Friday, October 19, 2007

Newsflash: Pelosi Has No Balls But Pete Stark Certainly Does

Anatomically speaking, this isn't earth-shattering news. What is a matter of importance is that Nancy Pelosi does not have the heart to stand up for her fellow Democrats when they speak from their heart. Fellow San Fran Bay Dem Pete Stark had harsh but justifiable words for the President and Republicans that opposed S-CHIP for its costs while pouring billions of money that we do not have for the war in Iraq. So what did the Majority Leader have to say?

From The Huffington Post:

"While members of Congress are passionate about their views, what Congressman Stark said during the debate was inappropriate and distracted from the seriousness of the subject at hand _ providing health care for America's children," Pelosi said.

Stark's comment came as the House failed Thursday to override President Bush's veto of legislation to expand the popular State Children's Health Insurance Program.

"You don't have money to fund the war or children," Stark accused Republicans. "But you're going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president's amusement."

After numerous Republicans called on him to apologize, Stark said it was they who should be apologizing, for failing to provide the votes to override Bush's veto.

Stark continued to stand up for himself and the American people want to see exactly that. Eighty-eight percent of those polled by CNN believe he should not succumb to right wing pressure by apologizing for his beliefs. This type of bullying by right wingers is the hypocritical code that they live by. Rush, Coulter, Hannity and the rest can trash libs all day long, but when a Dem does it back they get their panties in a wad.

Good for Stark and his continued perseverance, don't give up buddy.

Olbermann Slams S-CHIP Opposers

Mukasey "Can't Recall" Before It Has Even Happened

If anyone thinks for a moment that the soon-to-be Attorney General is going to be better than the last one has got to be kidding themselves. True, Mukasey looks a little less sleazy than Alberto but when it comes to the game of semantics he has been training to lie and dodge Congressional questions from the get go. He condemns torture which is a good thing but doesn't see pretending to drown somebody (i.e. waterboarding) as such. The guy is a match made in neo-con heaven for The Decider.

From RawStory:

"If water boarding is torture, torture is not constitutional," Mukasey said, claiming that he was not familiar with the specifics of the process.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) called that answer a "massive hedge," and he explained the specifics of the practice -- strapping down a detainee and pouring water over his face to simulate drowning. He asked if that practice would be considered constitutional.

"If it amounts to torture it is not constitutional," is all Mukasey would say.

Whitehouse scolded Mukasey, saying he was "very disappointed" in his "very semantic answer."

"Sorry," Mukasey mumbled.

Is "sorry" the new "I can't recall?" Does it really even matter if the Senate is going to confirm him no matter what he does or says? Senators Whitehouse and Leahy may look good during the hearings, but if Mukasey ends up holding the same shovel that Gonzales put down what difference does it make?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pssst.... Do Something

Do you live in New York? Are you a Democrat or at least progressively minded? Do you bitch and moan about our elected representatives (along with us all)? Well even though the Presidential elections are over a year away, there is something you can do right now and in the next three weeks. Come help and get out the vote for 2007! Believe it or not, there are important races going on right here in New York this coming November.

From The Daily Gotham:

Dave Pollak just emailed over as follows:

The 2007 Elections are only 3 weeks away, and we need your help to guarantee Democratic success in critical races across NY State! Not only are we working to elect great Democratic candidates right now, but their victories will help build towards future Democratic victories in 2008 and beyond.

As you know, the NY Dems are hosting weekend canvassing on Long Island and weeknight phonebanking in Manhattan from now until Election Day, November 6. Our Long Island Political Director, Lauren Corcoran-Doolin (laurend [at] nydems [dot] org), has additional information about canvassing/phonebanking dates, places and times, or you can contact Claire Silberman at claire.silberman [at] gmail [dot] com with any other questions or comments. There are critical volunteer needs upstate as well so please contact our Upstate Political Director Cathy Calhoun at cathyc [at] nydems [dot] org to get people plugged in outside of the NYC area.

This brings me to a related subject: we all love to bitch and moan and complain about how bad the Democrats are, and all the many ways, large and small, they disappoint. I do this regularly and, frankly, with cause. Two words: Noach Dear.

So come one, come all and get out there and phonebank, canvass and all those other good deeds so that you can help get good Democrats elected next month. I'll be putting on those boots to phonebank and even a little canvassing too (Long Island isn't that far). I hope to see lots of you out there as well.

Dealing With Randi's Fall...The Hypocrisy Of Fox And Friends

You got to love the friendly folks at Fox and Friends. Due to one host at Air America jumping to conclusions about Randi's accident, Fox criticizes him and then jumps to conclusions of their own. Because one commenter at the conservative NY Post claimed she was drunk (without proof), Steve Doocy and his friends repeated the unsubstantiated claim on the air.

Oh and by the way they did not even wish her well or to have a good recovery. Aren't they friendly?

Bush Reaches New Lows

If you can believe it, there are still millions of Americans that support George Bush, twenty-four percent of the country to be precise. Even though the number dropped from the already abysmal sounding twenty-nine percent, it still isn't low enough. Why do you ask that I think that? It is because despite terrible approval ratings, the President is still getting his way in Washington. Perhaps it has something do with Congress, as I had mentioned earlier today.

From Reuters:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Deepening unhappiness with President George W. Bush and the U.S. Congress soured the mood of Americans and sent Bush's approval rating to another record low this month, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday.

