Saturday, December 13, 2008

Newsflash: Large Amounts Of Electricity Can Kill

Yeah, most people with common sense have known that from either witnessing or experiencing a blot of lightening connecting with a human being, but many in law enforcement have not caught on to this yet. Putting a few thousand volts into a taser and giving it to cops to use on citizens has resulted in hundreds of deaths in less than eight years.

From RawStory:

They are marketed as non-lethal weapons that allow police to capture suspects or criminals without causing any permanent harm.

Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and businessman Bernard Kerik made millions selling the idea to police departments across the country.

But Tasers have killed more than 400 people since 2001, according to a new study commissioned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
As the article points out, cops in Canada are starting to ban them. Yet down here in America more and more law enforcement are using the weapons and killing plenty of people with their so-called safe device. A new study shows how lethal these things can be.
The study includes a medical analysis that concluded someone shot with a Taser could face as high as a 50 percent chance of cardiac arrest.
Obviously that number is for people with heart problems, but no one walks around with their medical history stapled to their chest to warn cops of what may happen when they get taser-happy. Tasers may have had good intentions by preventing gun deaths, but they bring too many problems to the equation to be considered a safe alternative.

Another New Yorker Joins The Obama Cabinet

This time it's Shaun Donovan, tapped to head the Housing and Urban Development agency. He's been doing it here in New York City under Bloomberg and now he's accepted the challenge to spearhead the programs nationally.

NY State Gets Ready To Buy Leaner And Greener

Paterson is set on cutting two billion from the budget in his soon to be released plan (E.T.A. Dec 16th) but what New York will spend should also be greener. The Office of General Services along with the Department of Environmental Conservation will be doing a lot more in the immediate future to make sure what the State purchases is better for our state and our environment.

From The Office of General Services:

The purchasing specifications are part of the state’s green procurement processes which are intended to boost energy efficiency and reduce air and water pollution, while helping public agencies make smart buying decisions. The specifications will help guide purchases of numerous commodities and services, including computers, copiers, printers, electronic signs, dishwashers and engine block heaters.

New York State government is a major consumer of materials and energy, and the establishment of procedures for the purchasing of green goods and services will help leverage its buying power. As part of this initiative, in September, OGS announced the savings of approximately $255 million on the purchase of environmentally-sustainable personal computers, which are now being made available to public entities throughout the state.

“New York’s actions are having a global impact,” said Commissioner Egan. “Every day OGS procurement professionals are measuring the market and seeking ways to aggregate the purchase of thousands of products by state and local government. Equally important is the notion that by working closely with top environmental stewards, we are ensuring that sustainability and conservation are included in the purchasing equation.”
There is a lot we can do on the individual level, but having conservation and better buys as a part of the state is a great way to show leadership and make a huge impact in the process. There is still a long way to go, but going greener is always a smart idea. Companies that want to do business with the state will be aware that going greener will help them to secure that vital contract, helping us all out in the end.

Senate Determines Rumsfeld Guilty Of War Crimes

The Senate Armed Forces Cmte. concluded an investigation this week that Donald Rumsfeld is indeed a war criminal. The report did not say it in such language, but if the evidence shows that you directed soldiers to torture prisoners of war, then you are by default, a war criminal. Of course many people that have studied Rumsfeld's actions while he was Defense Secretary. The difference now is that the Senate has no excuse not to act.

From RawStory:

A Senate Armed Services report issued Thursday asserted that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other members of the Bush administration "conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees."

According to the committee, prisoners were tortured in the Iraqi prison Abu Ghraib, the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other US military installations. Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ) were responsible for the content of the Senate's findings.

The report determined that placing the blame on "a few bad apples," as Bush administration officials attempted to do in the aftermath of the Abu Ghraib scandal, is inappropriate.
Well I am glad that the Senators realize the "bad apple" theory was as rotten as the name suggests. The tree of the Pentagon was the real problem and Rumsfeld was one of the principles in charge of it. And I am almost sure that Cheney and Bush had a heavy hand in it as well. With the facts out there, there should be no delay to getting a trial started that will prosecute Donald Rumsfeld and his cabal to the fullest extent of the law.

Why is it though that I don't think holding my breath on this outcome is a good idea?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Job Losses Are Accelerating As The Holidays Approach

The Grinch is certainly getting his way as literally millions of workers are losing their jobs in just the last few months. Times are terrible all over the country and despite what people try to do on their own, the overall economy is suffocating people.

Padavan-Gennaro Starting To Look Like Bush v. Gore

I was hoping to write about the still-contested State Senate race until it was decided, but things are just too crazy out there. The court had allowed 2,000 ballots to be re-examined to ensure they weren't just tossed out without a thorough review. With less than 600 votes between the two, that amount of votes has the possibility of changing the outcome of the election, even if it is slim. Yet just as soon as the counting began, another court stepped in to stop it.

