Monday, 29 March 2010

Christian terrorists nabbed

What does it take for the newspapers to call people who plot to assassinate random police officers ‘terrorists’? Would it help if they had been skeery urban black guys rather than Midwestern crackers with bad skin?

The mealy-mouthed use of the alternative, ‘Christian militia’, to describe the Hutaree sect, whose members were seized before they could blow anyone away, is almost apologetic in its echo of the Second Amendment and our country’s hallowed worship of weaponry.

The Hutaree conspirators are pathetic as well as clearly deranged, but that hasn’t stopped many dangerous people and organizations throughout history from causing a lot of harm. But just when prudence would suggest a little care with the inflammatory rhetoric so as to not aggravate the ever-present psychos and nut jobs, here’s the Palin woman winking and chortling as if it were all just a big laugh.

After taking criticism for placing cross-hairs over the congressional districts of her enemies, Palin mocked the threat of violence on her Facebook page:

‘The crossfire is intense, so penetrate through enemy territory by bombing through the press, and use your strong weapons—your Big Guns—to drive to the hole. Shoot with accuracy; aim high and remember it takes blood, sweat and tears to win’.

Ha ha, isn’t that cute? Palin scoffed that her satire would now be ‘subject to new politically correct language police censorship’.

Such sophomoric posturing in a world where actual human beings are being blown up on a regular basis is obscene, but typical. Her moral guide, George W. Bush, had the same attitude: who cares how many thousands die as long as I get to dress up in a cool uniform and strut around on a flight deck?

But Palin doesn’t have to worry about the consequences of her acts or her words because she’s just milking the spotlight for everything it’s worth (plenty, in her case). Her self-promotion is boundless, and all human suffering is mere grist for her profit mills. That’s the advantage of being an entertainment politician like a Palin or a Beck—you just whip up the crowds, enjoy the fan-worship and let others deal with the consequences.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Vatican PR stumble

Perhaps I did not make myself clear: the job held by Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, from 1981 to 2002 was to oversee and discipline priests for misconduct. Ratzinger ran the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the Inquisition, from whence he had two full decades to pore over theological tracts, discipline those who strayed from orthodoxy as he saw it, battle the loosening of sexual mores, suppress liberation theology, strengthen ultramontanist sects like Opus Dei and denounce birth control.

To say that he wasn’t aware of any of the thousands of cases of clerical sex abuse of children or bears no responsibility for for covering them up is simply not credible.

It is rather grand to see the Vatican dig in its heels as if dealing with some unruly nuns or indignant parishioners who can be flicked off one’s surplice like gnats once the crushing force of the 2,000 years of Catholic social control is aimed at them. The longer the now monolithicly conservative curia continues with that strategy, the deeper will be the resulting crack in the whole edifice.

The first Vatican reaction was to denounce the New York Times for daring to print insulting innuendos about the Holy Father, pretty much like Dick Nixon complaining about the Pentagon Papers. Ho hum. But even the isolated bureaucrats running interference for Benedict seemed to get the message that that posture was going nowhere.

According to the British press, there is some sympathy among Vatican-watching journalists for the view that the Times' excavation of the Wisconsin deaf school case from several decades ago was opportunistic. But as the cases pile up in a half-dozen countries, there are now calls for a special synod of bishops to bail the floundering curia out.

An institution founded on absolute loyalty toward the head guy and the whole chain of command is not likely to have the instincts needed to manage and contain a public relations debacle of this scale. As the crud accumulates, I expect to see the intervention of more savvy operators from outside Benedict’s circle of permanently bowed heads.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Uncovered priests covered up

As the Vatican scrambles to protect the top guy from the steadily rising sewerage about precisely how many little boys their protected priestly caste diddled while Rome fiddled, we will hear a lot of spin about who knew exactly what and when. We will be told that Benedict did not see a given report or initial this or that memorandum and therefore cannot be held responsible for a specific cover-up of any given crime.

This kind of parsing of details misses the point in exactly the same way as the L.A. cops who smashed up Rodney King were defended based on who swung which baton into his ribcage at precisely what moment. It is more germane to look at what was and was not attracting the attention of world Catholicism while victims and a few concerned bishops were trying to sound the alarms about sexual abuse.

While the Vatican could not mobilize to defend the 200 deaf boys molested by Father Lawrence Murphy in a Wisconsin school, it was hard at work rooting out liberation theologians around the world like Leonardo Boff and reasserting its centralized authority even when that meant indirectly aiding vicious military dictatorships.

