Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Silver Lining To High Gas Prices

When a forest fire burns out of control, not only does it burn grass, shrubs and trees, it takes out cars, homes and even lives. The damage is incredible and the personal loss can be devastating. Yet from those ashes lives begin anew, the enriched soil, wet from winter rains blossoms with wildflowers and hopefully, those that build homes there do so with care, caution and respect for their environment.

The same can be said for gasoline and our global environment. The amount we consume combined with a society and economy that is addicted to oil has made prices skyrocket. We never really cut enough "brush" back from our homes in the form of clean energy (like wind and solar) and now it is hurting us in our pocketbooks. Though in this fiscal mess, there is promise on the horizon.

From The NY Times:

Some cities with long-established public transit systems, like New York and Boston, have seen increases in ridership of 5 percent or more so far this year. But the biggest surges — of 10 to 15 percent or more over last year — are occurring in many metropolitan areas in the South and West where the driving culture is strongest and bus and rail lines are more limited.

Here in Denver, for example, ridership was up 8 percent in the first three months of the year compared with last year, despite a fare increase in January and a slowing economy, which usually means fewer commuters. Several routes on the system have reached capacity, particularly at rush hour, for the first time.

“We are at a tipping point,” said Clarence W. Marsella, chief executive of the Denver Regional Transportation District, referring to gasoline prices.

That tipping point could possibly turn our national car culture into a transit society. Instead of building our homes in forests that burn every year, we might just start respecting our local, and consequently, our global environment.

The more people use mass transit, the more we win as a collective society. Instead of wasting money sitting in traffic, handing it over in fist-fulls to the oil industry and polluting our planet, we can invest in more and better transit systems. As the Times points out, people are starting to get it and if these ridiculous prices continue, we might have hope for the future.

McCain's Crazy Microphone

Careful with those technological objects John!

Republicans Hate Mom, On The Fence About Apple Pie

There are somethings in life that are unimaginable to the ideas of partisanship. Warm summer days, sitting by the fire on a cold night, things like that, you know? Well leave it to the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives to shatter that idea. This past Wednesday they decided to take their partisan aggressions out on our nation's mothers.

From The Washington Post:

On Wednesday afternoon, the House had just voted, 412 to 0, to pass H. Res. 1113, "Celebrating the role of mothers in the United States and supporting the goals and ideals of Mother's Day," when Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), rose in protest.

"Mr. Speaker, I move to reconsider the vote," he announced.

Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), who has two young daughters, moved to table Tiahrt's request, setting up a revote. This time, 178 Republicans cast their votes against mothers.

It has long been the custom to compare a popular piece of legislation to motherhood and apple pie. Evidently, that is no longer the standard. Worse, Republicans are now confronted with a John Kerry-esque predicament: They actually voted for motherhood before they voted against it.

Republicans, unhappy with the Democratic majority, have been using such procedural tactics as this all week to bring the House to a standstill, but the assault on mothers may have gone too far. House Minority Leader John Boehner, asked yesterday to explain why he and 177 of his colleagues switched their votes, answered: "Oh, we just wanted to make sure that everyone was on record in support of Mother's Day."

If Boehner's answer confused you, your not alone. Nothing these people do make any sense. The context of their vote was to waste time (paid by the taxpayers) in the House so that Democrats do not pass any type of meaningful legislation to help homeowners who were victimized by predatory lenders. So at least it wasn't about Mother's Day exactly. Still, there are plenty of mothers, fathers and children who could have been helped by Congress who are terrified at the thought...and reality of having their home being foreclosed. That isn't just anti-Mom, its anti-American.

Friday, May 09, 2008

John McCain, Just Another Senator On The Take

John McCain has been coasting by in the media on his "maverick" image. What "maverick" means though, I have no idea. If he was a rare reformer in the Republican party, the truth has washed those notions away like an August monsoon storm in Arizona. Speaking of Arizona and John McCain, the Washington Post found an interesting connection between the Senator, rancher Fred Ruskin and a Mr. Steven Betts. Their relationship is another example that McCain is just another Senator willing to screw the land he comes from in order to make a wealthy friend richer.

From The Washington Post:

PRESCOTT, Ariz. -- Sen. John McCain championed legislation that will let an Arizona rancher trade remote grassland and ponderosa pine forest here for acres of valuable federally owned property that is ready for development, a land swap that now stands to directly benefit one of his top presidential campaign fundraisers].[...]

Although the bill called for the two parcels to be of equal value, a federal forestry official told a congressional committee that he was concerned that "the public would not receive fair value" for its land. A formal appraisal has not yet begun. A town official opposed to the swap said other Yavapai Ranch land sold nine years ago for about $2,000 per acre, while some of the prime commercial land near a parcel that the developers will get has brought as much as $120,000 per acre.

In an interview, Betts said there is "absolutely no" connection between his contributions to McCain's presidential bids and the deal involving rancher Fred Ruskin and the Yavapai Ranch Limited Partnership. While his company's possible involvement was discussed casually before the bill's passage, Betts said SunCor did not sign on to the project until afterward. "At no time during the consideration of this legislation was there any involvement by officials of SunCor," McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said in a written response to questions [read the campaign's full answers].

Betts is among a string of donors who have benefited from McCain-engineered land swaps. In 1994, the senator helped a lobbyist for land developer Del Webb Corp. pursue an exchange in the Las Vegas area, according to the Center for Public Integrity. McCain sponsored two bills, in 1991 and 1994, sought by donor Donald R. Diamond that yielded the developer thousands of acres in trade for national parkland.

Obviously wealthier campaign contributors mean more to McCain than the pristine lands of his homestate. I used to live in the Grand Canyon State and driving between towns and cities, it is incredible to see the amount of development, from Sierra Vista and Tucson in the Southeast, Prescott and Flagstaff in the North and the behemoth that is the Phoenix metro area in the center. It is bad enough that this type of growth is sucking the water resources of the state dry. What makes it worse is that McCain is willing to do it for campaign contributions (whether or not Mr. Betts denies it).

Some maverick, I'd be more inclined to call him "sell-out."

