Sunday, March 06, 2011
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
I've been listening to President Obama give speeches since he was a State Senator from Illinois. I know he can give a great speech. For the most part, his speech was what I expected to hear. It was sad that he largely ignored climate change, completely ignored gun control and the declining middle class.
Instead he talked about an issue he knows best. Hope. Hope is a wonderful thing. It gives people a reason to continue their lives each day, to better themselves in a national environment that does so little to help the least amongst us. In fact, income inequality is at it's highest gap since the beginning of the Great Depression and Republicans in Congress are more than willing to increase it for their friends in the large industries and corporate boardrooms. Hearing Obama tout federal salary freezes and talk about lowering corporate taxes when large corporations pay next to nothing (or even receive tax refunds) is the last thing I want to hear from a Democratic President's State of the Union speech.
Of course, there were plenty of good ideas mentioned. Rewarding small businesses with big ideas (such as the company that built the contraption to help Chilean miners). Cutting the Defense Department, promoting the DREAM Act and ending tax breaks for oil companies are all items that ring well in this progressive's ears.
What is most important to me in his speech, is that we are a nation of big ideas. He is right. A big idea would be to push Obama back away from Republican talking points and their anti-government and anti-working and middle class agenda. We need to push him away from being affected by their nasty rhetoric and back to the base of the Democratic party. Making sure he stays on track with a forward thinking education system and reminding him about climate change and that unlike the mantra of the N.R.A., guns actually do kill people (and they make it far easier when bullets cost seventeen cents a piece). In order to accomplish the progressive movement's big ideas and those that will help to make our union a stronger and more effective one for the nation, we must ceaselessly and thoroughly guide the President, the Senate...and yes, even the House through the next two years so that we do not descend into the madness that a large portion of the Republican party is offering us.
Do not count on Obama to pull a miracle out of his hat for us, we must make that miracle for ourselves.
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
Simply put, last night was a rough one for the Democratic Party. Sixty or so seats in the House, six or seven in the Senate and a plethora of governorships and legislatures across the country were lost to the Republican Party. Soon to be Speaker Boehner is claiming a mandate, President Obama has tail between his legs, but now more than ever is the time to fight for a progressive agenda in America.
For some odd reason, the President thinks that being a Democrat is a bad thing in light of what happened at the polls. He is mistaken however.
In the last two years the President has accomplished more to help the American worker since L.B.J. Where Bill Clinton failed on health care in 1993, Obama succeeded by taking the first (but not final) step towards ensuring that all Americans have health insurance. The Recovery Act helped our nation avoid a true economic catastrophe. And there are many more fucking things on list of accomplishments.
Unfortunately though, the devastation wrought by the Bush Administration was beyond horrific and could not have been remedied in under two years' time. Sadly, the American voter by and large assessed Obama and his party with the blame for our unemployment woes.
Obama and his party can take some of that heat, not for what they did, but for what they did not do. A full scale, innovative and assertive jobs bill should have been the first item on the agenda (perhaps if they stuck to their guns with the original idea and intent of the Recovery Act).
Most importantly though, what has been a complete failure for the men and women in blue has been the lack of effective messaging. What was Obama's greatest strength as a Presidential candidate was the weakest link for both the White House and the Democratic majority on the Hill. For instance, the word "stimulus" should have been left to the policy wonks. The "Jobs, Jobs and more Jobs Act" would have been better.
So in the next two years, as Obama re-learns his campaigning skills (a Ryan Seacrest interview does not signal an improvement in his game), our party's faithful has to push harder than ever to force the thinned out Democrats to stick to their principles and vote for smart, sensible legislation and not the type of bill that widens the income equality gap more than it's at now (which is at it's largest in American history). Republicans will try to claim that giving tax cuts to the wealthy will spur job growth, but in reality that has only hurt the American worker, hardly ever has it helped. Instead we must regulate big business, or at least make it clear to the voters that that is the intent of the (sadly) leaner and (hopefully) meaner Democratic Party.
If the lesson learned for the Democratic leadership is to "compromise" with the uncompromisable G.O.P, then the results of 2012 will look a lot like 2010....only with the Presidency on the line.
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Teabaggers are nuts. They have no real solutions to helping our country out of it's morass. Yet they know how to get under the skin and into the minds of many that are sick and tired of the troubled times and more than a few are buying their heated and often times racist rhetoric. Ed and Mike are right on here, it isn't good enough that we make fun of the lunacy candidates like O'Donnell and Paladino exhibit.
