Monday, December 28, 2009

Waiting for the New Year Baby

It never ceases to amaze me how this time of year when we are celebrating love and family and blessings that the first thing most people are anxious to determine is how much new stuff they can get to replace the old. New clothes or electronics or jewelry or even friends and employment. Often I'm at a loss when thinking about what to do with all of the old. Old toys. Old furniture. Old books. Even old boyfriends.

When we discard or replace all that is old in our lives we cannot discard some old relationships. Be they frayed or strained or tortuous or just plain unpleasant sometimes one cannot bring a new person in to replace an old. The old lingers like Lindberger and the faint scent of baggage and war wounds serve as a reminder that ex husbands and even ex in laws, if children are involved, never get tossed. They get compartmentalized in a more managable form but never actually leave. Take David Goldman and his son Sean. Is the Brazilian grandma, stepdad or half sister ever going to be replaced? Or will they be put into discrete blocks of time where contact is still necessary but limited?

Waiting for everything anew might be something we look forward to come New Year's eve. But some things and people will forever be old and familiar despite time.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

An Angel for the Holidays

Recently a news report came out that New York came in dead last among all states on a "happiness" measure for its residents. Granted the depressed economy and crippling unemployment rate gives folks much less to be happy about this holiday season.

Which made me think about the purpose of Chanuka or Christmas or Kwanza or Ramadan or whatever year end celebration people engage in. The purpose is not to get up at 3am to line up in the dark of night while shivering in jammies waiting to get the limited supply of cheap electronics on sale. Nor is it to stuff one's cheeks silly at office parties or social gathering. Nor should it be about how much to buy or how many lights can be wrapped around a freshly chopped or synthetic tree.

Rather it should be a time to reflect upon how much was gained, lost or squandered during the year past. Friendships gained. Opportunities lost. Good will squandered. We all have had our share of one, if not all of the above. If we focus too much upon one at the expense of the others we lose sight on a true perspective. One single act of despair shouldn't overweigh a year's worth of kindness. Nor should a poor lapse in judgment destroy a lifetime of good deeds.

I chose to evaluate the relative progress of my personal year through the lens of an unexpected act of generousity. Presents from those we expect gifts from are welcome but hardly remarkable. We expect relatives to give to us as we give to them. Its the unexpected kindness that is the hallmark to end a tumultuous year. Today an Angel visited me at work and bestowed unto me a gift of velvet red cheer wrapped in a bow of peppermint candy. Unexpected, certainly a delight and to me a sign that despite the ups and downs of a challenging year, I have much to be thankful for this memorable Christmas.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

He's Still Blind and Cant See Me

I always thought it an amusing concept that prospective adoptive pet owners are screened, vetted and investigated within an inch of their lives before granted permission to bring home Fluffy or Spot. Yet the same rigorous standards go virtually out the door when someone signs up to receive a seeing eye dog. These service animals, who spend the remainder of their lives working for their owner, often never have the chance to have their plight and suffering documented partly because they're no longer viewed as pets and partly because their owners lack the capacity to see the depth of mistreatment.
Take for instance the gorgeous black Lab I see frequently on the bus leading his visually impaired owner about. He is yanked, shoved, batted about the face and have his paws cruelly stomped by a can whenever his owner moves about his bus seat and readjusts his weight or belongings. During the short twenty minute ride this snow battered day I saw the poor creature wince but not moan twice as the cane struck his tender nose and the environmentally correct bag of groceries rested on top of hid head. His collar got pulled half a dozen times as owner tried to shove the dog deeper into the well under the seat. Each time a straw paw stuck out it was swept back callously by the sole of a dirty sneaker.

I wonder- would the animal police consider this the abuse of a pet or what a service animal should learn to tolerate? After all, he is fundamentally a sweet Lab meant to be cherished and loved.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Overreaction Kills Santa

The US Postal service announced new safety measures for its Operation Santa program so comprehensive that only 35 stations have decided to participate this year.

