it could be the result of a mild winter and drought conditions, or multiple queens forcing worker yellow jackets to enlarge their quarters so the queens will be in separate areas.
At one site in Barbour County, the nest was as large as a Volkswagen Beetle...The largest nest Ray has inspected this year filled the interior of a weathered 1955 Chevrolet parked in a rural Elmore County barn. That nest was about the size of a tire in the rear floor seven weeks ago, but quickly spread to fill the entire vehicle, the property owner, Harry Coker, said.

...In previous years, a yellow jacket nest was no larger than a basketball, Ray said. It would contain about 3,000 workers and one queen. These gigantic nests may have as many as 100,000 workers and multiple queens.

There are certainly plausible reasons other than global warming, I suppose, and a good scientist never prejudges. But in any case, CREEPY.

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Hearings on Proposed Voting Machines: More Heckling?

Here's your chance to see the vaunted Diebolds in action.

1) Avante: VOTE-TRAKKER™ EVC308-FF (Touch Screen DRE)
2) ES&S: Model 100 (Optical Scan) and ES&S AutoMARK (Ballot Marking Device)
3) Diebold: AccuVote-OS (Optical Scan) and AutoMARK VAT (Ballot Marking
4) Sequoia: AVC Advantage Plus (Touch Screen DRE)
5) Sequoia: Optech Insight (Optical Scan)

Each vendor will conduct a half hour presentation followed by audience questions & answers. The demonstrations will be conducted from 5-10 PM on Nov. 15th and 17th. The locations are as follows:

Wednesday, November 15, 2006
LaGuardia Community College
Little Theater
31-10 Thomson Avenue
Long Island City, NY
(718) 482-7200

Friday, November 17, 2006
Hostos Community College
Savoy Multipurpose Room
120 Walton Avenue
Bronx, NY
(718) 518-4444

On November 21, 2006 at 4 PM, the BOE in NYC will hold a Public Hearing on the proposed voting systems. The hearing is open to all members of the public to enable them to provide their thoughts and feedback to the Board’s Commissioners regarding the proposed voting systems.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Board of Elections in NYC
42 Broadway, 6th Floor
New York, New York 10004

The only thing motivating me to cast votes in the general elections is the decrepit, 19th century mechanical systems, with their giant levers and flickable switches. They's so satisfyingly archaic. I imagine Bella Abzug rolling her eyes in my exact same voting booth 40 years ago.

And beyond nostalgia, these machines are less vulnerable to right wing tampering than, say, the Diebold demons.

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More prognostication II: Democrats

For once, I agree with the CW. Hillary Clinton has a big lead. Unlike McCain, or Lieberman in 2002, she actually has grassroots support outside of the Washington chatterati, and she can suck up more money than anyone else. Plus she's got the party's one true rock star backing her. On the other hand, a whole lot of people, including me, would really prefer anyone else.

Barack Obama: Dull as already-dry paint. I really don't know who it is who hears his contentless bromides as inspiring rhetoric, and I really don't know who out there outside the list of bored Washington talk-show bookers is desperate for an Obama run. I'm sure there's someone.

John Edwards: Has spent the last two years building relationships with unions, especially UNITE HERE. UNITE HERE is very strong in Nevada, the second caucus on the primary calendar. Has a strong operation still in place in Iowa. Could therefore come out with the first two wins of the primary season. I'm guessing he's the most likely alternative to Hillary.

Wesley Clark: Meh. Maybe. He has lots of support online, but I have no idea how that will translate to the field. He still hasn't convinced me or anyone else that he cares much about domestic policy. My feeling is that he'd make a better VP candidate than presidential nominee.

No other sitting Senator has even the ghost of a chance. I'm not going to run through specific reasons why for Bayh, Biden, Kerry, and whoever else I'm forgetting.


Governors win presidential elections; senators lose.

Tom Vilsack: Even Iowans aren't convinced. If Edwards beats him in Iowa, he's toast.

Bill Richardson: Incredibly experienced. Good record in a wide variety of high-powered assignments. Probably the most qualified to be President of anyone considering a run. Great feeling for TV-friendly gestures. Kind of a Droopy-Dog face. Not sure why he's not getting more respect. Kind of pro-business for my taste, and I'm not all that thrilled about a return to DLC-ism, but probably not terrible. Could be hurt by the Los Alamos security breach that happened while he was Energy Secretary, but to me that seems like a stretch, especially since it turned out Wen Ho Lee was not a spy.


