December 7, 2004: The election turmoil in Ukraine should remind us how lucky we
are. After all, our presidential candidates weren't named George
Bush and George Bueshky. Or John Kerry and John Keretsko. So the
race was easier to follow. The battle by Victor Yanukovich and
Victor Yushchenko over the Ukrainian presidency also makes one
appreciate our tradition of trying to come together after
elections. Winners shouldn't step on losers' faces. Losers in
turn, must choke back bile and smile. But lately, winners do
the full bully boy while losers whine "you cheated". Is it
a sign of devolved manners-- or political polarization? Or both?
In Ukraine, the threat of retaliation exists for supporters of
the loosing side. Particularly if the loser is Yushchenko. Since
Yanukovich has nearby Russia --and Putin-- on his side. In this
country, only vituperation is aimed at those who vote "wrong".
Still, it's lucky Mexico and Canada aren't Russia. In Ukraine,
the presidential race is about major systemic change so the
polarization seems proportionate. Whereas our knickers twist
over god, guns and gays.
Off the beaten path of our last election, moves toward systemic
change did occur. Take term limits. Pols hoped voters would.
Across the nation, pols pressed ballot referendums that sought to
overturn term limits. But voters overwhelmingly nixed a fixed-in-
place political class. Machines must be scrambling to build up
larger stables of stalking horses and ringers. Meaning more work
for muckrakers. Will Hercules please come to the stable?
Middletown, New York, was one place where voters left term limits
intact. So even if Mayor Joseph DeStefano isn't convicted of any
of his 32 federal counts, he won't be mayor much longer. While
in New Jersey, the citizens of Hoboken in Hudson County gave an
anti Pay-2-Play ordinance overwhelming support. Despite stiff
opposition from local political stiffs. Speaking of such, U.S.
Senator Jon Corzine has declared he's in the running to be
Democratic candidate for New Jersey governor in 2005. As has
Bret Schundler, former mayor of Jersey City, on the Republican
side. No big surprise in either case. Though claims by both to
represent reform do make people go O!
Corzine and Schundler hail from Hudson County, one of the most
corrupt counties in Jersey. Some say in the nation. With his
political future in mind, Jon Corzine chose to move to Hudson
County a few years ago. Due to its political clout. Corzine
running as a reformer, after picking Hudson as his political
base, is like a preacher trolling for sinners while sacked out
in a ho house. If Corzine is elected governor, he'll be able to
fill his then vacant U.S. Senator seat with whoever he chooses.
A 12/03/04 NYTimes article (Corzine to Run for Governor of New
Jersey) suggests Corzine's choice might be U.S. Representative
Robert Menendez of Hudson County. Menendez (sometimes called
"Boss") stands atop the Hudson machine. Though he's never done
the perp walk plenty of close associates have wibblety wobbled.
Menendez being anointed U.S. Senator by King Jon would be a
thumb in the eye to anyone who hopes Jersey will clean up its
Ex Goldman Sachs chairman Jon Corzine is a half-billionaire whose
Wall Street connections still hum. Some point to his wealth as
guarantee of incorruptibility: he wouldn't need the money. Those
who think personal wealth spells public honesty misunderstand the
nature of political corruption. Sure, money is important. But to
some pols bribes only matter as signs of fealty. Power is the
real prize. The hoary adage that power corrupts is still a golden
rule. Absolute power, etc. Which is why limiting politicians'
access to power is a quintessential act of reform.
As for Republican Bret Schundler as possible candidate for New
Jersey governor, he'd have his own problems running as reformer.
During the two terms Schundler was mayor of Jersey City (Hudson
County's largest city) Pay-2-Play flourished like the green bay
tree. Schundler likes to decry the corrupt "Democratic Machine"
but tackling the issue of undue influence was never his bag. As
his mega contributions from developers attested. X Governor Jim
McGreevey left office largely because his image was eroded by
Pay-2-Play scandals. Whoever aspires to be New Jersey's
governor-- and its reformer-- will be met by opponents digging
for pay dirt. So it would be best not to come bearing Jimbo baggage.
Over in New York State the demand for political reform is also
being heard. As is the call of the 2006 governor's race. On
December 7th State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer announced he
was in the running to be Democratic candidate. A week earlier
Spitzer held a press conference in Buffalo. Where he denounced
the overall ethical failures of New York State government, plus
the specific practices of the New York State Canal Corporation.