Upon receiving a letter from a child the service will shred the envelope, photocopy the letter, redact personal info and then put it out for people to select to fulfill the child's Holiday wish.Admirable and heroic that participating stations are taking precautions to shield children from sexual predators.

Only problem with the procedures is that secular "Santa" won't be able to find the child and give him/her the present. You see all personal info will be redacted. That means address, contact info, and anything likely to identify the child. And since they've shredded the envelope that presumably contains a return address, there goes that info.

In essence, overreaction to the potential breadth of sexual predators has killed Santa for thousands of children who need their wishes realized.

I'm not downplaying the dangers of sexual predators getting a child's personal information but what about the regular person who just wants to do a good deed? Overreaction may have killed Santa but draconian screening measures have killed the Good Samaritan. To get to read and fulfill a child's wish, one needs to wait on line, show 2 proofs of ID and only then will access to letters be granted. I can only imagine how anxious and excited the average New Yorker is at the prospect of waiting on a post office line to fork over ID before being allowed to do nice for a child.


Maybe this year instead of encouraging children to commit pencil to paper and write Santa they can just send him an email

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The truth you didnt like

As children we are taught about the legend of George Washington and the cherry tree. Young George had taken an ax to it and when confronted with the evidence of his actions told his father, "I cannot tell a lie" and professed his guilt.

Yet he and other Founding Fathers thought it prudent to add amendments to the Constitution to give folks the privilege against self incrimination. Faced with daunting evidence of culpability you have a right to keep your mouth shut. George didn't see the need to do this but chose to preserve the option for others. Truth was for others to judge and not for the accused to confess. Telling the truth might make you feel better but certainly is unlikely to set you free.

Is it any wonder then as a society we shun the truth? We expect to be lied to. Children are taught that "little white lies" spare people's feelings; politicians twist and contort the definition of simple words like "is" to escape confessing the obvious and leaders never want to be put in the position of having to disclose the truth if the news is stark.

Which made Governor Paterson's recent confession that the state is broke all the more unexpected. It was like he told the fat lady to stop singing and to go on a diet. We all instinctively knew the state was in poor fiscal shape but nobody wanted to acknowledge it. Like the pink elephant in the room (ok so I'm pushing it with the large analogies) everyone knows he's there but nobody wanted to stare and be rude.

The truth is rude. Its unvarnished and harsh and yes sometimes unpalatable. We have become so sensitive to the idea of sparing feelings that we have spared ourselves the blemishes of honesty. The ugly truth is that our state is on the tip of financial ruin bc we have spent our special interest selves into this current morass. Like the fat lady who's being told to diet, the news is unwelcome and shocking.

Its up to us now to decide what to do with the unflattering truth of our fiscal straits. We can acknowledge the truth and deal with it. Or like the elephant we can pretend the deficit doesn't really exist. Would George have owned up to the current crisis? Or would he have hidden the ax?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Flexible Standards

In life there are always standards to meet, to exceed or to fail at. Employers expect employees to meet minimun work standards. Athletes must exceed general standards in order to achieve excellence. Parents often unflinchingly reject their offspring's paramours as lacking acceptance standards. So how then can we expect all children to meet educational standards under No Child Left Behind when in life, everyone might fail a standard in one way shape or form at some point? Are we really bringing all our kids up to an immutable standard? Or are the standards vulnerable to manipulation?

Case in point- my child attends a middle school that by all visible measures falls short of the standard of excellence set by their elementary school. The current principal is standoffish and lacks warmth, does not engage parents and loathes to divulge simple information like dismissal times for half day sessions. Likewise the teaching staff, while competent, lacks enthusiasm and innovative ideas. The results are apparent by the way the stusents address the teachers, each other and in how they refer to the school and its pedagogy.

Yet if you examine the school's ranking by objective measures of standards, it scores an A. The elementary school, in contrast, earn a B. How, then could two schools receive scores that simply do not truly reflect what they accomplish?