Janet Napolitano (AZ), Kathleen Sibelius (KS), and Brian Schweitzer (MT). These three are popular in strongly Republican states because they have excellent records. Napolitano and Sibelius were picked by Time in 2005 as two of America's five best best governors. Any would probably have a tough time putting together the fundraising and organization to take on Clinton in the early days, which could be why they're more often mentioned as VP possibilities. If one of them runs, though, and can somehow survive long enough to get a hearing, she/he could be interesting.

By the way, this is also why I'm not counting either Vilsack or Richardson out entirely, especially Richardson.


Al Gore swears he's not running, and although I can't find the reference, I read that he's directed his donors to back other candidates, so you know he means it. I'm sure you all already know Russ Feingold announced he's not running either.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

More prognostication

Since I did so well on my last set of predictions, I'm going to pick up a subject BooMan started: who will get the Republican presidential nomination in 2008? Three early favorites--Santorum, Allen, and Frist--are now sunk. Giuliani is not going to happen, and neither is McCain (too scandal-plagued and too hated, respectively). Newt Gingrich is a pick of the Washington chatterers, but he hasn't held office in a long time, he has a lot of negative baggage, and just forget about it. Honestly, I don't think Republican primary voters are going to want any Washington insider by 2008, so except for Sam Brownback (Santorum with better hair and without the weirdly pointy chin), forget the usual suspects.

I'm guessing a governor. In that BooMan thread TarheelDem runs down the list of R governors with adequate experience:

Riley (AL) - National appeal? Really?
Schwarzenegger (CA) - Prohibited by the Constitution - foreign-born
Rell (CT) - Too moderate?
Perdue (GA) - Interesting possibility for motivating the base
Lingle (HI) - Unlikely - unlikely as AR (wait a minute)
Barbour (MS) - Could move the big money
Blount (MO) - Daddy's boy - not after W
Heineman (NE) - A dark horse
Hoeven (ND) - Another dark horse
Carcieri (RI) - Could he stand the scrutiny of a campaign
Sanford (SC) - Almost too crazy for SC - not electable on national ticket
Rounds (SD) - Failed to deliver on abortion referendum
Perry (TX) - Another Texas governor? Not for a generation
Huntsman (UT) - Probably has the negatives that Romney has without the charm
Douglas (VT) - Another dark horse

Another commenter adds Tim Pawlenty, recently reelected governor of Minnesota. Also add recent ex-governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney. Both are relatively charming, have decent conservative credentials, and could win states outside the South. Both dangerous. Mike Huckabee is generally considered a good contender, and I also think Haley Barbour has a strong chance, based in part on an obvious contrast he can draw to George W. Bush: he responded with relative competence to Katrina. In other words, your Republican presidential nominee will probably be one of these five four fresh faces:

Mitt Romney (former governor of Massachusetts):

Tim Pawlenty (current governor of MN):

Sam Brownback (Kansas Senator):

Mike Huckabee (governor of Arkansas)

Haley Barbour (governor of Mississippi) (see Update IV)

These guys are all waaaaaay to the right (except for Romney, who's only mostly to the right), untouched by the scandals that just took out the Republican Congress, and used to the cameras. Don't be fooled by Tuesday: voters didn't reject conservatism with a friendly face. They rejected a bunch of corrupt incompetents who lost us a war. If a smiley right-winger comes along who promises to be halfway competent and who bears no responsibility for Iraq, he'll have the same advantages George W. Bush had: nothing fundamental has changed about the conservative-friendly media environment. (For a dissection of the media's continuing failure, see, as always, Matt Taibbi. If that's not enough, here's more from Jamison Foser.)

In the next couple of days I may do one of these for the Democrats. My gut feeling is that our pool of talent is weaker, in part because until Tuesday we had fewer governorships and Senators never win.


Bouldin argues that Romney suffers the George Pataki problem minus the policy failure: he led his state party to utter humiliating defeat. I probably also should have mentioned BooMan's argument against Romney in that post I initially linked to: 17 percent of Americans say they would have reservations about voting for a Mormon. Romney is out.


Jay's enthusiasm convinced me Romney can generate some. He's back in. I'm keeping the possible hurdles up, though.


Ok, on McCain, because Solomon asked: Polls at this point are meaningless. All they reflect is name recognition and general media deep-throatage. Think back to 2002. Lieberman was crushing the polls for the Democratic nomination and everyone just knew he would be the nominee. There's a lot of distrust of McCain among conservative Republicans, and that's not going to go away just because he makes nice with a few leaders. Meanwhile, if Democrats play their cards right over the next few years (a big if, I know), they should be able to force him into votes that wedge him away from either moderates or conservatives.

