Spitzer Is Right, Albany Is Wrong
Albany is the most dysfunctional state capital in America. Why is that?
New York City is the capital city of the world, its most diverse. Nepal is one of the 10 poorest countries on the planet. I know for a fact that people from every little town in Nepal are here. By extension you can say people from every little town on the planet live here. I am not saying country, I am not saying big city. I am saying every little town.
There are more Jewish people in New York City than there are in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. I had a classmate at high school in Kathmandu who was a fan of the state of Israel like some people are fans of the Star Wars movies. I never figured out why.
I had intellectual knowledge of the Holocaust before I ever came to America, but then I also had intellectual knowledge of race, but that did not prepare me for the emotional dimensions of experiencing racism. It so happens that my first big experience in institutional racism was with a young Jewish woman. I could not tell from her face or last name that she was Jewish. We briefly went out and she ended up not giving me a relationship but she gave me a dense emotional knowledge of anti-Semitism that will last a lifetime. The emotional contours were too obvious although it took me years after that to acquire the vocabulary to describe the experience. I remember losing respect for her. Why don't you hit back? (She dropped out of college. That was very unfair to her.) And that was wrong for me to feel that way. It took me years to realize technically speaking as SGA President I was the most powerful student on campus and I still had not been able to hit back. Prejudice and racism are like dark forces that sometimes even powerful institutions cow to, or feed on to go on. A nobody student had brought my world crashing to the ground with one racist hit when I was a record breaking SGA President.
As SGA President I organized a trip to DC for all the top SGA people during the Spring Break. That led to a photo caption in the student newspaper later that said, "In the background, federal government, in the foreground, student government." That was my first time in DC. The most powerful experience of the week was the trip to the Holocaust Museum. It was so emotionally intense. But even as a kid, I had a taste for reality. If there is evil out there, I want to know about it. If there are serial killers out there, show me movies on them. (I have used this serial killer metaphor at this blog a few times. I think I do that because serial killers might kill maybe 10, maybe 20, maybe more people before they are outed, but Third World dictators like the one in Burma kill tens of thousands, and they often times stick around. And I deal with Third World dictators. That probably is my number one specialty in politics. You have to be able to visualize the evil to deal with it.)
I missed the trip to the White House that the others went to because I was visiting with the Kentucky Senator. But I doubt the White House would have eclipsed the museum in its impact.
People say Rwanda and Rwanda was bad. People say Darfur and Darfur is bad. Some Arabs say Palestine and I do feel for the Palestinians. But there is absolutely no parallel to the Holocaust. That was an orgy to thousands of years of anti-Semitism - an anti-Semitism that still exists in the world in weaker but persistent strains - a very sophisticated state machinery was at its disposal. Hitler stands in a league of his own. You don't count his evil with the number of deaths, and say, well, Stalin and Mao also killed many people. It is not about the number of deaths, although that it is. It was the way it was done. It was the history behind it. It is the continued anti-Semitism. And it sure does not escape my attention that the knottiest political problem on the planet right now involves the Jewish state.
Poets in Nepal mention the Holocaust. But the immediacy of the memory hit me one day at Drinking Liberally. I had met her a few times at Rudy's. She was a Yale graduate. And one day she started talking about capital punishment, how she was opposed to it. And capital punishment is not allowed in Nepal, and I have never had to take a public position on it in the US, so I tend to be in study mode on it, as in, tell me how you feel about it. And I was trying to give her attention. So tell me. I was trying to understand. You mean, just because someone took someone's life, that does not mean the state should then turn around and take that murderer's life? The power to take away life should not be a power that resides with the state? I was trying to make her feel like I really understood what her stand on capital punishment was. And it hit me. Her face changed. Her eyes took a different look. I got a little scared. Oh my god, the Holocaust happened only yesterday. For her, it is too recent. She was not talking about capital punishment like someone might talk about abortion on guns or gays. In one flash I saw the horror before my eyes. I got hit with this intense feeling that I was not hit with even at the Holocaust Museum. I don't know what it means. I am not going to pretend. Although I do want to know.