From The NY Times:

After a State Supreme Court judge ruled that 2,000 paper ballots could be counted, the Appellate Division issued a stay on Thursday afternoon, halting any further counting of ballots until their fate is determined at a hearing next Thursday in Brooklyn.
Why the Appellate Court sees a need to stop the last stages of counting ballots, or even re-examining them is odd. Padavan and the Republicans are thrilled that one court overruled another to stop counting votes. Of course, the Gennaro's camp and the Democratic Party want a full accounting of the ballots but are now stopped from doing so until next week. Meanwhile, both sides will trade barbs but the count is officially stopped, after being stopped and started before.

The stakes aren't as high as Florida in 2000, but things certainly sound familiar. All we need is a staged and enraged group like the Brooks Brothers Riot and we're good to go.

Senate Dems Could Overthrow Smith For Klein Soon

The U.S. Senate still has some kinks to work out, with three Senators still undetermined in Minnesota, Illinois and here in New York. Up in Albany however, the status of the State Senate makes the federal version look like a solid rock. There have been rumors of Smith not being able to hold on to power with the Democrats winning the Senate, even before Foley and Addabbo won their races. Now, after a month of chaos due to Espada, Kruger and Diaz's actions and the irritation of the rest of the caucus for Smith making a ridiculous deal with the Gang of Three, things aren't looking good for the current Minority Leader.

From The NY Daily News:

ALBANY - State Senate Democrats plan to meet privately Friday amid talk of a possible coup attempt against leader Malcolm Smith.

Sources said Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein, Smith's deputy, has been working the phone in hopes of winning support to become Senate majority leader next month.

There again, Jeff Klein's name comes up. It had been on the minds of politicos wondering who would take the reins from Smith's hands and it seems Klein is set on making it a reality. Some Senators are trying to make it look as if their meeting is not about a coup, but Savino's non-answer concerning Smith's future speaks volumes.

Sen. Diane Savino, a Staten Island Democrat close to Klein, denied there was a coup attempt, saying, "Don't mistake members consulting with each about their frustration with head counting."

When asked if Smith would remain leader, she said only, "Malcolm Smith is the leader right now."

Right now as in 10:15 in the morning. That could change by 10:15 at night.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Perino Gets Ahead Of Herself With The Obama Administration

Dana got a little ahead of herself today at the White House Press gaggle. Dear, Obama as much a we all want Obama in there now, he still has a thirty-nine days and change until the transition team becomes the Administration.

Governor Paterson Makes Me Laugh

Politics, despite being universally known as a dirty business, is actually quite funny. Instead of bothering with soap operas, you can get all the melodrama you want from City Hall, the State House or Washington. Governor Paterson played out one of those humorous scenes last night, when talking about Blagojevich and his own dilemma in choosing the next Senator from New York.

From The Daily Politics:

Paterson gave no clues as to whether he's any closer to picking Clinton's replacement (quite a few would-be senators showed up at the governor's fundraiser last night and helped add another $3 million to his 2010 campaign fund).

He did, however, express a belief that the Illinois governor's alleged attempt to auction off President-elect Barack Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder should be seen as a cautionary tale to all the Senate hopefuls here in New York.

Paterson appears to be taking the mess to heart, himself, saying:

"If ever there was a time when a governor has to focus away from personal interests or anything else and think about who would be the best candidate for the state because of the seniority system in Washington, who is likely to get re-election, who shows integrity, who has ideas as to how to move the state, who's a hard worker, those have too be the issues in which the governor is wed to."

"For anyone that wants to be senator...the accusation should reignite a feeling in those people that the only actions they should take should be to try to demonstrate that they are that person. No other attemps at undue influence or anything that would in any way impinge upon the process or comptromoise the integrity of the process."

Now I'm not saying that David Paterson is in any way, shape or form like soon to be ex-Gov. Blagojevich. I do not honestly believe that he'd ever blatantly auction off the open Senate seat here in the way that Rod did in Illinois. Though to think that it is truly about the best person for the job and all that "lofty idealism" will rule the day is absurd.

With the mess going on in the Democratic caucus in Albany (and that the Gov. has sat in on those deal-making meetings), Paterson' unwillingness to make the rich shoulder some burden with the budget gap and the overall malaise that hovers over our State Capitol with no end in sight, I just can not believe that there won't be some sort of backroom deal somewhere in this. It's is laughable to think that the "integrity of the process" will not be impinged upon.

Majority Leader Klein?

Now that the Gang of Three/Malcolm Smith deal has fallen apart, something has to happen in the State Senate so that either the Democrats take power or the Republicans retain it. Smith clearly blew it throughout the process and the Gang still won't support him to be top dog. Instead of the infamous three handing it to Skelos and Co., who would they be agree to cede power to?

From Capitol Confidential:

Sen.-elect Pedro Espada appeared by phone on Fred Dicker’s radio show. [...]

Would the emergence of Sen. Jeff Klein as a replacement for Smith change things? “That’s an intriguing idea. I worked with Jeff Klein for many, many years in the Bronx. … But that’s not my decision.”

So Klein is possible, but later in the interview he also gave props to Skelos. Of course, he is still Pedro Espada and bullshit answers like these are inevitable:

On charges that his stance is purely self-serving: “This is not about power and control. This is about empowerment and government reform.”