Now, a version of the following argument seems to be a kind of CW among lefty bloggers. Here it is expressed by rwallnerny:

The republicans are an orderly bunch. They don't nominate insurgents or outsiders. They usually nominate whoever it is that is seen as next in line. This time McCain will get support based on the idea that its "his turn."
Here's another version:

The Republicans are the party of primogeniture. They always nominate the next one in line.

With the unique break-through exception of Barry Goldwater in 1964, the Republicans have followed this rule rigorously since the Second World War. And there is no Barry Goldwater available in 2008.

Even when it will be an obvious disaster (Ford in '76, Dole in '96) the R's hold tight and follow their eminent successor.

If Jeb runs (which looks unlikely), then he will be the nominee. If Jeb doesn't run, you should start keeping fluffy indoors because it'll be Dr. Frist.

I don't know how people square that with the noises many conservatives have been making that Republicans lost Congress because they didn't adhere to conservative principles (a version of the "Communism-has-never-been-tried" of die-hard Trots). I'm also not sure where the "Republicans go for the next in line" idea came from in the first place. Looking back over the last 40 or so years of Republican presidential candidates, I only see four elections where there wasn't an overwhelming, dominating Republican favorite: 1964, 1980, 1996, and 2000. In 1964, Barry Goldwater wasn't obviously "next in line." In 1968, Nixon ran more or less unopposed for the Republican nomination. In 1976, an insurgent Ronald Reagan almost took out a sitting president. In 1980, George H.W. Bush won Iowa but then Reagan destroyed him--probably the best example of the "next in line" theory I can find. In 1996 there was no obvious "next in line," and Bob Dole emerged from a very strange field where Colin Powell was the dream candidate, and Pat Buchanan and Steve Forbes racked up some early primary wins. In 2000, George W. Bush won because he had the most money and the backing of other governors--frankly, it was more McCain, Orrin Hatch, or Lamar Alexander's "turn" in that election than it was GWB's.

Put yourself in the shoes of a Republican primary voter. Are you going to vote for your party's version of Joe Lieberman (self-involved, making a big show of principle but basically lacking any, and beloved mainly by media elitists) if you suddenly see viable alternatives? Especially viable, young, energetic alternatives? One or more anti-McCains will emerge over the course of 2007, and by the end of the year he'll find himself in Lieberman's three-way tie for third.

On a different note: someone with knowledge of Republican politics told me Haley Barbour has announced he won't seek the nomination. I can't find any confirmation of that online, but I will keep looking.

And on Huckabee:

He's got that overcoming obesity thing going for him--people love a story about personally triumphing over a weight problem. Almost anyone can relate to that. He's got that non-political book about it, and he wisely stayed away from a lot of conservative rhetoric while he was doing his book tour. As a result, he seems like a great, hard-working guy to millions of people who don't know anything about his scary beliefs.

The media will not take on that guy. We won't be able to tie him to the DC Republican corruption either. He would be a very tough candidate.

Democrats shouldn't delude themselves that McCain is the most formidable candidate they could face in a general. It will be easier, in some ways, for a non-Washington Republican candidate to pull a Richard Nixon and claim a secret plan to get us out of Iraq, without having to face the media's indulgence of "cut and run" rhetoric, since everyone knows Republicans are tough, real men on issues of war.


Ok, duhh. Barbour ruled out a presidential run way back in February.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

It's Giuliani Time Tonight

At the New School, where they're screening Giuliani Time

Thurs., Nov. 9, 6:00 p.m. $5.

Wollman Hall, 65 West 13th Street, 5th floor (enter at 66 West 12th Street).

The Wolfson Center for National Affairs presents a showing of Kevin Keating's documentary film Giuliani Time: The Man Who Would Be King. After 9/11, Giuliani became knows as "America's Mayor," but what policies and practices did his several terms in office actually produce? Giuliani Time is an examination of those years, told through the eyes of a diverse group of New Yorkers. The film is followed by a discussion about the former mayor and his present role in American politics with the director, Kevin Keating, Fred Siegel, author of The Prince of The City: Giuliani, New York, and the Genius of American Life, and others to be announced.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Back to the important stuff

(Tip: Amanda)

Kevin asks: Michael Jackson or Prince?

That's easy. Prince. Michael was a great pop singer, but Prince was a gold-plated genius.

Oh, plus there's this.

