Sunday, September 30, 2012

Wall Street Will Just Have To Wait A Little Longer For The Complete Take Over They've Been Dreaming Of

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Don't worry about Wall Street. They're all set. No matter who wins the presdiency, no matter which one of the corrupt Beltway party establishments is in charge of Congress, Wall Street will be well taken care of. Sure, they would have loved to have had one of their own in the White House and to have placed their own little Frankenstein monster in as VP. But Obama hasn't really given them anything serious to worry about and they'll be perfectly fine with a corporate whore and investment bankster like Erskine Boyce Bowles-- currently on the boards of General Motors, Morgan Stanley, Facebook, Norfolk Southern and North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance-- as Secretary of the Treasury. As Ben White and Anna Palmer said, Wall street might not be getting their "dream candidate," but they certainly know how to work with Obama to further their own interests-- even if he did call them "fat cats" once. And, of course, the criminal banksters-- who were not prosecuted under the Obama administration-- "still go to Romney fundraisers, open their wallets and hope for the best, especially in the upcoming debates. It’s just that Wall Street and the business community tend to follow data and play percentages. And right now they [the data, not the banksters] favor the president."
It makes for an uncomfortable moment for Wall Street, which came out much more aggressively for Romney than Obama this year, after Obama made significant inroads with the finance sector in 2008.

The shift in tone among executives toward Obama was on display at the Clinton Global Initiative this week, where several CEOs softened their criticism of the president. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein acknowledged there had been widespread “disappointment” with Obama within his firm and across Wall Street.

But he also said that it was time to move on and finally deal with rising debt and unsustainable entitlement programs. “People who have been pouting and holding their breath aren’t going to want to do that for four more years,” he said.

John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems and a strong Romney supporter, spoke of bridging partisan divides on taxes and spending should Obama win a second term. And in an interview with Reuters, Chambers said whoever wins should govern like Bill Clinton. “There’s a lot to learn from President Clinton. It kills me as a strong Republican saying it, but he was the most effective president during my lifetime,” Chambers said.

The Obama administration has already begun laying ground work for improving its soured relationship with corporate America in a possible second term.

...Inside the Beltway, financial services lobbyists are starting to hedge their bets. For many in the industry-- private equity, hedge funds and investment banks-- the ramifications could be huge if Democrats retain the Senate and Obama is leading the effort to a major tax overhaul.

Perennial issues like carried interest, a favorite hobby horse of Senate Democrats, could be on the chopping block. The industry most certainly would be on the defensive, according to several financial services lobbyists. And the optimism that agency heads would change and new rules in the pipeline like the Volcker Rule would vanish or get watered down is no longer the case.

Despite the most recent polls and economic forecasts, not all banking lobbyists are willing to concede the election. “The banking industry knows for them this is by far and away the most important election, bar none,” Consumer Bankers Association President Richard Hunt said, noting the headwinds against banks will be much stronger in a second Obama administration.

What a drama queen! He knows perfectly well that Obama will continue to protect their industry against the accountability they've earned. Today is the last day of the FEC quarter. If you'd like to help bring some much needed accountability to the banksters and other financial predators, these 16 House candidates who have been campaigning on the working family values inherent in Prosperity Economics and to protect America from Austerity (the 2012 version of Voodoo Economics or Trickle-down economics) are far more likely to be looking out for our interests than Obama or any Blue Dogs or wretched New Dems ever will. This is how Alan Grayson put it after he had read Hacker's and Lowentheil's proposals:
The Seinfeld show, which TV Guide named the greatest TV show of all time (seriously), often was described as a show about nothing. We are in danger of the 2012 Election becoming an election about nothing. When a nation is facing the kind of problems that we are facing, then Barack Obama’s birth certificate, his religious beliefs, Mitt Romney’s gaffes, his personal deductions, and even Todd Akin’s understanding of female anatomy all are the moral equivalent of nothing. This coming election is too important to be about nothing. And that is why Nate Loewentheil’s “Prosperity Economics” platform is important-- it’s not nothing, it’s something. Something big. For a Democratic victory to be meaningful, for it to create a “mandate,” we owe it to America to explain what we would do with that victory. We need to make some promises, and then do our darnedest to try to keep them. “Prosperity Economics” is a coherent, comprehensive plan that offers the hope-- the essential hope-- of leading us out of the wilderness.
It's important to make sure Romney and Ryan don't get into office. It's crucial people like Alan Grayson do. Please do what you can to help. This is one way to do that. Getting Grayson back on the House Financial Services Committee... now that would be something. Remember this? It might be the most viewed House committee testimony in history. Over 4 million people have watched it so far.

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Countdown to the season premieres of "The Good Wife," "Homeland," and "Dexter"

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Homeland's sensational Damien Lewis

"The advantage that English people have and that I have is that we grow up with so much American television. We're all used to hearing it all the time. And the other advantage is Americans are not used to growing up with television from anywhere else or hearing any other accent, so they assume, they are much more forgiving of someone's bad accent."
-- Dominic West, The Wire's Jimmy McNulty

by Ken

Of course my pleasure in anticipating the premiere of the show in the above group I really love, The Good Wife, is tempered by the traditional CBS Sunday-night scheduling debacle, which as I suggested a few weeks ago all but dares viewers to try to watch its best show in the aftermath of NFL game pushback.

I think I've got it under control for tonight, since as of 8pm ET the schedule seems to be pushed back only a few minutes, and that's without the half-hour network-wide pushback that was supposed to be in effect at least on Sundays when CBS has a late football game, as I think it did today. I guess it's not important that I understand; it just matters that I had time to extend my scheduled Good Wife recording enough to cover the estimated overage and then some.

Of course that means I had to cancel the scheduled Homeland and reschedule that for the later broadcast. And the whole thing has left me drained before the evening even starts. It's just a lucky thing this damned football season is almost over.

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, I cherish The Good Wife because it has a raft of characters -- within lawyer Alicia's family, at her law firm, and at the states attorney's office overseen by her estranged husband Peter (the one she stood loyally by when he was enmeshed in a sex scandal and forced to step down) -- I not only find believable but am able to care about, quite a lot, in fact.

I came late to the first season of Homeland, via On Demand, for which I am once again profoundly grateful. I had bad feelings about the show's terrorist-plot-or-not thriller formula, which smacked of tapping into the cheesy free-floating paranoia that seems (as best I can tell) to fuel a pile of insulting crap like 24. In fact, though, I found the show pretty involving -- quite credibly written within the credibility-stretching boundaries of its spy vs. spy format, and perhaps more importantly blessed with a terrific cast doing lots of fine, believable, involving work.

It was a stroke of genius to cast the amazing Damien Lewis in the central role of the U.S. marine who, in Season 1, might or might not have been "turned" during his long captivity by an Iraqi terrorist chief. Could any actor be more "English" than the Damien Lewis we've seen do such splendid work as his Soames Forsyte in the Forsyte Saga remake? Of course he already showed in Band of Brothers how credible he could be as a true-blue American, and as Homeland's inscrutable Brody, he has been just fantastic.

The trickle has become a flood: British actors enacting more interesting and credible American characters than an awful lot of American actors. Think of Hugh Laurie as House MD, The Wire's Dominic West and Idris Elba, Brothers & Sisters' Matthew Rhys -- all just terrific. West has some seriously interesting things to say about the success his countrymen are achieving on American TV in the BBC News Magazine interview from which I snatched the quote at the top of this post. Not just that the Brits have the obvious advantage to parsimonious U.S. producers of coming cheap, given the limited star power they bring to the negotiating table.
There's a possibility that we are possibly better in an ensemble or less geared to being a huge star or more resigned to not being a huge star. Because in America, it seems to me that everything is "you've got your one shot at the top and you've got to make it there, you've got to get there." In England, I think we're more philosophical about that because there's less chance of it here.

In The Wire, there was no star actor. It was an ensemble serving the writing and maybe in America agents have become more involved in trying to make a star in whoever was acting in it.

There's maybe a readiness to be part of an ensemble which goes slightly against the grain of how the Americans view celebrity and show business.
Interesting. Is it just a coincidence that for a serious discussion of the subject we have to turn to a British source?