The first day Justin Krebs saw me, he saw me do the hot dog thing, and he ordered pizza for everybody. And we had not talked yet. I was like, you mean free hot dogs? I got three, one for me, and two for the other two people at the table. But they said they did not want it. So I was going to eat all three.
For a long time after knowing Krebs, I did not know two things, that he was half Jewish, and he was a Harvard grad.
One day an Indian guy shows up at Drinking Liberally. I gravitated to him. You almost never meet Indians at Rudy's. He told me he was a medic now in Memphis. Then he said he was a friend of Justin. I am like, that is interesting. But it is not really. Everybody is a friend of Justin. Even me. Then he said, he went to school with Justin.
"Yeah? And where was that?"
"You mean Justin went to Harvard?"
His half Jewish part I learned the first time I met Elizabeth. After one slight insinuation from him, I find myself asking.
"Are you Jewish?"
"Yes. On my father's side."
"What happened? Your father converted?"
I don't know if that was a stupid, naive, possibly even offensive thing to ask, but I asked.
A few weeks later he told me Harry Reid was Mormon. Well, thank you for informing, I did not know that. What religion is Nancy Pelosi? I am Buddhist, by the way. I was born Hindu, grew up Hindu, and became a Buddhist.
I have selfish reasons to take an intense interest in gender issues. They help me understand race issues better. I have similar selfish reasons to take interest in anti-Semitism.
My closest friend in the city, Adam. I did not know he was Jewish until he told me. Then he grew a slight beard and I said to him, you are beginning to look like my personal hero Larry Ellison. I said you should read his biography Soft War. It is my mousepad, or I would lend it to you.
I live in a Hasidic neighborhood. I did not plan it. It was random placement through Craig's List. And these folks are so into their identity, they remind me of the Newars of Kathmandu. They have such a rich culture. The joke in Nepal is the rest of Nepal can cook meat one way, the Newars can cook that same meat 10 different ways.
And Adam and I are in a cab to Grand Central where he will take the train to go be with his girlfriend in New Haven for the weekend. And he says it is the year 5000 something on the Jewish calendar. My jaw dropped. And I was bragging the Nepali calendar is about 57 years cleverer than the western calendar. I guess the Jewish are like the Chinese. They have a really long collective memory.
A collective identity is like accent, everybody's got one.
It was a big deal for me to be able to meet Eliot Spitzer in person. I have met him twice at two separate DL21C events, one indoors, one outdoors. My name for Bill Clinton is Michael Jordan. My name for Eliot Spitzer is Mike Tyson. I just find him so exciting. He is my idea of a progressive. He charges like a bull. I like that action, the issues are almost secondary, the action is fun, although I want it on the record I do care about the issues. But the way I found out Eliot Spitzer was Jewish was when I googled him up and read the Wikipedia article on him. When I told that to some people, they were in disbelief. You should be able to just look at his face and tell, you should be able to tell from his last name. Well, sorry, I was not able to. I am a Wikipedia kind of guy, I guess.
Well, it gets more interesting. Not long back - a few weeks - my Jewish landlord dropped by. And we are talking. And I told him I was off to a party. What party, he asked. I said, there is this guy, his name is Dave Pollak, he is the chair of the Democratic Party in the state, he throws good parties.
"Pollak, that is Jewish," he said. That was the first time I learned, okay, so David Pollak is also Jewish. Noone had told me before. Justin Krebs told me not long after the fact that Pollak was now chair of the state party, but he did not tell me he was Jewish. I would wonder once in a while though. This guy is white, and he is a New York City person. That makes it highly likely he might be Jewish. But I could not tell from his face, or his last name. And I was not going to ask him. It would be embarrassing. Because otherwise I think we make each other feel we know each other pretty well. I have good political communication with him, most of it unspoken but understood. I was not going to put that in jeopardy by asking, by the way, do you happen to be Jewish? I knew both Spitzer and Pollak are Harvard people, and both are hard core progressive, and in powerful positions. Those three connections are strong enough for them to be working together. And I was not going to ask anyone else, anyone who knew both of us. It was embarrassing enough telling people how I found out Spitzer was Jewish. I was not about to have a repeat experience. Especially since it was highly likely he might find out I asked. I don't think it would offend him, but. And so my Jewish landlord saves the day.
