FDL Book Salon Welcomes Elizabeth Greenspan, Battle for Ground Zero: Inside the Political Struggle to Rebuild the World Trade Center

Welcome Elizabeth Greenspan (ElizabethGreenspan.com) (Twitter) and Host Lindsay Beyerstein (InTheseTimes) (Twitter)

Battle for Ground Zero: Inside the Political Struggle to Rebuild the World Trade Center

When the Twin Towers fell, Elizabeth Greenspan was a 24-year-old graduate student in urban studies in New York City. She was interested in how cities rebuild after catastrophes, like Hiroshima and she began to chronicle Ground Zero while the ruins were still smouldering. Her new book, The Battle For Ground Zero, chronicles the years of struggle and conflict during which New Yorkers fought over what should replace the World Trade Center.

As in so many rebuilding battles, the fight was never just about architecture or transit hubs or public/private partnerships. The real conflict was over symbolism and ideology. Was the building supposed to be a triumphant rallying point in the “Global War on Terror” or a somber memorial to the deceased? The attacks on the WTC killed nearly 3000 people, and some of their remains still rest at Ground Zero. So, one of the major challenges in reconstruction was reconciling the need for a historical memorial to a terrorist attack in the middle of a commercial office complex that lives or dies by its ability to attract tenants.

The story is told in three acts. Act I: Visions and Visionaries (2001-2003) introduces us to the power players who sought to reshape downtown, Governor Pataki, Mayor Giuliani, Port Authority officials, uber-developer Larry Silverstein, and the high-powered architects vying for the commission. In Act II: Divisions and Delays (2003-2008), we are introduced to some 9/11 families, whose desire for what they considered to be a fitting memorial for their loved ones was often at odds with the goals of rebuilding a commercial office building. In Act III: Dealmakers (2008-2011), we learn about the construction of the Freedom Tower and the controversy over a plan to build an Islamic community center nearby.

The Battle for Ground Zero provides compassionate account of the various factions in this fight, and financial, professional, and emotional stakes driving the players. The book explores how a commercial real estate project can become a stand-in for questions about democracy, identity, history, and memory.

Let’s give Liz a warm Firedoglake welcome! (more…)

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Elizabeth Greenspan, Battle for Ground Zero: Inside the Political Struggle to Rebuild the World Trade Center

Welcome Elizabeth Greenspan (ElizabethGreenspan.com) (Twitter) and Host Lindsay Beyerstein (InTheseTimes) (Twitter)

Battle for Ground Zero: Inside the Political Struggle to Rebuild the World Trade Center

When the Twin Towers fell, Elizabeth Greenspan was a 24-year-old graduate student in urban studies in New York City. She was interested in how cities rebuild after catastrophes, like Hiroshima and she began to chronicle Ground Zero while the ruins were still smouldering. Her new book, The Battle For Ground Zero, chronicles the years of struggle and conflict during which New Yorkers fought over what should replace the World Trade Center.

As in so many rebuilding battles, the fight was never just about architecture or transit hubs or public/private partnerships. The real conflict was over symbolism and ideology. Was the building supposed to be a triumphant rallying point in the “Global War on Terror” or a somber memorial to the deceased? The attacks on the WTC killed nearly 3000 people, and some of their remains still rest at Ground Zero. So, one of the major challenges in reconstruction was reconciling the need for a historical memorial to a terrorist attack in the middle of a commercial office complex that lives or dies by its ability to attract tenants. (more…)

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Lynn Parramore and Sarah Jaffe, The 99%: How the Occupy Wall Street Movement is Changing America

Welcome Lynn Parramore and Sarah Jaffe,(Alternet.org) and Host, Lindsay Beyerstein (InTheseTimes.com).

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]

The 99%: How the Occupy Wall Street Movement is Changing America

In the summer of 2011, 14 million Americans were unemployed and 16% of the country was officially poor. Student loan debt eclipsed credit card with over $1 trillion outstanding. One in five mortgages was underwater. Our leaders said the economy was recovering from the recession caused by the financial crisis, but their soothing pronouncements seemed to mock the evidence of our senses. On September 17, a group of activists converged on a small concrete plaza in lower Manhattan, determined to Occupy Wall Street.