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Single best win

Jerry McNerny over Richard Pombo. Pombo is an anti-environmental ideologue whose life's mission was to gut the Endangered Species Act and give away as much of the public's land and resources to private industry as possible. Jerry McNerny works in wind power and says he will make clean energy his signature issue in Congress. You couldn't have asked for a clearer case of Good defeating Evil. I love it.


Grist pays tribute as the door hits Pombo in the ass.

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Back to local politics

It was more or less an open secret throughout this campaign season that New York Democrats were not interested in taking back the State Senate. In a post months ago, Gatemouth suggested that possibility and explained why:

Is there a risk in setting up what would likely be the first one-party controlled government in Albany since 1974, and the first one-party Democratic controlled state government since the 30s? Obviously, because so may people are scared about it. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver certainly prefers having a Republican Senate. Hell, he probably prefers having a Republican governor. Being the only Democrat in Albany’s iron-triangle makes you the “go-to guy”. ... Since a Democratic Governor seems a near certainty next year, Silver has acknowledged this reality, but still prefers to be controlling Democratic legislative power all by himself.
But what Silver is really afraid of is not only a loss of power, but the acquisition of accountability. With a one party government in Albany, everyone will know exactly who to blame. In divided government, pesky interest groups can be placated with “one-house bills”, a shrug of the shoulders, and promises of better days to come. One party government means a time where the chickens will come home to roost, and payback will be a bitch. Suddenly, a lot of folks are going to expect all those poorly drafted, poorly conceived, “one-house bills” to be enacted into law. For the most part, this won’t happen, because it can’t happen; but a lot of people rue the day when they are called to account for this.
Mario Cuomo and his gang used to have a wonderful road-show. The Governor and his minions used to give a set speech outlining the Governor’s utopian vision of a shining city on a hill. No matter what the problem, the Governor had a program. Yes, none of those programs had ever been implemented, but that was the fault of those evil Senate Republicans. And, in fact, when given the opportunity to help elect Senate Democrats, Mario Cuomo cannot be accused of sitting on his ample campaign chest and doing nothing; he, in fact, was notorious for finding opportunities for going into the districts of vulnerable Senate Republican and finding reason to praise them in front of cameras and the working press.

Today, the Times does a postmortem on Democrats' failure, in fact, to take back the New York State Senate, including this notable paragraph.

Democrats did relatively little to try to take the Senate. They put some of their star power behind their State Senate candidates — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mr. Spitzer stumped for Ms. Stewart-Cousins — but did little to share the wealth that poured into the campaign coffers at the top of the ticket. Republicans, by contrast, raised money at a furious clip for their Senate candidates.

The New York State Senate Republican Campaign Committee raised more than $7 million this year, taking in more than $1 million in the past two weeks. The Democrats raised less than $2 million for their campaign committee this year, according to campaign finance reports filed with the State Board of Elections.

And of that $2 million the NY DSCC took in this year? They sat on nearly a million.

$833,599.60 That's how much cash the New York DSCC has on hand as of their last filing. It's 5 days out from a once in a generation cycle and they are sitting on close to million freakin' bucks. The scuttlebutt I hear is that they are saving money for the next cycle. No, really. You read that right. They are hoarding for the future.

As they say, you find a party's priorities by following the money.

Now, the immediate ramifications are that New York's problems and debt continue to be kicked down the road, perhaps until Spitzer decides to run for President in 2012. We can probably expect no serious reform of the education spending formulas that so drastically shortchange New York City, nor any real help in clearing the MTA's dangerously mounting maintenance backlog. As importantly, though, in an overwhelmingly Democratic state where three Republican Congressmen eked out victories of less than 5 percent (and two more won by less than 15 percent), Democrats have not fought to control the next redistricting process.


Over at Room 8, a commenter says the same.

The Republicans will control the New York state Senate for one reason only, and for the reason they have in the past, because New York Democratic politicians want them too. There was enough of a Democratic wave this year that the Dem- Senate leader elect had to all but announced this. This stuff is getting blatant enough that the usually incumbent friendly NY Times called on voters to vote for Republicans for the State Assembly and for Democrats for the State Senate.

A Republican state Senate gives the Democrats a good enough excuse to continue business as usual in New York. The problem is, this isn't 1913 (when the legislature impeached and removed a reform-minded governor) when this was one of the wealthiest jurisdictions in the world and could tolerate some graft. Modern day New York is a combination of a city no one can afford to live in and an upstate where no one can find jobs.

We are probably four years away from a collapse of the state tax base. Until then, we pretty much got the State Senate the Dem NY establishment wanted. Its a contrast from the federal House where enough progressive and populists got swept in to at least make things interesting for the next two years.

