Even as the giant snow piles melt into memory, the inadequate response to the blizzard of 2010 presages some of the great trials ahead for many Americans, their local town halls and their state capitals.
Prepare to pop your champagne corks and warm up your vocal cords to belt out the lyrics of Auld Lang Syne. New Year’s Eve is upon us. For some, it’s a time to look forward to a new chapter. For others, a chance to reflect upon the accomplishments of the past year.
For liberals, let’s just toast that 2010 is over at last.
A massive snowstorm is coming! Twenty inches of snow will blanket our city! Did we remember to pay our private snow-clearing insurance to plow our street?!
That last exclamation wasn’t heard in the commotion and clamor leading up to NYC’s latest Snowpocalypse. We don’t need to pay for private companies to open up our roadways because we – like many Americans – rely on local government to handle the job.
That’s right: we depend on, and are largely served by, Big Government Snow Plows. Or, as The Tea Party and its friends at Fox News may call it: “Government Takeover of the Snow Removal Industry."
A decade ago, the FBI announced plans to upgrade its IT systems and create a computer-based case management system. The so-called "Trilogy" project was subcontracted out to defense giant Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC).
By 2005, it was a red-faced FBI Director Robert Mueller in front of a Congressional oversight committee explaining how the FBI had blown a half billion dollars over five years — and didn't have much to show for it.
In his testimony, Mueller blamed the well-connected defense giant, whose board includes former military and Pentagon types. For its part, SAIC insisted it had delivered as required, and that it gave taxpayers value for their dollars despite ever-changing FBI needs.
But the Government Accountability Office reported when it came to overseeing the details of the contract, the FBI was missing in action. GAO wrote that the FBI relied "exclusively on contractors to account" for the Trilogy assets that had been purchased by taxpayers. The G-men subbed out technical oversight and could not locate millions of dollars in computer components it had purchased.
In a parallel universe, toward the end of the Giuliani era, New York City was hyping an early version of "CityTime," the payroll miracle software. It was going to revolutionize New York City's municipal payroll process with the wonders of biometrics to keep tabs on municipal employees.
The Republican led defeat of the Dream Act offers one more example in the well established tradition of the GOP rejecting major Latino policy preferences. It maintains the tradition sustained by California’s Proposition 187 that voters approved in 1994. Proposition 187 laid the foundation for the pro-immigrant Democratic take-over of California that continues through today, and became a symbol used by to mobilize Latinos against Republicans nationwide. Arizona’s 2010 anti-undocumented immigration legislation maintains this tradition and, like Proposition 187, had significant electoral consequences within Arizona and nationally. It has mobilized anti-immigrant sentiment and helped carry Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer to victory.
Over the holidays, it can be tempting to take a break from political conversations for a few days while you curl up by the fire and watch classic Christmas movies with your family. Fortunately, you don’t have to choose one or the other if you watch It’s A Wonderful Life America’s greatest liberal holiday film.
Frank Capra’s beloved tale of George Bailey and Bedford Falls is a political story that resonates today. The good guy: a community lender who supports his neighbors, puts others ahead of himself and helps folks build homes and live out their dreams. The bad guy: the big banker in the town whose greed knows no bounds.
-- A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
I know it's fashionable to hate the holidays. I think I even heard my neighbor (the one with the dogs who bark at me every morning) mutter “Bah Humbug,” as he passed by in the hallway today.
I refuse, however, to be robbed of my Christmas spirit. Merry Christmas, I say. And a Happy New Year!
That is why, every year, I sit with my children in the living room (we can’t sit around the hearth because we don’t have hearth) to read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. We take turns reading the various parts aloud – Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, Jacob Marley, Tiny Time and of course Scrooge.
[[Editor's Note: Want to see some WNYC stars perform A Christmas Carol? Of course you do.]]
I don't know how long this will last. My daughter is almost a teenager and will no doubt soon be too cool for such corny family traditions as this; but, for now, the age-old tale helps to remind them that Christmas is about generosity of spirit, kindness and love – not gift-getting.
But wait. What’s all that nonsense? Isn’t this supposed to be a political website? Why all the prattling on about kindness and love?
Well, hang onto your antlers. Don’t get your jingle bells in a bunch. This is a political post. Dickens was a political writer, and A Christmas Carol is a political story.
Although there were some bright spots in 2010, this was clearly a terrible year for those of us who sit around the center of the American electorate. If there is anything to be happy about, it is that conditions have gotten so bad for moderates and centrist independents, that the sleeping giant in the center appears to finally be awakening.
2010 saw the Tea Party, a faction that represents the views of a fairly small percentage of the population and has very little in common with centrists, have a hugely disproportionate impact on the midterm elections. They helped elect what appears to be the most conservative Republican caucus in generations, and to take over scores of seats held by the Democrats - many of which were held by moderate Democrats that closely aligned with centrist ideals. With the loss of so many of these Blue Dogs, the Democratic caucus could be the most liberal we’ve seen in generations as well.
