By Emily Wang
All the stories follow a similar pattern: Harvey Weinstein deceiving an actress to meet in private to discuss film opportunities, all while dropping suggestive comments and eventually attempting to engage in sexual activities without consent.
From Angelina Jolie to Cara Delevingne to Rose McGowan, approximately 80 women from all areas of the entertainment industry have begun to voice their unfortunate experiences with this infamous film director. By stepping into the national spotlight of female empowerment and facing an eager audience comprised of shocked and concerned citizens, these women and their powerful stories have begun to chip away at the seemingly-polished statue of Hollywood masculinity. While most women rejected his advances, some were forced to stay silent after their assaults out of fear of losing their careers or fame, while others spoke out but were ignored or shut down; however, a few who immediately spoke out were heard by others.
Gwyneth Paltrow, a former American actress and singer, was one such woman. Being an entrepreneur now, she is no longer dependent upon Weinstein to secure her next acting role. Unfortunately, she was a lot more vulnerable when she was still an aspiring actress: at the age of 22, Weinstein sent her an invitation to meet him at a hotel to discuss her upcoming schedule. Seeing that the invitation was sent via the Creative Artists Agency, a legitimate organization that represented her, Paltrow suspected nothing as she opened the door into the hotel room. Immediately upon entrance, Weinstein attempted to give her a massage and invited her into his bedroom--hearing his words, Paltrow was shocked and disgusted, as she had thought of him as her “Uncle Harvey”, not a potential romantic partner. She immediately left the hotel room and related the inappropriate encounter to her then-boyfriend, Brad Pitt, who promptly warned Weinstein to never touch his girlfriend again. Even after that, Weinstein contacted Paltrow again, screaming at her for telling others about their private meeting; however, Paltrow remained firm in belief of maintaining a professional work relationship. Although she appeared to maintain a respectful relationship with Weinstein to the public, she gradually distanced herself from him, eventually cutting off contact with him altogether.
After multiple accusations like Paltrow’s, Weinstein attempted to defend his actions against a wave of public anger. In his statement published on New York Times, he blamed the sexual culture of the entertainment industry set by his predecessors--in his opinion, he was only a follower of the crowd. Even more, in a letter to many CEOs and moguls whom he begged to have their support, he questioned the legitimacy of the accusations, stating that “a lot of [them] are false”. Furthermore, he shifted the blame away from his own character, instead pushing it onto a mental health disorder he called “sex addiction”; however, many experts state there is a clear dichotomy between compulsive sexual conduct and violating consent in sexual relations, suggesting that blaming a scapegoat is not a moral or effective way to avoid the consequences of Weinstein’s actions.
Even when the abused actresses survived these dreadful encounters, many were completely changed by their experience with Weinstein. Not only did the corrupted nature of the entertainment industry cause many actresses’ interests in the entertainment industry to severely dampen or diminish altogether, but many others were also traumatized by their experience (remember, the majority of them were in their early twenties). In fact, many actresses were so affected by their experiences with Harvey that they started to harbor feelings of mistrust and uncomfort towards the opposite gender. Many began to doubt the potency of their acting abilities because it was masked by their identity as females. As the audience watching the women bravely tell their stories underneath a national spotlight, our reaction to these women is crucial in redefining how our society perceives and consoles discrimination. We should not avoid their movies as a way to punish the salacious film director, as punishing the director would also undermine the effort that these struggling, suppressed females underwent to create the film; instead, we should not avoid the movies, but watch them with a new understanding of the courage these females displayed in the face of adversity.
Hollywood presents the public with a facade of glamor and excitement, yet the industry is corrupted with fear and a hierarchy of fame and power, with the wolves preying on those who are unable to defend themselves--time and time again, the howls of the powerful quell the whispers of the weak. Only when the voices of the weak unite do they begin to be heard: in the same way, the culmination of female accusation has finally broken through the tough shell of the male-dominated industry. These women are not only speaking to seek justice for themselves, but are also standing up for others that are in a similar crisis as a symbol of hope, reminding them that voicing the injustices they face is not an act of shame, but rather, a deed of courage.
