December 20, 2008: Get off the stick consumers. Tis way past time to do your patriotic part to bolster the economy. Shop early, stay late. Not enough names on your gift list? Super size it with public servants. Past, present, and future. National and local. Now you're spending like an eggnog addled sailor!
For outgoing President Bush, a set of commemorative coins celebrating the inauguration of incoming President Obama. The coins can be deposited in the empty bottle of political capital (vintage 2004) Dubya keeps on his mantle right under the Mission Accomplished banner. Also on that mantle-- a copy of “The Dummy's Guide to the Ownership Society”. With the chapter on liar loans and mortgage-derived securities torn out.
For incoming President Obama, a commemorative plate celebrating his inauguration. The plate, which depicts him with “confident smile and kind eyes”, can be kept in the closet atop the boxed set of Reverend Wright's sermons. Also in the closet-- a Governor Rod Blagojevich bobble-head and battered copy of The Dummy's Guide to Reform. With the chapter on how to talk a Good One while not rocking the bobble-heads carefully underlined.
More gifts for Obama. A full set of Clintonista power tools to use when remodeling the White House and a Pay-to-Play Detector made in China not Chicago. Come January, it's all systems go for Obama's economic recovery plan. Tomorrow is another day for massive national debt. Our infrastructure will be rebuilt. The “shovel ready” projects of governors and mayors will be jazzed. According to Obama, approved projects will be pork free. Still, the projects pols luv often turn porky in progress; pay-to-play rears its head on the way. Better give the detector. Even if practical gifts are kind of boring.
Another gift for O! A spiritually gratifying one. Christie Hefner, chief executive officer of Playboy, sez Obama's election helped inspire her to leave silicone boobs behind in favor of public service. Shares of the venerable skin rag have been sagging of late but Hugh's Hefette claims she wouldn't step down “if the company weren't in such strong shape.”*
For public-servant-of-the-future Christie Hefner: a cone bra and granny panties.
For public-servant-of-the-past Eliot Spitzer: black socks and a Hefty for his chutzpa.
While governor of New York State, Spitzer availed himself of the services of organized money launderers to hide pay-outs for prostitutes. Yet Spitzer still gases off in newsprint about the financial juggling of others. Folks who give Spitz serious space (as opposed to a comic strip) deserve to be gifted too. As do the dispensers of justice who prosecuted members of the money wash/hooker ring Spitz patronized, but decided that resigning and resuming life as a real estate mogul was punishment enuff for the gov.
For all enablers of corruption in government places, a box of chocolates with the bottoms bitten out.
Talking bottoms, public servants from lower rungs should get gifted too. Such as X Police Chief Greg Kaczmarek of Schenectady, New York. Give that man a Santa sack of baby lax. Kaczmarek, along with lovely wife Lisa, were part of a ring that moved heroin and coke into the small upstate city of Schenectady. The town GE forgot. Drug trade took up the slack. Rehab is big too. People come from miles around. Greg Kaczmarek was appointed police chief in 1996 by former Schenectady Mayor Al Jurczynski. Mayor Al chose to ignore some 16 years of buzz about Kaczmarek's drug thing. As Kaczmarek climbed the cop ladder his whispered nickname advanced from Sgt. Snow to Lt. Noriega. Four officers who served under Chief Kaczmarek were convicted on drug-related charges. The FBI lent a hand. Mayor Al stood behind his chief.
Greg Kaczmarek stepped down in 2002. In late 2008 he was indicted after being caught conspiring to move product from Long Island to Schenectady. In December, Kaczmarek pleaded guilty to possession. He got two years. His downstate supplier got twelve. X Chief Greg must also surrender his nurse's license. (Attention Hollywood-- “Nurse Greg” is crying to be made!) But his public servant pension will keep on giving.
Mayor Al Jurczynski left office in late 2003. Schenectady was in the fiscal basement. For pols, nothing succeeds like failure; former Governor George Pataki appointed Republican pal Al as Deputy Director of the Governor's Office for Small Cities. As such, Jurczynski dispensed funds from HUD's Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG). By 2006, Jurczynski was Deputy Secretary of State for Business and Licensing. Among other things, the agency is responsible for licensing real estate professionals. When Democrat Eliot Spitzer took office in 2007, Al lost his slot.
For X Mayor Al Jurczynski, the jumbo box of bottomless bonbons. For everyone else, a magnifying glass to examine his other choices. Here's hoping Al was better at spotting real estate crooks than crooked cops. Mortgage fraud is a major problem in New York State. Particularly in low income urban areas.
Though not elected or appointed, the news media also qualifies for the public servant gift list. Hey hey they're the fifth estate. And they often partake of government powered development deals-- another servant status symbol. Many truth tellers deserve gifts. Remember coverage of the lead-up to Iraq? Celebration of the housing bubble? How about glaring omissions in local corruption stories? Alas. List space is limited. Gotta go with a biggie.
For the New York Times, the gift of forgiveness (tis the season) from unhappy investors and employees fired in the name of cost cutting. Sure, erecting a behemoth new headquarters (52 stories, 1.5 million square feet) in midtown Manhattan and sinking capital into owning 58% of the Xanadu wasn't a great idea. (Developer Forest City Ratner owns the rest, albeit with a mortgage.) Newspapers are facing uncertain times. Still, the Times and Ratner did get help from the state in obtaining the prime land. Think eminent domain. The right of government to take private property for public use projects. Why deem a private real estate deal “public use”? Ask anyone sleeping on a park bench. The Times cuts wind.
Speaking of wind, December marked the fourth anniversary of the announcement by Forest City Ratner of their plans for the massive Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn. The project has received tons of government assistance, including the use of eminent domain. Yet Atlantic Yards is mired. Eonomic realty is a Grinch. Ratner wants more welfare FAST. Resistors in nabes rolled over by Rat send a shout out: Happy Landgrabiversary! They're also tossing a holiday bash ...
Skipping back to incoming President Obama, one final gift. A heads-up re use of the phrase “shovel ready”. It can rub people the wrong way. Possibly because it evokes images of grave diggers gone wild or fields full of cow flop.
A few years back in Albany, New York (the seat of state government) Mayor Jerry Jennings and other Capital Region pols were pushing for a large scale development project to be approved in a nearby suburban town. A major company was supposedly avid to move in. Jennings and crew believed the project would benefit their fiefdoms via ripple effect. They declared-- loudly and often-- that land for the project would be delivered “shovel ready”. Voting against it would be selfish. Town residents voted the project down. Not only were they concerned about over development, they resented being pressured by out-of-town pols and detested the phrase “shovel ready”.
So O, drop the shovel. Try a more attractive image when referencing all those billion dollar projects that governors and mayors have in the hopper. Maybe they (the projects not the pols) could be called “barbecue ready”. Most folks really go for a plate of pulled pork.
Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
*Playboy Chief Christie Hefner to Step Down Next Month, James Callan, Bloomberg, 12/08/08
Sources include but are not limited to:
Times Co. to borrow against building, Richard Perez-Pena, International Herald Tribune, 12/08/08
Gregory Kaczmarek timeline, Daily Gazette, 12/02/08
Ex-chief expected to plead, Paul Nelson and Brendan Lyons, Albany Times Union, 11/29/08
County Legislator District 2 Al Jurczynski, GuyanaNY.org, 2007
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