In running a fear-mongering article about New York City mayoral front-runner public advocate Bill de Blasio, on behalf (inherently) of the Joe Lhota campaign, the New York Times is showing a pathetic level of desperation. The partners of the Times in this campaign put the Times in pathetic company, with the lower journalistic forms: Fox News, NY Post, Front Page magazine, all right wing outlets that were among the first to pick up on the Times story. And quite revealing other mainstream outlets are taking the same tack as the Times, surprisingly, the usually feel-good liberal Christian Science Monitor. Occupy Wall Street had the solid support of a majority of New Yorkers and Americans, until the media started a propagandistic media stirred up discontent against the protesters. Let's hope that the Times does not succeed in its similar effort to bring down the de Blasio candidacy. This kind of agenda-setting, talking point journalism is straight out of the FoxNews playbook and strongly parallels the modus operandi of FoxNews, as documented by Robert Greenwald in his Outfoxed documentary.
Let us for a minute address how poorly and unprofessionally the Times has been in casting the die for a narrative that de Blasio supported the Sandinistas in war. Carefully note that the details that they have provided:
[He] went to Nicaragua to help distribute food and medicine in the middle of a war between left and right. But he returned with something else entirely: a vision of the possibilities of an unfettered leftist government.(Did they ever actual spell out this vision???)
We need to be clear. The article says that he went there to deliver food and medicine. This was through a Catholic charity organization, the Quixote Center (not the Sandinist government); below the scare headlines the Times concedes that the center did not side with the Sandinistas. No matter, the Times set the precedent, then the more predictably base, conservative outlets have had a field day with the story. Now, the media have allowed Giuliani era retread Lhota to own the news cycle of the campaign for two days running now, with no sign of letting Lhota's main talking point off the screen. Lhota cannot easily openly defend New York's greatest level of income inequality since the 1920s; instead the Times et al assist him in his innuendo campaign against a moderately populist mayoral candidate, uncritically repeating Lhota talking points, without any historical context.
Back to the war against the Sandinista, the Times merely mentions that de Blasio did not align with official Reagan policy. Readers should recall that Reagan, to whom the Times has referred, actively channeled money to the contras, who committed far more human rights abuses in the war than the Sandinist forces ever did. And the Reagan aid to the contras was bundled in a scheme (read up on the Iran-Contra affair, e.g., here and here) that benefited the Iranian regime. Shame on the Times for skipping over this chapter of US-Latin American policy. Instead, the Times implicitly scolds de Blasio for demonstrating compassion for victims of a disgusting and brutal American proxy war in Central America. What is next-- attacking de Blasio for anti-apartheid stances? Alas, the Times' casual gloss over the Contra death squad crimes that would likely prompt de Blasio to follow Quixote center on a visit is merely a contemporary echo of the corporate media's service of profoundly disturbing American proxy war policies abroad. See this video of an interview with researcher and activist Noam Chomsky from 1988.
Let's look at what the problems were with the Reagan clients, the Contras, the military opponents of the Sandinista regime, as reported here and here, the following excerpt from the former:
Typical among them [the International Human Rights Law Group report revelations] was an Oct. 28, 1982, contra attack on the rural area of El Jicaro in northern Nicaragua. In an affidavit, Maria Bustillo, 57, testified that five armed men dressed in the FDN's blue uniforms burst into her house and dragged away her husband Ricardo, a Roman Catholic activist, and five of their children. The next morning she found the mutilated bodies of the children. Her husband's body was found later.And these details of the contras' war in Nicaragua, which the Times glossed over, from wikipedia, more graphic accounts here and here
Americas Watch – which subsequently became part of Human Rights Watch – accused the Contras of:Images of the war crimes are difficult to fight in the Internet, but watch this video reminder of Reagan's Contra war, which took 30,000 lives in Nicaragua, "Reagan Was the Butcher of My People:" Fr. Miguel D’Escoto Speaks From Nicaragua from Democracy Now, 2004:
* targeting health care clinics and health care workers for assassination
* kidnapping civilians
* torturing civilians
* executing civilians, including children, who were captured in combat
* raping women
* indiscriminately attacking civilians and civilian houses
* seizing civilian property
* burning civilian houses in captured towns.