The Reuters/Zogby Index, which measures the mood of the country, also fell from 98.8 to 96 -- the second consecutive month it has dropped. The number of Americans who believe the country is on the wrong track jumped four points to 66 percent.

Bush's job approval rating fell to 24 percent from last month's record low for a Zogby poll of 29 percent. A paltry 11 percent gave Congress a positive grade, tying last month's record low.

Now generally Congress has low numbers, while individual members score higher in their own districts. Nevertheless, the eleven percent rating is indicative of the fact that Americans are fed up with their government, as pollster Zogby mentioned in the article. I am sure that S-CHIP has something to do with Bush's lower numbers, not to mention Iraq, shredding the Constitution and of course the war. So why is Congress not getting the respect that they so desperately want?

Perhaps they should try getting a backbone and fulfilling their obligations to the people for a change.

156 Members Of Congress Hate Kids

They may love their own, but there is no sympathy for those children that do not have access to good health insurance. S-CHIP has been a proven success for millions of poor families and their children, but that doesn't mean much to many Republicans and even a couple of Democrats. The House failed to override the President's veto by 16 votes, even though the Senate overwhelmingly voted for it, passing the 2/3rds mark by approximately 20 votes.

From Crooks and Liars:

The final vote was 273 - 156, 16 votes short of the necessary 2/3 to override Bush’s veto. Democrats Jim Marshall and Gene Taylor crossing the aisle to vote against SCHIP and 44 Republicans voting for SCHIP (which is one less than the initial vote).

I’ve included the roll call at the above link and there’s a widget on the right margin of the page to contact Congress. If you’re so inclined, you may want to ask those 156 representatives why they hate poor, sick kids. Because believe me, whether or not we have SCHIP, we ALL pay for the care of these children when they have health care needs.

Keep in mind, the cost of the expanded SCHIP program is what we pay in Iraq in THREE WEEKS.

They claim that the expanded program covers "rich kids" and that government shouldn't provide health care for Americans. Do they really believe that the current situation is working out? They know health insurance is in shambles in America, but those in the health insurance industry that line their pockets seem to have more influence than their own constituents.

Shame on them, I hope their votes end their Congressional careers.

All Thats Useless To Print

When it comes to the Presidential melee, the traditional media dedicates a lot of coverage to the candidates, but most of it is useless drivel:

Since When Is Standing Around Considered A Crime?

Plenty of people get arrested for disorderly conduct every year, but what is so disorderly about standing around on a street corner? According to Officer Momen Attia, Matthew Jones committed a crime for hanging around with friends on the corner of 7th Ave and 42nd St, more commonly known as Times Square. Personally I think its a crime to be in Times Square in the first place, but I'm just a snobbish New Yorker that does not have time for dawdling tourists. But does that mean that Mr. Jones committed a crime?

My attitude about Times Square actually helps his case, because I know that people dawdle and stand around that area of the city. It is commonplace for people to be stopped and looking around because there is so much to see there. Flashing lights, naked cowboys and cowgirls, giant indoor ferris wheels, etc, etc. The place is ADD heaven.

Even though the first two courts denied Mr. Jones' appeal, it seems that he will finally be given a break. Thankfully in our judicial system, there is some last refuge of common sense on the bench.

From The New York Times:

“Isn’t that lawful conduct?” wondered Judge Robert S. Smith. Later he added, “Your conduct can’t be illegal just because an officer noticed it.”

His colleague Judge Eugene F. Pigott Jr. questioned what other violations might attract law enforcement attention.

“All I could think of was a bunch of lawyers from the New York City Bar Association standing around trying to figure out where to have lunch,” Judge Pigott said. (The association has offices a block and a half from Times Square.)

Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye seemed likewise nonplused. “This is at 2 a.m.?” she asked, wondering how many pedestrians it would have been possible to inconvenience at that hour. “I guess I’m not in Times Square at 2 a.m. very often.”

Plenty of people stand around and gab on the sidewalks of New York. Heck, I'm guilty of it too (just never in Times Sq.) when I talk outside with my friends. As for those that stand idly in that neck of the woods...its annoying to those that need to pass by, but in no way is it a crime. This sounds more like the ridiculous hubris of one officer and something that the NYPD needs to take care of.

Relevant Insanity

Relevancy and insanity are two words that do not usually go together in the same sentence, but when we are dealing with President Bush, it fits perfectly. His little tirade yesterday confirmed his delusional state where he believes that he is still relevant to this nation. Sadly, in a way he is right.

The President still unconstitutionally goes over the American people and Congress' head with his wiretapping, his war and the signing statements he adds on to bills passed by the Legislative branch that he must sign when confronted with veto-proof majorities. The small percentage of America that still backs him somehow provides enough leverage for him to continue to execute the badly planned occupation in Iraq and the full-out assault on our Constitution.

Even though the American people overwhelmingly came together last fall and threw out the Republican-led House and Senate, the new Democratic Congress is almost as bad as the old one. Their acquiescence to his crimes and willingness to bend over for The Decider is absolutely disgusting.

Sure, the Democrats aren't all bad, they voted to expand S-CHIP, increase the minimum wage and do a few other things. But. But. The Democrats were placed in power to stop the war and to present a new direction for the country where international cooperation would replace the six year nightmare of overt unilateralism that made our Founding Fathers turn over in their graves.