And we end up having our first real conversation since I moved in during the summer of 2005. He said he moved to NYC with his wife and two kids from Ukraine when he was 30. He was an English teacher then in Ukraine, he is an English teacher now. He teaches diverse classes that include many kids from Pakistan and Bangladesh. I said, Jeff, do you realize, this is the first real conversation we ever had. He said, I do. I said it is because the online work for Nepal is over. I am in NYC now, finally.
New York City pays most of the money Albany spends.
I don't have much knowledge of local and state politics. And I don't follow the news on local and state politics. I am presidential. But I like Spitzer a lot. Looks he had a not so good year. But that is because he is going to be a great, two term Governor. Look at Bill Clinton's first two years. It was always going to take Spitzer a year or two to get into the groove of the office.
Cuomo is never going to be Governor, but the dude sure played a spoiler the first year. Frank Bruno - I don't have a face to his name, and that is probably a good thing - is a disaster. If Albany is brain, that dude is brain tumor, but Albany is no brain, so I must say that guy is appendix. You can't change him, but you can get rid of him.
There is an obesity culture in America. Can you imagine a US president trying to take that obesity culture head on? No, you can't. So far it has not happened. But it is going to have to happen at some point. It takes guts to take on culture. Spitzer is in the business of changing culture. It takes sheer guts to even try. And it takes more than guts to succeed. I think he can pull it off. One down, seven more years to go.
Albany is the most dysfunctional state capital in America. How do you make it the most functional state capital in America? That is about changing culture. Big time. Do I know how to do it? No. Do I have a few recommendations? Yes. But the most important thing is I know the guy who is trying is the right guy for the job. People, this guy Spitzer is cutting edge, I am telling you.
You have to get the sequence right.
I am for gay marriage. Civil unions, that is separate, but equal. It did not work for race, it is not going to work on gender. Spitzer wants to take the national lead on this issue. I admire him greatly for that. But he has to save that for his second term. I think he can do it. 50 years from now we will all feel stupid that we allowed ourselves to live in a time when gays were not allowed to marry.
Timing is important. The most important part of climbing Mount Everest is coming back alive. There is no point in fighting for gay marriage and going down in flames. You do that, and you hurt the larger gay rights agenda. Defeat is not an option. So second term is good timing. The point being, if you can't even do campaign finance reform, forget gay marriage.
As to how to do it. First, map it. Do the one to 10 thing. Do the spectrum thing. Then, define the agenda. Then build the coalition. Then work to shift the spectrum as necessary. Then pass it.
Barackface: The Spectrum/Dialogue Concept Is Key To Power
Barackface: The Spectrum Concept: Wide Applications
Barackface: Health Care As A Spectrum
Barackface: The Spectrum On Gender
But step one has to be transparency. Make Albany as transparent as possible. Take all the book keeping online. Videoblog all meetings.
Step two, democratize. Take processes closer to the one person one vote ideal. Fully proportional elections for the upper house, multi member constituencies for the lower house might sound like goals too ambitious, but that is what I recommend.
Step three, publicly financed elections.
And all along, economic stewardship of the state takes top priority. Education and health are perennials.
I have selfish reasons. I need Spitzer-Pollak to deliver a functional Albany for my Silicon City dreams.
And, by the way, the answer to the question as to why Albany is the most dysfunctional state capital in America, it is racism and anti-Semitism.
And watch out for Bloomberg. He is not running for president. He wants to spend a billion dollars to build a name recognition that will help him demolish Spitzer. And that is why campaign finance reform is urgent. This nobody billionaire can be had. If money could buy you public office, Howard Hughes would be Bobby Kennedy.
