Saturday, February 6, 2016

Plutapocalypse Now

Could Friday's catastrophic collapse of a too-big-to-exist construction crane in the Big Finance Data Hub of lower Manhattan be a precursor to the collapse of the too-awful-to-believe presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton? After all, both disasters are rooted in the greed and corruption of the American plutocracy.

Just one day before the 600-foot-tall apparatus teetered and fell, killing one person and injuring several, it had been certified as safe as the pre-iceberg Titanic... as safe as the cumbersome machine straining to hoist another Clinton back to the heights of power. But sometimes all it takes is one fresh gust of wind to topple even the strongest-appearing edifice.

Today, all that remains of the New York accident is a bleak caravan of crushed luxury cars, broken glass, construction debris, gas and water main leaks, and pockmarked high-rises stretching for more than two city blocks. The gentrified landscape of the Wealth Inequality Capital of America was transformed into a post-apocalyptic movie in the space of a New York minute. It will take days, even weeks, for deconstruction crews to complete the painstaking job of separating the wreckage into removable pieces.

(credit: Roberto Alvarez)

From the New York Post:
 Officials have yet to explain why exactly the crane capsized, but one expert explained that a 565-foot boom is devilishly tricky to lower.“It will take hundreds of tons just to counterbalance that boom, and if you do it too quickly, it could be thrown off balance,” said James Pritchett, president of Crane Experts International, which investigates such mishaps. The crane’s operator, Kevin Reilly, 56, has a record of three DWI arrests, all from the 1980s. He was questioned by cops after the collapse and submitted to a Breathalyzer test, blowing a clean .000, law-enforcement sources said.
Locals said the crane’s looming presence had been making them nervous all week.
The irony -- that the collapsed crane was erected to install new infrastructure on the roof of the iconic Western Union building for the specific purpose of speeding up energy-hungry casino capitalism --  should not be lost on us. The whole point of putting monster-generators on the roof instead of in the basement or at ground-level was to avoid inconveniencing the residents of the tony neighborhood, as well as to avoid interrupting the high frequency trading orgy of the surrounding brokerage houses.

The irony is that high-speed trades are just the kind of fraudulent activity that Bernie Sanders railed against during his debate with Hillary Clinton the night before the accident. Sanders wants to institute a tax on the high-speed traders of Wall Street in order to pay for free tuition at public colleges. Hillary just wants the grifters to snort a gram or two less, and call it a reformation.

The doomed crane had been lowering 62,000-pound generators onto the steel-reinforced roof above the 24th floor of the landmark Western Union building at 60 Hudson Street, when squall warnings prompted crews to attempt lowering it to the ground for the duration. They lost control, and the edifice crashed, of its own top-heavy volition, to the streets below.

Since the city's existing power grid is not sufficient to power the servers, switches and storage units necessary for the turbo-charged capitalistic ambitions of a company called DataGryd, the owner has had to install his own private infrastructure. The original plans for underground installation were pre-empted by flooding fears in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. So, considerate guy that he is, CEO Peter Feldman seized upon the unique idea of going Up, Up and Up in order to avoid inconveniencing the high speed trader-tenants already making money hand over fist in both the building itself and in the surrounding neighborhood. Such high-speed trading is, apparently, extremely noise sensitive. "We had to modernize and future-proof the building. We had to turn the building inside out to do it," he told an interviewer in 2014. "But now we can meet future market demand."

Or maybe not. The sound of Feldman's collapsing crane has been compared to the sound of the Twin Towers collapsing on 9/11. Oops. But since Hillary Clinton is representing New Hampshire instead of New York this week, she is not rushing to the scene to comfort her Financial District constituents, as she bragged about doing in one of early debates. To the contrary, she took their money and ran... for the presidency.  

Meanwhile, the monster "crawler cranes" of the type that collapsed on Friday are a new and ubiquitous feature of real estate-booming, class-disparate New York City. People have compared them to the science fiction creatures known as the Transformers. Whenever one of these steel monsters appears in the neighborhood, whenever the wind kicks up, people get very, very nervous. 

Faux-progressive Mayor Bill De Blasio, just back in town after stumping for Hillary Clinton in Iowa, was sanguine about the latest catastrophe. Only one person was killed, he bragged. (The victim was a Harvard grad/math whiz employed at the high-speed firm responsible for more than half of all the rigged stock trading in the United States.) And anyway, this wasn't a case of blatant neglect, since Feldman's contractor was in the process of lowering the crane when it collapsed. Stuff happens. In capitalism as in war, you have to expect some collateral damage. "This is a totally different matter," De Blasio insisted, while Comptroller and former Public Advocate Scott Stringer accused overworked building inspectors of "sleeping on the job."  

Machine operators and political operators alike, it appears, have yet to learn the laws of physics.  

Things fall apart, things go ka-boom, whenever there is too much power and weight at the very top. Any toddler playing with her first set of building blocks quickly learns that you need a strong foundation to keep your tower from collapsing. 

NASA also came out a few years ago with a handy guide, called HANDY, to explain just how inequality inevitably leads to societal and economic collapse. It ain't rocket science.  Neither is the fact that corruption is the direct result of politicians taking money from plutocrats. No entitled candidate is immune. Not even fake Transformer Hillary Clinton. 

As a matter of fact, it was the deregulation-happy Clinton administration which has allowed high frequency trading (HFT) firms in the neighborhood of Friday's crane collapse to grow and flourish in the first place. As mentioned above, the one fatality of the collapse was employed as a "flashboy" or "mathlete" in the firm which has perfected the practice. President Obama has always strongly opposed taxing these outfits, as have the Wall Street contributors to both political parties. Clinton herself only very narrowly wants to reform HFTs, to the extent of barring "false orders" -- cancelling a trade the split second after it is ordered. Tax-free HFT itself would be kept in place under her administration. Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, wants to rehab Wall Street by making it pay for gambling with other people's money.

