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Book review V: The Ungovernable City by Vincent J. Cannato
This is Cannato’s first book, and you can tell. His history of New York city from 1965 to 1973 is overlong and occasionally ponderous, because Cannato leaves no observer out. Journalists from The Village Voice, The New Republic, and the Daily News are quoted nearly every time Lindsay makes a decision or hits the campaign trail.

It’s a shame the book is so hard to get through, because it rubs up against greatness. The story of Lindsay – a liberal Republican congressman who twice won the mayoralty on a big government platform – is the story of late 60s politics. A handsome, vigorous politician, Lindsay quickly alienated supporters by approaching each issue as though only he could solve it before allowing an aide to cave in. MTA organizers who started a strike on Lindsay’s first day in office were granted a pay raise. Black radicals were given funding and legitimacy in school board disputes. The police department was turned into a political football, subject to “citizen complaint review boards,” and crime skyrocketed as a result. In 1969 Lindsay lost the Republican nomination, to the delight of Richard Nixon and Nelson Rockefeller – reading about that election today is like watching the country swing to the right in real time.

Cannato’s sampling of the contemporary press can be fun. Reporters covered the 1969 election as if conservatism would destroy the city. He quotes one journalist claiming that right-wing Democrat Mario Proccacino would create a New York where “people were shooting each other.” The author notes: “As if that weren’t happening already.” The final chapter recalls Lindsay’s 1993 endorsment of David Dinkins, his defeat, and the way Rudy Giuliani used the policies that so frightened 60s journalists to bring the city back to life.

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The Democrats – who’ll quit first?
I had dinner with David Mark of Campaigns and Elections magazine on Saturday, and we briefly talked about which Democrats will be the first to abandon the presidential campaign. Here are my guesses.

1.) John Edwards
A good candidate on paper, Edwards has failed to gather any traction whatsoever. There’s evidence that he’s even been slipping in the last month, as his one advantage (money) was lost to Howard Dean. State-by-state, Edwards is stiffing:

Iowa – 5 percent (5th overall)

New Hampshire – 2 percent (5th overall, tied with Clark and Graham)

California – 4 percent (5th)

Arizona – 1 percent (7th)

And South Carolina, the state that Edwards should be winning? He’s got 7 percent, making him fourth overall.

In national polls, Edwards has plummetted from 2nd to 7th. And he doesn’t have much room to move up. He’s fighting for the same base as Lieberman, Gephardt, Graham and Kerry. What advantages does he have over those four? Not experience. Not name recognition. Not biography (Kerry’s Vietnam thing is more powerful than “first in my family to go college”). Graham’s ability to carry Florida trumps Edwards’ ability to carry North Carolina.

My prediction: Edwards will drop out by the end of 2003, but will not support another candidate until Graham and Lieberman drop out.

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Screwing Greg Palast
The new tome by Disinformation includes yet another interview with Greg Palast, wherein he claims once again that he “exposed” the media for “fabricating a quote” from Cynthia McKinney. Here’s the column that started it:

According to NPR, “McKinney implied that the [Bush] Administration knew in advance about September 11 and deliberately held back the information.” The New York Times’ Lynette Clemetson revealed her comments went even further over the edge: “Ms. McKinney suggest[ed] that President Bush might have known about the September 11 attacks but did nothing so his supporters could make money in a war.” That’s loony, all right. As an editor of the highly respected Atlanta Journal Constitution told NPR, McKinney’s “practically accused the President of murder!” Problem is, McKinney never said it.

This is queer … none of the media Palast is quoting actually quoted McKinney. They summed up a statement she made in an interview. That’s not a quote. But don’t tell Palast.

In “The Screwing of Cynthia McKinney,” I thought I’d perform a minor but laudatory public service: correcting a cruelly false statement by the New York Times, a fib repeating or repeated by other sources from National Petroleum Radio to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Was the New York Times statement “false?” Well, here’s an interview that Cynthia McKinney gave Dennis Bernstein on KPFA’s “Flashpoints” on March 25, 2002.

… an Administration of questionable legitimacy has been given unprecedented power to fight America’s new war against terrorism.

(snip)

In February 2001, The United States Commission on National Security, including Newt Gingrich, recommended that the National Homeland Security Agency be
established with a hefty price tag. Most people chuckled at the suggestion.

After September 11, we have OK’d the targeting and profiling of certain groups of people in America while not arresting in any way the racial profiling and discrimination that existed prior to September 11. Mass arrests, detention without charge, military tribunals, and infringements on due process rights are now realities in America. Even more alarming are the calls in some circles to allow the use of torture and other brutal methods in pursuit of so-called “justice.” Sadly, US administration of justice will be conducted by an Administration incapable of it. Interestingly, prominent officials explain to us that September 11 happened because we are free. And “they” hate us because we are free.

Moreover, persons close to this Administration are poised to make huge profits off America’s new war. Former President Bush sits on the board of the Carlyle Group. The Los Angeles Times reports that on a single day last month, Carlyle earned $237 million selling shares in United Defense Industries, the Army’s fifth-largest contractor. The stock offering was well timed: Carlyle officials say they decided to take the company public only after the Sept. 11 attacks. The stock sale cashed in on increased congressional support for hefty defense spending, including one of United Defense’s cornerstone weapon programs.

Now is the time for our elected officials to be held accountable. Now is the time for the media to be held accountable. Why aren’t the hard questions being asked? We know there were numerous warnings of the events to come on September 11. Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, delivered one such warning. Those engaged in unusual stock trades immediately before September 11 knew enough to make millions of dollars from United and American airlines, certain insurance and brokerage firms’ stocks. What did this Administration know, and when did it know it about the events of September 11? Who else knew and why did they not warn the innocent people of New York who were needlessly murdered?

