Not Such A Quiet News Weekend
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
It was a weekend off. The news was merely incidental to everything else. I decided to take it easy and this news junkie could wait for his fix until Monday morning.
Not so easy. The newspaper headlines, the TV, Facebook, and email kept on delivering story lines too good for this addict to ignore.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoes the gay marriage bill. Why just a year or so ago, the Governor of his neighboring state, Andrew Cuomo, led the charge for passage of a gay marriage bill in New York. Is Christie out of touch with east coast values? Will these two goliaths from neighbor states, with differing values, face off in four years in the Presidential sweepstakes?
Maryland’s House of Delegates passes same-sex marriage law, state poised to become 8th in nation to allow. After it passes the State Senate, as it has previously, Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley will sign it.
It is strange that in 2012, an issue of civil rights and equality will be (one of) the major distinctions between the parties nationwide.
The Dow closes at 12,949.87, the highest level since May 19, 2008 poised to break 13,000. Is it a sign of recovery?
General Motors chief tells CBS that without the steps Obama took on autos, “You could have written off this company, this industry, and this country.” GM was bankrupt and bailed out only three years ago. Dan Akerson, GM CEO and chairman said: “We got a second chance here, a million jobs were saved, the industrial infrastructure and the manufacturing base of America in large measure is still intact. In fact it’s prospering. All three of the big automakers are now profitable for the first time since maybe the ’60s or ’70s. At the risk of alienating a whole lot of potential customers, I would say the Obama administration did a good job.” GM just announced 47,500 blue collar workers in the U.S. will each get a profit-sharing checks next month — checks of approximately $7,000 a piece.
Is this more insurance that there is an economic recovery and the President will survive the attacks of the divisive and divided Republicans to lead us for four more years?
Rick Santorum. Talk about divisive, it is hard to believe that the Republicans nationwide seem to be leaning towards a guy who leans so far right that those of us from the center to the left can’t even understand how he can rationalize his positions. The entire Presidential Primary system should be called into question when extremists control the process and a majority of the party – centrists – don’t participate. Both parties have been challenged by fringe or extreme elements of their party’s showing up at primaries while the solid and much larger center is out-gunned by the fringe.
City Announces New Policy After Three Separate Sexual Abuse Charges. After three school employees were charged with sexually molesting children in the last two weeks, the city’s Education Department announced it will tell principals if job applicants have records of misconduct. In two of the cases, school employees had previously been accused of having inappropriate contact with students, and investigations substantiated those allegations. But in only one of them was a letter placed in the person’s file. Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott said that going forward, whenever a school employee is investigated and the allegations against him are upheld, all principals and the Education Department’s human resources staff will be able to see the report.
Prolific Facebooker, Councilman Peter Vallone Junior posted the story and this comment: “are you kidding me?? people with SUBSTANTIATED charges of inappropriately touching children are IN our shcools NOW? and you WERENT telling principals or parents about it???? as public safety chair and on behalf of parents everywhere i demand answers – now.
Go get them Peter.
There was more news – lots more. But I was taking the weekend off.
Let’s Comfort the Afflicted
By Tom Allon
A quarter century ago, when I entered the hallowed halls of Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, we were taught a credo that sticks with me to this day: “Good journalism comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.”
This mission is a good one for politics and public policy, too. For too long, the wealthy cronies of politicians have rewritten the rules and gained an advantage that has allowed the “comfortable” to have too much power while the “afflicted” have remained just that.
Occupy Wall Street, now a quieter movement, has this type of message as its mission: the largest problem in our society is growing inequality that has essentially trampled the American dream of upward mobility.
Nowhere is this more evident than in New York. The number of people below the poverty line has increased in the past decade and is now above 20 percent for the first time. In children, it’s more than 30 percent.
Shame on us. And our current leaders.
At the same time, the elite who run New York (aka “the comfortable”) continue to thrive because they have elected leaders who gladly feed at the trough of their campaign contributions in their pursuit of even more power.
This must stop. We have to restore real democracy and reinvigorate the dream of upward mobility that this great city was built upon. A 15-year-old African-American woman in the Bronx needs to wake up each morning with hope that her future will be brighter than her parents. An 18-year-old Russian immigrant in Brooklyn has to feel that his parents move here a number of years ago was the right one: from a corrupt oligarchy to a city where hard work and equal access to quality education and high-paying careers is the pay-off.
How to do this? Radical reform of public education from universal Pre-K to expanded charter offerings to tax credits for private and parochial schools so ALL kids and their parents have access to great schools. We must marry secondary and higher education to growing industries like green energy and technology so that our children train for 21st century jobs that will be there when they graduate.
And we need to start by radically reforming our political system. The process of fundraising and non-competitive elections corrupts our system and our leaders. Elected officials, many of whom start off idealistically, veer off track as they try to climb the electoral ladder. They take donations as pay to play quid pro quo from the monied class of New York. They forget that their constituents need a hospital facility rather than another expensive luxury condo. They spend taxpayer paid time in boroughs outside of their purview, campaigning and fundraising when they should be working for their constituents.
They make deals with unions that garner big blocks of votes but don’t serve the overall body politic because taxpayers become burdened with onerous pension costs that eat up an ever increasing part of our budget.
And they rush breathlessly from campaign fundraisers to public events and miss the fact that their staff and bundlers are actually skirting the campaign finance laws right under their noses.
Politics is such a brutal business that it has scared off the best and the brightest and has unfortunately become so devalued by citizens that we have low turnouts at the polls and little public engagement in crucial public policy issues.
But we can change that. Concerned citizens can insist that their local elected official stop worrying about their next job and stop paying disproportionate attention to New York’s 1 percent.
Every vote is equal. The “afflicted” can catch up to the “comfortable.” We just need to reform our 20th century, tired ideas — and the leaders who perpetuate them.