Tuesday, September 30, 2008

NAG for a Better Williamsburg and Greenpoint This Thursday

The good people of NAG (Neighbors Allied for Good Growth) have put together a town hall meeting at Holy Ghost Hall, 159 N. 5th St (b/w Bedford and Driggs) on Thursday, October 2, 2008 at 7 p.m.

The aim of the Town Hall meeting is to bring together both old and new residents to the area to discuss the issues we all care about, like McCarren Park, the waterfront, and overcrowding on the L and G trains. If you care about Williamsburg and Greenpoint, you should definitely attend.

Don't sleep on the future of your 'hood.

The Greatest Catch of All Time

In other, less psychotic-rampage-inspiring sports news, you have to check out this catch by Edwin Baptiste from a recent Morgan State game. Whether or not you are a football fan (I'm not much of one), it is well worth taking 32 seconds to watch.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Brooklyn Optimist's In-Depth Analysis of Today's Mets Game


Die, Marlins! Die. Die. Die.

Why, Mets? Why?

There's always next year. - The Mets Fans' Mantra

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Don't Expect Change at City Hall (Maybe Bush Should Stick Around Too!)

The Optimist has spent the last couple of weeks talking to City Hall insiders about whether term limits will likely be extended another four years. His conclusion? Mayor Bloomberg and the current City Council class will be sticking around until 2013.

By numerous unofficial counts, there are at least 34 Councilmembers out of a possible 51 in favor of giving themselves another four-year term (a 2/3 majority is necessary to change the current law) and more are likely to cave. It seems that with the economic downturn our fearless Councilmembers think this isn't the best time to go looking for another job.

What does this mean? The hundreds of Council candidates waiting in the wings to swoop into empty seats will be seriously pissed off. Some of them have spent 2, 4, even 8 years diligently going to community meetings, building their lists of contacts, and ingratiating themselves to anyone who would listen. Now the vast majority of them are likely not to run, demoralized by the daunting prospect of facing off against a highly favored incumbent.

And just think about how many consultants, staffmembers, and petitioners will be denied paychecks because of the hotly-contested primaries that now never will occur. Talk about a blow to the local economy!

Of course, a few brave souls will hold fast to their dreams and take aim at toppling an incumbent. I have heard from a few candidates intent upon sticking with it. I wish them the best. Despite the odds, I think they will have a strong case to make to voters that their opponents have demonstrated contempt for the will of the people, who have twice voted in the last decade for term limits.

Is it not the hallmark of tyrants to change laws just so they can keep power? Who among them would have the right to protest if President Bush tried to do the same?

Brooklyn Optimist Wins Election in a Landslide!

Last week, the Brooklyn Optimist reported in passing the humorous circumstances under which he discovered he had won the Primary to represent his neck of the woods in Greenpoint as its newest Kings County Democratic County Committee Member.

Well, now the outcome is official! The New York City Board of Elections website has certified the results of the September 9th Primary and the numbers are staggering. The Optimist (a.k.a. Morgan Pehme) scored a landslide win over his opponent, Carmine Galeotifiore, taking a whopping 75% of the vote in the local race.

I know, I know. Percentages are impressive. Especially considering that the total vote count was 12-4 in my favor. It kind of reminds me of the final score in a Mets game, in which the team's bullpen has been called upon to save a 4-3 lead.

But, a win is a win and I'm not complaining. Thanks so much to everyone who took the time to vote for me. I sincerely appreciate your support. I won't let you down over my next two years in office. No graft or sex scandals, I promise.

Congratulations to all my intrepid friends who also pulled out big wins on Primary Day, like my neighbor James Zika - who won by a single vote despite his excellent campaign - Alex Low, Chris Henderson, and Bushwick City Council hopeful Esteban Duran.

My sympathies to all of my friends who came up short. I know you'll rebound in 2010!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Brooklyn Dem's Judicial Convention is a Much More Serious Sham

Last week, The Optimist went inside the Kings County Democratic County Committee meeting and exposed it as bad theater. Unfortunately, he didn't know in time about the one-night-only comedy extravaganza that County staged the following evening.

I'm talking, of course, about the Brooklyn Democratic Party's judicial convention, the backroom bonanza where Vito Lopez doles out seats on the bench to his kowtowing cronies. One Optimist reader with intimate knowledge of the event wrote us to say that if only they had had a video camera to record last Tuesday's spectacle then many a Brooklyn jurist would have had to forfeit their seats in shame the next morning when the tape surfaced to the public.

The Daily News wasn't there live, but they did write a damning editorial on Friday, denouncing the event as "a glimpse into the odious nature of how the political bosses make judges in New York". For even more on this sham, check out Oneshirt's post on Room Eight here.

Seriously, people, when is Brooklyn going to get its act together? We have far too many talented artists to keep churning out such drek. Long time Brooklyn reformers had hoped that the U.S. Supreme Court would finally bring an end to this fiasco, but unfortunately the Roberts Court (surprise, surprise) shamelessly sided with corruption as usual. Super scumbag Justice Scalia was brazen in his majority opinion: "Party conventions, with their attendant 'smoke-filled rooms' and domination by party leaders, have long been an accepted manner of selecting party candidates."