What will the future hold? “In short order, you’ll see people of integrity rise in the Democratic conference.”

Pure. Comedy. Gold.

The drama shall continue, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Klein rise victorious at the end of this. He is Bruno 2.0 after all.

Bush Denigrates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

His record when it comes to civil rights is bad enough, but this super-imposed picture of the Pretzeldent over Dr. King's image is utterly disgraceful.

NY Medicare A Fiscal Disaster Unto Itself

Paterson wants to cut a couple billion from the budget next year from a variety of programs. Yet if we just fix our state's Medicare program, we could get off to a good start in plugging that gap. The exact amount of what they waste over there isn't known for sure yet, but if what DiNapoli reported is systemic in their bureaucracy, we could be talking a lot of money.

From The NY Daily News:

In a pair of audits released Wednesday, DiNapoli slammed the state Health Department, which runs the $42 billion Medicaid program, for poor management of its electronic billing system and for allowing too many improper payments to get through.

One audit, which reviewed only a small segment of the automated system's functions, identified $437,655 in overpayments and another $5.5 million in payments that did not receive proper scrutiny.

Another audit found $1.8 million in overpayments to Medicaid providers for services that either already had been covered by the federally funded Medicare program or should have been.

DiNapoli thinks the waste runs into the tens of millions. The fact that nearly two million in overpayments were made is shameful considering it takes just a quick check to see if the Feds cover those bills. I can't even begin to imagine how much the money the state would save if all agencies were properly maintained, meaning carefully watching expenses and trimming the fat from everyone's budgets. The M.T.A. could save untold amounts of cash simply by getting rid of the Admins nobody needs.

Even Before Obama Takes Office, Chicago Workers Score A Victory!

The last eight years under Bush have been anything but hospitable to the plight of workers in our country. Regulation after regulation that was put into protect our nation's middle class has been swept away. With that and in bad economic times, Bank of America took away Republic Windows and Doors' credit line and the company shuttered their factory's doors. The workers were left with nothing, but they weren't ready to give up. That dedication didn't win them their jobs back, but they certainly won the day.


CHICAGO - With cheers and chants that echoed President-elect Barack Obama's campaign of change, jubilant workers agreed to a $1.75 million settlement that ends their six-day occupation of a shuttered Chicago factory that became a symbol of the plight of labor nationwide.

Republic Windows & Doors, union leaders and Bank of America reached the deal Wednesday evening. Each former Republic employee will get eight weeks' salary, all accrued vacation pay and two months' paid health care, said U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who helped broker the deal. He said it works out to about $7,000 apiece.[...]

About 200 of 240 laid-off workers began their sit-in last week after Republic gave them just three days' notice the plant was closing. The workers had argued that Republic violated federal law because employees were not given 60 days' notice. They vowed to stay until they received assurances they would get severance and accrued vacation pay.

Workers carrying sleeping bags left the factory late Wednesday amid cheers of "Yes We Can," a slogan that became part of Obama's campaign.

Yes We Can is certainly right. With the help and support of the President-Elect and others, the workers finally got something out of the situation that initially looked like a complete loss for them. They may not have been able to keep their jobs, but the banks involved (JPM Chase pledged $400K) made the loans available and will go to the people that need it, not the executives (such as those in the financial sector who got paid from the bailout) who can live without a larger bonus this year.

Senate Candidate No.5 Speaks, Proclaims His Sanctity And Innocence

Isn't it sad that when he mentions the text message from his sister that I instantly start laughing instead of empathizing?

Assemblyman Seminerio Will Go To Trial

Like the indicted Manhattan Surrogate Court Judge-Elect Nora Anderson, Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio's day of reckoning was long in coming. Authorities were trailing him for a while and he was arrested a couple months earlier on corruption charges. Only this time, there were a couple of differences from the first time this broke in the news.

From The Daily Politics:

Federal prosecutors have obtained a corruption indictment against Queens Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio, formalizing a criminal complaint lodged in September.

The indictment accuses the veteran lawmaker of using his clout in Albany in exchange for payoffs from a hospital and other organizations. The money was funneled through a Marc Consultants, a firm set up by Seminerio in 2000. The brief filing by acting U.S. Attorney Lev Dassin covers a lot of the same territory as the original criminal complaint, offering few additional details.

It does, however, say that Seminerio pocketed "approximately $1 million" in ill-gotten gains -- double the amount cited three months ago.

Last month, the Daily News reported that Seminerio was trying to negotiate a plea bargain that would spare him jail time.

I guess that plea deal didn't go to well for the Assemblyman, eh? Blagojevich is looking at up to thirty years for merely attempting to extort money in pay to play politics. I wonder what Seminerio is looking at for actually engaging in it over here in New York City?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Manhattan Judge Indicted For Campaign No-Nos

Ah, another day, another scandal. Nora Anderson was indicted for violating campaign rules today. She hasn't even been able to grab her gavel before the authorities come running after her for breaking the law. It might not be as bad as Blagojevich (not many can top him in these post-Tammany Hall days) but she's certainly no angel.

