Ten years ago George W. Bush led America into one of the biggest blunders in our history: the invasion of Iraq. We were already at war with al-Qaeda, a group that attacked America. Bush actually took troops away from THAT war, a legitimate war against an aggressor who has deliberately carried out many attacks against America and its allies, so he could illegally invade a nation that had had nothing to do with any attacks on America.
The invasion of Iraq was based completely on lies, and even though the Republicans KNEW that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, they still used it as an excuse to invade Iraq. And these were the SAME Republicans who refused to back Bill Clinton when he wanted to go after al-Qaeda well BEFORE 9/11, and the same Republicans who said Bill Clinton was "obsessed with al-Qaeda" when he warned them that al-Qaeda would be the biggest threat Bush would have to deal with. Well, instead of listening to Bill Clinton, Bush ignored the threat and so we got hit on 9/11 while Bush did nothing and Cheney hid like a mouse. Then, when they finally had bin Laden cornered in Tora Bora, he started pulling troops OUT of Afghanistan to illegally invade Iraq.
...Leaving it to Barack Obama to FINALLY get bin Laden.
Bush's Big Blunder ruined America's reputation, the cost ruined our economy, and it ruined the lives of thousands of our soldiers who served in a war based exclusively on lies. I will never forgive the Republicans for misleading us down this stupid and destructive path.
But sometimes the best way to face such an overwhelmingly disgusting period of Republican misrule is through parody. So on the 10th anniversary of Bush's Biggest Blunder, I give you Eric Idle summarizing the Bush years to perfection:
My family was invited to attend John Liu's announcement for his mayoral bid yesterday on City Hall steps. So we headed out despite the cold only to find that the NYPD decided to keep people out. Only about a half of the people who showed up were actually let in. The rest were left to stand in line (blocking the sidewalk because there were so many people) in the cold. This included staff members of John Liu's campaign.
Now I have been to these kinds of announcement events before and NEVER before have I seen the NYPD stop people from coming in to the City Hall steps to show their support. The crowd that came for John Liu WAS a particularly large one, I will grant that, but there was still plenty of room on and around the City Hall steps. Bottom line WAS there was indeed room at the inn but the cops for whatever reason did not want to let people in. Many of the people I talked to who were blocked from entering blamed it on Bloomberg. Since Bloomberg wants to anoint Christine "Slushgate" Quinn as his successor to the throne, the city is being hostile to other mayoral campaigns. Whatever the truth to that, I have never seen this kind of behavior by the cops towards a permitted campaign event on the steps of City Hall so it either means John Liu drew an EXCEPTIONAL number of supporters, creating a unique event, or it means somehow John Liu is being treated differently by the city than other campaigns I have seen make announcements, perhaps because of Bloomberg's pressure to help out Quinn.
So, even though we stayed through the whole event and even talked to people afterwards, I can't tell you who spoke or what they said because I was outside observing and talking to the crowd the NYPD turned away.
So, before I get to my own observations and comments, here is the speech I didn't get to hear:
As I said, since we were kept waiting outside the security check, we basically were blocking the sidewalk. Needless to say this was not appreciated by anyone. Eventually someone from Liu's campaign suggested that since they were refusing to let people in, we should just move to the park where we a.) would no longer block the side walk, b.) could actually see the event from a distance, and c.) could get a better sense of the crowd that was not let in. I can say that my estimate of how many showed up in the park alone was about 300, very roughly, and that doesn't count anyone who got in (AT LEAST as many, probably a fair number more), those who stayed by the security gates, and those who left after being turned away.
Once we were in the park I got to talk to a lot of people. Many were angry at the city for keeping us out and it was here I was hearing considerable speculation about Bloomberg's motives as well as people remembering when City Hall really was a public area, before Giuliani and Bloomberg started restricting our rights.
I was once again, as I am at every large John Liu event, struck by the diversity. There were brawny guys wearing union sweatshirts who looked like they may have been to a pub for a St. Patrick's Day pint before coming to the event. There was a group of Nepalese supporters who were particularly enthusiastic supporters. Many blacks and Chinese, often large components of Liu's support. There was a groups of very enthusiastic kids carrying "Kids for John Liu" signs and somewhat older kids carrying "Students for John Liiu" signs. There was a group of at least 25 Sikhs as well as several Muslims, including a couple with henna-dyed beards. Inside the event I also saw a man I have seen at Liu events before who looked from his outfit that he was a Pashtun. The diversity at Liu events cuts right across the city.
