Richard Kim is the executive editor of The Nation. He is co-editor, with Betsy Reed, of the New York Times bestselling anthology Going Rouge: Sarah Palin, An American Nightmare. Kim has appeared on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes, Up with Chris Hayes/Steve Kornacki, Melissa Harris-Perry, CNN, NPR, Al Jazeera, Democracy Now! and other media outlets. He has taught at New York University and Skidmore College.
So said one of the signs at the student occupation of the New School's building at 65 Fifth Avenue, which was met with a phalanx of NYC cops, pepper spray and mass arrests at the request of New School prez Bob Kerrey's administration. On the surface, the students seem a scruffy, wild-eyed lot--tats and unruly beards, raised fists and bold slogans. It's easy for the press to dismiss them as merely "angry" and impetuous. Indeed, comments on the NYT city blog positively seethe with contempt.
"These immature adults are nothing more than terrorists..I would Taser them," writes one poster. "I hope the New School will treat these self-absorbed brats the same way NYU did...paying tuition does NOT mean you get a voice in how the university is run," says another. "A protest that appears to lack direction and realistic demands," quibbles a third.
The harshest of these comments come from the right, but there's an echo of such animosity from the world-weary left as well--a tendency to roll eyes and scoff at the students' naivete. Earlier this year, when NYU students occupied the student center, some left-leaning faculty privately complained that they couldn't totally support the students because of their naive strategy and incoherent, sprawling demands. (One of the students' demands, for example, was to set aside a number of scholarships for students from the Occupied Territories.) Many faculty eventually signed a letter protesting the NYU administration's treatment of the demonstrators, but few prominent figures or outside movements came to the student's defense, and the whole incident fizzled in public consciousness as just another rash, incidental campus uprising.
So now that the Iowa Supreme Court has essentially legalized gay marriage, what's next? Some right-wingers (like Iowa Congressman Steve King and William Duncan of the Marriage Law Foundation) are already promising to put a defense of marriage amendment in front of Iowa voters. But they have a long road ahead of them. Iowa law says that a constitutional ammendment must pass TWO consecutive sessions of the state legislature before it appears on a ballot. So the earliest one could see a DOMA on the ballot is 2011, but with Democrats in control of both houses and with both the House speaker and the Senate majority leader on record supporting the decision--there's virtually no chance that such an amendment would even come up for a vote this session.
That leaves the right-wing with a daunting task: defeat enough Democrats to take control of both houses (Dems currently enjoy a 56-44 and 32-18 advantage), replace them with Christian right Republicans who are willing to champion a marriage amendement and peel off enough remaining Democrats (to offset any moderate GOP defectors) to squeeze through four rounds of yes votes. Only then will they even have the chance to put the issue in front of voters--sometime in 2013 or 2014 if all the stars align. Then, they still have to win that campaign in a political climate in which increasing numbers of voters support gay rights. Oh yeah, and the vote will take place after Iowans have witnessed 5-6 years of ho-hum same-sex nuptials of which the most radical, earth-shaking element is that one of the grooms is a 50-year old church organist named Otter Dreaming (one of the named appellees in the Iowa decision). As Ari Berman points out, Iowa isn't exactly the hotbed of culture war antagonism--despite being square one for GOP presidential wrangling--so my strong hunch is that Mr. Dreaming's marriage will endure at least any legal and political challenges.
So with the Prop 8 route effectively closed to them, what will Iowa's right wing do? They might try to mount a campaign to recall the "activist judges" that voted for same-sex marriage (one tactic recently suggested by Christian right activists in California). Except here they run into political and formal roadblocks. First, the decision was unanimous--signed by all seven justices on the court, including two appointed by a Republican governor (Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justice Mark Cady). It will be difficult for the right to smear any one of them in particular. Second, the justices are appointed by the governor, now Democrat Chet Culver, who isn't exactly a fan of gay marriage, but the idea that he'd refuse to reappoint any of these justices is laughable. Third, the Iowa right could try to impeach the justices as payback, but impeachment in Iowa requires a majority of the House and then conviction by 2/3 of the Senate. If the right has the votes to do that, they'd go after a DOMA in the first place.
The growing populist rage (see Eyal's post) at exorbitant corporate bonuses, especially at the $165 million AIG gave mostly to execs in its financial products division, made me think of Imelda Marcos' shoes and the 1986 People Power Revolution in the Philippines. For long years, the Filipino people had endured the brutal dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, who in addition to ordering martial law and broad scale political repression, had plundered the country's wealth, including taking a cut of $28 billion in IMF loans. By the late 70s, in a country where 80 percent of the population subsisted on less than $2 a day, the Marcos family had accumulated over $35 billion in assets.
