Hurricane Sandy hit this city two years ago today. But for too many New
Yorkers, the effects of the storm are still an everyday reality.
When I took office, I found a stalled recovery program that, more than a
year after the storm, had yet to begin construction on a single home.
Since then, we've overhauled the Build It Back recovery program and made
incredible progress - and we'll continue to speed up relief until every
homeowner is served.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer. (photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
By Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker
26 October 14
article below is satire. Andy Borowitz is an American comedian and New
York Times-bestselling author who satirizes the news for his column,
"The Borowitz Report."
concerns that the spreading fear of Ebola has become a greater threat
than the virus itself, a new poll shows that a majority of Americans
favor a quarantine of the CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer.
While poll respondents supported quarantining more
than a dozen cable-news personalities, including the entire cast of “Fox
& Friends,” a full seventy-two per cent gave the nod to a
quarantine of Blitzer.
At the Centers for Disease Control, a spokesman said
that a Blitzer quarantine was “very much on the table,” and that the
C.D.C. had come up with a workable plan.
“Essentially, we would do a lockdown of ‘The Situation
Room’ and provide Wolf with food and water until the crisis passes,” he
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie caved and allowed a quarantined nurse
to leave a Newark hospital on Monday after she showed no signs of being
infected with Ebola.
Kaci Hickox had previously threatened to sue the state of New Jersey
after she was detained Friday following a policy enacted the same day by
both Christie and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. The White House had
also pressured Christie to free her.
Hickox was brought to the isolation unit at University Hospital, in
Newark, after landing last week at Newark Liberty International Airport.
The nurse was returning from Sierra Leone after volunteering to treat
Ebola patients in the poverty-stricken West African nation.
Both Christie and Cuomo put the mandatory quarantine policy in effect
after Columbia University Medical Center doctor Craig Spencer tested
positive for Ebola last week.
"Sine testing negative for Ebola on early Saturday morning, the patient
... has thankfully been symptom free for the last 24 hours," Christie's
office said in a statement.
"As a result, and after being evaluated in coordination with the CDC and
the treating clinicians at University Hospital, the patient is being
Hickox is still subject to a mandatory quarantine despite the state agreeing to transport her to Maine via a private carrier.
She had previously threatened to sue the state, claiming it was a violation of her civil rights to be held without cause.
"This is an extreme that is really unacceptable, and I feel like my
basic human rights have been violated," Hickox said Sunday on CNN. "To put me through this emotional and physical stress is completely unacceptable."
She compared the "inhumane" conditions to being "held in a prison," and
vowed to immediately file a federal lawsuit demanding her release.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a Sunday evening press briefing that "what happened to her was inappropriate."
Further pressure mounted from the Obama administration, which also called for her release.
blinked and Hickox was freed as a five-year-old boy who landed at JFK
International Airport was being tested for Ebola in a New York hospital.
The child, who had just flown from Guinea, had a 103-degree fever and was projectile vomiting, according to reports.
Spencer has not significantly improved since being hospitalized on Friday.
On Thursday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo offered soothing words to worried New
Yorkers about the city’s first Ebola case. Less than 19 hours later, Mr.
Cuomo struck a starkly different tone.
"Within the city, an unexpected policy shift by Mr. Cuomo on Friday
appeared to open up a public divide between the governor and the
administration of Mr. de Blasio, a fellow Democrat. The city’s health
commissioner, Dr. Mary T. Bassett, was not informed in advance of the
Cuomo-Christie mandatory quarantine order and was “furious,” a senior
city official who spoke to her said. "
black and I drive a nice car,” Mr. McFarlan told an administrative law
judge, Blueth Bromfield. He added: “You being a black woman, I don’t
know, maybe you and I have some understanding that young men who drive
nice cars are a little bit more detailed, or prioritized, or profiled.”
That argument did not sway Judge Bromfield who ruled that Mr. McFarlan’s defense was not convincing.
After wrestling for
days with the diplomatically awkward reality that Cuba could turn out to
be America’s best ally on the effort to stem the Ebola epidemic, the
Obama Administration has belatedly come around to a sensible conclusion:
It’s willing to coordinate with the Cuban medics dispatched to treat
patients in West Africa.
In a remarkably
conciliatory statement, the State Department said on Tuesday night that
it “welcomed the opportunity to collaborate with Cuba,” which has
pledged to send hundreds of doctors and nurses to treat patients in the
three countries where the virus is spreading fastest.
“Cuba is making significant contributions by sending hundreds of health workers to Africa,” the State Department said.
The Ebola outbreak has presented the two nations with a rare opportunity
to work collaboratively on a high profile global issue at a time when
there is growing interest on the part of both governments for a
Former Cuban President
Fidel Castro called on the United States this weekend to set aside its
long term differences with Havana in order to make headway on the fight
against Ebola. Cuba recently dispatched 165 doctors and nurses to Sierra
Leone and a new group of 91 was set to travel to the region on Tuesday.
The government has trained more than 400 health care workers on the
precautions that must be taken to treat patients with Ebola.
The United States and
the European Union have pledged to spend hundreds of millions of dollars
to build up the beleaguered health care infrastructure of Sierra Leone,
Liberia and Guinea. But the international community has struggled to
put together a medical corps willing to treat patients with the highly
The Times editorial
board on Monday called on the United States to coordinate with Cuban
medics and to offer them assistance in the event any contract the virus.
The State Department statement did not address whether American
personnel would be willing to treat or evacuate Cuban health workers.
American officials say they are still sorting out the broader issue of
how medical evacuations of all foreign health care workers will be
On October 11, 2014 the New York Times' editorial board published an opinion titled, "Obama Should End the Embargo on Cuba." - Fidel Castro in Cuba's State Sponsored Granma International responds. - MA/RSN
morning, on Sunday October 12, the Sunday internet edition of The New
York Times – a newspaper which under certain circumstances follows the
political line most convenient to its country’s interests – published an
article entitled “Obama should end the embargo on Cuba;” with opinions
as to how, in its view, the country should proceed.
There are times when such articles are written by some
prestigious journalist, such as someone I had the privilege of meeting
personally during the first days of our struggle in the Sierra Maestra
with the remainder of a unit which had been almost totally eliminated by
Batista’s air force and army. We were at that time quite inexperienced;
we didn’t even realize that giving the impression of strength to the
press would be something that could merit critique.
That is not what the brave war correspondent, Herbert
Matthews, thought with a story which made his name during the difficult
times of the fight against fascism.
Our supposed fighting ability in February 1957 was a
little less, but still more than sufficient to wear down and overthrow
Carlos Rafael Rodríguez, leader of the People’s
Socialist Party, was witness to what, after the Battle of Jigüe in which
an entire unit of select troops were forced to surrender after 10 days
of combat, I expressed regarding my fear that the regime’s forces would
surrender in July 1958, when the elite troops hastily retreated from the
Sierra Maestra, despite being trained and equipped by our northern
neighbors. We had discovered an effective way of defeating them.