McCain Can't Denounce His Pastor's Anti-Gay Views

Down below John McCain sat with Bill "Falafel" O'Reilly and John Hagee came up. He disagreed with the anti-Catholic statements but ignored the anti-gay remarks. Either McCain forgot the whole question or he just subliminally expressed how he feels about the LGBT community. No matter the answer to that, McCain shows he is just not on the ball, whether with his wits or his compassion for all of humanity.

The Predatory Landlords Of New York

There is a certain stigma about New York landlords and it isn't too good. Things often are not fixed in a decent amount of time or not at all. Pests can be a problem too. The worst is the way they demand to raise the rent every year on top of their sluggishness to keep the units up to par. None of this however, compares to the new breed of landlord in the five boroughs. That vulture is called a private equity firm and there are a few of them now that exist to destroy what remains of New York's affordable housing. As we've seen so far, they'll go to extraordinary lengths to kick their tenants with "affordable" rents.

From The NY Times:

Private investment firms have been amassing what may seem like unusual stakes in New York real estate: they have bought hundreds of apartment buildings with thousands of rent-regulated units across the city that produce decidedly meager returns.

As regulatory filings and promotional materials show, the companies expect to generate higher returns quickly by increasing rents after existing tenants vacate their units. Their success depends upon far higher vacancy rates than are typical in rent-regulated apartments in New York.

Some residents and tenant advocates say that they began seeing what they consider a pattern of harassment of low-income tenants this year and suspect that it is a result of the new owners’ business models. Tenants have been sued repeatedly for unpaid rent that has already been received by the landlords; they have been sent false notices of rent bills, lease terminations and nonrenewals; and they have been accused of illegal sublets.

The companies dispute the charges of harassment and say they are protecting their rights.

Nevertheless, tenants must answer the notices in court, but many have responded by moving out, court documents indicate. When they vacate the apartments, the owners can increase the rents substantially.

Basically the deal is move into the building, intimidate the residents that don't pay you with their souls (or half their salary) and drive them out by taking them to court over and over again. It is a sick, sad and disgusting process that no one has done much of anything to stop it. It sounds a lot like those corporate crooks in the banking industry that have screwed over so many homeowners. These heartless forms of Odysseus in search of the highest profit margin are what they are. The problem is that our government does not rein them in, that is what needs to be done here. Getting the private equity and real estate money out of the city's election process would be a good start.

Clinton Loses Another Goalpost-Moving Talking Point

Hillary Clinton lost another talking point in her scramble to stay relevant in the 2008 election cycle. When she didn't meet expectations in January, she said the race was about delegates. When she failed to overwhelm Senator Obama in February, she claimed it was about the superdelegates. Now that we are in May, and the popular vote, states won, pledged delegate count and superdelegate count is no longer in her favor, Senator Clinton is grasping at straws.

From ABC News:

The Illinois Democrat grabbed the superdelegate lead thanks to a switch by New Jersey Rep. Donald Payne and an endorsement from previously uncommitted Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon.

Those two votes gave Obama a 267-266 lead over Clinton. That is a huge shift since the days when Clinton boasted about a 60-plus vote lead among the party's pros back on Super Tuesday.

While the New York Democrat is refusing to concede defeat and is hoping a victory in Tuesday's West Virginia primary will keep her dwindling hopes alive, Obama is starting to focus instead on his Republican opponent John McCain.

Senator Clinton, West Virginia is not going to save you. This is a national race and it is just about over. The math is incontestable and everyone but Hillary knows it. The straw arguments no longer faze our party and we are all waiting for her to do the decent thing and bow out.

Luke Henry Takes Clean Elections To The Streets

Luke Henry is running for the 64th Assembly District seat and also to rid Albany of Sheldon Silver, one of the "three men in the room." Luke has to spend most of his time dialing for dollars, but with clean elections, he can spend more time making videos like this:

John Edwards Voted For Obama

As we all know, North Carolina and Indiana went to the polls three days ago to cast their vote for the Presidential nominee (among other things). The turnout was tremendous, the enthusiasm was incredible and Barack Obama became the expected nominee. Hillary Clinton fights on, but there is something different in the air now. No longer does the media call it a race between the Democratic candidates, it is a race between Sens. Obama and McCain.

Out of the hundreds of thousands that voted on Tuesday, there was one man that was vigorously courted for an endorsement. That man was once a candidate in this race himself, that man was John Edwards. John managed to stay in the limelight to some degree, helped to move the remaining candidates in a more populist direction and kept issues near and dear to him in the public's consciousness.

Edwards, in my opinion was the candidate that fought most for progressive values. His plan for the economy, health care and many other issues gave me hope for the future of the system. However, for myriad reasons he couldn't pull in enough votes to become the nominee and unfortunately dropped out after only garnering a few delegates.

Even though he didn't endorse either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, he let his preference slip out this morning on Morning Joe. Let me be one of many Edwards-turned-Obama supporters to say, I wasn't surprised at who he voted for.

Congress Threatens Big Pharma's Advertising "Privilege"

Are you annoyed by the barrage of advertising from pharmaceutical companies that promise you a better life if you would just take their drug? All sorts of gimmicks and advertising ploys are used to get people to buy their drugs (though sometimes they need to go through their doctor first) so they can look like the happy person in the TV spot. It is sickening that we have let them get away with it and most Americans probably do not know that we are alone with only New Zealand in allowing them to advertise on television or other media. Well it is time to take action.

From Reuters:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Pharmaceutical companies need to be more responsible in touting products to consumers or else face tighter controls from Congress, a top U.S. Democratic lawmaker said on Thursday.

Rep. Bart Stupak, at a hearing to discuss specific ads by Pfizer Inc, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co Inc and Schering-Plough Corp, said television commercials in particular use deceptive techniques to push products to potential patients and increase sales.

"It appears that we need to enforce significant restrictions on DTC (direct-to-consumer) ads to protect American consumers from manipulative commercials designed to mislead and deceive for the profit of pharmaceutical companies," said Stupak, head of the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce investigative panel.