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Don't cry, wee Santorum

(hat tip: Alana Post)

I'm going to quote liberally from a thread in WB because it cracked me up:

If the little girl were killed in a tragic pony accident, would the doll come to life and take her place? does the doll have its own doll to keep this chain going on forever?

According to the WP, "Upon their son's death, Rick and Karen Santorum opted not to bring his body to a funeral home. Instead, they bundled him in a blanket and drove him to Karen's parents' home in Pittsburgh. There, they spent several hours kissing and cuddling Gabriel with his three siblings, ages 6, 4 and 1 1/2. They took photos, sang lullabies in his ear and held a private Mass." Actually she SLEPT WITH THE BODY OVERNIGHT before taking it back to the hospital the next morning.


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And the winner is ... Solomon Grundy!

Of our pool, that is.

Which goes to show: Negative Nancies never win. Unless, of course, they're Minority Leader of the House in a Bushie regime.

So what's my prize? Another date with Patrick Healy? Solomon would prefer a date with one of Antid Oto's gay friends in the Russian mob.

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You're either in, or you're out

It seems likely that Rahm Emanuel will get a top leadership role in Pelosi's House.

What I've been wondering for months is:

Was he separated at birth from Project Runway's sexy scofflaw Keith Michael?

Emanuel totally looks like the type to hide pattern books under his bed and then four months later be all like "I'm not saying it's a conspiracy, but I am suggesting the producers might have planted them."

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Politicians Sweep Midterm Elections

Resounding Victories In All States, Counties, Cities, Towns
WASHINGTON, DC—After months of aggressive campaigning and with nearly 99 percent of ballots counted, politicians were the big winners in Tuesday's midterm election, taking all 435 seats in the House of Representatives, retaining a majority with 100 out of 100 seats in the Senate, and pushing political candidates to victory in each of the 36 gubernatorial races up for grabs.

But seriously:

Bye bye, Santorum! Off to overpaid lobbyland for you!

And helllooooo, Nancy's subpoena power.

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How about that?

Interesting. No particular comment.

Under the rule being considered by the city’s Board of Health, which is likely to be adopted soon, people born in the city would be able to change the documented sex on their birth certificates by providing affidavits from a doctor and a mental health professional laying out why their patients should be considered members of the opposite sex, and asserting that their proposed change would be permanent.

Applicants would have to have changed their name and shown that they had lived in their adopted gender for at least two years, but there would be no explicit medical requirements.

“Surgery versus nonsurgery can be arbitrary,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the city’s health commissioner. “Somebody with a beard may have had breast-implant surgery. It’s the permanence of the transition that matters most.”

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Why I'm Voting For McCourt

After the jump, my last-minute attempt to drum up some Green votes.

UPDATE: My mighty power to turn out the vote has been called into question. With 80% of precincts in, it looks like the Greens failed to get their 50,000 votes. God damn it.

In his voter's guide, erstwhile FOLB Gatemouth wrote that

Don’t Vote for the Greens Either: By my count, I’ve now published 13 pieces urging people not to vote for either the WFP or the Independence Party (IP) (this piece, which links to all but one of the others, should be sufficient). However, the fact that the Gatemouth/NY Times anathema on parties which practice "fusion" (a high minded term for what is usually called "extortion") does not extend to parties which nominate their own candidates, doesn’t mean we should give a line on a ballot to folks who’ve proven themselves a public nuisance. Every Friday night, my Shabbos ritual includes a few minutes of silence as I watch the "News Hour" list our latest dead in Iraq. If Al Gore was President, these people would be alive; if the Green Party didn’t exist, Al Gore would be President. Do the math. The Green Party consistently nominates really interesting eccentrics for Governor (Malachy McCourt won my heart when he did a one man show as Geroge Washington Plunkett; Stanley Aronowitz is married to the World's Greatest Left Wing Writer; Al Lewis was Grandpa), but that doesn't begin to compensate for the loss of blood and treasure for which they bear responsibility.THE ONLY GREEN WORTH VOTING FOR IS ADAM! (OK Bouldin, you owe me dinner). .
My response might be a little repetitive for anyone who's been carefully following my comments elsewhere, but since that set of readers consists of approximately two, no big whoop.

Q: What does the New York State Green Party have to do with Ralph Nader?

A: Nothing.

By GM's tortured logic, one would never vote for any Democrat, since the craven DNC bears a lot more direct and indirect responsibility for Iraq than the Green Party of New York State does.