The answer lies in part with flexible standards. Middle schools operate under vastly different criteria than elementary schools. One is concerned with instilling rudimentary skills while the other startsintroducing analytical ones. Concepts are much harder to teach because in part due to their theoretical nature. One can always argue, generally without success, that two plus two will always equal four. Hence a school which may deliver less in spirit and substance, can score so much better than its more vibrant counterpart.

Standards are the bane and the air of human existence. We strive to create them for coherence but render then innnocuous by the way we bend them. Be careful the next time you look at a standard. It may not meaure what you thought it did.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Through These Eyes

For the first time in a long time I decided to change my look and see the world through unembellished eyes. I cracked open my crusty contact lens case, rinsed off the slumbering saucers of gill like vision enhancers and popped them into my eyes. Oh wow what a trip. I say this because I was confronted not only by an instant inability to focus my weary myopic eyes ravaged by age and astigmatism but the sight of my own face. You see prior to this moment of fright I had viewed my countenance through some real cool frames. It seems that nowadays more people chose to wear glasses as an expression of personal style. Hardly a day goes by without me noticing that regular folk and celebrity alike are defining themselves through signature eyewear. Remember Drew Carey? His frames made his career and just as quickly he was threatened with its loss when he tossed the look for Lasik. What would Christian Soriano of Project Runway fame be without his spectacles to complete his style? Lisa Loeb? Sarah Palin?

Why is it that wearing glasses has become more widely acceptable in a society that craves perfection? We have surgery to improve our vision, products to whiten our teeth, bleach our skin and straighten our hair. Yet somehow the banner of imperfect sitting contently across the bridge of our nose is perfectly fine.

I took another good look at myself. There was nothing wrong with my face sans glasses. But there was this feeling that my face was somehow incomplete without its familiar friend who had provided vision and fashion for so long. Without my glasses I felt naked. Slowly I removed the contacts. Perhaps for another occassion. Right now it's best to stick with the familiar. Mascara isn't the only way to light up a face.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Obama and the Specter of Race

It was the race of what could have been.

Pundits and pollsters alike are lamenting all morning on the 5 point margin separating Bill Thompson from Bloomberg's victory. They all wondered what could have happened if the Democrats had embraced him instead of abandoning him.

To this I say that the pernicious and rather ugly specter of racism is alive, well and thriving in politics. Thompson came close because he truly believed despite daunting odds he could have pulled off a Cinderella victory as the guy most New Yorkers would identify with. But he could not have done this without the validation of the most highly visible member of his own race.

When Obama threw his tepid, afterthought support for "that Democrat" running for Mayor in NYC he sealed Thompson's fate. This was after Obama's highly visible rebuke of Paterson. Contrast this with Obama's repeated, high powered support for Corzine. What did Corzine have that Thompson and Paterson did not? All three men were trailing in polls. All three are Democrats. What made Corzine distinct was the 25 million he poured into his own campaign. And the fact that he wasn't African American.

Similarly, look at the results of our local City Council race in the 20 CD. Democrat Yen Chou was running against Republican Peter Koo, a self-made businessman with deep pockets. She rattled off a list of endorsements from the Democrats except the one that could have made a difference in her district, the former Council member and city comptroller elect, John Liu. Like Obama, he had long abandoned his fellow Chinese political hopefuls. He endorsed his chief of staff in the 20 CD and incubent Alan Gerson in the Chinatown race against a very credible Chinese candidate, who ultimately won. In Liu's victory speech he spoke about the glorious colors of the rainbow that reflect the members of ethnicities who supported him. Yet he neglected to mention his own lack of support for those of the same ethnicity who wanted to follow in his footsteps. What made Liu's failure to endorse Yen is all the more telling, as both come out of the Queens Democratic organization.

