Friday, January 07, 2011

The Czar and His Advisors

There's an old joke about the Russian Revolution that tells of how, when bad times came, the Russian people always thought that the Czar was a good man and couldn't be blamed for the mess-he simply had bad advisers. Revolution ensued, however, when the people figured out that the Czar appointed his own advisers. And then there is the reign of Mike Bloomberg, the current czar of the NYC.

Under Czar Mike, a snowstorm came and the people found themselves stranded because the personnel in charge of the clean up were unequal to the task. In the first blush of the storm's aftermath, however, Czar Mike fulsomely praised his under performing underlings-and made fatuous statements that recall the famous Groucho Marx line; "Who are you going to believe, me or your own lying eyes?"

Having been sobered by this dash of reality, the city czar has now done a 180% about face-and those same highly-and inappropriately-praised underlings are being tossed under a stranded city bus. The NY Daily News has this story: "Bloomberg has acknowledged that the city made numerous mistakes during the December 26 storm that saw 170 ambulances stuck in the snow and deadly delays in the 911 emergency system. Several city employees are already paying the price. The two top-ranking officers in the sanitation department's Brooklyn South division were yanked from their jobs on Thursday and the head of the city's EMS operation was demoted on

The NY Post also chimes in: "The heads just keep on rolling following last month's botched blizzard cleanup..."After examining our performance during the massive blizzard that hit us the day after Christmas, among the things we found were that structural and personnel changes were in order in Brooklyn to create a more balanced operation," said Sanitation Department Commissioner John Doherty."

As you may recall, this is the same John Doherty who gave his sanitmen an A+ for, what now turns out to be, their stellar inattention to their jobs. What has changed? The mayor is in dire need of scapegoats because he wants to see if he can bamboozle New Yorkers, much like the apocryphal Russians before the revolution, into differentiating between the czar and his advisers-and thus exculpating the mayor himself for his less than command performance.

In other words, a classic case of misdirection-as we can see by parsing the following from the Post: "The city will also restructure operations in Brooklyn -- moving three Sanitation Department districts into the Brooklyn North command from the borough's South.The move -- part of a restructuring effort in reaction to the blizzard scandal -- is part of Bloomberg's ongoing review of the cleanup effort. The southern part of Brooklyn was one of the hardest hit areas of the city, where plows failed to show up for days following the storm. Doherty said the move was made to relieve a "workload imbalance." The city also said it will improve training procedures for all sanitation workers..."

Now, both Bloomberg and Doherty deny that there was any organized job action-as the Post has been promoting. But, in essence, their moving of the personnel chess pieces amounts to the same kind of finger pointing at the work force. It all amounts to taking the focus away from any targeting of the mayor and the upper echelon of his management team.

We saw the same thing with the investigation into the Deutsche Bank fire-something that Wayne Barrett exposed: "Bring them all before the bar of justice is our motto here-and, as Wayne Barrett dramatized last month, there's indeed a great deal of blame for the city to share: "The Voice's cover story this week, "Bloomberg's Biggest Scandal--the Deutsche Bank Fire--Should Be His Downfall" -- examined the determination of top city officials, including Bloomberg's longtime top deputy Dan Doctoroff, to ignore the risk of installing Bovis Lend Lease and its prime subcontractor Galt at the demolition site of the bank building. Doctoroff brushed aside warnings from the city's investigations department about Galt in deference to Bovis' reckless desire to hire the mob-tainted firm."

And just as with this previous scandal, we have the recrudescent scapegoating of the workers and their line officers:

"And the city's actions in only targeting the fire officiers-but not the agency head-is equally shameful. As the Times pointed out in June: "Seven Fire Department officers were censured on Wednesday for failing to ensure timely inspections before a fatal fire at the former Deutsche Bank building in August 2007. The punishment, far more lenient than could have been meted out, nevertheless drew immediate criticism from union officials, who said department brass had not emphasized the inspectional rule and had rarely enforced it."

And union officials were quick to condemn the selective persecution: "But union officials said that singling anyone out for punishment was misguided because the seven men were as hard-pressed as any of their colleagues to follow the rule in question — one that requires basic inspections at all high-rise buildings, being built or demolished, every 15 days. The union said the rule was widely disregarded. One union official criticized Mr. Scoppetta and the Bloomberg administration, saying that if the 15-day rule were widely known, it should have been known at all levels and in the city government. Failure to make the rule a priority — in the face of a building boom over the last 15 years in Manhattan — rested with the departmental brass, who had been held blameless to date, union officials said."

Scopetta, Doherty, the pattern remains the same-blame the rank and file while giving a pasadena to the bosses. This time, however, low level scapegoating may not be sufficient-the public ire is simply too great. Bigger heads, we believe, will have to fall. The News gives us the hint: "When something goes wrong, we stop everything. We find out what went wrong and we fix it," Bloomberg said. He dodged questions about Joseph Bruno, his Commissioner of Emergency Management, who is said to be on thin ice with the Mayor. Bloomberg said nothing could be read from the fact that Bruno wasn't present for his pre-storm press conference. "Joe Bruno is sitting now over at the office of Emergency management getting briefed ... doing what he's supposed to do."

Yeah, like trying on his rope for a necktie party. But all of this is really just an elaborate-after the horses have left-effort to close the barn door before it hits Mike Bloomberg right square in the ass. However the mayor, thankfully, no longer has full control over, either the narrative, or the investigations of what transpired-particularly in the 36 hours that the mayor was somewhere other than where he should have been.

But the mayor's arrogant refusal to detail his whereabouts will, we believe, be his undoing as the investigations into the snowfu heat up. Don't believe us? Here is the mayor in all of his arrogance: "We don’t announce, other than the public schedule, where the mayor is?” said Bloomberg. When asked why he doesn’t say when he’s out of town the mayor gave an abrupt reply. “There’s no reason to,” added Bloomberg.  “The mayor has a right to a private life in the same ways you do.”

The sooner he goes there permanently, the better off we will all be.