When people asked why they supported Liu, in general the response was simply that he was the best of the main candidates with particular emphasis on how bad the other main candidates are. Quinn the Bloomberg clone, de Blasio the sleaze, and Thompson the irritating one. One person put it, "New Yorkers finally want a mayor who can actually do math," citing Liu's superb record as Comptroller. One black woman I was near agreed with the "mayor who can actually do math" statement and later was saying her reasons for not liking Thompson was that he was too much like Dinkins and would not be able to get anything done. I found this interesting since Thompson is my second choice next to Liu, mainly because he just plain seems better than Quinn or de Blasio. But my fellow Liu supporters didn't really agree with me. My feeling was for a lot of them, Albanese or de Blasio would be their second choices next to Liu.
When the issue of Liu's campaign finances came up, most supporters (biased of course) feel he is being singled out by a Bloomberg (and hence Quinn) biased media and wondered why Quinn's slushfund scandals are being forgotten and why Bill de Blasio's own campaign finance scandals are being ignored. Quinn and de Blasio get livid when their scandals are brought up and have done everything they could to cover them up. Liu has consistently welcomed the investigation and feels that a.) he and most of his campaign are innocent of wrongdoing, and b.) if the investigation finds any wrongdoing Liu himself would want to know so he can clean house. Personally I find Liu's approach the most mature and honest and from what I can tell, any financial problems were not associated with Liu himself. Certainly Quinn was at the very center of the slushgate scandal. Yet the press ignores this. Personally, I would like to see the finances of ALL of the campaigns get the same level of scrutiny that Liu's campaign is getting.
Afterwards I did hang with some Liu staffers and supporters, eventually some of us winding up at Shanghai Asian Manor for some good food. I got to see the inside of Liu's Chinatown office (for a bathroom break) and can vouch for the enthusiasm (usual after any candidate's big announcement) of the group. One thing that stood out was the pile of forms filled out by new volunteers was huge, suggesting a big boost of enthusiastic supporters hitting the streets. I didn't overhear any campaign secrets, but the talk I heard of most was about John Liu's efforts too end stop and frisk. From what I can tell he is the only mayoral candidate making this a priority.
So overall the event can be called nothing but a success for John Liu. The crowd was huge and enthusiastic and not being let in didn't deter people from staying and shouting their support. Liu came over to re-give his speech to the crowd in the park (over what seemed to be initial objections by the cops), but without a sound system only the front rows got to hear it. But people, particularly the kids, were pushing to hear and see. So it seemed Liu got two campaign events for the price of one, as it were, and signed up a whole slew of new volunteers as well.
As one campaign volunteer said as the event (the announcement to the park after the official one) was breaking up, commenting on the cops trying to interfere with the event, "This guy [Liu] isn't going away."
I grew up in Los Angeles. Cops in Los Angeles get some respect, scandals related to racism and brutality aside. NYC has the same kind of scandals related to racism and brutality. But cops here don't get no respect.
First time my wife went to Los Angeles to meet my family, she was astonished by how fit LA and Santa Monica cops were and how aggressively they enforced the law. By contrast, when I recently was a victim of identity theft and was EXPLICITLY told by my banks, the FBI. and the FTC that I should file a local police report with my local police precinct, my local police precinct blew me off, refusing to accept a police report of a clear and documented identity theft crime.
There is a problem here!
I am pro-cop. I see it as one of the toughest and most thankless jobs in the world. But I also strongly object to the racism that becomes part of too many police forces, usually due to a small minority of cops but protected by the majority. Same with police brutality, sadly perpetrated by a small number of bad cops who are protected by a majority of cops. And then there is just plain laziness. When my bank, the FBI and the FTC all agree that a local police report is necessary but the local precinct refuses to listen, there is a problem,
But this also came up recently when I was discussing local politicians on the liberal website Daily Kos. I was confronted with someone who asked me why traffic offenses were almost completely ignored by the NYPD even in cases where injury or death occurs due to the negligence of a driver. Now I was not able to confirm the specific charges this person was suggesting, but I DO know of a few instances of kids in my own neighborhood being killed because of bad driving (seemingly illegal turns by the drivers) and no charges even contemplated by the police even though illegal actions by a driver led to the death of a child.
There is a problem here.