I could not help but expand a little on this point as I
wished to explain the spirit with which I read the aforementioned
article of the U.S. newspaper, last Sunday. I will cite the most
important parts in quotations:
“Scanning a map of the world must give President Obama
a sinking feeling as he contemplates the dismal state of troubled
bilateral relationships his administration has sought to turn around. He
would be smart to take a hard look at Cuba, where a major policy shift
could yield a significant foreign policy success.
“For the first time in more than 50 years, shifting
politics in the United States and changing policies in Cuba make it
politically feasible to re-establish formal diplomatic relations and
dismantle the senseless embargo. The Castro regime has long blamed the
embargo for its shortcomings, and has kept ordinary Cubans largely cut
off from the world. Mr. Obama should seize this opportunity to end a
long era of enmity and help a population that has suffered enormously
since Washington ended diplomatic relations in 1961, two years after
Fidel Castro assumed power.
“…a devastated economy has forced Cuba to make reforms
— a process that has gained urgency with the economic crisis in
Venezuela, which gives Cuba heavily subsidized oil. Officials in Havana,
fearing that Venezuela could cut its aid, have taken significant steps
to liberalize and diversify the island’s tightly controlled economy.
“They have begun allowing citizens to take
private-sector jobs and own property. This spring, Cuba’s National
Assembly passed a law to encourage foreign investment in the country.
With Brazilian capital, Cuba is building a seaport, a major project that
will be economically viable only if American sanctions are lifted. And
in April, Cuban diplomats began negotiating a cooperation agreement with
the European Union. They have shown up at the initial meetings
prepared, eager and mindful that the Europeans will insist on greater
reforms and freedoms.
“The authoritarian government still harasses and
detains dissidents. It has yet to explain the suspicious circumstances
surrounding the death of the political activist Oswaldo Payá.”
As you can see a slanderous and cheep accusation.
“Travel restrictions were relaxed last year, enabling
prominent dissidents to travel abroad. There is slightly more tolerance
for criticism of the leadership, though many fear speaking openly and
demanding greater rights.
“The pace of reforms has been slow and there has been
backsliding. Still, these changes show Cuba is positioning itself for a
post-embargo era. The government has said it would welcome renewed
diplomatic relations with the United States and would not set
“As a first step, the Obama administration should
remove Cuba from the State Department’s list of nations that sponsor
terrorist organizations, which includes Iran, Sudan and Syria. Cuba was
put on the list in 1982 for backing terrorist groups in Latin America,
which it no longer does. American officials recognize that Havana is
playing a constructive role in the conflict in Colombia by hosting peace
talks between the government and guerrilla leaders.
“Starting in 1961, Washington has imposed sanctions in
an effort to oust the Castro regime. Over the decades, it became clear
to many American policy makers that the embargo was an utter failure.
But any proposal to end the embargo angered Cuban-American voters, a
constituency that has had an outsize role in national elections (…)The
generation that adamantly supports the embargo is dying off. Younger
Cuban-Americans hold starkly different views, having come to see the
sanctions as more damaging than helpful. A recent poll found that a
slight majority of Cuban-Americans in Miami now oppose the embargo. A
significant majority of them favor restoring diplomatic ties, mirroring
the views of other Americans.
“Cuba and the United States already have diplomatic
missions, called interests sections, which operate much like embassies.
However, under the current arrangement, American diplomats have few
opportunities to travel outside the capital to engage with ordinary
Cubans, and their access to the Cuban government is very limited.
“The Obama administration in 2009 took important steps
to ease the embargo, a patchwork of laws and policies, making it easier
for Cubans in the United States to send remittances to relatives in
Cuba and authorizing more Cuban-Americans to travel there. And it has
paved the way for initiatives to expand Internet access and cell phone
coverage on the island.
“For instance, it could lift caps on remittances,
allow Americans to finance private Cuban businesses and expand
opportunities for travel to the island.
“It could also help American companies that are
interested in developing the island’s telecommunications network but
remain wary of the legal and political risks..
“Failing to engage with Cuba now will likely cede this
market to competitors. The presidents of China and Russia traveled to
Cuba in separate visits in July, and both leaders pledged to expand
“It would better position Washington to press the
Cubans on democratic reforms, and could stem a new wave of migration to
the United States driven by hopelessness.
“Closer ties could also bring a breakthrough on the
case of an American development contractor, Alan Gross, who has been
unjustly imprisoned by Cuba for nearly five years. More broadly, it
would create opportunities to empower ordinary Cubans, gradually eroding
the government’s ability to control their lives.
“…Western Hemisphere heads of state will meet in
Panama City for the seventh Summit of the Americas. Latin American
governments insisted that Cuba, the Caribbean’s most populous island and
one of the most educated societies in the hemisphere, be invited,
breaking with its traditional exclusion at the insistence of Washington.
“Given the many crises around the world, the White
House may want to avoid a major shift in Cuba policy. Yet engaging with
Cuba and starting to unlock the potential of its citizens could end up
being among the administration’s most consequential foreign-policy
“Normalizing relations with Havana would improve
Washington’s relationships with governments in Latin America, and
resolve an irritant that has stymied initiatives in the hemisphere..”
“…The Obama administration is leery of Cuba’s presence at the meeting and Mr. Obama has not committed to attending.
“He must — and he should see it as an opportunity to make history.”
One of the most educated societies in the
hemisphere!!!! This is indeed recognition. But why doesn’t it mention
this straight away, that in no way is this society comparable to that
which Harry S. Truman bequeathed to us when his ally and great public
treasury looter Fulgencio Batista took power on March 10, 1952, only 50
days after the general election. This can never be forgotten.
The article is obviously written with great skill,
seeking the greatest benefit for U.S. policy in a complex situation, in
the midst of increasing political, economic, financial and commercial
problems. To these are added the effects of rapid climate change;
commercial competition; the speed, precision and destructive power of
weapons which threaten the survival of mankind. What is written today
has a very different connotation to that which was written just 40 years
ago when our planet was already forced to stockpile and withhold water
and food from the equivalent of half the world’s current population.
This without mentioning the fight against Ebola which is threatening the
health of millions of people.
Add to this that in a few days the global community
will reveal before the United Nations whether it agrees with the
blockade against Cuba or not.
week stateside, the edge may be off the Ebola story for the U.S. news
media, as those people in Dallas who were close to the late Thomas Eric
Duncan emerge from their 21-day quarantine. The Obama administration has
appointed an Ebola czar and the military is pulling together a kind of
infectious disease SWAT team that can helicopter in the next time a
“world-class” American hospital fumbles an Ebola case.
