Yesterday, students gathered in Washington Square Park to advertise their debt. Calling attention to the issue of student debt - and shaking off the stigma many associate with having such debt - these demonstrators wore their debt across their chest.
Their shirts read: "$80,000." "$200,000." "An Arm and a Leg." "Too Much."
Governor Cuomo has a decision to make: does he want to be more like a guy from Connecticut or a guy from New Jersey?
The governor, a native New Yorker, might shudder at that choice. But as he, like so many other governors, faces this year’s budget battle, he has two colleagues to compare to: the Nutmeg State’s newly elected Democrat Dan Malloy and the Garden State’s slightly more seasoned Republican Chris Christie. As Cuomo’s campaign against public sector employees and his defense of the state’s wealthiest residents demonstrate, he has much more in common with his Republican neighbor across the Hudson.
Word that the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) was closing up shop drew chants akin to “Ding, dong, the witch is dead” from liberals across America. The DLC – a self-styled centrist, pro-business group – has been a bogeyman to the Left, from its successful efforts encouraging Democratic officials to embrace big lobbyists to its high-profile fights with Howard Dean and other progressive leaders. Liberals felt more than a little schadenfreude that this major combatant in intra-party strife was laying down its swords and laying off its staff. However, beyond some playful and pointed posts, liberals aren't really celebrating.
Not that it was a bad week for the Left. The Republicans were revealing their internal divisions – and their old-fashioned bigotry – as prominent partisans boycotted CPAC, the major conservative conference, over the inclusion of the gay group GOProud. The House Leader John Boehner lost a vote on extending the Patriot Act in a turn that showed insurgent Tea Partiers aren’t ready to play nice with their caucus. Liberal hero Keith Olbermann will be back and bolder than ever on Current TV. The purchase of the Huffington Post by AOL showed mainstream affirmation of the value – at least financially – of a liberal-leaning community. And there was of course a largely-peaceful democratic uprising that toppled a dictator.
The crowd for Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s State of the Borough Address Tuesday night was so large that it filled the auditorium at the CUNY Graduate Center in Midtown and three overflow rooms across the hall. It’s not common to command such a turnout when you hold an office most New Yorkers don’t know much about. But this audience didn’t just come to hear about Manhattan; attendees were looking forward to hearing Stringer’s vision for the city in what many assumed would resemble an opening pitch for the 2013 mayor’s race.
If “The Social Network” walks away with Oscars this year, ushering in a series of Hollywood blockbusters about online powerhouses, we can expect the fictionalized feature about The Huffington Post to be one of the most entertaining. It already had the charismatic and eccentric protagonist, the roster of celebrity cameos and the upstart start-up mentality. It’s had its share of controversy including recent lawsuits alleging that members of the founding team have been written out of the script. It’s had skeptics questioning how it balances its roles as hub of original journalism, platform for progressive punditry, and nexus of entertainment “news” – and whether the “firing” of an unpaid contributor, who used journalist credentials for an act of labor protest, signaled a shift in its brand.
Which is more frightening: Sitting one-on-one with a pundit who perches at the pinnacle of a media machine that has been undermining you over the airwaves for two years, or speaking to an audience of the wealthy and powerful who have sought to undercut your efforts with their wealth and power? We can ask President Obama tomorrow morning after his two-day tour through the bases of conservative political power: An interview with Fox’s Bill O’Reilly and an address to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
I’m a non-smoker. I believe that cigarettes have a destructive impact and that the tobacco industry perpetrated a willful, harmful fraud against the American public. I’m a liberal. I subscribe to the public health concerns around smoking and am concerned about the overall societal costs for caring for those damaged by the habit. I fully believe these concerns demand us to take action.
Yet, I’m unsure about the latest smoking ban put forth by the City Council.
The right-wing is not ashamed of making enemies. Having targets motivates their base, earns them attention and fuels their cause. Usually, like schoolyard bullies, conservative activists pick on the weaker kid in the playground to prove how tough they are. They pick on the targets who are different (like the anti-Muslim rhetoric around the downtown Islamic Cultural Center), who can’t always stand up for themselves (the anti-immigrant bashing in the past election cycle) or who are weak already (the successful assault on ACORN).