Justice Stevens, in a concurring opinion, stated his reasons for upholding Brooklyn's codified cronyism in a slightly less infuriating manner: "I recall my esteemed former colleague, Thurgood Marshall, remarking on numerous occasions: 'The Constitution does not prohibit legislatures from enacting stupid laws.'"

So, that's where we are. I can't fault Vito. The ball is in the court of our State's legislators. As long as they refuse to act on behalf of the people and change our "stupid laws", Brooklynites will continue to suffer injustice.

The Onion Hacks Barack Obama's Email

By now, you probably have heard the hubbub about Sarah Palin's email being hacked. But now, thanks to the computer geniuses at The Onion, you can look through Barack Obama's inbox too! Click here to laugh.

I didn't realize Jimmy Carter was so down.

Oh, and for those who missed this all-time classic, here is a link to The Onion article "Black Guy Asks Nation for Change".

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"Farce": A Review of Last Night's Brooklyn Democratic County Committee Meeting

Last night, 181 Members of the Kings County Democratic County Committee huddled in an auditorium at St. Francis College in downtown Brooklyn to participate in the theatre of the absurd.

Move over Samuel Beckett, Vito Lopez in the hizzy.

Despite my unflappable optimism, I can't say I was surprised at how the night went. Though this was the first time I had attended the notorious affair, I had been warned in advance as to how these performances go. Basically, a bunch of elected officials and party loyalists take turns literally reading from a script to dutifully enact whatever agenda Vito Lopez has decided upon, and then call the meeting to a close as quickly as possible, so that its members don't get a headache from too much democracy all in one night.

Except for a few hiccups, that's precisely how last night played out. Taking every opportunity to eschew debate and neutralize dissent, the officials cast by Vito to read the script handed out to them earlier in the day did so as quickly as possible and then exited stage left.

The only people in the chorus who seemed to have missed the director's notes were Councilman Charles Barron, political blogger David Michaelson (a.k.a. mole333) and his wife Joy Romanski (corresponding secretary of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats), and the 50+ newly elected members of the County Committee from the New Kings Democrats political club.

Charles Barron, who incidentally is a far better actor than any of the extras sent by Central Casting to play Vito's goons, began his sparkling performance by challenging the largely ceremonial adoption of the Committee's rules on the grounds that he had not been given a chance to review them in advance. The fact that someone dared to disrupt the show early on palpably unnerved the crowd, which suddenly had to confront the possibility that the airy musical they had come to see had been surreptitiously replaced by the complete works of Ibsen.

Councilman Lewis Fidler, playing a toned-down version of Councilman Lewis Fidler, took it upon himself to calm the crowd, arguing that were the County Committee not to adopt the rules that the meeting would not be officially convened (bad), the Kings County Democratic Party would not be a legally sanctioned body and thus incapable of appointing judges (very bad), and that the globe would go flying off its axis and plunge into the sun (maybe not so bad if McCain gets elected).

A few eventful scenes later, Charles Barron again took the stage and delivered the evening's only noteworthy monologue. Unfortunately, I couldn't scribble it down fast enough in my program, but it began: "This is ridiculous! I've never been to a more scripted meeting in my whole life! This is insulting!" His eloquent soliloquy was saluted with scattered enthusiastic applause and then promptly dismissed as a rant.

The rest of the evening's sound and fury was left to the members of the New Kings Democrats, who tried their best in the role of "Reformers", but were overshadowed by Vito Lopez and the 670 Proxies. Every time the night's Chairman State Senator Marty Connor would call a vote on any proposal not in the script, if the yeas and the nays sounded even (NKD's members made up a vocal third of the audience), Connor would dispense with the pageantry and remind the crowd that there was a superstar with 670 votes to his name waiting in the wings ready to make a surprise cameo at any time. Since this one man was worth over three times the value of those in attendance (despite all the electeds there), Connor's forthright observation always settled the issue conclusively.

Speaking of Connor, this reviewer would be remiss in not acknowledging that he was genuinely moved by the veteran's performance as "Broken Man in Twilight". Now I can't claim to have seen Connor in his heyday, but as last night's Richard III, he brought an unexpected candor to the proceedings. He appeared not as a grand Senator, but as a mere man in need of a horse, beset with the anguish that comes when the realization that he will never again be king.

As for the rest of the ensemble, Vito Lopez was captivating, but unbelievable, in the role of "The Gentle Giant" (seriously, that guy is towering).

Assemblywoman Annette Robinson and District Leader Olanike Alabi were disappointing as "The Early Adjourners". For those critics who will allege that the New Kings Democrats didn't accomplish anything last night, I would point to the bit parts read by this duo as the reason NKD didn't get more of a chance to shine. By ushering the show to a close before any new business could be proposed, Robinson and Alabi cheated a good portion of the audience out of the cost of admission. I was particularly dispirited by Alabi's role. Usually, one of the only truly progressive District Leaders, she could have made something of her part, but instead preferred to mail it in. I know she could have done better.