From The Cityroom:

Nora S. Anderson, who last month won the election for Manhattan Surrogate’s Court judge, was indicted Wednesday on charges that she concealed the source of $250,000 deposited into her campaign account to make it appear as though the payments came from herself.

Prosecutors said that the money, in fact, came from Seth Rubenstein, Ms. Anderson’s boss and campaign adviser, and he, too, was charged in the indictment.

Under election law, Ms. Anderson was allowed to contribute as much money as she wanted to her own campaign account. Outside donors were limited to $33,122.50 for the primary, prosecutors said.
Of course, this is nothing new. The charges were being floated around during the campaign, but she couldn't be stopped before election day. Now at least, something can be done before she's allowed to do real damage.....well, allowed to do more damage to the Surrogate Court here in Manhattan.

Obama Wants Blagojevich Gone

And the sooner, the better:

While there are bad apples on both sides, at least here on the left we try to clean up as soon as we find the spoilage.

Smith Grows A Spine, Stands Up And Denounces The Gang Of Three

The deal with the three devils, also known as Malcolm Smith's attempt at becoming the head of the State Senate by bowing to Espada, Kruger and Diaz's demands, is now officially dead and over as of late this morning. Smith did the right thing and threw it completely out instead of trying to juggle the demands of the Gang and the rest of the caucus. All I have to say is "Whew!" Well alright, I can say a lot more than that but most importantly, I'm glad that the next session is not going to be tainted by that terrible deal.

Of course, now that it's over, there's a ton of drama (not that there wasn't a lot to begin with) surrounding the outcome. On the Gang's side, they had their own gripes about "reform" and "Hispanic empowerment." The ball is in their court now and we'll have to see if they'll actually go to the dark side Republican caucus.

Despite the lofty talk on both sides (and I really do hope that Smith simply came to his senses once he realized how unmanageable the deal was), the reality of it all suggests that like most things in Albany, this latest disgraceful episode is about money and power. New York may not be as bad as the Chicago/Illinois political scene, but the high drama over a renegade attempt to make self-interested deals ranks right up there.

Going forward, if Smith wants to hold onto the mantle of the Democratic caucus (and the public's support), he better remember to stand up straight and make sure he knows that a spine is a good thing to have.

Will The City Get Off In Deutsche Bank Bldg. Investigation?

It has been well over a year since the Deutsche Bank Building erupted into flames while being dismantled. The negligence of so many contributed to the deaths of two firefighters that day in August. Now, as the investigation wraps up, plenty of small fish will go down for their actions, but not everyone. DA Morganthau has been busy since the probe started, but in the end the city will likely get off scot free. If that pisses you off, imagine how the families of the victims feel.

From The NY Daily News:

More than a year later, none of the agencies that were supposed to inspect the tower - including the Fire Department and the Department of Buildings - will be directly implicated, the sources said.

The Graffagnino family's lawyer, John Meringolo, said he still hopes prosecutors "will indict in the interests of justice all culpable parties, no matter how big or how small."

Beddia's sister, Barbara Beddia Crocco, was "devastated" when told this week Morgenthau had decided not to pursue charges the city and state agencies or the general contractor, Bovis Lend Lease, family lawyer Michael Barasch said.

And when called for comment, the DA's office immediately goes for the defensive position.

Dan Castleman, Morgenthau's top deputy, called The News story "premature" and declined to further comment.
The DN highlighted another source that the city has "soverign immunity" which supposedly allows the city to get away with anything because the charges were brought up in the city. So my question is, why not simply go to the next level and make sure that everyone gets the justice they deserve?

Fact Checking The Employee Free Choice Act

Corporations are fighting hard against the pro-union measure with deceptive ad, so how about we add a lil' truth to the mix:

Ed Towns' Chairmanship: Fox, Meet Henhouse

Seniority has a funny way of working in the House of Representatives. Yes, it provides some sense of order in a chaotic chamber of our government, but it can also put very peculiar people into jobs that they might not be truly deserving of. This certainly applies to Brooklyn's very own Ed Towns. One of his critics' issues with him is that in a quarter of a century, he never once chaired a committee. Well now he can cross that off the list, but his "Washingtonian" ways are far worse, and now compounded by the fact that he chairs the House Government and Oversight Committee.

From The Village Voice:

Poised to succeed the legendary Henry Waxman as chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Brooklyn congressman Ed Towns was once the target himself of a federal probe.

While Towns was not indicted, his videotaped receipt of a cash payment in an undercover operation raises questions about his appropriateness to head the House's premier investigations committee, particularly at a time when it may be called upon to probe the financial scandals that led to the current economic meltdown.

Brooklyn federal prosecutors and the New York City Department of Investigation (DOI) caught Towns on videotape stuffing $1,300 in cash into his pockets in an undercover sting in 1982, when he first ran for Congress. Apparently, he was tipped off that the three Salini Construction Company executives were actually cops, and he returned the money a few days later and wasn't indicted.

And that was before he truly learned his way around town. Wayne Barrett's article goes more into depth about that particular incident back in 1982. Though that doesn't mean his shadiness ended there. He's known to be a good friend to Big Tobacco (as they are good friend$ to him) and a vote for CAFTA was a terrible deal for his constituents back in Brooklyn.