Although all the stories may have had a similar beginning, the next chapter of the story rests entirely on how the public reacts to sexual harassment and its perpetrators--will we choose to let this chapter dictate the mood for the rest of the novel, or will it transform their novel into a story of courage and perseverance?
By Andrew Falduto
On November 16, with a vote of 227 in favor and 205 against, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act," a bill that reforms the federal tax code as the first of its kind since 1986. At the International Franchise Association’s Franchise Expo West, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin stated "The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is a bold, pro-growth bill that will overhaul our nation’s tax code for the first time since President Reagan’s historic tax reform 31 years ago," The bill was sponsored by Representative Kevin Brady (R-Texas), Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, who claimed the bill is estimated to deliver $1.51 trillion in tax cuts over the next decade. The bill offers the greatest effect on the real estate market of any tax-related bill in recent years. Most notably, it would reduce potential deductions for property taxes levied by municipal governments, reduce tax deductions on mortgages, and indirectly decrease overall capital gains taxes on real estate.
Prior to this bill, in most cases, property taxes and other taxes paid to municipal governments could be mostly or entirely deducted from one’s federal tax payments. However, the bill passed by House republicans would, unless amended by the Senate, eliminate municipal tax deductions that are not a part of property taxes. The property tax deduction would also be limited to $10,000. Considering the average American household pays $2,149 in property taxes, this revision to the tax code would not greatly affect the majority of people; however, it would contribute to the disproportionate taxation of the upper class. These property taxes are most commonly determined by a percentage of the property’s purchase value, therefore this bill would discourage the purchase of expensive houses with property taxes significantly higher than $10,000. The essentially higher tax rates on these highly valuable properties would obviously decrease the demand for their purchase, as people would be less willing and less able to handle the tax burden attached to them. This could in turn force home sellers to lower the asking prices of homes on the market, thus significantly decreasing the nominal gross domestic product (GDP), and slightly, but surely, decreasing the nation’s real GDP, causing an overall negative economic effect, not only for the rich, but for the populace as a whole.
The bill also proposes another deduction limit that mainly targets the rich on its surface. The new mortgage interest deduction under the bill would be capped at $500,000, meaning that those who pay over $500,000 in interest on their mortgage would not be able to deduct more than said $500,000 from tax payments. Based on the average home value in the United States of $221,800, and the average mortgage interest rate of 4.75%, a very small amount of very wealthy people would be affected by this. However, it must be taken into account that the richest 1% of people in the United States posses about 38% of all privately held wealth, so while a very small portion of the population is affected, a very large portion of the wealth is being potentially paid to the government. This revision to the tax code could also bring issues to first-time home buyers due to their lack of liquid assets, so while it may be most detrimental to the rich, the overall economy could become much less suitable for the very wealthy, possibly promoting the use of international banks rather than contributing to domestic money supply.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, as it was passed by the House of Representatives, does not directly change the capital gains tax or the dividends tax; however, they are indirectly lowered by the lowering of federal income taxes. The decrease from seven income tax brackets to four brackets, and an average decrease in tax rates of about 5-10%, depending on income, would result in much lower capital gains taxes on assets that are held for less than 12 months. Therefore, the short term home investment, or “flipping”, market would be sure to benefit. Short term investments, property owned for less than 12 months, would be taxed at the same rate as income tax for the seller, meaning that the overall decrease in tax rates would aid in creating a more profitable market and therefore, more economic activity in the real estate market. As for long term investments--property owned for more than 12 months--the market would be essentially unaffected by the bill, with the exception of an increase in disposable income for the middle class from lower tax rates, promoting more housing exchanges and purchases.
On a national level, the housing market would decrease in value due to the House-passed GOP tax bill, and wealthiest few would be the ones immediately affected. This is not surprising based on the Republican Party’s recent attempt to shift the public image of the party away from the “pro-rich” party, and more towards the “pro-middle class” party in order to be successful in midterm elections in 2018.
