Posted by TAG - August 21, 2011 | Comics
Posted by TAG - August 11, 2011 | News

Members of CWA Local 1102
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — August 11, 2001. Verizon workers in New York are asking management: “Can you hear me now?”


As I was driving to work this morning a Verizon van approached the red light at Lynhurst and Tompkins. The light turned red and a full five seconds later the van rolled through the intersection without slowing down. In the parlance of traffic enforcement that’s called “driving through a red light.” I strained to see who was driving and saw a white shirted male. And then it dawned on me: management is doing the job of CWA workers who are out on strike. And the managers are not happy about getting their hands dirty.

Sitting at the light I saw that the Verizon manager had been caught by the very next light. If I was a literati that would be a literary device. The short sighted driver runs a light to advance one block, the short sighted manager would rather refuse to negotiate with his workers than avert a strike. Good thinking.

Strikers getting their last paycheck
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

I turned left onto Lynhurst and then right onto Bay. A block down the road I saw a number of red t-shirts crossing the street. What timing. I pulled over and approached the group. About eight members of CWA Local 1102 stood outside a Verizon facility. Two women sat inside the fenced yard. They had a stack of envelopes on a card table. Seeing my camera one of the workers said, “You wanna take a picture of us getting our last paycheck?”

I did.

I mentioned that I had heard on television that very morning that striking Verizon workers were being accused of “menacing” other workers.

One of the guys smiled and said, “We look pretty menacing don’t we?”

Smiling through it all: a group of Verizon workers bracing for a long strike
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

I looked around and saw a bunch of guys in matching red CWA shirts and black cargo shorts, smiling. I didn’t feel particularly threatened.

“Sure there are some bad apples in any group” a worker said. “But we’re just here to hold our signs.”

I told the men I’d like to get some shots of their picket and they eagerly grabbed their signs and let me do my job.

“It could be a long strike,” said a striker.

I nodded. Driving through red lights just to be stopped at the next intersection — it seems painfully obvious that this is self-defeating behavior but I suppose Verizon needs to hear it from their workers — and their supporters.

“Can you hear me now?”
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Hey Verizon, can you hear me now?

To make yourself heard Click Here

Two “radical extremists” visit their congressman’s office
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — August 10, 2011. What does a “radical extremist” look like these days — according to Mike Grimm it’s any middle class working stiff who has the temerity to say, “Keep your hands off my Medicaid and Medicare.”

“Where are the jobs Mr. Grimm?”
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Representative Michael Grimm (R-NY 13) is a former FBI agent and businessman who defeated center-right Democrat Mike McMahon in the last congressional election cycle. Grimm, a Tea Party ideologue, is known locally for his ultra-right views.

Is Grimm a “sock puppet” of the far right – this constituent thinks so
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

On Wednesday a group of 14 residents of New York’s 13th Congressional District responded to a call from MoveOn to hold a protest outside Representative Grimm’s New Dorp office.

Grimm wants to gut entitlements, angering some seniors
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

“He called us radical extremists,” said a man who had been to a previous Grimm protest, sponsored by several trade unions.

(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

The “radicals” set up shop across the street from Grimm’s office, holding signs that read, “Where are the jobs Mr. Grimm?” and “Hands off my Medicare.”

Is Grimm seeing extremists popping up in his soup?
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Members of the group, which included representatives from several organizations including Peace Action and the Staten Island Democratic Association, took turns reading aloud from a document called “The Contract For The American Dream.” The protesters all signed the document and a delegation delivered it to Grimm’s staff.

Protesters read aloud from “The Contract For The American Dream”
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

The document calls on politicians to:

• Invest in America’s Infrastructure
• Create 21st Century Energy Jobs
• Invest in Public Education
• Offer Medicare for All
• Make Work Pay
• Secure Social Security
• End the Wars and Invest at Home
• Tax Wall Street Speculation
• Strengthen Democracy

Delivering the document to Rep. Grimm
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Clearly these ideas are radicalism at its most extreme.

Peace Flags
(Photo: Ruth Benson / UCSI)

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — August 7, 2011. On August 6 and 9, 1945, the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed by two nuclear weapons dropped by the United States. Within four months, 166,000 were dead in Hiroshima and 80,000 in Nagasaki, killed by burns, debris, radiation sickness and other effects of the bombs.