Now Towns' isn't all bad, he did co-sponsor the bill to impeach Bush. He generally votes the right way for his party, but from that district, there are better Democrats that could represent them in Congress. Likewise, there are also more stand-up Democrats in the body that could exercise reform and oversight and if merit played a factor in choosing Waxman's successor, Towns would certainly not be it.

The Deal With The Three Devils Falls Apart, Hooray!

The news out of Albany last night was sour for Malcolm Smith and the greedy Gang of Three, but really, is anyone else truly upset? Smith promised Kruger, Espada and Diaz the moon and the stars but outside of that backroom where the deal was made, it was never going to be accepted by the rest of the Democratic caucus. Now this week (and it's only Wednesday) everything is falling to pieces and we are expecting some sort of announcement today from the Gang that will probably denounce Smith and throw their support to Skel....nah, not yet at least. Though according to Diaz, we should be afraid, very, very afraid. Oh and he's mad, can you guess who his ire is directed at?

Teh gays!

The bulk of his displeasure was directed at the gay community ("They're jamming my phones"), the editorial pages that have panned the deal ("What else could they say about us that they haven't said at this point?") and, oddly, former Mayor Ed Koch.

Evidently, Diaz had just caught Koch's weekly appearance on NY1's "Wise Guys" segment during which he, according to Diaz, referred to the Gang of Three as "rats."

"The only rat is Ed Koch," Diaz exclaimed. "When he was mayor, nobody in our community wanted him. The only rat he had was this rate. Rev. Diaz. Now this rate is no good anymore."

"The gays are calling my office. They're jamming my phones. They're going to see what we can do. They've going to see exactly what we can do. Ed Koch is going to see what we can do. They're just going to see. That is what I'm telling you."

Oh noes! Not the gays! How dare they demand equal rights under the law! Oh and Ed Koch, and the newspapers, and the bloggers, and, and, and....oh, cry me a polluted East River. Diaz really needs to get a hold of a mirror, along with one for his friends Kruger and Espada. Too bad their greed is clouding their vision for that to work. But hey, if they want to go and back Skelos, that's fine, because in two years, the heavily Democratic districts they come from will be able to see what happened with crystal clear clarity.

Some Good News Out Of Illinois Yesterday

Blagojevich is consuming nearly all the news coverage out of Chicago in the last twenty-four hours but the big story on Sunday concerning the Republic Windows & Doors workers has come to a successful conclusion. With enough presure, Bank of America has submitted and will continue to give credit to the company...and the workers will keep their jobs.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Blagojevich Has Company With FCC's Kevin Martin

Certainly the news of the day here in American politics was the arrest of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. He certainly deserves all that's coming his way, that's for sure. Of course, the Republicans were hurt that the corrupt Governor was hogging all the media, so one of their own had to grab some of the spotlight for himself and show that yes, the GOP is the still the leader when it comes to corruption and scandal.

From The Washington Post:

A year-long Congressional investigation of Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin found "egregious abuses of power," though it was unclear whether the nation's top telecommunications regulator broke any rules or laws during his leadership.

The report released today on the probe, titled "Deception and Distrust" and led by Reps. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, found Martin suppressed information and manipulated data to serve his agenda.

Alright, so he won't be going to jail for his misdeeds, but on quick notice, the GOP had to offer up what they had. And to be fair, the investigators in this case are Democrats, but the deception and distrust was all bred right in the Republican-dominated FCC.

So Much For Thompson's Driver's License Plan

The budget deficit for the MTA's budget is steadily growing larger, but the plan to help solve the flailing in the air. The MTA proposed to cut service and increase the fare, which sucked. The Ravitch Commission offered to put tolls on the bridges and raise taxes from businesses in the area. Then Comptroller and official Mayoral candidate William Thompson came up with a plan to increase driver's license fees. The only problem though, is that Thompson and his ally in the Assembly, Micah Kellner, didn't do their math correctly for the public.

From Second Avenue Sagas:

Right now, those of us with New York State drivers licenses pay, more or less, around $50 once every eight years to renew our licenses. It was my understanding that this alternate plan would simply raise this rate to $100 every eight years. The way I figured it, this new fee would generate an additional $42 million a year and not the promise $300 million Kellner and Thompson had noted.

The catch, you see, is that Kellner and Thompson would charge New Yorkers that $50 fee every year. Instead of paying $50 for eight years, we would instead be paying $400 extra over that eight-year period to enjoy the privileges and benefits of having a drivers license no matter how little or how much we drive.

And of course that means that everyone gets charged (those with licenses) no matter how much you drive and whether you use the bridges or not. So at least the tolls are part of a usage program where Thompson wants it across the board. It isn't exactly a fair proposal and the way it was presented hinted that it doubled the fee, not 8x. As SAS says, this proposal is bogus, I agree.

This Is Why GM Is Failing

With idiots like these at the helm of one of the largest companies in the country, no wonder they are begging for billions. Obviously schmucks like Bob Lutz have no idea what Americans want in a car....or else they'd at least be able to sell a few these days.