In this context, I was struck by a video of Bill Thompson, former Comptroller and candidate for mayor (NOTE: I endorse John Liu with Thompson as my second choice, so no real bias here!) tearing up at the Shiva of a Jewish family killed by a hit and run driver:
Now the cops did respond to this particular traffic offense. But when I see, pretty much daily, cars actually run red lights and cut off cops, ambulances and fire trucks while cops watch and do nothing, I wonder what these cops are thinking. They are destroying their own credibility. Having lived in cities from Los Angeles to Kyoto, Japan, I can say I have never seen cops that have a harder job than the NYPD, but also let so many crimes go in front of their own faces, and get so little respect from the people they serve. From what I see, the NYPD is way overworked and underpaid, but also has created the worst kind of laziness I have seen in public servants and this DIRECTLY leads to the NYPD being (undeservedly I believe) one of the LEAST respected and obeyed police forces in America.
Look, ANYWHERE in California, if you see a police car or are near a KNOWN police station you slow down and start obeying every law you can think of. Not so in NYC where running red lights and breaking other traffic laws RIGHT IN FRONT OF AN NYPD COP gets ignore by cops. So no one wants to listen to cops.
When the NYPD blatantly sits back when drivers ignore traffic laws, people die and respect for cops goes down. When the NYPD seems more interested in beating up protesters than catching someone who is sexually harassing women (a situation not so long ago experienced in Brooklyn) then people get hurt and respect for cops goes down.
I am criticizing the NYPD here. but I am doing so in the context of what I see as a pattern of poor law enforcement that actually lowers the reputation of our cops and perpetuates a "lazy" image of cops in NYC certainly compared to the image I know from Los Angeles. Again, I think the NYPD are among the hardest working and worst paid (thank you Bloomberg and Quinn!) people in America. But when people I know call in about a traffic offense and are blown off or when I call in AT THE ADVUCE OF TWO BANKS, THE FBI AND THE FTC, and I am blown off by my local precinct, I can't help but feel that our cops aren't doing a good job. read more »
The Continuing Bruce Ratner Fiasco: BrooklynSpeaks statement on the Draft Scope of Work for the Atlantic Yards Supplemental Env
As the wonderful promises politicians like Bill de Blasio and Marty Markowitz wooed us all with when they shilled for Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards Project disappear into the distant future, all too many people just sit back and allow the pack of lies we were sold go and let Ratner make his fortune from our hard earned tax dollars.
But not everyone is ignoring the fact that Bruce Ratner and his tame politicians have COMPLETELY failed to even attempt to keep their promises. This whole thing was a corrupt bargain done through back room deals without even one single guarantee that Ratner would deliver the union jobs and affordable housing de Blasio and Markowitz kept touting.
The whole thing is a crock of shit. If you like the arena, great. No problem. But if you believed long-term union jobs and affordable housing were going to be delivered, then de Blasio, Ratner and Markowitz probably want to sell you a certain bridge as well.
The organization Brooklyn Speaks, which is by no means the most avid anti-Ratner group, has a pretty good summary of just what a load of crap we have been sold...paid for by OUR tax money:
BrooklynSpeaks statement on the Draft Scope of Work for
the Atlantic Yards Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement
...The BrooklynSpeaks sponsors appreciate the opportunity to respond to the Draft Scope of Work for the Atlantic Yards Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). We note that the need for a SEIS was cited prior to the approval of the 2009 MGPP, not only by our organizations but by nearly every local elected official representing the neighborhoods surrounding the Atlantic Yards project. We sincerely regret that litigation was required to compel the study anticipated by the draft scope, but look forward to working constructively with the ESDC to ensure that the SEIS it prepares will be a new starting point from which the stated objectives of the Atlantic Yards project can be achieved on a timely basis, through a transparent process with public accountability.
As its core deliverable, the SEIS must reconcile the stated purpose of the Atlantic Yards project to eliminate purported blight, with the 2009 MGPP’s potential of extending the exact same blight some 15 years past the timeframe given for completion of the Atlantic Yards project at the time of its approval in 2006. In the absence of such reconciliation, we find these two positions antithetical, particularly given that a pattern of investment and organic development had already been established in the area within the project footprint prior to Atlantic Yards’ 2006 approval. It will not be enough for the SEIS to conclude that construction impacts are not greater over 25 years than they otherwise would be over 10 years. The Atlantic Yards project itself was approved to address a blight condition so onerous that hundreds of millions of dollars of direct and indirect government aid, zoning overrides and the use of eminent domain all were apparently justified. There would appear to be some public interest in such blighted conditions being remediated in a timely fashion, and the SEIS should determine whether delaying the completion of the project supports that interest.
