Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

September 25, 2013

Bill de Blasio and the left

Filed under: Counterpunch,New York,parliamentary cretinism,real estate,zionism — louisproyect @ 3:56 pm
Bill de Blasio: talks left, walks right
Counterpunch September 25, 2013
The Big Apple’s Obama?

De Blasio and the Left

by LOUIS PROYECT

On August 16th I wrote an article for my blog titled “A Dossier on Bill de Blasio”  that mentioned in passing his occasional appearance at NY Nicaragua Solidarity steering committee meetings nearly 25 years ago, something I likened to Obama’s overtures to antiwar activists on Chicago’s South Side—an investment that could pay future dividends. As de Blasio escalated up the electoral ramps in New York, he was careful to retain his liberal coloration even though he became an ally of Dov Hikind, a Brooklyn pol who once belonged to Meir Kahane’s terrorist Jewish Defense League.

When Hikind spearheaded a drive to force Brooklyn College to add a speaker reflecting Zionist policies to a meeting on BDS, de Blasio issued the following statement: “The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is inflammatory, dangerous and utterly out of step with the values of New Yorkers. An economic boycott represents a direct threat to the State of Israel–that’s something we need to oppose in all its forms. No one seriously interested in bringing peace, security and tolerance to the Middle East should be taken in by this event.”

Despite his anti-landlord rhetoric, he also endorsed Bruce Ratner’s downtown Brooklyn megaproject that ran roughshod over the local community’s needs. Originally based on a design by superstar architect Frank Gehry, the project so appalled novelist and Brooklynite Jonathan Lethem that he was inspired to write an open letter to Gehry calling the project “a nightmare for Brooklyn, one that, if built, would cause irreparable damage to the quality of our lives.”

There’s lots of excitement among liberals about the prospects of a de Blasio mayoralty. As might have been expected, the Nation Magazine endorsed him in the primary election as “reimagining the city in boldly progressive, egalitarian terms.” Peter Beinart, a New Republic editor who has gained some attention lately for veering slightly from the Zionist consensus, wrote an article for The Daily Beast titled “The Rise of the New New Left” that was even more breathless than the Nation editorial. Alluding to German sociologist Karl Mannheim’s theory of “political generations”, Beinart sees the de Blasio campaign as “an Occupy-inspired challenge to Clintonism.”

Most of Beinart’s article takes up the question of whether de Blasio’s momentum could unleash broader forces that would derail Hillary Clinton’s bid for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 2016. Perhaps that analysis can only be supported if you ignore the fact that de Blasio was Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager when she ran for senator from New York in 2000. The NY Times reported on October 7, 2000: “At the White House, the president, Mrs. Clinton and her campaign team can often be found in the Map Room or the Family Theater, drilling for her debates, or fine-tuning lines in some speech.” One surmises that Bill de Blasio was there.

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August 16, 2013

A dossier on Bill de Blasio

Filed under: New York,parliamentary cretinism — louisproyect @ 7:02 pm

Bill de Blasio

On August 8th the Nation Magazine endorsed Bill De Blasio as their choice for Mayor in the New York City Democratic Party primaries:

Among this year’s Democratic contenders, several have made thoughtful attempts to address this question. But only one candidate has offered a consistently compelling answer. That candidate is Bill de Blasio, the city’s current public advocate, and his commitment to reimagining the city in boldly progressive, egalitarian terms is the reason we are endorsing him for mayor.

So “boldly progressive” is Bill de Blasio that DP centrist Matt Yglesias urges him to ratchet down his politics:

It’s a nice hope, and de Blasio indeed has some good ideas. But everyone should take a deep breath or two. Economic inequality is a serious issue and municipal governance is a serious matter, but the fact is that the two have relatively little to do with each other.

My guess is that de Blasio’s business about economic inequality is nothing less than the vapor that came out of Obama’s mouth in 2007 when he began campaigning for President. If de Blasio does somehow beat Quinn in the DP primary and then go on to become Mayor, his inspiration will be much more David Dinkins—the man who gave him his start as a professional politician—than Ralph Nader.

I first ran into de Blasio back in 1989 when he started showing up at NY Nicaragua Solidarity meetings about once a month when he was an aide to Dinkins. I always found him amiable and helpful even though it was doubtful that the Mayor’s office could do much about contra funding, our chief concern. Thinking now about how Obama got his start in Chicago politics as a peace candidate, I wonder if de Blasio was plotting out future career moves by solidifying his reputation as a kind of Park Slope poster child.

Like Obama hanging out with CP poet Frank Marshall Davis in Hawaii, de Blasio had plenty of exposure to the organized left growing up as the NY Observer reported in April 2001 in a profile on de Blasio’s campaign for City Council in the 39th District in Brooklyn:

Mr. De Blasio’s interest in politics can be traced back to his childhood in Cambridge, Mass. His mother, a labor organizer, and his father, a war hero turned federal bureaucrat, were investigated by the forces of Senator Joseph McCarthy for ties to the Communist Party, turning them into lifelong civil libertarians. When he was a child, his older brothers regularly attended Vietnam War protests and staged sit-ins at nuclear power plants. Mr. De Blasio’s own activist streak emerged after he moved to New York–he went to New York University as an undergraduate and then got an M.B.A. from Columbia–when he worked with nonprofit organizations opposed to American policy in Central America.

Unfortunately, no amount of cozying up to Frank Marshall Davis or having a dad in the CP will matter much once you train your sights on being a bourgeois politician.