Democrats must put forth an agenda that will make sense to voters this fall and defend their record thus far. Stick the path that puts job creation ahead of deficit reductions and remind voters of where we came from....as in the Bush years.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Generally elections are static events, especially in primary contests. Few people vote and for the most part, the incumbents are able to use their power to remain in office. While that happened in most cases yesterday, there were quite a few examples of where it didn't. Most impressively, the people of the 33rd Senate District did the decent thing and kicked Pedro Espada to the gutter, where he belongs. Gustavo Rivera trounced him, and my hat is off to the voters, Rivera's staff that made the message of change clear and for the other challengers that bowed out so that there was no vote splitting. Truly it was a great day in this district.
The same cannot be said in Harlem, where five challengers fell over each other to depose the corrupt Charlie Rangel. While Rangel has been an institution in Harlem for four decades, his unethical behavior should have brought his career to an end. Unfortunately the primary purpose was lost on the four whose name did not end in "Adam Clayton Powell." I know, I know, a political dynasty should not determine who makes the best candidate, but this is New York and sometimes if you want change, you have to humble yourself for it....at least until the day comes when every single voter is well informed on the issues and truly wants to be robo-called at 9pm on Sunday so they can get one last appeal to sway their opinion.
Of course, I figured Charlie would triumph but seeing his 50.55% threadbare majority shows me that was some hope after all. Perhaps we can learn a less from the (gulp) Bronx.
So other than expunged heap of garbage that is commonly known as Pedro Espada, the only other game changer last night was the resounding victory Carl Paladino had over the Republican establishment's favorite Rick Lazio. While the Democrats made an internal party change for the better, Republicans decided to go with their basest instincts and nominate a raving bigot to be their standard bearer (who will fail miserably) against the Democratic nominee Andrew Cuomo.
Paladino likens himself to the 'mad as hell' Howard Beale and he isn't going to take it anymore. I have to hand it to this racist and sexual deviant, he crushed Wall Street's Rick Lazio and was able to win what has been called an unlikely victory. However, this is just another example (among others from last night) that there is a wave of populist rage going through the Republican party and the 'folks' are sick of being played by politicians who claim one thing and do another. Unfortunately, the people on the right who are sticking their heads out of their windows and yelling are being guided by racism, bigotry and above all, fear of whatever is different from them. So instead of seeing the big picture, they tend to go for the candidate that unabashedly makes racist and derogatory remarks without any real ideas about how to govern a state or nation that is dealing with decades of public policy that favors the wealthy elite at the expense of the middle class.
At least for the moment though, New York for one will go with the saner Andrew Cuomo in November. Other states such as Delaware will follow as should New Hampshire (by electing Hodes to the Senate). However, populist rage can be infectious, so if our current leaders (and by that I mean Obama and others who have his general mindset about fairness, equality and respect for fellow mankind) want to improve the plight of America and help those that are struggling, they better get to it soon....or else things might really get out of control.
Tuesday, September 07, 2010
One of the best institutional guards for incumbency is that multiple challengers can split the vote for change in a district. Even if more voters opt for someone else, an elected official can remain in office if they win a plurality. State Senator Pedro Espada thought he had that when four different candidates were running against him. Over the summer two of them dropped out, and now with one week to go, Dan Padernacht is nobly laying his banner down and joining forces with Gustavo Rivera, the strongest challenger to date to face the infamous Espada.
From The Daily Politics:
This really should be a no-brainer, but with the way things are going in American Conservatism a good old fashioned book burning isn't sadly not surprising. When people's fears and ignorance is stoked constantly by the media they consume, human rage knows no bounds. At least we have a White House that will speak to this and make the connection for these Nazi imitators that burning the Quran in effigy does our troops overseas no favors.
Wednesday, September 01, 2010
Money and politics have always had a contentious relationship, generally alienating people from the process who do not have much to give to politicians running for office. However in a few cases, reformers have made headway in making elections and the run-up to them more accessible to a wider spectrum of voters. Here in New York a step towards cleaner elections was taken a few years ago, and the results so far are definitely impressive.
From The NY Times:
The next step is to take this, or even a more effective measure, up to Albany and implemented in such a way that New Yorkers across the state can be allowed to participate in local politics. Currently a wealthy donor can give tens of thousands to a gubernatorial candidate (or to anyone running for statewide office), an amount that undoubtedly has significant influence in the way an elected official treats certain issues. By bringing more small-donors into the mix, it not only moves politicians to heed the demands of the general constituency, it allows those without means to run for office themselves.
The examination, to be released on Wednesday by the city’s Campaign Finance Board, shows that changes enacted before the race encouraged 34,000 New Yorkers to make campaign donations for the first time; drastically curtailed the role of businesses, political committees and lobbyists in campaigns; and caused a major drop in donations from those doing business with the city.
