Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hospital Closings and Mayoral Candidates, Austerity, Moralism and Sexual McCarthyism

Going to bed on Tuesday night, I was thinking about the fun we had out at karaoke night with the gang, singing, dancing, and letting it all loose.  These are the things I love about summer.

After missing a lot of great demos, I was looking forward  to the health care demonstration for the Long Island College Hospital scheduled for Wednesday.   The clinic which helped me with my broken collar bone and  my daughter with a seizure she suffered from a decade ago, I am galled that anyone would think of closing a public hospital in busy residential neighborhood in Brooklyn, Greenwich Village or anywhere else.  Yet, this is part of life in  Quinn / Bloomberg’s neoliberal New York. 

Scenes from anti-Quinn rallies. Photos by James Wagner.
From the moment Quinn allowed the parade without a permit rule to stand, her base has been split.
When she overturned term limits, everyone felt betrayed. 

I was glad mayoral candidate Bill De Blasio had been taking the lead on fighting this trend.  And a bit concerned about Anthony Weiner’s plunging political fortunes, wonderring about where all the moral outrage out there over sexting, instead of hospital closures.  I have enjoyed the way Weiner’s campaign, by its very existence, disabuses us all of the legacies of both the sexual McCarthyism which discourages honesty or actual authentic people from running for office.   Whatever one thinks of him, Weiner’s campaign opens the door for a conversation we should have had a decade ago when Kenneth Starr was on Clinton’s tail about the ways this impairs democracy.  Do we really want the New York Post to be the sounding board for the Savanarolas and other moralists in our midst.
Yet, this conversation has only just begun.  Tuesday night Weiner was scheduled to attend a Mayoral Forum on HIV/AIDS.  There members of ACT UP were pushing for more widespread access and awareness of post exposure prophyaxis.  Yet the event became a spectacle.  As my friend Theodore Kerr wrote on facebook.  “It's sad to me that even in 2013, at a mayoral candidate forum on HIV/AIDS, with a leading contender embroiled in a sexting scandal, we still can't have a public discussion about sex.”

Photo of ACT UP demonstration for PEP.
Photo by Charlie Ferrusi

The legacies of sexual shame are many.  And they are certainly a part of our conversation about Weiner’s candidacy.  And every time, we come close to starting to reject such thinking, puritanical legacies and panics, sexting scandals and more photos of Weiner or Spitzer make their way onto the front covers of the tabs.  And people start waging their fingers, as the moralists  rear their heads once again.   Regardless of what one thinks about Weiner, the point that we must have a moral code for politicians seems outmoded and bad for democracy.  Weiner’s foibles are between his wife, those he’s sexting, and himself.  Without such a conversation we continue to let moralism get in the way of conversations about public sexuality, reproductive autonomy, and HIV prevention.  And the result is lack of leadership and poor politics around these issues.   Getting politicians out of our private parts – “push Bush out my tush” -  as we used to chant as reproductive rights rallies- means creating a line in which our private lives and theirs are off the table.   Get the state off my body.  

As my friend Jim Fouratt wrote on facebook back on July 10th

I am sick and tired of sleazy media jokes about sextexing .. (what is wrong with consenting adults doing it anyway … its safe sex and no one gets preggers) so please can we get back to what is important ? Or are we going to get stuck in ny post gossip inspired exchanged. What does the private, consensual sex activities of a politician have to do with how effective they can be as elected officials. Both Wiener and Spitzer stood up to wall street ..and they were right .. and they were brought down by wall street agents (see excellent documentary client 9 re spitzer) . So lets talk issues :stringer vs spitzer, weiner vs quinn or liu …. and weiner has put single payer health insurance for nyc on the table... and that is a huge reason to look at him.... and yes today he came out in favor of bike lanes .. and that flipped my helmet.... only lui also remains in focus .. (uh as of today that is!)

What if Anthony Weiner had never denied sexting, had never lied about it and had never promised to stop doing it? What if he had simply asserted that what he does with his penis and cellphone are between him, his wife and his online companions? No American politician has really had the courage to make such a forthright sexual declaration, and so we don’t know the answer to a question that will only become more pressing with time: should the mere existence of an X-rated selfie disqualify one from public office? I suspect it would, because American culture still has a vicious puritanical streak, because we confuse sexlessness and monogamy with public virtue and dignity, because we don’t really have any idea what privacy means. So yes, of course Anthony Weiner lied about Carlos Danger—of course he did. The script had already been written, and underneath the bad calls and broken promises that make up this farce of a morality play there is another lesson: if you have sex outside the box, don’t even think about public service. 

