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Whores of Babylon: Bloomberg and the News

Hell of a Town

by ADAM ENGEL

"In a bid to raise some extra cash for the city, Mayor Bloomberg announced plans yesterday to sell New York’s good name to companies eager to tap into the city’s image as a vibrant, tough-as-nails metropolis"I don’t think you will see a big Coca-Cola or Pepsi-Cola sign across the front of City Hall," joked Bloomberg. "The key is, we want to keep it tasteful." The mayor offered few details, choosing to leave those to the city’s new chief marketing officer, Joseph Perello, a branding expert whom Bloomberg also appointed yesterday at an annual salary of $150,000." New York Daily News, April 2, 2003

Don’t laugh, Des Moines, Kansas City, Butte ­ you’re next. Soon you too will be put to bed by your respective mayor/dictators before eight pm all tucked in with your feetsy pajamas and milk and cookies and you better say your prayers or the boogey man’ll jump outta yer closet before you can say, "Hoboken."

"The City never sleeps" because THE MAN is always watching.

Soon all you bar owners, despite your eagle eyes for fake IDs, your hanging the flag in your windows and keeping the televisions tuned to CNN or Fox will be forced outta business because why the hell should a grown up have to pay five dollars for a drink after a hard day’s work and not be allowed to light a fucking cigarette on your private property? Might as well buy a six-pack and a box of butts and go home, or find a place out in the woods or the park like you did when you were free and seventeen.

What was that crap Sinatra sang? "I want to be a part of it, New York, New York?" Yeah, he’d be welcome in NYC with his booze and attitude and filter-less Camels.

And what about you hard working patriots? Doing the early 8 AM to 7 PM "nine to five" thing with the commute and crowds and crappy job ­ what is it you DO anyway? ­ and at the end of the day you can have a drink if you want to ­ ONE, or you’ll be 12-stepping your way to rehab ­ but don’t even THINK about lighting up ­ unless it’s pot; I think, at least in NYC, the fine for that is a bit more lenient.

"Either way, aides suggested, the city has enormous marketing potential, possibly in the same league as Nike or Disney. And with the city facing a $3.5billion budget gap, it no longer can afford to pass up those dollars." New York Daily News, April 2, 2003

But forget about your selfish little habits. There are important things to think about. Like selling New York City to advertisers and corporations to "raise money for the city." Like turning what was once an international metropolis into a ridiculous, privately owned amusement park "in the same league as Nike or Disney" (don’t feel too bad; can’t smoke at Disney Land either).

Of course, maybe NYC wouldn’t need to raise money if it didn’t have the world’s largest police force with nothing much to do but bust up protest rallies and hassle black and Hispanic kids (oh, and Arab/southwest Asian kids too; let’s not forget about that melting pot). Or what if the Yankees, the world’s richest sports team, were to actually pay rent? Or what if the corporations who own the place and rent, sue, poison, medicate, educate, entertain, employ and insure its citizens were to — just a thought — pay taxes?

‘"Whether it is the [city's] energy and the excitement, or more recently the resiliency and courage, those are attributes that companies want to associate with," Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff saidMost independent ad executives yesterday agreed, suggesting that New York could reap tens of millions of dollars" Daily News.

Yeah, takes a lot of courage and resiliency to turn your common property over to billionaire politicians and ad men.

"Everything the city buys, from tires for the police cars, to paint for buildings, to uniforms for park employees and trash bags for sanitation workers, those are all products that could be put into a relationship with the city," said Douglas Pirnie, a senior vice president at marketing rights giant IMG.’ New York Daily News, April 2, 2003

So now you can be employed as a Garbage Man and a Billboard at the same time. You won’t earn anything extra for advertising whatever corporation will sponsor the NYC Sanitation department, but you’ll be courageous and resilient. And a non-smoker, if you know what’s good for you.

Oh, it doesn’t matter anyway. With every block crammed with Starbucks, Barnes and Noble, The Gap, McDonalds, and other unique New York establishments, not to mention the monstrous electronic signs and screens of Times Square and all the advertising lights of Broadway and the billboards at every bus stop and on the buses and the wall-to-wall advertisements in the subway cars, who really cares if Bloomberg sells whatever’s left of the City of New York to private corporations?

"But there would be limits, others suggested, especially when it comes to the city’s most revered landmarks’It can’t be the Statue of Liberty Mutual, or the Statue of Liberty Media,’ joked Jon Bond of the advertising firm Kirshenbaum & Bond’That would be inappropriate.’But an official soap of New York City? That you could sell, Bond joked. ‘I mean, who wants the official soap of Columbus, Ohio?’ New York Daily News, April 2, 2003

I wouldn’t want the "official soap" of Atlantis, to be quite honest. But really, what is left of NYC to sell? Insects? Birds? Rodents? I suppose they could stick clever decals its on cockroaches, rats and squirrels and advertise URLs on pigeons, but otherwise, not to be a spoil sport, everything’s already been lifted.

A few questions though: Were there any people interviewed by the Daily News who weren’t involved in government or marketing? Like, maybe, someone who lives here and thinks he or she and the generations that built this City might actually own the place? And what’re they gonna do with all those REDWHITEandBLUE flags left over from that "United We Stand" fad? I knew it wouldn’t last.

ADAM ENGEL is constantly in motion for fear some zealous ad-man might festoon him with corporate logos and garish lights. He can be reached at asengel@attglobal.net