WaFoo ensemble performing in the Sanctuary: Yuuki Koike (Flute/Sax), Ippei Ichimaru (Sashin/Percussion) and Kazuo Nakamura (Bass)
(Photo: Ruth Benson / UCSI)

The story of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, sixty-six years ago, was retold in word and music on Staten Island, on Sunday, August 7 at the Unitarian Church of Staten Island. The program, part of the Arthur Foise Summer Forum, began with music by pianist David Jones and singer Jeannine Otis. It was also told in the music of WaFoo, an ensemble of musicians who blend Japanese and jazz art forms. The ensemble performed two original pieces by bassist, Kazuo Nakamura.

Witness to Hiroshima

The story of one survivor’s experience was told in a video, “Witness to Hiroshima” – a short 16 minute documentary film by Kathy Sloane, about Keiji Tsuchiya who uses 12 powerful watercolors to tell the story of his experiences in Hiroshima as a 17-year-old soldier immediately following the dropping of the atomic bomb. While the film addresses a horrific moment in history it emphasizes how Mr. Tsuchiya has directed his life toward purpose and healing through his lifelong commitments to advocating for atomic survivors and opposing nuclear weapons.

Mary Campbell and Kathy Santo enact the story of Sadako Sasaki, below a collection of origami cranes.
(Photo: Ruth Benson / UCSI)

A Thousand Cranes

Mary Campbell and Kathy Santo enact the story of Sadako Sasaki, below a collection of origami cranes.

Mary Campbell and Kathy Santo enacted “Paper Crane Journey; Carrying Sadako’s Prayer”, the true story of Sadako Sasaki, a young victim of the Hiroshima atomic bomb disaster. She was only two years old when the bomb fell and seemed to be unharmed, but at the age of twelve she was diagnosed with “radiation sickness”, an aftermath of the bomb’s effects. She takes an old story to heart: If a sick person folds a thousand origami cranes the gods will grant her wish and make her well again.

Sadako died on October 25, 1955. Her friends and classmates folded the remaining 356 cranes to make a thousand. They dreamed of building a monument to her and all the children who were killed by the atom bomb. In 1958 the statue was unveiled in Hiroshima Peace Park. Each year on August 6, the anniversary of the bombing, thousands of people bring paper cranes to adorn the statue.

The procession
(Photo: Ruth Benson / UCSI)

Solemn Procession

(Photo: Ruth Benson / UCSI)

Following the presentation, participants walked in a solemn procession, carrying messages of peace down to the Kill Van Kull waterfront for communal song and reflection, where they were met by White Feather Ancestral Teachers of Wisdom, Native American drummers.

White Feather Ancestral Teachers of Wisdom drumming
(Photo: Ruth Benson / UCSI)

Since 1945, no nuclear weapon has been used in a war, and to make sure that they never will be again, commemorations have taken place around the world to retell the story and recommit humanity to a world of peace without nuclear weapons. This commemoration was co-sponsored by the Social Justice Committee of the Unitarian Church of Staten Island and Peace Action of Staten Island.

(Photo: Ruth Benson / UCSI)

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent more money winning the 2001 election than any prior mayoral candidate in United States history, and also used his fortune to win two additional terms. As the city’s first “CEO” mayor, Bloomberg has successfully branded New York City as a “luxury city,” while also greatly expanding public access to waterfronts, improving the delivery of city services and making Manhattan far more pedestrian-friendly. Bloomberg’s approach to governance offers a complex case that requires a particularly nuanced and fact-driven analysis. Julian Brash’s new book, Bloomberg’s New York: Class and Governance in the Luxury City, addresses some components of the mayor’s leadership strategy, particularly emphasizing his effort to run the city like a private corporation. The “Bloomberg Way” advances the city’s economic “competitiveness” even at the expense of the employment needs of millions of low-income residents, which is why many cheer Bloomberg as a model for a big city mayor while others see him as a cautionary tale.

Reading Julian Brash’s analysis of Bloomberg’s New York City reminded me of debates during the late 1970’s through the mid-1980’s about deindustrialization. While conservatives and neo-liberals argued that market competitiveness meant that the United States should support corporations seeking to leave Rust Belt states for better deals in the south or overseas, progressives felt the government should intervene in the market to protect well-paying manufacturing and blue collar jobs.

