I have had lots of opinions building up over my one-week vacation, so I am going to attempt to get it all out in one bombastic blurt. Here goes!
Common Council races: We don’t do endorsements for Common Council, more due to logistics than anything else — the prospect of scheduling sitdowns with up to 18 or more people just makes my head hurt. So while voters will have to get by without benefit of specific editorial guidance (poor you, right?) some general points can be made. The primaries knocked the more, umm, vivid candidates out of the race, so while a pretty good bunch of picks await the electorate next Tuesday, the hopefuls have not really expressed a great deal of differing viewpoints about city affairs. Still, they uniformly seem to be well-meaning and willing to dedicate themselves to helping Kingston, so I am optimistic no matter who wins.
The giant Uptown mural: You know, as it was going up last month I thought to myself that there were some people who were not going to dig it, and those people have begun to express their discontent in the media and on Facebook. There is nothing more subjective than the appreciation of art — one viewer’s crap is another’s masterpiece, but it is impossible to deny that the mural was done skillfully by a talented painter. I personally think it’s really nice and an asset to Uptown. I wonder if it had been a giant mural of Thomas Chambers with a dozen boobs, the disgruntled would have liked it more. I also believe the building’s owner was within her rights (but apparently outside Landmark Commission rules) to paint the back end of it as she pleases. Property rights, like gun rights and free-speech rights, are not just for conservatives, y’know — perhaps people would be happier if they just thought of it as Kingston’s take on Notre Dame’s “Touchdown Jesus.” Further, the mural symbolizes, apart from what it’s meant to symbolize, the new vitality the arts community has brought into Uptown. The Stockade District’s history is important and will continue to be going forward, but it can’t be all that Uptown’s about. An eclectic, visually exciting neighborhood is good for the city, not a sign of its degeneration. Like the red goats before her, the Ephesian Artemis will become a symbol of the city to outsiders and not really noticed after a while by people who come here day in and day out.
They spy: Snowden’s NSA leakage is progressively making the U.S. look worse as each revelation seems to trump the last. Relations between us and the Germans, for instance, haven’t been this bad since May of 1945. Here at home, our congressman has thrown his support behind a legislative effort to rein in our admittedly impressive and pretty darn pervasive cyber-spying. I support that too, but I also reckon that we (and every other country) will continue to spy on whomever we can as well as we can for as long as we can. This puts the president in a tough spot: he either has to admit he knew about it all and look like a privacy-invading enabler of the National Security State, or deny he knew about it and look like an in-the-dark stooge of the National Security State. Maybe one day Snowden will leak out exactly what the president knew and when he knew it.
Obamacare: Speaking of which, maybe Snowden can also leak out how to fix the government’s $500 million healthcare website. I think everyone can calm down about it, though — sooner or later, the federal one will work and the New York one seems to be working fine. But will the Affordable Care Act itself work? That question may take years to answer as it attempts to get money from young and healthy people to pay for the massive amount of old and sick people we’re going to have on our hands starting about now. In the short term, though, I suspect the ACA (and along with it the entire Obama presidency) will rise or fall on how it affects the rates of those of us who get their insurance through our employers. If people end up having to pay about the same for the same or better coverage, that’s a win; paying less for the same or more would be the best, but c’mon, nothing ever works out that well with health insurance. If people have to pay more for less, even for a year or two, I wonder if it will be the start along a path that will end with the inauguration of President Chris Christie on Jan. 20, 2017.
Casino gambling: We have had in these pages a rather steady stream of anti-casino gambling opinions these past few months, and I agree with much of it — it’ll be damaging to those with a weakness for gambling and it will by no means be the boon for the state in terms of money that it’s being drummed up to be. Yes, some people will get very rich, or to be more precise, even richer than they already are, but our taxes will still go up at very likely the same rates as they have been. But, and this is a big but, there’s something to be said for allowing people to do what they want with their money, kinda like there’s something to be said for allowing people to do what they want with their bodies. I don’t see anything inherently immoral about casino gambling. Like any pursuit, if you indulge in it too much, there will be negative effects; when the potential negative societal effects of casino gambling are ticked off, they remind me of the arguments used to get Prohibition through in the 19-Teens. So, should the fact that something is bad for a small segment of the population be cause for abolishing it for the entire population? Hmm. Anyway, like many other people in the Empire State, there’s a good chance I will forget to flip the ballot over to vote on it, rendering the whole argument moot.