The 99% opens with some founding texts of the occupation including a speeches by author Naomi Klein, Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, and union leader Leo Gerard. Person-on-the-plaza interviews capture the voices of a striking Teamster, a farmer/mental health technician working the medical tent, and a Wall Street insider-turned-digital activist.

The next section describes the nuts and bolts of a communal occupation: Staying safe, keeping warm, charging cell phones, making decisions as a group, and cataloging the People’s Library. Sarah Jaffe describes the ingenious system of solar panels used to generate energy and the grey water filtration system that protesters rigged up to water the park’s flowers. Richard Kim writes about the practical and symbolic impact of the human mic. Journalist and illustrator Susie Cagle offers a helpful graphical guide to the hand signals of the occupation.

Subsequent chapters describe critical events in the history of the occupation, including the mass arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge, and the early morning standoff to prevent Bloomberg from clearing the park for cleaning.

The book devotes considerable space to analysis of the economic crisis that sparked Occupy Wall Street: the consolidation of wealth, the mortgage crisis. Lynn Parramore explains how the consolidation of bank deposits in the hands of a few mega banks contributed to the current crisis. Josh Holland describes how Citizens United short-circuited democracy. Economist Jamie Galbraith dissects the meaningless claim that smaller government is inherently better.

The final chapters explore possible futures for the Occupy Movement beyond physical encampments.

The 99% is an important early work on a defining social movement of our times.

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Lynn Parramore and Sarah Jaffe, The 99%: How the Occupy Wall Street Movement is Changing America

Welcome Lynn Parramore and Sarah Jaffe,(Alternet.org) and Host, Lindsay Beyerstein (InTheseTimes.com).

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]

The 99%: How the Occupy Wall Street Movement is Changing America

In the summer of 2011, 14 million Americans were unemployed and 16% of the country was officially poor. Student loan debt eclipsed credit card with over $1 trillion outstanding. One in five mortgages was underwater. Our leaders said the economy was recovering from the recession caused by the financial crisis, but their soothing pronouncements seemed to mock the evidence of our senses. On September 17, a group of activists converged on a small concrete plaza in lower Manhattan, determined to Occupy Wall Street. (more…)

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Will Bunch, October 1, 2011: The Battle of the Brooklyn Bridge

Welcome Will Bunch (Attytood) and Host Lindsay Beyerstein (Sidney Hillman Foundation/In These Times)

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]

October 1, 2011: The Battle of the Brooklyn Bridge

Host, Lindsay Beyerstein:

The Battle of the Brooklyn Bridge tells the story of a pivotal event in the history of Occupy Wall Street. On Oct. 1, hundreds of protesters marched from occupied Zuccotti Park towards the Brooklyn Bridge. The official plan was to have a picnic on the other side of the river.

The police allowed the protesters to surge onto the bridge and then proceeded to corral them in nets and arrest them by the hundreds.

Bunch tells the story of the bridge through the eyes of several vividly drawn characters: A 19-year-old veteran street protester with working class roots and a genius for escaping arrest; a 69-year-old retired lawyer who showed up on impulse after being moved by a play about the final day of Martin Luther King’s life; a painfully shy theater tech who found the movement online; a self-styled branding expert/saxophonist; and a 24-year-old Jewish immigrant from the former Soviet Union, drowning in student debt.

Bunch paints a colorful picture of life in occupied Zuccotti Park, a thriving community with a food distribution program, a library, and a first aid center. Tents are against park rules, so residents huddle together in sleeping bags nicknamed “soggy burritos.”

The Brooklyn Bridge held great symbolic and tactical importance for Occupy Wall Street. By marching to Brooklyn, OWS hoped to establish a toehold in New York’s most populous borough, which is home to a more ethnically and socioeconomically diverse population than Lower Manhattan. The bridge itself is a icon of freedom and a source of civic pride. To walk across that bridge in peaceful protest is a powerfully symbolic act. [cont’d.] (more…)

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Will Bunch, October 1, 2011: The Battle of the Brooklyn Bridge

Welcome Will Bunch (Attytood) and Host Lindsay Beyerstein (Sidney Hillman Foundation/In These Times)

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]

October 1, 2011: The Battle of the Brooklyn Bridge

Host, Lindsay Beyerstein:

The Battle of the Brooklyn Bridge tells the story of a pivotal event in the history of Occupy Wall Street. On Oct. 1, hundreds of protesters marched from occupied Zuccotti Park towards the Brooklyn Bridge. The official plan was to have a picnic on the other side of the river.