I'm not going to say more about Dexter. The idea of involving myself in the doings of a conscienceless serial killer continues to surprise me, but each season I find myself watching again. Maybe it has something to do with Dexter's struggle against his sociopath's lack of normal human emotion and response, and the confusion, bordering on turmoil, he's thrown into as he begins to experience some of the above. The writers do seem to have some serious thoughts about these basic paramaters of humanity, and once again they've got a really terrific regular cast with which to explore it, and a history of bringing in terrific people for each season's weirdos and victims. I don't know that I've seen John Lithgow do anything better than his really chilling super-"straight disciplinarian" serial-killer wacko.

Boardwalk Empire seems to me off to a solid start in its third season -- a noticeably bloody one, with Bobby Canavale doing his increasingly predictably splendid character work as a terrifying thug the viewer can really believe could kill anyone he meets at any time.

As it happens, I've just been watching Cannavale's brilliant turn as Dr. Mike Cruz, the new hospital honcho in last season's Nurse Jackie episodes. Rewatching the complete season via On Demand confirmed just how splendid it was. Via On Demand I've also rewatched the first three seasons of The Sopranos (after which they stopped, alas), and am reworking my way through The Wire, with still-growing amazement and delight.

I suppose it's unrealistic to expect all TV producers to aspire to that standard. (I can't think of a broadcast network show other than The Good Wife aiming that high, but I'll certainly credit AMC's Mad Men and Breaking Bad teams with trying.) But it seems to me that it doesn't get much better than that.


AFTERTHOUGHT: I shouldn't have made it sound like a criticism, pointing out how bloody a start the new Boardwalk Empire season is off to. After all, these Prohibition-era mobsters are a ruthless, bloodthirsty lot, and if the show sugarcoated this, I hope I'd be bitching about that.
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Doctor, Doctor, Come Quick-- One Of Our Political Parties Is Dying Of Severe Epistemic Closure Before My Eyes

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The media is beginning to predict more than just an Obama win next month; words like "blowout" and "landslide" are being bandied about. It looks like Obama could well take all the states he won against McCain other than Indiana. North Carolina is still too close to call... but Arizona is moving in a blue direction and if Obama decided to start advertising there, he could probably take it. Recent polls point to the nail in Romney's coffin: Obama up 10 points in Ohio, 9 points in Florida and 8 points in Virginia. I'm sure the Cayman Islands would make him and Ayn and Duke and Duchess if they need to be cheered up. Romney's got the Mormon states and the most racist parts of the Old Confederacy... and he's got the Fox viewers and Hate Talk Radio listeners (i.e., the right-wing bubble), but that's basically, all he's got. And that's not enough. Chris Hayes on his MSNBC show yesterday:

Glenn Beck left Fox News to create his own hermetically sealed media environment, where he has his own website, radio show and TV network, where the latter routinely runs stories first reported by the former... The increasingly claustrophobic parallel conservative universe isn't just something that lefties like myself have noted. Julian Sanchez, a CATO libertarian who moves in social circles of both liberals and conservative, coined the term "epistemic closure" to describe the alternate reality found in, as he put it, the "multimedia array of interconnected and cross promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News" where "whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted. (How do you know they're liberal? Well, they disagree with the conservative media!) This epistemic closure can be a source of solidarity and energy, but it also renders the conservative media ecosystem fragile."

I think we are seeing right now, just how prophetic Sanchez was. The political problems the Republican party are now facing-- losing ground not only in the general election but a wide swath of congressional races, is due, I think to the fact that the elites of that party have become so used to operating within the confines of conservatism they've forgotten how to persuade people that don't already agree with them.


As you know, no Republican has ever won the presidency without taking Ohio. And pundits are already asking how Romney let it slip away in such a big way. Walter Shapiro tells us that "many of the well-known Ohio Republicans I interviewed offered their blunt assessments only after they were guaranteed complete anonymity. That is often the Faustian bargain of political journalism in 2012: robotic talking points on the record or something resembling honesty with no names attached. The reason, though, that I am emphasizing the don’t-quote-me part of the equation is that I was stunned by the vehemence of the thumbs-down-on-Mitt verdict. All but conceding the state to Obama, these Republicans were offering what may be the biggest rejection of Ohio since Philip Roth wrote Goodbye Columbus."

The Romney problem in Ohio is not so much campaign strategy as the candidate’s inability to transcend who he is. “The Obama people have convinced Ohio voters of two things,” says Curt Steiner, a well-connected Republican public relations strategist. “That Mitt Romney doesn’t believe anything. And what he does believe is all anti-middle class.”

...Republican insiders privately concede that Romney’s “47 percent” comments at a fund-raiser have been devastating because they validate pre-existing concerns about Bain Capital, the candidate’s wealth, and his impolitic affection for overseas bank accounts. Fifty-eight percent of Ohio voters in a recent Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS poll predicted that the policies of a Romney administration would “favor the rich.”


No doubt, inside the right-wing bubble, the GOP pup tent, something else entirely is going on to rationalize this. And if they lose control of the House, which is looking more likely everyday, they're really going to have to figure out what to do about it. Does anyone have the intestinal fortitude for a real look at what the party has become... or will they just say Romney was "too liberal" and inauthentic and dragged the whole enterprise down?

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Sunday Classics: Mahler Symphony No. 8, "Veni, Creator Spiritus"

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If you can bear the video mis-sync, here's the first 8 minutes of Part I of Mahler's monumental Symphony No. 8, his setting of the medieval hymn "Veni, Creator Spiritus," with Sir Simon Rattle conducting the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain (and soloists and choruses too numerous to mention -- even if I knew who they were) at the 2002 Proms.

by Ken

As I noted in Friday night's preview, there is an unmistakable rupture between Mahler's Eighth Symphony (which has been saddled with the unfortunate rubric "Symphony of a Thousand"; yes, it calls for eight vocal soloists and a double chorus plus children's chorus in addition to orchestra reinforced by organ, but that's a long from a thousand performers) and the song-symphony that followed, Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth). As everyone surely knows by now, in the interim the composer received the dire diagnosis of his untreatable heart disease.

In the Eighth Symphony, however, we find Mahler from the very outset still at his heaven-stormingest, as we heard in the video clip above.

Performances of the Mahler Eighth were once rare events. By now they have become, if not quite commonplace, then hardly rarities, and recordings . . . well, they have become more or less commonplace. Which makes this once-hardly-approachable work much more readily available, but still hardly easy of approach.

We're going to limit ourselves to Part I of the symphony, Mahler's setting of the medieval hymn "Veni, Creator Spiritus." (Part II, which last more than twice as long, is a setting of the final scene from Goethe's Faust.)

Read more »

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Blue America Doesn't Do Triage On Our Candidates

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If you're starting to follow this whole politics thing that they're talking about on the TV, you may be hearing the word "triage." We talked a little about it last Tuesday. In the Rachel clip from Thursday night-- interrupted by a commercial and then finished up on the show but, alas, not on the MSNBC website-- she mentioned how the DCCC is cutting lose hapless loser and Blue Dog Larry Kissell (NC) and how the NRCC had pulled the plug on deadbeat dad Joe Walsh (IL), hopelessly gerrymandered old timer Roscoe Bartlett (MD), goofy teabagger Frank Guinta (NH) and on organized crime figures Michael "Mikey Suits" Grimm (NY) and David "The Gangster" Rivera (FL). "Walsh and Bartlett have long been viewed by most observers as dead men running" and the mobster connections blowing up in the local newspapers about Grimm and Rivera have led to the GOP shifting money to more promising seats. [Update on this: Walsh has called in a promise by Boehner that if he gave up his relatively safe district and not primary Randy Hultgren but took on Democratic war hero Tammy Baldwin instead, he would receive $3.5 million in election help from the party. So he got plugged back in.]

Anyway, while the two Beltway parties wheel and deal and make decisions about whose political careers to end and whose to continue life-support, I just weant to mention that Blue America doesn't do triage. We're continuing to raise money for all of our House and Senate candidates and, like we've done every year, we'll use the money our generous donors have given to the PAC itself and to our new I.E. Committee to see if we can tilt one or two close races being ignored (or triaged) by the DCCC. We've been buying media in CA-25 to target corrupt and reactionary militarist Buck McKeon and we've been buying media in WI-01 to help stop Paul Ryan. [Thanks to you guys, we finally went over the halfway mark for our goal in that district.]