The first sign that de Blasio was traveling down a familiar road was his appearances on State Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s radio show on WMCA on Saturday night when he ran for City Council from the 39th District in 2001, that includes Borough Park, an area that contains many orthodox Jews who vote as a bloc and take their cues from Hikind. Hikind is one of the biggest scumbags in the Democratic Party in N.Y. who leaves a trail of slime going back to his days as a follower of Meir Kahane, an openly fascist leader of the Jewish Defense League.

Hikind went on to endorse de Blasio for Public Advocate in 2009 and now endorses him along with William Thomson in the DP mayor primary. In return, de Blasio has endorsed Hikind’s favorites, including Joe Lazar who ran unsuccessfully for City Council in the 39th District in 2010.

You can tell how important Borough Park votes are for de Blasio based on the stance he took on the BDS controversy at Brooklyn College early this year. In a McCarthyite campaign orchestrated by Dov Hikind, the school came under pressure to include a pro-Israel speaker. This was de Blasio’s statement:

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is inflammatory, dangerous and utterly out of step with the values of New Yorkers. An economic boycott represents a direct threat to the State of Israel–that’s something we need to oppose in all its forms. No one seriously interested in bringing peace, security and tolerance to the Middle East should be taken in by this event.

This is not the first time that de Blasio has positioned himself as a “friend of Israel”. Raillan Brooks, a blogger at the Village Voice, revealed that de Blasio was opposed to Saudi airplanes landing at local airports:

Here’s a little morsel of insanity for your Tuesday morning: New York City Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio is trying to yank Saudi Arabian Airlines’ right to land at U.S. airports over its policy of not allowing Israeli citizens to board, starting with JFK. The director general of Saudi Arabian Airlines, Khalid Al-Melhem, shot back at de Blasio, insisting that it is merely the lack of diplomatic relations between the two countries that is behind the policy. Al-Melhem’s claim that discrimination isn’t behind the ban is bullshit, but so is de Blasio’s outrage.

Brooks then posed the question: “Why is coverage of de Blasio so light on skepticism? Because the man has spent a career building a name for himself as a Defender of the Downtrodden, a bonny shroud for cold political calculus.”

As a touchstone for Brooklyn progressives, nothing tops the Atlantic Yards development foisted on its residents by Bruce Ratner and backed by de Blasio. Largely through bribing local officials with big campaign contributions, Ratner defeated the struggle to preserve the neighborhood’s unique character. Atlantic Yards Report, one of many websites devoted to exposing Ratner’s crooked deals, delivers the goods on de Blasio’s nose in the trough:

In June 2011, Bruce Ratner hosted a birthday party/fund-raiser for de Blasio. In February 2012, the New York Post reported that there were two snags in FCR-related contributions to de Blasio. First, $4,500 of $8,500 total were not listed as coming through an FCR intermediary.

Second, the intermediary was listed as FCR construction chief Bob Sanna, though, as the Post’s David Seifman wrote, “There’s no way Sanna would do any of this without direction from Ratner, who has made no secret of his support for de Blasio.” (That doesn’t prevent Sanna from being the formal conduit, however.)

Sanna as intermediary has now raised a total of $13,600 for de Blasio, or $5,100 since last year’s filing. Most of the individuals have some piece of the Atlantic Yards project as subcontractors.

In my view, the Nation Magazine should not endorse any politician who makes common cause with Bruce Ratner. One supposes that the liberal standard bearer was far more impressed with his maintenance of a New York’s worst landlord list when he was public advocate.

Finally, despite his posturing as a fearless defender of the poor and the oppressed, a man named Alan Lapes had no problem ponying up $15,000 for his mayoral campaign. Who is Alan Lapes, you ask? This article from New York magazine in February should give you some idea:

There is nothing illegal about the fund-raising tactic the New York Times reports has become a favorite of Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s mayoral campaign: You can donate the maximum to a candidate and then donate more to his or her past campaigns to defray debts. It’s a little unusual to do it so much, but the interesting thing is who’s taking advantage of the opportunity to shell out more than the $4,950 maximum for the candidate the Times previously described as “a passionate voice on the homeless and housing issues,” and “a strong supporter of government transparency and changes in campaign finance rules.”

One big donor is Alan Lapes, a landlord who has invested heavily in buildings he rents out as private homeless shelters, one of which the Daily News once described as a “hell hotel.” More recently, Lapes sparked a controversy in Carol Gardens when he wanted to open a shelter in one of his buildings there. As Capital New York’s Andrew Rice wrote in a less-than-flattering profile of Lapes last October, advocates for the poor see him as “part of a wave of profiteers who rousted long-term, low-paying tenants from the kind of SRO buildings that dotted city during the Ed Koch era,” though Lapes sees himself as a businessman who helps the needy.

After the article appeared, de Blasio returned Lapes’s money—a smart move for an ambitious politician anxious to maintain his liberal credentials.

All I can say is that is too fucking bad that the Greens have no plans to run someone for Mayor—or maybe they do. If they are, it is typical that I haven’t heard about it. Back in 1981, Peter Camejo urged the SWP to run a joint campaign for Mayor with other left groups against Koch, who was on both the Democratic and Republic ballots. For his efforts, he was eventually expelled.

With New York’s role as the seedbed for the Occupy movement, it is a damned shame that the left can’t get its act together to run someone against Quinn or de Blasio. With Quinn an open tool of the landlords, and de Blasio their concealed weapon, isn’t an alternative urgently needed? What good is the left if it can’t rise to such occasions?

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