The ballyhooed Dia museum left me pretty cold, another modern art collection in a former factory, with big metal pieces by Richard Serra (not including his Tilted Arc, which was dismantled and evicted by public protest from a Manhattan plaza in 1989), abstract drawings by Sol LeWitt (the least minimalist of which I liked), piles of broken glass and dirt, a big room full of boring blue "Shadows" by Andy Warhol, and some fairly creepy stuff including Louise Bourgeois sculptures.
In my prosaic way, I preferred the aerial photo exhibit at the downtown Beacon Institute, of current and former industrial sites on the Hudson River from Manhattan up to Troy.
The last episode of "New York Now" hosted by Susan Arbetter aired last night (repeats Sunday), and had a folksy feel from the state fair in Syracuse. It also had an interview with Gov. Paterson, who as usual came across as a more capable chief executive than he is commonly given credit for. But Paterson, who is scheduled to be in Saratoga today for the Travers Stakes, did not impress in his answers about horse racing issues. Arbetter asked him about this Featherstonhaugh fund-raiser, and he in effect said he didn't know about the potential conflict. Then he seemed to blame Dean Skelos for the delay in awarding the Aqueduct VLT contract, which is a bit rich since Skelos was only Senate majority leader for a few months last year, and the Aqueduct VLTs were authorized in 2001 (as the state's ludicrously off-kilter fiscal response to the 9/11 attacks).
After a slightly shaky start, Arbetter's public television show became a worthy successor to "Inside Albany." You can keep up with her in the blogosphere.
Gov. Paterson today renamed the Justice Building on Empire State Plaza after former attorney general and current politically connected Manhattan lawyer Robert Abrams. I missed the announcement of this in a June 1 press release, in which the current attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, apparently trying to compete with the governor in cluelessness, is quoted as saying: "I can think of no one more deserving of this high honor." Maybe if they looked beyond their fellow lawyers and politicians who have run the state into the ground, more worthy honorees might come to mind.
But maybe Hassan Nemazee is. Nemazee, according to this PolitickerNY story by Jason Horowitz, is at the highest level of national Democratic Party fund-raising, and has been particularly active in support of New York Democrats including Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (there's also a Republican connection in the last graf). He has been charged by federal prosecutors with an attempted $74 million fraud against Citigroup. That would be the same Citigroup which got $45 billion in U.S. taxpayer funding in last year's TARP bailout, which (you will recall) was a Republican presidential initiative approved on a bipartisan basis by a Democratic-majority Congress, with the support of the current Democratic president. (Maybe it helped stave off a depression. Who knows?)
Is political economy now mainly about determining which rich people get the spoils -- including political spoils like the mayoralty of New York City? Is there nothing really to debate but a few culture war issues where liberal Democrats tend to be aligned with higher-income voters? Is this a reversal of the American Revolution's key victory, with the world turned upside down?
So indicted, 80-year-old Joe Bruno, according to Liz Benjamin's blog, is backing Henry Wojtaszek for state Republican chairman because the GOP needs "new blood," while Ed Cox, the other contender for the chairmanship, is dismissed by critics as connected to "the old GOP." Also in the Wojtaszek camp is the not quite so ancient Saratoga County Republican Chairman Jasper Nolan, who paints it as an upstate-downstate issue. Wojtaszek, like Joe Mondello's predecessor in the chairmanship Steve Minarik, is from upstate, and like Minarik is an upstate front man for socially liberal politicians -- mainly now for Rudy Giuliani, who is thinking about running for governor next year.
Cox is from downstate but backed John Faso (of Kinderhook) for governor in 2006 when the GOP establishment was backing the very socially liberal William Weld (of Massachusetts), and he backed John McCain over Giuliani for president last year. Upstate Republicans and conservatives agreed with Cox about Faso and McCain, helping them win the Republican nominations, but both candidates wound up losing to Democrats. For the more simple-minded Republican hatchet men like Wojtaszek, this translates into depicting social conservatism as electoral poison. That's the mindset which caused the GOP to lose a heavily Republican open Senate district to pro-life, pro-voucher, anti-gay marriage Democrat Darrel Aubertine.
According to Nolan, "Maybe this will come to a conclusion where Henry [Wojtaszek] will get a much more major role in the next administration." Since Wojtaszek's career seems barren of accomplishment (while Cox's is full of worthy roles such as 24 years on the board of Student Sponsor Partners), it's hard to see why upstaters or anyone else are supposed to cheer him on into Giuliani's cabinet. Upstate Republicans and conservatives are likely to vote for Giuliani, unless he keeps trying to cram people like Wojtaszek down their throats.
Behind the parking garage at Albany International Airport there is a large surface parking lot which is almost always empty or virtually so, as can be observed by people walking past it to the well-used overflow long-term lots. No doubt most of them (us) could use the exercise, but why does the Airport allows this ample space to sit unused? When I've wanted short-term parking, I and apparently everyone else have found it closer to the terminal.
But Airport Authority spokesman Doug Myers tells me this short-term lot does fill up at peak travel times, i.e. around Thanksgiving, Christmas and spring break. However, the assistant airport manager (an employee of Avports, which manages the facility under contract) is working on developing a flexible system to reduce or increase the size of the lot as need be, Myers said.
While I don't buy Gov. Paterson's contention that his race is connected to his political problems, or his implication that Fred Dicker wrote a racist column, I do think his disability -- blindness -- was a key component of what turned out to be politically damaging Saturday Night Live skits depicting him unfairly as a bumbling incompetent. And in the radio interview with Errol Louis, the governor got in this effective jab regarding his negative press coverage: "If these people who are writing the articles, Errol, had to run the state, they couldn’t run it for five minutes because they’re about to go under themselves. And the fact is that this state is alive and well, will balance its budget in September and will be around a lot longer than their outlets are."
While I don't think the news media covering state government is racist or corrupt, it (including the independent blogosphere) does have a big potential conflict of interest which is particularly acute given the business's economic problems. Where do you think most of those well paid political/governmental spokespeople used to work? Might some of them have slanted their news coverage back then in the hope of winning the job they now hold? That does not apply to people like Dicker, who has been around forever, is fiercely independent and obviously not angling for some sinecure, or to most other Capitol reporters, past or present. (Not that all movement in that direction should be deplored. It was to the eventual great benefit of the USA that Louis Howe went from the LCA to FDR.) But the potential conflict is an inconvenient fact of life not widely acknowledged in public, and helps explain the irritation of Albany pols like Paterson with the often sanctimonious media.
While most reporters are not angling for a political golden parachute, they may still be subject to a herd mentality, and unduly influenced by their sources. So the polls consistently show Paterson in trouble, which induces some Democrats to see Andrew Cuomo as an attractive alternative, which they say off the record to reporters, which translates into story after story about when the governor will recognize that he must withdraw. But why must he? As Paterson puts it, "Even if it didn’t work out, what is the shame of running for re-election and losing?" It's another solid punch against the media. Pity he had to spoil it with the race stuff.