On the flip side of this conversation is Christine Quinn, who was a great advocate for the community before she became speaker and favored political expedience over her constituency, overturning term limits increasing power for the police, and rolling over for real estate.  Over and over Quinn has abdicated her responsibility as head of the legislative branch of government by failing to check the power of the executive branch of government.

"I think she is Bloomberg's bitch and was instrumental in securing his third term," said Lady Bunny of Quinn, the current city council speaker, referring to current Mayor Michael Bloomberg in an interview with the Bay Area Reporter. "She is in with big real estate developers so New York is not for New Yorkers anymore."
Queers have been there to remind Chris Quinn not to forget that social movements supported her  rise to power. Yet, once in power she has supported increased police powers. Photo by James Wagner 

And real estate development is part of why we are losing hospitals in New York.  Under Quinn’s leadership we lost St Vincents and now a series of Brooklyn hospitals are on the chopping blocks.  Bill De Blasio, another candidate has stepped out in the lead on this issue.  My former councilman in Carroll Gardens, his office never returned phone calls or even knew his positions on issues from day to day.  He was a great advocate of public welfare policies as part of the General Welfare Committee on the City Council.  And he has been there as the the battle for Long Island College Hospital was just heating up.  An extension of the politics of austerity and scarcity, this is the worst direction for our neighborhoods, where development is booming.  Yet, accommodations for public institutions - schools, transportation, and hospitals - is crumbling.

Wednesday, my old buddy Larry and I took part in the “Funeral March and Rally for Brooklyn Healthcare.”  As the facebook invite declared.
Join patients, community supporters, elected leaders, NYSNA & 1199SEIU to show the impact of healthcare cuts and mourn the death of community hospitals.. 

Several Brooklyn hospitals, including Interfaith Medical Center and Long Island College Hospital, are under threat of closure. 

Meanwhile, health disparities in our borough are climbing at alarming rate. Low income, people of color, and the uninsured have fewer and fewer options for receiving care. 

We'll meet at Cadman Plaza (Tillary & Cadman Plaza Park East) at 4pm and march over the bridge carrying coffins and headstones, and then hold a rally at Foley Square in Manhattan at 5pm. [[Please note the change in Manhattan rally location]]

Make no mistake - if any of our hospitals close, people will die.

**Wear black!**

Several thousand hospital workers were there, fighting for their jobs and for healthcare. 
Sadly, those involved with healthcare or human services have to fight for their lives.  I teach a community organizing class at my college for human services students.  Some wonder why they have to take it.  But  its because they are probably going to have to fight for their jobs.  Sadly, few else will.  Along the march over the bridge, many wondered where was Cuomo?  Where was Bloomberg or even Chris Quinn on this issue?  The leadership vacuum on this issue is vast. 

Atiq Zabinsk notes:

Full-length video with interviews now up at
Brooklyn Bridge Blockaded During Funeral March for Brooklyn Healthcare
NYC, July 24, 2013: Protesters blocked the Brooklyn Bridge twice today as part of the Funeral March for Brooklyn Healthcare. The demonstration, organized by the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) and 1199SEIU, protested the looming closures of hospitals in Brooklyn, including Long Island Community Hospital (LICH) and Interfaith Medical Center.
In a press release NYSNA warned that "health disparities in Brooklyn are climbing at an alarming rate," adding: "Low income communities, people of color, and the uninsured have fewer and fewer options for receiving care. Interfaith Medical Center is the only full-service hospital in Bed-Stuy, a federally designated healthcare provider shortage area. Meanwhile, SUNY's unlawful attempts to close LICH have created chaos for patients throughout Brooklyn, increasing ER wait times and putting lives at risk."
Critics charge that the State University of New York, which manages both LICH and Inter-Faith is restructuring itself in order to maintain profitability as the Affordable Care Act imposes $10 billion in funding that hospitals receive for treating the uninsured. For background, read Peter Rugh's article "Battle for LICH Brooklyn Hospital Escalates"
Video shot by Anthony Perez and Atiq Zabinski, edited by Zabinski andRaven Rakia. A production of OccupyTV New York, a project of the Media Working Group of Occupy Wall Street.

Finishing the rally, I ran into a group of Weiner supporters.  "Don't give up I screamed."  A few of the stressed out staffers smiled.  

 I met Caroline for dinner.  And the subject of Mayoral politics and sexual McCarthyism came up once again.  We talked about how lovely it would be to move away from our puritanical roots for once.  Remember we don't like the puritans. most of us don't. anyways...  
Caroline posted the following on facebook: Ok...I know you're all enjoying poking fun at Weiner BUT if he does win it's a hugh blow to puritanical politics. Wouldn't it be a relief if we no longer had to pretend all of our politicians were choir boys and girls?
Sadly, it’s the system of rules and social mores which keeps this system alive. 