Now, what was that “false statement” that Palast found in the New York Times?

“Ms. McKinney suggest[ed] that President Bush might have known about the September 11 attacks but did nothing so his supporters could make money in a war.”

This is, in fact, exactly what she said. What conclusions can we draw?

1.) Greg Palast, who is not a lazy reporter, did a shallow investigation of this story.
2.) He probably realized that, if he investigated it properly, his thesis would crumble. Cynthia McKinney’s “politically suicidal” statement existed.
3.) When he told the LA Times that he’s “not following the left line. I’m following the information line,” Greg Palast was full of shit.

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What’s popular
Vh-1, the erstwhile music channel that recently coverted into a clearinghouse for shows about hair and P. Diddy, collaborated with People magazine to write a list of “the 200 greatest pop culture icons.” Pro: It was hosted by Kristen Davis. Con: It’s nonsense. The list is here.

Ten problems.
– 199) QUEEN LATIFAH
Who references Queen Latifah on a regular basis? Who parodies her? I’m not sure what definition of icon you could use to justify her inclusion in this.
– 190) RUSSELL CROWE
Well, ditto.
– 181) REESE WITHERSPOON
Was Goldie Hawn busy?
– 159) RICKY MARTIN
Was Julio Eglesias busy?
– 155) CHRISTIE BRINKLEY
Why her? Why not any other model?
– 129) DOROTHY HAMILL
Has anyone written a song about her? No. But I do remember a ditty named “What would Brian Boitano do?”
– 119) BEN AFFLECK
People take him seriously?
– 74) SUSAN LUCCI
Maybe to people who collect those special issues of TV Guide.
– 20) BRITNEY SPEARS
Flash in the pan. Future generations will watch the third Austin Powers movie and ask, “who’s that girl with the flat face?”
– 15) JENNIFER LOPEZ
She wore a dress. That’s her claim to fame. She wore a dress. Jesus Christ.

Look, since they included Sigmund Freud on this list, the Vh-1 mullahs must be willing to accept historical figures as icons. And they just plain glossed over some people. I’ll suggest ten.

1. Jesus Christ
Still relevant, still worshiped, and still being blasphemed. He’s a character on South Park AND he’s been played by Willem Dafoe. It’s silly not to include him.
2. Adolf Hitler
One of the most famous men in history, responsible for an endless number of idiotic teenage cults. How much of heavy metal would exist without him?
3. Alice Cooper
There is no “shock rock” without him. And people love that shock rock.
4. Mike Tyson
The most notorious athlete of the last 20 years. Endlessly parodied.
5. Richard Nixon
One of the most referenced and lambasted Americans ever.
6. Yogi Berra
Is anyone more quoted?
7. Sidney Poitier
They call him Mister Tibbs! Come on, people!
8. The Sex and the City girls
Even if you hate to admit it, they defined an era.
9. Sean Penn as Jeff Spicoli
The template for all dumb teenagers that followed. Sean William Scott, Ashton Kutcher – bow down.

As for number ten … well, do you even need to ask?

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Good news from the multiplex!
The number one movie of the weekend is likely to be “Spy Kids 3-D.” “Tomb Raider 2” is coming up far short of the totals for its predecessor – while “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” made $47 million its first weekend, the sequel is unlikely to break $30 million. “Bad Boys II,” a true piece of garbage, is being beaten by the one week-older “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

There is a god, movie producers. And he’s tired of your crap.

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Good news!
Jennifer Coolidge is in American Wedding! For all the rumors that cast members were deserting the franchise, it’s nice that the funniest cast members – Coolidge, Eugene Levy, and Sean William Scott – are back in force.

And who are we missing, anyway? Chris Klein? Mena Suvari? Shannon Elizabeth? Tara Reid? Have you looked at Tara Reid? She’s nothing special. The new eye candy more than makes up for this. I’m slightly despondent about the loss of Chris “The Shermanator” Owen, but hey! We have Fred Willard now!

Fingers duly crossed. I hope this movie’s decent.

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History is fun, pt. II
Oh, blogosphere, you minx! My fellow faux pundits have apparently been embroiled in a controversy over John Hawkins’s list of “the 20 greatest figures in American history.” It was sexist, apparently. There weren’t enough votes for that woman who founded Ms. magazine.

What’s really important is that it was a list. Damn, I love making lists. Let me try this on.

**Dave Weigel’s 20 Greatest Figures in American History**
I assume we’re basing this on the fuzzy, Time magazine version of “greatness.” These folks need to have contributed positively to the American experiment. And they need to have done so in a big way. So my love for Barry Goldwater is tempered, because his fantastic political philosophy didn’t make it into the law until he was dying. And I reckon we start at 1776. I ignore the Howard Zinn version of events because it’s bullshit, and I’m not using the internet in a free country because of the Shawnee tribe. I’m doing it because of these guys. So, let’s go.

20. Susan B. Anthony
19. Milton Friedman
18. Mark Twain
17. Martin Luther King, Jr
16. Daniel Webster
15. Franklin Delano Roosevelt
14. Theodore Roosevelt
13. Henry Clay
12. Thurgood Marshall
11. Andrew Carnegie
10. Harriet Beecher Stowe
09. Alexander Hamilton
08. Earl Warren
07. Ronald Reagan
06. Dwight D. Eisenhower
05. Henry Ford
04. Andrew Jackson
03. Thomas Jefferson
02. J.D. Rockefeller
01. Abraham Lincoln