So we've been stepping up the fundraising apeals for our candidates. The picture of the right is of Alan Grayson, House Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn and Green Day guitar winner Judith Wilson when she was presented with the signed guitar. She had only contributed $25 to Grayson's campaign but she won the valuable guitar and others like her who contributed brought the total raised for Grayson on that ActBlue page to $38,355. Team work! We did a similar event for Patsy Keever (D-NC) and next week we're teaming up with our pals at PDA to turn a multiplatinum B-52's Cosmic Thing award into campaign cash for Lee Rogers and Rob Zerban, the intrepid progressives running against House Armed Services Committee chairman Buck McKeon (CA-25) and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (WI-01). The site isn't officially open yet but... who better than you to be the first to see it?

And we're working on our Independent Expenditures. I don't want to give them all away but let me mention that Joe Pitts is the tip of the anti-Choice spear and an all-around reactionary jerk. His once safe Republican seat in southeast Pennsylvania is now a swing district that was won by Obama in 2010. And his opponent is a kick ass former Iraq War vet-- and mother of two, Aryanna Strader. This is one of several billboards we're making sure everyone across the sprawling district sees:


And we have some real surprises for Congressmonsters  Ryan and McKeon, surprises we'll be rolling out at a dizzying rate as October unfolds. But let's keep some surprises as surprises. Best place to help us finance more and better surprises: our I.E. committee. There are no limits to what you can give on that page.

And, hopefully, all of our candidates are learning from the master himself, Alan Grayson. Here's his latest, as "tame" as he ever gets in a campaign:

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ed Royce-- Hiding In The Shadows, Working For Wall Street Against Main Street

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Ed Royce was first elected to Congress in 1992. Before that he was a longtime student taking out deferments to avoid fighting in Vietnam and then a corporate tax manager who worked at figuring out loopholes so his clients wouldn't have to pay their fair share of taxes. One of the worst extremists in California, Royce is a raving racist lunatic and bigot but is one of the least known Members of Congress and certainly the least known of anyone who's been in there so long. He operates in stealth for his masters, the Wall Street banksters. He's perfectly positioned as a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee to work against the interests of consumers trying to get a fair shake from the financial titans who bankroll him. Royce has sabotaged and attempted to destroy every single piece of reform legislation that aims to protect consumers from financial predators. A fanatic supporter of the European Austerity agenda that is failing in country after country-- and has Spain's middle-class scavenging from garbage cans now-- he fourth ranking Republican on the committee, he has been continuously passed over for a subcommittee chair because ever Republicans recognize that he's too extreme and that his anti-family positions would cause too much  pain to the middle class. Instead he's the fourth ranking Republican on the Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises Committee behind a freshman and two other less senior members and the third-ranking Republican on the Financial Institutions And Consumer Credit Committee, again behind a freshman and a chairman with less seniority than himself.


But he still does enough on behalf of his Wall Street patrons that they reward him handsomely. So far in this cycle-- as he gears up to fight off a challenge by independent-minded progressive reformer Jay Chen, Royce has raised $2,119,652, spent $2,442,152 and is sitting on another $2,012,085 left over from previous races. Only 2% of his money comes from small donors, one of the lowest percentages of anyone in Congress. As you can see above, his donors primarily, almost exclusively, come from the banking and insurance sector. And as you can see above, his 5 biggest donors are all criminal enterprises prospering by ripping off consumers. This year he's taken $742,391 from business-oriented PACs and another $52,600 from extreme right wing ideological groups. He is one of the few senior Members of Congress who has signed up for the Tea Party Caucus led by Michele Bachmann.


Jay Chen has raised slightly over half a million dollars and he is a Blue America-endorsed candidate. He told us he is "amused by the amount of attack mail Royce has been sending against me. You would think that after 20 years in office he would have some accomplishments to mention, instead he just wants to lie about my record. Royce is determined to hold his seat and do the bidding of the big banks that finance his election, and he will say anything to get re-elected so that he can continue to push trickle-down economics that favor the very rich."  To avoid a primary against one of his crooked Orange County cronies, Gary Miller, Royce abandoned his district and is running in the 39th, most of whose voters have never heard of him. Both Royce and Miller have helped the California Republican Party finance a voter registration fraud scheme that started in Florida by notorious GOP election thief Nathan Sproul is now infecting voter rolls all over Southern California.

This week, Royce-- again, one of Congress' most virulent adherents of Austerity-- spent thousands of dollars on mailers accusing Jay Chen's support for Prosperity Economics as "a radical plan to alter the American economy." Watch Jay's statement up top and judge for yourself how deranged Royce's accusations about him are. And here's what Jay had to say about Prosperity Economics that Royce finds so offensive:

Prosperity Economics brings us back to the principles that make our country great. These ideas, such as investing in infrastructure, education, and our social safety nets, and limiting the power of corporations to distort our political system, are not new or radical, they are part of the original formula that drove the unparalleled success our nation has enjoyed until recently.

But these ideas are now under constant attack, as is the prosperity of our nation, by corporate interests who continue to push a "trickle-down" theory that is already a proven failure. These special interests have made it a point to confuse wealth accumulation with job creation, and the result is a drastic increase in income inequality unseen in modern times.

In the meantime, our middle class, which is the true engine of economic growth and stability, continues to shrink. We simply cannot cut our way to prosperity anymore than we can drill our way out of oil dependence. We need leaders who understand how smart, sound investment made us the great nation we are today, and how prosperity economics can ensure our leadership in the world for generations to come.
We have two very clear visions for this country. Jay wants government to help create opportunities for ordinary working people to prosper. Royce wants to do away with regulations so that corporations can completely dominate society. Royce is hiding behind an onslaught of negative campaign ads paid for by the crooked Wall Street interests that most benefit by his Law of the Jungle philosophy. No debates, no public forums, just slanderous, unhinged barrages of mail with doctored, unflattering pictures of Jay. Jay's team put together an excellent website that exposes the real Ed Royce, MeetEdRoyce.com, which gives the full picture of this odious and toxic character who has hidden in the shadows long enough.


Jay continues to answer Royce's baseless and inflammatory charges by sticking to the issues that motivated him to get into the race in the first place. "Veterans," he told us, "can't afford another two years of Ed Royce ignoring their needs and voting against their services. The middle class cannot afford another two years of Royce voting to increase their taxes and cut off access to higher education. Women can't afford to allow his radical redefinition of 'forcible rape' to dictate their health care. And seniors can't afford the Ryan budget plan that he endorses, which will force seniors to pay thousands more for health insurance." If you'd like to help Jay Chen replace Royce in Congress, you can do that here on our ActBlue page. I might add that Sunday is the last day of the FEC quarter and a contribution now is especially helpful and appreciated.

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Urban Gadabout: Walking the Newtown Creek Nature Walk with its designer, George Trakas

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A popular feature at the Newtown Creek Nature Walk is this long series of steps along the park's Newtown Creek frontage. Visitors are free to relax on the steps and look out on the Long Island City (Queens) shorefront opposite, or to peek at the view to the left.

by Ken

Some of life's sweetest rewards can't be planned; the most you can do is to position yourself in the path of possibly happy surprises.

I had signed up for Jack Eichenbaum's Municipal Art Society tour today (check out MAS tour listings here), "A Renaissance in Newtown Creek," even though I had done what looked to be basically the same walk with Jack before, when it was called "Crossing Newtown Creek": starting in the heart of Brooklyn's northwesternmost outpost, Greenpoint, then proceeding to the northwestern corner of the 53-acre site of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Management Plant to see the Newtown Creek Nature Walk designed by artist George Trakas installed between 1997 and 2007, then proceeding across the Pulaski Bridge over Newtown Creek to Long Island City, Queens. (Newtown Creek forms the western section of the border between Brooklyn and Queens.)

So why do the walk again?