Human Rights Watch released a report on the situation in 1989, which stated: "[The] contras were major and systematic violators of the most basic standards of the laws of armed conflict, including by launching indiscriminate attacks on civilians, selectively murdering non-combatants, and mistreating prisoners."
Similarly, the Catholic Institute for International Relations (CIIR, now known as "Progressio"), a human rights organization which identifies itself with liberation theology, had summarized Contra operating procedures in their 1987 human rights report: "The record of the contras in the field, as opposed to their official professions of democratic faith, is one of consistent and bloody abuse of human rights, of murder, torture, mutilation, rape, arson, destruction and kidnapping." Earlier, in December 1984, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs had issued a report condemning the Contras and the United States government as being among the worst human rights violators in Latin America: "The CIA directed forces are among the worst human rights violators in Latin America, responsible for systematic brutality against a civilian population. For its critical role in facilitating the Contra violence, the [United States] Administration must share responsibility as a hemispheric violator of human rights. The Contras have killed, tortured, raped, mutilated and abducted hundreds of civilians they suspect of sympathizing with the Sandinistas. Victims have included peasants, teachers, doctors and agricultural workers."
So de Blasio was against this? Surely, millions of New Yorkers --perhaps not Times writers, carrying the water for Lhota's smear campaign in defense of the one percent-- would be sickened by the contras' conduct, had they learned or recalled these details
Why could this be happening, and now? We have been told elsewhere that de Blasio's leftish youth has been previously known, so why is it coming out now?
Simply put, the powers behind the corporate media are jittery that their ally in the City Hall, Michael Bloomberg, is leaving, and their mini-Me, Christine Quinn, lost the Democratic primary. Finally, the definition of milquetoast, Bill Thompson, clearly polled behind de Blasio in the double digits. If you can't win at the ballot box, then win through the scare politics of political hysteria.
Why is the Times taking this tone? Actually, a politician with at one time nominally similar inclinations served as mayor before Giuliani. But the Times did not get hysterical and start fanning the flames, Bircher style, with Dinkins. Why not? By the time he ran for the mayoralty he clearly was not pursuing any kind of economic populism. But de Blasio is clearly pursuing something of an economic populist program, as with his millionaire's tax, coupled with his advocacy for a full day, quality pre-school program. And maybe the Times and lower quality news outlets would have shaken the hysteria tree had Ruth Messinger (a member of the same organization as Dinkins) polled far better than Giuliani when she was the 1997 Democratic mayoral nominee.
Conditions in New York City warrant such change to address economic disparity. Consider that recent census figures reinforce the understanding that New York City has a huge income disparity, perhaps one of the worst in the United States. (See "Poverty Rate Is Up in New York City, and Income Gap Is Wide, Census Data Show" in the New York Times, just a few days ago. It also indicated that 54% of renters spend 30% or more of their income on rent. Yet, de Blasio's acceptance of donations from landlords [although a relatively low 8.14 percent of his donations] and the endorsement of his candidacy by president Barack Obama --the architect of the destruction of the American teaching profession by his dogged promotion of his Race to the Top program-- is disconcerting.)
The news outlets have mentioned that de Blasio visited Nicaragua in the 1980s. It would be instructive and most relevant to revisit why there was a popular revolt that brought in Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas. The country had a heavily lop-sided distribution of land, largely being held by the ruling Somoza family, with the great mass of the population living in poverty, and that the Ortega regime redistributed land to the people. (Read here of the kinds of social and economic conditions Nicaragua endured leading up to the 1980s.) Consider how the U.S. and this city are moving in the direction pre-Ortega Nicaragua, with unprecedented economic disparity. Now, also, consider how the Gini coefficient (the index for indicating the difference in income inequality between rich and poor) for the U.S. has moved to a level of income disparity comparable to Latin America's more unequal countries: the U.S. now has a Gini coefficient comparable to Latin American countries.
So the Times wants to get hysterical over democratic socialists in New York City ...