Obama is the first African American president. Liu is the first Asian American city comptroller. Both have accomplished the incredible. But their lack of support to their brethren who aspire to public office like themselves speaks volumes about the persistence of racism in politics. Had the political establishment shunned both men for the color of their skin they would be where they are today. Both have preached inclusivity. Yet both have gone out of their way not to support credible candidates of the same race and ethnicity. Obama has gotten involved in gubenatorial races, Congressional races and local races. Liu has stumped for candidates as far reaching as those in other states. For either of them to have sat on their hands in races where they could have made a huge difference is regretable and somewhat repugnant. For this they both should be highly ashamed.

With mid term elections approaching it will be interesting to see whether it was wise for Obama and Liu to have assured Republican victories in the 20 CD and the mayoral. Race apparently doesn't matter to those who have already transcended it- as if we should deny that race matters. In a post racial world that is the most frightening acknowledgement of racism I can imagine.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Reverse Political Psychology

So I've been reading today about how Bloomberg has hinged his campaign spending on the fact that he needs to burn 35K a minute to get his message out. I've also read that his lawyers have explained that a "level playing field" is no rationale to curb spending because the Mayor has a First Amendment right to put his money where his mouth is by spreading the word about his run. I'm also reminded that the reason this third term was necessary because we need him to keep the city from falling into ruin.

Most of these argument remind me of the plight of the orphan who kills his parents but cries he is alone. If we agree and give the Mayor credit for what he's accomplished in the last 8 years, the city indeed has not fallen into ruin but the diverse middle class has. We have pulverized and berated and pounded the already sheepish City Council into acquiecence on cuts to libraries and senior centers yet think nothing of no bid contracts to the growing hoard of consultants. We chastized older workers as "uninspired" and "dead wood" yet applaud the acumen of younger workers who have never held real jobs before being annointed consultants. We buy the fact that the city is in considerably better shape despite the record double digit unemployment rate and migration of the middle class out of Gotham. We applaud developers for erecting gleaming skyscrapers yet do little to retain affordable housing stock. We call Obama "poor" despite his six figure salary and retrain unfortunate stockbrokers who are out of jobs.

Fundamentally I wonder how well did the city really fare in the last 8 years. Did cranes fall out of the sky under Rudy's watch? Did firefighters perish because nobody bothered to file evacuation plans for a building destined for demolition? Would Koch or Dinkins have opposed Superfund money for the Gowanus Canal because such a classification would scare off developers? Are we ignoring the realities of today's city in a similar way? If we refuse to acknowledge that everything isn't so grand about our quality of life today are we being honest? Or is it better to insist that it is since anything less means we have compromised our own system of values? Is it better to pretend that today's city is more inclusive? Or do we just tell ourselves that it is?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

What if Forever Had Finality?

Like a typical New Yorker, I have serious hangups when it comes to relationships. Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the idea of forever. When you go to a wedding, there's always that pesky phrase, "forever hold your peace" that's thrown about. Or "as long as you both shall live." Talk about pressure. A lifetime is practically forever. Since I don't personally know of anyone who has died and returned to inform the rest of us if there is an afterlife, I'm going to stay with the premise that a lifetime is as much forever as most of us will ever know.

There are forevers you just can't change. Your biological parents. The genetics that gave you curly hair or green eyes or that big ole booty no amount of cardio can extinguish. There are other forevers that just mean "for the period it lasted." Relationships are a huge temporary fix that may seem like forever, or feel like forever. Ultimately, though, all of us end up in that conflicted grey area where we don't know what we have, don't know what we want, and are afraid to admit we don't know ourselves or others very well.