So when George claims that he is still is not his veto-wielding that keeps him in the spotlight as much as his hubris and authoritarian-like executive power that the Congress has consistently failed to check in the last nine months.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Colbert Makes A Big Announcement, Or Does He?

The Republicans don't have much going for them when it comes to Presidential contenders, so this pseudo-conservative might be their answer....

From The Daily Show:

And then The Colbert Report:

Fare Hikes Opposed By N.Y. Legislature

As the M.T.A. board meetings loom whether to increase subway fares, a large collaboration of community groups and state representatives got together at City Hall to oppose any fare hikes this year. The group wants the M.T.A. to hold off until at least April so that the government can come up with funding that can avert a fare increase. It would be much better to wait for state and/or federal money than to put an extra burden on the millions of New Yorkers that ride the rails everyday.

From The New York Times:

If the authority holds off until next April, it would give Gov. Eliot Spitzer and the Legislature “a chance to provide additional funds needed in order to avoid a fare increase,” the lawmakers and advocates wrote in their letter.

“Fare increases are a last resort,” said Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat. “After 12 years of neglect under the Pataki administration, we want to work with the M.T.A., the city and state governments to change the failed policies of the past.”

The letter said: “There are many strong reasons for increasing government aid to the M.T.A. There has been no permanent new state operating aid to M.T.A. New York City Transit in at least a dozen years.”

The M.T.A. was quick to respond. Their spokesman said that the plan devised by the M.T.A. depends on state funding and "cost of living" increases in fares. Now there is a problem with that automatic reply. If the state can give them all the funding they need, why put an extra burden on those that use the subway to get around? Do they just want us to get used to paying higher prices?

Elliot Sander and his M.T.A. have already begun to pull one over on New Yorkers with the reduced-fare idea. Who knows what lengths they'll go to, even if the City Comptroller, citizen advocate groups and twenty-two State Assemblymen implore them not to raise the rates.

Larry Craig, Profiling and Karma

Yes ladies and gentlemen, the Larry Craig saga continues. While Republican officials and operatives grimace at his face still being in the news, Craig won't stop defending himself to the public. He even sat down with (pretend journalist) Matt Lauer for an hour last night to prove he is innocent and not gay of course.

From RawStory:

In excerpts played on Wednesday's Today Show, Craig repeated his steadfast denial that he stepped into a Minneapolis airport restroom stall looking to get frisky, and he sought sympathy as a victim of police profiling. He also said that although he did not condone gay activity, he didn't view it as anything to be ashamed of.

Police said Craig's actions -- peering into an officers stall, tapping his foot and reaching beneath a divider -- were identical to the secret choreography engaged in by men looking for anonymous sex.

"I now know that this cop, this officer, is a profiler," Craig said. "He said looking into a stall is part of it, and then a hand gesture or a foot tap is part of it. Now I know all about profiling. I know what people feel like when they're profiled, when innocent people get caught up in what I was caught in as an innocent person, it's very angering at times."

Now all together now, awwww, poor baby. It is always amusing to see what happens to the "family values" Republicans when the shoe is on the other foot. Craig has never been against profiling in the past and even voted and argued for the re-authorization of the Patriot Act. In case you don't know, that bill condones "profiling" among other things. The only thing Larry Craig is against here is the profiling that shows how guilty he is.

Except for trying to coax Craig into admitting he was gay or at least bisexual, Lauer did his typically lousy interview. Tom Shales from WaPo has more on this. I think Lauer should resign from his post right alongside Craig for two poor and pitiful performances, one as a journalist and the other a Senator.

Al Sharpton Testifies To Congress About The Jena 6

Con Ed Tries To Shift Blame To The City

With lawsuits piling up on its shoulders, Con Edison is trying to do something about the mess they created, killing one woman, severely injuring another and bringing a section of the city to a halt. The word I'm looking for here isn't "accountability" because they are doing their best to stay as far away from owning up to their actions as possible.

From AM New York:

The utility facing multiple lawsuits over a massive steam pipe explosion has filed legal papers saying the city may be to blame for the blast.

A notice of claim filed by Consolidated Edison says the July 18 explosion, which left a woman dead of a heart attack and injured about 40 people, "may have been caused, in whole or in part, by acts or omissions of the city."

Filing a notice of claim is the first step toward a lawsuit. But Con Edison spokesman Michael Clendenin described the utility's notice, filed Monday, as "a routine procedural matter, necessary in the event the investigation determines that the city's infrastructure contributed to the steam rupture."

The city is far from perfect, but what happened on 3rd Ave. and 41st Street back in July was the result of a faulty steam pipe. Those steam pipes are maintained by the utility and there was work being done in that area on those pipes by Con Edison.

The accruing lawsuits are in the hundreds of millions of dollars, both from businesses that have lost the ability to function and the family that lost Lois Ellen Baumerich when she suffered cardiac arrest attributed to the explosion. It was truly a miracle that only one person lost their life in that melee. Now Con Edison should stand up and take what is coming to them, and not try to escape blame by pinning it on the city.

Bernie Kerik, The Problem That Will Not Go Away

Giuliani may have admitted that his dealings with Bernard Kerik was a mistake, but when it comes to Rudy that does not mean much. For many Americans the Kerik name was on the national radar for two seconds when he was tapped to become the Director of Homeland Security. Then he "disappeared" and Chertoff got the job instead. So what happened to Bernie, and why does it matter so much to the Giuliani campaign?

