10/18/11 1:48pm

Got one of these? Dont worry: itll be safe soon.

  • Got one of these? Don’t worry: it’ll be safe soon.

Amidst the euphoria of Gov. Andrew Cuomo signing gay marriage into law, most New Yorkers seemed to forget who the governor actually is. He isn’t, after all, some kind of crusading liberal, like his governor dad Mario. Soaring poll numbers and unabashed praise obscure the truth: he’s a hardline centrist who won an election because no one took his opponent very seriously. But now the real Andrew Cuomo emerges, at last: he will repeal the state’s millionaire tax, despite polls calling for its extension.

He will tax the wealthy even less than they already pay, while raising tuition at SUNY schools and waging war on public employees. Pandering to the wealthy elite is nothing new for the governor and will help cement his “pragmatist” reputation, whatever that actually means. Comparing his own stance on the millionaire’s tax to his father’s opposition to the death penalty only emphasizes further the type of moral blind spots with which our governor is afflicted.

Just consider this: in a New York Times interview this summer, he said that his top goal—the number one thing he just has to do as governor of this great state—is to slash the retirement benefits of state and city workers. Not create jobs. Not regulate the financial industry. Not restore the cities of upstate New York to their former glory. Not remedy urban blight. Not guarantee health care for every New York resident. Not ensure SUNY remains affordable.

There sure are many things he doesn’t want to do. Luckily, a lot people in a little park in downtown Manhattan—and everywhere else—want him to do much more.


10/10/11 9:46am


We’d drifted over there without design. The real moment would be tomorrow, down in Washington D.C., where a long-planned show of collective rage would turn into the new national cry: “Occupy ____”—Wall Street first, and now every major city. First we stood in Washington Square Park. We had joined the enraged students who surrounded its stately fountain, signs decrying corporate serfdom, student loans, and financial greed. They’re the 99 percent, they said. In an hour, we’d be on a bus, rocketing down I-95 to join the protests in Washington’s Freedom Plaza to commemorate ten heinous years of the war in Afghanistan.

With luggage in our hands we looked out of place, like tourists who had yet to become tourists. A homeless Vietnam veteran jovially worked me over for five dollars. He was happy we were heading to Washington. Like everyone else in the park, he was smiling because a bunch of people suddenly gave a shit, even if media outlets and pundits struggled to find a single set of talking points in these new mass movements—as if uprisings should be conducted like debate club meetings.

Later, a friend online would make this point after reading an article about Herman Cain’s condemnation of the Wall Street protestors: “Hermain [sic] Cain to Wall Street protesters: If you spent $120k on a Eugene Lang degree in interdisciplinary studies, Suck My Dick.” Crude words, not without some merit, but the point here wasn’t to sneer at NYU kids sneaking out of class to protest the establishment of which their parents may well be members. Protests, revolutions, movements—whatever you want to call Occupy Wall Street and its offspring—against pernicious forces in advanced societies require the manpower of all peoples and all classes. The poor and desperate occupy, and the people with a little more money occupy too.

As more people spilled into the park through the arch, maybe a thousand mobbing the genteel circle—student leaders bellowing “Power!” as the crowds joyously shot back “People!”—cameras capturing it all, we knew we had witnessed one of the countless middle fingers stuck straight at corporatism and unchecked greed this fall. Enough fingers, shouting, waving and singing, and maybe something might change.


Months ago, my girlfriend Vanessa and I had planned a journey to Washington D.C. to join this month’s protests at Freedom Plaza, footsteps from the White House. Originally, the protests were organized only against the war in Afghanistan, but now the tenor had shifted. Afghanistan was still a focus, but so was everything else—the military-industrial complex, corporate greed, unemployment, and income inequality. On a day that felt more like summer than autumn, we arrived, camera at the ready.

occupy dc

They’re still there, occupying the Plaza like they are Zuccotti Park here, making that simple yet controversial declaration that this land belongs to you and me. When we joined them on October 6th, Woody Guthrie’s spirit was alive and caterwauling—unlike the folks at Occupy Wall Street, many of the protesters at Freedom Plaza were not young.

occupy dc

This was refreshing, in a way: detractors too cynical to believe in a populace no longer somnolent or too entrenched in wealth and privilege to lay the foundations for a more just society have attacked the Occupiers for being young, spoiled, naïve kids who are bored with nothing better to do, out to have a good time and do what the cool kids seem to be doing. The silver heads in the crowd and the stage built at its front to host the speakers and musicians spoke to a retro zeitgeist; the ghosts of Vietnam and Woodstock hung close, and no one, thankfully, dared shoo them away.

occupy dc

This was good. Mass rage (and inept foreign policy) brought the Vietnam War to its rightful end. I understood, as the crowd, old and young, seemed to, that even more is at stake this time. Vietnam was still far away enough, and the draft loopholes still big enough, to not drag all of American society down with it. It was insidious, yes, but not a cancer like the current corporate stranglehold on American government that is ruining the ecosystem, eradicating the middle class, and financing endless Orwellian wars. Pundits decry the protesters’ “lack of focus” because what they are protesting cannot be summed up in one word or even five. The problems are not simple to solve, and they are titanic in scope, with consequences for everyone everywhere.

occupy dc

Languid fury, an apparent oxymoron, summed up our day and night in D.C. An old man with a peace sign drawn on his cast leaned close to hear the folk music on stage. Unlike Occupy Wall Street, the police were neither bullish, nor terribly visible. Clanging banjo music followed an emboldened group of speakers from Wisconsin, quoting Leonard Cohen: “There’s a crack in everything. That’s how light gets in.” Tents and blankets covered the grass. Signs calling for a “maximum wage,” the end of a Wall Street White House, saving the 99 percent, stopping drone strikes, and prevailing love shared the warming air.