I am perhaps a great example of the typical conflicted person who wonders whether I can recognize healthy relations. It's an eternal hell to love or be in love with someone you don't know anymore. Because the alternative- that you never knew them in the first place- is more frightening. Maybe forever is a flawed concept and we should stop aiming for that ideal. Cars break down, people die and governments will change or crumble. Why do we expect relationships to withstand the test of time when even our own bodies eventually will fail us? And too our minds? Why should emotion save the day? I question myself often if I knew the person well or as well as I could know any person I'm apt to judge with rose colored glasses. I mean, don't we all judge people we chose to get involved with under different standards? Imperfections we'd never tolerate in regular folks we overlook or ignore in our paramours? Until we can't anymore because our inate sense of judgment finally creeps to the forefront and says, "ARE YOU THAT BLIND OR STUPID? YOU TRIED, IT WON'T CHANGE SO UNLESS YOU'RE HAPPY FEELING THAT THE PRIMARY SOURCE OF VALIDATION IN YOUR LIFE WHO ISN'T A RELATIVE CAN'T FULFILL YOU, IT'S TIME TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!"

Okay that was loud. Hence people break up, divorce, go in separate directions. Some people jsut have shorter tolerance periods. Others are content to be discontended. Maybe you chase that which doesn't exist. Or you convince yourself there's always more to be fufilled. Perhaps you don't know if the terror of self validation is worse than lackluster or haphazard validation from a relationship. Or you multitask relationships like work until you realize that it's become work to maintain your personal life. Work you can walk away, get away, create space, breathe. Can you do so when your personal validator becomes a job?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Waiting to Ingest

As temperate October gives way to mercurial fall the sounds of impending holiday cheer beckons legions of folks to wonder just how much more food will be ingested between now and the New Year, leading to the inevitable affirmations to diet and exercise as soon as the ball has dropped. No one asks themselves "Should eat that?" before January, only "how much can I eat without looking unseemly?" Right before the excesses of Halloween threaten to turn adults into kid-like candy monsters, processed food manufacturers are already tempting our collectively vulnerable will power to "add a Kit Kat to your daily coffee break". Or "have a pumpkin muffin with your latte." The sugary snacking possibilities are endless. Then comes the great American friendship celebration of Thanksgiving, replete with artery-hardening buttery laded whipped mashed potatoes, tooth aching servings of pumpkin pie topped with sweet cream and endless portions of honey ham topped w succulent brown sugar sauce. By the time December and the obligatory holiday parties rolls around most of us are ready to abandon all resolve to go get fitted with a lap band and artery cleaning surgery.

All of these tried and true machinations begs the question- is it ever a real celebration without food? Why is it that conspicuous gastromonic consumption equals a good time? Can we learn to enjoy ourselves and have fun without the need to feed? Or is it inherent to human nature that excess is the only way? I shall be reflecting over this age old question as I help myself to a healthy dose of guilt and sweet potato pie.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

No one sees for the Seeing Eye Dog

Think about the premise- a friendly dog who acts as the eyes for the visually impaired, plowing the road, alerting for danger and serving as lovingly loyal companion. The dog, by action, demonstrates his true worth and value.

But what about the owner? How is he worthy of his canine gift and trusty assistant? One imagines the owner plying the dog with treats and affection and space to bask in his glory of dogdom, to sniff and run and bark and enjoy what comes naturally to him.

Not always the likely outcome for the seeing eye dog. Take, for instance, the dog who takes his owner on the crowded city bus. He is relegated to the floor under the seat, joining the array of dustbunnies, discarded gum wrappers and bent Metrocards. His glossy fur becomes matted w debris and ever so often his soft paw trampled by the clodding feet of impatient riders directed to move to the back. He does not speak nor wimper but his eyes betray the sadness that is his life- to silently service, without compensation nor acknowledgement, a life filled with the thoughts of open fields and endless sunshine, of canine friends and welcoming tails, of fur rubs and belly strokes, someday, somewhere, but not today, nor tomorrow, but someday, as he gently licks his trampled paw one more time to ease the pain he endures.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Grey Lady and Mr Gray