When I recently interviewed the Green's Lt. Gov. candidate, she disavowed Nader and said she "couldn't disagree more" with his characterization of feminist and gay movements as "gonadal politics." Nader was never a real Green. He was a top-down, anti-grassroots pseudo-Green who coopted the party for his own vanity run. Local Greens in NY are ashamed to be associated with him (especially his odious '04 run, when he actually sought to get the Green endorsement but not run as a Green).

What the Green Party of New York State is really about is New Paltz, for example. There, the Green village officials have officiated over gay marriages, started heating municipal buildings with solar panels, and experimented with innovative waste management systems. And that's not even taking into account the Greens elsewhere in the state on school boards and in smaller offices.

If Malachy McCourt gets 50,000 votes, Green candidates in local races won't have to meet the undue burden of gathering thousands of signatures to get on the ballot. Since Greens don't accept any corporate donations, it's very difficult for them to finance that signature-gathering.

Voting Green is not throwing away your vote for some hippie dippy do-nothings. It's supporting the only third party in New York State that's actually building a grassroots movement and making a real impact on New York State.

Voting for the Greens for Governor (and then Adam Green for Comptroller) is the singular thing motivating me to vote. Every other race is a fait accompli, but your vote will actually make a difference if you vote Green (and then Green).

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Vote, Baby, Vote (Green)

If you live in NYC, the only reason I can think to actually trudge over to some crappy middle school and vote is that the Green Party needs 50,000 gubernatorial votes (Malachy McCourt) for the party to automatically get a line on the ballot the next four years. It's going to be close. If they don't get those 50,000 votes, it puts a big burden on them to spend money they don't have gathering signatures in local elections. The Greens actually have had some success in local offices in New York State (cf New Paltz), so it seems worth pursuing.

Also, I'm joining the Room 8 drive to write in Adam Green for Comptroller (including this handy guide to the process of writing in candidates).

In a nutshell: Vote Green, then vote Green. Baby.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

I always knew I didn't like Bill Maher

His most famous line ever, the "outrageous" one that got him fired from ABC:

We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That's cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it's not cowardly.

Bill Hicks, his final show:

I love that, too, how everyone in the government media called it a cowardly act on the Iraqians part, because some Iraqian guy was going to drive a Toyota car bomb and blow himself up in the process of trying to kill the President of the United States, because that's all they can really do since we're the imperialist rulers of Ze New Vorld Ordeh. And we called that a cowardly act. Meanwhile, we're launching cruise missiles 200 miles away from floating iron islands. Who are the cowards again?

I don't think that joke appeared on any of the official albums, only a bootleg of that last show, and of course Hicks died not long after, all of which probably explains why Maher felt so free to rip him off so blatantly.

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Vote Spencer

The Hillary-Clinton-For-President campaign is powered by three things: a limitless money, an aura of inevitability, and the perception of electability. Hillary hopes to strengthen that last by whipping John Spencer by at least 30 points. I'd love to see that cut down to 20.

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Gilmore Girls sucks without Amy Sherman-Palladino

Virginia Heffernan explains why.

Has “Gilmore Girls” lost heart? If only. This brainy, dexterous show is now all heart — with Lorelai (Lauren Graham) dating Rory’s father, Christopher (David Sutcliffe), and Rory (Alexis Bledel) pining for the London-based Logan (Matt Czuchry). In the new season those emotional cues that used to come from the Sam Phillips score with its airy la-la-la lyrics now emanate from by-the-numbers reaction shots, big doorstep love scenes, vast gaps in the scripts just for feelings, and sincerity galore. As a result, the show that made a virtue of brittleness has become almost moony.
Casual viewers have typically complained about the show’s stylized dialogue, poseur diction and references seemingly inspired by Bartlett’s and Roget’s. Well, for them, it should all go down easier now. The new show is run by David Rosenthal, a television writer who was famous chiefly for a 2001 morbidly obsessive play about Heidi Klum that Bruce Weber in The New York Times called “not only offensive but also incompetent.” On his “Gilmore Girls,” people lead and follow: one person talks, and the other sighs, frowns or chuckles. The sound mix is especially thick with that chuckling that signals what’s funny. I keep thinking that if Rory and Lorelai, those unsentimental brainiacs, could see this show, they’d hate it.

One slight modification I'd make to her argument that last season kind of sucked too. Recently I watched a couple of old episodes and realized how far the whole business has fallen. Now Gilmore Girls is like Seasons 6 & 7 of Buffy, the last season of Six Feet Under, or Three's Company after Chrissy left. Just sad.