Reports of perverts in long gowns did not alarm the Vatican hierarchy, but excessive independence from Christian base communities throughout Latin America merited a systematic campaign to root them out, lest they challenge the power of the Rome Magisterium to dictate Catholic dogma and enforce it. Not even the assassination of Salvadoran archbishop Oscar Romero in his pulpit budged John Paul and his theological enforcer, Ratzinger, from their campaign against excessive independence from Salvadoran Catholics. The fascist assassins couldn’t have agreed more.

I witnessed the effects of the priorities established by Benedict’s boss and mentor in Chile where the Catholic Church had vigorously defended human rights against the Pinochet dictatorship in the 1970s and early 1980s until the bishops were steadily undermined by JPII’s new appointments. These were unfailingly unsympathetic to the popular movement to restore democracy, comfortable with the reactionary Catholic movements that supported Pinochet and far more concerned with sex than with the ongoing practice of torture and disappearance.

The most notorious of these new favorites was bishop, later cardinal, Jorge Medina, who as chancellor of Chile’s Catholic University in the darkest days of the dictatorship turned a blind eye to the disappearance of his own professors. John Paul II was rumored to want to name him cardinal of the influential Santiago archdiocese but instead brought him to Rome where he distinguished himself by authoring a volume on the activity of Satan in the modern world and by announcing the election of Benedict XVI from the Vatican porch.

Medina returned to Chile in 2008 to say mass in remembrance of one of his heroes, Augusto Pinochet, and to criticize a performance by Madonna taking place the same week. As we read the steady trickle of information about how little concern Catholic leaders showed for the children in their care, how they vigorously admonished the laddies not to have sex while allowing priests to have sex with them, we should recall that the principal business of the neoconservative regime under John Paul and his successor was not the welfare of actual human beings [click on link to read story of altar boy, extreme left, and his abuser, extreme right] but of their immortal souls, that is, according to Catholic doctrine, the one and only institution capable of assuring it—itself.

That is why the comments of bishops, archbishops and popes invariably refer to the grave injury suffered by ‘the Church’ as if that body were the one upon which the abuse had been practiced. The revelations are then taken as an excellent opportunity for ‘renewal’ and ‘renovation’ of the faith, rather than a clear look at the theologial underpinnings of the centuries of cover-up.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Pope mourns for victim--Catholicism

Like Donald Rumsfeld facing the photos from Abu Ghraib, Pope Benedict admits that he is ‘deeply disturbed by the information which has come to light regarding the abuse’, of children in the Pope’s case [emphasis mine]. That is not quite the same as being disturbed by the abuse itself, as the Pope’s extensive letter to the Irish faithful illustrates exceedingly well.

The Irish bishops themselves issued a statement a while back that not only apologized but explicitly recognized the cover-up that they and their predecessors had engaged in. Benedict is having none of that. Instead, he tediously and repeatedly reasserts the primacy of canon, that is, church law over police vigilance. He criticizes the failure ‘to apply existing canonical penalties’ while his calls for change are limited to updating ‘child safety norms. . . . in conformity with canon law’.

Benedict twits the bishops for failing, ‘at times grievously, to apply the long-established norms of canon law to the crime of child abuse’. But he limits the role of civic authorities to a vague phrase about cooperating with them in their ‘areas of competence’. Given that the police were systematically excluded from any role at all, including by the Pope himself in his German archbishopric, we can assume that those ‘areas of competence’ are to be understood as extremely narrow ones.

In other words, the Pope is saying that all this could have been handled perfectly well within the limits of existing procedures, had you followed them correctly. The Pope refuses to admit that it was precisely the criminal collegiality and secrecy of the priestly caste that led to the cover-up and enabled the sexual abuse of children to continue for decades.

But this secrecy is not an administrative accident or a slip-up in procedures. It is an essential element of Catholic dogma, which sees the priest as the direct channel of contact with God and the Holy Spirit, awarded to Saint Peter by Jesus and passed down through the millenia of apostolic succession to every pope including the present one. If these and only these men can provide the keys to the kingdom and save souls from Purgatory and damnation, its cohesion and internal loyalty must be iron-clad and monolithic and trump all other considerations--including the welfare of the faithful’s own families.