Glad that’s resolved.
a human tragedy it will be if we fail to grasp what are the existing
pre-conditions that set the stage for this unprecedented global outbreak
Missing from the wall-to-wall coverage of the global
Ebola crisis is a root-cause analysis that shows how unfettered free
market global capitalism and our obscene spending on the military both
play a part in creating the environment for this latest outbreak and the
ones that are sure to follow.
Annually the world spends more than
$1.7 trillion on the military. According to the Wall Street Journal the
world spends a whopping $27 billion on the world’s public health. Keep
that obscene imbalance in your mind the next time you see pictures of
Liberians bleeding out in the street.
No missile killed them, but our greed and global death-oriented spending priorities have left fingerprints on all these bodies.
in the U.S. we spend close to $700 billion on the military annually,
roughly 20 percent of the federal budget, equivalent to just under
$2,500 per capita. Contrast that with our foreign aid for things like
public health where we part with
just $19 billon, or .6 percent of the federal budget, just $61 per
capita. Twenty other nations actually give a higher percentage of their
gross national product in non-military aid to nations in need than we
Our military spending squeezes out so much that needs to be
done both at home and abroad. And there are lost opportunity costs of
not doing what needs to be done, like seeing to it that places like West
Africa, the epicenter of the latest Ebola outbreak, have a basic public
This latest global pandemic shows just how
yesterday our “homeland security” threat–based security matrix is. In
the jet age of hop-and-a-skip Ebola, it feels fatally provincial.
Ultimately, our essential homeland is planet Earth.
President Obama does his best to shift back and forth from commander in
chief of the war on terror to global public health advocate, he is
going to find maintaining the public’s trust, both here and abroad,
essential but difficult. For quite a while now the U.S. brand has been
tied to its myopic prosecution of the the war on terror, even if it
killed innocent civilians and put the global public health at risk.
else does one explain the CIA’s fraudulent use of a public health
vaccination program in Pakistan to harvest DNA from households they
suspected of harboring Osama bin Laden? As a direct consequence of the
CIA’s subterfuge bin Laden supporters targeted several public health
workers administering polio vaccination for assassination.
that particular CIA strategy did not help the U.S. achieve its ultimate
goal, there was major blowback. The U.N. had to shut down its polio
eradication efforts in Pakistan, one of only a handful of countries in
the world at the time where wild polio transmission still happens. So
severe were the potential consequences that in January of 2013 deans of
the 12 leading American schools of public health wrote President Obama
directly, taking the CIA to task. “This disguising of an intelligence
gathering effort as a humanitarian public health service has resulted in
serious collateral consequences that affect the public health
community,” read a press release put out along with the letter.
week later Lisa Monaco, the White House’s top counter-terror and
homeland security expert, wrote back pledging the CIA would not repeat
But the damage may have been done, especially in the
parts of the world where U.S.-based pharma multinationals’ vaccination
products have long been viewed as suspect and with the same skepticism
expressed by vaccination opponents stateside. By in the spring of this
year the World Health Organization was reporting a resurgence of polio
centered in the Middle East and Africa that “constitutes an
extraordinary event and a public health risk to other States for which a
coordinated international response is essential,” WHO warned the world.
“If unchecked, this situation could result in failure to eradicate
globally one of the most serious vaccine preventable diseases.”
global context, keep in mind that in 1979 polio had been eradicated in
the United States, but experts say maintaining that status requires high
vaccination rates here and an aggressive program around the world. In
an increasingly mobile world, the Centers for Disease Control warns that
without a coordinated international effort “scenarios for polio being
introduced into the United States are easy to imagine.”
this reality creates a dynamic tension between public health and
commerce that is so present in the current “fly–no fly” Ebola debate. We
have a media-induced near religious belief that only through unfettered
global free trade and travel can a brighter tomorrow dawn. We think we
have conquered the natural world but it can still kick us in the ass
with fatal results. We have failed to grasp even the basic consequences
of the mobility many of us take for granted. We are blind to the social
and ecological costs exacted on the people of Africa by transnationals
in the hot pursuit of everything from bauxite to crude oil.
our 21st century genius we lose jet airliners and killer epidemics can
percolate for several months in remote places like West Africa,
impoverished by an extraction industry like the mining of bauxite used
to make the aluminum we need for the planes we fly and the latest
high-tech gadgets we depend on to stay connected. Our pressing question
all too often is, Can we get an upgrade?
Suffice to say most
Americans have no idea where this virulent Ebola strain has come from or
how many people it has already killed. Media figures vary. Laurie
Garrett, an analyst with the Council on Foreign Relations, told the PBS
News Hour this week that for the first time officials at the World
Health Organization had conceded the “bad news” that they had no real
data from Liberia. Garrett says she estimates the actual Ebola death toll is between 15,000 and 16,000 deaths.
There is expert consensus that the Ebola tide has to be turned where it originated. We can’t just hermetically seal our borders.
to the World Health Organization, “ground zero” for the outbreak was
“in the remote Guinean village of Meliandou” where the borders of the
West African nations Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone all meet. The
first fatality, according to WHO, was a 2-year-old boy who died two days
after he became sick around Christmastime of last year.
matter of weeks his 3-year-old sister, mother and grandmother all had
succumbed to what was still at that point a mysterious disease to the
local doctors who were unfamiliar with Ebola because it had previously
been only associated with countries in Central Africa. In one of the
most medically underserved places in the world, local doctors were all
too familiar with the regular outbreaks of infectious diseases like
cholera and malaria but were baffled by what they were facing.
the young boy’s death, the mysterious disease continued to smolder
undetected, causing several chains of deadly transmission,” according to
WHO’s account. “Who could have ever guessed that such a notorious
disease, previously confined to Central Africa and Gabon, would crop up
in another distant part of the continent?”
It was not until March
of this year that WHO officially posted the Ebola outbreak advisory. For
months there was lots of public health hand-wringing. Experts were
lured into complacency when local outbreaks seemed to wane, only to
resurge with a vengeance, decimating a part of the world that, despite
its great natural resource wealth, lacks basic public health
For Africa in the age of unfettered global
capitalism, the leverage is still with transnational corporations that
can easily exploit the corruption and political instability that grips
so much of the continent. “With 24 percent of the world’s infectious
disease burden, Africa has only 3 percent of the world’s health
professionals, with massive shortages of physicians, nurses,
technicians, health administrators and planners,” writes Jennifer Cooke, author of “Public Health in Africa.”
effort at coming to understand Ebola has to be pursued holistically. As
reported earlier this month in the Digital Journal, there are expert
estimates that West Africa has lost as much as 90 percent of its virgin
forest lands to human activities including farming and mining. Scientists believe there is a corollary between deforestation and the increasing frequency and severity of Ebola outbreaks.