First, when I first did the walk, some 15 months ago, the primary attraction was laying eyes on Newtown Creek, which to my knowledge I had never done before. You have to remember that like most industrial waterfronts it was pretty well closed off to civilian eyes and feet. But in that intervening year and a quarter I had done more walks around various parts of the creek than I can remember and also cruised the creek, mostly under the auspices of the Newtown Creek Alliance (it's definitely worth signing up for their e-mail list), and mostly with NCA historian Mitch Waxman (whose blog, "The Newtown Pentacle," is always worth checking out).

Second, there's the Jack Eichenbaum factor. In all the many walks I've done with Jack, I can hardly remember one where I didn't learn something of near-life-changing importance -- certainly a change in my way of perceiving the city, and likely the world around me. Walking with Jack, you learn to see how basic factors of physical and human geography have shaped the way regions and neighborhoods have developed and redeveloped.

Third, there's the "I forgot" factor. Even if today's walk turned out to be identical to last June's, the chances are that I haven't retained more than 10 percent of what I "learned" then.

BUT TODAY'S WALK TURNED OUT TO BE
FAR FROM IDENTICAL TO LAST YEAR'S



Here's George at another of his projects, Beacon Point 2007, a Hudson River-front space that provides waterfront access in Beacon, NY.

The first surprise as we gathered for the sold-out tour was that none other Mitch Waxman was on hand, recruited by Jack to share his particular knowledge of Newtown Creek and its surrounding areas. Then Jack, arriving fighting through a massive subway outage in Queens, bore news: Not only would our walk be coinciding, by happenstance, with Field Trip Day and the closing weekend of the "Newtown Creek Armada," a flotilla of little radio-controlled boats in the Whale Creek inlet side of the Newtown Creek Nature Walk. More important, the park's designer, George Trakas, was scheduled to be on hand for the festivities, and had agreed to talk to our group about his handiwork.

-- from the NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection's
PDF brochure on the Newtown Creek Nature Walk
Since this was my third or fourth visit to the nature walk (I figure that by the time you lose count, you qualify as a habitué), I already had a rich appreciation of the wonders of its design, incorporating into its particularly limited space the history of the area, its past and present natural history (all through the park there are sections of plantings featuring all sorts of indigenous trees and plants), and a record of the people who have lived and worked along the creek.

But what a treat to walk through it all and get a glimpse of it through George's eyes. He's been living with the project since he was first approached about it in 1996 or 1997, not just through its opening in 2007, but keeping abreast of it since then, and also in the planning of what he described to us as Phases 2 and 3 of the park, which I didn't know about at all. He's actively involved in the planning of Phase 2 (he said he had a meeting about it just yesterday), which has a whole list of steps to go through -- especially as a project that has city, state, and federal components and also community involvement -- as well as additional construction that has to be completed to the waste-water plant itself in order for construction on Phase 2 to begin late in 2014 with a view to a 2015 opening.

Everywhere we looked there was a design feature whose history George could share, generally involving collaboration and coordination with those various government and community groups. He explained how he arrived at the dramatic entrance, which required some sort of bridge or overpass over a portion of the plant. He talked about the nautical themes he had incorporated into the design to reflect the shipbuilding business that had once occupied the sight, and noted that he hadn't troubled the engineers with the fact that the walkway as finally built aligns with the distant Empire State Building, of which visitors get one of the city's great views!

George talked about the startled response he got when he disclosed his idea to put a "fragrance garden" underneath that entryway overpass. A "fragrance garden" alongside a waste-water management plant? The most startling fact about it is that there isn't, by and large, and fragrance of waste water!

There was also much consternation about George's idea for those long concrete "step benches" (pictured above) alongside the park's Newtown Creek frontage, which have become one of its most user-appreciated features. I can vouch for the considerable pleasure of just sitting on those steps and observing nature as it exists today along the creek. And as Mitch Waxman always stresses on his walks in the area, if we give nature even a sliver of a chance it can regenerate itself, and despite the creek's still-heavy pollution (it is a Superfund site, after all), it's teeming with life -- yes, there's marine life in the creek and its tributaries, and all kinds of bird life in and around the creek. (George pointed out that plants and trees for the park were chosen in part for their likely appeal to birds.)

George recalled that in the design process he was warned that the park was bound to be a gathering ground for homeless people and to be subject to graffiti. Based on its nearly five-year history, not at all. He thinks that the common sense and approachability of the design (he noted that the community groups frequently stressed the need to provide explanations for historical- and geographical-based design features) have produced an attitude of respect on the part of the people who visit. He also noted that for some presumably unknown reason, despite the appeal of the park to all sorts of birds, pigeons haven't had much presence, even though (or perhaps because) the waste-water plant itself has some rich feeding grounds for them.

One detail that especially delighted me, perhaps because I hadn't given it any thought in my previous visits, is the very surface we walk on through most of the park. It turns out to be a carefully chosen material, a version of what is known in trademarked form as "compressed gravel." It's very low-maintenance, George explained, and I suddenly noticed what an easy, cushiony surface it provides for walking. (It's much used in Europe, George said.)

George, by the way, seems to have become expert on all matters related to the waste-water management plant itself, and I kept wanting to ask if he had ever imagined -- in all those years he was building his reputation before being invited to take part in this project -- if he had ever imagined he would one day have this degree of expertise in this particular field!

There was so much more -- you had to be there, and I'm sorry you weren't. But I'm sure glad I was! Naturally the Nature Walk portion of our walk grew to unexpected proportions, and Jack kept tabs on people whose time situation didn't permit them to go beyond the original two-hour schedule. In the end, I'd gotten so much out of this portion of the walk that I accompanied the rest of the group as far as the base of the stairway onto the Pulaski bridge and then parted company.

As it happens, my terror of heights makes walking across bridges a nightmare for me, and after all I'd already done this crossing once. It had been on my mind the whole time last June when I first did this walk with Jack, and I wondered this morning whether it would be any easier the second time. It didn't escape my attention that as soon as I had an excuse, I wiggled out of finding out.


For a short film about the Newtown Creek Wastewater Management Plant, with its famous "digester eggs," click here.


DON'T FORGET JACK'S UPCOMING
"DAY ON THE J" -- SUNDAY, OCT. 21


In July I wrote with breathless excitement about the announcement of a date for Jack's first offering in eight years of his daylong exploration of the route of New York City's J train from Manhattan through Brooklyn to Queens, an even more exciting prospect than his now-famous (I hope) daylong "World of the #7 Train," a much more familiar train and route -- though I expect that most if not all of what Jack has to show on the #7 train outing is unfamiliar to most participants. (Translation: If you've never done it, you must watch for the next time Jack offers it.)

As I wrote in July:
Like The World of the #7 Train, A Day on the J is organized in the form of six walks in dramatically different areas, reflecting widly different geography and development histories, spanning the three boroughs through whichf the J runs: Highland Park, Richmond Hill, and downtown Jamaica in Queens; Bushwick and South Williamsburg in Brooklyn; and the Lower East Side in Manhattan. The walks are linked, of course, by rides on the J train itself (unlimited-ride Metrocard highly recommended). As with the #7 tour, A Day on the J has a lunch break built in, in this case in Jamaica.
I noted that on request Jack will e-mail you a great information sheet, which includes a registration coupon, though you can register without it by mailing him the information specified in the description below along with your check.

I didn't have a chance to ask Jack how registration is going, but I can warn you that any places that remain going into tour weekend are likely to be snapped up in a flurry of last-minute registrations, when disappointed would-be tour-takers are likely to be turned away. Here's the official description.
A Day on the J
Sunday, October 21, 10am-5:30pm

This series of six walks and connecting rides is astride the colonial route between Brooklyn and Queens. We focus on what the J train has done to and for surrounding neighborhoods since it began service (in part) in 1888. Walks take place in Highland Park, Richmond Hill, downtown Jamaica, Bushwick, South Williamsburg, and the Lower East Side. Tour fee is $39 and you need to preregister by check to Jack Eichenbaum, 36-20 Bowne St. #6C, Flushing, NY 11354 (include name, phone and email address) The full day’s program, registration coupon and other info is available by email: jaconet@aol.com. The tour is limited to 25 people. Don’t get left out!