By Katherine Wang
A recent series of leaks exposes the secrets behind how wealthy political and celebrity figures and corporate giants evade taxes.
Made public by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the Paradise Papers reveal offshore tax havens that protect the wealthy from paying their taxes. First leaked to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, these 13.4 million documents have included stories of how Queen Elizabeth II, Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, and even Apple managed to avoid paying high taxes. For instance, Apple has avoided income taxes by shifting its earnings to complex offshore structures, allowing it to keep more than $128 billion free from taxation.
While the Paradise Papers focus on several companies, about 6.8 million of the 13.4 million documents come from Appleby, a Bermudan law firm that “caters to blue chip corporations and very wealthy people”. Appleby helps its customers establish offshore trusts, reduce their taxpaying burdens, and conceal their ownership of sizable assets like private aircrafts and real estate. Like all legal firms, Appleby uses the term PEP, or politically exposed persons, for clients with prominent profiles. The Paradise Papers focus on these PEPs, and how they have used tax havens to their advantage.
What exactly are these tax havens? Tax havens are countries where taxes are assessed at an extremely low rate. Some ways in which tax havens facilitate tax avoidance include corporate profit-shifting, in which a multinational company can book its profits in a country with low tax rates instead of the country where it actually makes its sales. Companies like Facebook and Google have been involved in this process to lowers their tax bills. Not only are they places where powerful companies evade taxes, but they also perpetuate inequality. Economist Gabriel Zucman states that tax havens “are one of the key engines of the rise in global inequality. As inequality rises, offshore tax evasion is becoming an elite sport.”
Although they represent the fifth major leak of papers dealing with financial issues in the past four years, the Paradise Papers are unprecedented in their exposure of upper-end offshore dealings. Yes, the Panama Papers were the biggest leak of all, but the Paradise Papers concerned companies that were seen as part of the high end of town; while people might have dismissed the Panama Papers’ findings regarding Mossack Fonseca, they would definitely have not overlooked findings regarding Appleby, whose corporate clients include Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, and Citibank. Appleby was also named offshore firm of the year by Legal 500 UK. According to Gerard Ryle, this leak deals with the “gold-plated [companies]”, not “rogue players who would take any client”.
But why are the Paradise Papers significant? Not only are they dealing with roughly $10 trillion in the offshore financial centers, but they also bring to light concerns regarding global income inequality. They reveal the disproportionate impact the wealthy and powerful have on the law, and just how common it is for wealthy people to evade paying high tax rates without getting caught by the law. These papers have resulted in a myriad of investigations that have forced politicians and ministers from office. They will also put pressure on world leaders like Trump and Theresa May, who have promised to curb aggressive tax avoidance schemes.
While the questions raised by the Paradise Papers do not deal with legal principles (as it is not illegal to establish companies abroad), they certainly deal with moral principles: Is it morally right for the wealthy to stash their money abroad and allow the taxpaying burden to fall on less fortunate citizens?
By: Kevin Tang
In the face of climate change, electric vehicles pose as a practical solution that could help cut down global emissions. Switching over to electric vehicles would not only cut transportation emissions by 30% but also would reduce the consumption of oil by 1.5 million barrels.
The International Energy Agency reported a record number of 750,000 electric vehicles sold worldwide in 2016; however, the growth in these sales is slowly dwindling. The only places where growth is increasing is in countries with tax incentives like Norway. Government support is key to foster this emerging market.
But, on November 2nd, the GOP unveiled a tax plan that would cut taxes across the United States, including a crucial tax incentive for the nascent electric vehicle market. If passed, it would eliminate Section 30D of the Internal Revenue Code which provides a tax break up to $7,500 when you purchase either a hybrid or an electric car.
The tax credit provides $2,500 for a plug-in vehicle with at least a 5kWh battery capacity. Another $417 is given for every additional kWh. Since January of 2010, the incentive only applies to the first 200,000 buyers for each electric vehicle manufacturer, but so far, no company has reached the mark.