is a zoonotic disease, transmitted from animals to people. As the
population grows and human settlement expands into the shrinking
tropical forests, the local population, which survives off bush meat, is
increasingly exposed to the disease present in species like fruit bats
and chimpanzees. Such was the conclusion reached in the 2012 report “Ebola Virus Outbreaks in Africa and Present” published in the Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Medicine.
the same time a never-ending cycle of political violence in the region
makes it impossible to achieve the stability needed to establish and
maintain the public health infrastructure necessary for a traumatized
and often at risk population. All too often African leaders decide it’s
more critical to spend money to buttress their military for their own
self-preservation, as opposed to investing in the public health of their
constituents. Add into the mix a terrorist group like Boko Haram and
you have a civil society constantly under duress.
for Americans and Europeans, Africa was a place to get slaves, free
labor. In modern times it is a place from which we extract diamonds,
gold, bauxite, oil, whatever, at the lowest possible price, so as to
make the most profit. It is just business. If you can add to your mass
consumer market in the process, that’s fine too. But, overwhelmingly,
the majority of Africans are left out of the global free trade
wealth-creating machine that is fueled by Africa’s natural resources.
for the U.S., with the fall of the Soviet Union and after Sept. 11, we
have increasingly asserted ourselves with drone attacks and strategic
military raids in Africa aimed at disrupting terrorist networks.
all the rhetoric about being interconnected it is hard to get the
developed world to really have skin in the game over the long term. Yes,
President George W. Bush’s focused efforts to spend billions to fight
HIV-AIDS in Africa was a bipartisan success that made a difference for
Yet last year the Washington Post reported that
President Obama actually became the first president since Reagan to back
off the U.S. commitment to fighting HIV-AIDS, slashing hundreds of millions of dollars from the program.
this Ebola outbreak has to drive home is the reality that U.S. aid to
support public health in Africa is not a selfless act of charity but one
of self -preservation. Over the decades of African relief ads on
late-night TV we may have become inured to the image of starving and
disease-stricken children. That’s not to say the world has not made
progress. Consider that in 1990 the World Health Organization reported
that around the world 12.6 million children under age 5 died. That’s
almost two Holocausts a year.
By 2012 that was down to 6.6 million
dead children and about half of them were from sub-Saharan Africa. But
as we have seen with the death of the 2-year-old in Guinea last
Christmas, the loss of just one can have repercussions felt around the
Mayor de Blasio promised to make his the most diverse
administration in decades — but his racial-ethnic balancing act is being
questioned by a leading Latino leader.
“Despite his broad progressive policy agenda, his administration has
developed a blind spot when it comes to his appointment of Latinos at
levels reflective of our size of New York City’s population,” said
Angelo Falcon, director of the National Institute for Latino Policy.
“At last count, despite making up 29 percent of the population,
Latinos were only 12 percent or less of de Blasio’s appointments, the
biggest disparity among the city’s racial-ethnic groups,” Falcon
complained in his group’s newsletter sent out Monday via e-mail.
There are a number of Hispanics in top positions in the administration.
Liliam Barrios Paoli is the deputy mayor for health and human services and Carmen Fariña is the schools chancellor.
Gladys Carrion heads the Administration of Children Services, Kathryn
Garcia is the sanitation commissioner and Marco Carrion heads the
mayor’s community affairs unit.
But Falcon complained that a majority of the 26 top Hispanic mayoral
appointments are concentrated in only three agencies — the mayor’s
office, the Department of Education and the mayor’s Fund to Advance New
“The result is that Latinos are not a significant presence in policy-making positions in most of the city’s agencies,” he said.
“And despite repeated requests by Latino community leaders for a
meeting to remedy this problem, the mayor has chosen to ignore these
voices of concern,” said Falcon, who then compared de Blasio to the last
“progressive” mayor, David Dinkins.
“Will history repeat itself? Quien sabe? [who knows?]”
Other Latino leaders were willing to cut de Blasio some slack.
“We need to give him time to put the hirings in place. The mayor is
moving in the right direction,” said Assemblyman Felix Ortiz
(D-Brookyn), chairman of the state Legislature’s Hispanic Task Force.
“In comparison to . . . Bloomberg and Giuliani, he’s doing a good job.”
De Blasio’s office defended the Latino representation in his government — but didn’t dispute Falcon’s figures.
“The mayor and his leadership team are committed to increasing the
representation of Latinos, African-Americans, and Asian American and
Pacific Islanders across the administration,” said mayoral spokeswoman
“ We have been very clear in our intention to build an administration
that is representative of all New Yorkers and we are proud of the
diverse team that we have built to date.”
Mayor de Blasio admitted Monday that he needs to rein in an
out-of-control city program that pays millions of dollars to store the
possessions of homeless people, in the wake of a Post exposé about a woman who ran up more than $200,000 in taxpayer-funded storage bills.
De Blasio blamed Albany lawmakers for the program’s soaring costs,
which reached $14.6 million in fiscal year 2014, saying the city is
mandated to keep homeless residents’ stuff in storage until they find
“As you know, we are compelled by state law in that area, and I
certainly have concerns, because our focus is on housing people not
belongings,” de Blasio said. “So I’d like to see resources go to people
not belongings, but we have to figure out how to navigate that state
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Queens) said he was stunned to learn from
The Post’s page-one story on Monday that Andrea Logan, 54, racked up the
astounding storage bills over eight years and that last year the tab to
store her belongings had reached $3,585 a month — enough to rent her a
well-appointed Manhattan apartment.
“Obviously, it was shocking! I had no idea that we were actually
paying to store people’s property when they become homeless,” said
Avella, chairman of the Social Services committee.
“If it’s a temporary situation that’s one thing, but for long-term storage, it’s just absurd.”
Avella also fired off a letter demanding a response from the city’s
Human Resources Administration, where a source told The Post: “Clearly,
there’s a problem.”
Meanwhile, a court ruling from 2010 exposed further abuse of the
homeless storage program by a man who had gotten approval to keep his
possessions locked away at taxpayer expense — even though he’d been
paying rent on a share of a Hell’s Kitchen apartment for more than seven
Bankruptcy Court records revealed that Alain Mercier got the benefit
in March 2008, despite claiming to own less than $1,400 worth of
Officials canceled his $144-a-month grant for storage fees in 2009,
and Mercier — who was paying his rent with a $350 “enhanced shelter
allowance” — sued to hold onto the benefit.
But a judge tossed the case in 2010 because state law didn’t require that his storage bills be paid “for an indefinite period.”
An HRA spokesman said the agency is “concerned about the rates that
are charged, and this is one of the reasons why we plan to develop a new
process to identify which storage companies and rates will be
The city has shelled out more than $200,000 to store a
homeless woman’s belongings — enough to have set her up in a swanky
Manhattan apartment for years.