Tales of their profligacy were well known: the $5 million shopping trips to Rome and Copenhagen, the acquisition of vast patches of Manhattan real estate, the art collection that included works by Botticelli and Michelangelo. Imelda once reportedly dispatched a plane to Australia to pick up tons of white sand to adorn a private beach resort. But nothing quite prepared the Filipino people for what they would discover when, after a heady but peaceful four-day revolution, they stormed Malacanang Palace and sacked Imelda's closet--65 parasols, 15 mink coats, 508 gowns, 888 handbags, 71 pairs of sunglasses and, most legendarily, 1,060 pairs of shoes.
What was so potent about those shoes? What did they symbolize? Gross inequality, corruption, the staggeringly brazen looting of public resources--for sure (all qualities also evident in the AIG bailout). But something else too was represented by that collection of ruby slippers, a kind of insane magic by which Imelda transformed herself into something more than human. She could never wear all those shoes. They were beyond utility or even fashion. They existed only to represent the idea of excess itself, like The Simpson's Montgomery Burns' wardrobe made from the pelts of endangered species. As Time's Lance Morrow wrote at the time:
Any erstwhile liberal New Yorkers thinking of supporting Mike Bloomberg's bid for a third term should read the New York Times carefully. The city hasn't been spared the ravages of the recession. As of December, unemployment stood at 7.4 percent, and experts predict almost 300,000 more jobs will be gone by the summer of 2010. Homeless rates are at record highs; the city's overstretched shelters now take in an average of 36,000 people each night. The city's already beleagured middle-class is in full flight. According to a recent study by the Center for an Urban Future, over 150,000 middle income residents left New York City in 2006, driven away by the highest rent, food, child care and utilities bills in the country. Meanwhile, Manhattan has been thoroughly rezoned--thanks to Rudy Giuliani's quality of life campaign and plush subsidies for developers--as the almost exclusive playground of the rich.
If Mayor Mike gets reelected, it will stay this way--or get worse. As the NYT reported on February 17, Bloomberg is refusing to accept extra food stamp money from Obama's stimulus package:
"The provision overturns a 1996 rule limiting able-bodied adults who have no dependents to three months of food stamps in a three-year period. But the Bloomberg administration said on Tuesday that nothing had changed and that it was not obligated to extend benefits to anyone not enrolled in the Work Experience Program, a workfare program that provides temporary jobs, usually in city agencies."
Our friends at Democracy Now! host a special five-hour Election Night broadcast from 7PM to midnight EST, with results as they come in. The program will include on-the-ground reports from across the country, reactions from across the globe, and in-depth commentary. Amy Goodman, Juan Gonzalez and Jeremy Scahill host; guests include Nation Editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, Melissa Harris Lacewell, Roberto Lovato, John Nichols, Laura Flanders, Robert Scheer, Howard Zinn, Tim Robbins, Michael Moore, Bill Perkins, Vincent Harding, Robert Scheer, Mark Crispin Miller, David Sirota and many more.
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It's a bright, sparkling Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles, and about a thousand people of all hues and ages are flocking to the south lawn of City Hall. The majority of the crowd is Chinese, but there's a sizable group of Latinos and pockets of South Asians, Koreans, Vietnamese and Indonesians. There are only a handful of black people, but they flow with ease through the throng. There are a few conspicuous white guys in suits too, cloistered around the stage where a band plays sing-along tunes. The mood is buoyant, affectionate. There are balloons and banners everywhere; a jolly Chinese mother cuts up a cake; snapshots are taken; cars honk. People gather in family clusters; grandparents play with children--who make up about half the crowd.
It's the happiest, most diverse political event I've ever been to, and it's not for Barack Obama. It's for Proposition 8--the California ballot initiative that would eliminate the right of gays and lesbian to marry, which some 14,000 same-sex couples have exercised since the state Supreme Court ruled in their favor earlier this summer. Here and now at City Hall, where a good share of those same-sex weddings took place, there's not a single Obama or McCain button in the mix. Instead, everyone is wearing red t-shirts that proclaim in both English and Chinese--Protect Marriage. Yes on 8. The toddlers' shirts have an added touch: I Love My Mommy and Daddy.
When I ask people whom they'll vote for, a few say McCain; a few more say Obama. But the vast majority say, "Yes on 8."
In tonight's interview with Charlie Gibson on ABC, Sarah Palin seemed alarmingly ignorant of what the Bush doctrine is, much less capable of defending it. Gibson asks her: "Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?"
After an uncomfortably long moment of silence, which should have viewers conjuring Dan Quayle's potatoe, Palin asks, "In what respect Charlie?"
Gibson responds, "The Bush--well, what do you interpret it to be?"