But to the extent the SEIS nevertheless should conclude that extending project construction by nearly a generation would not create additional adverse impact to local communities, it must be prepared to explain how commitments to protect air quality, limit construction noise, manage contention for on-street parking between construction workers and residents, and control the use of residential streets by construction vehicles will be enforced. Violations of these commitments during the construction of the Barclays Center arena were well documented not only by residents but also by the ESDC’s own environmental monitor, leading an independent environmental engineer to conclude that ESDC and the City of New York in effect allowed Forest City Ratner to break project commitments and City law with impunity. Why should the public believe later phases of the Atlantic Yards project will be different? This question must be answered thoroughly and with candor.
Nor is it sufficient for the SEIS to limit its scope of analysis to Atlantic Yards’ second phase footprint. Current project agreements allow the development of features of Phase I, including building B1 and the entire Site 5, to extend beyond the originally-approved 10-year time frame. Analyses involving the impacts of construction on transportation and pedestrian circulation must be revisited for the entire project site based upon current conditions and existing plans.
The SEIS must also assess the time value of economic development and affordable housing benefits ascribed to the Atlantic Yards project. Would thousands of affordable apartments delivered fifteen years late really be as effective in terms of preserving socioeconomic diversity in the study area as if they were delivered on the originally approved schedule? And what would the delay in adding tens of thousands of residents mean to the development of businesses in Fort Greene, Prospect Heights, Park Slope and Boerum Hill?
What about the “temporary” open space impact cited in the draft scope of work? The build year guidelines in the CEQR Technical Manual would suggest that an interim build year based on the contractual obligation to complete Phase I in 12 years be considered as a point at which the open space impact must be mitigated—with or without the Phase II buildings.
The BrooklynSpeaks sponsors believe that when all of the above impacts are considered together, they indicate that an alternative plan for the development of Phase II of the Atlantic Yards project must be evaluated. This alternative plan should focus on the opportunity to restore the original 10-year construction plan by dividing the Phase II site among multiple development teams through a competitive bidding process. Had ESDC not withheld disclosure of the change in project schedule in 2009 in order to avoid a SEIS, exploring this alternative would have made good sense at the time. With intense development activity in downtown Brooklyn today, it is no longer a matter of simple good sense, it is imperative that it be explored in order to realize the stated goals of the Atlantic Yards project.
Funny how the politicians who pushed Ratner's Atlantic Yards project so hard have shut up about it now that it has turned so sour. What happened to those union jobs the Working Families Party were so enamored of? What happened to the affordable housing that was the explicitly stated reason many of these politicians sank so much of our tax money into the project?
What do you call it when political allies of a developer (in exchange for endorsements and political donations) use tax money taken from our pockets to fund a developer's for-profit project on the hope that some union jobs and affordable housing are thrown to us as bones but those bones don't materialize? I call it corruption. But maybe that's just me. Brooklyn Speaks has been relatively moderate on this issue. This statement is about as calmly and technically stated as you can get given the huge scam that Ratner sold to us thanks to his tame politicians. Personally I would phrase it with a lot more rude words.
Of course the BIG question is this: did anyone learn any lessons from the whole mess? Somehow I doubt it.
My wife and I got involved (perhaps way TOO involved) in local Brooklyn politics thanks to a high school friend of hers who ran for a judicial position. At about the same time we were recruited into the brawl that is Brooklyn politics, I was organizing protests to "welcome" the 2004 Republican National Convention to NYC. In the end these two things led to my becoming a well known blogger in Brooklyn (primarily at Daily Gotham) and my wife becoming an officer (currently 2nd Vice President) of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats (CBID).
So every year we attend the CBID annual dinner. And blogging about it since 2007. 2008 was a particularly good dinner, noted for Chuck Schumer giving a rousing speech which I wrote about and titled "I'm Not Afraid of John McCain!" In that speech Schumer predicted the huge victory of Barack Obama. The 2009 dinner not only honored one of my favorite members of Congress (Nydia Velasquez) but also gave one of the best rundowns of single payer healthcare I have ever heard, thanks to Dr. Oliver Fein (who I believe I saw this year as well but he didn't speak). Can't find my write up about 2010 but my 2011 coverage included some videos of some of the speeches (thanks to the efforts of Raul Rothblatt). Not sure if I blogged the 2012 dinner since Daily Gotham was dead at that time and I was focused more on work and family than politics.
But last night's dinner was another good one and had many elements that would have been huge shocks 4 years ago.
CBID is the most reform and liberal of the Brooklyn "reform" clubs and is well known for asking the hardest questions of politicians at their monthly meetings and for many years stood up to the corrupt local machine led by the now disgraced Vito Lopez. They have sometimes put ideology before practicality, but have become more united and practical in recent years and so have become more effective without losing their reputation, often repeated last night, of being some of the most active and hard to please of Democrats in Brooklyn. I believe most speakers last night gave some version of the line "CBID sets the bar very high for elected officials."