Andrea Logan’s possessions have been locked up — at taxpayer expense —
since she lost her Upper East Side apartment in 2006 after a
debilitating stroke, court records reveal.
And the city has picked up the tab, following a state law that requires it to cover storage expenses for homeless people.
Logan, 54, had jammed 11 storage units full of belongings in the
years after her stroke, and officials didn’t notice the huge tab until
it reached $3,585 a month last year.
That’s more than enough to score a one-bedroom duplex in Greenwich
Village with a fireplace and roof deck, or a newly renovated,
two-bedroom pad on the Upper East Side.
Even Logan’s storage units — some as large as 10 by 16 feet — cover
well over 1,000 square feet of space, way more than offered by most
It was unclear exactly how the city learned of Logan’s sprawling
storage empire. But officials finally refused to pay for all of her
units last year, prompting her to sue in Manhattan Supreme Court.
Under a deal this year with the city Human Resources Administration
and the state Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, Logan
agreed to whittle down her belongings to fit into only three units at a
Storage Post facility in The Bronx, at a total monthly rate of $1,297.
Logan, who ran an antiques business before the stroke left her
legally blind, says her stuff includes “hundreds of cartons of books,”
as well as furniture, appliances and women’s clothing in sizes ranging
from 4 to 22.
Asked to estimate the value of the stash, she said, “There’s so much stuff that I wouldn’t even know where to begin.
“The most critical and valuable things are the irreplaceable items —
documents from medical-malpractice and personal-injury cases, personal
family documents, photographs and mementos.”
Logan said she also has accumulated a trove of household items that
she bought for each shelter stay but wasn’t allowed to bring with her
when she got relocated.
“I have 10 to 12 brooms,” she explained. “You name it, it’s there: soup to nuts.”
Logan said that while she remains homeless, she hasn’t lived in a
city shelter for four years and is instead bunking with friends or
squatting in abandoned buildings.
She said city officials have been trying to force her into a tiny
apartment in a “supportive building” in Chelsea for people with severe
disabilities so “they can justify not paying my storage.”
“I went to a meeting with HRA, and they popped a surprise psychiatric visit on me,” she said.
But taxpayers are still footing the bill for her belongings. State
law mandates that the city pay for storing furniture and personal
belongings for homeless people “so long as eligibility for public
assistance continues and so long as the circumstances necessitating the
storage continue to exist.”
In the years since Logan became homeless, the cost to taxpayers for
providing such storage to homeless people has soared from a total $6.8
million in fiscal year 2006 to $14.6 million in fiscal year 2014.
The average cost per case also rose, from $1,333 a month to $1,549.
The HRA wouldn’t discuss Logan’s case, citing privacy issues.
But agency spokesman David Neustadt said, “The policy of [Mayor Bill
de Blasio’s] administration is to house people, not just their
belongings, and we are actively implementing that policy.” Additional reporting by Frank Rosari
Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City. (photo: Richard Perry/NYT)
By Luke Brinker, Salon
12 October 14
Center-right Democrats finally face a formidable challenge -- and that has them terrified
ast December, Jon Cowan and Jim Kessler of the Wall Street-funded think tank Third Way penned a widely-discussed op-ed
for the Wall Street Journal warning Democrats of the perils of economic
populism, which Cowan and Kessler called a “dead end” for the party.
The piece lambasted prominent progressives like Massachusetts Sen.
Elizabeth Warren and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, asserting that
their focus on income inequality and their unwillingness to back savage
cuts to social insurance programs was both irresponsible and politically
The piece triggered a fierce backlash
against Third Way, and even two co-chairs of the organization disavowed
Cowan and Kessler’s anti-populist screed. But the plutocratic wing of
the Democratic Party hasn’t breathed its last, and the latest centrist
attack on progressive populism is a real doozy.
It comes courtesy of a Politico Magazine essay
by Progressive Policy Institute president Will Marshall. A co-founder
of the now-shuttered center right group the Democratic Leadership
Council and a onetime aide to former Sen. Joe Lieberman, Marshall has
long been a leading agitator on behalf of a more right-leaning
Democratic Party. Aggressively hawkish
on foreign affairs – Marshall was associated with the erstwhile
neoconservative group the Project for a New American Century and was a
big booster of the Iraq War – Marshall also harbors distinctly
center-right views on economic issues, joining deficit scolds in railing
against so-called “’borrow and spend’ policies” and championing
“entitlement reform” and corporate tax cuts.
Marshall’s central thesis is that to win power,
Democrats must capture the loyalties of moderate voters. Given the high
number of Americans who tell pollsters that they’re “moderate” in their
political orientation, it sounds sensible enough. But Marshall proceeds
to simply ascribe to rank-and-file moderates the center-right views of
the Beltway punditocracy, the better to make his case that progressive
populism is a losing prospect. To win moderate voters, Marshall writes,
Democrats must shun “leftish orthodoxy” on by “supporting trade
agreements, real accountability in education, changes in entitlements,
development of America’s shale-gas windfall and efforts to lower
regulatory obstacles to entrepreneurship.” The party must refocus its
efforts toward reducing the budget deficit and national debt, and it
must place a higher priority on “economic growth,” not “redistribution
to achieve equality.”
The policies Marshall advocates are no better than the
politics. Reducing economic inequality, for instance, is essential to
economic growth, while spikes in inequality contribute to financial
crises. As economist Thomas Piketty points out,
“One consequence of increasing inequality was virtual stagnation of the
purchasing power of the lower and middle classes in the United States,
which inevitably made it more likely that modest households would take
on debt, especially since unscrupulous banks and financial
intermediaries … offered credit on increasingly generous terms.”
Meanwhile, phrases like “real accountability in education” are
meaningless sloganeering, designed to obfuscate an anti-union agenda and
push education “reforms” that don’t actually work.
On climate change, Marshall is being nothing short of disingenuous when
he suggests that pouring resources into natural gas production is
compatible with a sustainable environmental policy. While natural gas
itself may be cleaner than other fossil fuels, fracking for natural gas
leaks methane, which is 34 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
When it comes to foreign policy, Marshall shows no
signs of having learned the lessons of the disastrous militaristic
policies he enthusiastically backed in the Bush administration. “U.S.
foreign policy can’t simply be a series of belated, ad hoc reactions to
crises,”he argues, as if progressives were advocating a “belated, ad
hoc” foreign policy. “We need a new strategy for weakening Islamist
extremism in whatever form it takes, for revitalizing NATO as a bulwark
against Russian expansion, and for creating a balance of power in East
Asia that protects the region’s free and open societies.” Marshall
doesn’t explain what achieving these sweeping goals would entail, but
it’s clear that the Iraq War cheerleader is fearful that progressive
Democrats aren’t as keen on American interventionism and chest-thumping
as he’d like.
