Contents: Epic democracy fail; What’s the Mayor’s son doing in Moscow?; Russia moves one step closer to world domination.
I have what they call “writer’s block” and I call “just not bothering to sit down and write and anyway Lost is on!” The Olympics are about to begin, which means I’ll have “just not bothering to sit down and write and anyway the Olympics are on!” The outlook is bleak, my friends. But I refuse to let guilt about a silly blog and pandering to its followers stop me from indulging in the bliss that is watching the Olympic games.
On the other hand, I can’t go on with that video at the top of the page like that. Every time I check my blog, I am overcome with an overwhelming urge to click “play,” and then I have that damned Gorby song in my head all day. It’s gotten to the point that I don’t want to visit my own blog. Also the stalkers freak me out. But that’s a matter for a different post. Something must be done. On the one hand something must be done and on the other I do not wish to do it and this, dear readers, is the story of my life. Which refuses to write its damned self.
A couple of weeks ago we had an election. You know, that beaming floodlight in that beacon in that city on that hill. No one came. What if you held and election and no one came? A man who runs a pawn shop, beat his ex-wife, owes child support and abused his prostitute girlfriend is elected Lt. Gov., apparently. Perhaps you are thinking, “Well, what’s the Lt. Gov. responsible for anyway?” Nothing. Until his boss is indicted and impeached or imprisoned, which the 2 previous Governors have been. Nothing, until they wake up one day and are Governor of Illinois because their boss tried to sell Senate seat and now they have to figure out how to run the State while their boss goes on Celebrity Apprentice to pay for his legal bills. Nothing. Some say, “Eh, let’s get rid of the position of Lt. Governor. They don’t do anything anyway. Put the Attorney General next in line for Governor.” Do you know who says that? Our Speaker, Mike Madigan. Whose daughter is … get outchyer drums kids … Attorney General. Rock. And. Roll.
I do hope that the previous paragraph illustrates for you why I believe all the “OMG!! Russia’s not a democracy!! Call an exterminator!!” hysteria is … still have those drums? … bullshit. Your moral compass needs tuning if you’d wish this upon anyone else, and your intellect honing if you think Russia is exceptional in its horrorshow embarrassment of a democracy.
I was going to write a thoughtful piece on democracy. I was going to call it, “Let’s talk about Democracy,” and have Salt’n’Peppa do a back up jingle. I was so disappointed in our little election. The turn out was about 27%. The most common excuses for not voting were 1) the 2 inches of snow that fell that day and 2) corrupt politicians. When 69% of Ukraine came out to vote, I was coated with another layer of embarrassment. And anger. I felt so passionately about what was at stake here. I had things to say. Now? I’m exhausted and cynical and know people don’t care. I’m also PMS-ing and don’t f***ing care bout your f***ing democracy right now, ok? Fortunately I did begin to write something before I took the last pink pill in the pack:
If the vast majority of people don’t vote, they’ve already handed their personal agency and government over to a minority. And yet these same people would be up in arms if a minority drove in with tanks and took over. Citizens would begin chanting, “Of the people, By the people, For the people!” They’d retaliate and win because that’s how much we love our democracy in this country. But on election day, somehow voting is for losers who still believe in the system, who have too much time on their hands, or who are fanatics. People with that attitude not only suck, they make me understand the appeal of authoritarianism. And yet if people are ignorant of the process and what is at stake, the solution should be to inform and enlighten them, not blame them. We require students to learn the Constitution. But they’re left on their own to figure out how our democratic system works. Unfortunately, to increase the funding for education to ensure that the electorate is both informed of the process and has developed the critical thinking skills necessary to make responsible decisions, people have to go to the polls and vote to increase funding whichalsomeansmoretaxeswhichthemoronsdon’twantsowe’rejustscrewed! Motherf***ers!
I added that last bit a little later. Ignore it. The irony – absurdity, really – of our situation should be clear. As should the source of my frustration, both with my fellow Americans who fail to understand that sitting at home distrusting the system does not, in fact, improve accountability, and with those who peddle democracy like snake oil as the cure to whatever is wrong with your country. The democratic process may be imperative for ideological reasons: the right of every human to equal access to government in order to advocate for their rights and needs. But as a system, it is hardly impervious to apathy or corruption. So it is peculiar to me that it’s what we prescribe, top-down, for Russia’s political ailments. Which seem to be, above all, apathy and corruption. Meanwhile back in Illinois, rampant apathy and corruption is not met with proclamations from on high that we need more or better democracy. In fact, it seems people are coming to the conclusion that Illinoisans should no longer be allowed to choose their leaders. In fact, it seems 75% of Illinoisans agree.