Take the J Train: Jack Eichenbaum's Oct. 21 Day on the J will feature walks in Queens (Highland Park, Richmond Hill, and downtown Jamaica), Brooklyn (Bushwick and South Williamsburg), and Manhattan (Lower East Side), plus lunch in Jamaica and of course lots of trips on the J.
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Was Paul Ryan The Biggest Mistake Mitt Romney Ever Made? Looks That Way

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Such a bad idea



Mitt Romney isn't a DWT reader. If he had been, even for just the last 3 or 4 years, he would have known that his political life could have been saved if he had mustered the courage and fortitude to stand up to Wall Street's drummed up right-wing enthusiasm for Paul Ryan and resisted their insistence that he chuck his gut feelings (Rob Portman) and pick Ryan. Ryan-- even more than Romney's 47% blunder-- was the beginning for the end for Campaign Mitt. 

Ryan, thanks to the DCCC's consistent role in helping Wall Street protect his fledgling career, has never had a serious challenge to reelection until this year. So bankster golden boy doesn't know what he's doing on the campaign trail. And it goes way beyond his pretzel twisted flip flops, like this week's revelation that he was for Social Security before he set out to destroy it. Ryan is so popular with the right-wing bubble (their little tiny pup tent of a base) because he is the posterboy for destroying Social Security (and Medicare) and has made wrecking the two programs (+ Medicare) the heart and soul of his entire political career. His Democratic opponent-- for his House seat-- Rob Zerban, said yesterday that “This past month has exposed voters to a whole different side of Paul Ryan. We found out that after Ryan bashed the President’s stimulus act, he showed up for Recovery Act ribbon-cuttings; and after railing against Obamacare, Ryan requested money from it. Today’s revelations-- that Paul Ryan was for Social Security before he was against it, confirm what people have suspected about Paul Ryan all along: he will do or say anything for the sake of his own ambition. That’s why voters are learning not to take Ryan’s words at face value, and exposing his lies for what they are.”
Ryan’s position on Social Security has changed dramatically since he entered Congress in 1998, taking him from pledges to protect the program’s “Lock Box” and to forswear cuts even for younger workers to a plan to invest retirement funds in the stock market-- and back.

He has also pledged repeatedly not to support raising the retirement age, a key element of the Romney-Ryan campaign’s current outline.

As his party’s Vice Presidential nominee, Ryan is now taking great pains to avoid discussing the details of Social Security reform. The Romney-Ryan campaign plan to preserve the program runs a spare 207 words. (President Obama’s is just 37 words long.) And in his most recent budget, he side-stepped some of his most dramatic and politically problematic proposals to overhaul a program that has provided many older Americans money to live on since the New Deal.

But review by Buzzfeed of Ryan’s official mailings to his constituents during his career-- which are publicly available in the House-- makes clear that Social Security reform has been one of Ryan’s top priorities since he was first elected to Congress in 1998-- so much so that he made the topic his first pieces of major legislation. And those documents and statements by Ryan and his team since joining Mitt Romney’s presidential ticket show that his views have zigged and zagged significantly over time, and that Ryan has contradicted several earlier promises to constituents.

...Ryan’s selection as Mitt Romney’s running mate marked the most recent shift in his position. Pivoting away from his own 400-plus page reform plan, Ryan has embraced Romney’s vague outline that would gradually raise the retirement age while curtailing the growth of benefits for higher income workers-- both of which contradict his previous pledges to constituents.

At the same time, it appears that Romney and Ryan have abandoned the idea of personal savings accounts. Although it is unclear why they have, the idea never caught on in the general public thanks to an aggressive messaging campaign by Democrats demonizing it privatization.


Ryan and Romney's shady, unclear positions on Social Security and Medicare are helping turn the election into a rout in favor of Obama and Democrats in general. Yesterday the Washington Post reported that "voters in three critical swing states [Florida, Ohio and Virginia] broadly oppose the far-reaching changes to Medicare associated with the Republican presidential ticket and, by big margins, prefer President Obama to handle the issue."
The future of Medicare, the federal health program for the elderly and disabled, has become a flash point in the campaign since Romney’s selection last month of Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, as his running mate. The choice of Ryan-- who wrote a proposal that would move Medicare toward vouchers as part of an overall attempt to curb the deficit-- is considered a bold and politically risky move, given Medicare’s popularity.
Jonathan Sattler went so far as to list 5 reasons why Ryan was a worse VP pick than even Sarah Palin!

His record of supporting every aspect of the Bush economic disaster, even backing his call to privatize Social Security, and has never accomplished anything in Congress
His Austerity budget which penalizes working families to give tax breaks to the wealthy. As Sattle put it, it "represents exactly the kind of extremism that turns off swing voters. And now voters in every Congressional district in America will have a chance to say what they think about the Ryan plan. The ideal running mate doesn’t give voters something to vote against."
Targeting senior citizens-- a gigantic and dependable voter bloc-- is the worst thing a Republican could ever do. If they fail to win over seniors, they have nothing.
Ryan is now forced to twist himself into the uncomfortable position of running against his own budget, the only thing most voters know about him
Sattler's fifth point almost sounds like Obama tricked Romney into picking Ryan. "At least," he concludes, "McCain picked Palin for his own reasons."

Right-wing propaganda expert Byron York rues that Ryan can't even deliver his own states and wonders aloud, in a GOP throw away, whether Portman could have at least brought in Ohio for Romney. "Amid all the talk among conservatives that Romney is not making good use of Ryan-- that Romney's campaign team is muzzling Ryan, keeping him from stressing the budget and entitlement reforms that are his life's work-- listening to Portman on the stump is a reminder that Romney could have chosen a different path. Especially since Portman, whose presence conveys experience and dependability, is a known commodity in a state that is at or near the top of Romney's must-win list. Ryan, whose youth often overshadows other impressions he makes on voters, understandably doesn't have the same status in Ohio as its home-state senator."

A general consensus is beginning to form that as bad as the 47% blunder was for Romney, the Ryan selection was worse. The New Republic's Noam Scheiber writes that as bad as the 47% disaster was for Romney, there's "another dynamic that’s been overlooked here: The escalating disaster that is Paul Ryan. At the time of his selection, a number of pundits argued Ryan’s strategic benefits, suggesting he would boost Romney by energizing conservatives, or by allowing Romney to run as the candidate of big ideas, or that he would at least be the party’s best defender of the Medicare plan Romney was going to have to defend whether he wanted to or not. This seemed like a stretch at the time-- after all, Ryan’s Medicare plan proved to be a massive liability the one time voters weighed in on it. But who could say for sure? 
Well, fast forward a month-and-a-half and the numbers look pretty persuasive. This week the New York Times released a set of polls, conducted by Quinnipiac, assessing the state of the race in Ohio and Florida. The top-line numbers were jaw-dropping enough: Obama’s lead in Ohio grew from six to ten over the last month, and from three to nine in Florida. (It’s better to focus on the change here than the magnitude, which is highly sensitive to polling methodology.) But once you look at the internal numbers, they’re even less kind to Romney. More to the point, they suggest Ryan has done enormous damage to the ticket.
I hate to say "I told you so," but we started explain the pathology that is Paul Ryan back in 2005. Of course, Romney could have just read a few Paul Krugman columns last year and he would have had fair warning as well, like the one about not knowing anything or the earlier one about being a FlimFlam Man, actually both penned in 2010. Maybe Romney was too busy figuring out ways to avoid paying personal income taxes to bother paying attention at the time. But he's paying for it now.  Long before that, Blue America started a special page on ActBlue: Stop Paul Ryan. Please stop by-- and tell your friends to as well. We're just over halfway to our goal for 2012.


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The Downward Spiral Continues For Miami Crime Figure David Rivera (R-FL)

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Great report on Miami-Dade's most crooked congressman, David Rivera (R-FL), from Rachel Friday night. Great ending for her show. She mentions it but never speculated on where exactly Rivera got those tens of thousands of crisp hundred dollar bills in cash to stuff into envelopes? If that wasn't cocaine trafficking money I'd eat my hat. Rivera has been mixed up with organized crime since he was Deputy Dawg (and roommate in the notorious Tallahassee party house) for Marco Rubio in their state legislature days. You don't hear ole Marco coming to his old pal's aid much these days though. No one wants the taint.