It truly is all about profit. Big Pharma can cry all they want that it is only meant to help people live better, but they know as well as we do that it is all about bigger and better profits for their companies. Pfizer, Merck and the rest of them should continue to research and develop life saving drugs, but let our doctors be able to prescribe medication and not these wasteful advertisements.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

McCain Really, Really, Truly Hearts George Bush

He can't say it enough and that is alright by me, just keep repeating it Johnny:

Fossella The Hypocrite

Tonight has to be hard for Vito Fossella. His world is crumbling around him, his family (the one here in New York) is crushed and unimaginably angered by their husband/father's conduct and he is looking to go from the House of Representative to the big house (for a few days at least). It is a tragic story for all those involved, but what really rubs everyone the wrong way is the sheer hypocrisy of this man. During this time of his extramarital affair, he voted three times for the "sanctity of marriage." That is true hypocrisy my friends.

From The Agenda:

In 2004, Fossella voted for the Marriage Protection Act, which essentially would have prevented courts from striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). That bill passed in the House by a vote of 233-194 and later died in the Senate.

Later in the same month in 2004, Fossella voted for the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have amended the U.S. Constitution to explicitly ban marriages for same-sex couples in any part of the United States. It would have been the first time that discrimination was to be enshrined in the Constitution. That bill passed in the House by a vote of 236-187 and later died in the Senate.

In 2006, Fossella again voted for the Federal Marriage Amendment, making it the third time he chose to stand up and firmly deny same-sex couples the thousands of rights and protections that come with a federal and state marriage license.

On one hand he can put these bills on his conscience to deny millions of people the right to get married yet treats his own marriage like garbage. Vito Fossella, you are true scumbag. I hope those few days in jail feel like an eternity for you.

Telecoms Write Legislation To Give Themselves Immunity

The FISA debate, if not for anything else shows why Washington is broken and how we need to fix the system. At&T, Verizon and the other telecoms graciously took the time to write their own legislation for Congress so that they can get off the hook for their unconstitutional crimes when they helped George Bush spy on Americans. The problem isn't that Congress laughed in their faces, its that they are trying to 'work things out'.

From Politico:

Many Democrats want the companies held accountable for participating in the program, which was initiated in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The White House, however, has insisted that the participation of the telecoms is crucial to monitoring conversations between potential terrorists. President Bush has vowed to veto any bill that does not contain immunity.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said Wednesday a FISA deal is “still in flux” but he described the latest developments as “promising” and said he hoped to have a solution soon.

House officials declined to discuss the specifics of the proposed immunity language by the telecoms.

Although it remains to be seen if congressional Democrats will accept the telecom companies' proposal, the communication between the two sides signifies that progress is being made.

If many Democrats want these companies to be held accountable, it is only because either they want the rule of law to be upheld or their constituents are screaming in their faces (or in the direction of their offices) to do something for them instead of corporations for a change. The only progress that should have been made is to declare the telecoms immunity legislation dead on arrival. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that George Bush will veto what the people want, nor does it take a genius to know that we can wait until we have the 44th President in office.

If for some reason "progress" is made, Democrats are going to realize they will pay for their actions by facing primary challenges in the near or somewhat near future. We must uphold the law, even if it pisses politicians big campaign donors off. I for one, really do not care for it.

America, Meet John McCain's Spiritual Guide

I agree wholeheartedly that spirituality is important in one's life, but Rod Parsley doesn't have any clue as to what that word means:

So much for religious tolerance.

Hillary Plays The Race Card Again As Irrelevancy Creep In

As the days of the Democratic primary slowly come to a close with five remaining states and Puerto Rico, Senator Clinton is desperately trying to stay in the news. Unfortunately the media and election-generated news is that she is finished. Her aides say it'll be over in a month but she refuses to stop campaigning against our eventual nominee, Barack Obama. Today she pulled out the race card against him, and in no subtle manner either.

From USA Today:

"I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on," she said in an interview with USA TODAY. As evidence, Clinton cited an Associated Press article "that found how Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."

"There's a pattern emerging here," she said.

Clinton's blunt remarks about race came a day after primaries in Indiana and North Carolina dealt symbolic and mathematical blows to her White House ambitions.

So according to Clinton, those that aren't white and have college degrees aren't hard working. Not only that, she tries to minimize the power of the minority and college-educated vote. She manages to smack several groups in the face simultaneously. The only pattern emerging though is that more and more people realize her campaign is finished. Hopefully she will too before she sticks her foot in her mouth again.

On top of what she inferred about the data she cited from the AP, the facts about these voters just isn't true.

Fossella Is Finished

The GOP is nothing if not top-down (and corrupt, self-serving, greedy, etc) and when the leadership says something in the midst of one member's scandal, the clouds for that person turn dark and ominous. That is what happened today to Vito Fossella after he admitted to an extramarital affair and that he has a three year old daughter with the woman that bailed him out of jail last week. None other than John Boehner laid down the law when the press asked him about the development.

From Politico:

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday that fellow Republican Rep. Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.) should do some serious thinking over the weekend about his political future.

Earlier in the day, Fossella acknowledged that he “had a relationship” with Laura Fay, a retired Air Force officer who paid his bail after he was arrested last week for drunk driving — and that he is the father of her 3-year-old daughter.

“I think Mr. Fossella is going to have some decisions to make over the weekend,” Boehner said at a press conference with reporters.

“I would hope and frankly expect, that this is a decision between he and his family," Boehner said.

Um, would that be his New York family or his Virginia family?

McCain Shows How He Really Feels About The Troops

A brave soldier stood up at a McCain event and asked the Senator why he does not support a GI Education Bill for our soldiers serving in Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere around the world.

Typically, McCain dodged the question, because he simply does not want to help our soldiers in combat, especially those that did not ditch their wives to marry a rich daughter of a beer baron.

Fossella's Troubles Take On An Entirely New Level

Just when it couldn't get any worse for Vito Fossella, the determination of the New York press corp (especially the NY Post) dug for the heart of the story surrounding Vito's DWI last week. It turns out that the woman who helped his sorry butt out of a Virginia jail is not only his lover (besides his wife that is) but the mother of his three year old child. Vito becomes the latest New York politician to be snarled by sex and illegalities (some combination of the two at least).

From The NY Times:

Representative Vito J. Fossella, a Staten Island Republican who was arrested on May 1 in Alexandria, Va., and charged with drunken driving, issued a statement on Thursday acknowledging that he had had an extramarital affair with Laura Fay, a former Air Force lieutenant colonel, and that the two of them had a 3-year-old daughter together.