From The Daily News:

Greg Smith reported in The News last week that this all goes back to a 1999 meeting that involved Kerik - then Correction Department commissioner under Giuliani - and Casey and Caruso about the Interstate Industrial Corp., a company that very much wanted to run a waste transfer station on Staten Island. At the time, Casey was investigating the possibility that Interstate might have ties to the Gambino crime family.

And because you get these crazy coincidences in life sometimes, not only did Kerik's brother happen to be working for Interstate at the time, Interstate also turned out to be making rather extensive renovations on Kerik's Bronx apartment and, because they were such big-hearted people, doing those renovations for free.

None of this prevented Kerik from becoming Giuliani's top cop, standing right there at his side in the aftermath of Sept. 11, where he was so "brave," according to Giuliani himself, though you have to search your memory to remember which tower Police Commissioner Kerik ran into that day. Before long, the Bush White House wanted Kerik for head of Homeland Security. And the reason they did, the only way he gets near the White House or a job like that, is because he came from Giuliani, who, oh, by the way, later went into business with Bernie Kerik.

Now I'll admit this, Giuliani is a smart guy. No one doubts that. He knows how to put himself in the right spots at the right time, even if he hardly did any work. What counts in our "sound-bite" culture is a little bit of patriotic talk and some good photo-ops. Giuliani certainly covered his bases there. Even though he was a complete failure as mayor, America still regards him as a hero of 9/11 and an expert on security, even though he flaked on the Iraq Study Group.

He claims to have cleaned up the city and led New York through the crisis of September 11th. Yet he ignores all of the evidence to the contrary. Many who followed NYC's drop in crime credit the progress to Police Chief William Bratton, not Giuliani. In response to the praise for Bratton, what did Rudy do? He fired him. Giuliani is an expert in making himself look good, and that is why he is so afraid of Kerik, because him and Bernie go way back. Giuliani knew about Kerik's mob ties and could have cared less. Now that apathy is going to come back to bite him in the ass.

How Can Wingers Attack A Two Year Old And Her Family?

If you thought that the right wing attacks on Graeme Frost and his family were bad, watch them attack a two year old baby and her parents. Their crime was having the blessing of S-CHIP that saved her life. Paul Krugman and Keith Olbermann discussed the issue last night:

Sweet Jesus To Be Resurrected On October 27th

The second coming of Christ is upon us all ye merciful faithful. That is if you like that sweet milk chocolate sculpted into the image of the Holy Son. The controversial artist Cosimo Cavallaro has crafted a second piece out of fresh chocolate along with other "Catholic" images made out of cocoa beans and sugar.

From WNBC:

"My Sweet Lord," an anatomically correct milk chocolate sculpture of Jesus Christ that infuriated Catholics before its April unveiling was canceled, returns Oct. 27 to a Chelsea art gallery, its creator said Tuesday. This time, artist Cosimo Cavallaro said he expects the public exhibit to proceed without a problem.

"There is nothing offensive about this," Cavallaro said of his controversial confectionary work. "If my intentions were to offend, if I did do something wrong, I wouldn't be doing this. But I didn't do anything wrong."

Cavallaro, who received death threats before the April show was canceled, said the vast majority of his mail was in support of his six-foot piece.

The brouhaha over this is not expected to be as bad as what happened in April and the Catholic League says they will not protest him again. For one the Proposition Gallery is not on any main streets and late October is nowhere near Palm Sunday.

The publicity six months ago seems to have gotten to Cavallaro's head. I may not have read this quote right, but this strikes me as a little odd:

After the cancellation of the show, it got me to look into the Catholic religion a little deeper," Cavallero said. "I started thinking about the saints, how they were ostracized for their beliefs and then canonized."

Cavallero may be good at sculpting chocolate, but his being ostracized will definitely not lead to any canonization for the artist. Nevertheless, I think I might actually head over to Chelsea to see (and maybe try to taste) the art.

The Good Rats Of NYC

Whenever I am in the subway during a quiet part of the day or night, the rats that run along the rails always catch my eye...those are the "bad" rats. The good ones are the giant inflatable rats that sit outside various buildings around the city. In case you don't know, those rats are symbols that unions use to call out developers and other companies that refuse to hire union workers. Have you ever wondered who puts them up and how effective they are?

From The New York Times:

For eight years, Mr. Rynkiewicz, 37, has been a rat wrangler for Local 79. He was there when a rat was threatened with arrest. He was there when a rat was stabbed by a person opposed to the construction of a Staples store in Brooklyn.

“They gutted it,” he said, eyes downcast. “Right in the belly.”

Rats are the most ubiquitous tool of shame, but not the only one used by Mr. Rynkiewicz’s union. There is also a cigar-smoking pig, a gorilla and a skunk. The balloons are never left alone when on public display. Two union men, earning roughly $30 an hour, keep watch over them. Sandwich boards featuring quotes by Abraham Lincoln, George Washington or Gandhi are propped at the foot of the rat. Leaflets are distributed.

Local 79 came up with the idea of placing the balloons outside job sites 11 years ago. On Third Avenue, the rat loomed in front of offices belonging to Extell, one of the city’s larger developers. The union was upset that Extell was using nonunion workers to build extra office space on East 46th Street for the United Nations. Mr. Rynkiewicz said he received a call from Extell executives, who agreed to a meeting that afternoon. A week later, he said, it became a union job site. When contacted, Extell would not respond to questions about that site.

