Just as I Feared

February 26, 2007

When the dust had settled last November and the Democrats had taken control of congress I was happy. The people had spoken against the status quo and against the war in Iraq. Change was coming through the good ole American electoral process.

I was also a bit wary then and it seems, sadly, that I was right.

Many posts ago I wrote of my fear that it really didn’t matter who had the reins, Dems or Repubs, nothing would really change and that if the Democrats were in power the biggest fear was an implosion of the party.

Which brings me to this story from the Washington Post.

I’m not going to debate the qualities of Rep. Murtha, that’s been done to death in many other places and mediums and is irrelevant to the real problem; the Democrats complete failure to address the reason the majority of Americans put them in control: stopping the conflict in Iraq.

I understand its not an easy task, but don’t you think theyshould at least try? Murtha puts forward a well thought-out piece of legislation that can’t be reasonably described as “anti-troop” by any but the most insane Hannity in the right wing world. From the Washington Post story:

“To be sent to battle, troops would have to have had a year’s rest between combat tours. Soldiers in Iraq could not have their tours extended beyond a year there. And the Pentagon’s “stop-loss” policy, which prevents some officers from leaving the military when their service obligations are up, would end. Troops would have to be trained in counterinsurgency and urban warfare and be sent overseas with the equipment they used in training.”

That seems pretty damn reasonable. It addresses many of the issues that the soldiers themselves are unhappy about and stops the useless “surge” in its tracks. So what do other Dems have to say about it? Again from the Washington Post:

“Freshman Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), a retired Navy admiral who was propelled into politics by the Iraq war, said Murtha could still salvage elements of his strategy, but Sestak, an outspoken war opponent, is “a bit wary” of a proposal that would influence military operations.”

“A bit wary” are you , Rep. Sestak? I’m guessing the soldiers about to go over there on this suicide escalation are a bit f*#king wary, too. Here’s another from the WaPo story:

If this is going to be legislation that’s crafted in such a way that holds back resources from our troops, that is a non-starter, an absolute non-starter,” declared Rep. Jim Matheson (Utah), a leader of the conservative Blue Dog Democrats.

Holds back resources? By resting our troops, training them and sending them over with the right equipment? Jim, what the hell are you talking about? Hedge much?

Non-binding resolutions. In-fighting for what can only be politically motivated reasons. It’s all bullshit and too reminiscent of the do-nothing Republicans we the people just kicked out.

Here’s a clue for the Dem majority from a long time supporter: You were put there to do many things, but one thing is obviously the most important to the American majority. Stop the Iraq war any way you can, politics be damned. Cut the funding and deal with the fallout knowing you saved thousands of lives. This is beyond holding on to your power in Washington. The people have spoken. Get off your asses and do what we put you there to do.

Now.

 Update: Just to prove my point here is another story from The Washington Post showing a new poll with the majority of Americans supporting a timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq and against the “surge.”

Update the Second: I know the links aren’t working and I’m not savvy enough to figure out why. The stories can be found at www.washingtonpost.com.

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Let the Geek Games Begin (and A Little Music Talk)

February 16, 2007

The other night me and The Little Missus had another couple over to indulge one of our geekier compulsions: Board games.

Boy, we hit the geek mother-load with this one. The game we played is called Settlers of Cataan. For those of you unfamiliar with this nerdy masterpiece, the object is to create more roads, settlements, cities and other bits of civilization than your opponents, screwing with their chances along the way. 

That’s it. If it weren’t a board game it would be a curriculum. Players gather commodities that can be used to build the various objects you need to win. Supply and demand plays a big role.

One half of the couple we played with is an economist.

He won.

Just to add to my geek status, I am also involved in a semi-regular game of Risk with a group of other social outcasts. (You know who you are). We speak longingly of one day playing Axis and Allies.  Even The Little Missus, who gladly plays many other board games, looks on me with pity and, I fear, a little contempt. Not that I blame her.

On a slightly less nerdy note, its time for a music update.

My Gomez phase has not yet abated, although it seems to be slowing down.  I’ve been on a Zeppelin kick for about a week, in particular Houses of the Holy.

I’ve been getting into a Canadian indie band called Broken Social Scene. They’re a group with a steady line-up that is augmented by others from the Great White North indie scene. Their album You Forgot It in People is a great listen. It took me a couple of passes to fully appreciate it, but it is well worth the effort.

And a big thanks to Amy for steering me to The Dead Show podcast. I’m working my way through the archives in a state of bliss.

How’s about you all? What’s in your ears these days?


My Time With Rudy (or Rudy for President? Really?)

February 8, 2007

Many, many myths were born in the aftermath of the World Trade Center tragedy, the worst being the fabrication of ties between the attacks and Iraq that sent us to an illegal war, but one of the most enduring is that of Rudy Giuliani as hero and America’s Mayor.