Obama Refused Blagojevich's Dirty Politics

Barack Obama has only been in the swamp that is known as Washington for four years, but he was in the stink of Chicago politics for double that. Yet as corrupt as Chicago is known for, certainly proved again by Blagojevich today, it hasn't had an effect on Barack. While Blagojevich was consumed with his own personal power and greed, Obama wanted no part of it.

From TPM Muckraker:

From Fitzgerald's statement:

In a conversation with Harris on November 11, the charges state, Blagojevich said he knew that the President-elect wanted Senate Candidate 1 for the open seat but "they're not willing to give me anything except appreciation. [Expletive] them."

Looks like Obama wouldn't pay to play.

It may be one of the oldest games in Chicago (and definitely in New York) but our next President is having none of it. Senate seats may have financial value to scumbags like Blagojevich, but they're priceless to Obama. Change in the way we do government is more than just a campaign slogan, it is going to be the major component of the Obama Administration and help move every essential piece of legislation through in the next few years.

Update: And as the news keeps leaking out of this story, it turns out Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had a role to play in getting Blagojevich arrested.

Paterson Readies His Infrastructure Wish List For Obama

Not too long ago Barack Obama told the nation he is ready to get a stimulus package going that focuses on our country's infrastructure. As he said, the governors know what projects could get going right away where jobs can be created within a few weeks. New York needed to get on that boat, and our own Governor Paterson has a list he hopefully checked twice.

From The Poughkeepsie Journal:

WASHINGTON - From a $14.6 million resurfacing project on Route 252 in Henrietta, Monroe County, to $75 million in interchange improvements adjacent to LaGuardia Airport, New York has $300 million in ready-to-go highway and bridge projects around the state that Congress is likely to include in an economic stimulus package next month.

And of course infrastructure means a lot more than just roads and bridges. Wastewater facilities are on there too, anything that helps things "go" counts. And then there's the projects that help people move and stay healthy:

Paterson and other state officials say the state is in dire need of federal money not only for infrastructure but also for Medicaid health services for the poor in order to prevent massive cuts in state services stemming from the state's huge budget deficit.

We have a giant budget hole to fix here in New York and a nice chunk of it could be taken care of by President Obama and the incoming Congress. Then if the Governor could move take care of those painful budget cuts by putting more burden on the rich....well, that's not an idea likely to come from him. Though that doesn't mean he and the Legislature will be pushed to consider it

Blagojevich Arrested! Finally!!!

Finally, the corrupt bastard (even before he became Governor after replacing another corrupt Governor) is going to have his day, or days in court. Couldn't have happened to a nicer...scumbag.

With Espada In Power, Reform Won't Even Be On The Backburner, It'll Be Thrown From The Stove

Malcolm Smith promised a new day in Albany under his control, but with the selection of Pedro Espada as Majority Leader, "reform" is now officially a doublespeak word. The change in the chamber has been waiting for more than forty years, hopefully we'll only have to wait another two while Espada has his session in the sun, or should I say, complete darkness.

From The Times-Union:

Mr. Espada owes more than $60,000 in fines to New York City's Campaign Finance Board, dating back to a campaign for Bronx borough president in 2001. He had been fined by state election officials for infractions involving a Senate campaign a year before that. This year, as Mr. Espada ran in another district to rejoin a body he was voted out of in 2002, he didn't even register his campaign committee with the state Board of Elections. That could mean more than $6,000 in additional fines.

This is the man Mr. Smith has to placate in order to hold onto to his party's two-seat majority?

No wonder people already are grumbling, if only anonymously, about a Senate leader who has seemingly sold the store.

There's little reason to wonder, meantime, what Mr. Espada might think about one of the great perks of legislative power, namely the political slush funds known as member items. A fiscal crisis involving record-high deficits wouldn't seem to deter him. The overriding issue when Mr. Espada lost his seat in 2002 was how the Senate had to take the extraordinary, if not unprecedented, step of recalling $745,000 in funding for a Bronx-based group that runs health care clinics for the poor. The group, Comprehensive Community Development Corporation, was operated by Mr. Espada himself — at a salary of $235,000, on top of the $90,000 he was making in the Senate.

Oh and there is so much more about the man. That article referenced above is just a primer on the history of Pedro Espada. With all the facts and figures, this was my favorite part:

"We're defined not by our blemishes, but by 30 years of work," he told The New York Times last week. Such thinking leads to this assessment of his critics, of whom he says, "They hate me because I'm not perfect."

"I'm going to get better," he says. "I'm a work in progress."

LMAO! If what went on over the last month to wrest power away from the Senators that actually deserved it was progress, I really, really hate to see what's next. Whatever takes place, it'll definitely be hidden far away from the prying eyes of good government groups and what makes up the media. Of course, this behavior can only mean one thing. That is, for the Bronx to make some progress and kick this sucker out (again) in 2010.