As we reported Thursday, Boehner is urging him to step down and just let the seat go to Democrat Joe Garcia. Rivera's presence on the ballot is endangering other Republicans as well as the party brand. He been sinking in the polls as more and more revelations seep out. The NRCC has cut him loose entirely.

Two separate polls from Republican and Democratic third-party groups have arrived at the same conclusion: Republican U.S. Rep. David Rivera is losing his reelection effort.

Rivera, under separate federal criminal investigations into his personal and campaign finances, trails Democratic challenger Joe Garcia by nine percentage points in a Democratic poll and he’s behind by 10 points in the Republican survey-- just outside the poll’s error margin.

Rivera’s campaign has produced its own survey showing he has an inside-the-error margin lead of four points.

The Republican survey is the newest and most eye-opening because it was conducted Tuesday and Wednesday by a top-flight GOP polling firm with vast experience in Florida: McLaughlin & Associates.

Pollster Jim McLaughlin confirmed the numbers in the poll, but he declined comment and he wouldn’t disclose who paid for the survey obtained by The Herald.

“This is a quality polling firm, and based on the data, it’s very difficult for Rivera to come back,” said political consultant David Custin, who successfully led efforts to defeat Garcia in his previous congressional races in 2010 against Rivera and in 2008 against Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.

“I don’t want Joe to win,” Custin said. “But this poll makes it look like he will.”

The Republican poll’s numbers aren’t just bad news for Rivera in the new Kendall-to-Key West Congressional District 26 seat.

The survey shows Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney trails President Obama 51-43 percent in the GOP-leaning district, which voted an average four percentage points more Republican compared to the national average for the results of the two prior presidential campaigns. In some ways, the results of this survey shed light on Romney’s struggles in must-win Florida.

...Geography also conspires against Rivera in the race, Custin said. He said the addition of Monroe County to the district hurt Rivera, who lost the more-conservative Collier County to Diaz-Balart when the seats were redrawn this year by the Legislature.

The McLaughlin poll shows Garcia winning by nine points in Miami-Dade and 13 points in Monroe.

The survey showed 19 percent undecided. Another candidate, independent Jose Peixoto, earned 5 percent of the vote. The survey didn’t include the fourth candidate in the race, Angel Fernandez, an independent.

Custin said it’s likely independent voters will break Garcia’s way as more news about the federal investigation into Rivera surfaces.


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Charlie Crist, Democrat?

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Bringing the word "DINO" to new heights



Nothing personal but The Hill story on Charlie Crist raising campaign funds for Patrick Murphy is what you'd have to call "shoddy reporting." They assert that the fundraising is "the latest sign he's trying to ingratiate himself with the state's Democrats ahead of a possible run for governor in 2014." But they're missing an important piece of the puzzle.

Although Murphy, who's running against war criminal and Tea Party extremist Allen West, bills himself a "Democrat," he's a lifelong Republican and not only contributed money to Mitt Romney, he contributed to... Charlie Crist when he was running against a Democrat. It's hardly remarkable that Charlie Crist would send out a fund-raising letter for him. And if Crist wanted to ingratiate himself with the state's Democrats, what about other contributions and efforts for Florida Democrats?

Helping an actual Democrat, like Alan Grayson, might go a lot further than a phony-baloney imposed by far away DCCC bosses like Hoyer and Israel. In the current cycle Charlie and his wife, Carole, have written 11 contribution checks-- 10 for Murphy (for a total of $7,000) and one, right before the Democratic primary, for conservative insurgent Al Lawson who was the Democratic leader of the state Senate when Crist was governor ($500). But the most important Florida race to state Democrats is Senator Bill Nelson's reelection battle. Crist hasn't helped there. Nor has he given to other Democratic incumbents nor to Democratic challengers viewed as having a shot to win like Lois Frankel, Joe Garcia, Heather Beaven, Val Demings, Jessica Ehrlich (in a district where support from Crist could swing the election), Keith Fitzgerald, or Jim Roach.

Or maybe the real story here is Thomas Murphy, Jr., CEO of Miami-based Coastal Construction Group... and young Patrick's rich daddy. Thomas has contributed $383,350 to candidates and committees since 2008. He used to contribute mostly to Republicans (like Crist) but back in 2008 his biggest single contribution was $25,000 to the Republican National Committee and multiple donations to John McCain and Mitt Romney. These days he gives to the same kind of filthy corrupt swine, but in the Democratic Party, like Debbie Wasserman Schultz. His biggest single contribution was a hefty one: $250,000 to American Sunrise, a SuperPAC that's raised $350,050 so far the only other donor of note being Miami-based Ibrahim Al-Rashid of Limestone Asset Management ($100,000). The PAC spent $65,776 boosting Patrick Murphy and $52,802 attacking Allen West. And that's it. Papa Murphy has his own SuperPAC to buy his kid a congressional seat. Sweet. Too bad Good Time Charlie and Papa Murphy can't fix this latest ad by the war criminal their boy is trying to unseat:

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Friday, September 28, 2012

Sunday Classics preview: Before and after -- Mahler learns that the's dying

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by Ken

We've actually heard the music we're going to hear (again) in tonight's preview -- an an August 2010 poat called "In the opening vision of Mahler's "Song of the Earth": "Dark is life, is death", which focused on the three tenor songs -- Nos. 1, 3, and 5 -- from Das Lied von der Erde, the work that Mahler undertook following his diagnosis of untreatable heart disease. It seemed obvious to begin by hearing the way his preceding work work, the Eighth Symphony, had closed, with the conclusion of Goethe's Faust. (FYI: This excerpt begins very softly. It gets louder.)

MAHLER: Symphony No. 8 in E-flat: conclusion, "Alles Vergängliche ist nur ein Gleichnis"
All things transitory are but parable;
here insufficiency becomes fulfillment,
here the indescribable is accomplished;
the ever-womanly draws us heavenward.
[much repeated]
-- English translation by Peggie Cochrane

Soloists and chorus; London Symphony Orchestra, Jascha Horenstein, cond. BBC Legends, live performance from the Royal Albert Hall, March 20, 1959 (6:39)

CONTRAST THAT WITH THE START OF DAS LIED

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"Education Nation" week offers a jolly "Salute to the Bronx"

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Chris Hayes is probably still delighted by the image of Bronx youth storming the NHL if the ice center championed by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. for a repurposed Kingsbridge Armory comes into existence.

by Ken

The thing about being from the Bronx, Darlene Rodriguez said, is that when you say the name, everyone has an opinion. Chris Hayes agreed but ventured that he likes to play off that image people have of his home borough.

Darlene, co-anchor of News 4 New York's Today in New York, and Chris, well-known to DWT readers as host of MSNBC's Up w/Chris Hayes and editor-at-large of The Nation, were cohosting an event Wednesday night called A Salute to the Bronx at the Bronx Public LIbrary Center, the other event I mentioned last night that I attended among this week's Education Nation festivities cosponsored by NBC News and the New York Public LIbrary. Obviously Darlene and Chris were the NBC News contingent.

There was live music from an exuberant Latin jazz ensemble at the start and finish of the program, which was kicked off by NYPL President Anthony Marx. Marx was clearly pleased by his on-site view of the heavy community use he had found being made of the Bronx Library Center (the NYPL serves the Bronx and Staten Island as well as Manhattan; Queens and Brooklyn have their own well-regarded public library systems), and was ready with an impassioned case for free public libraries as a bulwark of democracy.

You'd think this is one case that didn't need to be made, but I expect Dr. Marx knows as well as anyone in the country what an easy target libraries are in these times of massive buget-cutting. (The importance of libraries is something you'd think only a nation of ignoramuses would fail to understand. I guess that's why the case needs to be made even more urgently now.) Of course a library has to serve its community, and that means Bronx libraries have to be aware of the wide cultural and ethnic diversity of theirs -- a point later made as well by the Bronx Museum of the Arts's Brazilian-born education director, Sergio Bessa

The diversity issue popped up while Darlene and Chris talked early on about their experiences growing up in the Bronx. Chris made the serious point that living among such a diverse population and being educated in the Bronx public elementary-school system gave him an experience of human diversity that had a lot to do with the person he became.