Consider one of the currently best known pre-Ed Koch mayors, Fiorello LaGuardia. Do we hear negative things said of him today? There is no movement to rename institutions named after him, such as the LaGuardia High School. Yet, prior to his mayoralty (he served five terms in Congress before he was mayor, and once on the Socialist Party line) he advocated policies that were clearly to the left of anything that de Blasio has even hinted of:
From wikipedia, itself drawing from Howard Zinn's LaGuardia in Congress:
In domestic policies he tended toward socialism and wanted to nationalize and regulate; however he was never close to the Socialist Party and never bothered to read Karl Marx.And speaking of Nicaragua:
As a congressman, LaGuardia was a tireless and vocal champion of progressive causes, from allowing more immigration and removing U.S. troops from Nicaragua to speaking up for the rights and livelihoods of striking miners, impoverished farmers, oppressed minorities, and struggling families. A goad to the era's plutocrats and their enablers in government, LaGuardia fought for progressive income taxes, greater government oversight of Wall Street, and national employment insurance for workers idled by the Great Depression.As mayor LaGuardia sought similar policies at the municipal level. And he gained office for most of his terms, fusing with the arguably democratic socialist American Labor Party, a party that advocated policies more clearly aligned with the economic left than today's Working Families Party or Mr. de Blasio's proposals. (For that matter, there is no effort to rename the Meyer London School (P.S. 2 in Chinatown), named after one of the two Congressmen elected solely on the Socialist Party line. Nor is there any effort to rename Norman Thomas High School, named for the Socialist Party's perennial presidential candidate.)
No, it is not the dalliances of de Blasio twenty years ago that concern the city's top elite. The corporate interests behind the Times and the Post are disturbed by de Blasio's modest tax increase proposal to build high quality full day universal pre-K. Their efforts to bring down de Blasio are essential tools to prevent initiatives (or even their discussion) that will modestly echo the legacy that was LaGuardia. Their effort to take down de Blasio distracts us from having a serious discussion on what factors are driving the jobs crisis in the city (discussed below) and what can be done to correct it.
Know your enemies: the Times opposes de Blasio for opposing the Contra death squads? Good for de Blasio; shame on the Times. Like Salon noted ("A totally non-shocking look at mayoral hopeful Bill de Blasio's activist past makes him... more sympathetic"), in some ways the Times smear of de Blasio actually makes him more attractive. Peter Beinart, in the Daily Beast a couple of weeks ago (in "The Rise of the New New Left: Bill de Blasio’s win in New York’s Democratic primary isn’t a local story. It’s part of a vast shift that could upend three decades of American political thinking.") went as far as to say that de Blasio has captured the Occupy era appetite for a more compassionate, leftish economic politics, indeed suggesting that de Blasio has found a potent political nerve so electric that Hilary Clinton needs to watch out. (A little ambitious in its estimation of de Blasio, but ...) So, for the Times, best to abort this harbinger of economic populism before it really succeeds. The Times wants no Fiorello LaGuardias in the 2010s, not in New York, and definitely not in the U.S.
It might be a good, educational campaign move for de Blasio to remind voters of the Contra crimes, the Times' misreporting of the war, and the Times' other similar offenses. I am sure that we can find plenty of press copy of the Times advocating a go slow strategy on fighting apartheid and material calling Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress unreasonable radicals.
* * *
The originally planned post, before the socialist brou-ha-ha:
I link to a Daily News article of great concern to "middle class" New Yorkers. As Democratic mayoral nominee, Bill de Blasio has spoken of two cities, this is very pertinent.
I do not go along with this talk about middle class. First, it is a problematic evasion of addressing the concerns and worth of the working class. Our country has mistaken political habits in many levels, and the supplanting of class and class conflict with this mythical conflation of the working class with the middle class.
And as a discourse, it is a way of saying to the working class, we, the political class are only concerned with the middle class, those above you. Pretty disgusting and contemptable.
So, where others use the term, "middle class," I use "working class" or "living wage."
Plus, the notion of middle class serves to disguise how conventionally conceived middle class positions such as teachers are truly proletarianized by the current political regime, from Obama down to state politics and down to the workplace. There are plenty of so-called "lower" jobs that have much more dignity and autonomy than school teacher these days.
By Ginger Adams Otis, in the Daily News, September 22, 2013 newsstand edition:Some key points in the Daily News article:
Middle class in New York City struggling with fewer options; most job growth in low-paying industries
Many families in the city are struggling as solid, middle-class jobs are disappearing. The city gained 250,000 jobs between 2000 and July 2013, but most of the growth came from low-paying service-industry positions and a few spikes in high-paying professions.
Welcome to the new New York City, where wages are low, rents are high and the prospects of landing a stable, well-paying job are increasingly grim.. . .