In The News
Kerry backs Obama to 'turn new page' in US politics Independent, UK has thrown his weight behind Barack Obama, offering his endorsement in the key state of South Carolina ..... would lead, "a transformation rather than a transition" ...... "We are electing judgement and character, not years on this earth," he said, adding pointedly that Mr Obama was, "right about the war in Iraq from the beginning". ..... Mr Kerry also has access to a fundraising network and one of the most sought-after email lists. That list, along with millions of addresses, has now been put at Mr Obama's disposal and should be invaluable for a campaign across the 22 states that hold primaries on 5 February, billed as " Tsunami Tuesday". ....... the sharp media practices the Clinton campaign used to unsettle voters in New Hampshire. The Kerry endorsement may also attract more big name backers from the Democratic establishment. ....... There is no word yet on Al Gore's position, although Bill Clinton's vice-president is thought to be more sympathetic to Obama. ...... 2004 election. The two politicians co-operated poorly in the campaign trail and have been estranged ever since. ...... a personalised and angry attack on the "fairytale" story of Mr Obama's candidacy. He queried Mr Obama's long-standing opposition to the war in Iraq. The Clinton camp also questioned the sincerity of his opposition to lobbyists and said that he was inconsistent on health care. ..... The style of attack echoes the black arts used to becalm Mr Kerry's 2004 campaign, in which an organisation calling itself "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" called his character into question. They made Mr Kerry's war record the issue, distracting voters from President Bush's dodging of the Vietnam draft.Clinton, Obama fight for South Carolina CNN In South Carolina, the two are in a tight race .... In July, 52 percent of black Democratic primary voters said they favored Clinton, compared to Obama's 33 percent. In December, Obama's support had risen to 45 percent while Clinton's dropped to 46.
Obama's wrong kind of voters Times Online a quality that distinguishes the world's most successful people - the sense that, time and again, just when you think they must be out for the count, they plumb reserves of personal determination to overcome less resolute rivals as they are in the very act of premature celebration. ....... In politics I doubt there has ever been an operation as effective at mounting improbable resurrections as the Clinton Dynasty. Tuesday's semi-miraculous victory by Senator Hillary Clinton in the New Hampshire primary will rank as one of the great upsets of modern electoral history. After his unexpectedly comfortable win in the Iowa caucuses a week ago, Senator Barack Obama was riding an express train to history. The crowds that turned out to see him in New Hampshire left seasoned political observers in awe. ......... something changed in the final hours before the vote ...... women appeared to find it genuine. They certainly voted for her on the day in very large numbers. ....... It was not just pre-election opinion polls but exit polls conducted on the day that showed Mr Obama ahead - albeit by a slightly smaller margin. ....... his poll lead was the illusory product of a kind of soft racism - a well-documented phenomenon in past American elections whereby some people tell pollsters that they will (or have voted) for a black man, but in the privacy of the polling booth, they do not. ....... Mrs Clinton won by mobilising in vast numbers the traditional Democratic vote - something the pollsters did not properly measure. ........ It looks just like the contest that has characterised almost every Democratic primary battle in the past 30 years. These have tended to be between one candidate, the idealist, the outsider, leading an insurgency against the pragmatist, the party establishment. It was Edward Kennedy against Jimmy Carter in 1980, Gary Hart against Walter Mondale in 1984, Jesse Jackson against Michael Dukakis in 1988, Bill Bradley against Al Gore in 2000 and Howard Dean against John Kerry in 2004. Every time it has been the pragmatist, the establishment candidate, who has won.
The other Obama-Kennedy connection Guardian Unlimited Both young senators brought a lofty message, an appealing young family and a movie-star aura to the presidential race. ..... Mboya appealed to the state department. When that trail went cold, he turned to then-senator Kennedy. ....... Kennedy, who chaired the senate subcommittee on Africa, arranged a $100,000 grant through his family's foundation to help Mboya keep the program running. ....... "It was not a matter in which we sought to be involved," Kennedy said in an August 1960 senate speech. "Nevertheless, Mr Mboya came to see us and asked for help, when none of the other foundations could give it, when the federal government had turned it down quite precisely. We felt something ought to be done." ........ Kennedy ended up discussing his Obama connection much more openly than Obama mentions the late president's role in his life. ...... "There's no other African country where there is such admiration for the US ...... In the midst of his grinding campaign schedule, the Illinois senator taped a radio message urging an end to the fighting and reached out personally to opposition leader Raila Odinga and Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki. ........ bloody clashes and riots that have killed as many as 1000 people ...... 'Which country will be first to have a Luo president, Kenya or the United States? ....... "Airlift students became the nation builders of the new Kenya and a handful of other countries in Africa," Weiss said, adding: "It was all because of Tom Mboya's vision. If it helped to produce the next president of the US, hooray."