Chris's trademark preparation and wit were on display in a conversation with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. (sometimes known as "the good Ruben Diaz," to distniguish him from his highly problematic father). He asked Diaz about plans for the massive and long-abandoned Kingsbridge Armory (not far from where we were, Diaz pointed out), which holds the potential to be part of a major economic surge for its area. Chris asked about his recently announced suuport for what he called a hockey rink, which the borough president corrected to an "ice center," with facilities for instruction and use for everything that can be done on the ice, which he believes will provide an attraction and destination, not just for Bronx residents but for non-Bronxites as well, while not competing with any of the businesses already in the area. (The obvious contrast: any kind of development project that includes the generally inevitable mall.) Diaz imagined Bronx youths storming into the NHL, an image that was burned into Chris's imagination.

There was an enjoyable appearance by Bronx Borough Historian (since 1996) Lloyd Ultan, who responded successfully to Darlene's challenge to name all seven Bronx High School of Science Nobel Prize winners -- all in physics. There was a segment with a contingent from the DreamYard Project (including co-executive director Jason Duchin), which works to fill the gap left by the near abandonment of arts education in the public schools.

And David Greco, a familiar figure to Food Network viewers as a mainstay of the city's food-service industry, was on hand to talk about the Bronx's "flourishing" Little Italy on Arthur Avenue, where his family has been doing business since his maternal grandfather opened shop in 1922. (I gather that Chris's family is still in the Bronx, since I think I heard him mention that in the not too distant past he had been shopping on Arthur Avenue for Thansgiving dinner. The centerpiece of David's Arthur Avenue-based empire is Mike's Deli, which bears the name of his father, who came to this country from Calabria and at 83 remains active in the business. The happiest surprise of the evening was the discovery at the end of the program that Davd and his team had also brought eats for the already-happy crowd. (The tiny mozzarella balls on the antipasta skewers were out of this world.)

Clearly the evening was designed for Bronx residents, but this interloper had a fine time. Actually, in way-Northern Manhattan I'm closer to the Bronx than to most of Manhattan, and
David Greco (of the well-known Mike's Deli) was on hand to talk about -- and provided some eats at the end. David's family has been doing business on Arthur Avenue since his maternal grandmother opened shop in 1922. (Mike is David's dad, still involved in the business at 83. )


David Greco (of the well-known Mike's Deli) was on hand to talk about the Bronx's flourishing Little Italy on Arthur Avenue. Here Mike beats Bobby Flay in a Food Network eggplant parmigiana throwdown.
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Do We have A Right To Know What's In Our Food? Or Should We Just Trust Monsanto To Poison Us Slowly?

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Every Californian has his or her own ideas about which proposition is the most important. To prisoners convicted on 3 strikes you're out, it's all about Prop 36. To union activists Prop 32 is a like-or-death situation and for anyone on death row... well Prop 34 literally is a life or death situation. And if you happen to be a pimp who makes a living by trafficking in human beings-- something like modern day slavery-- you're worried that Prop 35 will pass.  We'll be talking about all these propositions closer to election day. But I wanted to bring up, once again, one that DWT has been championing all along: Prop 37: the Genetically Engineered Foods Labeling Statute. If it passes-- and according to a  new poll in the L.A. Times it's winning in a landslide with 61% ready to vote yes and only 25% in opposition. Here are the quick reference arguments in the official Voter Guides that arrived at everyone's home this week. First the argument in favor:
Proposition 37 gives us the right to know what is in the food we eat and feed to our families. It simply requires labeling of food produced using genetic engineering, so we can choose whether to buy those products or not. We have a right to know.

So, you wonder what the corporations who oppose this are saying to combat this common sense approach? Here's their statement on the same page of the Voter Guide:
Prop 37 is a deceptive, deeply flawed food labeling scheme, full of special-interest exemptions and loopholes. Prop 37 would: create new government bureaucracy costing taxpayers millions, authorize expensive shakedown lawsuits against farmers and small businesses, and increase family grocery bills by hundreds of dollars per year.
“There has always been a huge outpouring of grassroots support for Proposition 37 and the right to know what’s in our food,” said Gary Ruskin, campaign manager for Yes on 37. “Despite the pesticide industry’s best efforts to confuse and mislead, Californians are standing strong for the right to know what they are eating and feeding their families.” Tom Fendley, his political director, added that "Today's poll s consistent with all previous national and state polling. All polls have shown overwhelming public support for the labeling of genetically engineered foods.”

Pesticide giants Monsanto and DuPont and their allies have raised more than $32 million and they're gearing up to spend it on deceptive advertising to persuade voters to change their minds. Ruskin said explained that "Their upcoming avalanche of attack ads will try to scare voters into believing food costs will go up if Proposition 37 passes, using bogus figures from bogus ‘studies’ funded by their own campaign.”

The USC poll gives reason to believe that California consumers will withstand the barrage of brainwashing cash.
Californians aren’t price sensitive when it comes to genetically modified foods, reveal the latest results of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll. Even when presented with information about how much regulation might cost the cash-strapped state, a majority of voters support a November ballot initiative that would require new labeling for food that contains genetically modified ingredients. If approved by voters, the initiative would become the first of its kind in the United States.

...Younger voters overwhelmingly support the measure: Californians age 18-29 support the initiative by a margin of 73-20 percent. Among voters aged 30 to 39, support for Prop. 37 is 66-19 percent; age 40 to 49 support it by 60-29 percent; age 50 to 64 support it by 60-25 percent; with support slipping for ages 64 and over to 52-30 percent. Men support the initiative by 54-32 percent; women by 67-19 percent.

The poll further showed that support for the initiative is similar across education levels and demographics. Voters without a college degree favor the measure 62-24 percent; those with a college degree favor the measure 60-26 percent.

Registered Democrats favor the initiative by 66-19 percent; Republicans 49-35 percent; and voters with no party preference by a margin of 63-25 percent. Fifty-nine percent of White voters support Prop. 37 while 28 percent are opposed; of Black voters, 69 percent are in favor and 20 percent are opposed; of Latino voters, 67 percent are in favor and 19 percent oppose.

Following on the heels of a French call for an investigation into GMOs with a request that the entire European Union ban them entirely if they are found to be detrimental to human health, the Wall Street Journal reported this week that Russia isn't waiting around and that they have already suspended all imports and uses of Monsanto's genetically engineered corn. Russia took action after a study showed that Monsanto's corn is causing cancer.

The study, conducted by France's University of Caen and published last week, found that rats fed over a two-year period with the U.S. crop-biotechnology company's genetically modified NK603 corn, marketed under the Roundup Ready brand name, developed more tumors and other severe diseases than a test group fed with regular corn.

Don't worry. Monsanto has its own stock of bought off "scientists" who will present absolute proof that brushing your teeth with Roundup will increase your lifespan and cure cancer and toenail fungus.

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Buck McKeon-- Charged With Keeping America's Biggest Moochers Shelling Out Cash For The GOP