Again and again, Benedict’s letter focuses on the damage done to the church (or Church, as Catholics must write it) rather than on the unfortunate individuals on the receiving end. Even his most superficially appropriate, contrite phrases betray this stance—that the primary victim is the institution he leads, not sexually abused children. ‘In order to recover from this grievous wound, the church in Ireland must first acknowledge before the Lord and before others the serious sins committed against defenceless children’, the Pope writes. Note that the ‘grievous wound’ mentioned is that inflicted on Irish Catholicism.

Predictably and not for the first time, Ratzinger blames the Vatican II renovation and secularism—rather than the ancient dictatorship that he heads—for the abuse of children as if it were sexual emancipation that led clerical pedophiles to win protection from their bishops and archbishops. (I seem to recall the bishops being rather against the loosening of sexual customs.)

In fact, secularization and the deepening of our understanding of human sexuality, including the widespread nature of child sexual abuse, is precisely what enabled the victims to speak out and led to the information which has come to light. In that sense, Benedict is right: it was the ‘60s that brought all this about.

As a writer and student of the English language, I cannot help but notice that the Pope’s letter shifts promptly into the passive voice when addressing the victims of clerical sexual abuse, which comes in Section 6 after a lengthy recap of the glories of Irish Catholicism. Benedict never says ‘priests did X to you’, but rather your dignity ‘has been betrayed’ and you have ‘suffered’. This distancing mechanism is unlikely to be a grammatical accident.

I have no stake in the internal debates among Catholics and would never interest myself in what a Pope says or does not say, thinks or does not think. However, the institution is determined to play a secular role without obeying the secular rules that govern the rest of us. Catholic hierarchs insist upon telling us what social policy is proper and for whom to vote, how we should organize our sexual lives and the medical procedures that should be available to us. It pontificates constantly on family planning and sexual affairs, yet dares to insist that the criminal sexual activity of its own members be shielded from civic control and left to ‘canon law’.

Whatever else happens and however else Catholics decide to respond to their religious leadership, it is an excellent moment to resuscitate the campaign to remove the Vatican’s diplomatic status and return it at last to its proper role in society—as a religion, not a state.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Health reform denouement

Now that the vote is nearing and we can prepare finally to not be exhausted by the whole issue of our health insurance system (not our health care system, which remains untouched even as a topic of debate), we can review the fallout from this whole messy episode while they rack up the yeas and nays.

I take it as a pretty much done deal that the votes are going to come through in the end to pass the thing, despite some of that last-minute nail-biting that the drama queens in Congress so adore. So in anticipation of the passage of the landmark restructuring of how we (over)pay for medical care, I herewith allow myself the following musings:

Plus side for Obama & team:

• Passage of a major reform of a key social service. Despite the unbearably long wait to get where we are, the Obama style has proven as workable as it did during the campaign: patient slogging along with a focus on the outcome, largely undistracted by the breathless, horse-race coverage emanating from the Beltway punditry;
• Image of flexibility and non-ideological pragmatism in the face of hysterical, non-stop hissy-fit from the increasingly deranged opposition;
• Maintenance of the limping, ailing, fractured, dysfunctional Democratic Party coalition cobbled together for the purpose of replicating and sustaining itself without any identifiable ideological glue (albeit barely and perhaps temporarily).

Down side for Obama & team:

• Pathetically inept political management of an issue that should have united decent-minded people from the jump given the obvious, gaping holes in what we laughingly call our health system. Obama’s stumping in the last days using human-interest stories of people denied this basic human right was effective and persuasive, but approximately 18 months late. How on earth could these sophisticated politicians not have known that that was the strategy to deploy from Day One while remaining on the attack against Republicans who dug in their heels to defend the status quo and crowed about it?
• Failure to maintain the promise of transparency of negotiations with the special interests. Admittedly, this may not have been possible if they were to avoid getting Harry & Louised to death. But it looked rancid.
• Utter failure to incorporate the Obama millions in any meaningful way into the fight and, far worse, open sniping at them (us) from the smart-ass Emanuel who instead should be sucking us off like the Republicans do their grassroots.
• Related to the above: grotesque priority placed on ‘bipartisanship’—whatever that could mean at this point—allowing the minority to hijack the process and make the winners from November 2008 feel disenfranchised. Impact on 2010 elections to be seen.

All in all, a debilitating experience and a considerable disappointment. Still, something got done, and if there is any political capital still left after Sunday night’s vote, something more could get added later on. But that is the question, isn’t it? Does Obama have an Act II? I’m inclined to think so, but we will have to wait and see.