 Capitalism on crack is devilishly tricky to detox, but detox it we must. Cure it of its addiction, or let it rest in peace before it kills the rest of us.

Stop the poison of the plutocracy. Feel the Bern.


Pearl said...

Clever metaphor Karen. My mind immediately goes to other destructive events involving inexpensive killer GM switches, lead infested water to save on new pipes, expensive medications sick people die without, all involved with the making of money for greedy obsessed people, ad infinitum.
Should Hillary get into office, we will be watching an overextended swaying crane
threatening to collapse in the midst of the center of the establishment at any moment.

Keep that in mind when voting, people.

Valerie said...

I guess I don't see what the crane operator's DUI's in the 1980's have to do with what happened if he blew a totally clean breathalyzer test after the crane collapsed. The only reason that would have had relevance is if the guy had been using alcohol when operating the crane. I don't know why the New York Post felt they had to throw that salacious tidbit into the report.

I remember seeing all the cranes in downtown Berlin used to erect all the rich multinational corporate buildings so they could show they had some kind of architectural presence - each gaudier than the last. It DOES have a very futuristic feel - and it is not a good feeling - more like opulence taken to the extreme.

Kat said...

Agree with you Valerie-- why mention 30 year old DUIs? That's the NY Post for you I guess.
If anyone accuses Sanders of "politicizing" the Flint water crisis then his answer should be "Damn right, since it is a political crisis."
Okay, so I have some other suggestions: Talk about jobs, jobs, jobs. When Hillary counters with her damn job training initiatives just say "the best job training is on-the-job training". When people start talking about how to pay for it, instead of falling into their trap and talking about tax increases, just say "How long should we wait? Tell me when it will be cheaper to fix this stuff." Keep it simple.
And it would help for him to not be so deferential to Hillary when she is spouting bald faced lies such as "Wall Street is out to get me."
one other idea, Sanders should bring up his net worth and then say "I'm definitely not broke".

Pam said...

Good reporting Karen. I had no idea before reading this that the crane that collapsed was installing generators to make it easier for Wall Street to do those lightning trades that Bernie Sanders wants to tax and Hillary wants to basically leave alone.

I agree with you, I think that the Clinton campaign is crashing. It's not a pretty sight either. She's down to the only reason to vote for her is because she would be the first woman president. Madeline Albright is out there condemning women to hell if they don't vote for Clinton. The same Albright who was fine with Iraqi women and children dying from starvation from the sanctions imposed during the first Clinton administration.

Pearl said...

On May 12, 1996, Albright defended UN sanctions against Iraq on a 60 Minutes segment in which Lesley Stahl asked her "We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?" and Albright replied "we think the price is worth it.”

During her tenure, Albright considerably influenced American policy in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Middle East. According to Albright's memoirs, she once argued with Colin Powell for the use of military force by asking, "What's the point of you saving this superb military for, Colin, if we can't use it?"[

Thank you Pam for mentioning the first woman Secretary of State, close friend and advisor to Hillary Clinton. It may explain some of the destructive decisions Hillary made as Secretary of State and along with Henry Kissinger would continue to advise Hillary should she become President. Shudder.

These women's minds are in tune with the military mentality and have caused more destruction than any man could. To think they are supposed to represent Feminism is very troubling. I hope the younger women supporting Bernie Sanders can recognize the difference and not judge women's success as being able to be in the front lines
with the men in battle during all the senseless wars of recent years.

Kat said...

Okay, here's a congressman supporting Hillary. His website mentions his displeasure with the TPP, but unlike Elizabeth Warren does not really explain what is at stake. (Sorry to say, I don't think Sanders does a very good job at this either.)
But here's the best part. It links to this article:
Try not to vomit when you read it.
OOOhhh Buddhism. Teach kids "mindfulness". That's the ticket. Part of the neoliberal racket.

Ken Wallace said...

More signs of desperation from the Hillary camp. Now Push Polling in Nevada.

Pearl said...

Ken Wallace: very disturbing practice and quite obvious if you know something about the people running which is not too often and why it can succeed.
I wondered if he had checked his phone to see if there was a number on it he could call and if not, a local Hillary support center to complain to. He said he did not look at his phone when the call came in expecting a friend to be calling.

We're going to be seeing a lot of dirty undercover information making the rounds in this election year. Have you thought about sending your article to Bernie?

Pearl said...

Bill Clinton, After Months of Restraint, Unleashes Stinging Attack on Bernie Sanders

When I saw him recently being interviewed in New Hampshire as I have mentioned, he had trouble getting words out and was moved out of cameral range. He must be on medication and wonder how Hillary will feel about this ugly confrontation.
Hope it backfires. Sad, in a way.

And this is just the beginning of the campaign!

Jay–Ottawa said...

Pearl, I hope you went on to read the comments following the "Unleashes" report you mentioned above. You'll find much to agree with among the top reader picks.

We should not criticize the Clinton Campaign Pas de Deux. May it steal the show in the headlines. These two are fooling few while alienating the many, letting the people see just how low the Clinton show can go. That goes too for the nastiness of Albright and Steinem.

Bernie was expected to win New Hampshire big. But if the Clinton campaign continues on the low road, browbeating women, especially the young, and bullying the rest of the voters, I expect Bernie may win NH by an astounding margin. "Let all the poison that lurks in the mud hatch out."