Pro Bono Barrister: Thoughts on Christie, de Blasio, Bloomberg, Huntsman

January 21, 2014 By Charles F. Otey, Esq. Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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‘Spoils’ to the victors hardly a new concept

It’s hard to figure out where the so-called Bridgegate scandal will land, but it’s clear that some television talking heads seem to ignore reality in much  of their criticism of Gov. Christie.

Generally; they are outraged that Gov. Christie parceled out patronage (monies, jobs) largely to those who support him.

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“This requires a full investigation – he can’t inappropriately favor his friends with the state’s largesse” complained one youthful expert. “This is wrong and it is illegal.”

Clearly the commentator had never held a political job, known a politician or regularly read a political column. We’re in an era when anyone who can run a blog for a few years and thinks she/he is an expert because their family or friends boast of their genius!

A brief history lesson is in order. “To the victor goes the spoils,” said President Andrew Jackson. It’s always been that way. If he has an option, why on earth would Gov. Christie aid those who were opposed to him politically?

Jackson’s spoils quote is part of U.S. history. But maybe the late Surrogate Bernie Bloom explained it best when he was asked by a New York Times reporter, “Is it true that you hand out patronage [court assignments] to your friends.”

“Who the hell do you think I’m going to give them to,” he bellowed at the Timesman, “My enemies!!!?”

De Blasio Tenure Could Be A Turning Point     

We all wish new Mayor Bill de Blasio well as he undertakes one of the most difficult jobs in the country. He senses the inequities that exist, especially the swelling poverty and the anti-government aid attitude of most of our wealthy that has frozen millions of Americans in a ice-cold world of neglect and destitution.

What he must keep in mind, however, is the fact that hundreds of thousands of middle-class New Yorkers have also seen their personal fortunes sink to near-poverty levels since the 2008 depression.

This crisis has evicted additional thousands right here in Brooklyn. During the same time, it’s become almost impossible to earn a living as a store owner because even the smallest businesses in an average neighborhood currently pay up to $30,000 a year in taxes. Upward social mobility is fast becoming a thing of the past. There can be no question that our society hasn’t done nearly enough to reduce poverty and starvation or to enable bright young kids get a proper education because her parents are working at minimum-wage jobs.

Inauguration Spirit Dampened By Attacks On Mayor Bloomberg

Yet, his overall message delivered at his inauguration has become problematic for many. The new mayor gave little, and begrudging, praise to outgoing Mayor Mike Bloomberg. More distressing were the speakers who blamed Bloomberg for citywide and statewide poverty.

No one, including de Blasio, credited Bloomberg for his many achievements and service over the past 12 years. Considering Bloomberg took over while the still-aching wounds of 9/11 dominated much of the narrative for years thereafter, it would have been nice if the steady hand he provided went unnoted by any speaker.

De Blasio’s refusal later to soften the harsh atmosphere with some words of correction or kindness in regard to his predecessor surprised, even shocked, many observers. His insistence on promoting the “us against them” theme in the following days was inconsistent with the message of compromise and unity he championed in his campaigns, especially in the Democratic primaries.

Also absent was a sense of concern for our shrinking middle class. There is a sense in some places that middle-class homeowners and business owners might be called upon to pay more than their share of the price to achieve de Blasio’s otherwise admirable mission to correct the ravages of poverty.

Neighborhood store owners are being taxed out of existence.  Homeowners are cast aside as gluttonous opportunists. With union membership dwindling by the day and the ability of the working-class and lower-middle-class New Yorkers to move up in our  society, frustration is growing.

As the elite get richer and the rest of us get poorer, there is no question that we do indeed live in two cities that are divided not by geography but by wealth. Our  99 percent have indeed  been victimized by a small group of profiteers, some of whom are now being brought to justice and being forced to paying the government billions of dollars they bilked from under-informed Americans in search of a home to call their own.

But here’s hoping that Mayor de Blasio doesn’t blame our  middle class for the sins of the One Percent. It’s still time for him to amend the divisive theme of his first day in office and to make clear his concern for the challenged middle class.

Ms. Huntsman Brings Balance To the MSNBC ‘Cycle’

There are many thoughtful and worthwhile online journalists. But television shows, especially the cable networks, prefer the screamers and the bullies and love the beauty queens. The exception is Abby Huntsman, who is the voice of reason on MSNBC’s “Cycle” show, which is largely devoted to politics.

As a result, our mass media are gobbling up these experience-challenged sages from out of the blogosphere, a place largely inhabited by the 30-and-under crowd. They’ll rail at Christie, but all but ignore what is going on Washington, where so many legislators are on the payrolls of corporations or industries they front for.

FCC Commissioner Newton Minnow famously pronounced that television was becoming a “barren wasteland.”  

He made that comment over 40 years ago during the era of Cronkite, Chancellor, Huntley, Brinkley and Murrow. They were reasoned, experienced journalists who who never confused fantasy with fact (see Fox News).

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