A kinda-public-kinda-private state agency which under the
administration of Governor George Pataki was supposed to
revitalize the Erie Canal corridor. The Canal Corporation botched
the job. According to a report filed by Spitzer and the NYS
inspector-general, "favoritism and illegal ethical lapses" were
to blame. Sadly, nobody can be prosecuted for the favoritism
and illegal ethical lapses because the lapses "fell short of
criminality". And though a few folks at the Canal Corp might get
some penalties (ouch!) nobody in the state government can be
punished because the involved parties are no longer in office.
Spitzer however, is calling for closing the loophole in the Code
of Ethics of the State Public Officers Law that lets former state
employees get away with illegal but not criminal ethical lapses
committed while in office.
It's certainly good to see Spitzer taking time off from
mopping up Wall Street to give political malfeasance a swipe.
Specially because you can hear vacuum cleaners roaring in nearby
states. But since it seems as if no one but the public will pay
for the illegal but not criminal ethical lapses that produced
the Erie Canal fiasco, the Spitzer reform event in Buffalo felt
Talking Buffalo, a few years ago developer Scott Wizig was on
that city's scene. Scott Wizig Enterprises was Texas based, but
as NY Liberty Homes, Wizig was snapping up Buffalo slums at
foreclosure sales. 281 properties in one snap alone. At roughly
$2000 per. Wizig was a wiz at mortgage fraud mainly via illegal
property flips and rent-to-own scams. Despite claims to be
a revitalizer, the majority of his properties continued to
deteriorate. Wizig made life hell for thousands of his tenants,
the myriad low income home buyers he scammed and for the city
residents who lived near his neglected properties. He also made
millions of dollars. In 2003, Wizig was successfully prosecuted
by Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and the City of Buffalo for
hundreds of housing code violations, illegal leases and mortgage
fraud activities. Wizig is now in prison. Oh wait-- he isn't. The
City of Buffalo preferred to settle rather than litigate. And
with the help of Eliot Spitzer, drive Wizig out of town. Spitzer
did indeed hold Wizig's feet to a candle. In his 03/19/03 press
release "Buffalo Developer to Reform Business Practices" Attorney
General Spitzer lists the fines and business practice agreements
imposed on Scott Wizig.
Alas, Wizig didn't take to house training. Instead he soiled the
rug in Baltimore, Maryland. According to a 10/06/04 story by Gadi
Dechter in Baltimore's City Paper (The Man Behind the Curtain:
Buffalo's Biggest Slumlord Comes to Baltimore) Scott Wizig has
been busy down south. Making life hell for thousands of tenants,
myriad low income home buyers and for the city residents who live
near his properties. Flipping slums and doing the rent-to-own
thing as MD Liberty Homes. Plus, a 09/02/04 Houston Press story
(The Specialist, Craig Malisow) says Wizig has been similarly
engaged back in Texas. But New Yorkers need not feel cheated of
Wizig's wizardry. Despite the City of Buffalo's claim they drove
Wizig out of town, a number of his properties are in weird limbo.
With mysterious owners who may-- or may not-- be masking Wizig.
Other properties seem to have dropped off the books completely.
While down in Syracuse, housing officials have bad things to say
about properties owned by Mister Wizig. The ones managed by a guy
named John Kiggins. Who back in 91 was convicted on federal
charges for his part in a $1.4 million HUD loan scam involving
property flips. Unlike Wizig, Kiggins did time. Albeit briefly.
Sinister Orange Fruit
In Ukraine, orange is the color symbolizing support for Victor
Yushchenko. From a 11/30/04 discussion on the blog "Brunchma"
comes the following story about Ukraine posted by "Alexandra":
"Yesterday afternoon Lyudmila (Yanukovich) made a speech...In her
speech Mrs. Yanukovich said that the Yushchenko supporters in
Kiev were not just dressed in orange, but they were eating lots
of oranges too. Mrs. Yanukovich then said these oranges, however,
are no normal oranges: they are in fact drugged oranges and this
dodgy fruit is the reason why people are behaving the way
they are at this moment (protesting in the streets, etc.)
Mrs. Yanukovich said that these opposition protesters are all
completely doped to the eyeballs on sinister orange fruit and
now they're basically only interested in having one big non stop
party all over the capital...Lyudmila Yanukovich's hysterical
warning on these naughty oranges and the terrible things they
make people do was all over the Ukrainian television and radio
last night. I think blaming everything on drugged fruit is
definitely an exciting new direction for political leaders
(and their wives) everywhere."
You heard it here first! Well actually, on Brunchma...
Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
Brunchma Community Weblog
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