While Cowan and Kessler at least had the courtesy to
name high-profile adherents of the ideology they were castigating,
Marshall’s piece doesn’t name-check a single soul; the closest he comes
is a general swipe at “self-appointed ideological minders like MoveOn
and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.” It’s possible that
Marshall genuinely believes, despite evidence to the contrary, that
these unnamed leftist villains’ policies are politically perilous. But
it’s hard to escape the sense that what really terrifies Marshall and
his ilk is the realization that their brain-dead centrism finally faces a
Recent political shifts make this the right moment to build a new relationship,
including formal diplomatic ties.
For the first time in more than 50 years, shifting politics in the
United States and changing policies in Cuba make it politically feasible
to re-establish formal diplomatic relations and dismantle the senseless
embargo. The Castro regime has long blamed the embargo for its
shortcomings, and has kept ordinary Cubans largely cut off from the
world. Mr. Obama should seize this opportunity to end a long era of
enmity and help a population that has suffered enormously since
Washington ended diplomatic relations in 1961, two years after Fidel
Castro assumed power.
A homeless person sleeps on a Manhattan street on August 22, 2014 in New York City. Photo: Getty Images
The Department of Homeless Services has broken its own
longstanding rules by letting people sleep overnight on chairs at its
Bronx office, The Post has learned.
At other times, DHS bent the rules by shuttling people to a nearby
hotel before dawn for as little as an hour — before returning them to
“You’re not supposed to sleep there, they’re supposed to take you
somewhere. They didn’t,” said Cynthia Penns, who was with her
14-year-old son. “There were a lot of people sleeping — kids, babies,
The strain at the registration center comes as the homeless population has increased by 4,400 since January to more than 56,000.
DHS spokesman Chris Miller said just five families have slept overnight at the intake center.
Bernard Gassaway, the principal of Boys and Girls High School in
Bedford-Stuyvesant, offered Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Education Department
one of its sternest public rebukes yet.
and Girls, which has existed in some form since 1878 and is
Bedford-Stuyvesant’s main high school, has a long list of distinguished
alumni, including Shirley Chisholm, Norman Mailer and Aaron Copland. But
in recent years, its reputation has become checkered.
2005, a class-action lawsuit against the city alleged that some
students at Boys and Girls were essentially warehoused in an auditorium
for large portions of the day, segregated from the rest of the students
and not given enough opportunity to earn the credits needed to graduate.
The suit was settled in 2008; the city did not admit any wrongdoing.
Andrew Cuomo and his running mate, Kathy Hochul. Photo: AP
Gov. Cuomo’s new running mate for lieutenant governor, pro-gun
and anti-illegal immigrant former Congresswoman Kathy Hochul, of
Buffalo, is “99 percent certain’’ to be challenged in the Democratic
primary by a prominent anti-Cuomo “progressive’’ with millions to spend,
The Post has learned.
Cuomo critic Bill Samuels, son of New York City OTB founder Howard
Samuels — who ran for governor in 1974, losing the Democratic primary to
Hugh Carey — told associates over the weekend that he’s furious that
Cuomo selected Hochul, a bank lobbyist, whom he described as “out of
step with the progressive reforms this state needs,’’ one source told
Samuels, 71, who told an associate that he’s “99 percent certain to
run” against Hochul in the September primary, has already begun planning
a campaign built around appeals to Mayor de Blasio’s core supporters:
labor unions, left-of-center activists and African-American and Hispanic
voters, the source said.
Asked by The Post if he was preparing to run against Hochul, Samuels —
who has raised millions of dollars for state Senate Democrats and
created a stir in March when he said Cuomo, 56, should run for
re-election as a Republican because he’s helped re-elect Senate
Republicans — responded, “I’m giving extremely serious thought to it.’’
Samuels told associates that he’ll make a final decision within a
week, when the petitioning process for the primaries will be under way.
Bill Samuels (pictured) is furious that Cuomo chose Hochul as his new running mate for lieutenant governor. Photo: AP Photo
A well-financed Samuels challenge to Hochul, a virtual unknown in
heavily Democratic New York City who ran for Congress with the backing
of the National Rifle Association, could upend Cuomo’s re-election
strategy by dividing state Democrats, exacerbating racial tensions and
forcing the governor to spend his campaign funds on Hochul’s behalf.
Bronx state Sen. Ruben Diaz, a socially conservative Democrat whose
son, Ruben Jr., is Bronx borough president, publicly ripped Hochul last
week for her high-profile opposition as Erie County clerk to then-Gov.
Eliot Spitzer’s plan in 2007 to grant driver’s licenses to illegal
“You should know that Kathleen Hochul . . . is a well-known
professional advocate against immigrants. Does anyone believe that she
will support the DREAM Act that we in New York State’s Democratic
community are fighting for?’’ Diaz asked.
“Our community has been slapped by Governor Cuomo twice: first, that
no minority has been selected to serve with him at the top of the
ticket; and second, that a person who adamantly opposes immigration
rights was selected to serve in that slot,’’ Diaz continued.
Two Democratic strategists contacted by The Post said a serious race
by Samuels against Hochul could be successful because of the widely
chronicled unhappiness with Cuomo by left-of-center unions and party
Samuels is not only a threat to Hochul — his candidacy could
seriously threaten Cuomo’s hopes of winning a landslide victory against
GOP challenger Rob Astorino in November.
That’s because the governor is counting on votes cast for the
Democrats’ Cuomo/Hochul ticket being bolstered by votes for the same
ticket that was approved last week by the Independence Party and
expected to be approved this week by the Working Families Party.
However, if Samuels is able to defeat Hochul in the Democratic primary, the opposite would be the case.
A Cuomo/Hochul ticket endorsed by the Independence and Working
Families parties would not count toward the vote total received by the
Cuomo/Samuels ticket running on the Democratic line and would, in fact,
serve to siphon votes away from a victorious Cuomo’s total.
Rachel Noerdlinger is in hot water again, this time for
not disclosing a tax lien to the city. Photo: AP
Filling out government forms is not her forte.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s embattled aide Rachel Noerdlinger left personal information off yet another government form, The Post has learned.
Noerdlinger failed to list her remaining debt from a 2011 IRS tax
lien of $28,190 on a public financial disclosure form that the Conflicts
of Interest Board requires all top city officials to file each year.
It’s the latest instance of first lady Chirlane McCray’s chief of staff withholding sensitive information.
Last week, the Department of Investigation found that Noerdlinger,
who earns $170,000 a year, failed to disclose in her government
background paperwork that she lived in Edgewater, NJ, with her convicted-killer ex-con beau, Hassan McFarlan.
The DOI form is not open to public scrutiny, but the COIB form is.
Its purpose, in fact, is to let the public and the press review the
finances of high-ranking city officials and managers for potential
On Noerdlinger’s 2013 COIB form, she failed to mention a lien the IRS
placed on her assets for unpaid taxes dating back to 2007 in the “List
of Money You Owe” section.