[P.S.] Of course, if Nancy Pelosi loses the vote tomorrow, I have my head up my ass.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Timmygate, or ‘Three accountants walk into a bar. . .’

L. Randall Wray, Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City writes at New Economic Perspectives:

‘Wall Street has for many years been producing financial instruments designed to mislead shareholders, creditors and regulators about the true financial position of its clients’.

The 00’s began with the collapse of Enron and the Big Five accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, that helped cooked its books. Now get ready for the 10’s version, the sad, sad story of Lehman Brothers’ accountants, Ernst & Young.

The buzz in the business columns is that E&Y, one of the remaining Big Four accounting firms, could be facing an equally ignominious demise as a result of the fallout from the devastating Valukas report.

Valukas turned over his 2,200-page opus last Friday to the Lehman bankruptcy court, as step toward explaining how a company insisting it was solvent could suddenly spring a $130 billion leak. Now we know: it lies, it gets its auditors to lie and it convinces federal banking regulators to lie. Simple.

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to act like Lehman Bros did through its now notorious Repo 105 agreements? Say you are insolvent but want to keep borrowing money. You convince your grandmother to ‘buy’ some asset you own at an inflated price on the 29th of each month so you can show a healthy balance sheet for your creditors. But you simultaneously agree to buy back the asset on the 2nd and toss granny 50 bucks for her trouble. Neat! Also fraudulent!

One wag compared Repo 105s to a college student getting a neighbor to hide his bong during room inspections.

Hiding one’s debts in order to obtain more loans that you cannot pay back is jailworthy behavior when done by individuals, but it seems to be business-as-usual on Wall Street. That can hardly shock us at this point, but it is rather staggering to realize that Mr Hope & Change installed none other than Timothy Geithner to reign over our national treasure after a career of enabling this criminal approach to finance.

No doubt the people who lost millions on Lehman Brothers by not being privy to this information are hopping mad, and we can safely assume that the lawsuits are being composed as we sleep. But Wray points out that the there is no reason to think the debt cover-up has ended and even calls another financial crisis involving the four too-big-to-fail megabanks imminent.

Geithner is a disaster, and Obama is going to have to choose between Wall Street and Main Street very soon. Already the questions are rolling out about how much Geithner knew of this latest scam and when did he know it.
But there is a bigger question about the transparency of our entire economic system. At what point do people simply stop believing in the financial and business information available to them because they no longer trust anybody? Madoff, the banks, the auditors, the regulators, the sainted Greenspan, the Republicans, the Democrats—everyone appears to be bought off, in the bag, complicit, actively abetting or too far out of their league to understand what’s going on. Can the apparatus of modern capitalism thrive or even survive under such circumstances?

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Programming from the Ministry of Choice (Minichuz)

Patronizing Bed, Bath and Beyond, as I did this morning, makes me think about sex. Not because of the products sold there, but rather for the sensation of being expertly serviced by an experienced prostitute.

In New York City, you know something is wrong when everyone starts greeting you and smiling helpfully. This is not how things are done here—the teenagers only say hello to someone my age when they are rolling a joint and hope to distract me. (Instead, they give themselves away.)

The store itself is a model of scientific gigantism. It overwhelms you with the vastness of its consumables stacked from floor to ceiling in all directions like a Gothic cathedral built to praise domicilic, rather than celestial, bliss.

The cheery helpfulness, however, breaks down when you actually start to look for the product you think you want. Since there is no immediately apparent logic to the organization of the goods, you wander through the columns of housewares and bedclothing, tempted between the Scylla of table furnishings and the Charybdis of toiletries in multiple colors.

This is all calculated down to the last wrong turn into a dead end of shower curtains, no doubt, including the confused trek back to the cash registers, which would stump Hansel and Gretel even with breadcrumbs.

Breathing heavily, you eagerly seek to fork over your cash and escape intact, but now the computer Gorgons want your zip code and a few moments to browbeat you into more purchases before release.

The recently closed hardware store in my neighborhood wasn’t much to look at, and the ancient family of shopkeepers who stood guard over its merchandise was never a friendly presence. Still, we had our exchanges, both commercial and casual, and the experience was one of mutual satisfaction of needs.

Today, acquiring the necessities of life often entails an eerily programmed foray into a frozen world run by machines and mechanized bipeds. Ironic that the enormity of ‘choices’ presented to us, to select from an endless array of shiny packages mass produced by Chinese slaves, should occur in an environment so calculated and prearranged down to the last icy detail.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Whose History?