Chuck Schumer was there, as always, and gave one of his usual excellent speeches. He continued a theme I first heard pushed at the community swearing in ceremony for Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez. Coming from that event I was one of the first people to blog that Comprehensive Immigration Reform was about to be a major push by the Democratic Party. I think it was FIRST mentioned at Nydia's event by NYC Comptroller and (very) likely mayoral candidate John Liu, but then reiterated quite deliberately by speaker after speaker. Last night both Chuck Schumer and Congresswoman (my Congresswoman) Yvette Clarke emphasized Comprehensive Immigration Reform as a must pass plank this year, practically daring Republicans to commit political suicide by opposing it. Again, this kind of strong progressive rhetoric by Democrats is quite welcome and I am glad it is continuing. Schumer and Clarke also both emphasized gun control as a major plank in the Democratic agenda for this year, again practically daring Republicans to sacrifice themselves on the altar of NRA fanaticism.
Four mayoral candidates also attended last night. Missing was Christine Quinn...perhaps remembering that she was once the recipient of CBID's "Tarnished Fork" award (a tradition they sadly have given up and really should bring back!) for her central role in the seemingly now ignored slushgate scandal.
Bill Thompson gave a short speech (a great tradition many more speakers should follow!) basically congratulating the honorees and praising the efforts and high standards of CBID, messages conveyed by every politician who spoke...in a more long winded manner. I am warming to Bill Thompson's relaxed style, and I am reminded by
more and more people that despite his boring reputation, he came far closer than anyone expected to defeating Bloomberg and he may have a better chance than I have given him credit for.
John Liu gave a rousing speech as always. A brilliant man who highlighted his excellent record as Comptroller. Honestly, his record as Comptroller reaffirms why I endorsed him. He did NOT officially announce his candidacy, but he did seem to be semi-officially announcing that he will officially announce very soon. Of course even though he has not announced, most people are treating him like a candidate for mayor. As usual he directly acknowledged the investigation against his campaign, again welcoming the scrutiny and emphasizing his transparency. CBID in the past worked closely with John Liu and his campaign and was impressed with the care his campaign took verifying donations. In fact, his campaign was one of the MOST cautious and this was long before the investigation. If what we saw was typical of his campaign, then I am sure he will be absolved with no problem. I personally always find it amazing that Liu's campaign gets all this scrutiny from the media while Bill de Blasio's past shady campaign practices (which involved SEVERAL candidates in addition to Bill, involved the entire Working Familiies Party, and WERE ACTUALLY FOUND ILLEGAL but not prosecuted as long as money was given back), and Quinn's massive slushgate scandal are being ignored. Of the three, there is no doubt in my mind that John Liu is the most honest and transparent. Maybe damning with faint praise comparing him to Quinn and de Blasio, but this is NYC politics and these are three of the front runners and so it is an appropriate comparison.
Sal Albanese also attended and gave a speech. I apologize to Sal for missing his speech. I was talking to John Liu during it.
Bill de Blasio came late and so spoke to only the last of us to leave. As always he gave a good speech but with little substance. As my wife says, he can talk a good line but has never really done anything. I tend to point out that for all his talk about supporting Bruce Ratner's Atlantic Yards project ONLY because of the affordable housing, it is amazing that he hasn't said a word about it since the affordable housing part was dropped...as many predicted to de Blasio's face when he was such a supporter. If he is that easily fooled or that much of an enabler for unscrupulous developers, I don't want him as a mayor.
Scott Stringer also came. Let me just say he needs to tell different jokes when he comes over to Brooklyn. First time was funny, but we already know you're from Manhattan and you don't need to tell the getting your visa stamped joke every time. Stringer also gives a good speech but my wife remembers his role enabling Columbia's land grabs so we are somewhat skeptical about him as well. Still, when challenged about Columbia's land grabs he once did give me a somewhat convincing explanation for why he felt it was the best possible deal...somewhat convincing, I say, but "best deal possible" has been an excuse used by many for many really lousy and rather corrupt real estate deals in NYC and I think our politicians may need to redefine for themselves the words "best," "possible," and "deal." Too often people like de Blasio and Stringer (and let me be clear I consider Stringer MUCH better than de Blasio, but in this they seem similar) are like my former City Councilman David Yassky. Yassky, as my wife used to comment, seemed to surrender to developers before the negotiations even started, calling the surrender the "best possible deal." At a bare minimum it is a bad bargaining technique yet is too often used by NYC politicians when faced with developer money. read more »