Just another day in the life of an inflatable rat.

Hotline TV Breaks Down The Third Quarter

Now that the numbers are in from the third quarter, these two guys break it down for us. Not only is it a D vs. R thing, but a Hillary vs. Obama thing, and they show us how Obama is not taking the gap between him and Hill lying down.

A Billion Dollars Just Isn't Enough

After years of haggling and arguing to toss the lawsuit of 9,000 9/11 workers who have been injured as a result of their heroism after the Towers fell, the city is looking to negotiate a deal. NYC is talking about doling out a billion dollars. It sounds like a lot, but when you divide it by 9,000, you only get $111,111 per person and that is supposed to cover the medical costs for their lifetimes. That also excludes what death benefits would be given to the families that have lost roughly 150 people to the resulting diseases borne out of that toxic air. So what's chief lawyer Marc Bern to do?

From The Daily News:

Bern's clients have until the end of the month to decide whether to give him permission to begin settlement talks for them. Those who don't can continue their own litigation, but there's a good chance that Bern's firm won't handle their case.

"If we receive an aggregate settlement offer from the defendants, it will be up to you and our other clients to accept or reject the offer and, if you accept it, to agree on how the [money] would be divided," Bern wrote. "The defendants would have nothing to do with that decision."

It is a sad day when I have to agree with Bern's logic. He is fighting for justice for these people and because of the system, real monetary damages would take years or decades. The victims need some form of restitution now. Medical bills for lung diseases are expensive and a hundred thousand dollars or more would help, at least in the short term.

Ideally the federal government would have helped out more with these victims and their families, but you have to remember who is in charge at the moment down there in D.C.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Reusing The Un-Reusable

Who would ever think that human waste would be good for much of anything. For a long, long time, human excrement was something that could only contaminate water supplies and negatively affect our health if it wasn't well-secured and treated. Now there is a way for it to be put to very good use.

From RawStory:

A cheap system to recycle human waste into bio-gas and fertiliser may allow 2.6 billion people in the world access to toilets and reduce global warming, an Indian environmental expert said Tuesday.

Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of the Sulabh International Social Service Organisation, said his group plans to push the system at the seventh annual World Toilet Summit, to be held in New Delhi at the end of October.


He said India's contribution would be a toilet system that organically breaks down feces into trapped bio-gas that can be burned to provide cooking fuel and electricity, and convert urine into fertilizer.

Isn't nice to see the creativity of the human mind make such great use of the crap that comes out of us?

Is There Something You Want To Tell Us Mitt?

Thanks to DownWithTyranny for the image and rant on America's #1 flip-flopper.

Barack Hussein Obama-Cheney?

Have you ever heard that almost every major political figure in America is in some way related to William the Conqueror? Yes, a man that lived and ruled England nearly a millenia ago has famous and powerful descendants many times over. Well not only do genealogists keep records of this stuff, so do the elite. Lynne Cheney knows whats up and guess who Dick's eighth cousin is?

From CNN:

In an interview on MSNBC Tuesday afternoon, Mrs. Cheney said that in the course of researching her husband's genealogy for her new book, "Blue Skies, No Fences," she discovered that the two public figures share an ancestor eight generations ago.

"Think about this," Mrs. Cheney said. "This is such an amazing American story that one ancestor, a man that came to Maryland, could be responsible down the family line for lives that have taken such different and varied paths as Dick's and Barack Obama's."

But is blood thicker than the partisan waters of Washington? Apparently not.

Even though Obama is related to her husband, Mrs. Cheney said she is not supporting the Illinois Democrat's White House bid.

Reacting to the news, Obama's campaign spokesman Bill Burton told CNN's Dana Bash with tongue in cheek, "Obviously, Dick Cheney is sort of the black sheep of the family."

Of course this really makes no difference in the here and now of American politics. Yet, it is an interesting thing to ponder. As CNN also notes, George Bush is an 11th cousin to Barack and apparently Clinton has distant blood ties to them all as well. So no matter who wins, it seems the Presidency will stay in the family.

Comcast Broke The Law With Bush And Charged Him For It

Now that information shows that all of the major telecom companies except for Qwest played along with Bush's warrantless wiretappings, an interesting side note has emerged. Although the details are murky for Verizon and ATnT, documents show that Comcast charged the federal government for each time they broke the law and spied on someone.

From RawStory:

Comcast, which is among the nation's largest telecommunication companies, charges $1,000 to install a FISA wiretap and $750 for each additional month authorities want to keep an eye on suspects, according to the company's Handbook for Law Enforcement. Secrecy News obtained the document and published it Monday.

"I was actually surprised that this was such a routine transaction that it would have a set fee," said Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy.

Aftergood, who runs the Secrecy News blog, told RAW STORY that the Comcast document was the only one he has seen outlining wiretap procedures and costs, so he couldn't compare Comcast's fees with those charged by other telecoms.

So not only did your "trusted" phone carrier break the law and hundreds, if not thousands of people's identity exposed to various government agents, they secured payment at $1000 a pop. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know where that money came from either....straight from our pocketbooks.

To top it all off, Congress is seriously consider legalizing this practice. Seriously, WTF is going on in this "democracy."