The 19th-century English author Samuel Butler once said that people generally ‘are equally horrified at hearing the Christian religion doubted and at seeing it practiced’. The Texas state school board has proven him right.

That body voted to import its racist worldview into the history textbooks of millions of defenseless schoolchildren who now will read less dangerous boosting of the civil rights movement and more reminders that the Founding Fathers were Christians—even if they weren’t.

I wish someone would point out the opportunistic hypocrisy of these people in insisting that children be taught their silly ‘creationist’ bullshit in the spirit of ‘hearing all sides’ of an issue while immediately rushing to stamp out discussion of anything they don’t like as soon as they get a little power.

Among the many changes to be incorporated into Texas students’ views of American history is a mandate to essentially equate Abraham Lincoln and Confederate president Jefferson Davis, giving ‘equal time’ to both the preserver of the Union and the head of an armed movement of sedition against it.

Why stop there? writes Paul Thornton in the LA Times. We might as well put in some relevant quotes from the state of Texas’s declaration of secession itself, like the reference to ‘protecting the institution known as negro slavery—the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits, . . . which her people intended should exist in all future time’.

The Texans, preparing to join Jeff Davis in his war against northern race-mixers, went on to praise the ‘beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery’ and blast the ‘debasing doctrine of equality of all men. . . a doctrine at war with nature’.

[Right: one book probably not on the State of Texas reading list]

The Christian majority on the school board will be pleased to note how the secession statement also refers to the ‘plainest revelations of divine law’, specifically to buttress its positions on the slavery issue.

Butler was famously agnostic but more importantly thought that getting worked up over religion did no one any good. He would have found the Texas Christians annoyingly common—in the English sense—because they are so insufferably ill-informed. ‘I do not mind lying’, he said magnanimously, ‘but I hate inaccuracy’.

Butler probably would have applauded de Toqueville’s critique of American democracy after seeing this gaggle of elected dentists and housewives riding the headwinds of their church-based, Rove-inspired activism. He would take it as proof against excessive faith in the wisdom of common bipeds inflamed with the thought that their average ideas are in fact something special. ‘I really do not see much use in exalting the humble and meek’, Butler explained. ‘They do not remain humble and meek long when they are exalted’.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

A day late & a dollar short

The other day our president called for people like me to go knock on our neighbors’ doors to talk up the health reform bill. That’s the measure struggling to garner a bare majority after the White House frittered away support in myriad ways, including by ignoring us and calling us ‘fucking retards’ in Rahm Emanuel’s historic phrase. As someone who actually did go knocking on doors to elect Barack Obama to the presidency, I would be a likely target of his call to arms.

It brought to mind the post-election meeting of Obama campaign volunteers that I attended in an Upper West Side apartment in December or January with the victory still fresh in our change-and-hopeful hearts. We were instructed by the campaign-cum-transition operation to discuss our priorities and carefully write everything down to be forwarded up the food chain to the new administration.

Some 40 people gathered and slowly spoke about what had motivated them to get involved, what they saw as the key issues of the first year of the Obama presidency. It was laborious and tedious but extremely interesting. Being a veteran of such conclaves, I saw it as a very tentative initial step toward building a permanent grassroots component to the electoral juggernaut that had generated so much enthusiasm, energy and cash.

However, some questions immediately came to mind: what shape would this movement take? Who would move to control it? What would its relationship be to the Democratic Party structure? How would its decisions be made? What actions would participants be called upon to undertake? How would key issues be discussed and inputs and decisions filtered up and down the structure like the nutrients in the phloem and xylum of a big tree?

I could have saved my mental energy. I filled out all the forms and put my contact information on all the sign-up sheets circulating around the room, and that was the last I ever heard of it. The great post-victory Obama Movement was neatly folded into the Democratic Party as a vast mailing list used to send out constant requests for money.

The right has its Christian base where grassroots activists meet regularly (in church) to plot how to crush abortion rights, fight progressive economic reforms and further stigmatize gays. The Republican Party may ultimately regret how the fundamentalist tail now wags the GOP dog, but the Bible-thumping fringe has been an effective vehicle to power for them for three decades. And it took the Obama Administration completely by surprise with its furious teaparty/town hall sandbagging of health reform.