You’ve heard the phrase, “lead, follow or get out of the way.” In these cases, we can do a little of each: leading in declaring unwavering support for democratic principles, following the events with support for proper process and the safety of local populations, and making sure we play no role in obstructing the astonishing show of popular expression or the subsequent march toward new, fair elections — whether in Egypt and or wherever people rise up next.
On Friday, Americans discovered they didn’t need a television to catch the most gripping program around – and that, in most parts of the country, TV wouldn’t help them.
When New York City Council Member Dan Halloran announced that the city’s poor response to last month’s blizzard was the result of an intentional slow down by sanitation workers, we had a chance to see how right-wing media works. Based only on his unverified claims, the story appeared in The Post, then on its sibling Fox News. Other news agencies then followed Fox’s lead, and all the attention prompted three separate probes by the US Attorney, District Attorney and the City Department of Investigations.
Halloran had his 15 minutes of fame serving the anti-worker interests of the right-wing message machine, and the workers were dubbed “Abominable Snowmen" by the ever-classy Post.
Now the story of these “Abominable Snowmen” is proving as questionable as the yeti itself.
In 2008, the bubble popped. The financial crisis sent our economy swirling into chaos and pushed us into this Great Recession. Many Americans lost faith in our private institutions that caused this mess and in our public institutions that should have seen it coming. The fallout shined a light on the double-dealing shell game being played by our financial giants. Unfortunately, they weren’t playing with Monopoly money. The high stakes had high costs: a devastating spike in unemployment, a national foreclosure crisis based on mortgage fraud and depleted pensions and retirement accounts for working Americans.
At least those whose reckless — and potentially criminal — gambles drove us into this ditch got what they had coming…bonuses, a light reprimand and carte blanche to do it all again.
It’s enough to make you so angry you’d consider dumping tea in Boston Harbor.
The build-up to President Obama’s State of the Union Address had suggested he was going to boldly challenge Americans to rise to meet the “Sputnik moment” of our generation. It was a tantalizing claim. Liberals hoped this sense of purpose would justify new investment in jobs, infrastructure and education, despite the worries of deficit hawks. Conservatives looked forward to pro-business policies behind the themes of entrepreneurship and innovation and were intrigued by the tone of American exceptionalism hinted at in the speech’s promotion.
There are national debates we need to conduct, yet the Senate is held captive by a measure that, under the pretense of extending debate, actually prevents debates from ever taking place. Furthermore, there are times when a broad consensus exists across party aisles, yet secret steps allow individual Senators to scuttle this unity.
We can’t know yet whether it was the Comcast deal, fear of Olbermann’s antiestablishment approach, frustration with his temperament, or his own aggravation at being second-guessed by management that led to his departure. That story will shake out in the days and weeks ahead. What is clear, though, is that he has had his impact.
If you’re not willing to go down fighting, then you’re probably not willing to fight in the first place.
Not many people expected to say the word “crowdsourcing” in Bloomberg's 10th State of the City address on Wednesday.
Of course, it’s not surprising to hear the word employed in a public official’s speech. Far from simply being the latest fad, crowdsourcing is real, potentially quite powerful and should be thoughtfully engaged by government. What makes it surprising is hearing it in this mayor’s address, because Mayor Bloomberg is not a crowdsourcey kind of guy.
Perhaps the greatest week of the 112th Congress will be remembered as the week they didn’t do anything at all.
Even before the mid-term elections decidedly handed the Speaker’s gavel to Rep. John Boehner, people expected that the 112th Congress would be different. The 111th had been marked by the energetic, progressive agenda of Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the House, which produced a series of far-reaching legislation over Republican objections. Then, these proposals died in the Senate, which was paralyzed by the threat of a filibuster at every turn. As the Republicans relished their role as “The Party of No,” the Democrats – in a non-obvious strategy – mostly negotiated with themselves, making concessions to their caucus’s conservative colleagues and producing watered-down results that the GOP still didn’t vote for.
The very shape of debate makes it easy for the public to drift into one camp or another, not unlike Coke-Pepsi debates in the 1980s, or the choice between the Yankees or the Mets if you grew up in the Tri-State area. We’re encouraged to choose a side, to join a team, and there are exactly two sides to choose from.
The result appears to be two very different moralities. But here’s the catch: while the brand loyalties are evenly divided, the underlying values are not. Rather, there is a morality shared by most Americans; and another set of values held by a relative few who simply have enough money and sway to distort the debate.