Noerdlinger, an ex-aide to the Rev. Al Sharpton and an associate of
scandalized lawyer Sanford Rubenstein, has since entered into a payment
plan to settle up, according to her attorney.
After The Post inquired about the omission, mayoral aides said she is
amending the form. The COIB form also has a private section, and the
mayoral aides said Noerdlinger answered “Yes” when asked about
outstanding tax liens but inadvertently failed to provide that
information in the public portion.
reported her outstanding tax liens on her COIB financial disclosure
report … it is not uncommon for filers to update their financial
disclosure forms, especially first-time filers.’ - Marti Adams, mayoral spokesman
The mayor’s office insisted the omission wasn’t a big deal.
“Rachel reported her outstanding tax liens on her COIB financial
disclosure report,” said mayoral spokesperson Marti Adams. “She is in
the process of including additional information, as it is not uncommon
for filers to update their financial disclosure forms, especially
Meanwhile, the DOI rejected a Freedom of Information Law request
filed by The Post for its findings on Noerdlinger’s background-check
flub — claiming “disclosure would warrant an unwarranted invasion of
The DOI has traditionally released its findings after cases are closed and the targets of investigations face penalties.
Noerdlinger got a mild slap on the wrist — a notice in her personnel
file — for not listing her boyfriend on the background check.
DOI concluded Noerdlinger had not provided McFarlan’s name when
specifically asked to identify whom she lives with — but concluded the
omission wasn’t an attempt to deceive.
The mayor extended that free pass by declaring the “case closed” when questioned about it this week.
Noerdlinger didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Some countries, including the United States and Britain, are growing
modestly, for now. But even these economies are not enjoying the kind of
robust recovery that creates millions of jobs for the unemployed. And
growth in the United States and Britain could slow down, too, if a lot of their major trading partners in Europe and Asia fall into a recession.
the 2012 campaign cycle, news articles began appearing in local papers
reporting that it was sometimes Democratic groups who were making the
most of the post-Citizens United landscape. The Center for Public
Integrity looked at campaigns in 38 states in 2012. Democratic-leaning
groups outspent Republicans by more than $8 million.
year, the same sorts of articles are appearing. A Politico analysis in
September found that the 15 top Democratic-aligned committees outraised
the 15 top Republican ones by $164 million. Based on data from the
Center for Responsive Politics, Democrats have more money than
Republicans in most of the tightest Senate races: Colorado, Alaska,
Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, North Carolina, New
Hampshire and Virginia.
Faced with embarrassing questions about his wife’s top aide and other
issues he finds annoying, Mayor Bill de Blasio has been replacing his
promised ask-me-anything attitude with “case closed” peevishne
t happened so fast that, at first, I didn’t even take it in.
Two Saturdays ago, a friend and I were heading into the Phillips Museum in Washington, D.C., to catch a show of neo-Impressionist art
when we ran into someone he knew, heading out. I was introduced and
the usual chitchat ensued. At some point, she asked me, “Do you live
“No,” I replied, “I’m from New York.”
She smiled, responded that it, too, was a fine place
to live, then hesitated just a beat before adding in a quiet, friendly
voice: “Given ISIS, maybe neither city is such a great place to be right
now.” Goodbyes were promptly said and we entered the museum.
All of this passed so quickly that I didn’t begin
rolling her comment around in my head until we were looking at the
sublime pointillist paintings of Georges Seurat and his associates. Only
then did I think: ISIS, a danger in New York? ISIS, a danger in
Washington? And I had the urge to bolt down the stairs, catch up to
her, and say: whatever you do, don’t step off the curb. That’s where danger lies in American life. ISIS, not so much.
The Terrorists Have Our Number
I have no idea what provoked her comment. Maybe she was thinking about a story that had broken
just two days earlier, topping the primetime TV news and hitting the
front pages of newspapers. On a visit to the Big Apple, the new Iraqi
prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, claimed
that his intelligence services had uncovered a plot by militants of the
Islamic State (IS, aka ISIS or ISIL), the extremists of the new
caliphate that had gobbled up part of his country, against the subway
systems of Paris, New York, and possibly other U.S. cities.
I had watched Brian Williams report that story
on NBC in the usual breathless fashion, along with denials from
American intelligence that there was any evidence of such a plot. I had
noted as well that police patrols on my hometown’s subways were
nonetheless quickly reinforced, with extra contingents of bomb-sniffing dogs
and surveillance teams. Within a day, the leading officials of my
state, Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio,
were denying that they had any information on such a plot, but also
taking very public rides on the city’s subways to “reassure” us all.
The threat didn’t exist, but was also well in hand! I have to admit
that, to me, it all seemed almost comic.
In the meantime, the background noise of the last 13
years played on. Inside the American Terrordome, the chorus of
hysteria-purveyors, Republican and Democrat alike, nattered on, as had
been true for weeks, about the "direct," not to say apocalyptic, threat
the Islamic State and its caliph posed to the American way of life.
These included Senator Lindsey Graham (“This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed here at home"); Majority Leader John Boehner, who insisted
that we should consider putting American boots on Iraqi and perhaps
even Syrian ground soon, since “they intend to kill us”; Senator Dianne
Feinstein, who swore that “the threat ISIS poses cannot be overstated”; Senator Bill Nelson, who commented
that “it ought to be pretty clear when they... say they’re going to fly
the black flag of ISIS over the White House that ISIS is a clear and
present danger.” And a chorus of officials, named and anonymous, warning
that the terror danger to the country was “imminent,” while the usual set of pundits chirped away about the potential destruction of our way of life.
The media, of course, continued to report it all with a kind of eyeball-gluing glee. The result by the time I met that woman: 71% of Americans believed ISIS had nothing short of sleeper cells in the U.S. (shades of “Homeland”!) and at least the same percentage,
if not more (depending on which poll you read), were ready to back a
full-scale bombing campaign, promptly launched by the Obama
administration, against the group.
If, however, you took a step out of the overwrought
American universe of terror threats for 30 seconds, it couldn’t have
been clearer that everyone in the grim netherworld of the Middle East
now seemed to have our number. The beheading videos of the Islamic
State had clearly been meant to cause hysteria on the cheap in this country -- and they worked. Those first two videos somehow committed us to a war now predicted to last for years, and a never-ending bombing campaign that we know perfectly well will establish
the global credentials of the Islamic State and its mad caliph in
jihadist circles. (In fact, the evidence is already in. From North Africa to Afghanistan to Pakistan, the group is suddenly a brand name, its black flag something to hoist, and its style of beheading something to be imitated.)