Equally disappointing were "The Electeds". And I mean all of them, except for Charles Barron. Not a single one of them in attendance last night (District Leaders included!), has any chance of being cast in 2009's much-anticipated blockbuster release "Brooklyn's Real Reformers". Of course, their agents and acting coaches will try to convince you otherwise next September, but don't believe the hype.

Last, but not least, The Optimist found himself unexpectedly the central figure in one of the night's only moments of true levity. I attended the meeting not yet knowing of the outcome of the primary race I ran last week to represent my tiny swath of Greenpoint as its Democratic County Committee Member. The good people at NKD took it upon themselves to nominate me for appointment to the committee on their slate of candidates for the 50th Assembly District. When Chairman Connor read the competing slate of candidates, it turned out that in the 93rd Election District Morgan Pehme's opponent on the competing slate was none other than "Morgan Pehme".

I stood up in the meeting, announced that I happened to be "Morgan Pehme", and said that the reason NKD had nominated me was because I did not yet know the outcome of the primary. Chairman Connor smiled and said, "Apparently, you won. Congratulations. Everyone seems to like you." My victory was greeted with perhaps the warmest and only non-controversial round of applause of the night.

I wonder if I'm still going to be as universally well-liked after you read my review of last night's show?

As always, I will remain optimistic.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Shocking News: SNL Makes The Optimist Laugh

For the first time in a long time, Saturday Night Live actually made me laugh this week! For those of you who missed Tina Fey's spot-on impression of Sarah Palin (who makes me cry!), I encourage you to indulge below.

Poor Hillary! SNL captures just how humiliating it must be for her to be grouped together with a nitwit like Palin.

Attention Luther Elementary School Alumni

Brooklyn Optimist fan Ray Palermo wrote me today requesting I post the following information about Lutheran Elementary School of Bay Ridge. Who am I to turn down a reader's request?

Attention Lutheran Elementary School Alumni: Send us your name, address, and email so we don’t lose touch. Lutheran Elementary School, 440 Ovington Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11209, Attn: Alumni Office or LESAlumni@hotmail.com for news and information about your former classmates and teachers. (Hold the Date: Nov. 7 "Night at the Races”)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Brooklyn Politics: The More You Know

Inspired in part by the efforts of The New Kings Democrats - the young, ambitious political club of which I am proud to call myself a member - many of you have reached out to The Optimist in recent weeks, asking how you can learn more about Brooklyn politics.

Thanks for asking. The reason that the Brooklyn Democratic party and so many of our elected officials are able to act unscrupulously or flat-out unethically is because of the general public's lack of knowledge about local politics.

Matt Cowherd and Rachel Lauter, a pair of truly civic-minded citizens, founded The New Kings Democrats with the laudable intent of educating their fellow voters and bringing transparency to a deplorable system of governance that thrives, like Dick Cheney, by lurking in the shadows.

In an article yesterday in the Gotham Gazette, Assemblymember Vito Lopez, the Brooklyn Democratic Party leader, dismissed The New Kings' efforts, saying “I don’t have time to deal with people who are in constant conflict.”


I not quite sure how to address such rubbish, except to tell you that from the very first meeting of NKD that both the group's members and leadership were adamant that they didn't want to be the "anti-Vito club". These concerned citizens - young and old, Black, white and Latino - had come to participate in local government for the first time in their lives because they believed that their leaders would embrace their enthusiasm to make government better and more representative of the people. Most of them had never even heard of Vito Lopez in their lives!

But now we know who Vito is. He is a person who maintains that citizens who want to take an active role in their government are insurgents bent upon "constant conflict". This rhetoric is all too familiar. It reminds New Yorkers of how we were told after 9/11 that to question President Bush's rush to launch illegal wars was "unpatriotic".

America is a country that was founded upon the strength of dissenting voices. Our nation charges us to take the wildly broad diversity of our opinions and to compromise upon a concensus for the common good.

In America we don't call this "constant conflict", we call this "debate".

And the best way to have an intelligent debate is to know all the facts. So, without further introduction, let me give some food for thought to those of you hungry to chew on Brooklyn politics.

If you want to know what's going on, I suggest that you start every day by reading Liz Benjamin's column in The Daily News , as well as Azi Paybarah and Katharine Jose over at The New York Observer's Politicker. The advantage of these blogs is that they are written by journalists, not pundits, which means that the information they provide is generally not clouded by an agenda. I believe strongly in reading all of the posts, not just the ones that pertain to Brooklyn, because borough to borough, city politicians play the same game, and you can catch trends that will help you see the larger picture of New York City politics.

If you still haven't had your fill after these two columns, move on over to blogs like The Daily Gotham and Room Eight. Often you'll find a wealth of information here that is either more controversial or not adequately substantiated to qualify for the daily papers. But, beware, don't believe everything you read! These bloggers may be providing prejudiced, speculative, or just plainly inaccurate information.

How can you tell the difference between fact and fiction?

The more you know, the better you'll learn to question.

That last nugget of advice is for you, Vito.