Targeting low and middle income consumers, the credit is primarily used to subsidize leases on the cars, allowing consumers to pay for them. For instance, the Tesla Model 3 is currently listed at $35,000 but a rebate of up to $7,500 makes it much more affordable and attractive to a wider market.
This incentive has been empirically proven to increase sales of electric vehicles and when taken away, there is a noticeable decline in purchases.
States with high tax incentives like Hawaii, California, Georgia, and Washington have two to four times the concentration of plug-in cars than the national average. Looking internationally, Norway has the biggest market for these vehicles, now reaching 37% market share. In December, it had reached 100,000 all-electric cars despite its relatively small market. This expansive and emerging market has owed to Norway's incentives of free parking, free charging, exemptions from tolls, etc.
Although Georgia was one of the domestic leaders in the electric vehicle market, it sharply plummeted after conservative state legislators removed the credit in 2015, instead opting for a $200 registration fee instead.
"We should be around 40,000 vehicles now, " lamented Jeff Cohen, founder of the Atlanta Electric Vehicle Development Coalition. "We're not growing.” Although Georgia sold 1,426 electric vehicles in July 2015, it only sold 242 in August. This 83% drop has yet to rebound.
Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols, a staunch supporter of the incentive added on that “The tax credit was key to our growing this market.”
While the GOP tax plan still needs to be passed by the Senate, consumers and electric vehicle companies must petition to protect the electric vehicle industry.
By: Caroline Sha
It was March 15, 1917 in Pskov when Tsar Nicholas II wrote down his final words as ruler of Russia: “[I] think it best to abdicate the throne of the Russian State and to lay down the Supreme Power”. This decisive sentence would seal the fate of the Romanov imperial dynasty and open up the floodgates for the Bolshevik Revolution, altering the course of history for all eternity.
The Bolsheviks were a Russian party that embraced the political-economic theory of communism created by Karl Marx, a German philosopher. Marx’s basic ideas were that the working class, known as the proletariat, were trampled by the upper class, the bourgeoisie, and that the commoners should rise up and overthrow their exploiters, creating a classless society in the process. Headed by the radical Vladimir Lenin, a lawyer who was radicalized after his brother Alexander was executed, the Bolsheviks attracted the growing amount of starved and angry commoners who were furious about the incompetence of the royal family. Even though their country was suffering, the Romanovs did nothing about the mass food shortages that swept the country and repeatedly dissolved the Duma, the legislative body created after a revolution in 1905. Moreover, they insisted on staying in the draining world war, weakening the country even furthur. These factors inevitably led to an explosion of anger and quickly led to the downfall of the last Russian dynasty.
After the abdication of Nicholas II, a series of violent protests and a centralization of power within the government allowed Lenin and his associates to take control of the country away from the more moderate Mensheviks and a new Russia emerged from the flames of the old monarchy. Known as the Soviet Union, this superpower would continue to violently disrupt global power dynamics under the leadership of Joseph Stalin and others, warping the trajectory of power in the 20th century.
But does the legacy of Lenin and his Bolsheviks remain today? In Russia, the spark of the radical Red Revolution barely remains. Despite Putin doing all he can to convince Russians that he wants to restore the Motherland to its former USSR glory, the last thing he actually needs is a return to the days where the people overthrew tyrants. As Putin gains more and more power, he becomes more and more like the old imperial family. With estimated net worths as high as $200 billion and accusations of patronage and political repression common-place, there is almost nothing differentiating Putin from Nicholas II. This last tsar, as the Guardian calls him, is not Russia’s next Lenin, but a new type of autocrat who must balance the task of stopping rebellion while keeping the support of the Russian population.
