Monthly Archives: March 2009

The 7 Horrors of…

It’s never a good time for a post about horrors. Especially not springtime. However, I had wanted to do an inversion of this past popular post, The 7 Wonders of…, for some time but had never gotten around to it. Halloween would have been maybe too facetious a date for it — any responses might have been only jokey and not thoughtful.

The original post was about what you would list as Syracuse’s (or Onondaga County’s, or Upstate’s) Seven Wonders. Horror being the opposite of wonder — and maybe somehow inseparable from it — now I turn the question upside down, and ask about your list of monumentally awful and wrong things about the land where you live. Maybe these could be physical places like that huge tire dump in Oneida County they haven’t cleaned up yet… or a particular blighted neighborhood. Or an unpleasant place in the natural world where you don’t enjoy being. Or they could be certain unresolved injustices or particular manifestations of official dysfunction. As with the Seven Wonders list… the more particular the list, the better (or worse, I guess)… What would you include?

3 questions for reasonable New Yorkers

Oops, they did it again. Five GOP state senators have introduced a bill calling for a statewide referendum on separating.

Some Democrats are outraged, pointing out (rightly) how cynically Republicans have grandstanded in the past with such fantasy talk, often dragging out the false old “NYC Welfare Queens” canard. However, downstate and national Democrats including Peter Vallone and Leon Panetta have talked the same smack and nobody on our side was batting an eyelash.

You cannot take these noises seriously, and yet for all their surface ridiculousness, they seem expressive of something. In the past, they may have been hoary cynical grandstanding ploys, but today the divide is not just cultural, it is economic (as we have been saying for years now). What if there’s something there for reasonable people to consider? If there isn’t anything, then the idea should go away until another attention-seeking pol rediscovers it. If there is something…

My own evolving thoughts on separation can be traced in past posts such as:

Who Ya Gonna Call? in which I extended the “bad marriage” metaphor maybe to the breaking point;

3 Upstate Conversation Killers, which looked at ways that we talk ourselves out of talking amongst ourselves;

and more recently, Splitter! in which I wondered about who would run (wreck?) a post-separation New York.

But, not to get too far ahead of things, or even to take them so seriously at face value, I think we could at least identify three core starter questions in response to this “motion”:

1) Does One New York really exist? (and if so, why does the concept remain such a hard sell?)

2) Is Upstate politically and economically ready for prime time, ready to control its own affairs without undue outside influence? (my feeling is “no”)

3) Even if it’s wrong to instigate it, should we think about preparing for eventual separation? (After all, if downstate politicians — louder and endowed with bigger media organs — wanted to start a downstate secession movement, they could probably get people lathered up about it pretty easily. And then wouldn’t Upstaters have to face the same questions about independence anyway…?)

Would reasonable people try to answer these questions?

Keeping it in the family

A quick note on the AIG/New York State pension fund affair… in case you hadn’t heard:

A two-year investigation by state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Albany County District Attorney David Soares and the federal Securities and Exchange Commission has concluded that Hevesi’s top political adviser and the pension fund’s chief investment officer raked in tens of millions of dollars in what [Andrew] Cuomo has termed “one of the grossest examples of pay to play” in history. The two were indicted Thursday on numerous counts, including bribery, grand larceny, money laundering and fraud. One of the men is said to have personally pocketed more than $35 million in shakedowns. The investigation is continuing.

This kind of corruption makes the bonus/bailout scandals at AIG and other Wall Street firms look like small potatoes…

It does? Maybe it gets people outside the family upset, but it’s just business as usual here (much like Blagojevich didn’t make many Illinois voters bat an eye when he was caught). The big question: Is this finally the scandal that brings the social workers in to investigate the dysfunctional household, since everyone in the country is upset about AIG already? Or do we just leave it to Cuomo to punish? If so, don’t expect big changes any time soon. (By the way, Eliot Spitzer doesn’t think much of Junior’s use of the almighty subpoena.)

This makes me feel slightly optimistic about Paterson’s 2010 prospects. A year is a lifetime in politics, and if he cleans up his own act and lets Cuomo take himself out, things could work out for him yet.

Updated:

This story about the former commissioner of the state Department of Taxation and Finance, who allegedly broke the law by taking a rigged civil service test enabling her to create a new job (by which she could telecommute from South Carolina, under an assumed name no less), is pretty outrageous, right?

But at this point, you have to wonder if outrage over outrage over the faceless cheaters in state government keeps getting leaked in order to give us all outrage fatigue, and to sap the energy required to keep asking: Where DOES this AIG/state pension thing lead?

The disadvantages of an elite education

An article from last summer which I only recently read: The Disadvantages of an Elite Education, by a retired Yale prof. He speaks eloquently about the process I have always merely referred to as “higher edumacation.” (Toward the end of the article, he also touches on some of the social media-related issues we have recently been discussing here on the “Twittermania” thread.)

Whatever your opinion of his points about higher education, anti-intellectualism, and the uses of solitude, you will probably agree: this article sure explains George W. Bush.