Clinton Says Debate Was Turning Point in Her Victory New York Times
Clinton basks in New Hampshire win AFP
'Comeback Gal' Hillary Clinton ponders triumph Telegraph.co.uk
Where Obama Goes from New Hampshire
McCain's Momentum: The Sequel To come from behind is one thing. But to be the presumed front-runner, then fall to obscurity, then come from behind...that is Lazarus. ...... McCain's other advantage is that he isn't broke anymore. ....... "There is no superstition I won't indulge," he said. "I believe in luck."
Huckabee Looks to South Carolina From its inception, the South Carolina Republican primary was meant to disrupt and destroy the flames of political passion. ...... Now the state looms again as a candidate killer. ...... "When he won in Iowa, that gave him a lot of credibility across the state," says Woodard, pointing to the polls. "It was a tidal wave."
Clinton Faces a Cash Crunch a sudden urgency to raise a lot of money fast. ..... the campaign may have as little as $15 million to $25 million left on hand. ..... it is less than half the nearly $50.5 million she had at the end of September (when she enjoyed a significant advantage over Barack Obama's $36 million on hand). ....... the Internet, where he has had a far stronger operation than Clinton has. ...... "They started out running a general election campaign," says one. "Now there's a real fixation on the primary."
Bhutto's Son Addresses the World the downward gaze of a sullen teenager ..... his plan to finish his three-year history degree at Christ Church College, Oxford and then enter politics, asserting that his lineage makes him a natural future leader of Pakistan. ..... unsure delivery ..... would-be savior of a Muslim nuclear state on the verge of disintegration ..... a teenager nowhere near ready to lead a student union, let alone a country ...... "What on earth do you propose as a 19-year-old who has hardly lived in the country, what do you propose you can offer Pakistan, a country of 170 million people?" ....... The BBC reporter fired back: "What does it say about a party that it can be handed on like some piece of family furniture?" ...... his appointment by the party's central committee. "They represented the whole federation and they asked me to do this." ....... Accusing Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf of a cover-up, Bhutto Zardari called for a United Nations-led investigation into his mother's death, claiming that the current team of British investigators does not have "the necessary transparency." ....... "Dictatorships feed extremism and once the United States stops supporting dictators we can tackle the extremism problem."
Making It a Race Again record numbers of voters put polls and pundits to shame in New Hampshire. ...... put on the same green sweater he wore for his 2000 comeback in New Hampshire, and even stayed in the same hotel room. "There is no superstition I won't indulge," he said. ...... Much of the credit for the surge had been chalked up to Obamamania ...... weather so unseasonably fine that a voter might feel almost lucky to be waiting in line outside a voting station. ........ Before the polls closed, Obama had a quiet dinner at his hotel in Nashua, N.H., with his wife and his sister, no aides in sight. ....... "disagree without being disagreeable."
Can Romney 4.0 Stage a Turnaround? His early-evening boast could be a sign of renewed confidence, or a sign that the campaign has determined that confidence is what the people want. With Mitt Romney's campaign, it's hard to tell. ....... his talent for customer service, for treating a campaign like market research ...... technocratic, rational approach he would bring to the presidency ...... Romney is finally campaigning as the candidate he really is: the problem-solver and turnaround artist that governed Massachusetts with an almost scientific approach to bipartisanship. ..... the least appealing field in a generation, Romney himself campaigns with trademark discipline and ferocious energy ..... "There's an old family saying," he said, "If a Romney drowns in a river, look for the body upstream." Which, in this case, might be Michigan.
Obama's Final Rallying Cry making a bet that "the excitement is just beginning." ..... "This is an example of not listening to each other." But when the chanters would not stop, and the event seemed unable to continue, Obama moved toward a staircase to the balcony, seemingly prepared to talk to the chanters one on one — a dramatic maneuver that held no guarantee of success.