Has a show ever come back from sucking?

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Oh yeah, I saw Borat

Everyone who's followed Sacha Baron Cohen from way back will just have to deal with the fact that it's not exactly like the show and yet it's still really damn funny. Not as uncomfortable as some of the most audacious stuff from either the British or American Ali G Shows, and in some ways it's like the best Yakov Smirnoff ever, but it still made me laugh a lot.

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Act to Shut Down the SOA


Join thousands at the gates of Fort Benning to stand up for justice. Speak out against violence and domination and for the closure of the School of the Americas (SOA).

Contrary to the Bush administration’s “War on Terrorism” propaganda and the President’s statement that “every known terrorist training camp must be shut down”, the United States government has been training terrorists at a camp in Georgia for years - and is still at it.

The Fort Benning based School of the Americas (SOA), renamed in 2001 the “Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation” (WHINSEC), has been pumping out assassins, dictators and death squad leaders for the dirty work in Latin America since 1946.

The SOA, frequently dubbed the “School of Assassins,” has left a trail of blood and suffering in every country where its graduates have returned.

The SOA/ WHINSEC has trained over 64,000 Latin American soldiers in courses such as counterinsurgency, psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. Graduates of the school have been consistently linked to human rights violations and to the suppression of popular movements in the Americas.

Among those targeted by SOA graduates are educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared”, massacred, and forced into refuge by those trained at the School of Assassins.

People's Movements across the Americas are becoming increasingly more powerful. Military "solutions" to social problems as supported by institutions like the School of the Americas were unable to squash their voices, and the call for justice and accountability is getting louder each day.

Add your voice to the chorus, demand justice for all the people of the Americas and engage in nonviolent direct action to close the SOA and change oppressive U.S. foreign policy.

Visit www.SOAW.org to learn more about the November Vigil, hotel and travel information, the November Organizing Packet, and more.

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Voting is for white people

"The raw data tell us that if you are a Black voter, the chance of you losing your vote to technical errors in voting machinery is 900% higher than if you were a white voter."

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Why Haven't We Been Focusing on the Elections Much?

I guess we all know what's going to happen in the immediate NYC area. But Antid Oto and I haven't mustered up much enthusiasm to write about what is probably going to be a world-changing election (aside from a bit of gambling).

Is it that it's been done to death? That we only enjoy being contrarian? That it's happening in the flyover states and we're just typical NYC snobs?

For the record, I'm voting Green for NY governor (McCourt/Duncan). They need 50,000 votes to stay on the ballot for the next 4 years in local elections. As the government of New Paltz has shown (via gay marriage, solar heating of municipal buildings, innovative waste management systems, etc.), Greens in local seats can make a difference in their communities. If they're not automatically on the ballot, they have to spend money on gathering the 15,000 signatures necessary to get on each ballot, which is a huge expense for smaller campaigns (especially since the Greens don't accept corporate donations).

And with Spitzer guaranteed to win in a landslide, there's nothing to lose in voting your conscience.

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I resisted reading the full New York magazine money issue, because I know some people at New York, and I really don't want to subject myself to anything they have to say about wealth and struggling to live in New York.

However, when a not-particularly-political artist friend brought up the magazine over drinks this weekend, I felt compelled to take a peak. I knew it was going to be annoying, but I didn't expect it to be so depressing.

On this score, there is evidence that the fluid immigration and opportunity that made the American Dream part of the national identity is history. According to American University’s Tom Hertz, there is less than a 2 percent chance that an American born to parents whose income is in the bottom 60 percent of all incomes will end up in the top 5 percent. Americans born to parents in the bottom 20 percent, meanwhile, have a 40 percent chance of staying at the bottom. Among the nine high-income countries Hertz has studied, only the U.K. had a lower rate of mobility. For the three-quarters of New Yorkers who don’t have college degrees, the challenge of upward mobility can be particularly acute. Education tops Hertz’s list of factors affecting the odds that one will end up in a higher income bracket than one’s parents, followed by race and health.

I need to start a Left Behinds St. John's Wort Fund.

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Going to the well once too often

Hand it to Ariella Cohen: this is some damn fine national/local reporting. Interestingly, a quick scan of blogs that focus on the Ratner project doesn't show anyone dealing with it yet (though I easily could have missed one), so I'm going to excerpt liberally.

Just in time for the final approval of Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project, the Internal Revenue Service has proposed the reform of a development-friendly tax program — a bond-financing scheme that happens to provide a funding foundation for Atlantic Yards.