Bethany Is Another S-CHIP Success Story

Tell me again why Bush and faithful followers would rather choose a failed ideology over a healthy life for this innocent child. She is only one of millions that benefit from a wonderful program.

City Council Gives Itself A Raise While Having Jobs On The Side

It must be nice to represent New York in the city council....and I am not talking about fulfilling the patriotic duty of public service. Technically speaking, serving as a City Councilperson is a part time job, one that now commands a salary of $112,500 a year. The Council generously gave themselves an extra $22,500 a year recently despite many earning tens of thousands (or more) in other professions.

From The Daily News:

After they approved a $22,500 pay raise in November, members promised to take up the question of whether the job really is part time and whether they should be allowed outside income.

"They punted until a later time. The time has now arrived," said Dick Dadey, executive director of government watchdog Citizens Union.

Councilman Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn), chairman of the Governmental Operations Committee, promised to hold hearings on the issue by year's end.

Most of the members working overtime last year pulled in modest amounts as consultants or teachers, but five possibly doubled their Council salaries with second jobs.

Many of these public servants pull in six figures without counting the city job already. Voting to approve this pay raise strikes me as being a just a tad greedy. Councilman McMahon (D-S.I.) can at least see the problem here, and had voted against the hike and even refused to accept the additional raise. If only the other few dozen of his peers would as well, they might see the problem here. If they want to make it a full time job that would be one thing, but a "promised hearing" is nothing more than a promise and not reality.

Army Captains Want A Draft Or To Get Out Of Iraq

Well if I had to choose between the two, I'd have to go with the latter, but we're talking about troops that have served in Iraq here. All twelve who served between 2003 and 2006 want us out of the war...unless we relinquish our volunteer army and begin to conscript soldiers like we did for the Vietnam War.

From The AFP:

"There is one way we might be able to succeed in Iraq," wrote the ex-captains, all of whom saw service in Iraq between 2003 and 2006.

"To continue an operation of this intensity and duration, we would have to abandon our volunteer military for compulsory service. Short of that, our best option is to leave Iraq immediately.

"A scaled withdrawal will not prevent a civil war, and it will spend more blood and treasure on a losing proposition," they wrote.

The Iraq war "is as undermanned and under-resourced as it was from the start," the authors wrote, stating bluntly that "Iraq is in shambles."

The authors say they have "seen the corruption and the sectarian division. We understand what it's like to be stretched too thin. And we know when it's time to get out."

The captains describe widespread corruption in the Iraqi government, a country where the infrastructure is in "deplorable condition."

Iraq's oil industry "still fails to produce the revenue that Pentagon war planners hoped would pay for Iraq's reconstruction," they wrote.

Even with the 'surge' of US forces this year there are not enough troops in Iraq. Temporary regional success "may brief well on PowerPoint presentations," but in practice "they just push insurgents to another spot on the map."

If anyone knows what they are talking about in Iraq, it is men like these. Not the generals that watch from the green zone or the politicians that seldomly drop in to see the relatively quiet protected area. None of our leaders really wants a draft, besides those like Charlie Rangel that want one only to increase the antipathy against the war and the President. A draft would elevate the national consciousness to a degree not seen since the Vietnam War and bring even more resentment to the elected officials that support it.

The Real Rudy And His Radios

There are still serious questions to be asked of Rudy Giuliani and his handling of 9/11. Why did Rudy sit on his ass for several years while the FDNY used out-dated radios? Why did Motorola get a no-bid contract in 2001 without doing field tests to make sure they worked? Read more and sign the petition to hold Rudy accountable.

Bush's Lies About S-CHIP

As the S-CHIP override veto vote is coming up in two days, it is important to know what we are dealing with here. The President is trying to communicate that his proposal still increases S-CHIP, but only for the poorest of the poor.

Basically he could care less about people that consider themselves "middle class." The successful passage of this bill would serve as a tremendous blow to his ideology that government must not help average Americans. But for PR's sake, he does not want to look as mean as he is so he favors a "20 percent increase in funding" or so you would believe. The traditional media is reporting it as fact, but we can never count on them to discern facts or practice journalism here. Thankfully we have Media Matters.

From Media Matters:

An October 13 Wall Street Journal editorial criticizing the response by congressional Democrats to President Bush's veto of legislation that would increase funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) by $35 billion over five years asserted that "in truth, the Bush Administration endorses a modest expansion" of the program. The editorial went on to claim that "after his veto Mr. Bush repeatedly signaled a willingness to compromise and spend more than the $5 billion he would prefer to pump in -- which is by itself a 20% expansion." In fact, Bush's plan to "pump in" an additional $5 billion over five years would underfund the program by $9 billion during that period, according to the Congressional Budget Office. As Media Matters for America has repeatedly documented, in May, the CBO estimated that "maintaining the states' current programs under SCHIP would require funding of $39 billion for the 2007-2012 period." But a $5 billion increase from baseline funding -- Bush's proposal -- over five years would total $30 billion.

Bush and his handlers try to be clever, but this isn't fuzzy math here. The CBO knows what it's doing and easily exposes the President's bullshit. See, he would rather crush and underfund the program more than anything. His blind devotion to his so-called ideology is sickening to say the least.

Monday, October 15, 2007

ConEd Has A Bright Idea

I am definitely not talking about the upcoming rate hike, those are never fun. Their bright idea is rather simple and makes complete sense. The idea begs the question, how many ConEd contracted businesses does it take to install millions of energy efficient lightbulbs across the city....all without charging customers a dime?