We dozed fleetingly on the concrete, and a man from Getty took our picture. It was one of those days. A woman running for Sheriff of Philadelphia vowed justice for all the homeowners now homeless in a raspy, Joplin-like voice. The words of everyone who spoke on stage echoed down Pennsylvania Avenue. Maybe the president heard them.

occupy dc

Nightfall brought one of my heroes, Chris Hedges, to the stage. Like Ralph Nader, he is an individual fighting on the side of humanity. A former New York Times journalist turned crusader against corporate tyranny, he ambled to the microphone in his unzipped tan jacket and unpretentious guise, notes in hand. When he spoke, he boomed against a corporate state now “sinking its fangs” into the working man lucky enough to cling to a job, and everyone else without one. Too transfixed, I forgot to turn on my recorder. “Smell the intoxication of freedom and revolt, or sink into the miasma of despair,” he said at one point. The transcript of the speech he gave will probably be online somewhere soon. [Bingo. —Ed.] It was typical Hedges, hope and the threat of damnation sharing single sentences, drawing the crowd to their feet to chant his name as he left the stage like a hometown ballplayer.

We missed the march onto the Brooklyn Bridge, but we made it to Freedom Plaza, and it felt good.

(Photos by the author and Vanessa Ogle)

10/04/11 1:55pm

Help, Ive become unaffordable!

  • “Help, I’ve become unaffordable!”

While this WNYC story might entice some Post headline-writer to make a “Got Milk” pun, it isn’t something to laugh about: milk prices throughout the northeast are 19 percent higher than a year ago, putting milk out of reach for low income New Yorkers who now, thanks to a tanking economy, make up a growing percentage of the population.

At some retailers, milk now costs over four dollars a gallon. There are rules in place against price gouging, and the Department of Agriculture and Markets can choose to regulate prices more stringently. A weakening dollar has also increased milk demands overseas; the $2 a gallon price being paid to dairy farmers is a record high. Milk prices can fluctuate as much as gas prices and did take a plunge in 2009.

This gives little comfort to the people who line up for two quarts of free low-fat milk every week at the Milk from the Heart van. The program distributes a limited amount of free milk every week at 12 NYC locations. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough free milk trucks to go around.

09/28/11 2:35pm

Mayor Bloomberg, choosing between the wrong and right directions.

  • Mayor Bloomberg, choosing between the wrong and right directions.

Mayor Bloomberg’s pretty okay, but the city isn’t, therefore he’s doing a good job making the city… not okay? A NY1/Marist College poll has the latest in perplexing, somewhat schizophrenic poll results: 46 percent of people surveyed think the mayor’s job performance is good or excellent, 35 percent believe his performance is fair, and 18 percent say it’s very poor. But 52 percent of responders think the city “is going in the wrong direction.”

And our own secret scientific poll reveals that 42 percent of people surveyed forgot who the mayor was, and 46 percent believe wrong can mean right, if only you alter your perspective and consider that, according to many linguists, the correlation between a sound-image like the word “wrong” and the concept of wrongness itself are completely arbitrary.

Or, perhaps, there is nothing a mayor, good or bad, can do to keep the city off the wrong track. In that case, 52 percent of responders identify themselves as nihilists, and the other 48 believe the city can’t even afford tracks anymore.

09/27/11 1:11pm

One L Mag editor was born here

  • One L Mag editor was born here

Brooklyn hospitals are in dire shape, Crain’s New York Business reports in a story that shows everything that’s wrong with how states appropriate resources and how America misplaces its priorities. The story is stuffed with numbers, but the ideas are simple enough: Brooklyn hospitals are cash-starved and desperately need to invest in equipment and facility improvements. A state task force created to restructure Brooklyn’s hospitals met last week, advising consolidating hospitals, bankruptcy, and an overhaul of how hospitals are reimbursed.

Such recommendations sound like the equivalent of fighting a war with rubber bands and super soakers. Consolidating meager resources won’t be enough. Health care needs to be made a real priority in the United States and, in turn, New York State.

09/22/11 9:45am

Pamela Gellers insane MTA ad.

  • Pamela Geller’s insane MTA ad.

Terrible people come in all shapes and sizes. Occasionally, the Terrible Person avatar is a conservative blogger who is either clinically insane or knows exactly what to do to get herself coverage in the Daily News—looks like we have a little of both on our hands, this time. Pamela Geller, an anti-Islamic activist and keeper of the blog Atlas Shrugs (she also worked at the Daily News throughout the 80s), is threatening to sue the MTA if it doesn’t approve her bus and subway advertisement calling the enemies of Israel “savages.”