The prospect that Mr. Fossella could face a mandatory jail sentence if convicted of drunken driving has already threatened to bring to an end his decade-long career in the House, where Mr. Fossella is the only Republican representing New York City. The Daily News has reported that Mr. Fossella called Ms. Fay for help after his arrest and told the officers who arrested him that he was on his way to visit a sick daughter. As speculation swirled over Mr. Fossella’s relationship with Ms. Fay in recent days, his aides said only that they were good friends.

The full text of Mr. Fossella’s four-sentence statement follows:

I have had a relationship with Laura Fay, with whom I have a three-year-old daughter. My personal failings and imperfections have caused enormous pain to the people I love and I am truly sorry. While I understand that there will be many questions, including those about my political future, making any political decisions right now are furthest from my mind. Over the coming weeks and months, I will to continue to do my job and I will work hard to heal the deep wounds I have caused.

Mr. Fossella, 43, was driving with a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit when he was pulled over and faces a mandatory five days in jail if convicted.

Not only is the Congressman expected to be an ex-con (unless the judge shows him mercy) but a full-fledged bastard. How will Staten Island react to all this? That is definitely one huge question, though whether he will remain in the race for his re-election is another. The Republican party has already started to distance itself from him and they might just have to relinquish the 13th Congressional District of New York without much of a fight. His stock is rapidly being devalued and with six months until the election, the NY GOP would have to come up with a challenger quickly.

Of course this is all in the early stages, so stay tuned to see how this drama unfolds.

John "McSame" McCain Declares War On Evil

What is a good Republican candidate without a lust for a war of some sort? With Bush departing soon there has to be a new set of fears for the American people to be cowed into voting for a Republican to save them. McCain does not want to look wimpy for his base or be some sort of moderate (gasp!) so he is doing he does best, running for George Bush's third term. In addition to starving our own country of domestic spending that is desperately needed (for falling highways, health care, jobs, etc etc) another war is McCain's way of continuing the legacy of George W. Bush.

From RawStory:

On Wednesday, he vowed to take the fight to religious persecution, human trafficking, child pornography and other "evil" if elected. Speaking at Oakland University in Rochester, Minnesota, CNN said the event was part of the Arizona' senators efforts to reach out to conservative voters.

A war for values? McCain rebuked "a tendency in our age to accede to the spurious excuse of moral relativism and turn away from the harshest examples of man's inhumanity to man, to ignore the darker side of human nature that encroaches upon our decency by subtle degree."

Adding to President George W. Bush's list of rogue nations -- or his infamous axis of evil (Iran, North Korea and Iraq) -- the presumptive Republican nominee "singled out" China, Iran, Myanmar, Sudan, North Korea and Saudi Arabia for restricting religious freedom -- "a subject of great importance."

Most of that is typical conservative platitudes thrown out to the Republican base as a way to "clean up the dirt" in our society. He never really says how he will root out all that evil, except of course to "bomb, bomb, bomb" it. The other comments about singling out nations such as China, Iran and Saudi Arabia is just ridiculous considering the fact that all three are serious world powers that do not take kindly to the juvenile blustering of an old man that wants access to the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons on the planet. So if you are considering a vote for McCain, you might just write in another four years for Mr. 28% George Bush.

Colbert Exposes Nelson Mandela, The Terrorist

As only Stephen Colbert can, taking a Nobel Prize winner and well, you know:

Hillary Will Return To Reality On June 15th

This just in, planet Earth will welcome back the Senator from New York in approximately five weeks from now. Hillary Clinton, along with many of her supporters have been "out there" for sometime now, clinging to such things as a misleading popular vote, counting only the states that "matter" and that superdelegates should thwart the will of the majority of Democratic primary voters. However, after having been beaten over and over again in the caucuses and primaries, she is getting ready to come back to us, and accept that the nominee is Barack Obama.

From The Huffington Post:

A senior campaign official and Clinton confidante has told me that there will be a Democratic nominee by June 15. He could not bring himself to say the words "Hillary will drop out by June 15," but that is clearly what he meant. I kept saying, "So, Hillary will drop out by June 15," and he kept saying, "We will have a nominee by June 15." He stressed what a reasonable person Hillary is.

Everything about our conversation implied that he had already had this reality-based discussion with Hillary. He said the Clinton campaign plan is to collect as many votes and delegates as they can right through June 3, then take no more than a week or so to make their case to the superdelegates. Nothing he said indicated that he actually expected the superdelegates to move to Hillary in the week after the final election. The Clinton campaign has not lost its grip on reality. Yes, Clinton spokespersons publicly seem to be lost on gravity-free planet Clinton, but privately they know the end is near.

It is comforting to know that they realize reality does exist outside of Clinton's self-imposed bubble. Hillary Clinton is a brilliant woman so deep down inside she has known since February that the race was lost. The will to win persevered for the last three months but eventually that will had to be broken by the people that make up the Democratic party. Hopefully after June 15th (or sooner, please!) she will come back into the fold and campaign for the nominee instead of for McCain as she has for the last few weeks.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Matthews Admits Media's Pro-War Bias

Those of us on the left have known about the media's true bias for sometime now. Though finally we have someone that admitted to the pro-war bias shown in cable, print and network news since the run up to the Iraq war. None other than Chris "Tweety Bird" Matthews fessed up and noted that it came from high up in the organization.

From The Huffington Post:

In a speech at Harvard's Institute of Politics on Monday, Chris Matthews admitted that MSNBC bosses were "basically pro-war during the war." The remark came in a larger discussion of top-down editorial control at the network — of which Matthews claimed there was none, citing the fact that many of his bosses supported Hillary Clinton while he has been very vocal for Obama.

His full statement, in response to a question whether MSNBC officially supports Obama (via Politico's Michael Calderone):

"Well, it's not official." (LAUGH) "Well, I don't think Joe Scarborough has. And I don't think Tucker Carlson did. And Keith does his thing. He does his thing--it's something and it's very successful. I do my thing. I don't think that's true. I think... my sense is that everybody that lives in New York is for Hillary. The people I work with--all my bosses--seem to be for Hillary. I just sense it. They don't actually say it, but there's no sense from the top I can tell you that it's pro-Obama.. by any means. That's not what I get. And it was basically pro-war during the war.. the bosses were. And I was up against that. And if there's anybody telling me to push Obama, I haven't heard it yet. And by the way, they're so fickle.... but there seems to be a New York thing about Hillary. Just the people from... it's like the Yankees and the Mets... it's their thing. You know? It's Hillary. You know? And I feel it. I find it. It's hard to figure sometimes. But I don't know who you are talking about. I know who you are talking about."