Obama & Co. had nothing with which to combat it because they had dismantled the possible equivalent. Barack and Rahm and Timothy and Lawrence put their faith in the big guys and their own smarts and left the electoral movement and its netroots components to piss off up a rope. As usual, they assumed we have nowhere else to go and would largely behave ourselves and remain at their backs while they wheeled and dealed.

I still hope the health package passes. But it is a shame to have been part of a real grassroots awakening that, once again, was dismissed as irrelevant as soon as its leaders had obtained their tickets to the best seats. It would be nice to think they’ll learn their lesson and look for ways to reestablish an organic link with those who should be their supporters and not just call upon us to jump when they get into a tight spot. But I’m not holding my breath.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Two Horrors for Tonight

Plenty of people comment on the movies they’ve seen. This is about 1½ movies that I have not seen.

Movie #1: just what we need, another adolescent fantasy using the Holocaust as a prop. Great opportunity to film and peddle more images of people getting their limbs blown off and their faces smashed in and and permit audiences to cheer their death-worship because authentic bad guys are the ones getting it in the neck (and innards).

I refer, of course, to the lexicographically challenged Inglourious Basterds. However, the Academy already committed that crime against humanity by giving the unspeakably loathesome Roberto Benigni a Best Picture award in 1999 for using a Nazi concentration camp to remind us that Life Is Beautiful, thus contradicting Adorno’s famous remark by demonstrating that poetry, albeit unutterably bad poety, remains possible after Auschwitz.

Movie #2: Too bad there is no award for Single Most Offensive Film Image of the Year because Kathryn Bigelow would face competition only from Saw VI. The great froth generated by her film, The Hurt Locker, must have an explanation, and I hope to return to earth in a new incarnation so that I can grasp it because my current mental faculties are inadequate for the task.

Unlike ‘Basterds’, I was tempted by this film and sat through half of it despite being bored silly by the parade of every war-movie cliché portrayed since the invention of celluloid.

However, I would have stayed to the end had Bigelow not engineered a three-hanky portrait of Our Brave G.I.s carrying the dead body of a teenage Iraqi kid through the rubble to show the really decent side of the people who just managed to cause the deaths of several hundred thousand Iraqis and the exile of additional millions. This was after the Iraqi populace is shown throughout the first half as threatening, shadowy, hostile and just impossibly unwilling to gaze benignly on well-meaning American guys with automatic weapons.

You invade a country, slaughter its people left and right, dismantle the state and leave them in chaos, ship in Republican college graduates to tell them how to run their lives, make a hash of it all and prepare to leave when the oil remains frustratingly out of reach. But meanwhile, your filmmakers, who naturally portray the fight from the perspective of the conquering soldiers, are incapable of showing one of the millions of Iraqis whose lives you have ruined grieving for the loss of a child. No, that sympathetic task has to be assigned to an American from Nebraska with an ammo belt.

The Hurt Locker is racist, triumphalist war-mongering.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Funeral Watch

David Paterson, briefly mistaken for a governor, will be occupying his fantasy job for mere hours, according to smoke signals emerging from the non-stop meetings among his friends and (remaining) staff. My bet is that Paterson is getting ready for a very long weekend as the non-stop scandals keep popping out like reruns of Janet Jackson’s boob misfunction.

His press spokesperson, Peter Kauffmann, quit yesterday with a few devastating comments about ‘integrity’. You do not need a decoder ring to translate this one, i.e. ‘My boss has been lying to you, and I’m done fronting for him’.

Meanwhile, the Harlem Democratic machine is lamenting the fall of Charlie Rangel from his powerful tax-writing committee chairmanship, toppled by the metastasizing pile of toxic sleaze he created over the years. Predictably, there is some whining about the race factor and complaints that the white guys always get away with it.

My personal answer to that complaint is, If you know the system is stacked against you, DON’T BE CORRUPT! Is this rocket science? If the Times and the right-wing loonies are just looking for reasons to undermine black elected officials with racist attacks, why alter a receipt for a bagel and claim a $177 reimbursement like City Councilman Seabrook allegedly did?

Why take advantage of your clout to get four rent-controlled apartments in a city where fights over real estate constitute grounds for justifiable homicide?

Why fly to the Caribbean on lobbyist dimes when you can perfectly well pay your own way?

Why hustle contributions from interested parties for your ego-driven eponymous academic institute at a local college? Don’t you feel important enough after four decades in Congress, or do you absolutely have to have statues built to your greatness?

Why extort free tickets to sporting events from teams begging you for tax breaks?