Even With Gas Prices Falling, More Americans Using Mass Transit

I haven't filled a tank of gas since I rented a car in Quebec three months ago, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that gas prices have been plummeting (and no, not for a good reason). In a span of a few months, we've gone from $4 or even $5 dollar gas to under $2 dollars. So with lower costs, people are naturally driving more and taking that dusty old Hummer out for a spin, right?


Americans rode subways, buses and commuter railroads in record numbers in the third quarter of this year, even as gas prices dropped and unemployment rose. The 6.5 percent jump in transit ridership over the same period last year marks the largest quarterly increase in public transportation ridership in 25 years, according to a survey to be released today by the American Public Transportation Association.
So what's going on here? Are people's love affair with the automobile being broken by a new heartthrob that runs on rails? The data is only over three quarters, but the numbers are encouraging. Perhaps more Americans would rather relax on a train (not the 6 train of course) than sit and silently rage in their cars as the highway commute gets longer and longer. Or maybe we're all getting a little more environmentally conscious.

Whatever the reason, the less we use our cars, the better off we'll be. And of course, having an Administration that cares about mass transit in a few short weeks will help provide the leadership we need to make sure this new phenomenon becomes a national fixture.

Monday, December 08, 2008

More From The Obama Transition Team

As they have done many times already, the Obama transition team posted another video on what is going on, now with only six weeks to go until the President-elect drops the "elect" from his title. Here we have discussion on energy and environmental policy in the next Administration...something we rarely saw if at all for the last eight years

Smith Leaves Fellow Dems To Fend For Themselves At Presser

Malcolm Smith is taking a lot of heat lately since the returns came in on election day. The way he treated the four, then ultimately three renegades in the Democratic caucus was atrocious. The "deal" that was supposedly made, giving Diaz and especially Kruger and Espada incredible mantles of power at the expense of others in the caucus that were waiting for plum seats, in particular the Senators that worked the hardest to obtain the majority in the first place. Confusion has been the operative word since that deal was struck and on Monday morning, chaos ensued and Smith bolted from his first of two press conferences.

From The Daily Politics:

Things started off badly when reporters were asked to sign in before the event started. Several flat out refused, noting that one of Smith's press aides, Marc Gronich, is a former LCA member and well-aware of his ex-colleagues' respective identities.

It all went downhill from there.

After announcing four committee assignments, Smith said he had another matter to attend to and departed without taking questions. As he walked off, reporters shouted questions at him. He answered just one, saying the support for his leadership is "solid."

Solid like Jello, right Smith?

Smith's departure left new Deputy Majority Leader William Stachowski and Insurance Committee Chairman Neil Breslin to face the irritated press corps all alone.

But questions about the uncertainty surrounding the Democratic coaltion were quickly and frequently cut off by Smith's press officers, who insisted reporters' queries should only focus on the committee assignments announced, but then cut those off, too.

Breslin quietly ducked out, leaving Stachowski to fend for himself.

If this is how the leadership is going to act in the new majority caucus, we are in for a wild ride. Of course, if the Gang of Three bolt and make their traitorous way over to Skelos and Company, we might just forget about a majority for another forty two years.

Now That's What I Call Greedy!

At the end of the year, the very few and fortunate among us receive holiday bonuses as a mark of a job well done and an acknowledgment that an employee means something special to the company. Then there is Wall Street. The Street has given out hundreds of billions in bonuses in the last few years, but in 2008 they will be trimmed by quite a bit, considering the mess that the top executives greed has helped cause. Current fiscal crisis and looming economic depression aside, some people's egos and not letting any kind of humility get in the way of the big fat bonus check they think they deserve.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Merrill Lynch & Co. chief John Thain has suggested to directors that he get a 2008 bonus of as much as $10 million, but the battered securities firm's compensation committee is resisting his request, according to people familiar with the situation.

The committee and full board are scheduled to meet Monday to hear Mr. Thain's formal bonus recommendations for himself and other senior executives of the New York company. No decision has been reached, and it isn't known what Mr. Thain will recommend, but the compensation committee is leaning toward denying the executives bonuses for this year, these people said.

Now as many know, Merrill Lynch was bought up for a pittance of what it was formerly worth, saved by the good graces of Bank of America back in September when the house of cards started to rapidly come down. The reduction in net assets for the former Financial District and world financial icon was trampled on by people like Thain, yet he wants an eight-figure reward for his deeds. I'm glad that the compensation committee is resisting that request, but really, they should be laughing his negligent and crooked ass out of the room, along with every last one of these greedy, self-absorbed bastards.

Republicans Ready The Filibuster To Stop The Auto Bailout

Bring on the obstructionism GOP, there will be more hell to pay in 2010....and then the minority won't even come close to being able to filibuster in the 112th Congress.

Deal With The Gang Of Three Devils May Fall Apart

While Malcolm Smith names various Senators to be Committee Chairs, there is no guarantee that any of that will be set in stone come the time the chamber convenes in January. Plenty of Senate Democrats are fuming that Smith made a deal with the Gang of Three and were not consulted about it.