Chris starts to confuse himself at the end, but the truth did slip out. One of those "at the top" is his idol and NBC icon Tim Russert. He of course, has a show called "Meet The Press" that helps to set the media narrative across the country. Chris tried to make excuses for the media's pro-war, pro-corporate America bias, but no one is buying it anymore. When you tell someone that the same company that owns your network is a major defense contractor as well, it isn't hard for them to put the pieces together and say "Hmmm."

The New Media Narrative For The Primary

Simply, this is all over now:

Protests Over Sean Bell Verdict Today, How Will The NYPD Respond?

Today a sizeable portion of the community will come out and address a serious problem in our city and our country by protesting one example of our national dilemma. Racism is still alive and well in the United States, despite having someone of color as the Democratic nominee (almost). The death of Sean Bell and the resulting "Not Guilty" verdict stunk to high hell and reminded Americans of the realities of race in our nation. Today the community will speak, pray and protest that outcome in our legal system.

From The NY Daily News:

Prayers and protests by Sean Bell supporters could turn Wednesday's evening commute into a New York nightmare.

Led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, the demonstrators have chosen six spots around the city - that also happen to be near key transit locations - to stage "pray-ins" aimed at getting the attention of the feds.

The protesters will begin mobilizing at 3 p.m., and simultaneous demonstrations will be staged in front of federal buildings in Chicago and Atlanta, where the Bell tragedy has also sparked outrage among African-Americans.

Sharpton insisted the demonstrations will be peaceful, but he's willing to get arrested to protest the acquittal of the three cops who gunned Bell down on his wedding day in a 50-bullet barrage.

Sharpton is a controversial figure in our society, but the people who are protesting with him are not. They are Americans, just like everyone else that lives in these 50 states. They want the same things as the rest of us. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are rights that should be afforded to everyone, but they weren't to Sean Bell. Then justice for him and his family were thrown out the window as well. If our government isn't going to give that to him, then the people must take it for themselves.

Riots aren't the answer, they never are, though sometimes they happen to vent the rage that simmers under the surface of society. Today though, many will peacefully protests and cause some traffic jams in our city and others. If the police think that is something to arrest people over considering what they are protesting, then their image is going to continue to be tattered. Bloomberg said no one's rights will be violated, but we'll see if the NYPD follows that starting at 3pm this afternoon.

Time To Unify, Time To Take Back The Executive Branch

The people have gotten it for sometime, now the media is finally realizing it too. The Democratic Party has a nominee, and his name is Barack Obama. Senator Clinton may not have officially bowed out yet, but it is inevitable now. Despite everything the media and Hillary threw at Barack, it didn't stick. He has a coat of teflon and it is time to bring it to McCain. No longer can Senator Clinton aid and abet John McCain. It is time to relinquish that role and fight with us, or not fight at all. It is time.

From The Huffington Post:

Hillary Clinton, who for seven weeks has crawled, kicked and bitten her way back into contention, suffered a blow on Tuesday, halting the momentum behind her bid for the nomination just when she had begun to regain credibility.

In the universe of political clich├ęs, she is on life support, her oxygen choked off, her knees buckling, unable to stanch the bleeding, down for an eight count, on the ropes, praying for the bell to ring, desperate to get her wind back.[...]

Norman Ornstein, of the American Enterprise Institute, contended, in effect, that it's all over but the shouting:

"I have long viewed this in a simple way: two things matter, delegates and popular votes. If Obama wins both, he cannot be denied the nomination. If these numbers [early returns] hold up, he will erase her gains in Pennsylvania and have a near-insurmountable popular vote lead. That will do it, and I expect a stream of superdelegates to move to him in the coming week-plus."

Yes, Hillary will still go on. Despite everything against her, that will to win no matter what still persists. Unfortunately for her fewer and fewer people are behind her on that. The delegates will continue to go over to Obama, and soon enough he will have the necessary amount to win the nomination. It would be nice for her to wake up and smell the proverbial coffee, but everyone else is wide awake.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Obama's Victory Speech

Tonight from Raleigh, N.C.:

Oh and when I say "Victory Speech," I mean the victory speech.

A Tie In Indiana And A Blowout In North Carolina

The votes are almost all in and the picture of two states is mostly complete. The only thing we are waiting for is the count from Lake County, popularly known as the metro area of Gary, Indiana. The demographics are heavily in Barack Obama's favor, though it is somewhat of a longshot for him to win the state on the county by itself. Regardless, the blowout in North Carolina and the virtual tie in Indiana mean one thing and one thing only.

Hillary, it is time to drop out.

As Keith Olbermann said tonight, the goalposts have been moved too far and too many times. There are more Democrats and voters out there that aren't fifty-something conservative-minded Applachians. Unlike her criteria, Democrats will not be happy with superdelegates overturning the will of the voters.

That would be necessary for a win, but of course she is rapidly losing her lead in that department as well. Early on she had more than a 100 superdelegate lead. Now that is under fifteen. Maybe some of those party faithful who own the coveted superdelegate spots prefer not to have their votes bought. That can be a huge turnoff to someone deciding whether to go Obama or Clinton. Senator Clinton's campaign may try to play that way, but in this political climate, Democrats are looking for a change from the old ways, not more of the same.

As we can see, that isn't only the way the supers feel, it can be seen in the will of the voters as well.

The Case For Shelly Silver?

The Working Families Party is a great asset in New York. They fight hard for progressive issues in Albany, even if many do not succeed (thanks in part mostly to Joe Bruno). Dan Cantor leads that fight as their Executive Director and has done a lot of good in that post. Unfortunately the ways of Albany may have clouded his vision just a little bit. He has come out in favor (though short of a WFP endorsement) for Shelly Silver's re-election.

From OpenLeft:

The reason is simple: on every one of the issues noted above, and others that are unmentioned, the most reliable force in state politics for progressives over the last decade has been the Assembly Democrats led by Silver. He may be among the more uncharismatic politicians in world history, but it would be folly to mistake his lack of glitter for a lack of nerve.