She submitted her proposal over a week ago and still hasn’t heard back. With no conception of reality to cling onto, the morally-deficient Geller says she will sue because “this is a free speech issue.” My MTA ad depicting a crowd of people angrily checking their watches and cellphones on the R train platform hasn’t been approved yet either, but I don’t think free speech has anything to do with it.

Geller is also the co-founder of something called the American Freedom Defense Initiative, which sounds like the 124th sequel to the Know Nothing Party. If you’re a glutton for punishment, check out her ad (see below), which posits that there is a war between civilized man and savages, and if you aren’t supporting Israel, you are a savage.

In any war between the civilized man and Pamela Geller…

09/20/11 3:26pm

Want to re-draw these lines? Youll have to skip work.

  • Want to re-draw these lines? You’ll have to skip work.

Americans love to lament how little Americans actually care about participating in their popular democracy. These same Americans, who forget that the presidential two-party system inherently has lower voter turnout rates than a proportional representation system (and don’t give the issue much thought), usually don’t notice the little things politicians do to discourage public participation in government, like holding public hearings about congressional and state redistricting in New York state at 10am on a weekday.

Tip of the hat to the Brooklyn Politics Blog (frequent recipient of our hat-tipping), which didn’t need to say much beyond the obvious fact that weekday morning public hearings ensure that most working people will not be able to voice their concerns about the always dubious gerrymandering redistricting process. Imagine if Election Day wasn’t on a workday, too. More people might show up to vote. Gasp.

Rumors are now floating around that a public hearing on the idiotic nature of public hearing scheduling will be held at 4am next Thursday for nine minutes. We’ll be live-tweeting it.


09/16/11 2:40pm

Aurel Schmidt Burnout drawing detail.

  • Aurel Schmidt “Burnout” drawing detail.

Only 14 percent of New Yorkers are now smokers, which NY1 reports is an all-time low, and this should come as no surprise to anyone. High taxes and a bevy of anti-smoking legislation will make non-smokers out of just about anyone. Mayor Bloomberg’s personal war against a habit he hates has succeeded—if only he hated poverty, soaring rents, and the number of school children who are homeless as much.

That’s the other side to the “thank god no one smokes anymore” story. Smoking’s unhealthy, we all know that, and the less smoking there is, the better. But concerted public campaigns against smoking alone ignore issues that are of far greater relevance to the health of New York City. What if our mayor used the same fervor he did for his anti-smoking crusade and channeled it toward the distressing income inequality that continues to plague our city? Maybe a new mayor in 2013 will (Marty?), and the few people who do still smoke will be left alone.

09/14/11 1:02pm

No more picket lines, everybodys in class.

  • No more picket lines, everybody’s in class.

Reaching an agreement that satisfied some but not all, professors at Long Island University‘s Brooklyn campus who were on strike for six days have returned to work. Faculty members accepted a deal that offers a six and a half percent raise over five years, an improvement over the administration’s initial offer of a wage freeze for three years. 70 percent of the faculty supported the contract.

While the administration said they were trying to be fiscally responsible during a harsh economic climate, citing declining enrollment, the professors believe, rightfully so, that LIU pours way too much money into superficial capital projects, like a new wellness center, graduate dorms, and a stadium. LIU is not alone in its love for ornamental and highly expensive projects that amount to little more than trinkets when compared to a university’s original and oft-forgotten mission, education.

My alma mater SUNY Stony Brook is dumping plenty of funds into a student recreation center that has been perpetually under construction while slashing courses and raising tuition. Rutgers University has infamously supersized its football stadium and paid its coach (employed by the taxpayers of New Jersey) over two million dollars annually while students face mounting tuition bills and the state itself lives in fiscal hell. The Scarlet Knights also don’t win all that much, anymore.

Maybe next time the students should go on strike too.

09/14/11 9:49am

The face of safety.

  • The face of safety.

Anyone who has ever spent some time in Florida or been caught behind a massive sedan groaning 15 miles under the speed limit knows that when you finally zoom up to pass the offending automobile and let its driver know who’s boss, that person is usually a little old lady smiling genially at nothing in particular, and you can’t really do much but mutter to yourself about how there should be some law keeping old people off the road. Still furious, you go on the Pediatrics website (what else would you do?) and find the results of their new awesome study, which found that children may be safer when their grandparents are driving. Oh.

Researchers reviewed data on 11,859 children involved in car accidents from 2003 through 2007. They also interviewed the parents of 1,302 injured children. Though grandparents were the drivers in 9.5 percent of the accidents, they accounted for only 6.6 percent of the injuries. Scientists concluded, after controlling for various factors like severity of the crash, seat belts, and the type of vehicle, that children were at risk about half as much when their grandparents were driving than when their parents were at the wheel. No one really knows why.

In conclusion, ban anyone under 65 from driving and mandate early bird specials at all NYC restaurants. Seems fair.