From AM New York:

In a new citywide initiative, Con Edison is teaming up with electrical companies to install free, energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs in residential homes. Con Ed pays the smaller companies to install the bulbs, avoiding out-of-pocket expenses for the consumer. But Con Ed also saves money because the bulbs use less electricity, lessening the need to construct power plants or upgrade existing ones. And as more customers switch to the bulbs, the risk of blackouts during times of peak demand will also decrease.

All parties involved say it's a win-win situation.

"There is such a thing as something for free in New York City," Councilman Vincent Ignizio (R-Staten Island) said yesterday at a news conference at a participating home in his district, the Woodrow section of Staten Island.

All you have to do is contact Con Ed to find out what businesses are providing the service in your area. How simple is that? This really is a win-win for everyone.

Rep. Knollenberg Ignores Constituent Questions And Has Underling Harass Him

Gotta love these GoOPers:

Giuliani Can't Raise More Than He Spends

Rudy may have raised over $10 million in the last three months, but he spent more than he raised, a troubling sign for the so-called front runner. Even though $11.4 million sounds impressive for three months time, it is nothing compared to Hillary and Obama. The numbers show the enthusiasm of campaign donors on either side and when push comes to shove, the mojo is not on the side of Giuliani or the Republican field in general.

From The Huffington Post:

Giuliani led the Republican field in fundraising this summer, according to early estimates provided by the campaigns, though his July-September total declined from his high during April-June.

Giuliani is ahead of the rest of the Republican candidates in national polls, but he lags behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the leadoff caucus state of Iowa. In New Hampshire, another important early voting state, polls show the race a virtual toss-up among Giuliani, Romney and John McCain. Thompson, the "Law & Order" actor and former Tennessee senator, is also competitive with the top tier in state and national polls.

Giuliani's cash lead over the rest of the field could give him an advantage in the remaining 90 days before voters make their choices in the early contests.

If Giuliani is the leader, then things are definitely not looking good for Republicans in 2008. The entire field over there is pathetic, even with Mitt's millions and Fred's acting money. Ron Paul is the most fiscally prudent even if he doesn't seem to have a chance at winning anything when the primaries start in three months time. The free media is working out best for him and the internet buzz is fantastic for the libertarian (who I must say practices what he's preaching), even if his message falls on many deaf right-wing ears.

Unlike Ron Paul who flies commercial, Rudy has pulled out all the stops. He spends millions on staff and travel, even with comped airplanes from supporter and venture capitalist Paul Singer. Add paid media to the mix in the form of print and radio and you have a campaign that ran in the red for the third quarter.

What's A Dollar Worth To You?

A dollar doesn't buy much these days...forty minutes at a parking meter, a can of soda, a bagel from the street vendor....It does however make a difference in how you get married in New York. Straight couples are charged a dollar less ($35 vs. $36) than those in domestic partnerships. The marriage license fees are different due to the different bureaucracies from which they came, nothing intentional about it. Yet it should be evened out and now the Mayor is on the case.

From The NY Times:

The reason for the $1 discrepancy lies in the way that the two fees evolved. In New York City, marriage fees are administered by the City Clerk; in the rest of the state, they are administered by the state’s Department of Health. In 2002, an effort to increase the marriage fee in New York City was defeated in the budget process. The state was able to increase their fee to $40 (the result of which is you effectively get a 10 percent discount for filing within the city).

In contrast, domestic partnership registration fees are set by the city. At the same time of the budget process, the City Clerk asked the Office of Management and Budget to determine mathematically a fair fee for domestic partnership registration, one that encompassed processing and other costs. The result? $36.

The process of achieving fee parity is expected to take several months, the mayor’s office said.

Meanwhile, a reader noted (in response to City Room’s doomed wedding wall post) that domestic partnerships are treated differently from marriages. For one, there is no mandatory 24-hour waiting period. Secondly, no wedding ceremony is required.

I guess there are pros and cons to everything, but we should still work to put everything on an even playing field

Flippin' Romney

You don't need a grill to know how Romney can flip on....anything:

The Inconvenient Truth About Gore's British Challenge

Rob Marciano and conservative global warming skeptics from here to the U.K. rejoiced at a judge's ruling that required schools to warn viewers that the film has "inaccuracies." Well just as Woodward and Bernstein were told to follow the money when investigating Watergate, so should we in this case. It turns out that the money trail has a lot to do with the "little guy" that brought the case to trial.

From The Guardian:

The school governor who challenged the screening of Al Gore's climate change documentary in secondary schools was funded by a Scottish quarrying magnate who established a controversial lobbying group to attack environmentalists' claims about global warming.

Stewart Dimmock's high-profile fight to ban the film being shown in schools was depicted as a David and Goliath battle, with the Kent school governor taking on the state by arguing that the government was 'brainwashing' pupils.


The Observer has established that Dimmock's case was supported by a powerful network of business interests with close links to the fuel and mining lobbies. He was also supported by a Conservative councillor in Hampshire, Derek Tipp.

Dimmock credited the little-known New Party with supporting him in the test case but did not elaborate on its involvement. The obscure Scotland-based party calls itself 'centre right' and campaigns for lower taxes and expanding nuclear power.