The line between covering the news and being news has always been a fine one. Reporters throughout the ages have gone to great lengths to flex their independence muscle and for their reward ended up on the other side of coverage. Think of Judith Miller, who went to jail rather than give up a source in the Valerie Plame fiasco. Or Jayson Blair, who wrote so eloquently and movingly, but perished under the harsh scrutiny of fact checking and was "outted" as a talented fiction writer masquarading as a daily print journalist. Ditto Stephen Glass. (Ironic that the Grey Lady has nurtured the careers of many a writer whom they ended up covering as news of their actions became daily fodder)

But this time, the Grey Lady must take a backseat to another Gray- Geoff Gray, of NY Magazine. Gray is the irreverant but brilliant contributor to many a politician's decline. He wrote an impressive cover story on Eliot Spitzer and what happens? The Steamroller wimpers out of office. He writes a fantastic piece about Joe Bruno and the result? Mr Gray has been requested to testify in Bruno's upcoming corruption trial. Somewhere, John Liu is burning up in sweat. (No pun intended)

It's always fascinating to see how a reporter reacts from the other side of the inquiry notepad. Will they wilt, fight, whine or treat the experience as a nonchalant exercise in necessity in an inquisitive career? Too soon to tell for Mr Gray but I will be sure to tune in.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Power Dynamics

So I was thinking about the ways in which people accumulate and distribute power. Parents accumulate power from their perceived position as authority figures with the discretion to give or take away privileges. Employers accumulate power with the ability to reward or punish depending upon the context. Friends and social contacts exert power through external means by giving or withholding approval. Of course the manner in which any of the aforementioned groups take power are interchangeable. So the question I have is this- is is possible to have a lasting effect when thwarting power? The child who defies parental authority eventually grows tired of scant privileges and finds way to sullenly acquiesce. The disgruntled employee either leaves, transfers out or is termination from that employer's employment. Friends and social acquaintences come and go with the ebb and flow of the time if there is little reason remaining to continue the association. How, then, dow we ever thwart those who have the power? Or are we limited to successful battles while losing sight of the war?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ethnic Tent and Political Bodies

I was reading a study by an academic named Vamik Volkan. Wolkan wrote about how the ethnic tent comprises a political leader whose primary task is to hold the group together by keeping the tent secure. However when there is shared anxiety, possible from an attack upon the leader, the members become preoccupied with repairing and mending the tears of the larger tent canvas in order to protect the group's identity.

The trauma which springs from the attack essentially becomes the shared trauma of the collective whole. Individual members need not have personally suffered, but the emotional pain can transcend generations.

This brings to mind the Liu "sweat shop" debate. Essentially this was the mobilizing and defining moment of his campaign and career. He harnessed the collective anxiety of his ethnic tent behind him by spinning the attack on his history as a de facto attack on all the members of the tent. Akin to Native Americans who still speak with great emotion about the Trail of Tears, Liu turned the tables on his critics and made himself the "sweat shop" survivor. And by attacking him the press made him a martyr.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Race or Ethnicity

So I've been thinking about the issue of race versus ethnicity and how the discussion is always clouded by presumptions or judgments. For instance when Gov Paterson accused Dominic Carter essentially of behaving like an "Uncle Tom"- there was s brouhaha in the media for weeks. The implication behind the drama was that Paterson tried to drag race into a discussion to mask his dwindling support in the polls.

Next Obama gets involved and tries to "persuade" Paterson not to run. The chatter then surrounded the wisdom of the first African American President telling NY's first black governor what to do. Add on Obama's reluctance to support Thompson's mayoral run against Bloomber and you have a recipe for lots of analysis and chatter.

It seems that "minority" candidates generally expect the groups to which they are a member to "naturally" support their election ambitions but at the same time don't automatically do the same for their political brethren. Take John Liu, for instance. He endorsed Alan Gerson over Margaret Chin and John Choe over Yen Chou. Liu supported people of other ethnicities in both cases and in one chose a person of a different race than himself. And of course in both cases he chose not to support candidates not the same gender as himself. Yet both women and Liu were victorious because the ethnic, racial and gender groups they belong to came out in droves for them, along with other groups of supporters.