Bloomberg is a true believer in the former approach, and came into office wanting New York City to attract businesses that had strong reason to come to New York City regardless of the broader social impacts. This meant expanding finance, while ignoring manufacturing and other industries offering blue-collar jobs (other than the construction jobs created by new development) needed by millions of existing city residents. Bloomberg saw New York as unable to compete with other cities for such industries, so, like a CEO in a private corporation, wrote them off.

This prioritization of “competitiveness” is central to Brash’s book, as it reflects Bloomberg’s model for big city mayors. Brash notes that even many of the city’s progressives now accept that a mayor must run a city like a profit-driven private corporation, as the effective delivery of public services is prioritized over politicians more committed to policies favoring greater social and economic justice.

Hudson Yards

Brash sees Bloomberg’s prioritization of elite interests and overall approach as best embodied in the mayor’s effort in 2004 to implement a major redevelopment of Manhattan’s Westside (centered by the former Hell’s Kitchen). He devotes multiple chapters to this complex struggle, which involves many players, details and actions that readers unfamiliar with the campaign will likely find hard to follow. The use of Hudson Yards as the chief case study is also questionable because it involved a unique political obstacle, needing and ultimately failing to gain the support of state Assemblymember Sheldon Silver.

Brash had many better examples available to prove his thesis about Bloomberg’s autocratic and often elite-driven approach to governance, including Bloomberg’s support for the outrageous Atlantic Yards land grab in Brooklyn. That project had all of the features Brash found compelling in the Hudson yards struggle, including a new stadium as a “front” for a massive new office development scheme. Silver also could have killed Atlantic Yards, but was not the central figure in a project whose construction reflects how Bloomberg has almost always gotten his way.

Bloomberg’s Agenda

While Brash sees Bloomberg as promoting the narrow interests of the “transnational capitalist class” (the TCC), the mayor’s agenda is more complicated. For example, the one area where many progressives would rate the mayor the lowest is on his approach to public schools. Bloomberg’s effort to run the schools like a private corporation reflects his belief that he knows best on how to solve virtually any tough social problem; the elites he is said to represent do not send their kids to public schools and are not impacted by his destructive school agenda.

Similarly, it’s not elites who primarily benefit from the massive new waterfront parks Bloomberg has made happen in Brooklyn, or from the elimination of traffic and expansion of seating areas at Madison Park and throughout Midtown Manhattan.

As Brash points out, Bloomberg represents more of a perfection of prior corporatist and elite policies in New York City than a break from the past. Finance replaced real estate as the city’s driving force, but the impact of their dominance on the city’s demographics was largely the same. New York City was a “luxury” city before Bloomberg’s intensive branding effort, and will remain so after he leaves office.

Undemocratic New York City

As Brash notes, the City Council has rubber-stamped virtually all of Bloomberg’s land use plans As I wrote back in 2009 regarding Bloomberg’s Northwest Bronx Armory plan (a rare time when the Council reversed the mayor’s plans), New York City under Bloomberg is a case study for a ballot initiative process to limit mayoral power and stop bad developments.

The Bloomberg Way would not be possible in San Francisco, Los Angeles, or other cities with an initiative process, because voters could kill unpopular projects at the ballot box. Or, as often occurs, the possibility of initiatives forces mayors and developers to improve their projects to insulate them from such a process.

Ultimately, Michael Bloomberg could wield extraordinary power less because he knew how to navigate the corporate and financial worlds, but rather because New York City is a profoundly undemocratic city. It empowers a savvy autocrat like Bloomberg to make sweeping changes, and to even overturn term limits without an election.

New York City is home to so many people who write about progressive social change, and has such a tremendous activist history, that its major political shift to the right since the 1975 fiscal meltdown is not widely understood. We are talking about a city whose most liberal mayor in the past four decades is a choice among neoliberal Ed Koch, corporate-friendly moderate David Dinkins, or Democrat turned Republican Michael Bloomberg, and whose City Council has done little to boost progressive interests (a sharp contrast to San Francisco, whose Board of Supervisors accomplished this from at least 2001-2009).

And it elected and re-elected Rudy Giuliani, who was far to the right of anyone elected mayor in any other major city over the past decades.

Brash’s book is a good start for analyzing New York City in the Bloomberg years. It should be followed by additional books on the full impact of his tenure, as well as those examining how New York City can regain greater democracy for its non-elite residents.

Randy Shaw
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

Randy Shaw’s most recent book is Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century.

Reprinted from BeyondChron with the author’s permission.