Well isn't that interesting? Stewart Dimmock may be a concerned parent, but the most concerning thing is where the money came from to fund the trial. Kudos to the Guardian and Observer for doing their due diligence.

Pelosi Admits Congress Isn't Doing Its Job

Speaker Pelosi made an appearance on the Sunday TV talk show circuit and the most important question that came up was about how Congress is dealing with the war. By and large, the majority came about because Americans want out of Iraq and they thought that Pelosi would help lead us out, yet nothing has changed yet. Even non-binding resolutions have trouble getting passed and our troops continue to die for an illegitimate war. So what does she have to say for herself?

From The Hill:

Pelosi said Democrats are “doing all we can to change the debate” but stressed that they do not have the kind of power that the White House has.

The speaker, in an interview aired on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” stated it was ironic that, as an outspoken opponent to the Iraq campaign, anti-war activists are targeting her now. However, Pelosi added that she understands and respects the frustrations of the Democratic base.

“We will continue to pass legislation to make that point [that the war should end],” she said. “And we happen to be blocked by a 60-vote hurdle in the Senate, but the public doesn’t want -- care about that. They just want us to end the war.”

Thats right, we want you to end the war Madame Speaker. Although she said herself she would not give Congress high marks on its performance to end the war, she shifted the blame on the White House (deservedly) and the fact that the Senate is not filibuster-proof.

Frankly, that is not good enough. Ending the war can be as simple as not funding it. Yet Pelosi and other Dems are too cowardly to take such a principled stance. They would rather cower in fear of Bush's empty rhetoric and Senate Republicans' threats to filibuster, even though they haven't done so yet. If Pelosi wants a passing grade, she might want to take a look at defunding the war...while Congress still has the power of the purse.

Standing Up For Al Gore

Sam Donaldson does a great job of it as well as speaking up for the reality of climate change against conservative George Will on ABC yesterday morning:

Filling The Journalistic Gaps

It has been clear that in these times, the quality of investigative journalism has deteriorated significantly. As newspapers consolidate and newsrooms become more about profit than product, the nation suffers from a lack of in-depth reporting that uncovers stories and scandals, not just PR-laded soundbites. A story like Watergate would almost be impossible to come out now, a budget would never allow for months and months of investigation without anything to show for it. The plot of Watergate is better suited for a movie script than to take place in reality these days.

However, there is a group coming together that wants to fill in the cracks that journalism has formed lately. It is a non-profit center that will have the resources to do the people's work and fulfill some semblance of the fourth estate.

From The New York Times:

The nonprofit group, called Pro Publica, will pitch each project to a newspaper or magazine (and occasionally to other media) where the group hopes the work will make the strongest impression. The plan is to do long-term projects, uncovering misdeeds in government, business and organizations.

Nothing quite like it has been attempted, and despite having a lot going for it, Pro Publica will be something of an experiment, inventing its practices by trial and error. It remains to be seen how well it can attract talent and win the cooperation of the mainstream media.

“It is the deep-dive stuff and the aggressive follow-up that is most challenged in the budget process,” said Mr. Steiger, who will be Pro Publica’s president and editor in chief. He gave up the title of managing editor of The Journal in May, but is staying on through the end of the year as editor at large; during his tenure, the newsroom won 16 Pulitzer Prizes.

Pro Publica is the creation of Herbert M. and Marion O. Sandler, the former chief executives of the Golden West Financial Corporation, based in California, which was one of the nation’s largest mortgage lenders and savings and loans. They have committed $10 million a year to the project, while various foundations have provided smaller amounts. Mr. Sandler will serve as chairman of the group, which will begin operations early next year.

Despite the skepticism in the second paragraph above in the Times, attracting true talent shouldn't be too hard. For the real journalists that are left, free reign to do actual reporting without budgetary constraints is a dream come true. As the Times itself notes, their own moron-in-chief, Bill Keller said in the article he would be willing to use the work Pro Publica puts out.

Something has to be done for the state of journalism in this country. Pro Publica seems to have a great shot at making a difference for us all.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Vito Attacks Nobel Laureate Gore

It seems that Vito Fossella doesn't have much to do these days being part of the minority in Congress. Now he spends all of his time attacking needy children, the priorities of New Yorkers and now Al Gore. Like the good conservative lackey that he is, Vito followed in the steps of Hannity and Kristol to diminish the Nobel Peace Prize and the reason why Al Gore won it.

From Newshounds:

Republican Congressman Vito Fossella at least had the good manners to congratulate Gore. But in a more delicate way, he also criticized Gore and the prize. “What calls to me is this notion of, I think, diluting what the Nobel Peace Prize is.” Fossella reiterated Hannity’s complaint that Gorbachev and Arafat had won and then named what he thought were obviously better candidates. “I would think people like the United States Air Force or the Marine Corps that brings about peace in this world or Ronald Reagan who was denied it. I think it dilutes what it all means and it calls into question what it’s all about. Are there legitimate issues that the vice president has raised over time? Yes, but I do think the American people deserve more truth.

I agree with Vito on that last point, Americans do deserve more truth. That truth certainly won't come from Fossella or any of his cohorts. They consistently twist facts to fit their delusional take on the world, whether it is about the economy or climate change. Peace does not come from the weapons of war, to even explain the ridiculousness of that statement is pointless. Anyone with two brain cells to rub together can see through their hare-brained ideas.