The police allowed the protesters to surge onto the bridge and then proceeded to corral them in nets and arrest them by the hundreds. (more…)

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Ken Silverstein: Turkmeniscam

ken-silverstein-turkmeniscam.thumbnail.jpgMoney doesn’t buy happiness, but it’s nice to find out for yourself.

Rumor has it Washington lobbyists will represent anyone for the right price. Anyone? Journalist Ken Silverstein, the author of Turkmeniscam: How Washington Lobbyists Fought to Flack for a Stalinist Dictatorship, wanted to find out for himself. Turns out, money buys a lot of lobbying. 

Most people don’t realize that foreign countries routinely and openly pay American lobbyists to influence US foreign policy. It’s a multi-million dollar industry. Yet, so far, little is known about how these lobbyists ply their trade in the halls of power. 

Lobbyists are notoriously secretive about their work. Obviously, they weren’t going to spill their high-priced secrets to a the Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine. So, Silverstein contrived a simple but elegant ruse to gain entry to the inner sanctums of the Washington lobbying establishment: posing as a potential client. (more…)

Dean Steps Down as DNC Chair

Howard Dean at YearlyKos

Howard Dean at YearlyKos, 2006.

This just in from the New York Times blog: "Howard Dean will not seek a second term as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, ending a tenure marked by an aggressive attempt to reshape the mission of the committee – and to court support by the so-called Netroots – but also marked by frequent quarrels with Democratic leaders over his abilities and the direction he was taking the party."

Dean may have picked a good time to make his exit. With Democrats in control the legislative and executive branches, the influence of the DNC chair’s office is expected to wane. 

The Netroots is watching carefully to see whether the next DNC chair will  share Dean’s commitment to the 50-state strategy. 

Cambell Brown to Palin Snipers: You Picked Her

CNN anchor Cambell Brown has some harsh words for the McCain aides who are dishing the dirt about Sarah Palin to the press: You picked her.

I’m thrilled the Republicans are airing their dirty laundry in public. Journalism is the first draft of history and if it’s true that Sarah Palin thought Africa was one big exotic country, that’s something we ought to know, going forward.

On the other hand, Republican aides lie a lot. So, we should probably take some of the more extreme claims about Sarah Palin’s ignorance with a grain of salt. 

I find it ironic that McCain aides are backbiting Sarah Palin for her "temper tantrums." When John McCain pitches a fit, he’s a fightin’ maverick. When Palin gets mad, she’s a rogue diva. 

Did Norm Coleman’s BFF Buy Sarah Palin’s Suits?

picture-2.thumbnail.pngTwo suit-related scandals rocked Republican politics in 2008. The first involved Sen. Norm Coleman and the second Gov. Sarah Palin. These sartorial scandals shared an unlikely epicenter: Neiman Marcus, Minneapolis.

Last month, Ken Silverstein reported that a Minnesota businessman bought suits for US Sen. Norm Coleman:

I’ve been told by two sources that Kazeminy has in the past covered the bills for Coleman’s lavish clothing purchases at Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis. The sources were not certain of the dates of the purchases; if they were made before Coleman joined the Senate in 2003, he obviously would not be required to report it under Senate rules. But having a private businessman pay for your clothing is never a good idea if you’re a public official (Coleman was mayor of St. Paul from 1994 to 2002). [Harper’s]

Note the modus operandi. Nasser Kazeminy, the wealthy GOP donor, reportedly covered Coleman’s bills. Kazeminy and Coleman didn’t go pick out the snazzy threads together. Instead, Coleman picked out the suits and Kazeminy somehow arranged to pick up the tab later. 

Norm Coleman spearheaded the drive to bring the Republican National Convention to Minneapolis-St. Paul. His ally in this endeavor was Jeff Larson, Rove protege, aka the most powerful GOP consultant you’ve never heard of

Larson also happens to be Coleman’s landlord in Washington, D.C. In this capacity, Larson has been accused of charging Coleman below-market rent for his D.C. digs, which if true, would violate Senate ethics rules regarding undisclosed gifts.