Context is important.
Over the 12 long years of drought otherwise known as the Pataki Administration, when the Governor and the Republican Senate Majority Leader (Joe Bruno) would combine to offer ever more right-wing answers to New York's problems, only Silver had the backbone to say no. Unlike some Democrats at the federal level, he refused to blink. He was an obstructionist of the best kind - holding out, month after month and year after year - not only standing in the way of the right, but forcing Pataki and the Senate to make concessions to the left.

His batting average has not been perfect - nobody's is. But he prevented more harm and accomplished far more good than anyone could have expected during an era when Democrats were a minority party among Albany's power centers.[...]

He then goes on to talk about a number of issues that Silver has been helpful on, such as laws to help unions, thwarting the Pataki Administration and boosting the minimum wage. The millionaire's tax proposal is also noted, but Cantor conveniently forgets that Silver went along with Governor Paterson and Joe Bruno in scraping it. Then there's this:

Put this all together and I just think that an attack on him from the left is, well, intellectually shallow and politically naive.

The real reason more good progressive legislation - public financing of elections is one such piece, and there are many others - the real reason these do not see the light of day in New York State is not because of legislative "dysfunction" but rather because of Republican intransigence. They disagree with us, and the Rs still have control of the Senate floor.[...]

Paul Newell and Luke Henry are running principled campaigns, and they have every right to do so. Primary challenges are not just appropriate, they are healthy. They keep everyone on their toes, and that keeps democracy vital. I urge the netroots to meet with tenant and union leaders, with the public financing of elections crowd, with LGBT advocates. If that happens, and you're still persuaded that Silver deserves the attacks that the corporate press heaps on him, so be it.

Here Cantor completely contradicts himself. How can two challengers run against Silver and be both "intellectually shallow and politically naive" while at the same time, "are running principled campaigns and they have every right to do so" go together even if they are four paragraphs apart? Well Cantor is right on that last one, Newell and Henry have every right to challenge a Speaker that has been in office for over thirty years, hides what he makes and what he does at his other job and abides by a system of government where he is one of three people that makes decisions for our state.

I salute Dan Cantor for all of his progressive activism, but using words such as "shallow" and "naive" is not something we do to fellow progressives unless they truly deserve it. Newell and Henry want to change the system, Sheldon Silver is the system.

Senator Menendez, Economists Do Make Policy

Sometimes being a Clinton supporter has its limitations, such as distorting one's view of reality. That happened to Senator Menendez from New Jersey this morning, as the "gas tax debate" continues on:

Economists do make policy, they work at institutions such as Cato, Rand, Center for American Progress and the Brennan Center, etc etc. and lawmakers like you use their findings to write legislation. Though other times it may just be done by a lobbyist so I could be wrong about that policy thing.

Oh and Bob, being the millionaire that you are, do you really believe that you feel the pains of average Americans?

I certainly don't.

New York Pols Take Crime To A Whole New Level

We aren't called the Empire State for nothing and our elected officials (or at least a percentage of them) want to live up down to a certain level of ethics. The scandals that we have seen here in our state seems unparalleled. Sure, politicians commit crimes no matter what city, state or country they live in, but in New York it is bordering on the ridiculous. Clyde Haberman of the New York Times dived into the muck today to show us how bad it's been.

From The New York Times:

Crime in New York, as everyone knows, is way down from where it was years ago. Thank goodness, we have the political class to take up the slack.

In the last few years, startling numbers of New York elected officials have been investigated, indicted, convicted or imprisoned for a strikingly broad range of misdeeds. We have seen them charged with sex crimes and with drunken driving. We’ve had one state senator accused of punching a police officer and another of throwing hot coffee at an assistant. We’ve had an assemblywoman who stalked an old boyfriend and an assemblyman whose crimes included the Dickensian theft of money from Little League teams.[...]

The lineup of New York politicians who have landed on the dubious side of the law, whether found guilty or just arrested, is impressive. It includes names easily recognized by even casual students of local politics, people like Alan G. Hevesi, Brian M. McLaughlin, Dennis P. Gallagher, Guy J. Velella, Clarence Norman, Diane Gordon, Kevin S. Parker, Adam Clayton Powell IV, Ada L. Smith, Efrain Gonzalez Jr., Gloria Davis, Roger Green, Karim Camara and John D. Sabini.

Then there are those who figure prominently in continuing investigations, like Joseph L. Bruno and Christine C. Quinn. Oh, we almost forgot: There is also a fellow named Spitzer.

The latest entrant in the rogues’ gallery is Representative Vito J. Fossella of Staten Island and Brooklyn, who was arrested a few days ago in a Virginia suburb of Washington and charged with driving while intoxicated. His blood-alcohol level, the police said, was 0.17 percent, more than twice Virginia’s legal limit for drivers.

Haberman goes on to poke fun at poor Vito, who couldn't even recite the alphabet. Then however, he revisits New York's past, full of corrupt Aldermen and party bosses. Though it is different from then to now. Politicians are (and I mean no disrespect to Tammany Hall and Boss Tweed) more clever than they used to be. People knew from the very start that their leaders were shameless crooks in suits. Today quite a few of the politicians we elect say they are one thing and do the opposite. Perhaps it is the advent of the PR world, but in our current society we somehow expect better, yet haven't been rewarded with it as of yet.

Rent Guidelines Board Still In The Hands Of The Landlords

Every year there is a demand by renters to put a freeze on rent hikes and each time it is denied. Of course the landlords demand exorbitant hikes that would never see the light of day, so in the end the Rent Guidelines Board makes a "compromise" and raises the rates for renters across the city. Last year it was 3% for a one year lease and 5.75% for a two year and now the Board has tentatively passed a range for an eventual increase due out next month. This time around landlords wanted 9% and 14% increases respectively. Though that was voted down, the range (3.5-7% and 5.5 to 9.5%) is still ridiculously large and is slowly but surely kicking New Yorkers out of their city.

From The NY Times:

The proposed rent increases come as advocates for moderate and low-income housing and some elected officials have grown concerned about the affordability of the city’s rental market. Representative Anthony D. Weiner of Queens and Brooklyn released a study last month that found that roughly 500,000 New Yorkers were spending 50 percent or more of their income on housing.