It doesn’t come as a surprise then, that the celebration of the centennial of the Russian Revolution passed without much comment in the country where it had the most impact. There were a few speeches and some exhibitions in museums, but it was nothing like the mass celebrations that took place fifty years ago. The best example of this indifference can be found in a speech Putin gave a month before the anniversary, where he stated that “When we look at the lessons from a century ago, we see how ambiguous the results were, and how there were both negative and positive consequences of those events”. This lukewarm statement summarizes how most of the country feels about their Soviet past. Except for a few remaining communists, no one seems particularly eager to celebrate an era where famine and executions ran rampant. After all, communism in Russia is dead, and its politics have been thrown. There is simply no reason for most Russians, who have never experienced the full effects of communism, to want to return back to the age of nukes and constant threats of war.
In addition, Lenin’s dream of spreading his extreme leftist ideas to other countries are quickly fading. China, the biggest alleged communist power today, has in truth a free-market economy. There is barely any Bolshevik-style control of industry, which is instead driven by competition, the peg of Adam Smith capitalism theory. Huge corporations like Apple have taken root in China and exploited her large population, making mass profits over the dead bodies of its workers, while Chinese companies fight with each other to become the next big thing.
The same is true with North Vietnam. After splitting with the South, the North welcomed a thoroughly communist regime. However, as time went on, the red country soon realized that in order to survive, it had to adopt a capitalist economy. State corporations became private, and the government became subject to the wants of foreign investors. Moreover, the very corruption in the bourgeoisie that the Bolsheviks hated pervades Vietnamese society. Officials place themselves in the head of companies, giving them the very economic control Lenin and his comrades despised.
Even the arguably most communist country, North Korea, is seeking to distance itself from Lenin’s ideals. Over the decades, North Korea has demoted itself from communist to socialist and now prefers to identify itself as juche, or independent. Contrary to Bolshevik beliefs, juche calls for a unification of one pure race, the Korean Race, and emphasizes military prowess rather than the equality among its people. Even the Kim family itself has given up any pretensions of trying to help the lower classes. They portray themselves as god-like monarchs who are capable of accomplishing, and have done, the fantastic and imply that they are divinely ordained for their role, essentially calling themselves kings. In addition, Kim Jong Un, the newest heir of the Kim dynasty, is the one directing most of the government’s money towards nuclear weapons, casually dismissing the fact that what his largely-starving country needs is food, not weapons of mass destruction. North Korea policies revolve around the whims of one man and not the needs of the people, which is the opposite of what Lenin wanted.
But despite the cooling of communist temperaments in these last years, Marx and Lenin should not be pushed to the dustbin in which all failed political leaders go. Their influence, though indirectly, continues to have a subtle effect on politics today. Citizens all around the world have shown that they have become less tolerant of the inequality they face. Liberal politicians have done relatively well in elections across Europe and in the United States, where Bernie Sanders, the far-left 2016 Democratic presidential candidate garnered an large amount of support from young people for his criticism of the top 1%, a sentiment that is all but reminiscent of Marx’s attacks on the bourgeoisie.
Furthermore, countries such the Netherlands embrace a welfare state in which public spending is high and the government takes care of many aspects of life. A basic health care program exists for all their citizens and guarantees them quality medical access. Finland, along with this, has gone even further and is currently testing out a universal basic income program that gives people $660 every month to do as they please. That idea of state-sponsored support is not unsimilar to what Marx proposed in that he wanted the government to watch over all aspects of life and provide everyone a basic quality of living. Though what these European countries have is much more mild socialism than communism, according to Lenin himself, “the goal of socialism is communism”. And who knows? It is conceivable that if Finland’s basic income program proves to be a success, more leftist programs in other places could take off, causing other countries to assume socialist policies. Many think that this state between capitalism and communism is ideal as it combines the altruism of Marx’s philosophy with the freedom of democracy.
So maybe Lenin’s legacy is not dying and there is a chance that the world will become the utopia that Karl Marx envisioned in the nineteenth century. But just like the sea, the politics of man is unpredictable and only time shall tell how the world looks in the next century and the one after that and the next...and the next...