With Obama’s signature achievement, the health care reform package, on its way to being vetted by the Supreme Court, what other options might the government have if the individual mandate is declared unconstitutional?
- Radio Rookie, Yesica, on the DREAM Act
Justin Krebs talked about his piece on the Brian Lehrer Show Thursday, December 23rd. You can listen to it above.
Senator Charles Schumer is famous for his Sunday press conferences, but it was New York’s junior Senator – Kirsten Gillibrand – who was in the media spotlight this Sunday. The lead articles on The New York Times website about the historic repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" featured a photograph of the Senator who had championed this legislation in DC, over the airwaves and over her own email list for months. Right below was an article on the final push for a meaningful action to support the health of the first responders on 9/11…and the article led with quotes from Senator Gillibrand, who has been working to pass this legislation through the Senate.
New York is full of big personalities, but on this issue, Senator Gillibrand proved herself as vocal and visible as our billionaire Mayor, media-savvy senior Senator and even her predecessor, the current Secretary of State. What matters even more to New Yorkers than her ability to make headlines may be her effectiveness. It’s not a done deal yet, but the Senator is hoping for a "Christmas Miracle."
So speaking on behalf of at least some New York liberals, let me say: "Sorry – we were wrong."
I attended the No Labels conference this week, whose slogan is “not left, not right, forward.”
As someone who cares deeply about our representative democracy, I went to the conference because I believe that our current political system is frayed by the worst partisan politics we have seen in generations. We have a government that simply does not function. Elected officials like Joe Wilson (“You Lie”) are rewarded for incivility who won his re election bid by a 10% margin. They are rewarded by the media for petty maneuvers that have no long-term benefits but short-term gains of winning the message of the day.
They are punished for talking straight to the interest groups that tie their hands. As we have seen the past few weeks through the lens of the tax debate, bipartisanship has now become a dirty word on the right and the left.
The Senate has agreed to do away with the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy banning openly gay troops from serving in the military. We asked the roster of It's A Free Country contributors to share some brief thoughts on the ruling.
It is the between-time. The old regime has just days left. Control in the Senate is expected to shift to the Republicans and a Democratic governor is coming in promising to cut government. There are cardboard boxes and blank nameplates.
Ironically, as the new incoming Governor and legislative leaders try and marshall the political courage to restore the state, they will do so in a building that itself continues to be under going a major makeover to repair decades of neglect and deferred maintenance.
I've seen some outlandish claims about centrists, and the new political organization No Labels. Keith Olbermann, for instance, apparently thinks we're really conservative wolves in centrist/moderate sheep's clothing. As comical as conspiracy theories like this are, I was genuinely surprised to find similarly absurd claims in in a recent post on this site by Living Liberally founder Justin Krebs.
To be fair, Krebs is spot on in his assessment that No Labels can by no means accurately call itself a movement. They are an organization trying to spark a movement among a large and unrepresented segment of the electorate. Time will tell if they will succeed. Unfortunately, Krebs' post heads downhill from there.
Liberals shouldn't be in a festive mood. The sweeping, game-changing realignment promised by the 2008 election got re-realigned in 2010. The Tea Party grabbed the headlines as it won the hearts of a small, passionate, activist population. Meanwhile, progressive champs like Russ Feingold and Alan Grayson went down. At least, they went down swinging -- many other Democrats went down running.
So you'd think that this holiday season would find Tea Partiers toasting eggnog by the Christmas tree and liberals sulking alone near the mistletoe.
Not in New York.
Why did the launch of “No Labels” – a new “movement” to become MoveOn.org for the political middle – receive such extraordinary attention on Monday? Unlike MoveOn, which earned its attention by giving millions of regular Americans an opportunity to express their frustration with the start of the Iraq War in 2003, No Labels doesn’t have a committed membership. Unlike the Tea Party – another analogue that was invoked during the day-long kick-off – No Labels hasn’t seen its followers organize around town hall meetings across the country.
Instead, No Labels seems to have become an instantly faddish phenomenon due to its high-profile attendees – and the love affair a certain set of elites has with claiming the middle of the road.
T'was two weeks before Christmas and the voices were loud: “Now you can't have an accident in Mike Bloomberg's town!”
The screaming from Canarsie, the Lower East Side, Flushing, Riverdale, Sunnyside, Harlem, the South Bronx, Cambria Heights, Toede Hill, El Barrio, Melrose, Brownsville, and Washington Heights reached the North Pole in practically no time.
This was all beause of a new New York City plan that would force a motorist whose car caught fire — or was involved in an "incident with injuries" — to pay $490. If the vehicle catches on fire, but has zero injuries, the cost to the owner drops to $415. And if the motorist is involved in any other vehicle incident, but with no injuries, it would still cost $365.