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The man behind the curtain



This week Frank Rich rethought a post of his from April, Sugar Daddies: The Old Rich White Men Who Are Buying This Election. It sounded dire and scary when I read it last spring... hideous, sociopathic and very dangerous plutocrats like Harold Simmons, David and Charles Koch, Sheldon Adelson, Irving Moscowitz, Steven Lund, Bob Perry, Peter Thiel, Jerry Perenchio, Robert Rowling, Foster Friess, William Dore, Philip Geier, Julian Robertson, Robert Mercer, Harlan Crow, Edward Conard, Paul Edgerley, John Paulson, Frank VanderSloot, Paul SInger... most of them financial predators angry that Democrats want to protect consumers from their deprecations. The names bolded are hedge fund managers, leveraged buy-out crooks and stock manipulators. Each has given at least a million dollars to the GOP this year, some much, much more. Now Rich is wondering if maybe the expected impact of the sugar daddies was overhyped.
It may turn out that many, including me, were more worried about the post–Citizens United wave of money from the Kochs and Adelsons than we had to be because (a) Romney proved an even weaker candidate than anyone imagined (which is saying something), and (b) he’s so weak that those pulling the strings of the super-PACs (e.g., Karl Rove) may in desperation start shifting money away from the national ticket to salvage troubled GOP Senate candidates. The most important political story so far this week was on the front page of Monday’s Wall Street Journal: It cites example after example of pro-Romney super-PAC expenditures failing to get the job done. Obama is up nearly ten points in Michigan and eight points in Pennsylvania even though right-wing super-PACS have spent $18 million on TV spots in those two states (more than twice the amount spent by the Obama campaign and a pro-Obama super-PAC combined). In North Carolina, the race is still close despite nearly $34 million in pro-Romney spending there (nearly 50 percent more than Obama forces have spent). Democratic Senate candidates are ahead in Ohio, Florida, and Virginia despite similarly huge pro-GOP super-PAC outlays in those races. As I wrote in my piece about attack ads, the quality of the ads matters, and Romney’s ever-shifting campaign strategy may have made it impossible for anyone on his side to come up with a devastating “Daisy” ad. And at this late point, the audience may be too desensitized to respond to one in any case. (Just go to a swing state and turn on the television for an hour; the volume is shocking.) Money’s biggest role in the final weeks may be on the ground, not on the air-- an advantage for the better-organized Obama.
Thursday Dan Eggen explained, technically, why all that money flowing from the avaricious billionaires into Romney-backing SuperPACs isn't as nearly as effective as the money Obama has coming in.
As the presidential campaigns step up the pace of their multimillion-dollar spending sprees, President Obama has a little-noticed strategic advantage that gives him more control over the money he has raised.

While Mitt Romney relies heavily on massive amounts of cash held by the Republican Party and interest groups, Obama has more funds in his own campaign coffers. That allows him to make decisions about where and how to spend the money and to take better advantage of discounted ad rates, which candidates receive under federal law.

In one Ohio ad buy slated to run just before the election, for example, Obama is paying $125 for a spot that is costing a conservative super PAC $900.

The imbalance could prove crucial over the next six weeks, when the candidates and their allies are expected to burn through about $1 billion worth of advertising in battleground states and deploy thousands of staffers and volunteers to drum up votes. With $1.5 billion already spent on the White House race, the final barrage will help determine whether Romney can turn around his fortunes and defeat the incumbent.

Boehner appointed McKeon chairman of the House Armed Services Committee for exactly one reason: McKeon is a dependable shill who could be counted on to shake down arms makers and war contractors for Republican Members of the House. That's his job. McKeon is the #1 recipient in the whole Congress (both Houses) of blood money from the arms makers and military contractors. So far this cycle he's taken in $481,850-- not counting what he was able to extort from the companies for his wife's ridiculous and failed California state Assembly run, which saw national defense corporations donating to a state legislative race for the first time in history. All  that cash was pure, unadulterated bribery for McKeon. He's also the #1 recipient in the whole Congress ($186,500) of war industries PAC cash.

McKeon's crooked PAC has raised closed to half a million dollars so far this cycle and the biggeste dcontributors include every big weapons maker in America: General Electric, General Dynamics, Boeing, BAE Systems, Lockhead Martin, Nortthrop Grumman, DynCorp, EADS, General Atomics, Alliant Techsystems, Honeywell, Raytheon... You get the picture. Most of this money goes into McKeon's pockets by way of payments to his wife, children and other  relatives. But he also doles out checks to other Republican candidates (as well as $5,000 to Boener, who has no opponent). Among the Republicans who McKeon wrote PAC checks to are disgraced war criminal Allen West (FL), Joe Coors (CO), Mike Coffman (CO), Charlie Bass (NH), Frank Guinta (NH), Brian Bilbray (CA), Richard Tisei (MA), Adam Hasner (FL), Mia Love (UT), Todd Young (IN), Dan Lungren (CA), and dozens more. And McKeon also directs his Military Industrial Complex finaciers to write checks for less powerful and more needy Republican backbenchers-- hundreds of thousands of dollars worth. Every cent of that money is paid many times over by taxpayers  who foot extravagent bills for weapons systems that factors all the bribes into the pie.

McKeon is also fellow Mormon Mitt Romney's point person with the arms industry and he's helped Romney wring $395,932 out of the sector so far. This week former GOP congressional staffer Mike Lofgren penned an OpEd for TruthOut, Meet the Welfare Queens of the 1%: The Moochers Mitt Missed Work for the Pentagon. Like everyone else talking about Mitt Romney these days, his kick off point is Romney's secretly recorded remarks dispargaing 47% of Americans as moochers and deadbeats. He says that if "Romney were to broaden his focus, he would find that there are welfare queens beyond his imaginings. In the last four years, Wall Street moguls such as Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein have reaped tremendous public scorn for their outsized paychecks, so their transgressions are not exactly a secret. At least in theory, however, bankers operate private enterprises not dependent on the taxpayer (that is, in good years when the government is not bailing them out)." He was just getting warmed up.
[T]here is no dispute about the status of major Pentagon contractors, their utter dependency on government, and their outsized profiteering. Lockheed Martin, the largest contractor, receives about 85 percent of its revenues from US Government contracts. Government sales accounted for more than 90 percent of revenue to Northrop Grumman, the fourth largest contractor, during the last three years.

Unlike the cases of Dimon or Blankfein, I doubt one American in a thousand knows who Wes Bush is. The CEO of Northrop Grumman, he made over $26 million last year, exceeding JPMorgan Chase's payout to Dimon, the highest paid bank CEO. In fact, the chiefs of the five largest Department of Defense (DoD) contracting firms hauled in $107 million combined, more than the top five bank CEOs (who limped in with a mere $75 million altogether). Yet somehow, this form of income redistribution through the medium of government manages to bounce off the consciousness of people like Romney and his supporters like Swedish peas off an Abrams tank.

Indeed, as I have argued more comprehensively elsewhere, the public rarely notices how much the DoD budget contributes to an upward redistribution of income from the many to the relatively few. The Washington, DC, suburbs are a notable example of this. At a time when median income and net worth have fallen nationally, income in DC's surrounding counties has surged, with seven of the ten richest counties in the nation now lying in the Washington region.

While government employees are well-compensated, there are statutory limits to their pay, so they do not account for the explosion of 5,000-square-foot McMansions, gated communities, and similar gaudy excrescences in the capital's outer suburbs. This phenomenon has gone hand-in-hand with the last decade's explosion in the contracting out of government services and the huge and uncompetitive profit margins this process generates-- particularly in DoD, but also Homeland Security and government-wide information technology.

Yet the peculiar sociology of the military-industrial complex paradoxically allows for a government-dependent population that disproportionately thinks of itself as small-government conservative and heavily votes GOP. This is particularly true in outer-suburban counties like Loudoun that are rural enough to maintain the illusion of a free Jeffersonian yeomanry among the many contractor personnel living on their sham estates in what was once Virginia's horse country.

In addition, the Pentagon budget is a net drain on jobs nationally, rather than a net creator. A dollar spent on road building, health care or just about any other employment activity creates more jobs than a dollar appropriated to DoD. And while the military budget generates a few pockets of prosperity, such as the DC suburbs or San Diego, it draws money out of more congressional districts than it benefits.

It will be fascinating to see the howls of dismay from defense contractor executives if, on January1, 2013, Congress really does walk the country over the so-called "fiscal cliff" and the Pentagon budget faces cuts. And what would be their reaction to a modest proposal to cushion the blow to our troops in the field by forcing these executives to take a pay cut? Why should a company that receives more than, say, two-thirds of its revenue from government pay its executives more than the $400,000 annual salary that the President of the United States receives? Any more than that would simply demonstrate the kind of grasping dependency on taxpayers that Mr. Romney abhors.

And, yes, of course Wes Bush has given directly to McKeon-- something like $7,000 in the last few years-- even apart from the massive bribes he has authorized that Northrup Grumman pays McKeon for services rendered.


But perhaps all the billionaire cash isn't going to work because most Americans are fed up with right-wing ideology. The polls all indicate the whole country-- outside Wall Street, the Old Confederacy, the Mormon states and Fox News' poor brainwashed viewers-- are rejecting the whole GOP schtik, from the forced ultrasounds to all the bigotry to the voodoo economics. And that's all they've got... except this. They've got this:




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