By Kunal Damaraju
Spain is currently facing one of their most heated political situations in recent history. For the past several years, the nation has been witnessing a long recession, where unemployment is at 25%, and, in 2013, approximately 79,306 Spanish nationals emigrated out of the country. To make matters worse, Spain has seen increasing support from residents and politicians in the region of Catalonia who are calling for the regions succession. Currently, Catalonia sits as the richest region in Spain, making up 18.8% of its GDP. However, several separatists believe that Catalonia is being anchored down by the economic disaster that Spain is experiencing. The region has several more reasons to be angry with the government in Madrid, including a 2006 statute that cut Catalonia’s public spending and limited power of the regional government. Years of debate and unrest has finally led Catalonia to call an unprecedented referendum.
Catalonia’s President Carles Puigdemont first called the referendum in June, later supported by Catalonia’s MPs in late July. The Parliament of Catalonia soon followed up with the notion and approved a law in September that allowed the referendum to take place. the government in Madrid, however, quickly criticized the decision and declared the motion unconstitutional through the Constitutional Court.
Spain's PM Mariano Rajoy has vowed that he would do everything in his power to make sure that a referendum would not be held. And he did not hold back his promise. Police raided government buildings, arresting officials, including Catalonian Secretary General of Economic Affairs Josep Maria Jove, who supported the scheduled referendum on October 1st. Police also seized posters that urged voters to vote in favor of succession. The unexpected raids sparked fiery protests and riots through the streets of Catalonia; in turn, the police responded with more violence and brute force. Rajoy condemned the protests on a televised statement, demanding that the protesters “Stop this escalation of radicalism and disobedience once and for all,
On the day of the referendum, the situation escalated as police were ordered to stop citizens from voting. Over 900 people were injured from police brutality, and more than 750,000 votes were not counted because the polling stations were shut down. Nevertheless, the referendum persisted, and a voting count was soon conducted after. Around 43% of the Catalonian population was able to vote, and of that 43%, about 90% voted in favor of secession. As expected, Madrid immediately declared that they would not accept the results of the referendum, reasoning that the referendum was illegal, and therefore the results were illegitimate.
Spain is in a troubling situation right now. If there is any chance of Catalonia seceding from Spain, then the nation can certainly expect an economic disaster. However, in the most likely scenario that Catalonia will not secede from Spain following this referendum, there can certainly be potential for more social unrest in the region. Catalonia remains as the nation's top contributor towards Spain's economy, so the direction of the outcome of this referendum will certainly affect both Spain and Catalonia, in terms of the economy and Spain’s status amongst European nations. It is up to the governments of Spain and Catalonia to come to a peaceful decision as soon as possible.
By James Gao
No matter how much Bill de Blasio has achieved as the mayor of New York City, he is still uniquely unqualified for his position for one reason: he doesn’t root for the Yankees. In a terrible twist of irony, the leader of the five boroughs and its immense population of proud hometown supporters is a diehard Red Sox fan. A few weeks ago, when the Yankees were one game away from defeating the Houston Astros and qualifying for the World Series, de Blasio sent New Yorkers into a frenzy by claiming, “It is constitutionally impossible for me to ‘support’ the New York Yankees.”
The lines between sports and politics are becoming increasingly blurred as time goes on, and de Blasio’s Yankee-supporting controversy proves to be no exception. Attacks from opposing mayoral candidates blasted the incumbent as being “disrespectful” and “a poor representative of New York”, with some constituents even arguing that de Blasio’s lack of support could hurt the advertising revenue that the Yankees bring to the city. But for some inhabitants of New York, the firestorm provided little more than an opportunity to tell the mayor what they really thought about his term; one scathing critic commented, “Just like everything else he’s done for the city, Bill de Blasio isn’t really for us.”
