Thursday, January 30, 2014

Grimm Prospects

By now, you’ve read about or seen the assault on NY1 reporter Michael Scotto by Staten Island Congressman Michael Grimm. As it turns out, it was all anybody talked about in the aftermath of the State of the Union address Tuesday night, and as such, forced the GOP to go off message to defend one of their own.

They can’t be happy about that in an election year.

Grimm, a former Marine and FBI agent, was asked for face time on camera to comment about the President’s address. Scotto, seizing an opportunity as any good reporter would, switched gears and tried to get Grimm to comment on camera about allegations that his first Congressional campaign was based in large part on campaign contributions that were made illegally (to-wit, from foreign sources and some domestic sources that contributed more than the legal maximum through some shady deals with third parties.) Grimm was genuinely surprised by the question, since his initial reaction, to walk away, was probably the best reflex he could have had, but his “second thought” was what got him in trouble, assaulting the reporter by physically looming over him and threatening to “throw you off the fucking balcony” of the Capitol building.

Not content with thuggishly menacing a man half his size, Grimm then walked away muttering that he’d break him in half, like the boy that he is.

The county GOP is trying to get behind Grimm while distancing themselves from him, but here’s the most interesting reaction:

Not everyone agrees that the incident will seriously undermine the congressman’s reelection bid. Coming nearly nine months ahead of the election, they argue, few voters will remember it by the time they head to the polls. And some Republicans say Grimm’s tough-guy image could be an asset in a New York City district where voters are more likely to reward brashness.

“I don’t think [voters] would take a lot of umbrage over him roughing it up with a reporter a little bit,” said David Catalfamo, a former top aide to onetime GOP Gov. George Pataki.

“Boys will be boys!” seems to be the reaction from the Pataki machine, one of the more formidable elements of a completely emasculated New York GOP. For instance, Grimm is the only Republican representing New York City in Congress.

Catalfamo was a member of Pataki’s administration, which means he has ties to Senator Alphonse D’Amato, the former kingmaker of New York politics. Indeed, Catafalmo now works under D’Amato…and there’s a nauseating image.  

Here’s the problem: Yes, New Yorkers like their politics with bare knuckles, to be sure – hell, D’Amato often took a plurality of liberal votes from Long Island – and yes, Grimm was elected because a) he had a flood of campaign money come in that no one had counted on, and b) the residents of his district skew more conservative than the rest of the city, but note that last throw away line he puts out there: “No, no, you're not man enough, you're not man enough. I'll break you in half. Like a boy.”

In other words, Grimm acknowledges that he bullied a little boy. I don’t see how that message gets smoothed over, even in Staten Island.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Schaden, It Freezes

Y’know, I should be smirking gently over the things happening in the South.

After all, whenever it gets up over a hundred here in NYC and things start to pop and break, inevitably there’s a story from down theyarrrr about how sissypanties New Yorkers are, and how Suthners can handle the heat.

So video of people being stuck in traffic for hours, even days, because of a dusting of snow should be enough for me to take a little snarky moment or two, right?

The problem is, of course, that for the grace of God go I. Much of the trouble is because cities and counties don’t buy salt because, you know, why would you? And they don’t have plows because who needs them?

And then I think: we’re just one real budget crisis – and one really bad winter – away from losing our plows and our salt supply. It could happen. Not likely, but it could. Already in the north, we’re seeing shortages of propane to rural communities because of the difficulty of getting trucks around in the terrible snowstorms and deeply frigid temperatures of the last month or so, doubly so as the frigid temperatures have thermostats working overtime. And all it took was one bus to have engine problems on a bridge to shut down an entire borough. It took hours, literally, to travel less than a mile over water.

It’s not fair for me to mock folks for panicking over an amount of snow that is about as high as the pile of confectioner’s sugar on a donut.

But it’s hard not to!


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Only The Good Die Young

And for Pete Seeger, 94 was too young:
Pete Seeger, a 20th-century troubadour who inspired and led a renaissance of folk music in the United States with his trademark five-string banjo and songs of love, peace, brotherhood, work and protest, died Monday night after being hospitalized in New York for six days. He was 94.
His death was confirmed to the Associated Press by his grandson, Kitama Cahill-Jackson.
For more than 50 years, Mr. Seeger roamed America, singing on street corners and in saloons, migrant labor camps, hobo jungles, union halls, schools, churches and concert auditoriums. He helped write, arrange or revive such perennial favorites as “If I Had a Hammer,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” and popularized the anthem of the civil rights movement, “We Shall Overcome.”
Tall and reed-thin, Mr. Seeger was a recognizable figure for generations of listeners. And with dozens of top-selling records and albums, he became one of the most enduring and best-loved folk singers of his generation. He also was one of the few remaining links to two of the 20th century’s early giants of American folk music: Huddie Ledbetter, the black ex-convict from Texas and Louisiana better known as Lead Belly, and Woody Guthrie, the minstrel songwriter from Oklahoma.
Few people had as large an impact on my youth as Pete Seeger. His songs were among the first I learned to play on guitar when I was 8, and while I outgrew pickin’ and strummin’, I never outgrew his music or his politics. To this day, “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” plays in my head everytime we send young men – and now, young women – off to fight wars we never needed to fight. “We Shall Overcome” remains a mainstay at any rally where human rights are on display. His band, The Weavers, was played even on old-people’s music stations. Folk was acceptable, and groups like The Kingston Trio, and Peter, Paul and Mary, in addition to The Weavers, were in regular rotation.
As noted by WaPo, Seeger instroduced the nation to Leadbelly and Guthrie, and other folk tunes from other cultures. Notably included among these is “Wimoweh,” which you may know as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”.
Yea. You can blame Pete for that earworm.
He fought the good fight right up to the end, being passed over this weekend for a Grammy for his latest release, albeit a spoken word record. Perhaps the thought of losing to Stephen Colbert was too much for his body to handle.
Godspeed, Mr. Seeger. 
Yo soy un hombre sincero
De donde crecen las palmas.
Yo soy un hombre sincero
De donde crecen las palmas.
Y antes de morir me quiero
Echar mis versos del alma.