Coleman’s campaigns have been major clients of Larson’s consulting firm, FLS Connect. Larson’s firm also raked in big bucks from the RNC, the Minnesota GOP, and, most recently, the McCain campaign. 

Coleman hired Larson’s wife Dorene to work in his senate office.

When asked whether Kazeminy paid for his suits, Coleman and his spokesmen were legalistic to the point of absurdity. All the Coleman camp will say is that Norm Coleman has reported every gift he has ever received. Coleman will neither confirm nor deny that Kazeminy bought his suits.

Campaign finance records show that Coleman has declared gifts from Kazeminy in the past, specifically, trips on businessman’s personal jet. 

Now on to the subject of Sarah Palin’s lavish wardrobe. Nobody will admit to authorizing the extravagant expenditures. McCain and Palin aides and the RNC broke ranks during the waning days of the campaign and began pointing fingers at one another. 

Despite their differences, all sides agreed that the duds did not become Palin’s property, i.e., everyone was adamant that these items were not gifts. By law, campaign contributions cannot be spent on clothing or other personal expenses, although party committees may have more leeway in this regard. At the very least, if Palin kept the clothes she would have had to pay taxes on merchandise worth more than her annual salary as governor of Alaska. 

This complex non-ownership is an important wrinkle in Suitgate, to which we will return. 

Newsweek has uncovered some additional details that suggest that mysteries of Norm’s suits and Sarah’s suits may share a common thread, as it were:

NEWSWEEK has also learned that Palin’s shopping spree at high-end department stores was more extensive than previously reported. While publicly supporting Palin, McCain’s top advisers privately fumed at what they regarded as her outrageous profligacy. One senior aide said that Nicolle Wallace had told Palin to buy three suits for the convention and hire a stylist. But instead, the vice presidential nominee began buying for herself and her family—clothes and accessories from top stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. According to two knowledgeable sources, a vast majority of the clothes were bought by a wealthy donor, who was shocked when he got the bill. Palin also used low-level staffers to buy some of the clothes on their credit cards. The McCain campaign found out last week when the aides sought reimbursement. One aide estimated that she spent "tens of thousands" more than the reported $150,000, and that $20,000 to $40,000 went to buy clothes for her husband. Some articles of clothing have apparently been lost. An angry aide characterized the shopping spree as "Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast," and said the truth will eventually come out when the Republican Party audits its books.

Where did Coleman’s suits come from? Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis. How were they paid for? A wealthy GOP donor reportedly picked up the tab. Where did many of Sarah Palin’s lavish articles originate? Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis. Aide Nicole Wallace says she sent Palin to Neiman’s to buy three suits. The Newsweek story implies that a wealthy GOP donor had agreed to pick up the tab for the suits, but was surprised when Palin went on a much bigger shopping spree. 

Here’s the kicker. Who signed for Sarah Palin’s Neimans’ outlay? Why, none other than GOP consultant and Coleman ally Jeff Larson

All this makes me wonder whether the anonymous GOP donor was Nasser Kazeminy himself. How many GOP bigwigs run a tab at Neiman’s for Republican makeovers? Even if a another wealthy donor payed for Palin’s clothes, the episode might shed light on how Republicans do business in the Twin Cities. 

Many observers wondered why Coleman chose "every gift I’ve ever received" as his Suitgate soundbite. His staffers insist that he reported every gift he was obliged to report on his Senate financial disclosure forms. On its face, the declaration seems to imply that Kazeminy didn’t give Coleman any suits. But if that’s the case, why wouldn’t Coleman simply deny that Kazeminy gave him suits?

What if Kazeminy bought suits for Norm Coleman’s senate campaign in the same way that Sarah Palin’s handlers allegedly acquired her wardrobe without actually giving it to her? Coleman is Larson’s employer through FLS Connect, and Larson was Palin’s personal shopper. So, the Kazeminy theory partially explains means, motive, and opportunity.

Let’s hope more details emerge as McCain staffers turn on Sarah Palin.

[Photo: Norm Coleman and Todd Palin at a rally in Minnesota]