Unfortunately for Yankee-lovers and de Blasio critics alike, New York City’s 109th mayor isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. On November 7th, 2017, liberals cheered as de Blasio retained his position, contributing to sizeable Democratic victories in New Jersey and Virginia. With a sizeable margin of victory - 67%, compared to 23% for opposing Republican candidate Nicole Malliotakis, de Blasio has interpreted his resounding victory as a “mandate for his progressive policies” that have marked his first term as mayor. From implementing a free pre-school program for all four year-olds in the city to revamping the city’s affordable housing initiatives to ending the “stop and frisk” policies that have seen NYPD officers accused of racial profiling, de Blasio has forged a blazing trail as an effective, if not quiet, advocate for a more left-leaning New York City. From an objective standpoint, Bill de Blasio has been a blessing to New York City. Profiting from a revitalized economy and decreased crime, America’s largest city is in a much better state than it was four years ago.
However, his success is not without its own caveats. De Blasio was able to claim a decisive victory on Election Night, but it’s worth noting that the strength of his re-election is marred by low voter turnout; of the eligible voters in the five boroughs, less than twenty-five percent turned out to vote for the mayor. In fact, this may be part of a larger problem for Bill de Blasio’s personal legacy and political swaying power as a whole: if people can’t rally around their leader, then they’re less likely to be strong supporters of his policies. He’s been labelled as “America’s most irrelevant mayor”, with approval ratings hovering at about fifty percent. He is, essentially, a nobody - so much so to the degree that he, one of America’s most important mayors, has to wear a nametag to his meetings. The “progressive defender” of New York is widely scorned on a personal level - supporting the Red Sox, eating pizza with a fork and knife, and habitually oversleeping and arriving late to his events contributes to his deeply rooted unpopularity. The National Review sums up his political character aptly: “The tallest man in any room is somehow the most pathetic man in it.”
While Bill de Blasio has accumulated a reputation as what essentially amounts to the derpiest mayor in America, his troubles extend far past the outer limits of the city and into Albany, where he has a troubled relationship with Governor Andrew Cuomo. While de Blasio and Cuomo are both Democrats, their similarities end there. The mayor has found few allies on the state level, and the two men have openly sparred over policy issues in the past. De Blasio begged Cuomo to help pay for free preschool in the city; Cuomo openly refused and retaliated by blaming the mayor for the city’s subway problems. De Blasio bit back by suggesting that Albany levy a new “millionaire tax” to help pay for subway improvements, but Cuomo condemned the proposal as “dead on arrival.” According to political insiders, the feud between the two men battling for “New York’s Top Progressive” is deeply personal, comparable to something out of a soap opera. But regardless of its roots, it poses a significant political obstacle for de Blasio in his upcoming term. One of de Blasio’s main goals for the city - a new sixteen-mile trolley connector between Brooklyn and Queens’ waterfronts - could be shuttered by a steely, unsympathetic Cuomo. The ambitious Brooklyn-Queens connector may turn out to be little more than a pipe dream if Cuomo does not grant the city permission to cross sections of state-owned land. De Blasio wants to solve the crises facing New York City, but in order to do that as quickly and efficiently as possible, he has to solve his own crisis with Albany first.
The mayor has also come under fire for fundraising policies that have been, to say the least, questionable. He was only recently cleared of criminality in federal investigations that saw accusations of de Blasio making policy promises to major campaign donors in his 2013 bid for mayor; the FBI essentially concluded that his policies were “shady, but technically legal”. Controversy stirred again just two weeks before the election when Jona Rechnitz, a former real estate investor who was recently convicted of conspiracy and bribery, stepped forward to claim that he had “bought access” to City Hall by exchanging favors and meetings with city officials through campaign donations. De Blasio vehemently denied the allegations, and no charges were pressed - but the incident only further contributed to his unfavorable perception from New Yorkers.
Even ignoring his problems with Andrew Cuomo and allegations against his campaign finance, de Blasio faces another challenge: making good on his promise to close Rikers Island, New York’s main jail complex - and an emblem of the United States’ failing justice system. Infamous for its poor living conditions and abuse of prisoners, de Blasio released his plan to close the Bronx’s “elephant in the room” over ten years by replacing them with smaller jails for each borough. The process will be tedious, and de Blasio will be long departed from the mayor’s office before the jail closes for good - but he must persevere in pursuing his vision for a New York City untainted by Rikers.