The program under scrutiny is called “payments in lieu of taxes,” or PILOTs. Using PILOTs, a city can take land off the tax rolls in exchange for fixed rent-like payments — but the payments are typically less than property taxes and, in Ratner’s case, would not even end up in the city’s coffers.

If the new rule goes into effect as expected next year, developers would no longer be allowed to use federally subsidized, low-interest bonds for projects that involve PILOTs, unless the payments reflect taxes based on a property’s actual value.

The change would “better assure a reasonably close relationship between eligible PILOT payment and generally applicable taxes,” the IRS said in the regulation.

This next part I thought was particularly interesting: the stadium giveaways Solomon and I complained about so bitterly were what caught the attention of the IRS.

New York City’s use of the payments came under federal scrutiny after the IRS grudgingly signed off on controversial PILOT deals for new stadiums for the Yankees and Mets.

Sources told The Bond Buyer last month that the IRS felt that those stadium deals — which cost the city an estimated $216 million in tax revenue over 40 years — looked “too much like private loans.”

“Now they are trying to close the barn door that those deals went though,” said Doug Turetsky, spokesman for the city’s Independent Budget Office.

Ratner’s 16-tower, arena, residential, hotel and office space development is slated to pay PILOTS to the Empire State Development Corporation for the next 99 years in exchange for 25 years of full and partial property tax exemptions.

The deal will save Ratner up to $91 million in tax costs over 30 years, according to the IBO.

Yay! Yay! Ratner's screwed, right?


Ratner would not comment for this story, but his spokespeople have always said that the tax break will underwrite the project’s 2,250 affordable housing units.

If the IRS rule change goes though, it may inflate Ratner’s costs, but it could also lessen the chances that he will scale back the size of the 8-million-square-foot project — Brooklyn’s biggest ever — because Ratner will need to make up for the shortfall.

Fuck. So it's conceivable that the IRS change could go through after Ratner gets approval to buy MTA land at pennies on the dollar, but just in time to yank out the affordable housing component that has bought the development what support it does have? So we'd get a full-sized Ratner development with zero affordable housing?

Even when you win you lose.

One way or another, I think the IRS is doing the right thing here in principle. I work for a bunch of community-development-oriented finance people fairly regularly; I'll be interested to see their reaction.

UDPATE: My bad, NoLandGrab had it.

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Neocon Job

In a suspiciously coordinated effort, the neocons are trying to spin their way out of the consequences of their foreign policy initiatives in this Vanity Fair piece.

The disingenuousness actually offends me.

Thither Delphi?

Perle goes so far as to say that, if he had his time over, he would not have advocated an invasion of Iraq: "I think if I had been delphic, and had seen where we are today, and people had said, 'Should we go into Iraq?,' I think now I probably would have said, 'No, let's consider other strategies for dealing with the thing that concerns us most, which is Saddam supplying weapons of mass destruction to terrorists.' … I don't say that because I no longer believe that Saddam had the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction, or that he was not in contact with terrorists. I believe those two premises were both correct. Could we have managed that threat by means other than a direct military intervention? Well, maybe we could have."
Only if you had been delphic, Mr. Perle? I guess Apollo has been pretty busy since September 12th, because he seems to have graced almost all non-neocon pundits with his visions of neocon foreign policy leading to geopolitical chaos.

By the way, sorry your friend died, but I'd have to have been delphic to realize that plunging a knife into his heart would kill him. And hey, who other than an oracle of Pallas Athena could have predicted that when I had gas and squeezed my buttcheeks I'd emit a giant fart? Oopsie, not my responsibility.

Bleurgh the saddest thing is that this duplicitous spin probably works on most people.

UPDATE: Wikipedia makes a germane clarification about the word Delphic:
It is a popular misconception that the oracle predicted the future, based on the lapping water and leaves rustling in the trees; the oracle of Delphi never predicted the future, but gave guarded advice on how impiety might be cleansed and incumbent disaster avoided.

Perhaps Perle would have had to have been delphic. Guarded advice about logically foreseeable disaster sure was needed.

UPDATE II: Katrina Vanden Heuvel weighed in at the Notion:
In the last couple of hours, people have sent me emails about this forthcoming story, Almost all end up saying, "well, the rats are jumping the ship." I agreed at first. But then I thought--do not demean the good animal, the rat, by analogy. These two men and their neocon allies are political criminals, not rats, and they have much to answer for, in the court of history, and in the dock of judgment--down the road.

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