The question I pose is this: if elected officials feel no compulsion to support members of their own racial groups who run for higher office why should we the voting public blindly follow candidates who belong to our own respective racial groups? In situations where a member of a particular racial group is represented by a candidate, should that candidate expect a sweep of votes from his racial cohorts? What does it mean when people cross racial lines (or ethnic) lines to endorse similarly qaulified opponents? Are we persuaded or blinded by race? Or does race only matter when its the "tie-breaking" quality under consideration?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

First day of October and the air is crisp and the sun brilliant.

I was reading someone's analysis about the"outsider" status that Jews once had and if the recent primary results for Yassky and Green meant something.

The Supreme Court in a decision from many many years ago, in a case discussing the Japanese internment, spoke about the "discrete and insular" minority. To be described as such, there was a consensus back then that the group would be located geographically in a "discrete" area and the choice of the group to interact almost exclusively with other members of the group made the group "insular." It may be true that there are still communities and neighborhoods in the city where Jews are more densely populated and the members of these communities chose to associate more so with other members of their group than others, it seems to me that the idea that Jews are "outsiders"- whether in politics or academia or any particular industry, has long been passe.

If you think of Jews as those with a common ethnic heritage versus Jews as those with a common religion, different pathways of thoughts emerge. One can convert to Judiasm and need not be from any particular ethnic group. If you are born to a particular ethnic group, however, that identification stays with you, even if you chose to live away from members of the same ethnic group and share values and beliefs that are not common to members of this group.

So my question is, "If Jews are no longer outsiders, does this mean Jews with a common ethnic heritage or Jews with a common religion?" And how does either identification affect how a person exercises their political voice, power and vote?

If Yassky and Green couldn't harness the common heritage of "Jews" -by any perception of the term, to get more than 45 % of the vote in a primary runoff, what does this mean for a "Jewish" candidate in the general election?

More to follow......

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The dwindling power of newspaper endorsements

So I was thinking today about validators in an election.

Everyone who seeks elected office seeks validators. They wanted the elected officials to endorse them. Or famous people. Or local leaders. Bloomberg got a Bollywood actress and people who can't even vote in NY to endorse him to "validate" him as a candidate in those groups for whom the validator has meaning.

Now it used to be that if you were running for office in Manhattan the must get in newspapers was the New York Times. This year the Times, the Daily News and the Post, the three largest dailies, endorsed Cy Vance for DA.

All three also endorsed David Yassky for comptroller and well, he got 45 % of the vote.

Which you could look at several ways.

Either the people in Manhattan read the Times, still find its endorsements meanful and persuasive, and voted for Vance and in the end he got about the same percentage of the vote, 45 %

Or you can view it as the Times, along with the other two papers, having absolutely no meaning for its readers outside of Manhattan.

Or you can view it as a newspaper endorsement only bringing a candidate to about 45% of the total vote.

Or Vance prevailed not because of his newspaper triple crown, but because of the electorate's view that he's Morgenthau's "boy" and annointed successor.

Any way you slice the cake, it's yet another disturbing trend for newspapers. Not only is readership down, its ability to persuade its readers has diminished as well.

It's an interesting phenomenon. Four years ago, the Times endorsement didn't matter for long term incumbents- they won despite losing the endorsement. See Morgenthau and Todd in Connecticut.

Flash forward to 2009 and the Times has a mixed track record of picking winning candidates who were incumbents and even weaker record of picking candidates open races.


Lots of interesting stuff being written about the power of the Working Families Party after two of their endorsed candidates won the run office here in NYC for comptroller and public advocate.

Remains to be seen what these "down ballot" races will bring to the Mayor's race in November. Perhaps a "reverse drag" effect?

Or perhaps the irresistable coalition of Asian, Caucasian and African American trioka means a closer than expected finish for our Republican nominee for Mayor?

Most of us will be staying avidly tuned.