Bill Clinton: Tears won Hillary New Hampshire
Obama Looks Ahead Washington Post taking the once inevitable frontrunner down to the wire in her firewall state ...... To Obama's senior strategists, New Hampshire changes very little. ..... financial and organizational edge in a series of soon-to-vote states ..... not only do they have double the number of offices in Nevada that Clinton currently has open but that they have focused heavily -- as they did in Iowa -- on rural sections of the state. The Obama campaign has also moved two of the men widely credited with their Iowa caucus win -- state director Paul Tewes and field director Mitch Stewart -- to Nevada to oversee the field operation in the state. ........ Of all states, the Obama campaign is probably most confident in their South Carolina organization -- the biggest and best operation ever built in the Palmetto State, they argue. Steve Hildebrand, a master field organizer and one of the people responsible for Obama's turnout operation in Iowa, is now in South Carolina and will stay there through the primary on the 26th. ........ His campaign reported raising $23.5 million over the last three months of 2007 -- all but $1 million of which can be spent in the primary. In the first eight days of this year, Obama brought in $8 million more, the direct result of his victory in the Iowa caucuses. ....... Stay tuned. We're in for a wild ride.
Obama's art of grassroots political war New Zealand Herald the Barack Obama surge has taken everyone by surprise, not least that master political strategist Bill Clinton. ....... knocking on doors as a community organiser at the age of 24. ...... her younger, but more street-wise opponent ....... the classic political playbook of carpet-bombing your opponent does not work when the insurgency uses unconventional methods not previously seen in a US presidential campaign. ........ At the heart of the Obama method is a determination to remain respectful. Whether it is adamant refusal to allow his staff to brief negatively about his opponents or his taking the time to thank those who help him. ...... the way shown by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton simply terrified the rest of America. ...... The difference with Obama is that he is doing it all without anger. ...... Somehow he seems to be telling Americans what they already know about their broken society. ....... The Alinsky method is all about winning power rather than seeking to do good and the young Obama became a practitioner. ..... trying to get the city to remove asbestos from public housing, and getting a job database set up in the impoverished South Side. ....... 50 computers have been mining census data and consumer-marketing information to put together what has been described as "the most sophisticated and data-rich portraits of an electorate ever created". ......... Mark Penn invented the concept of the "soccer mom" ..... In the 2004 race, the pollsters could identify 4x4 drivers as likely Republicans and Prius drivers as convinced Democrats. ....... The advances the Obama campaign has made can virtually identify the DNA of target voters. It used something called "micro-targeting technology" to use a range of data - everything from income to education - to divine whether the campaign should directly target a voter. It's called getting the "demographic DNA" and it has enabled the campaign to make multiple calls to draw in voters.
Barack Obama's Kenyan relatives keep faith Telegraph.co.uk Sarah Onyango Obama, 86, the Senator's sprightly grandmother ....... "We had spoken to New Hampshire on the phone earlier in the day and we thought that he could do it, but never mind. ..... "We still believe he will be the next president of the United States." ...... cheap Panasonic radio ...... the small-scale farm where Mrs Obama has lived for 60 years. ..... "So many candidates are looking at the distance they still have to go, but Barack is the only one who can look back and see the distance that he has already come" ......... "His father and grandfather, they were leading men in this area, that is Barack's history, and that ancestry is what we believe will push him forward to victory." ...... "This is the place Barack came to stay, before he was famous and he could come and go unnoticed," said Said Obama, opening the rickety door to a small bedroom with a mosquito net and a low single bed. ........ This is where the possible future US President once slept during a trip in 1987. He has visited twice since, in 1992 and 2006, and has been in regular email contact until the primary season kicked off. ........ "He stayed with us for a week the first time, relaxing and helping on the farm, telling stories and asking so many questions about his family.
Big Nevada Union Backs Obama The Associated Press Obama's first endorsement from a major national union. ........ It was still unclear Wednesday whether the Clinton campaign, fresh off its surprise win in New Hampshire, would compete at full throttle in Nevada. As the Clinton camp seemed headed toward a New Hampshire loss early Tuesday, it contemplated pulling resources out of Nevada and South Carolina to focus on Feb. 5 states. ........ Even among Democrats who say they are engaged in the race, many don't know what a caucus is or why Nevada's matters. ..... not expecting more than 10 percent of registered Democrats, around 45,000 people, to participate.
Key Nevada union backs Obama in blow to Clinton Reuters
Key Nevada union backs Obama in blow to Clinton Reuters