Key factors in the range established by the board on Monday night are recent trends in housing affordability, tenant income and owner costs highlighted in three reports issued by the board’s staff last month. One of the reports, called the Price Index of Operating Costs, found that operating costs for rent-stabilized buildings increased 7.8 percent in the last year, in large part because of a rise in fuel costs and utility payments. The previous year, owners’ costs had risen by 5.1 percent. But another report showed that landlords of rent-stabilized units saw their net operating income — the earnings that remain after operating and maintenance expenses are paid — increase by 8.8 percent. That report was based on 2006 data.

If their incomes goes up while the costs of maintaining the buildings are at a similar rate, then there seems to be something fishy going on. Landlords in New York are notorious for cutting costs and skimping on the needs of their tenants. Even here in my own non-subsidized building, my heat mysteriously went out when we had that terrible cold snap in February of last year and when you call for something to get fixed....well, you get my point. What is important to note is that for all the whining and complaining that these poor, poor landlords do, they still make 37 cents on the dollar for their property. That isn't just a good deal, it should be classified as robbery.

It's All About The Math

Keith Olbermann and Chuck Todd discuss the delegate math:

This isn't fuzzy math and it isn't just my feeling about the race, the facts are the facts are the facts.

Got it?

So I Heard There Was Some Sort Of Election Today

Yeah I've really known about it for months and now it is upon us. Super Tuesday times five is here and the candidates, the press and the pundits are all going crazy over two lil ol' states. Of course every state matters and no can discount their votes (unless you are Hillary Clinton and you lose the state) but after today we'll probably see Obama's delegate lead not change by much, maintaining a 130 count lead. So is Indiana and North Carolina important in the scheme of things?

Oh yes it is.

Once these two states cast their lot, we will be that many delegates closer to the end. That doesn't mean Clinton will drop out tonight but it will certainly continue to weaken her case to stay in this race. Slowly but surely, her campaign is withering away like desert grass being exposed to the heat of the approaching summer. It starts off green and then it dries out to fade back into the landscape. Being 130 delegates behind is only acceptable until Barack Obama hits 2,024.5 and that number is fast approaching.

If only Senator Clinton would see that inevitability and end this race as soon as possible, how great that would be for our party.

Monday, May 05, 2008

NYPD Looks Multicultural On The Outside, But Not Inside

The NYPD has always been a controversial force in New York City. Race and class have been two strong factors about that controversy and it continues on into 2008. The NYCLU released a report today showing how race is really played out in the ranks, how force is used and how it is being kept track of.

From The NYCLU:

  • During the last two years the NYPD reported the race of those shot by police, nearly 90 percent of the people shot at by officers were black or Latino. In 1998 the Department stopped reporting the race of civilian targets and started reporting the breed of dogs being shot.
  • The NYPD command structure remains almost entirely white. At the end of 2002, 85.3 percent of the 735 members of the NYPD at or above the rank of captain were white males, with blacks holding only 3.9 percent of those positions. At the end of 2007, after five years of a large number of retirements and promotions, 84.3 percent of leadership positions were held by white males, with the numbers of blacks actually shrinking to 3.7 percent.
  • In 77 percent of the incidents where officers fired their weapons at civilians between 1999 and 2006, the officers were the only ones shooting, with officers often shooting at unarmed civilians (like Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo).
  • In 2006 (the most recent year for which there is information), police officers fired an average of five shots per incident when they were the only ones shooting, which is the highest number for the entire eight years for which these figures have been reported.

Those are serious numbers that, as Donna Lieberman of the NYCLU remarked, scream out for serious review. The police and race relations are as important as they were decades ago. Race is still a problem for the police, and without a serious investigation and enforcement of real reform, we'll be looking at the same numbers in another ten, twenty or thirty years from now.

Do Gas Prices Affect You?

Not only for these interviewees, gas prices affect everyone. That goes even people like me that don't drive. Gas prices (and oil prices before that) affect the price of food and anything that requires our oil-based economy to transport or manufacture an item that you may use. We must get off our addiction to this unrenewable resource ASAP.

Baghdad Dreamin'

Apparently all the fowl have been killed in Iraq, because no can count their chickens before they hatch. The latest ridiculous story out of the war-torn country tells of a massive upscale development in the Green Zone . The multi-billion dollar plan is like a mirage in the desert sand. Hotels, shopping and condos are a part of a complex that the Pentagon and others see as the future of Iraq.

From the AP:

BAGHDAD (AP) — Forget the rocket attacks, concrete blast walls and lack of a sewer system. Now try to imagine luxury hotels, a shopping center and even condos in the heart of Baghdad.

That's all part of a five-year development "dream list" — or what some dub an improbable fantasy — to transform the U.S.-protected Green Zone from a walled fortress into a centerpiece for Baghdad's future.

But the $5 billion plan has the backing of the Pentagon and apparently the interest of some deep pockets in the world of international hotels and development, the lead military liaison for the project told The Associated Press.

For Washington, the driving motivation is to create a "zone of influence" around the new $700 million U.S. Embassy to serve as a kind of high-end buffer for the compound, whose total price tag will reach about $1 billion after all the workers and offices are relocated over the next year.

So billions in investment so that our ridiculously oversized embassy has friendly neighbors? Do people in the Pentagon really believe this will work? Before you can build anything you need services (sewer, water, power, etc) that do not exist because the area is in complete chaos. This is wild fantasy of a few rich people that clearly are not rooted in reality. If they want to know what that is, all they need to do is look at what is going on there today.

Clinton Campaign Decides On Dem Nuclear Winter

Along with others, I have been saying for some time now that Hillary Clinton will do and say anything to get elected, or at least go after the Democratic nomination. She has already thrown the kitchen sink at Obama and that really didn't work. Now her campaign (and of course that means her as well) has decided to go "nuclear," meaning that they will try and sit delegations from Michigan and Florida despite party rules that disallow it.

From The Huffington Post:

In a statement issued in response to a story on The Huffington Post ("Clinton Camp Considering Nuclear Option," see below), the campaign declared:

"There is no secret plan.... The Clinton campaign has been vocal in stating that the votes of 2.5 million people must be respected. Hardly a day goes by when a Clinton official doesn't publicly declare that the votes of Michigan and Florida count and that the delegations from those states should be seated."