Now, the Shia opponent of those jihadists had taken
the hint and, not surprisingly, the very same path. The Iraqi prime
minister, whose intelligence services had only recently been blindsided
when IS militants captured huge swaths of his country, claimed to have
evidence that was guaranteed to set loose the professional
terror-mongers and hysterics in this country and so, assumedly, increase
much-needed support for his government.
Or perhaps that woman I met had instead been struck by
the news, only days earlier, that in launching a bombing campaign
against the militants of the Islamic state in Syria, the Obama
administration had also hit another outfit. It was called -- so we were
told -- the Khorasan Group and, unlike the IS, it had the United States
of America, the “homeland,” right in its bombsites. As became clear
after the initial wave of hysteria swiftly passed, no one in our world
or theirs had previously heard of such a group, which may have been a
set of individuals in a larger al-Qaeda-linked Syrian rebel outfit
called the al-Nusra Front who had no such name for themselves.
Whatever the case, it seemed that the Obama
administration and connected intelligence outfits had our number, too.
Although Khorasan was reputedly plotting against airplanes, not subways,
transportation systems were evidently our jugular when it came to such
outfits. This group, we were told in leaks by unnamed American
intelligence officials, was made up of a “cadre” or “collection”
of hardened, “senior” al-Qaeda types from Afghanistan, who had settled
in Syria not to overthrow Bashir al-Assad or create a caliphate, but to
prepare the way for devastating attacks on the American “homeland” and
possibly Western Europe as well. It was, as Director of National
Intelligence James Clapper put it, “potentially yet another threat to
the homeland,” and it was “imminent.” As U.S. Central Command insisted
in announcing the bombing strikes against the group, it involved “imminent attack planning.”
The Khorasan Group was, said Lieutenant General William Mayville,
director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “in the final
stages of plans to execute major attacks against Western targets and
potentially the U.S. homeland."
Had we not hit them hard, they would be -- so American
intelligence officials assured us -- on the verge (or at least the
verge of the verge) of developing bombs so advanced that, using
toothpaste tubes, rigged electronic devices, or possibly clothes soaked
in explosives, their agents would be able to pass through airport
security undetected and knock plane after plane out of the sky.
Civilization was in peril, which meant that blazing headlines about the
plot and the group mixed with shots of actual bombs (ours) exploding in
Syria, and a sense of crisis that was, as ever, taken up with gusto by
As Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain pointed out in a devastating report at the Intercept,
the whole Khorasan story began to disassemble within a day or so of the
initial announcement and the bombing strikes in Syria. It took next to
no time at all for that “imminent threat” to morph into “aspirational”
planning; for reporters to check with their Syrian sources and find
that no one knew a thing about the so-called Khorasan Group; for the
taking down of those airliners to gain an ever more distant (and
possibly even fictional) look. As ever, however, pointing out the real
dangers in our world was left largely to non-mainstream sources, while the threat to our way of life, to Washington and New York, lingered in the air.
Terror-Phobia and a Demobilized Citizenry
This sort of soundtrack has been the background noise
in our lives for the last 13 years. And like familiar music (or Muzak),
it evokes a response that’s almost beyond our control. The terror
about terror, sometimes quite professionally managed (as in the case of
the Khorasan Group), has flooded through our world year after year after
year. ISIS is just a recent example of the way the interests of a
group of extremists in making themselves larger than life and the
interests of groups in this country in building up or maintaining their
institutional power have meshed. Terror as the preeminent danger to our
American world now courses through the societal bloodstream, helped
along by regular infusions of fear from the usual panic-meisters.
On that set of emotions, an unparalleled global security state has been built (and funded), as well as a military that, in terms of its destructive power, leaves the rest of the world
in the dust. In the process, and in the name of protecting Americans
from the supposedly near-apocalyptic dangers posed by the original
al-Qaeda and its various wannabe successors, a new version of America
has come into being -- one increasingly willing to bulldoze the most basic liberties, invested in the spread of blanket secrecy over government actions, committed to wholesale surveillance, and dedicated to a full-scale loss of privacy.
You can repeat until you're blue in the face that the dangers of scattered terror outfits are vanishingly small in the “homeland,” when compared to
almost any other danger in American life. It won’t matter, not once
the terror-mongers go to work. So, in a sense, that woman was right.
For all intents and purposes, without ever leaving Iraq and Syria, ISIS is in Washington -- and New York, and Topeka, and El Paso (or, as local fear-mongers in Texas suggest,
ready to cross the Rio Grande at any moment), and Salt Lake City, and
Sacramento. ISIS has, by now, wormed its way inside our heads. So
perhaps she was right as well to suggest that Washington and New York
(not to speak of wherever you happen to live) are not great places to be
Let’s be honest. Post-9/11, when it comes to our own
safety (and so where our tax dollars go), we’ve become as mad as loons.
Worse yet, the panic, fear, and hysteria over the dangers of terrorism
may be the only thing left that ties us as a citizenry to a world in
which so many acts of a destructive nature are being carried out in our
The history of the demobilization of the American
people as a true force in their own country’s actions abroad could be
said to have begun in 1973, when a draft army was officially put into
the history books. In the years before that, in Vietnam and at home,
the evidence of how such an army could vote with its feet
and through its activism had been too much for the top brass, and so
the citizen army, that creation of the French Revolution, was ended with a stroke of the presidential pen. The next time around, the ranks were to be filled with “volunteers,” thanks in part to millions of dollars sunk into Mad Men-style advertising.
In the meantime, those in charge wanted to make sure
that the citizenry was thoroughly demobilized and sent home. In the
wake of 9/11, this desire was expressed particularly vividly when
President George W. Bush urged
Americans to show their patriotism (and restore the fortunes of the
airlines) by visiting Disney World, vacationing, and going about their
business, while his administration took care of al-Qaeda (and of course,
invaded Afghanistan and Iraq).
In the ensuing years, propaganda
for and an insistence that we “support,” “thank,” and adulate our
“warriors” (in ways that would have been inconceivable with a citizen’s
army) became the order of the day. At the same time, that force morphed
into an ever more “professional,” “expeditionary” and “foreign” (as in Foreign Legion-style)
outfit. When it came to the U.S. military, adulation was the only
relationship that all but a tiny percentage of Americans were to be
allowed. For those in the ever-expanding U.S.
terror was the gift that just kept giving,
the excuse for any institution-building action and career enhancement,
no matter how it might contravene previous American traditions.
In this context, perhaps we should think of the
puffing up of an ugly but limited reality into an all-encompassing,
eternally “imminent” threat to our way of life as the final chapter in
the demobilization of the American people. Terror-phobia, after all,
leaves you feeling helpless and in need of protection. The only
reasonable response to it is support for whatever actions your
government takes to keep you "safe."
Amid the waves of fear and continual headlines about
terror plots, we, the people, have now largely been relegated to the
role of so many frightened spectators when it comes to our government
and its actions. Welcome to the Terrordome.