Pirates are commonly supposed to have been battered and hung out of existence when the Barbary Powers and the Buccaneers of the Spanish Main had finally been dealt with. Yet freebooters are not extinct; they have only transferred their operations to the land, and conducted them in more or less accordance with the forms of law; until, at last, so great a proficiency have they attained, that the commerce of the world is more equally but far more heavily taxed in their behalf, than would ever have entered into their wildest hopes while, outside the law, they simply made all comers stand and deliver. Now, too, they no longer live in terror of the rope, skulking in the hiding-place of thieves, but flaunt themselves in the resorts of trade and fashion, and, disdaining such titles as once satisfied Ancient Pistol or Captain Macheath, they are even recognized as President This or Colonel That.
- Charles F. Adams, Jr., A Chapter of Erie (1871)
Image by the author/Blondie
At the time of writing, 5:30 PM, September 11, 2013, Bill de Blasio has gleaned 40.2 percent of the vote in the Democratic mayoral primary. The second largest block of votes—slightly more than half de Blasio’s percentage—has gone to Bill Thompson: 26.1 percent. An automatic recount, plus the tabulation of 19,038 absentee ballots, will determine whether de Blasio’s total remains above the required 40 percent or, if it dips to slightly less than 40 percent, a run-off election between himself and Thompson will be held on October 1.
The other Democratic candidates fizzled out big time, owing, in the cases of Anthony Weiner and Christine Quinn, to a widespread, accurate perception of their character, the constituencies they would service once in office, and/or the degree of self-serving rapacity with which they approach the idea of public service.
It wasn’t simply that Weiner has a compulsion to Instagram his namesake body part to porn actresses, or that he lied about doing it the first time the press found out about it. It wasn’t even so important that he kept doing it after claiming to be “cured,” compulsions being what they are, though this reflected the reality testing capacity of a paramecium. Only 4.9 percent of the voters were willing to disregard Weiner’s weird public volatility and outraged indignation when members of the press and the public questioned his widely publicized habits of internet use. He evidently believed that, the rituals of public exposure-apology-forgiveness having become entirely rote and meaningless throughout American public life, things had progressed to the point where anyone caught doing anything could simply demand to be forgiven, on a schedule convenient to his or her career ambitions.
This unfortunate solipsism is not unique to Weiner, but symptomatic of a whole class of politicians, including the current mayor of New York, who feels entitled to do anything that strikes him as a good idea at the time, and becomes sputteringly incredulous when the public, or the courts, defy his whims and wishes. Bloomberg’s reaction to the judicial cancellation of his ban on jumbo sugary drinks, and his equally vehement response to the court’s decision on the NYPD’s “stop-and-frisk” practices, reflect a billionaire’s very passionate conviction that he and his decrees are above the law, and that our entire system of government exists solely to service his world view. The rare occasions when this has actually coincided with the public’s wishes are what’s referred to as “the good things Mayor Bloomberg has done for the city.” However, most of Bloomberg’s worldview is precisely that of someone who does good things as a favor rather than a duty, and can hire a helicopter to whisk him off to a gigantic estate in Bermuda whenever the burden of omnipotence in New York spoils his afternoon.
It would be nice for me to imagine that my column in VICE contributed a tiny bit to the humiliating rout of Christine Quinn (15.5 percent of the vote), who was still being touted as the front-runner by New York Magazine weeks after every survey reflected a huge drop in her poll numbers. But the truth is that often-heard worries that huge numbers of people would vote for Quinn for the wrong reasons—that she’s gay; that she’s a woman—were unfounded from the outset. Quinn’s name was anathema to virtually every gay man, lesbian, and Other I know, long before I mentioned her in a column. Not just for enabling Bloomberg to run for a third term. Not just for being instrumental in closing St. Vincent’s Hospital and selling it off to the Rudin family. There was also Quinn’s whole attitude of noblesse oblige, her utterly hypocritical collusion with Wall Street, lobbyists, and the real estate industry while painting herself as the staunch champion of everyday people—and, last but not least, the incessant framing of Quinn by New York Magazine, the New York Times, the tabloids, the entire press establishment, as the anointed, dynastic heiress of the presiding White Worm of Gracie Mansion.
Nothing Quinn said could be taken at face value, since she had repeatedly demonstrated, face-wise, that she always had two. If she said she didn’t approve of, or didn’t like, having a Duane Reade planted right next to a CVS, a Citibank and/or Chase Bank branch festering at every street corner, if she made little squeaks of displeasure about whole neighborhoods being ripped out to build luxury high-rises or turned into suburban college campuses, you could take for granted that she regarded these grotesque forms of urban blight as “sad” inevitabilities she would do nothing whatsoever to curb, and in fact would offer any architectural rapist with a corporate client as much tax relief as possible. Like her mentor, Quinn imagines an ideal city that is not New York at all, but Doha, where vast sprawling vistas of soaring, glittering towers spring up overnight, built in a frenzy of slave labor, to shelter the superrich—who are, after all, so absolutely necessary to our city that we can only hope to keep them here by charging them a small fraction of their tax obligations and repurposing our neighborhoods to service their ludicrous, porcine habits of consumption.
City Comptroller John Liu somehow failed to resonate more than slightly with voters—though slightly more, in the positive sense, than Anthony Weiner did—although he displayed exemplary poise, and held several laudably progressive positions throughout his campaign. Unlike Quinn and Weiner, he did not pander squalidly to our country’s satanic bond with Israel when pressed to do so by reporters: “I am running for office in the city of New York for a city position, and I don’t opine on the international issues.” He promised to fire NYPD chief Ray Kelly and advocated legalizing weed, two moves that would greatly enhance the quality of life in our burg. Liu just didn’t catch on, but he is an honorable person who belongs in the public life of New York, for sure.
Would-be kitten murderer Joseph J. Lhota looks like an especially crooked union boss circa 1957, and is so obviously loathesome that I didn’t know whether to pray for him to win the Republican nomination, or the doddering supermarket tycoon, whose name I forget, who resembled a giant toad squatting in a carp pool and seemed to have flies buzzing out of his mouth every time he opened it. Either one would have been a godsend to enlightened New Yorkers planning to vote for de Blasio in the general election, but the more thuggish-looking Lhota carried the day among the more sociopathic, grossly over-rewarded pirates on Wall Street and the unassuagably embittered racists, slumlords, and sleazy real estate managers who walk among us. Meow!
Previously by Gary Indiana - September Bloodbath