I moved to New York City in the last half of David Dinkin’s tenure as Mayor and saw him lose to Guiliani. Rudy, before mayoral politics, was a very successful District Attorney who crippled the New York Mafia families during the ’80’s with a series of high-profile prosecutions.

He ran for Mayor on the platform of cleaning up the City and bringing down the crime rates and defeated the very unpopular Dinkins easily, taking the city reins in 1994.

For his first term, Rudy stuck to his plan and fought crime in the City and brought the budget to balance and slowly the City became safer and better managed. He was tremendously successful at slowing the violent crime rate and I commend him for that. But I began to notice things that were disturbing. City owned gardens in Manhattan were starting to be sold to developers and high-rent apartments put up in their place. Times Square businesses were being closed for questionable reasons.

And then came the Quality of Life campaign. Homeless people roused off of the streets, not to be taken to shelters but pushed to the outer boroughs. A ridiculous attack on hot dog vendors for taking up too much sidewalk space and on the homeless guys that wash your car window while you’re waiting to go through the tunnel at rush hour because …well, no one really ever figured out why he went after them.

And the cleaning up of Times Square.  His public outrage at the sex industry was inspiring, really. It just seemed to stop at the East River.  When the closed businesses re-opened in Queens, and the street walkers moved there, too, Holy Rudy said not a word.

The reason soon became apparent. Corporations moved into Times Square. Low rent housing in Manhattan all but disappeared, overpriced luxury condo towers sprung up like weeds.

Then there was the little stuff: His (thankfully unsuccessful) drive to build a sports complex on the West Side on top of one of the last affordable housing neighborhoods left and close the stadiums in the Bronx and Queens; his 8 year personal boycott of the US Open and the opening of Aurther Ashe Stadium because it was a Dinkins success (Dinkins had defeated Rudy in his first mayoral run in 1989); his threat to cut off funding to the Brooklyn Museum of Art because it displayed objects he found offensive.

And perhaps worst of all was the unchecked brutality of the NYPD under Rudy: Abner LouimaAmadou Diallo, the lesser known case of Patrick Dorisond. Rudy’s own Deputy Mayor Rudy Washington, an African-American, reported being harassed by the NYPD on several occasions. Guiliani stood behind the actions of the cops in all of these cases despite public outcry and, in some instances, overwhelming evidence.

By the time the World Trade Center attacks happened, Rudy’s popularity in NYC was dropping. New Yorkers were beginning to ask each other when the Mayor lost it. I know I was certainly questioning many of his actions.

His public appearances in the aftermath of the attacks were, without a doubt, very calming and reassuring for the nation and for New Yorkers. I don’t want to take that away from him. But he was able to bury his past actions in the City when the media outside of New York picked up the Rudy as Hero story and turned it into the myth is is today. Many who lived in New York pre-9/11 were and are stunned by the reverence with which this man is treated.

So don’t believe the hype. Read the new book by Village Voice writer Wayne Barrett and senior producer for CBSNews.com, Dan CollinsThe Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11, watch the documentary Guiliani Time by Kevin Keating to get the other side.

Guiliani did a lot of good in New York City and he handled the public side of 9/11 very well, but lurking just behind that is a long list of questionable decisions, neglect of most of the City in favor of one borough, a failure to disipline a police force run wild and disregard for lower income residents. Rudy ruled New York City with a very limited vision that seemed to help corporate interests, not residents, and enacted policy based on a series of personal vendettas that only made sense to him. What would stop him from doing the same in Washington?


A Tale of Two Cities. (Well, one really small city and a village)

February 2, 2007

I ‘ve been thinking about whether or not to post this all week, as I know from other local blogs’ comment sections that it can be a volatile issue, but here are two actual quotes I overheard last weekend (as well as I can remember them):

1. “If Stop and Shop wasn’t there, I don’t think I would ever go to North Adams.”

2. “F*ck Williamstown. Them snobby f*cks ain’t welcome here.”

Try and guess which one I heard in Williamstown and which one I heard in North Adams.

Two quotes in two days summing up one of the major problems we have here. Like it or not, our two communities are tied together. North Adams supplies Williamstown with labor and goods, businesses and resources they do not have, and North Adams is rapidly becoming home to many that move here to work in Williamstown and simply can’t afford it.

That is not a bad thing. Professionals and academics moving here for the job opportunities in the Village Beautiful and choosing North Adams as home is a positive step both economically and socially for the city.  And Williamstown and it’s well-off residents ain’t going anywhere and will always need what NA has to offer.

It’s amazing the divide between the two towns and,not surprising, it is most prominent in long-time residents of both. The people that I know well in both places are newer residents and don’t feel the rift. I hope that trend continues.

Anyone else want to weigh in on this?