We all have things that grate on our nerves. As a blogger, most of mine, but not all, are political irritations. For my last blog before the New Year, I put together a list of things that I just have to let off steam about but they don't merit a full essay. Since this is a New York blog, I try to focus on local concerns. Please send in your pet peeves for the New Year. We need to commiserate and maybe even start to change things. Sometimes I find myself humming the Lord High Executioner's song from Gilbert and Sullivan's Mikado. We need to put together a list of offenders who will not be missed.
Things that really annoy me . . .
Rich people like Bill Gates who think their money makes them experts on everything so they have the right to run the world. I had an uncle who was a plumbing contractor. He bought some old tenements and office buildings in decrepit neighborhoods around Manhattan and then urban renewal in 1960s made his property valuable and him wealthy. But it did not make him an expert on very much, although that did not stop him from telling everyone his opinions about everything. Didn't the bankers and industrialists just ruin the global economy? What gives them the right to ruin the public schools? I'm not impressed with them as philanthropists either. They should pay taxes on all their excess earnings. Let the public make the decision on how the money is used, not them.
New York Senator Charles Schumer's Graduation Speeches. This man is pompous. This man is pretentious. This man is boring. He shows up at high school and college graduation ceremonies across New York State uninvited and grabs the microphone and starts speaking to a captive audience. I have heard him tell the same stories for over twenty years about losing the girl and winning the election. Never has he discussed anything of significance. The United States has been through three wars, the economy is in a state of collapse, and he talks about conflicts with his mother. Maybe once he can apologize for his early, strong, and continued support of Bush's war in Iraq. Maybe he could explain how a senator who has taken millions of dollars in donations from the banking and insurance industries, who likes to schmooze with his banker friends, should be allowed to sit on the Senate Banking Committee that is supposed to be overseeing their operation.
The Health Care Fiasco. I thought the United States was a democracy. I thought we voted overwhelmingly for candidates who would solve the problems of rising health care costs, limited coverage, and large numbers of uninsured. I thought we would rein in the power of the insurance companies. Boy was I naïve. It turns out that we need a sixty percent majority to pass a bill in the United States Senate (How come Bush never did?) and that the most conservative "Democrats," Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman, get to veto anything they don't like. Who are Nelson and Lieberman? Essentially they are paid employees of the private insurance and health care industries. In 2006, Nelson, the former CEO of the Central National Insurance Group, received $800,000 from insurers and health care providers when he ran for re-election. Lieberman received $1.3 million in donations from insurance companies and health care providers.
Gliders, Cowboys, and Cellphone Addicts. There are three groups of drivers that send me up the wall. Gliders see a red light a couple of blocks away and start to coast so they don't "waste" gas or wear out their brakes. No one behind them can figure out what is going on and everyone starts switching lanes and trying to inch forward. Cowboys creep up on you on the highway and tailgate even though you are already ten miles above the speed limit. As soon as they see a small opening they scoot through spooking everyone. Cellphone addicts have to talk while they drive. They use hands-free devises, sometimes, but they are so distracted that they wander across lane lines and sped up and slow down without reason. These three groups are instant accidents.
Al Gore. How can I still dislike Al Gore? He is an environmentalist and he won the Nobel Peace Prize (alas, so did Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Kissinger, Menachem Begin, Yasser Arafat, and Barack "Escalate in Afghanistan" Obama). While running for President Gore had two decisions to make. He chose Joe Lieberman (see above) as his running mate and refused to contest the Florida vote - giving us the Bush presidency. Two good reasons to dislike Al Gore.
Rudolph Giuliani. While I dislike Al Gore, I really dislike Rudy Giuliani. He is a self-aggrandizing publicity hound who makes Michael Bloomberg look good. Personal scandal almost ended his career but he resurrected it on the back of 9/11. Giuliani was no hero. While first responders were rushing to ground zero after the attacks, Rudy evacuated the area and scampered to safer ground uptown. The best thing Giuliani ever did was decide not to run for public office again. Please Rudy, keep your promise.
Things that are irritating . . .
Michael Bloomberg's Free Pass from the New York Times. The New York Times claims to include "All the News that's Fit to Print," but sometimes I think its editorial writers and publisher don't read their own paper. Michael "Money Bags" Bloomberg bought New York City mayoral elections in 2001, 2005, and 2009. He ignored term limits and purchased the support of his opposition with generous donations to their campaigns and favorite charities. He is a one man wrecking machine. He has repeatedly favored large developers over neighborhoods and the public schools may never recover from Bloomberg "reforms." Although the Times was concerned about his difficulty "brooking dissent" (listening to anyone who was not a paid yes-man), they enthusiastically endorsed him for re-election in 2009. How did they miss that his personal fortune jumped from approximately four billion dollars to sixteen billion dollars at the same time that the city was sagging under economic catastrophe?
Supermarket Computerized Cash Registers. They are supposed to know all the prices but rarely do. You have to watch them like a hawk, and when you question a price, the cashier shrugs and says "What can I do?" When I catch the error a manager always gives me my money back -- if I am prepared to wait on another line for twenty-five cents. But what of the thousands of other people that the store cheated? If we steal money we go to jail. When they steal money it is only a mistake.
White Politicians with Contempt for Minority Communities. Borough President Marty Markowitz is the "clown prince" of Brooklyn. Turn him on, wind him up, and he talks about who knows what. He shows up at public functions dressed in costumes. No one knows what the Borough President is supposed to do or how this one got elected. What we do know is that he is smart enough to support development projects with companies like Forest City Ratner that will offer him a nice retainer when he leaves office. David Yassky, a self-identified liberal, ran for Congress in Brooklyn in a neighborhood where the population was nearly eighty percent black and Hispanic. There were four black candidates and he hoped to split the vote so he could secure the Democratic Party nomination. I actually spoke with him about this and he denied that this was his strategy. He claimed he had a lot of support in the black community. On primary day, it turned out he had no support outside the community's white enclaves and he lost. But that did not stop Yassky and his wealthy supporters. They ran him for New York city comptroller against a candidate with strong support in minority communities and he lost again. Don't feel sorry for Yassky. I bet he ends up with a cozy spoke in Bloomberg's city administration or making a lot of money working for one of the developers who bankrolled him.
New York City's 19th Century Fire Department. Fire fighters are brave. They do heroic things. But they should not decide how fire departments are organized. Because the city's fire fighters want to work in small houses, have three-day round the clock shifts, and essentially work without supervision with their buddies, New York City still has a 19th Century fire department. Small mini-fire houses are too small for modern equipment and trucks are trapped on side streets. Fire fighters get paid for sleeping at the firehouses and they all have second full time jobs. The New York City Fire Department is a largely white male fraternity with powerful political connections. It maintains a macho mentality that has successfully kept out minorities and women who seem to do very well as fire fighters in other cities.
True believers who convert and can't keep quiet. For more than two decades Diane Ravitch, former Under Secretary of Education under the first Bush, was a leading right-wing critic of public education. Her attack articles were promoted by the Manhattan Institute and she was constantly quoted in the media. A few years ago Diane changed her mind. Now she is much more sympathetic to the schools. It seems her old buddies were wrong. You would think Diane would apologize for her transgressions and quietly retire. But she can't stop being in the limelight. She just can't keep quiet.
Brooklyn Industries. I am proud to live in Brooklyn, so when a store opened with products promoting my hometown I went to purchase some items as Christmas gifts. It turned out that everything in the store was made in China. The "B" in Brooklyn Industries really stands for Beijing.