At the end of the day, although New Yorkers haven’t warmed up to de Blasio, they still entrusted him with the power to lead New York for the next four years. De Blasio may be “unlovable” to his constituents, but he is certainly a man who will get things done. From his love of the Red Sox to his six-foot-five stature, there are many quirks that define New York City’s mayor. But above all, Bill de Blasio is defined by his ambition and his progressive policies,the principles that will guide him as he enters his second term.
By Kyanna Ouyang
Surprise, surprise. Superman is alive.
Yeah...we all saw that coming. The thing is, if he didn’t miraculously return from the dead, that would have been the biggest surprise DC has yet to offer.
For one, 2016’s Batman v Superman signed its own death warrant with that wholly unemotional finale—seriously, DC, why can’t you just let the dead rest in peace? Those pieces of vibrating s***—I mean, dirt—completely undercut any possibility of pathos in his absolutely mournful funeral scene. I walked out of that theatre not grieving Clark Kent, but the superhero film industry.
Yes, we understand, a Justice League movie without Superman is like a Disney film without a Prince Charming...oh, wait, ever heard of Moana? Ok, like Star Wars without Han Solo—do remind me, what happened in The Force Awakens? My point? DC needs to leave the stone age of the never-ending franchise where no one Ever. Really. DIES.
The complete inability to die is plaguing the blockbuster world, and what’s dying instead? Our sense of excitement, that rush of adrenaline, followed by a plummeting heart, sorrow tugging at our emotions that are too seldom invoked and all too often buried under the woes of 21st century: mountains of work, Trump, climate change, bees dying (look, if bees dying can stir up such despair, what more evidence does DC need to see that their fans are desperate for a good bawl?)
Superheroes are dropping dead like flies to this disease of immortality. Those we shed tears over—Loki, Groot, Nick Fury, even Batman—have all made miraculous recoveries. It’s hard to think of anyone who has remained six feet beneath the ground: Wolverine, a few X-Men, all coincidentally in parallel timelines or the future.
The superhero industry is not the only area of infection; the plague has long afflicted the neighboring industry of action as well. Bond’s invincibility against death might be the staple of his silver screen existence and perhaps the reason for his timelessness in the action corner of cinema, but the key is that he is the first and ideally, the only. The rest of them—Jason Bourne, John McClane, Neo, just to name a few--really don’t deserve that superhuman immunity against death (though Jason Bourne, or rather Matt Damon, has faced worse, namely being trapped on various planets). More recently, WHAT was going on with Colin Firth’s character coming back from hell in Kingsman: the Golden Circle? Seriously? The man was shot point-blank in the face! If somone can be impervious to a bullet through his brain, how can we even bother to care anymore?
It might seem like a catch-22 in this world of never-ending franchises: kill off a character and you might end up with no franchise at all. But it’s a worthy risk to swing the scythe. Han Solo’s tragic death is cause for celebration, as Harrison Ford repeatedly told us, not because we hated Han Solo, but because he was sacrificed to keep the Star Wars franchise real and in contact with the audience’s pent-up emotions. Even better, the complete demolition of the heroes of Rogue One was refreshingly depressing. Jyn and Cassian enwrapped in each other, after finally finding family, love and a home, swallowed by blinding light, imprints in the audience’s tear-filled eyes an image that is arguably more lasting than that of the ghosts of Obi-Wan, Yoda and Anakin watching in post-death bliss the merry celebrations at the end of Return of the Jedi. In summary, go Death, beat Life!
Superman or no Superman, Justice League will likely remain casualty-free. For one, solo movies are already in production: Aquaman is out next year, Wonder Woman 2 in 2019. The extended universe of DC is only just budding. On the other hand, Marvel fans have been pressuring for Iron Man’s death to keep the Marvel catalogue of superheroes dynamic. So, perhaps there’s one surprise we can look forward to.