Why build a career on the issue of domestic violence and then make a serial wife-beater your principal advisor?

If the racist press is just looking for reasons to undermine you, why call up his latest victim and get her to back off? Did you think they wouldn’t find out? Your predecessor thought so too (the one now spending his days reviewing brochures for sex-addiction rehab facilities).

Why sail into a meeting of the Public Integrity Commission--an outfit with which you have publicly feuded--and spin tales so tall that it could write in an official report that there was ‘reasonable cause to believe that the governor falsely testified under oath’.

In short, if you know how unfair the system is, why provide them with arsenals full of live ammunition?

Wednesday, 3 March 2010


10, 9, 8, 7, 6. . . . etc.

How long will the Governor-Who-Never-Was cling by his fingernails to the rock slide of his farcical administration? Hard to say, but at the current pace of new revelations about how he obstructed justice, David Paterson should be worrying less about ruining his manicure and more about lawyering up to avoid a prison term.

The papers are quoting experts today saying that proving direct obstruction of justice would be difficult. But that conclusion is based on what we know so far, and the progress of this unbelievable clown show has been characterized by steadily escalating evidence of malfeasance. Who knows where it will end?

There has been no further mention of the New York Post story last weekend about how the woman at the heart of the domestic violence cover-up scandal managed to purchase an expensive new automobile with cash just days after not showing up to pursue her complaint.

If that was not an innocent coincidence, it's hard to ignore the fact that the woman first did try her best to pursue her complaint through proper channels, only to have state policemen repeatedly call her and harass her to drop the charges.

Someone should also look into why court agents could never manage to serve restraining order papers on the 6-foot-7 ex-boyfriend, despite the fact that he stood next to the governor at all his public appearances--which are announced in advance.

In any case, the chief of the state police has resigned in advance of being thrown out.

Paterson has no political constituency and no voter bloc really committed to him. He has been an absent, lackadaisical governor as the state sinks into insolvency and has not even the minimum political instincts necessary for dealing with an accelerating nightmare scandal. Apparently, he thinks it will all go away soon.

The power brokers hate his guts because of his shoddy treatment of Caroline Kennedy, and the newspapers don't believe a word he says because they've caught him in outright lies--and said so.

I give the Accidental Governor another 48 hours, maybe a week.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Decline and Fall

I long ago stopped believing in the argument that crisis necessarily leads to a healthy outcome, but the growing consensus about our social and political dysfunction awakens my slumbering, not to say comatose, optimism. Perhaps it’s the sight of our non-existent governor [above] slowly and deservedly being pushed over the edge as the details trickle out about his obstruction of justice in Drivergate.

Or perhaps it’s the prospect of Democratic corporate shill Blanche Lincoln [below, right] of Arkansas getting a primary challenge from someone slightly less noxious, thus provoking a flood of e-mails into my inbox from the people who put Obama in office and were promptly dissed by his sleazy chief of staff. One need not succumb to fantasies about who the Arkansas challenger is to obtain satisfaction from seeing this classic Blue Dog get a scare as her reward for jettisoning every chance to serve the public interest. The teabagger crowd showed the way by intimidating Republicans into their current know-nothing intransigence, and it’s time for some push-back from the other side.

But back to our own bumbling Lord Fauntleroy masquerading as governor of the state. Paterson, born into a powerful Harlem machine family, was peacefully enjoying the privileges of dynastic entitlement when he accidentally became governor due to his boss’s bout of Uncontrolled Boner Syndrome. Now caught trying to cover up his driver’s bad habit of beating up girlfriends, Paterson whines about weeks of ‘horrific, unsubstantiated rumors’ about his sex life—note that he does not say ‘untrue’ rumors.

Meanwhile, worthy Democratic pols rush to Paterson’s side complaining that he is getting roughed up for being black. As usual, they don’t address how Paterson’s actions help actual black people other than himself and his friends—but they ought to.

Paterson’s other scandal is the highly dubious deal handed out to operate the Aqueduct racetrack gambling enterprise to a company comprised of rapper Jay-Z and the owner of a collection agency, David Rosenberg. Rosenberg is under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission and the state attorney general for fraudulent and harassing tactics, and his company has already settled hundreds of lawsuits from abused debtors.

So there we have it: incompetent governor retreats behind the race card while enabling his friends to get rich exploiting poor people. When toxic slag-heap of these proportions collapses, one can only cheer, no matter what happens next.