Apropos of nothing…
Mayor Daley’s son was called to active duty. Normally this kind of announcement would go in one ear and out the other. War fatigue. But innocuously buried within the press release was the following, “Patrick Daley was living in Moscow when he got word of his recent redeployment…” It is 2010 and there’s no reason a young American man shouldn’t be living in Moscow for any number of reasons. But this is no ordinary young American man. This is the son of Mayor Daley and the grandson of Mayor Daley. A chill ran down my spine. This is a combination that goes together about as well as Stoli and Valium. I used to joke that Chicagoans could teach the Kremlin a thing or two about corruption and fixing elections. And when I lived in Moscow and told people I was from Chicago, without fail I was asked if I knew Al Capone (no, really, I was). Moscow was positively crawling with mobsters and somehow my hometown carried weight, bought me some cred, even though I’d only seen Capone in the same movies they had. Anyway, my point is that Chicago and Moscow have things in common and they are not good things: inclement weather, political corruption, organized crime. So when I read that “Patrick Daley was living in Moscow when he got word of his recent redeployment…” my first thought was not, “Oh, I wonder if he’s writing a thesis on the portrayal of women’s morality in the latter works of Chekhov as a reflection of social anxiety about modernity or some bs.” My first thought was, “Certainly nothing good can come of this…”
But that is not fair. I don’t know Patrick. Maybe he is writing a thesis on the portrayal of women’s morality in the latter works of Chekhov as a reflection of social anxiety about modernity or some bs. I would not want to be judged by the actions of my father. And I don’t want to be one of those tiresome angry bloggers out to destroy the reputations of complete strangers. So I googled to find out what Patrick was doing living in Moscow. I still don’t know (private equity investment manager or something – I wasn’t putting much effort into it) but this was the first thing that came up:
Fifteen years ago, after being introduced to high-ranking Russian government officials, Garber started a taxi business in Moscow, the Chicago Tribune reported in 2004. He has said he operates 900 cabs in Moscow.
“It’s all about who you know,” Garber told the Tribune. “It’s important to be well-connected. Life is a two-way street.”
Garber has said he met Patrick Daley in Moscow.
“Me and Patrick are very good acquaintances,” Garber told the Sun-Times in a 2008 interview. “We met in Russia somewhere in August 2001. One of my friends, he introduced me to Patrick. We were there twice at the same time. And one time we went out in New York” — where Patrick Daley worked for Bear Stearns, the now-defunct investment and financial services company.
By fall 2002, Garber had started buying taxicab medallions in Chicago, many of which had been surrendered by Yellow Cab as part of its effort to focus more on managing cabs and less on ownership of cabs. Garber had control of 300 medallions in June 2003 when he got a license from the Daley administration to begin operating Chicago Carriage Cab.
In Chicago, as in New York, City Hall has complete control over cab companies. City officials determine the number of cabs, who can operate them, who can own them, who can drive them and how much riders pay to ride in them.
Though Garber expanded to Chicago within a year of meeting Patrick Daley, the mayor’s son had no role in Garber’s getting a license from the Daley administration, Garber has said. And the mayor’s press secretary, Jacquelyn Heard, echoes that.
“Patrick didn’t help me with anything,” Garber told the Sun-Times in 2008. “We did not go out in Chicago socially. I knew he was the mayor’s son, and I didn’t want to have any implications that anyone is helping me run my company.
“The only business deals were with a bottle of vodka,” he said then. “Patrick is an excellent guy. Great drinker, knows how to hold his liquor. We played some rugby. He has a great sense of humor.”
Heard says the mayor and his son have never spoken about Garber.
Heard explains Garber’s success in Chicago this way: “Here’s a young man who started a business in New York and did well and then came to the second-biggest market, Chicago, and started a business here.”
Patrick Daley, who has recently been living in Moscow, didn’t respond to an e-mail asking about Garber.
Patrick Daley, who has been a venture capitalist for several years, has been under investigation by the city’s inspector general and federal authorities over the hidden ownership stake he bought in 2003 in a sewer-inspection company that won millions of dollars in no-bid contract extensions from City Hall.
A year after Garber got into the cab business in Chicago, he hired the mayor’s former chief of staff, Gery Chico, to lobby Norma Reyes, the mayor’s commissioner of business affairs and consumer protection.
Chico didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.
Reyes says she believes Chico was trying to get the city to raise the lease rates Garber charges drivers — and wasn’t successful.
Garber’s cab company keeps growing. During the first nine months of 2009, even as Chicago and the rest of the nation remained mired in recession, city records show Garber and his associates kept buying taxi licenses. They bought 68 medallions, paying more than $9.1 million.
Well there you go. An unusually successful Russian businessman who happens purely by chance to be a drinking buddy of the Mayor’s son. Who is under under investigation by the city’s inspector general and federal authorities. And is living in Moscow. Which has no extradition treaty. Meh. Nothing to see here, kids. Move along…
For a moment I was worried that our Mayor might be up to no good, sending his son to Moscow like Michael Corleone was sent to Sicily. And seriously, what would the kids in Kremlin want with the Daleys? It’s hardly as if Chicago is a success story other places would seek to emulate. We lost the Olympic bid, our public transportation is on life support, there are gaping holes in the ground where new skyscrapers were supposed to go and Daley’s been on a madcap privatization rampage, holding one going out of business sale after another to pay the city’s bills. Seriously, it’s not like we’re full of bright ideas over here…
What’s that? You say Medvedev is calling for what? More privatization?
Apropos of nothing…
A Russian company just bought a whole entire town in Latvia. I think the plan is to privatize everything, have private companies or oligarchs buy up our towns and sports teams and when the time is right, re-nationalize it all. Pwned!
And you thought they would arrive on tanks.
Ok, thank you for reading & have a lovely Valentine’s Day! [Stupid consumerist patriarchal holiday. And I’m not just saying that because I’ll be spending it with a pint of Häagen-Dazs, watching Johnny Weir and Yevgeny Plyushchenko duke it out in sparkly leotards. Really. I’m not. Even though it would still be true even if that were my reason for saying it. Hmph.]