City Hall News has the details:

Though State Senate Democratic Leader Malcolm Smith has issued statements asserting full support from among his fellow Democrats and is poised to announce three committee chairs and one leadership position Monday morning, members of the conference are far from sold on a deal he brokered to gain the support of the so-called Gang of Three. And they are warning that any agreements he makes, even those which are publicly announced, may not hold until Jan. 7, when the Senate is set to reconvene.

The frustration is the result not just of a deal many Democratic members believe went too far—“a deal made with the devil, or three of them,” one said—but of the way in which Smith presented the deal to the conference. Smith agreed to making State Sen. Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn) chair of the Finance Committee and incoming State Sen. Pedro Espada (D-Bronx) majority leader without first notifying any of his members of the details, and has since left members of the conference with the feeling that he has been less than straightforward.

“Malcolm has lied to the conference,” said one.
It seems Malcolm is saying one thing to his conference and another to the Gang, but all of it gets aired out in public and he has a lot to lose from behavior like that. If Smith pulls out of the deal to appease the majority of the caucus, his power may be ceded to the Republicans. Then again, no one is sure if the Gang really want to take the risk of heading fully over to the dark side, possibly endangering their re-election bids in heavily Democratic districts. If Smith keeps the deal, the caucus may drop their support of Smith, whom many are peeved that he would cave so easily to the renegades. Either way, high drama will ensue and there is no guarantee that what makes up the political landscape today will be the same tomorrow.

NSA Tries To Rewrite Pearl Harbor History With Traditional Media's Help

The Bush Administration has been busy from almost day one when it comes to rewriting history to suit their needs. With nearly everyone being kicked out next month, the White House has been on overdrive, working scurrilously to do as much damage as they possibly can. This applies to the NSA as well and their "historians" used the 67th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor to make the U.S. seem more innocent than it was in the history books. And of course, mainstream outlets like the NY Times and UPI are more than happy to go along with it.

From UPI:

NEW YORK, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Historians say they have concluded the United States had no advance notice Japan intended to attack Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941, settling a long-debated issue.

The New York Times (NYSE:NYT) reported on its Web site Saturday that historians for the National Security Agency concluded in a history released last week that decoded messages buried in Japanese-language weather reports, meant to alert Japanese diplomats to destroy codes, did not reach U.S. officials prior to the attack.

Under Japan's "winds execute" plan, "East wind rain" meant the United States, "north wind cloudy" was Soviet Union and "west wind clear" was Britain in the event diplomatic relations had reached a flash point.

The history's authors, Robert J. Hanyok and the late David Mowry, concluded that the weight of the evidence "indicates that one coded phrase, 'west wind clear,' was broadcast according to previous instructions some six or seven hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor."

Almost as soon as it was reposted on UPI, the comments came streaming in on the site, wondering how the author could just post what the NSA says without a grain (or a ton) of salt. The government has lied to us plenty of times before to make history look better for our own country than it actually was. As a result, our textbooks in grade schools deny many truths about our past and use rose colored glasses instead of just the straight truth.

While the historians at the NSA may have been able to twist the story about that particular radio message, the burden of proof out there is that we did have advanced warning of the attack and did nothing about it. Not too many people know about that unless they actively investigate it and seek the truth out there. Unfortunately, as the old adage of history repeating itself (technically it is more of an imitation) the government did the same exact thing in August of 2001. Perhaps UPI and the NY Times should consult multiple sources before acting simply as a government mouthpiece of revisionist history.

A Challenge From A Saudi Oil Kingpin To You

Last night on 60 Minutes, two sheiks that control a sizable portion of the oil that comes to the United States mocked our clean energy alternatives. The current chief of OPEC has every right to do so, because we as a nation have depended on their oil to make our economy move without much investment in clean energy. Well on the show last night he challenged us to find another way, so let's quit stalling and help put him out of business.

Public Money Flows Freely At The NYC Board Of Elections

The Daily News proved this weekend what a lot of people either suspected or knew to be true, that the Board of Elections in our city is corrupt. Tim Robbins knew something was wrong over there when he tried to cast his vote but at least that could be labeled incompetence. The story of them getting the NY State Legislature to boost their incomes while pampering themselves on the city's dime is pure, unadulterated greed.

From The NY Daily News:

The city's elections commissioners won approval for a big fat pay raise last year, after swearing they needed extra cash because they're not reimbursed for board-related expenses.

One problem: It's not true.

All but one of eight sitting commissioners received thousands of dollars in reimbursements for air fare, luxury hotel accommodations and meals, a Daily News investigation has found.

The commissioners and agency employees appear to routinely get taxpayers to pick up expenses barred by city rules -- everything from a "deep tissue" massage to an $800 dinner.

As the article points out, the board commissioners held Grimaldi's pizza parties, went to conferences more than regulations allowed (paid for by you and I) and many, many more expenses that had no business being picked up by the city. And of course, the commissioners swear that they didn't write the legislation for their additional pay raises, and neither did the co-sponsors of the bill, Vito Lopez (figures) and Serph Maltese (also figures). With both sides denying writing the language, that most likely means that the commissioners and Lopez/Maltese wrote it, with the benefits going around to all involved. Just my opinion of course, but this is New York politics we're talking about.