Perhaps most intriguingly, the new data suggests that, in a year when voter turnout was historically low and pundits treated the mayoral election as a foregone conclusion, many New Yorkers of more modest means felt compelled to participate in the election process.[...]
For the 2009 election, the city matched donations of $175 or less at a ratio of six to one (turning a contribution of $100 into $700). As a result, the Campaign Finance Board found, almost 70 percent of contributors gave $175 or less in 2009, a 22 percent increase in those donations over the election in 2005. Over all, such donations accounted for 15 percent of all the money raised, up from 8.5 percent in 2005.
Among new donors, the percentage was even higher: 80 percent gave $175 or less.
Monday, August 30, 2010
There are many terrible crimes that one person can perpetrate on another....and a hate crime is certainly one of them. When Ahmed Sharif was brutally stabbed by an intoxicated and belligerent young man last week, the very worst of humanity was shown to a cab driver who's only crime was his faith. That is not the United States that our founders envisioned and it is certainly not how the great majority of Americans feel about religious tolerance currently.
While most of us shook our heads at the news last week, and were grateful that Mr. Sharif was not killed in the act, the aftermath is still serious. Currently Mr. Sharif is out of work and the benefits afforded to him by the Taxi Worker Alliance does not go the distance for his wife and children..
CNN has more on this:
"Ahmed is a strong man, but mentally he has limits," said Bhairavi Desai of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. "The trauma he's experienced will last for a long time."
Desai spent time this weekend with Sharif. She said his most pressing worry is how he'll provide for his wife and four children -- including a 10-month-old --without a job. Sharif is receiving 2/3 of his salary, about $30,000 a year, in workers' compensation. Union members do not get health insurance or disability payments, Desai said.
"My guess is that he'll be unable to work for at least four months," Desai said. "He can't even pick up his baby because of the wounds to his arms. He can't turn his neck."
An assistance fund was set up for Ahmed and his family, but sadly not much has been contributed to it. Perhaps there hasn't been too much in the way of publicity other than the initial newscasts covering the story. Hopefully it is not due to a lack of compassion on the part of New Yorkers. Instead of simply lamenting about it, I have donated $10.00 dollars and would like all those that read to give the same, or even $5.00 to help out. If you can't cover that, ask someone else to contribute. America is bigger than this heinous act, and I for one believe we should prove it.
Wednesday, August 04, 2010
Alan Keyes may be a Republican, but when the G.O.P. moves so far to the extreme right that they are thinking about tampering with the 14th Amendment, even he publicly objects. In case you need a refresher on 19th century American history, the 14th was the one that allowed the children of slaves to become citizens because they were born in the country. The fact that the same political party that helped write the Amendment nearly 150 years ago wants to curtail those rights is atrocious.
The deadline for our state government to fulfill their obligation of passing a state budget came and went long before our sultry summer, and even our brief spring began. Now in the midst of 90 degree weather, legislators from around the state managed to pull it together and get something to stick. It wasn't easy (as Pedro Espada created a tremendous amount of trouble...and assault possibly) but the bill made it to the Governor's desk late last night.
From The Times-Union:
The final party-line vote -- 32 to 28 -- arrived after the sun had set on a dizzying day of last-minute negotiations, one-house bills that have almost no chance of passage in the Assembly, and frenzied efforts to round up two Democratic senators who spent much of the day missing in action.
In other words, it was a fairly typical day in the Senate, which all year has veered between chaos and inertia due to the Democrats' razor-thin 32-to-30-seat majority.
In order to pass the revenue plan that for more than a month has been the remaining piece of the budget puzzle, Democrats needed all 32 votes on deck. Senate Republicans have been rejecting almost all spending measures en masse this summer.
Republicans were set to let the bickering Democratic caucus cave in on itself, but in the end Sampson, Smith and others (despite their many, many flaws) managed to pass a multi-billion dollar budget without borrowing as L.G. Ravitch had proposed. Instead, they gave a victory to wealthy hedge fund managers by not making them pitch more in for the state where they make their personal billions. Who lost out? Well for those that rely on the sales tax exemption for clothing purchases under $110, they won't be saving those few dollars anymore. Large cuts to Medicaid will also be adding to the burden to the least amongst us. In all, a lot of money was lost from the coffer in the last couple of years and the reality was that cuts had to have been made. And to be fair, those in the highest brackets did have to relent on a couple of items.
And to give a bit of good news, the legislature approved a moratorium on hydrofracking the Marcellus Shale, at least until next July. And guess what? Republicans joined the majority and made it a bipartisan victory.