The city has weathered the Great Recession better than the rest of the U.S. — even better than most of the state.
But the economy bouncing back today is vastly different from what the city had to offer workers a decade ago — and a host of solid, middle-class jobs are gone, likely never to return, experts say.
Last week, the Census Bureau released data showing that New York City’s poverty rate rose for the third straight year, with nearly 74,000 more people falling below the poverty line in 2011. No other major American city has such income inequality when it comes to rich and poor as New York.
. . .
Several studies show that the superrich have cemented more wealth during the economic downturn, but many formerly upper- and middle-class families are struggling — even in New York City, where many good-paying jobs have disappeared.
Also reported in the New York Times: City’s Jobless Rate Increased to 8.6% in August Despite Hiring Gains and in Crain's: City unemployment rate ticks up to 8.6%
Poor career opportunities, reflecting back to the Clash era, a huge percentage of the people are underemployed or unemployed:
The lyrics of the Clash song [video here] are fitting today:
Career opportunities are the ones that never knock
Every job they offer you is to keep you out the dock
Career opportunities, the ones that never knock
I hate the army an' I hate the RAFDe Blasio responds to Lhota:
I don't wanna go fighting in the tropical heat
I don't wanna go fighting in the tropical heat
Thanks to the intrepid Perdido Street School for posting this succinct excerpt from the intrepid Dana Goldstein, reporting deBlasio's 9/25 clearing the air on his activities in Nicaragua over two decades ago in response to Lhota's obsessive fixation on this issue :
"A lot of us in this country believe that the United States policies towards Central America in the 1980s were wrong," said de Blasio. "By the way, the organization I worked with was founded by Jesuits. As you may know, a lot of the work being done on the ground to help needy people in Central America was done by leaders in the Catholic Church, it was done by nuns. And the sense of injustice that was so obvious in terms of United States policies supporting regimes that were in many cases very unfair to their own people. That’s why I got involved because I thought our policies were wrong."
"The organization I worked with that is talked about in that article literally collected medical supplies, clothing, and sent it to a non-profit in Nicaragua to get it to needy people who were obviously affected by the environment of war surrounding their country that was being supported by the U.S. government," he continued. "So, I think it was the right thing to do. I am very proud of that work. And by the way, over time, the majority of the United States people came to believe that our policies were wrong and that finally is what changed our policies."
Now, onto the question of engaging Lhota: It's time to directly challenge Lhota on his destructive stands on many issues.
Too often, Republicans fight dirty, and Democrats put on a lame response.
De Blasio should fight back against Lhota and indirectly, implicitly, against Lhota's media lapdogs, while I'm not an apologist for Stalinists, de Blasio should take a page from history. Witness this response by John Howard Larson of the Hollywood Ten to J. Parnell Thomas, chair of the House Un-American Activities Committee. He lashes against his opponent and his broad-ranging objectionable stands.
From Jon Lewis, Hollywood v. Hard Core, 2002, p. 31:
What are J. Parnell Thomas and the Un-American interests he serves, afraid of? They want to cut living standards, introduce an economy of poverty, wipe out labor rights, attack Negroes, Jews and other minorities.
Note how he exposes and challenges the stances of his opponent. Note also that the concerns then have parallels today: impossible rent prices, level 6 hurricane attacks on teachers, racist stop and frisk plague the city today. Do we want Lhota, the fourth term of Bloomberg, to continue this onslaught?
So, the question should be posed: What is Mr. Lhota and the anti-New Yorker interests he serves afraid of? Can he dare to explicitly defend the status quo, for all the pain that it has imposed on New Yorkers –record homelessness? --impossible rents that compel New Yorkers to live in Orange or Suffolk Counties?
De Blasio should directly challenge, precisely, on these sorts of issues against Lhota. The latter is the un-New Yorkerly candidate, standing for the policies that degrade the quality of life of the great majority of New Yorkers.
And after all that, if Mr. Lhota wishes to discuss foreign policy, let Mr. Lhota honestly testify on which side he stood in the international battles that consumed American foreign policy before the Iraq Wars.
Just what adjectives did Lhota use to characterize the action of boycotting corporations doing business with racist apartheid South Africa?
(Last two screenshots from new video for Special AKA, Free Nelson Mandela)