The campaign's public assertions stand in contrast to its response to inquiries prior to publication of the story. At that point, Clinton aides insisted on keeping all comments either off the record or on deep background, or did not respond to questions at all. The campaign statement appeared to be designed to try to reduce the significance of the story.

In a more typical reaction to the story, political analyst Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia said: "Wow. The nuclear option will yield nuclear winter for the Democratic Party."

Hopefully it will not come to that. With some common sense and a lot of luck, the Democratic leadership will see what the Clinton campaign is trying to shove down their throats and they will reject it. Clinton is a cool, tough customer and is known for her powers that surround the idea of "loyalty" so the battle to save our party will be a rough one. Still, the Democratic powers that be must recognize what she is doing....and put an end to it, and her campaign, once and for all.

And for those that are new to the story or are Hillary supporters that do not like pesky facts, you might want to know that Clinton wants to count Michigan despite the fact that she was the only person on the ballot and she barely beat "Nobody" that was listed below her on the ticket.

Hillary Lies Again On Morning Joe

For the majority of this segment, I must admit Hillary Clinton looked pretty damn good. Things started going down with the gas tax somewhat, but then Tiki Barber asked her about the delegate count.

See her remarks at the 8:45 mark:

Um Senator, you are still behind in the popular vote. That is an outright lie that you continue to parrot. If you followed the rules (along with Florida and Michigan) Hillary would still be behind in the count, just as she is in states won and in the delegate count itself.

And The Biggest Pigs In Albany Are.....

Ah its Monday morning and what do I feel like for breakfast? How about some bacon? If you go up to Albany, there is plenty of it and certain members in the Senate are extremely well adept at spending that pork. Can you guess who the winner of that contest is? If you guessed Joe Bruno, you'd be correct.

From The Daily Politics:

1) Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, $4.211 million (about $1 million more than Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver plans to personally allocate in this fiscal year).

2) Deputy Majority Leader Dean Skelos, $3.740 million (from Long Island, leader-in-waiting).

3) Sen. Tom Libous, $3.497 million (a Binghamton-area senator once considered a contender for Bruno's leadership post).

4) Sen. Owen Johnson, $3.276 million (chairs the Finance Committee).

5) Sen. Joe Robach, $2.550 million (a Rochester-area Democrat-turned-Republican who is one of the Senate minority's top targets this fall).

6) Sen. Thomas Morahan, $2.464 million (a Hudson Valley lawmaker who is the Senate's liaison to the executive branch).

7) Sen. Dale Volker, $2.446 million (a Western NY veteran lawmaker who recently said he thought someone connected to the State Police was spying on him during the Spitzer administration).

8) Sen. Serphin Maltese, $2.441 million (of Queens, the Democrats' top priority to oust).

9) Sen. Frank Padavan, $2.438 million (also from Queens, also in the crosshairs).

10) Sen. Cathy Young, $2.322 million (Western NY senator elected in a 2005 special election to fill the seat of the late Sen. Patricia McGee).

Oh yeah, they are all Republicans. That of course comes with being in the leadership. There is no equal sharing or fair play when it comes to spending in the State Senate. Now for those that cry out that the Democrats do it too, well, you'd be correct, though as you can see in the excel sheet, it isn't quite as bad (per member that is). The bottom line is, like everything in Albany, it must be reformed.

Vito's Troubles Continue

This story couldn't have happened to a better guy than Vito Fossella, currently occupying New York's 13th Congressional District. Drunk driving is, as Vito said, a bad error in judgment, though not necessarily something that affects his judgment as a Congressman. There are plenty of bad political judgments on Vito's part that have nothing to do with driving a car under the influence of drugs (yes, alcohol is a drug). Still, this is an election year and this DWI will play into how voters cast their ballots in November. The story could have gone away within a few days, but now there's more ethical troubles for Mr. Fossella.

From The NY Daily News:

This is the first look at the mystery woman whom Rep. Vito Fossella (R-S.I.) called for help after he was charged with drunken driving in Virginia.

Laura Fay, wearing sunglasses and dressed in jogging clothes, refused to comment when she was approached over the weekend.

Fay is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and marathon runner. Public records show the divorcee owns a townhouse in Alexandria, Va. She also reportedly has a 3-year-old daughter.

Fossella aides continued to describe the two only as good friends. Fay picked up Fossella last Thursday morning, seven hours after he was arrested for running a red light 3 miles away from her townhouse.

The mystery woman sounds scandalous, but the real problem is that he is using campaign funds to pay for a high-priced "damage control" firm. It isn't illegal, but as Dick Dadey of the Citizens Union said, " shows bad judgment." That is what is at the heart of this, Vito has bad judgment all around and this is just one example of it, or should I say three bad examples.

Obama And Clinton Get Together For JJ Dinner In NC

Both candidates spoke about Democratic unity and coming together to beat the Republican in the fall.

Whether or not those harmonious words mean anything outside of that ballroom, we shall see about that soon.

Finally A Win For Victims Of Katrina

Judge Stanwood Duval is a friend to people who lost their homes in the flooding that happened as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Under George Bush, the Federal government has all but ignored the area, unless of course we are talking about Trent Lott. Just as the policy was before the Hurricane, the area surrounding New Orleans was largely dismissed as nothing special and therefore deserved nothing, such as flood protection. Most of the infrastructure built was meant to reduce shipping times and one such project actually helped lead to the flooding that billions around the world saw on their television screens. The Army Corps of Engineers is trying to avoid blame just as the man on top of all the Federal agencies is, but Judge Duval has something else in mind.

From RawStory:

The Corps of Engineers had argued that it was immune from liability because the channel is part of New Orleans' flood control system. The law says the federal government cannot be sued if something goes wrong with a flood control project such as a levee, reservoir or dam.

Judge Stanwood Duval dismissed that argument, saying the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet, or MRGO, was clearly a ship channel and not a flood control project.

Plaintiffs' lawyers said Duval's decision is a victory for homeowners, who have suffered setbacks in their efforts to hold the government legally responsible for storm damage. They also said it clears the way for a Sept. 8 trial.

The trial is what is needed for residents that want accountability from their government. Accountability is something that has been sorely lacking in the Bush Administration for some time now and it is nice to see it could possibly start with so many people that have lost so much.