As my friend Baruch Herzfeld wrote:

I sent this to the editor: 

The other candidates, and your editorial, are pleading with Weiner to resign because he is making a mockery of the Mayor's race. He's not. He's making a mockery of the other candidates. Even with all the ween-sanity, he's still winning. Right now, Weiner is what the public wants. If we don't want him, we have a very simple way to not get him. We don't have to vote for him.
The election system in this city deserves to be mocked. 
It's old. It's archaic. Its petrified. Only 10% of the population votes, 96% of the incumbents are re-elected, nobody dynamic or exciting wants the job.
In today's day and age where we get to vote on everything in social media - I can vote on whether I like my sister's lunch - its anachronistic that I only get to chose from 2 mediocre, boring people to 'represent' me, and even then, once every four years. 
Throughout the world, in Turkey, in Egypt, in Russia, people are marching in the streets to have greater influence on the way they are governed. 
Hopefully Weiner's perverted popularity is a wakeup call for us to realize its time to update our system as well.


  1. Benjamin Heim Shepard:

    Thank you thank you thank you for being one of the lone voices of reason on the Anthony Weiner sexting biz. I'd vote for Anthony Weiner in a split second over Chris Quinn. Ditto deBlassio. I care about Anthony Weiner's stand on the issues and on his vision for NYC. I frankly don't care, at all, who Anthony Weiner sexts or doesn't sext -- if it's alright with Huma (& it clearly is as she, a strong & accomplished woman in her own right, is standing by him) -- then I don't see why on earth anyone else would care. Besides, he didn't even *touch* these (consenting, adult) women (though if he did I wouldn't care either) & besides that, some of our best politicians have had affairs outside of marriage (which nobody is even saying he did): Roosevelt, Kennedy, Lincoln, & the list goes on.

    People need to grow the fuck up & stop making fourth grade jokes & stay out of people's marriages. No politician's private life is predictive of how they will govern/serve in office. The *only* time that *any* politician's sex life becomes relevant to the public is if it involves nonconsentual behavior OR is wildly at odds with their stated views & voting record on issues relating to sexuality, like those crazy anti-gay politicians who vote anti-gay rights every time they get but secretly participate in furtive & closeted homosexual sex or like those stidently anti-abortion nuts who it turns out encourage/make their mistresses have abortions -& there hypocrisy is for me the relevant factor.

    And in this light, I thought that you might be interested in the following, which I posted on my FB page on Saturday:

    "Here is a disgusting and amazing ad from Chris Quinn's FB page (posted on 6/21 at 12:44 pm, but still up on Sat 7/26/2013 as of this writing), touting Quinn's role in purportedly *saving NYC's hospitals*, text by Quinn campaign as follows: 'Watch and share how Chris worked with Jackie Rowe-Adams and the Harlem community to save Sydenham Clinic. 'When you can get someone like Christine Quinn that cares about her community, you hold on to them.'

    Direct link to Chris Quinn Saves Sydenham Clinic ad up on Facebook as of 7/27/2013 here:

    Direct link to the Chris Quinn Saves Sydenham Clinic *Video Ad* Here:

    My comment on above, added to Chris Quinn's FB page under this post: "And she worked hand in hand with Bloomberg & his real estate cronies the Rudins to doublecross all of the West Village & downtown Manhattan by selling off St. Vincent's to the highest real estate bidder & turning it into lush condos for the 1%, depriving ALL of downtown Manhattan of a much needed hospital in the process. You people should be ASHAMED for running this ad!"

    I later added this comment: "Quinn's claim that she's fought to *save* NYC hospitals is wholly false and outrageous. This, from the woman who almost singlehandedly (along with Bloomberg & the Rudins) put a knife in the back of the entire West Village & downtown Manhattan community in allowing St. Vincent's to be sold to the Rudin real estate magnates to create yet more luxury housing for the top 1%, leaving all of downtown Manhattan without a vital hospital/trauma center & a historic one to boot (re: St. Vincent's crucial role in the early NYC AIDS epidemic & during & immediately after 9/11). She is *scum*, pure unadulterated scum, & the fact that she has the *nerve* to claim that she has always acted as a savior for NYC's hospitals is chutzpah indeed."

    Again, thanks for writing your column, which I've just posted on my FB page (crediting you, of course).

    Best, Abby

  2. Thank you Abby... If only Weiner could reject the politics of shame and buck up a bit. Best bs